Bess’ Book Recs: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

You all probably know my policy by now, that a romance novel with a cartoon cover is more likely to be up my alley. One to Watch did not disappoint.

In college I turned on dating shows in the background while I studied because hey! I had undiagnosed ADHD and needed help getting to a level of stimulation where I could focus, but other than that my experience with things like The Bachelorette is fairly limited. I know there are betting pools and podcasts and watch clubs, but it’s never been my thing.

Until I read this book.

The whole time I was reading it I was desperate for my friends to read it too so we could discuss the merits of various bachelors. Who’s secretly a jerk? What do you think about this guy’s perspective? Which one’s your type? WERE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE ENDING!?

So now I think I get it.

The concept is a fashion blogger goes viral for calling out definitely-not-the-Bachelor “Main Squeeze” for not having any real diversity, and the new producer asks her to be their next star. You follow Bea through the reality show experience and it is fun. It’s also immersive. I loved reading about the behind-the-scenes machinations, even if I have no idea how true-to-life they really are.

And the harem was interesting to read about too; they’re deliberately all very different in terms of personality, ethnicity, and lifestyle (not quite so much body type, which is another deliberate plot point that Bea calls out). There’s also a small but exciting array of queerness, including GNC and ace/aro, which was a first for me in a romance (especially one I bought at Target).

The ending wasn’t for me, although not so much because it’s Bad as because it’s not my particular brand of Happily Ever After. (I’d explain more, but it’d be spoilery.) But that happens not-infrequently in romance novels (so much pregnancy! So many babies!), and the rest of this book more than makes up for it, for me.

Now, I highly, highly recommend you read this one with a friend–or better yet, a book club–so you can have a proper reaction thread to all the Dating Show Drama, much like the snippets at the beginning of some of the chapters. Otherwise you don’t have anyone to yell with when [redacted] finally shows his true colors or [redacted] turns out to be [redacted] or even [redacted]! And trust me, you’ll need it.

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