Grade : C+

Wouldn’t every heterosexual woman secretly love to have her world rocked by a bona fide porn star? A guy who knows his way around the…sheets? Stinger by Mia Sheridan scratches a bit of that fantasy itch before morphing into something completely different and unexpected.

Law student Grace Hamilton has a plan for every aspect of her future. For her career: Graduate from law school in two years, pass the bar exam on her first try, then work for a top law firm. For her relationship: Get married at age twenty-eight in a big, white dress and pearls, wait a year and then have two kids, a girl and a boy. For her sex life: Have two lovers before she gets married, one to take her virginity (check), and a Second Guy to practice with so she’ll be good in bed for her future husband. Not in Grace’s plan? Bumping into Carson Stinger, Straight Male Performer, while at a law student conference in good old Sin City, aka, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Carson Stinger has followed his mother into the family business, so to speak. While he doesn’t love being an adult film performer, the money is decent, he’s gained a bit of a fan following, and if he’s going to hook up with random women all the time anyway, why not get paid to do it? He’s at the Adult Entertainment Expo at the Bellagio when he literally runs into Grace. He finds her negative, almost visceral, reaction to him intriguing and can’t help baiting her.

But when the two get stuck in an elevator for a couple of hours, their hostility provokes sparks of a different sort, and Grace develops a new plan. She takes Carson up on his offer to serve as her Second Guy who will give her many orgasms and the experience she seeks, while he enjoys a no-strings weekend romp with a woman he actually wants to be with.

Not in the plan? Finding out that they kinda really like each other and don’t want the relationship to end. Unfortunately, Carson is locked into a two-year contract and has nothing to offer Grace other than his Magical Lovemaking Skills. The two part ways, heartbroken but unable to see a way to be together. Not that they really try.

But their weekend together has affected each of them enough to make them want to change their plans. Carson quickly realizes that a life in the porn industry is no longer an option, not with Grace haunting his every thought. And Grace realizes that making the safe choices leads to a pretty boring life. When the two finally meet again years later, they’ve changed in some fundamental ways, but the sparks between them are still as hot as ever.

As I said at the beginning of this review, Stinger is one of those books that starts off as one thing and then morphs into something completely different. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the aspect that made it interesting to me in the beginning quickly became a non-issue, and then I was a bit less interested in Grace and Carson’s relationship. And in order to buy into this story, you have to accept the premise that a weekend of hot Las Vegas sex is enough to 1) enable you to fall in love and 2) change the trajectory of your life.

I went into this expecting to read about how a relationship would be affected if one of the key players shtupped other people on video for money. How, exactly, would you cope knowing that your significant other would have other partners on the regular? Would you be intimidated? Would you fear comparisons? Diseases? And how does being in a serious relationship affect one’s ability to engage in transactional sex, especially when that person is a male and wholly unable to ‘fake’ an arousal? Is any of this even possible? Alas, Stinger does not answer these questions with any depth. Instead of being ‘porn without plot’, this book is all ‘plot without porn’.

Carson and Grace are likable enough characters. I laughed every time Grace thought of Carson as Carson Stinger, Straight Male Performer, which is the name and title printed on his name tag when they first meet.

I cannot say the same for Carson’s nickname for Grace. From the get-go, he calls her buttercup. He calls her this a lot. A lot. A LOT. Like, on every page that they are together and speaking or he is thinking about her. First of all, since he’s calling her buttercup, the word becomes a name and thus should be capitalized. It’s not. Second, it’s played as some kind of running joke, with Grace asking him why he calls her [B]uttercup and Carson making up some reason, but never giving her the real one. Eventually we do find out the real reason, which I found to be rather convoluted. Honest to goodness, this whole thing bothered me enough to downgrade my review by a half a grade. Seriously.

In the end, Stinger is an okay book. I wasn’t super compelled to keep reading, but I’m not mad at it either.

Reviewed by Jenna Harper
Grade : C+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : October 13, 2023

Publication Date: 06/2023

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Jenna Harper

I'm a city-fied suburban hockey mom who owns more books than I will probably ever manage to read in my lifetime, but I'm determined to try.
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