#Book Review -- The Corner Office by Katerina Baker

The Corner Office
Katerina Baker
Publisher: Katerina Baker
Publication Date: June 23, 2017
Genres:Women's Fiction, Romantic Comedy

This review is the intellectual property of The Literary Apothecary.
Permission has not been granted for reuse of the content of this review. 

Our society has been experiencing cultural and structural changes aplenty over the past century. Yet, we refuse to acknowledge them. The cultural models, where women exist solely as wives, sex partners, and mothers, are sadly perpetuated in mainstream fiction and pop culture. While the 1960’s womens lib movement challenged these views and led to great change, there is still a need for imminent social emancipation of the working woman, who is yet uncomfortable seizing new opportunities and departing from traditional female roles.

In researching the existence of gender parity and the way in which it has been perpetuated, I found it necessary to look at mainstream fiction and the role it plays in reinforcing and shaping this inequality. Indeed, it seems that with respect to gender parity, most female authors are afraid to step out the box and question the inherent maleness of the issue. Consequently, most women's fictions titles have failed to consider the female experience, and identify and acknowledge it in as great a capacity as is needed. Thus, the stories fail to bring the inequality into the spotlight and inspire a remedy.

Statistics from Women in Labor Force state that 57% of women, in 2015, participated in the labor force. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that, in 2015, 52% of all workers in management, professional, and related occupations were women. WOW! So, it lead me to dig a little deeper into gender parity and if it is indeed possible. With everything going on today, I wondered if equality is a dream. Perhaps, the main issue that stands in the way is gender bias. But, there are other issues that contribute: family, not willing or able to "lean in", and the distorted views of life at the top. Katarina Baker hits on these issues in her new release  - The Corner Office.

Synopsis of The Corner Office

The man she’s always hated may finally take her down.

Tara Johnson's sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she's one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he's willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.

Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it's her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it's the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he's still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.

But Tara's increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand.

A subtle piece of drama, this plot-driven novel is inclusionary of a layered, dimensional female protagonist. The Corner Office captures the female experience in corporate America through a sustained portrait of one fiercely independent woman. Strong and capable, though sensitive when appropriate, Tara has made choices in order to succeed into the upper echelon of Fortunate Start.

The Corner Office is best seen as a literary collage – a work composed of vignettes featuring varying portraits of one woman written upon a "canvas". Woven into this smartly sexy and suspenseful tale, Baker argues that collectively the issues she speaks to display evidence and articulate one woman’s story of how reaching her career goals affected the other parts of her life. The relationship between representation and reality is paradoxically addressed. With an abundance of flavor, well-balanced characters, and a thicket of subplots, The Corner Office focuses intensely on women’s issues in corporate America. Baker captures the female experience through varying scenes  – (1) sacrificing the opportunity to have a family, (2) sacrificing her morals, (3) mentoring and empowering other women, and (4) sacrificing her personal life. Thus, a great deal of the story is real: a woman going up against society’s ideas, women mentoring other women from different backgrounds, and so much more. Baker amasses examples of issues commonplace to working women.

With a voice seemingly marinated in velvet and backed with steel, Baker speaks to her readers through Tara. Purring like a lioness in this sleekly fascinating tale, she pitches to her career-minded sisters – Lean In! The storytelling is good, but the underlying premise is better. Through her prose, Baker tells of the importance of sisterhood in achieving gender parity and overcoming gender bias. She explicitly owns this! Baker cleverly shares the importance of women’s inhumanity in the workplace and the need for sisterhood. Further, the vivid narrative and the drama within authorize and credit women who continually “lean in” and stand for women’s equality.

Some authors define their female characters through their relationships with men. Well, Baker looks at her female characters from a different vantage point. She peeks inside to see their relationships with themselves and other women, while vividly narrating what she sees. Amid all of the twists, turns and humorous machinations between Tara and Richard, Baker finds a way to expose key issues. Only a female author could get away with writing such a tale that shows the hard and soft sides of a career woman. This intense, vigorous self-examination is a major plus.

Sure some will say The Corner Office is an expertly crafted, smoothly paced, quasi-feminist tale. While it is a novel feminists will enjoy, it is also humanistic in nature. It shows the high costs women pay because of traditional views. Readers need more books like this – serious, but not maudlin dramatic tales about the way we live now and the prices we must pay. It begs the reader to wonder what would Tara ask of us? Her most explicit answer to this question may be: network with and nurture one another.

The two major themes of this book are gender bias and inequality, as evidenced by the standards of discipline with respect to sexual relations among supervisors and subordinates, as Tara dangles a lighted match when she begins a fiery sexual escapade with Aidan. As she counsels a young woman in a similar situation, Tara’s actions suggest to me that when women actively support one another, an efficacious social power is born. This power is a positive placement on the map leading to social change for women.

Some readers have completely missed the message, as they became lost in the aforementioned machinations between Tara and Richard. What lies between the pages of The Corner Office transcends the “tit-for-tat” we observe and absurd behavior exhibited by Aidan. Becoming lost in the mere frivolity of life is indeed evident of the need to “lean in”.

As I read the various reviews of the book, I began to explore the needs of female readers. What we need, which can only be obtained from bold female authors is a virtual sponsorship into identifying who we are and what we stand for.

The negative reviews showed me that some women have an irrepressible need to find someone who mirrors their actions and desires. Perhaps they did not identify with Tara as I did, or the other ladies in the story. Or, worse, perhaps they have been hurt by other women and now possess a sad anger towards women in power. Either way, my argument remains. Baker speaks, using Tara as a microphone, and encourages women to authorize other women be their authentic selves. Moreover, she skillfully places Tara as an authoritative inoculator of confidence, power, and fierce independence.

The Corner Office indicates that it is time to apply common sense – an educated, skeptical common sense approach – to the cultural myths about women perpetuated by the media and segments of the publishing industry. The problems Baker addresses are of crucial importance, for she questions women’s equality and issues surrounding career women. These issues must be examined and placed aptly in our hands.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

This review is the intellectual property of The Literary Apothecary.
Permission has not been granted for reuse of the content of this review. 

About Katerina
Katerina has always seen Romance stories in everyday life. Well, maybe not "everyday", strictly speaking, unless you count spying on a charismatic hedge fund manager ordinary, or touring across Turkey on a quest to figure out the puzzle in the will of a deceived Turkish woman as something you'd normally do, or even battling it out on the executive floor with a decades-long nemesis who happens to be standing in your way of achieving your life's goals. 

One thing is certain, though. Love will prevail (even if sometimes with the help of steamy sex).

Katerina Baker is a lucky gal who still attempts to have it all: full-time project management job that she enjoys, crazy family of four (with the ongoing threats of getting a pet to upset the family equilibrium) and writing.

Although on some days she is much more successful at managing her life than on the others, she still claims that she doesn’t want it any other way.

Katerina is represented by Sharon Belcastro from Belcastro Agency, and has a contract with Lachesis Publishing, who will be publishing her Romantic Suspense novel Under the Scrubs.


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