After leaving an emotionally abusive relationship where his partner, Harrison, not only made Owen doubt his self worth, but also used Owen’s brilliance to further his own career, Owen is ready to start fresh in a new city where he is valued for his work. As the innovator behind predictive modeling software being implemented in the city’s police force, as well as potentially in other tech and health services, Owen is looking forward to immersing himself in his job. However, moving three hundred miles from his family, friends, and support system coupled with the mental damage he is still processing from his relationship leaves him feeling uncertain and anxious.
Fortunately for Owen, his sister knows him well and has vetted an escort service to help him ease into the social requirements of his job and mitigate the anxiety he feels about forming new relationships. Though hesitant, Owen realizes that by hiring a companion instead of dating, he can avoid the expectations of sex and get the simple human contact he so desperately craves. Although Cal usually avoids having regular clients who only want companionship, he is charmed by Owen after their first meeting and decides that taking Cal on as a client may help counter the unsettling sense of monotony he has been feeling. However, as Cal and Owen spend time together and Cal’s emotions become involved, he begins to worry that their arrangement may do more harm than good to Owen’s mental health and reputation, but that being together in any other capacity may be impossible.
A Model Escort is a lovely story and a breath of fresh air for several reasons. For me, the siblings and friends are so wonderful—engaging, supportive, and helpful, but without that unfortunately common trope of being pushy and overbearing. Amanda Meuwissen does an excellent job creating secondary characters that encourage and nudge the MCs out of their comfort zones without being raging jerks about it. While I recognize that this may not be important to some readers, it definitely struck a chord with me, as I am beyond done with “loving” bffs/family who only seem capable of shouting and tromping on the MCs feelings to show “support.” So, having a cast of caring secondary characters that respect who the MCs are and don’t run roughshod over them to get them to change definitely factored into my enjoyment of the story.
Additionally, I liked that Owen hires an escort just to snuggle with him, to have someone focus on his needs and hold him at night. Between Owen’s atypical needs and Cal being interested in taking on Owen as a client because of the similarities in their profiles, Owen and Cal’s relationship reads more like the HEA people want from online dating. Owen and Cal become friends, fostered by Cal’s inherent ability to see what his clients’ need, which helps him guide Owen in directions that help him gain confidence, and find healthy outlets for his pain and with his general social anxiety and shyness.
Owen is adorable (as is the call sign Cal gives him), sweet, and stronger than he believes. I enjoyed watching him come into his own. While Cal is worldly and sophisticated, he’s also principled, compassionate, and multi-faceted. While Owen is the character whose needs are most obvious, I enjoyed how Owen brought something unexpected and needed into Cal’s life as well. The writing is well done, flows, and doesn’t rely heavily on common tropes/plot devices to create angst or tension. It gives a natural development to the MCs’ personal progression, as well as the story line. I particularly think Meuwissen does a great job dealing with Owen’s anxiety and trauma. It takes him time and effort to combat his fears and to be better at believing in himself. Even when the ex makes his inevitable reappearance in Owen’s life, I think how Harrison and Owen interact and Owen’s emotions are true to life and the character and create an organic sense of uncertainty and tension in the story after this point.
As this is a Dreamspun Desires title, there are elements that may come across as too fairytale-esque for some readers, especially in regards to a certain event towards the end and how it is handled, but it fits with the line of books and, for me, is actually another refreshing subversion of expectations when it comes to labeling people by one action. Fair warning, since Cal is an escort, there may be an expectation of eventual steamy sex, but that is not the case. While there is a sex scene, it is short, sweet, and simple, and very true to the story. I found A Model Escort charming and delightful, a well-written and well-paced Dreamspun book that is not overfly fluffy and has fully-realized, interesting characters I rooted for and who earn their HEA.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.