The Sex, Love, and Stiletto series is three books so far, and there will be a fourth. It’s about a group of four women in the infamous “Dating, Love, and Sex” department at Stiletto magazine, who are each, basically, Carrie Bradshaw, but each one has her own specialty when it comes to writing about romance. The series is fun and harmless, if not especially relevatory, romance. The sex scenes, especially in the first two books, are appropriately steamy and well-written. The books are short and can be easily devoured over the course of a few hours. They break down as follows:
1. After the Kiss (3 stars) is about Julie Greene, who specializes in “dating” for the magazine. She’s a party girl type who revels in the initial attraction but has no interest in a serious relationship. Her tips for women are meant to ensure a second and third date, but beyond that Julie is out of her depth — UNTIL her boss, Camille, asks her specifically for a more detailed piece about transitioning from dating to a relationship. Julie decides to write this article scientifically: she will pick an unknowing specimen, work her magic on him, and then document the process of going from single to coupled up, after which she’ll call it off. Mitchell Forbes (I think it’s Forbes; he works on Wall Street so he has to have a Wall Street name) is a serial monogamist who is convinced by a buddy of his that it’s time for him to just have a fling without wanting to put a ring on it. Said friend points out Julie at a party, because apparently the Stiletto girls are socialite-famous and he knows that she won’t be looking for anything serious. Julie, meanwhile, spots him at the same party and can tell by his business-y demeanor that he’s a relationship type, so she thinks he’ll be perfect for her experiment. Game on! Their courtship is cute; they waste no time dismantling each others’ notions about each other and in doing so build a surprisingly honest connection, even while deceiving each other with their ultimate intentions. Of course they fall in love, then find out about each others’ ulterior motives, and then have to reconcile. They’ll be fine.
2. Love the One You’re With (4 stars) is about Grace Brighton, who is Stiletto’s “love” specialist. She earned that role on account of being in a major long-term relationship with her boyfriend, and she writes about how to keep him interested, how to tell if he is cheating, etc. But! At the end of After the Kiss, she finds out that her boyfriend was cheating on her, so she starts this book fresh and single, with a new assignment for the magazine. She’s going to be paired up with a columnist from the leading men’s lifestyle magazine, and together, they’re going to do a series about how well they are reading each others’ signals in contrived dating situations. All of this was going to happen so the magazines’ readers could vote on if men or women understood the other gender better. (Based on a sample size of one… look, this was probably the worst initial premise, but Layne actually turned it around and it didn’t get particularly gross and stereotypical.) Of course, Grace and Jake have immediate natural chemistry, and before long, they’re finding ways to see each other outside of the dates they’re required to go on by the magazines, and they’re trying to keep those side interactions a secret so that everything they do isn’t being analyzed by everyone. Jake was my favorite hero of the three: a handsome, confident guy with a wholesome Midwest upbringing who respected and adored Grace and delivered some serious smoulder when it came down to it. Probably mostly due to my own minor crush on him, this was my favorite book of the series.
3. Just One Night (2.5 stars) followed Riley McKenna, the “sex” columnist. Spoiler alert: for all of her crazy tips and her reputation as having bedded quite the menagerie of men, she’s practically a virgin. See, she’s been in love with a family friend for most of her formative years, and outside of one attempt in college, she can’t bring herself to go all the way with anyone else. Sam Compton is that family friend, and oh boy, this guy. He’s not a deadbeat per se, but his relentlessly defeatist attitude prevents him from ever really pursuing his goals all the way. He’s in love with Riley but convinced he doesn’t deserve her, so even after she comes to him with a (sexual) proposition that will help her write an article — and then eventually being more forthcoming about her true feelings — he pushes, pushes, pushes her away. I just couldn’t get behind this wet blanket of a hero. Riley is a funny, self-assured, smart woman and I get that she’s had the hots for him forever, but she could have done better and I wanted it for her.
The fourth book will be about a character that was introduced in the second book and becomes a part of the team. She has a mysterious back story with an ex-fiance who is now the editor in chief of the rival men’s magazine that featured prominently in the second book. They’ll probably get back together. I’ll probably read it.