I bought Stripped by Jasinda Wilder because the blurb on the cover said “He’s a movie star sex god. She’s a virgin…and a stripper.” Sign me up for that shit, right? Virgin stripper plus movie star sex god? How could I resist? Sadly, due to some clunky pacing and some strange character behavoir, Stripped just didn’t work for me.
So how does one get to be a virgin stripper, you ask? Grey is the daughter of a conservative Baptist pastor. Her father believes that dancing is sinful, which sucks, because Grey loves it. She finally convinces her father to let her take dance classes—provided he approves the routines and outfits—and she shines. She also develops an interest in film making thanks to a high school elective. Here her father draws the line—the entire film industry is a nest of sin and she won’t be pursuing that interest any farther.
When Grey’s mother tragically dies, she rebels against her father and her faith. She moves to LA to study film even though it means destroying her relationship with her dad. When she discovers her student aid has run out she can’t turn to family for help. In order to stay in school she has to find a job that pays well, and she has to find it quick. Grey gets a job as a stripper in a seedy club, even though she hates exotic dancing and feels ashamed of herself.
All of this backstory takes up the first third of the book, and that portion of the book really crawled. I powered through for the promise of Movie Star Sex God + Virgin Stripper romance to come. For me it wasn’t necessary to follow Grey from high school to her stripping career. A lot of romance heroines have complex and interesting back stories that define their character, but it’s revealed in the course of her romance with the hero though flashbacks, dialogue, her reflections, etc. The strictly linear progression of the story felt clunky and off to me.
Once we meet Movie Star Sex God things don’t get a lot better. His name is Dawson Kellor and he’s described as being “Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill and Josh Duhamel and so much more.” I stuck Brad, Josh and Henry into one of those celebrity morphing websites, and I have to admit, the results were yummy.
So Dawson is slumming at the club and Grey dances a private dance for him in the VIP lounge. Normally Grey feels sick when she dances (she throws up so much in this book that it’s concerning). Dancing for Dawson is different. She feels a sensual pull between them, and she starts to drop her stripper persona (Gracie, the down home country girl) and dances as Grey.
Movie Star Sex God can see the innocence on her face—or maybe it’s Maybelline. He tells her she doesn’t belong there and kisses her—Grey’s first kiss. She flees the room leaving her metaphorical glass slipper (or diamond studded G-string) behind.
Grey is all ready to forget about Movie Star Sex God and the kiss when fate intervenes. She has an internship at a movie studio. She arrives to a meeting to find Movie Star Sex God sitting at the table—obviously he recognizes her, but he keeps his mouth shut. Grey finds out that she’s supposed to be his assistant, and she promptly runs to the bathroom to throw up—again. Seriously, this poor girl. Her esophagus must be raw by now, not to mention what it's doing to her teeth.
Anyway, Movie Star Sex God doesn’t make a big deal out of her being a stripper, but he does immediately swoop in alpha-protective mode. He drives her back to her dorm when she insists on walking. He kicks her roommate out, and when he discovers that she hasn’t had time to eat, has a bunch of food delivered. He insists she use his car rather than drive everywhere. Grey is still sort of star struck so he also gives her this great speech about being a normal guy:
“You know what else? I’m a guy. I pee and miss the toilet. I take shits. I eat cheeseburgers. I watch baseball and drink beer.”
So anyway, Movie Star Sex God is fascinated with Grey. His peen has detected that she is an innocent little flower in a den of sin and he must rescue her. In true romance hero style, he has slept with half the women in the world, but now he can think of only Grey. He must have her! He must rescue her! I did enjoy these parts of the book. Part of the stripper-Cinderella fantasy is the hero seeing past the heroine’s pasties to her heart, and recognizing she is unlike any other woman he’s met.
Then things started to slide downhill.
Grey refuses to accept Movie Star Sex God’s help. He wants her to quit stripping—he’ll pay for her school, etc., and she says no. He’s not asking her for sex in exchange for his money. He even points out that it’s not a lot of money to him, and that he wants to help her.
Grey hates stripping so much, feels so disgusted by it, that she’s crying and tossing her cookies every single night. She describes the scummy men that come into the club and paw at her. I get her concern that taking Movie Star Sex God’s money will make her somehow beholden to him, but that’s still got to be better than doing something that makes her physically ill. Her stubborn refusal to accept his help seemed stupid to me.
So then she’s nearly raped outside the club one night and Movie Star Sex God—who is basically stalking her at this point—saves her. Also Movie Star Sex God’s bodyguard (an ex-biker outlaw) may or may not have killed the rapist, we don’t know. And Movie Star Sex God shushes Grey when she’s a little worried about this. Anyway, after the attempted rape she still refuses to take his money so she doesn’t have to strip. I mean…dude.
So Movie Star Sex God just pays off all her schooling without consulting her and has a business associate buy the strip club and shut it down. SO THERE GREY. This also bothered me though, because we’ve met the other strippers by now. Some of them are paying their way through school. Some are single mothers. One has a disabled child and a shit load of medical bills. But they aren’t important. We’re just going to forget about them, just like we forgot about the rapist, a causality of this romance.
Movie Star Sex God reveals how he had a shitty childhood and how he turned to drugs and alcohol and promiscuous sex to cope and how Grey makes him feel like he doesn’t need those things anymore. Grey tells him about her dad. There’s the sweet, sweet lovin’. But Oh Noes! What if the press finds out Grey was a stripper (they do)!? What if Movie Star Sex God realizes that Grey is just a nobody and he can do better!? What if Grey’s constant puking leads to severe dental erosion!?
Obviously Stripped comes with a HEA. The weird thing was, after the HEA, we still have quite a bit of book. Remember I said the pacing was clunky? The first third is pure backstory, then we have the romance, then we have this section tacked on at the end after the conflict was resolved that I couldn’t figure out. It basically consists of a marriage proposal and some sex scenes, including Grey and Movie Star Sex God having anal. It felt like this strange epilogue that was added just so Grey could explore butt sex. I’m not sure why it needed to be there, honestly, not because of the anal sex, but because everything had already been resolved. I think there was premature resolution, followed up by anal sex, people. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Other things about this book drove me nuts. Grey cries ALL THE TIME. Like 70% of her time is spent crying or puking like she's a human faucet. She cries on 35 separate occasions (per my Kindle search feature). I've never met anyone who cries that much. She was like a walking Kleenex ad. And when she's not crying or puking she's having orgasms with Movie Star Sex God. There is no downtime for Grey or the reader to catch her breath.
Then I read this line where Grey describes her demure work attire:
It’s a plain gray linen skirt that falls to my capri line.
What the fuck is a capri line? You mean mid-calf?
Also the words nauseous and nauseated are used interchangeably. Yes, yes, I know Merriam Webster says that's okay, but no, no it's not. They mean two different things. It's like nails on a chalkboard when I read that. It's like when someone says “for all intensive purposes.” I just want to bite my nails and growl.
I couldn't enjoy the Cinderella story because of the pacing, the repetitive character actions (like crying), the occasional strange word choices, and the characters we just forgot about. Honestly it felt like it wasn't thoroughly edited. It could have been a really good story, the potential was there, but the landing did not quite stick.
And my final bitch? The movie that Movie Star Sex God and Grey are making? It’s a remake of Gone with the Wind. JUST DO NOT GO THERE. You can’t remake Gone with the Wind! I was mad about something that wasn’t even happening! And—deep breath—I think based on the movies he starred in (paranormal action/romance based on a best-selling book series) that Movie Star Sex God might have been based on Robert Pattinson. CAN YOU IMAGINE IF ROBERT PATTINSON STARRED AS RHETT BUTLER?
Stripped had a great premise, but I couldn’t make it work for me. Frankly Movie Star Sex God, I just don’t give a damn.