Review: The Roommate by Rosie Danan (2020)

Heat Factor: It’s sexy, but if you’re thinking it’s going to be super extra hot because the hero’s a porn star, I am here to tell you that is not the case

Character Chemistry: Josh is pretty cinnamon roll-y, so I feel like he has to have chemistry with his partner

Plot: Accidental roommates catch feelings

Overall: It would be great if we could get over our rigidly traditional views of monogamy and be happy for partners in healthy and meaningful relationships that might be different than our own. But I guess today is not that day.

Note: This post might be spoilery because it does discuss some situations that occur late in the book, but I’m discussing my most important takeaways. And I don’t get super specific. So you have been forewarned. 

I honestly don’t remember if I actually read much of the blurb for this book. I feel like I saw “accidental roommates forced proximity opposites attract” and I was like, “OKAY!” And then I put it on hold at the library and waited for a few months and then it finally popped up after I’d forgotten everything except that they’re roommates. Because the title, obvi. 

I don’t think it matters if you read the blurb or not, though, because it doesn’t say what Josh does for a living. I’ll tell you. He’s an adult film star. 

Let’s keep this pretty short and sweet. 

She is: “I’m super uptight because my rich and influential family doesn’t like scandal, so I can’t do anything wrong, so I wear spinster clothes and spend all my time in the safe lane, whether I want to be there or not.”

He is: “I’ve made the choices I’ve made, and overall I’m happy with the life I’ve created, even if I am poor, but it’s not all sunshine and roses because the production company is trying to take advantage of me, and I’m so used to being rejected because of my job that I don’t like to let people in very much.”

Short story: I enjoyed this book, but I wasn’t blown away. A lot of the plotting and characterization was not unexpected, so the fun came down to the voice and what the characters were doing with their time. 

The most interesting thing is that Josh is a sex worker, which is its own kind of scandalous, and his problems with his contract lead Clara to invest some of her trust fund in a new sex entertainment/sex education business that he will bring to life. Clara is supposed to be a silent partner, because there’s no way that this scandal-averse wealthy socialite is going to have her name associated with sex videos, even if it’s all about being sex-positive and helping couples to have good sex and intimacy and all that jazz. 

This is not my first sex worker rodeo. What I expected: 

  1. Some kind of social situation occurs in which Clara will reject or pretend not to know Josh because “what if somebody recognized him” AND 
  2. Josh would end up having to stop sex work so that he and Clara could be safely monogamous and have a “real” HEA. 

Just once, it’d be great if the partner who’s supposedly supportive doesn’t pull this “Wait, but I can’t be seen in public with a sex worker!” nonsense. If that’s what you want then keep looking for another book, because this ain’t it. 

Then, regarding expectation dos, if the sex worker is unhappy with the work and wants to stop, and that’s part of the ongoing characterization, then fine, that’s part of the narrative. But a content-until-he-met-THE-ONE sex worker who quits after falling in love puts a bad taste in my mouth. Even if it’s framed as a choice of “That’s not me anymore because I want different things because love changes people,” it still feels to me like it’s propping up the idea that the only way partners can have a meaningful relationship or HEA is if they’re monogamous. And that you can’t have a monogamous relationship with a sex worker. I’d love to read a sex worker who is happy with his or her work and who finds a partner who is honestly supportive of that and not threatened by it. Or at least overcomes feeling threatened or jealous as part of the narrative. 

Danan almost does this, but I thought she stopped just shy of committing. (This could be because the publisher wouldn’t buy a book that did commit…) Josh stops actively making adult films because of his contract dispute, so he’s moved on to a more administrative role with the project that he and Clara start because his contract prevents him from being on screen for another production company. This is also about the time they become intimate, so there’s no question of what it means that Josh is trying to be with Clara but having sex with other women for his job. And Clara does come to love and feel truly proud of the project that she helped to create, though for a long time this is easy because she’s still the invisible silent partner. And their project does employ other sex workers. So it feels like Clara and Josh are porn positive (so to speak). But the epilogue takes place two years later and makes no mention of whether Josh is in front of the camera – even in their own business – now that the contract that was so problematic has expired. Clara and Josh might be living happily in their own corner of the adult entertainment industry, but they still haven’t broken the standard monogamy mold. 

I suppose that, at the end of the day, it all worked in context. And it was very nice and sex positive. I just want a different context, I guess. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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