Desert Isle Keeper
I have a friend who likes to go on and on about meet-cutes. Whenever we travel together, she likes to make up different scenarios involving us having our own meet-cutes: A stranger at the airport, the guard at the museum; there are infinite ways to meet people when you travel. Now that I’ve lived in New York City for a few years, and bonded with more than a few strangers over the course of a Metro North or subway ride, I’m well aware of the potential a train has for a meet-cute. Thus, when I found out Stuck-Up Suit began with a chance meeting on the subway in NYC, well, I had to read it.
Soraya Venedetta is less than impressed by Grant Morgan the first time she encounters him. She is sitting across a subway car from Grant, listening to him rail at his secretary over the phone—a woman whose name he cannot even be bothered to remember correctly. When Soraya realizes minutes later that he dropped his phone getting off the subway, she digs through his photos briefly, looking for more detail about the awful (but attractive) man, and then gets ready to return it to his office.
Unfortunately, when Soraya goes to return Grant’s phone, he won’t deign to see her. She leaves it with his beleaguered secretary after texting it a picture of herself from the neck down and listing her contact as You’re Welcome Asshole. This is very much in character for Soraya—she’s a feisty Italian girl from Brooklyn who refuses to put up with anyone’s foolishness or disrespect.
Grant—aside from being attracted to Soraya’s picture, naturally—is first taken in by the message that accompanied it, a text saying Your mother would be ashamed of you. Grant’s mother has been gone for about a decade, but he’s still bothered by Soraya’s text. In an impulsive moment, Grant messages her back. Thus begins a texting relationship which sparkles with humor and, above all, chemistry. It’s only a matter of time before Grant and Soraya meet in person.
As it happens, Grant recognizes Soraya when they are sitting in a train car together again. They make eye contact, get off the train, and end the encounter with a date planned for later in the week. It doesn’t take long for one date to turn into two, and then to turn into a relationship. Although life proceeds to throw the couple a few curveballs, they navigate these without a lot of excess drama—something I prize above all else in romance novel characters.
The best thing about Stuck-Up Suit, hands down, is its characters. Both Soraya and Grant have layers, and their chemistry is off the charts. Grant, for example, fully earns his nickname of “Mr. Big Prick” in their first two encounters. Yet he is also an extremely caring person toward the people he truly cares about. Having been burned in the past first by his mother’s death and then by a cheating fiancée, he can be hesitant about opening up to people. With Soraya, though, he is able to recognize the great thing he has. He’s up front with her about his history with his ex, and it’s not long before he’s sharing even bigger secrets, such as a love for General Hospital and strawberry Nesquik.
Soraya is the more immediately likable character, and the one who initially would seem to have fewer issues. However, over time it becomes clear that her father—who divorced her Mom and essentially chose his stepdaughters over his biological daughters—really did a number on her. The great thing, though, is that she tells Grant about this. There are numerous times where Soraya might have backed away from the relationship if not for Grant’s patience and determination to maintain open communication. They talk through their issues and do such a good job that, even when there’s a bit of a hiccup at the end, I forgave it.
There really weren’t many things that bothered me about this book. Sure, as someone who lives in NYC, I can point out that a morning subway commute would probably be way too busy to meet someone in this manner. And I’ll admit Soraya’s impulsively sending a photo of herself—of her body—to Grant didn’t seem like a very bright idea. But other than that, I have no real complaints. I may not know anyone quite like Soraya or Grant in my own life, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying their presence in a book.
The problem with meet-cutes, I like to tell my sister, is what comes after them. This is a phenomenon evinced too often in romance novels—characters can have an adorable first encounter, but if they follow it with dramatics and Big Misunderstandings so that the promising start won’t be enough to redeem the story. Although I first opened Stuck-Up Suit because of Soraya and Grant’s encounter on the subway, that’s not what made me love it. These two carry some baggage, but they manage it in a healthy way throughout all of their troubles, which is really what made this into a DIK for me. Wit, romance, and evidence that the characters will make their happy ending last—Stuck-Up Suit has all the elements of a great Desert Isle Keeper.