Rating: 3.5 stars
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Troy has tried and tried and tried, but no amount of putting himself out there has landed him a beau. He knows the spare tire around his middle isn’t the sole cause of his perpetually single state, but he also knows it doesn’t help. As if finding a date weren’t hard enough, Troy’s a workaholic, so it’s tough to wrangle his schedule. At this rate, it’s no wonder he’s staring down his thirtieth birthday as a virgin. None of this is how Troy imagined his life would go, but he is truly at a loss for how to get a romantic—or at least sexual—connection with another man. Which is probably why he takes his best friend’s suggestion to hire an escort rather more seriously that he otherwise might.
Not for the first time, Warner has contemplated what he’s doing working as an escort to put himself through college. At first, the easy money, fun trips, and adventurous sex were appealing. But more and more, he feels hollowed out by the whole arrangement. When a potential client reaches out to him with a stiffly polite request—and one about virginity no less!—Warner decides to give it a go. His new client, Troy, is like no one he’s met before. Warner was just questioning his commitment to being an escort. Now that Troy is his client, Warner finds himself breaking all his professional rules, all because he can’t get enough of the sweet, funny, thoughtful Troy. Warner is sure the two of them could have a shot at something real, but he’s afraid to acknowledge his growing feelings for Troy. After a terrible decision that leaves both of them broken-hearted, it will take a grand gesture from Warner to prove he really can stop being an escort and start being a partner.
Risqué Business is a contemporary romance by Brittany Cournoyer. One of the reasons I chose this book is because Troy represents a refreshing change from the usual testosterone-soaked stud muffins that often appear in romance novels. I was excited to read a story where one of the romantic leads doesn’t fit that mold. Troy mentions a few times that he’s got a “few extra pounds” and there’s a peppering of comments that are meant to reflect how that makes him insecure: his clothes don’t fit right, he’s self-conscious about how much food he takes at a buffet and how much food he eats. I appreciated this effort to acknowledge that feeling, even if I was a little underwhelmed with how his insecurities get framed in the heat of the moment with Warner.
I thought our two main characters were enjoyable. Troy fulfills the part of dutiful customer with Warner, framing every interaction as a transaction with a price tag. It was fun watching Warner grapple with that as he gets to know and fall in love with Troy. Because the whole story unfolds with each chapter alternating between Troy and Warner as narrator, I got to enjoy how they both fall for each other at the same time, yet are incapable of entertaining the idea that the other man might reciprocate.
One element of the story I enjoyed was the consistency of Troy’s inability to accept or acknowledge that The Hot One could be interested in him. After a lifetime of being teased for his weight and a seemingly endless string of first dates, Troy fully accepts and expects everything with Warner to be nothing but business. This mindset also made the big misunderstanding/melodramatic reaction at the end feel like an inevitable conclusion from Troy’s perspective. Rather than addressing their feelings, Warner runs away and Troy’s worst fears get reaffirmed.
For me, it was easy to imagine Troy falling for Warner. The dynamic there seems like it can be easily framed as Troy falling for the first man to show any interest in Troy at all, even if Troy has to pay for it. But there are other staples of attraction: Warner is hot, he’s traveled, he’s great at a party. It was less clear why Warner ever starts to see Troy as anything other than a client. I’m hard pressed to find any descriptors for Troy beyond “not swole,” “weight-based self-esteem issues,” and “works a lot.” And that’s even with half the chapters from Troy’s perspective and interactions with Troy’s best friend and family member. Yet when Warner is narrating, he himself offers constant comments about how he treats Troy differently, does things for Troy he hasn’t and wouldn’t do for any other client. I appreciated the affirmation that Warner really was falling in love, I just wasn’t sure what drew him to Troy and/or why it happened.
Overall, Risqué Business is a mostly sweet get-together story. I enjoyed the dynamic between Troy and Warner when they’re together. They start off compartmentalizing their relationship as nothing but a transaction, but Troy’s being a virgin for some reason opens the door for Warner to approach this client differently than his typical ones. The escort turns into a full-blown fake boyfriend situation where the lines between business transaction and something else start to blur a whole lot. The end winds up with a big melodramatic falling out that gets resolved in a sweet way to give readers a happily ever after, too.