Monday, September 14, 2020

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

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House Rules:
Do your own dishes
Knock before entering the bathroom
Never look up your roommate online

The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet...

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.

Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Josh is a porn star who's proud of his gifts on and off the camera. Clara is a straight-laced socialite from the East Coast who dropped her entire life to move to the opposite coast to room with her forever-crush, Elliott. Only when she arrives in LA, he picks her up and literally drops her off at the house telling her he's going on tour with his band and that he's rented out the other room. Even despite this inexcusable and god-awful behaviour, she still lusts after him. Come on, girlfriend. Josh finds Clara's buttoned up demeanor amusing and slightly appealing but he has no intentions of getting mixed up in her mess. His best intentions don't hold up though when he finds out Clara has been researching his day job.

As she and Josh get involved she helps him see a bigger future for himself. One where he has control over his name and his career. They come up with a brilliant project and marketing idea and decide to pursue it. They both become advocates for sexual empowerment, especially for women. Clara evolves into a vastly different person from the one who first arrives in LA. 

The story also removes the 'othering' of adult entertainers by giving us a glimpse into the workings of that world. It can definitely be manipulative and because those in porn are treated as inferior by the rest of 'polite society', they don't get the attention or support they deserve when it comes to asking for better working conditions. 

I thought The Roommate was charming and it’s kind of different from some other romances I’ve read recently but there's one thing that was nagging at me as I read it. Clara is super conscientious about her family's image - she's either thinking about it or talking about it - and thanks to shady family history she knows the consequences of bad publicity. Which is why I thought I'd missed something when she seems to jump into something with Josh. If she's always so worried about not letting her family down, how does she reason this out in her head? To be clear, I'm not asking for Clara to justify her decisions. I just wanted a better understanding of how she went from point A to point B when she's otherwise always consumed with propriety. My confusion was spurred on by her taking a job working for her aunt who's been ostracized by her family for unbecoming behaviour. This aunt has since gone on to have a successful PR career and has recently landed a high profile client and Clara is brought in to work closely with them. Clara's actions seem out of character for someone who’s a list-maker, rule-follower and who's so intent on not drawing any negative attention to her family. My point is that it's not clearly shown how she compartmentalized everything because she's smart and incredibly thoughtful, so surely she would've known that there'd be repercussions if someone got wind of her side projects.

Regardless, The Roommate is a fun and enjoyable read. It's honestly quite a sweet story about that journey towards owning one's sexuality and being unashamed of it. There are also other things that take up space in the story such has the lives of the adult performers. They aren't just presented as just porn stars but as multi-dimensional individuals with their own fascinating backgrounds. The Roommate was something a little different and I'm happy I read it.  

~ Bel

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