Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: Sweeten the Deal

By Allyson Bales

MBA student Caroline Sedlacek knows her personal balance sheet is a little lopsided. On the asset side, at twenty-two she’s got an NCAA trophy, a great education...and the two million dollars she unexpectedly inherited. Liabilities? She's never had friends, a boyfriend, or any life experiences away from the tennis court or the classroom. She'd love to invest herself in everything else, but "everything else" never came easily for her.

In the ten years since he left art school as a vaunted prodigy, Adrian Landry has won shows and major prizes—and done his best to shed his reputation as a pretty man who makes pretty paintings. Though currently broke and sleeping off a bad break-up on his college roommate’s couch, he knows this is the chance to get his life back on track at thirty-three—he just needs the money to find a new gallery. 

When Adrian’s roommate lists him on a thinly veiled escort site, Caroline is not the patron he expected. She’s way too young, way too naive, and loudly uninterested in having sex with him. Instead, they’re both going to get exactly what they want: a little culture on her side, and a lot of cash on his. Aside from their sugar baby arrangement, they’ve got nothing in common. But as they reel from the symphony to the Haymarket, they learn that what they want and what they need might be two very different things. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

When I was a teenager, Pretty Woman was new, and I remember begging my mom to let me watch it.  She would resist and I ended up at a sleepover watching it, much to my mothers disappointment.  Years and years later whenever I’m channel scrolling and Pretty Woman is on, it doesn’t matter what part the movie is at, I stop scrolling and watch it.  I love Julia Roberts so much, and this book is like Pretty Woman but in reverse, kind of.

Caroline is a twenty-two year-old ex-tennis player that has been sheltered her whole life.  She is sunshine and cheeriness but lacks friends and is a bit naive.  She decides to look on an escort, or sugar baby site, to meet someone that can help her be more cultured and less lonely.  She finds Adrian, an older artist.  He’s just broken up with his ex and has no home and not much money to his name.  He isn’t really grumpy so much as jaded.  I absolutely loved what blossomed between them!

Caroline and Adrian’s interactions had me laughing out loud in moments and also clutching my heart in other, more tender, moments.  I love that Caroline is okay being vulnerable and I love how Adrian is so thoughtful and such a gentleman.  Their connection slowly builds and I love that in a romance. Not to mention the fake dating trope is one of my favorites of all time!

Much like Pretty Woman, I could come back to this book over and over again, no matter the page, and be immersed in this story and these characters.  Shepard’s writing is witty, engaging, and intelligent.  The details really pull you in and make this such a fun escapist read.  Also, the way she develops her characters was so enjoyable, as strong character development is really important to me as a reader.  I loved learning about Caroline and Adrian and being along for the ride as they grew as people.  

I think Caroline might be one of my new favorite characters!  She is wise for her age and really cares about people.  She also inherited a HUGE sum of money and I love the way she navigated that in the story.  I also love that although she hasn’t had many experiences in life, she’s not afraid to roll up her sleeves and try.  I loved her lists and her questions and her need for explanations.  I loved that she gives people the benefit of the doubt which isn’t that easy to find these days.  Caroline reminded me slightly of Isadora, from the book The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley, who is also another favorite character of mine.

While this is my first Katie Shepard novel, it most certainly will not be my last!  I highly recommend you grab this one as soon as you can!

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. Purchase Sweeten the Deal here.

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