One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Title: One to Watch
Author: Kate Stayman-London
Publication date: 2020

Date started: 20/12/2020
Date finished: 22/12/2020

Content warnings: fatphobia, rape threats, internet harassment, mention of death threats

First sentence: “The flea market at Clignancourt was at the far northern edge of the city, a few blocks past the final stop on the number 4 Métro, where the Parisian architecture grew more simple, more mundane – a reminder that not all of the city was steeped in centuries of history and romance.”
Last sentence: “’I was thinking more like a ring.’”

Summary (spoilers): Bea never thought fashion was for her until she was given an amazing cape in a Parisian flea market, and realized that with the right clothes she could find confidence even if her body didn’t follow the far too slim western beauty standards. Years later, she’s become a famous fashion blogger, and when she drunk posts one night about how Main Squeeze (a Bachelor type of TV show) only features extremely slim contestants, she becomes viral overnight. After a wave of both praise and harassment, her life calms down again, but that’s when the man she’s been in love with for years steps back into her life. He’s engaged to another, but they spend an amazing night together, and Bea thinks that their love story is finally starting… before he leaves without a word the next morning, and stops answering her messages. Bea is a heartbroken mess for a while after that, so when the new show runner of Main Squeeze asks her to be next season’s main squeeze she’s unsure what to do. She’s scared of all the harassment coming her way again – as happens to any plus size woman who dares appear in public – but she thinks the representation would do some good for a lot of people. She decides to participate in the show, but on one condition: she won’t fall in love for real. When the show starts filming, none of the 25 men about to court her know who she is, and quite a few don’t even try to hide their dislike upon seeing her for the first time. The beginning is very hard for her, as most of the contestants are very obvious in their pure disdain for her, or see her as someone who needs to be saved with diets and workout programs. But little by little, she starts knowing some of the men better, and starts to think that maybe, falling in love with one of them might not be the worst idea. It’s still very hard for her to trust any of them, as she’s always wondering if they’re only here for clout and fame, but slowly she starts to enjoy her time. Some of the men she eliminates little by little are awful, some play nice with her until they lash out and make her doubt everybody’s feelings when they’re eliminated, and when there’s only a handful of men left, she has another problem: she likes them all a little too much to chose! One of the last men, Wyatt, tells her that he finally accepted the fact that he’s aro ace, and thus would love to keep her as a friend, but cannot be her happy ending. So it’s up to the three finalists: handsome French chef Luc, cute & youthful Sam, and serious professor Asher! She has the opportunity to spend a night with each of them, but Asher cannot commit until he’s sure that he will be chosen in the end, and Sam thinks it would be romantic to wait. Bea, heartbroken by their rejections, decides to still sleep with Luc… but finds him sleeping with the Main Squeeze show runner on the very next day! At least it makes the next elimination easy – except Main Squeeze had an ace up its sleeve, and brought Ray, the man who broke Bea’s heart but now wants her back, to spice things up. And Asher, whom Bea liked best, gets too jealous from her sleeping with Luc, and decides to quit the show! Bea is now hesitating between Sam and Ray, but one doesn’t seem ready for a serious relationship, and the other broke her heart too many times to be trusted again. So Bea decides to say no to both men, and to stay single for now. A few months later, she’s still thinking about Asher, and he’s still thinking about her… so they do end up together!

Opinion: I’m not big on reality TV so I’ve never watched the Bachelor, but reading this, I think I understood some of the show’s appeal! I just couldn’t put this book down, because I really wanted to know what would happen to Bea and her guys! This story was at times powerful and at times heartbreaking, clearly laying out what it can be for a plus sized woman to find love and to navigate life in general, without being completely hopeless and depressive. The characters were very diverse in different ways, and just enough flawed to be interesting!

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