I’m a little behind as per usual lately with my ARC reviews, but the review for A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee is exactly on time! So you can officially pick up any or all of these books if they sound like something you may like. One, possibly two, of these books are new favorites of mine so I’m pretty excited to talk about them. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall came out on July 7th from Sourcebooks Casablanca, who graced me with a review copy on Netgalley. I made it two chapters in before driving to Barnes & Noble, which is 30ish minutes away, to pick up a physical copy so… I loved it. One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London is out from Dial Press as of July 7th, which they were kind enough to grant me access to on Netgalley, but I picked it up from Book of the Month Club in June (and put off reading it for a month or so). (Also, re: Book of the Month Club, they treated Traci from The Stacks Podcast pretty terribly so I’m very on the fence about supporting them.) And finally, as I mentioned, A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee is out today from St. Martin’s and I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy on Netgalley. So let’s dive in to the reviews!
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Luc is one of my favorite characters I’ve read in a long time. Like, maybe since Portia absolutely blew me away in A Duke by Default, which is basically the highest praise I could possibly give. This book showcases Luc being a hot mess of epic proportions and being loved and supported along the way and that’s basically everything I could ever want out of a book. But then, there’s also fake dating. Like… Does it get better? No.
This book is told entirely from Luc’s perspective as our child of two rockstars is being told that his messiness, his being a “bad gay”, could get him fired. He shockingly listens to one of his co-workers who is bafflingly dim at times that having a respectable boyfriend could turn him back into a “good gay” that the high class people they need to donate money to his charity would provide. So he agrees, rather reluctantly, to allow his friend Bridget to set him up with Oliver, a boring barrister who he’s previously not had great interactions with.
It is absolutely brilliant. I don’t want to spoil any of this book for you, but Oliver is the best and Luc is everything. This book is funny at times and at others my heart hurt. Luc has some issues with his absentee father who walked out on him and his mom when Luc was a toddler to continue being a rockstar. Now the world is letting him have a redemption narrative even though he’s still the worst dad. His mom is a lovely, lovely woman.
My only complaint is that I felt like the book ended beautifully but abruptly. Like, I want a sequel kind of abrupt because I feel like we’re missing out on a lot about Oliver still. Even still, this book is incredible and one of my favorites of the year.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
This book was a roller coaster to me and I ranted to two different people about how conflicted I felt about the fat rep when I was about 150 pages in. Then at about 340ish pages in, I shrieked, threw myself out of my chair and onto my bed to grab my phone so I could text my best friend and demand to know if she’d read it because I was experiencing too many feelings. And now I’ve finished and the book absolutely NAILED the ending. So I wound up with five stars. But I absolutely think we need to talk more about it because I do worry that parts of this book could be really harmful to other fat readers depending on a host of personal factors.
So let’s start with the premise of the book. Essentially, Bea is a plus size fashion blogger (she labels herself medium fat) who goes on a rant about how the show, MAIN SQUEEZE (aka The Bachelor) is crappy at diversity in all forms including body diversity. She is then offered the lead role. Meanwhile, Bea is really grieving that the man she’s considered herself in love with for a decade has ghosted after they slept together (while he was engaged!!). So there’s a lot going on.
Anyway, the book has mixed media happening so there are articles and twitter threads and podcast transcripts and texts between friends included and those are incredibly realistic. So what that means is that all of the perils of being a famous fat woman on the internet are in this book. And that is a hard thing to read, especially when you are a fat woman (not famous though, thankfully).
Bea is body positive but she needs to be in control of her image and how she looks. She also is still fighting and trying to exorcise the inner voices of all of her worst fears that society has instilled in a lot of fat folx that our size means we aren’t worthy of love. There are people who are cast on the show that reinforce that and really leave Bea reeling. It takes a lot for her to decide whether or not she can even trust in the show at all.
Ultimately, I loved this book. I felt like watching Bea exorcise those voices in real time with various setbacks was empowering for me and I was cheering her on. I also think that’s a personal choice and other fat people may feel differently. I spent a lot of last night and today thinking about this book and how loud those voices are so I won’t say it’s easy to read. But, for me, I loved the storyline and very much appreciate the representation.
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
Unfortunately, I made it a little over halfway through this book before reaching out to Dani and asking if it was acceptable to give up. I don’t have any particular problems with this book in all honesty and I’m sure that if I was in a different mood I could have made myself finish it, but I’m so bored and it’s 2020. There are a million other books I would rather be reading.
So, who is this book for? I think if you want something lighthearted and fun with lots of descriptions of food, this could be the book for you. It starts off with a bang (almost literally) as Aubrey is rushing to make a new chocolate bundt cake with gummy bears after her high school employee accidentally sold this little girl’s birthday cake to the wrong person. Later that evening, Aubrey hooks up with a handsome stranger who is in town because his tire busted on his way to somewhere else. Turns out the man was a food critic and he writes a scathing review of Aubrey’s bakery based on accidentally eating the little girl’s cake. Further shenanigans happen and the two wind up spending a lot of time together because Aubrey agrees to be the guest chef on a television show.
Ultimately, I just found the book boring. There’s sexual tension, I guess, but it doesn’t come across as believable. Aubrey and Landon can’t be together because then Landon’s attempt to make up for his crappy and irrational review would seem like it was just because they were sleeping together? I kind of wanted to know how things shook out, but I also couldn’t convince myself that it was worth the effort to keep flipping kindle pages. So, that’s where I’m at. Hopefully if you pick this up, you’ll like it more than me and regardless, I do think this might make a really fun movie! (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/daniel-dae-kim-attached-produce-star-rom-a-sweet-mess-1303067)
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?