Murphy, Julie and Sierra Simone. A Merry Little Meet Cute. Avon, 2022. 432 pp. ISBN 978-0063222571. $21.99
When plus-sized adult film star Bianca von Honey and former bad-boy Nolan Shaw, a boy band member turned actor, get cast opposite one another in a Hallmark movie-esque time travel rom com, she’s under orders to not reveal her porn industry connection, and he’s under orders to maintain a squeaky-clean image for rebranding. Bee keeps her composure when she meets the fantasy-inspiring man whose photos are still taped all over the walls and ceiling of her childhood bedroom, and Nolan pretends not to recognize Bee as the alt-porn star who has been not only feeding his spank bank for three years, but hides his super-fan top-tier support of her members-only ClosedDoor (think OnlyFans) account. The chemistry seems to be there, but she thinks the funny look on his face when they meet is because he thinks she’s fat (he doesn’t).
No one except Bee knows Teddy Ray Fletcher, producer of the film under the newly minted Fletcher Productions, is also Uncle Ray Ray, budget porn mogul. Due to an unfortunate accident that takes out several original crew members, Teddy substitutes behind the scenes crew members gleaned from the adult film industry for hair, wardrobe, and gaffer. Mums the word, because no one can know the streams have been crossed, or the family-friendly Hope network will drop the Duke the Halls project and Teddy will be out a lot of much needed cash.
BrillIantly plotted, inclusive, diverse, sweet and raunchy, the narrative is fucking hilarious and full of quick comebacks, racy references, cultural allusions and laugh-out-loud funny moments. It’s entirely likely authors Murphy and Simone alternated the chapters as Bee and Nolan, but the voices and narrative, while different, are cohesive. I have sense that Murphy brings along the YA drama and angsty, pop culture allusions and movie-making know how, while Simone adds in the romance and historical aspects to create a really seamless whole; when Bee and Nolan are arguing over which BBQ reigns supreme (Texas or Kansas), the authors might be making their own preferences known, but it works.
Characters were multifaceted and diverse in background, ethnicity and sexuality, all normalized and embraced. Most of the Christmas romances I read exist in a vacuum of other religions and cultures not existing, but A Merry Little Meet cute references multiple Jewish-adjacent characters, which was refreshing and affirming. This holiday romance novel also deals positively with mental illness, sex work and slut-shaming, body positivity and fat shaming and feminism.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #MerryLittleMeetCute from #NetGalley.