Series: Red Hot Russians #2
Published by Carina Source: Author, Netgalley
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Friendship, Love Triangle, Romance
Buy on Amazon
Book editor Hannah Levinson couldn’t be happier. This “Nice Jewish Girl” is ready to marry the man she’s longed after for half her life. When her fiancé suggests they audition for Last Fling, a steamy new reality show for engaged couples, she lets herself be swayed. Maybe she’ll learn a thing or two.
Vlad Shustov’s fall from a once-bright career as a competitive figure skater was swift. Now trapped by a shameful past and an uncertain future, “Vlad the Bad” strips for cash. Joining the cast of Last Fling could earn him a fortune—or at least enough to finally leave stripping. But to win the show’s prize, he must seduce an engaged woman, something he can't even bear the thought of.
Hannah's not like any woman Vlad's met before. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and relegated to the ugly-duckling role she’d worked so hard to shed, can she trust there’s more to Vlad than meets the eye? With sleazy TV tactics shattering the last shreds of the contestants' confidence, they'll have to believe true happiness is not only possible...it may be looking right at them.
So my guilty pleasure the past few weeks (well not really guilty because I talk about it all the time and I am totally obsessed) is the new show UnReal, a really dark look at dating reality shows. Anyway, when I saw the premise of this book, I knew I was in. I mean I don’t actually watch reality dating shows, but I figured this would be kind of like an insiders look, so I was immediately interested.
So the book starts off and you are introduced to Hannah, Jack, and Vlad. In some regards, I feel bad for Hannah, and in others I just don’t like her. I mean I really wanted to. She has everything going for her to make me like her, she’s not perfect, she’s a book editor, she is well spoken and educated, and in general is an all around nice person. But I don’t like her. She’s had a crush on this guy for like her whole life, and when Jack asked her out, and they end up getting engaged, she ends up giving up a lot for him. She can’t talk about her successes because it makes him feel bad, she doesn’t have her friends anymore because he doesn’t like them, and well she ends up going on a reality show that is probably going to cost her her job and her relationship because poor Jack wants to be in the limelight. And when she gets to the island for the show, she was like every sad cliche you could think of, pigging out on BBQ chicken, never shaving her legs, falling, getting hit in the face with a volleyball. It was just sad. As the book goes on I really feel for the girl, and I want her to be happy, I just didn’t connect to her.
Vlad wasn’t so bad. He’s clearly a smart guy, who has been through some hard life experiences and is now working as a stripper in Miami. He’s an all around good guy. He likes making people feel good about themselves, and he is sweet to Hannah from day one. And honestly given how bad I felt for her in this situation, she needed someone to be nice to her. I wish I had more to say about Vlad, but I don’t really, the Hannah/Vlad relationship was one of those really slow burns, given that she came to the show engaged.
I was so frustrated through most of this book. I mean I just can’t imagine being in Hannah’s shoes and continuing to allow things to keep going to way they were. And Jack I mean serious, Jack, was the worst. He is just a pig who wants everything to be about him, and honestly I have known guys like him, and thankfully I figured out by age 16 those are the guys to avoid and never let near you. It was hard to read sometimes because he’s just such a jerk to Hannah. There are a lot of side characters and other plot lines going on which sometimes made it difficult to keep up with. But I was happy with the ending, and I was glad I stuck it out to get it, made dealing with Jack for so long worth it.
Hannah sighed and shook her head. “I’m not usually such an emotional mess. It’s just this show. This whole situation! Back there…” she flung her arm wide, in the direction of the mainland. “I’m successful. Accomplished. I have a great job. I live in New York City. Here, all anyone cares about is how hot I am. Or more to the point, how hot I’m not!”
Vlad nodded sympathetically. “It’s TV. Unfortunately, sex sells better than other good qualities.”
“Exactly! I can’t compete. I’m not like those other women, and I don’t even want to be. But I have no choice. Not unless I want to lose my fiancé to a scheming bimbo and have the entire nation talking about what a pathetic loser I am. It’s humiliating.”
“You can always learn to be sexy.” Vlad looked her over. “You’ve got the right equipment. All you need is to learn to use it. I am around sexy women all the time. I could coach you. You know…sexy lessons.”
“Sexy lessons?” She had to laugh at that. “I’ve never thought of sexy as a learned skill.”
“It is, though. All about how you carry yourself.” He adjusted his posture and the set of his broad shoulders conveyed a confidence that was undeniably hot.
“And who better to teach me than a guy named Vlad the Bad who takes off his clothes for a living?”
“As Uncle Ivan used to say, it pays to work with best coach you can find.”
She laughed again, but didn’t entirely dismiss the idea. Putting a little strut in her stuff held surprising appeal. Yet what was the catch? A guy who willingly signed on for a trashy show like Last Fling must want something. “And in return?”
He thought a moment and Hannah tensed, afraid of what he might ask. Then he gave a decisive nod. “I want you to read my book. Not just query, synopsis, “sorry not right for us,” but the whole thing. You don’t have to buy, but I want honest, professional critique of how to make it better.”
Honest and professional? Yikes. What would she say if the book was god-awful, which it likely was? He’d pinned so much hope to it, she couldn’t bear to be the one to discourage him. On the other hand, at least she would be gentle and constructive. And if it was good, this was a chance to help him achieve his dream. She imagined taking the book to her boss. Sales and Marketing would drool over this hot Russian male stripper–turned-literary sensation. As would everyone else. And if it kept Jack from Robynne’s clutches, it was worth the risk.
Vlad narrowed his eyes. “So do we have a deal?”
A bit more certain, Hannah laughed and stuck out her hand. “Deal.”