Stella’s world is all about math, economics, and her work. She doesn’t have a lot of dating experience, and her mother is pressuring her. So she decides to go about dating and sex the way she approaches everything: logically and practically. She hires an escort, Michael, who is running away from his past and insecurity, to teach her how to be with a man properly. Things don’t go exactly as either of them planned.
Hey! Guess what? I read a book! A real-life actual book! It’s been quite awhile, eh? And this was definitely the book I needed right now. Lighthearted but not fluff, romantic and sexy and sweet, feel-good ending and all. I loved it.
I’m not sure why I don’t read more romance novels. Probably because there are so many cringe-worthy ones out there. I don’t like personality-less characters, or books with nothing to the story except the getting-together, or writing that veers off into awkward dirty talk for the sex parts completely incongruous with the rest of the story. I like romances that have a full story in addition to the getting-together parts, and sex scenes written fluidly into the story so they don’t pull me out of the book and make me want to roll my eyes, and strong characters with whole personalities. I’m very, very ignorant about authors in this particular genre, and while I’ve found a small few that I like, I just don’t know where to begin looking. Grabbing books randomly off library shelves tends to get me no where. But hey, if there’s anyone out there who’s a newbie in this genre like me, this one is a good one.
(Note that there will be mild spoilers in the following paragraph. They shouldn’t affect the reading experience, but please skip ahead if you really dislike spoilers.)
This is also a very interesting book because Stella is high-functioning autistic. I admit, at first I worried that this was going to fall into an unrealistic trope of “man saves autistic woman and changes/heals her,” so I skipped back to the author’s note. Hoang herself is high-functioning autistic, and she wrote from her own perspective in creating Stella and her world. She also noted that of course Stella’s experience is not the only way people with autism experience the world. With all that in mind, I was able to continue reading reassured, and I loved that throughout the book, Stella isn’t “healed.” She learns a lot about self-acceptance and self-confidence, particularly after things go wrong and she’s forced to depend on herself again. That part made the book really phenomenal for me. The very moment Stella decides that she doesn’t need to be fixed, especially not because of a man, made me cheer aloud.
Hoang has another book coming out next year that focuses on another autistic character who is mentioned but barely seen in this one. I’m really looking forward to it. In her author’s note, she says that before this book, she’d been mimicking other author’s styles, but with this one, she became absolutely herself. I’ve never read her other books, but the latter part really comes through. Stella is a great character to read, particularly for someone like me who has had very little experience with people who have autism (high-functioning or otherwise). And as always, I have to make note of it when an author really gets me interested in a subject that I pursue after finishing the novel. I have Aspergirls – a book she specifically mentions as discussing the differences in the ways men and women exhibit autistic traits – on hold from the library already. That is always a sign of an excellent story in my book. This may be a lighthearted romance novel, but as I said above, it wasn’t fluff. It was a full-bodied experience, and I loved every second of it.