A woman with Asperger’s falls in love with the escort she hires to teach her about sex and relationships.
Stella Lane’s job as an econometrician is perfectly satisfying, but now that she’s 30, her mother expects her to look for a husband and start producing babies. Stella has never enjoyed dating or sex, so when a male colleague she’s cautiously interested in rudely suggests she should “get some practice,” she takes his advice to heart. Enter Michael Phan, a man as gorgeous as any K-drama star, who abandoned his promising career as a fashion designer and started escorting to pay for his mother’s cancer treatments. At their first appointment, Michael refuses to rush into sex with a woman so frozen with discomfort, regardless of whether or not she’s paid him. Stella, both deeply attracted to him and grateful for his kindness, asks him to consider a long-term arrangement. Michael is hesitant after a past experience with a stalker client, but he recognizes her vulnerability and is overcome by an instinct to protect her. Hoang is sure-footed in her character development; Michael and Stella both have robust, sympathetic stories and complicated, loving families. The initial sizzling sexual chemistry deepens into a satisfying romantic relationship. Both of them are plagued with insecurities even though they are generous and nonjudgmental with each other. Stella is nervous about revealing her Asperger’s to Michael, but he accepts her unconditionally. Michael keeps his escorting a secret from his family and struggles to separate his own identity from that of his con-man father, but Stella judges him on his own merits. An unnecessary late-stage plot twist feels forced and inorganic, but it’s a small misstep.
A well-crafted and charming debut romance.