Thursday, November 4, 2021

Zoey Castile - Stripped

The day Robyn Flores meets Zac Fallon is one of those days. You know, when you’re already late for work. Mostly because you haven’t really slept since your best friend abandoned you for her fiancé and her exponentially better life. The kind of day you drag yourself to the cleaners to pick up your laundry, only to discover you’ve got the wrong bag—Star Spangled sequined thong, anyone? So Robyn is definitely not ready for the ridiculously gorgeous guy at her front door, except that they have each other’s clothes. But then, is any woman ever ready to meet the love of her life?
There’s just one problem: Zac Fallon is not the love of Robyn’s life. Zac knows, despite the 
all-too-intimate dinner they share, he doesn’t have a shot at her. Because the next time Zac sees Robyn, he’s front and center of the male revue headlining her best friend’s bachelorette party. So much for wooing the pretty schoolteacher, much less impressing her old-fashioned family, with his upstanding lifestyle. Now he’s only got one way to win his dream girl. It’s gonna be the steamiest, most irresistible seduction she’s ever seen. And this time it will be no act …

Comment: I saw a positive comment about this book somewhere and that was reason enough to make me want to try it myself, but now that I did, I wasn't as impressed as I would have liked.

In this story we meet school teacher Robyn as she suddenly discovers her laundry back isn't hers, just as she is about to be ready to leave for work. In a comedy of errors, she uses the stranger's clothes to clean up her counter top and that is precisely when her new neighbor Fallon rings the bell and tells her he has her bag, so can they switch? Of course, Robyn makes it seem she has no idea where the missing clothes are but even that is hard to accomplish because Fallon is a very attractive man but eventually she leaves for work, arrives very late and spend the rest of the day commiserating about herself. When, later on, Fallon demands to know where the remaining clothes are, they finally start talking and both realize they like each other and maybe that could lead into something special...

What I wrote above is pretty much a summary of the first chapter of the book. I haven't read anything by the author until now but it seems the aim was to write something witty, funny and sexy but let me be honest: I would not use any of these adjectives to characterize this book.

I appreciate the author's idea and, written in a certain way, it might have worked. I mean, apparently it worked for several readers but, to me, it wasn't so. Most of the scenes felt cringey to me and I tried to picture this in my head as if it was a rom-com but I concluded that it would be like those movies everyone likes but that I would find boring or lacking subtlety. This to say, I do recognize the author's effort to write the story, I can see what the goal was and why certain choices (plot wise) were made, but sadly for me, I didn't find this one amusing.

Robyn is my biggest disappointment in the story. The writing didn't convince me, the fact this is alternate first person POV even less - I don't think it was a good choice for this story - but I hoped the protagonist would. However, Robyn is a person at a crossroads, she's not happy and she can't seem to focus on her job, her duties... This is something that probably a huge majority of the population faces but to be honest, the way this story was told, I was just annoyed at Robyn's behavior. Arriving late for work, the constant sarcasm/attempt at being funny in some interactions, the focus on sex thoughts regarding Fallon... again, all realistic I suppose, but for me not fun to read about.

Fallon is the unique element because he is a stripper and likes his job. There are hints throughout the story that his past isn't as easy as one might think but that is never fully addressed. I think I'd want to know more about him but by the end of the book I wasn't that interested anymore. Fallon likes being a stripper but he is aware how that is seen by others so he learned to disguise or to use wording that wouldn't make people judge. Any reader can guess this is precisely one of the points of conflict in the story, right? The resolution is predictable but the why of it isn't.

I was not convinced Fallon and Robyn were falling in love. I struggled to be interested in them, in what motivated them....besides most of the action is centered on Robyn's fails, especially in relation to her best friend's wedding, which Robyn is supposed to be organizing but she can't help even with that. Yes, there are some possibly interesting drama/personality issues here to work with, but for the most part Robyn's attitude seemed out of sync with what was being described. An example: Robyn is supposed to help with some wedding details but she never seems to really try and the bride calls her up on it. If we had had scenes where Robyn drops the ball or makes mistakes, instead of jus being told about it, would, perhaps, endear Robyn more, I could sympathize more with her personal struggles. The way things happen, it feels the author was focusing the story on the wrong elements.

Like I said, the romance didn't impress me. It's true they talk and decide to seek happiness so that can be seen as something positive, I guess, but I don't think the tone of the book - trying too hard to be funny - and the content really matched. I was too worried about what was going on with the plot to find passages amusing or to find the protagonist' encounters sexy or cute.

All in all, the story has potential, could have been done better in terms of plot development or structure, could have had a better romance too. I know this is just an opinion and that it worked for other readers but for me it wasn't as good as I imagined.
Grade: 4/10

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