Unsticky by Sarra Manning
Published: 2012, CB Creative Books
Genre: Adult Romance
We're broken. It's like we have all these jagged edges that scare other people off, but when we're with each other, our jagged edges fit together and we're almost whole.
From an outsider’s perspective, it may appear as though Grace Reeves is living the fashionista’s dream. She works for Skirt, a London-based fashion magazine, she breathes fashion, and she wears many of the latest trends.
The problem is that she cannot afford this lifestyle. At all. She lives in an apartment building that should probably be condemned, her credit card debt is so high that she’s afraid of even opening her mail or listening to her voicemail, and as for her glamorous job? She basically does the grunt work.
When super rich art mogul James Vaughn offers her an usual proposition - become his mistress, receiving a generous allowance each month and access to elite events - it doesn’t take Grace too long to accept his offer. And for a while she thoroughly enjoys the perks of being Vaughn’s mistress, even if she isn’t too crazy about Vaughn himself. But Grace soon learns that her new lifestyle doesn’t magically solve all the problems in her life.
So. This book. Given the rocky relationship I had with it on the outset (for a good while picking it up felt like a chore to me), I ended up enjoying Unsticky quite a bit. It took me a while to adjust to how very British this story is, and also to the fashion world being presented here. Unsticky is also a lengthy novel in comparison to many romances. But sticking this story out ended up being a very satisfying experience for me.
Grace is very reminiscent of another British fashionista who drowns her issues in shopping: Becky Bloomwood of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. But somehow Becky’s story feels a little more glorified, a little more Disney-ified, if you will. At least, in comparison to Grace’s.
At times it was absolutely anxiety-inducing to have Unsticky be narrated through Grace’s perspective. This is firmly Grace’s story and should be told through her perspective, but it wasn’t the easiest for my nerves. I’m Grace’s polar opposite in many ways, and to witness her impulsivity with regard to finances, daily needs, and more was more than baffling to me. Even knowing that there was going to be some resolution and much-needed character development at the time did not entirely quell my unease about her more-than-questionable choices.
And so while I admire how far Grace has come by the end of the book, I cannot say that she is one of my favorite protagonists, nor that I was able to ever truly empathize with her (generally terrible) choices and circumstances.
As far as romances go, Grace and Vaughn’s relationship is not entirely without literary or theatrical precedent. She’s the young, (somewhat) impressionable and naive girl that he deigns to take under his wing. He’s the uber rich businessman with trust issues of his own. They bicker and constantly misjudge one another. But in the end readers know that they’re the only ones who will be able to make the other whole.
Was their relationship problematic at times? Most definitely. But it was also a lot sweeter than I expected it to be, and by the end I was definitely rooting for them. I think that understanding is perhaps the most important factor in a relationship and, even though they didn’t always like each other and their decisions, Grace and Vaughn both were able to at least understand one another.
Outside of Grace’s characterization, Vaughn’s characterization, and their relationship, not much else in this book is lasting or substantial. Grace’s coworkers, former best friend, and grandparents (and familial estrangement issues) all play a role in the face she puts forth to Vaughn (and the world), but this is her story with Vaughn.
And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. This may be my first Manning book, but it will not be my last.
Recommended for those who enjoy dysfunctional relationships that promise to evolve into something more functional, as well as the sort of protagonists who have a long, long way to go to reach any sort of stability. And for people who enjoy a more complicated sort of romance.
Rating: 4 stars