Bea Schumacher has had some rough mornings, but nothing quite like the one she wakes to after a particularly harrowing wine-filled evening. The plus-size fashion blogger and One to Watch heroine wakes after her hazy, booze-fueled tweet storm righteously demolishes the premiere of the popular Bachelor-esque dating show Main Squeeze, calling out the reality show’s obviously unreal portrayal of women’s bodies and beauty. Reeling from a heartrending breakup, Bea expects the resulting Twitter furor to blow over, but to her surprise, she gets a call from the show’s producer. Her rant has touched a nerve, and now the producers want to make right by inviting her onto the show. Would she be the next Main Squeeze?
A long-time devotee of the show, Bea isn’t under any illusion that what happens on Main Squeeze has any relation to actual reality, much less lasting love. Still, the proposal has its perks: she’d gain attention for her blog, she’d be in a position to advocate for more racial and body inclusiveness among her potential suitors and most importantly, she’d be a Main Squeeze who actually looked like an average woman rather than some impossible Hollywood ideal. She’s confident with her body image and it might be a fun lark to get over her heartbreak, so she signs up. But as filming starts, Bea finds that her usually firmly-rooted self might not be prepared for the reality of ever-present cameras, vicious internet trolls, producers pulling the puppet strings and of course the ever present capital-D Drama that comes with a roomful of men with mixed motives. But the biggest surprise might be that she might actually find love—unless an old enemy returns to derail all that Bea’s fought for.
Debut author Stayman-London offers a sparkling contemporary that manages to both lampoon and pay homage to all things Bachelor which fans of that show will especially adore. But One to Watch’s appeal isn’t limited to fans of reality shows, as Bea is one heroine that readers will have no trouble rooting for. Her deep sense of self, even when tested, anchors her as she struggles to discover what Happily Ever After. Stayman-London intersperses the speedy action with podcast and internet commentary, chapters that follow the episodic nature of the show, and takes her readers to the sort of giddily escapist locations and dates that only exist within highly produced dating shows and romance fiction. But the dry humor and Bea’s self-awareness keeps a firm foot in actual reality. One to Watch is a fun romp of a romance with a strong message at its heart, and marks Stayman-London as, yes, one to watch in romance fiction. One to Watch is recommended for readers who like their romances with stronger female leads, inclusive rom-coms, and especially to devotees of Bachelor nation.