The literal second I saw this on @booksnblazers feed, I added it to my TBR (and put myself on the library waitlist) so fast. Honestly, I think I might have put myself on the waitlist before the library even had it on-site and I was the first person to get the copy once we got it. So, yea, that’s how excited I got about it.
“I think the answer to too much isn’t nothing, it’s balance.”
When Ruth Elgin dies, she leaves her financially insolvent store (and life, really) as a “project” for her friend and protégé Selena and her niece Cade. Selena has been living with Ruth and helping her run Satisfaction Guaranteed, a sex toy (and other oddities) store, after an unhealthy relationship leads her to leave art school, stop painting, and take a vow of celibacy in order to “get her shit together.” Cade comes from an incredibly eccentric family (just look at her Aunt Ruth’s dying wish), but went a totally different direction, doing all the accounting for and essentially running her parent’s high end art gallery in NYC, while having no time to invest in relationships or her own pleasure. Can this opposites-attract couple save Ruth’s store? And maybe find something more in each other?
Ummm, this was everything I wanted and more! I loved Selena and Cade. They were the best opposites attract situation, the exact right mix of filling in each other’s needs and helping the other get out of their own (self-imposed) boxes and comfort zones, but not so much that it’s hard to believe. And the forced proximity trope was played to perfection, with a great set-up from the beyond by an eccentric aunt/benefactor(?) that was just super fun. The interpersonal and sexual chemistry was really solid as well; the tension and build-up was so well-done. I appreciated the genuine-ness and recognizability in the fact that the distance between them was due to internal issues that they struggled with, ones that affected their ability to communicate how they really felt about each other, as well as physical distance, and that there was no weird fabricated “break-up” right before the grand “we’re together” finale (my least favorite romance trope). It all felt very natural and I loved it. As a sort of side note here, but on the theme of relationships, I loved the best friends’ unconditional support that was written in for both Selena and Cade.
Taking time to recognize one of the major settings, the sex toy store, I want to just mention the glorious sex positivity in this novel. First, Selena – knowing and naming and appreciating, loudly and publicly and proudly, her own body is just…lady goals. And Cade – being self-conscious of her own lack of knowledge of her body and sexual experience, who is definitely the more recognizable life situation for me, if I’m being honest. And even though there were some stops and starts with their communication in general, their communication regarding their sexual interactions was spot on top to bottom: open and honest and accepting, from Cade’s complete respect for Selena’s vow of celibacy to Selena’s total support for Cade’s different levels of experience than her own. It was truly wonderful and encouraging to read such clear and unabashed conversation about topics that are so taboo in our society. In a less uplifting, but similarly important way, Stetz-Waters’ representation of an abusive wlw relationship (something that Machado talks about in depth, as an unrecognized reality, in her memoir In the Dream House) is handled with care and necessary awareness of the harm any abusive relationship can have on a person’s life and mental health and self-image. Definite CW for other readers here, but I do think it was handled well, all things considered.
All in all, this was sweet and sexy (though definitely not the steamiest romance I’ve ever read, despite the potential for it to be so) and fun. There was a lovely irreverence in the setting and plot, as well as a more meaningful awareness of the pleasure gap for women and the lack of knowledge about our own bodies that many of us have. I enjoyed the flirting and banter between Cade and Selena, all the talk of and focus on art, and the pacing with which it all played out. Their falling fast for each other combined with a number of personal discoveries and coming-of-self moments were balanced smoothly. Plus, I feel like it ended in such a right way – it made my heart all fluttery. I definitely recommend this one!