Review: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

So, funny story (not really): I was fortunate enough to get a NetGalley copy of this book at the end of May. A couple of days later, it was also a June Book of the Month selection as an early release, so I got a very cute hardcover, too. And still didn’t manage to read it until after it published. 🤦🏻‍♀️

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.

Full disclosure: I don’t follow fashion blogs, wouldn’t have the faintest clue about being ‘devastatingly stylish,’ and have never seen a single episode of The Bachelor or any similar shows. Still, I found some enjoyment here!

My thoughts:

This book was a good summer read: it’s a fun romance, with a likable enough main character and some intriguing love interests, and the writing is light and funny. I started it last night and finished today, so it can’t be said that I wasn’t in to it.

The book isn’t without issues, though: Bea is sold to us as a body-positive influencer who is confident with how she is and looking to blaze the way for women who don’t fit the size norms. All of that is great, except she’s really not those things. Bea does a lot of whining, and seems to think it’s impossible that any man, especially a conventionally handsome one, would find her attractive.

While there is a lot of diversity thrown in to this story in addition to the plus-size MC (a lesbian best friend, an asexual character, a non-binary child, suitors of multiple races), some of this feels superficial and written in just because. I would have loved to see a bit more depth there, although to be fair, depth isn’t really the point of this book.

Still, the premise is so fun, and the book was literally impossible to put down as the show unfolded. When she wasn’t whining, I liked Bea and was rooting for her to find some happiness and truly feel comfortable with herself. Some of the bachelors she got were super hot, and that didn’t hurt my feelings at all. I loved the over-the-top drama of the television show production.

Come for the trash-tv, romantic fun, and you won’t be disappointed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review: The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John

A friend of mine was excited about this book, and I requested it on NetGalley hoping for a steamy summer read. I didn’t find the 🔥 I was looking for, but it was definitely an engaging book.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend’s yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she’s aboard the luxurious Lion’s Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle’s dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host-and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

I don’t watch tv in general, and I’ve never seen any of those Real Housewives shows that some other reviews have compared this book to, but I watched my share of soap operas in high school and college. This book is pretty soapy, friends.

My thoughts

I need to give the author lots of credit for what she’s done here: this book is structured in just such a way as to keep the reader invested, and once I got going I found it very hard to stop reading. The dual timelines are used brilliantly: we have the current-day storyline where the girls are on their trip, with flashbacks starting in Summer and Belle’s teen years and leading right up (eventually) to the days before the trip. This was a smart way to gradually unfold the story and allow for some jaw-dropping reveals near the end. So, while it’s not the most polished, lyrical, beautiful writing I usually rave about, it’s very cleverly done. Also, I don’t think I’ve read the word ‘countenance’ this many times in a modern novel. 🤔

The story itself is a contemporary thriller all about a group of gorgeous, rather superficial women, some of whom are blatant cliched gold-diggers and most of whom have very questionable morals. Our main character, Belle, is a bit different from the rest because she likes to read (try not to roll your eyes) and isn’t rich, sponging off a rich man, or in search of her own sugar daddy, but at the same time, she seems perfectly content for most of the book to call these women her friends. The women attend lavish parties, exclusive restaurants, clubs, and festivals while struggling to afford their designer clothes, bags, and shoes even before their luxurious trip (on a private plane, of course) to the Mediterranean, where they are to cruise for a week on a private yacht and hobnob with the super wealthy. And they understand they are to be eye candy for rich men.

Really, there’s not much I like about this premise, the money- and beauty-centric story, or these annoyingly bitchy characters, so imagine my surprise when I ended up liking The Lion’s Den. Yes, it’s annoying, but it wasn’t predictable, and the last half of the book was addicting and genuinely exciting. I even thought Belle had a lot more substance to her than expected, although in the end it all comes back around to exorbitant sums of money, womanizers, and private helicopters.

All in all, a good fun, trashy summer read. If there wasn’t a pandemic going on, this would have been a good beach read. Although, I generally like my trashy novels to have a lot more (and a lot less icky) sex. Just putting that out there. 😂

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my free copy in exchange for an honest review, and for the fun diversion.