Hot shot hedge fund manager Gabriel Chesterton is in a bit of hot water. A stock he and his firm invested in and backed has been revealed to be a giant scam, triggering a Justice Department and SEC investigation. To escape the heat, he heads down to Haven Island to visit a friend. There he meets Poppy, a gorgeous twenty-something with one of the best chests he’s ever seen. He’s intrigued by her and–let’s be honest–her beauty. He’s determined to get to know her better while he’s dealing with the perils of working on Wall Street.
Poppy Smith is a small town girl at heart. Plus-sized and from a poor, working class family, she’s had to struggle her whole life with how people perceive her. A challenge made even more difficult since she’s become a Model and Influencer on OnlyFans. People see her and judge her without ever getting to know her, and when she meets the gorgeous Gabe the same thing happens. Except, he seems to actually want to get to know the real her. Can she open her heart to allow him in? Or is Gabe just too good to be true?
This review will contain mild spoilers…. mostly so I can talk about trigger warnings. The book contains frank discussion about child neglect, transphobic language, fatphobia, body shaming, slut shaming, sex positivity, classism, elitism, bullying, sexual harassment, prostitution, and self-esteem issues. Make sure you’re in a good place before reading this book.
I’ve got feelings about this book. Lots and lots of feelings. All the feelings.
The author is new-to-me and I admit I was intrigued by the premise of a Wall Street Player falling for and staying with a Plus-sized Sex Worker. The book takes place after COVID-19 and the fallout from that. During the pandemic when the restaurant workers were out of a job, the heroine joins OnlyFans to make money in order to stay alive.
It’s sex work, plain and simple.
And it’s not illegal, nor should it be. But it is highly stigmatized to the point where people assume that because she’s selling pictures of herself that she’s selling her body and that she’s available all the time for the right price. It’s something that I’ve long wanted to see addressed… like ever since the 90s. So, the book hit a Pretty Woman vibe, and I wanted to see where it went. I was there for Sex-positive and body-positive messaging. And I didn’t get it, at least not initially.
In the beginning, the hero, Gabe, is a pretty self-serving, selfish, sexist, misogynistic Bro of a dude. The first time he sees Poppy, he reduces her down to her chest saying “…deep cleavage. Perfect for motorboating.” I just about put the book down right there. But I persevered, hoping that the author would take us on a good character arc journey. But for a lot of the book, Gabe was really unlikable. He’d do something right and then follow it up with a thought that turned my stomach. He doesn’t listen to Poppy and pushes his own will on her. He’s a bit stalkery and it put me off of him. I was not rooting for him to end up with Poppy for much of the book. However, he does mature, change. And his character arc about coming to respect Poppy and her choices and respect her as a person is a good one. I just wish it went further.
I was 100% here for Poppy initially. However, I wasn’t there for her internal fatphobia and self-esteem issues. Yes, I know it’s a thing in this society. But I’d like to see characters embracing their curves and rolls. The book doesn’t pass the Pizza Night test with Poppy rarely eating (she throws out so much food without eating it my inner Katniss was screaming at all the wasted food). In a lot of ways, the book was fatphobic while trying to be body positive. It didn’t land with me. I did like that Poppy was intelligent and knew how her audience worked. I liked that she had her own goals that were separate from the hero’s and that raised my opinion on this book.
As I mentioned in passing, I almost DNF'ed this book several times until I reached the 60% mark when the seeds the author planted started coming to fruition and I finally got sucked in. I did like that there is an explicit message that sex workers aren’t for sale all the time and that there are lines and that their work should be respected not vilified or disrespected. I was there for that message. Sex work is hard. Making it as a online content creator is hard. I liked that aspect of this book.
So there’s a lot of good in this book, it just takes a really long time to get there and there are some big missteps–use of transphobic language, continued fatphobia from most characters, a few missing scenes where I went “Wait. What?”–along the way. (As well as some little ones… like it should be Optics not Myopics when referring to how things are viewed… aka “The optics of dating a stripper don’t look good if you’re trying to fly the space shuttle.” (Hi! Independence Day reference))
In all, I enjoyed this small town romance. But it took a long time for me to get there and I’m still torn about this book as a whole.
And for that, this gets….
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I received an ARC of this book via Edelweiss