I knew the rules:
Never reveal my true identity.
Play the game, give the illusion.
Don’t get close to the clients.
The dark and glamorous lifestyle of the rich and shameless open my eyes to a lavish world of sin and wealth, and a man I can’t have.
A man I desperately want—James Riviera.
We’re treading a fine line as we live the ultimate double life until we make a startling discovery that tests both our loyalties.
I only had to follow the rules, but rules are meant to be broken.
*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*
You can also read this review on Goodreads
So, this review took me much longer than expected. Complete, utter disappointment isn’t accurate enough to describe my thoughts or feelings on this. Hush, Hush is horrendous to read. Sex workers are shamed and criticised; drugs are abused to cope with sexual situations that border sexual assault, with the acts glamourised to somehow excuse everyone’s behaviours; everyone’s emotions are belittled over and over; constant lies and secrets infiltrate every scenario because the characters are too childish to function somewhat normally for two seconds. It made me so uncomfortable to read this toxic representation of supposed romance.
I’m disheartened by this hero and heroine’s characterisation, and some low rated reviews on this “romance” because they perpetuate an enormous societal issue: slut shaming. Everyone, it’s fucking 2019 (incase you forgot), though we continue to criticise sex workers and women’s sexuality, fiction or reality. Sex workers become “others” without morals, dignity or integrity and somehow that allows us “normals” to have authority to ridicule someone’s life choices? How do sex workers differ from us, when we both effectively sell our time and bodies for labour in exchange for money and goods? Our word choice carries connotations that affect others’ understanding of messages and approaches to subjects. Calling the heroine a slut, whore or prostitute (derogatorily) almost every chapter dehumanises her and distances us “normal women” by forcing us into bad girl versus good girl contests. Referring to female sex workers as prostitutes isn’t uncommon, but this gross trend enforces a solemn reminder how terrible our understanding of this industry is.
“It’s time to pregame,” she says dropping a pill into my hand. “We’re celebrating this birthday in true New York City fashion—with a few shots and some Molly.”
Substance abuse is an issue within most societies and the author’s casual, unaffected approach to opioid reliance and glamorisation of said usage without significant commentary is distressing. Furthermore, the reliance is encouraged because the heroine isn’t comfortable with fucking strangers—there’s no dubious consent here. She doesn’t want to fuck everyone, consumed by anxiety despite her actions, but she’s forced into sitautions that push her into washing down percoset with wine because she’s desperate to earn quick money. It is more worrisome that there’s limited discussion on soft or hard limits with clients—filling in some questionnaire isn’t enough when you don’t know your client, or even meet them beforehand. I can’t even begin to explain the dangers that surround this scenario, especially as violence against sex workers is at an increase.
“The universe is cruel for putting us together, but I don’t feel bad because what I feel when I’m with you is what I’ve been wanting all along, I just never knew it until I met you.”
Aubrey Abrams is dull and vain; too self-absorbed, floating within a conceited bubble to consider how her constant lies belittle everyone’s feelings, or how her selfish actions make an impact on their lives in irrevocable, significant ways. She’s a compulsive liar, an unapologetic cheater and slut-shamer extraordinaire—a shit human really with little, if any, regret. For example, when Aubrey’s asked to be exclusive with a specific client, in exchange for millions of dollars, she accepts but without any intention of honouring the conditions: to stop dating her boyfriend and escorting. However, when the truth is unveiled, she has the audacity to accuse this client of acting unreasonable and controlling. She’s unconcerned with hurting this client and rather than feel remorse for cheating on Daniel, her boyfriend (who admitted to having been cheated on before), she’s more concerned about Natalie’s reaction. Zero self-awareness, much?
I know I should look at the dissolution of our clandestine agreement as a blessing in disguise, but it’s also undeniably heartbreaking. We were hopeless from the start.
Rude doesn’t begin to cover the horrid nature of James Riviera, an abhorrent hero with a sexist attitude used so casually, it is outright sickening. James’ unfortunate loveless marriage doesn’t condone his continuous blatant cheating, an act fuelled by an unloving wife with a hate for kink; nor does it excuse his blasé usage of sexist slurs like slut or whore to belittle Aubrey, an escort who doesn’t adhere to his conditions. I find it ironic that James reiterates the values of family, but does a shit effort at following through with said announcements of significance by cheating on his wife (she isn’t innocent in this, however it doesn’t excuse his behaviour) and lying to his daughter.
Hush, Hush could’ve delivered a narrative that dismembered misinformed criticisms of escorting created and supported by sexism. Instead, it shames women’s life choices and sexuality; glamourises substance abuse; condones cheating (there’s a massive lack of self-reflection on this) within a myriad of various other issues that makes this a backwards narrative. Sex work becomes a convenient excuse to purport a forbidden age-gap romance and create a suitable enough reason to introduce drama. Hush, Hush also had the slowest introduction between the two leading characters and was filled with useless conversations that held no plot importance whatsoever—it was boring filler. I’m sorry.