I started putting down my thoughts for this one, and then decided to check out what Malin had to say and noticed that we had similar reactions. Overall, I really enjoyed this one, and I am going to need another reader to do some fan art of what Michael’s tattoo might look like ASAP because an athletic, attractive, ripped man with a dragon tattoo? Obviously, going to need a visual on that!
Stella is a highly successful econometrist working in the Bay area involved in predictive analytics. She is incredibly good with data and patterns, and has helped create algorithms that have been successful with online retail among other things. She also has Asperger’s/is on the spectrum, and does not think she is good at relationships. Much of this seems to be more related to the men she has been on dates with being jackasses/not aware of the concept of enthusiastic consent. With a renewed push from her mother to find her paired off, Stella decides to take a scientific approach and use an escort to get more comfortable with sex. After a session with Michael, she realizes one session won’t do it, and hires him for additional lessons before completely shifting gears, and deciding she needs to learn about being in a relationship more than she needs to learn how to be good at sex.
Michael is Stella’s escort, and he has been in the escort business for three years. After a crazy stalker client, he created a one-time only rule but Stella is the first client he has had that actually engages his interest. She treats him like an equal rather than the help so he quickly finds himself breaking his rule even as he realizes that the danger might be him getting too attached to Stella rather than the reverse.
Stella wants to be treated as a normal person and does not want Michael to know about her Asperger’s diagnosis. Michael has his own secrets and reasons for being an escort, but he is constantly doubting himself, his motivations and his ability to be a good guy. As a result, it is Michael’s hang-ups that end up being more of an issue as he doubts whether he is ambitious or intelligent enough to be a match for Stella and starts making assumptions and decisions based on his own internal insecurities rather than anything that has been said or happened.
While overall, I quite enjoyed the novel, and thought it was sweet and charming, there were two main things I didn’t like. The first of those is a personal pet peeve related to pet names – I HATE When people use the word “My” before proper names – my boyfriend, my BAE, my girl, my love, whatever, cool, you do you. “My Jen” or “My Stella” makes me somewhat homicidal and Michael definitely used the phrase “my Stella” a lot. A lot a lot a lot.
My other complaint was related to Michael’s big secret. I understand Michael being hesitant to share his secret with Stella but I also feel like it should have been shared with the reader sooner than it was. I understand keeping things for big reveals later but the whole cryptic, “oh my bills, oh my horrible father” clues ran a bit thin – there could have been a bit more of an explanation to the reader while still saving the details for a big reveal later. As mentioned above, Michael’s reactions and his decisions based on his background and fears ended up being a bit more drawn out and crossed the line slightly towards annoying. However, in the overall context of the book these are rather minor complaints that are outweighed by the charming story.
Oh, since I’ve been in Mountain View for the last month, I appreciated actually having some geographical reference and knowledge of all the places Stella and Michael went! So that was kind of a cool bonus!