Real love…as seen on TV
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?
Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.
But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.
Title: One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary
It’s been a while since I’ve read an adult romance novel and I think this was the perfect one to read after so long. It was exciting, a bit enlightening, and definitely had plenty of swoon-worthy moments. There were even a few surprises I didn’t see coming.
One thing that I still have a love-hate relationship within this book was the way it was written. There are parts where it’s written in normal 3rd person, like any other book and then there are the parts where the story progresses through the “social media” bits. We learn about Bea’s life, some things that happen on the show, and other things that help progress the story through email excerpts, blog posts, magazine articles, podcast excerpts, a Slack channel, and more! This was pretty annoying to me at first because there was soooo much of it at the beginning, but it grew on me towards the end.
I do think presenting the story this way was fresh and new. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book laid out this way so I appreciated the innovativeness. These “social media” bits (I don’t know what else to call them) did have some positives though. There were some parts where instead of having to read a long, drawn-out elimination ceremony, we would just read the highlights or results through a podcast or text conversation. Also, there were a couple of little side stories going on through these social channels. Slack. I’m looking at you.
Also, I really love that the chapters were broken up into which episode was being filmed. Like, “Episode 1. Name of the episode. 25 men left.” I thought that was unique and helped me to keep track of everything.
Anyway, onto characters. At the beginning, I was honestly so mad at the guys that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep reading the book. At one point, I was like, “Seriously! Who raised you!” But there were some gems that came out of that rough patch and they were gems. Stayman-London did such a good job of setting this up very much like a reality romance TV show. We’d meet the men, fall in love with some, hate some, learn more about them, switch teams, switch teams again, swoon, yell, tell Bea she didn’t deserve this, gasp, etc. etc.
Bea, the main character, was probably one of the reasons why I gave this lower stars. Her self-confidence lowered going into this (understandably, because the men were pigs), but then it never really seemed to recover. Like, there was one moment at the end where I thought maybe she was the Boss Babe, but then wasn’t a great build-up to it. It was just kinda thrust upon her. I didn’t see the growth. Maybe it was just me though.
There were, however, many moments where I literally laughed out loud. All the nods to The Bachelor franchise were hilarious. I even loved the Reality Stefan bit. Well done.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it’s definitely not one of my favorites. It was witty in many parts, emotional, romantic, surprising (there seemed to be surprises all throughout the book which I loved), and inclusively diverse. This book still has me a bit conflicted on how much I really liked it, but I’ve settled on a 3.5.
To check out my other reviews, click here. Or to check out more books by Kate Stayman-London, go to her GoodReads profile or her website. Want to buy this book? Click here for Amazon or here for Bookshop.