Many thanks to NetGalley and Forever (Grand Central Publishing) for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review!
I’ve had Satisfaction Guaranteed, the 2021 sapphic opposites-attract contemporary romance by Karelia Stetz-Waters, on my TBR pile for a while now. That’s why I was eager to get the opportunity to read the ARC for Behind the Scenes, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! Her upcoming 2023 rom-com follows the love story between Rose Josten, a business consultant who’s anxious about reaching middle age (particularly since she owns the numerous pugs that are needed to qualify her for the, as it’s called in the book, “pug lady” period of her life), and Ashlynn “Ash” Stewart, a former director who’s been essentially blacklisted from Hollywood after undergoing a messy divorce with her ex-wife and previous filmmaking colleague Victoria and is now looking to translate a new lesbian rom-com of hers from dream to reality. This leads to Rose and Ash teaming up to work towards that goal and attain a bigwig producer’s financial backing, which, of course, is when they start to fall for each other.
Behind the Scenes is a heartwarming romance that got me rooting for it all the way through. It sees Stetz-Waters reusing the opposites-attract trope while throwing in a bit of instant attraction to kick things off, although it then builds up in a slow-burn fashion for the first half of the book or so. Plenty of chemistry explodes between Rose and Ash as they get to know each other and slowly but surely become vulnerable about their ambitions and pasts. On Rose’s part, I enjoyed reading about the time she spends posting ASMR videos online under the alias Cherry Covered Apron (videos that, we learn early on, an oblivious Ash has been watching to relax herself), which I felt added surprisingly sensual layers to a rom-com that’s already fairly steamy in certain parts. As for Ash (with whom I easily connected as an aspiring filmmaker myself), I was compelled by the journey she went on to overcome the psychological trauma that came not only from injuries she’d incurred in a car accident, but also from her relationship with Victoria and its toxic facets that said accident dredged up. Together, Rose and Ash were an endearing power couple that I wanted nothing but pure happiness for.
Stetz-Waters does an excellent job at writing Rose and Ash’s sex scenes with a sensitivity that’s perfect for their sweet dynamic, and the scenes always emerge organically, never feeling as if they’ve been randomly tossed onto the page. Amping up the lovability is Rose’s family, which I found to be as hugely entertaining and adorable as the eponymous family in the Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert. If possible, I’d be keen to see them pop up again in a future book.
My only major complaint is that the leads’ dual perspectives mirror each other too much, often leaving me confused as to whose POV I’m in. I wish their voices had been written more distinctly. At the same time, though, this doesn’t detract much from my abundance of love for Behind the Scenes. As for the third-act conflict, I initially believed it was going to be a major issue for me when it came up. But then it subverted my expectations and veered away from the misunderstanding that I thought it would revolve the whole fight around in favor of a much more convincing and satisfying direction for Rose and Ash.
Overall, Behind the Scenes is one of the most enjoyable contemporary romances I’ve picked up in a while, and I’m pumped for this to be published out in the open world on Jan. 31, 2023. I’ll definitely have to move Satisfaction Guaranteed up my TBR pile, too.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 88/100