Beauty and the Geek by Sidney Bristol

A man who likes Moleskin notebooks and Frixion pens?!?! Be still my beating heart!!

What’s it About?

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Professor Steven Kipper is used to the stares, the muttered insults. Monster. Disgusting. Gross. It’s all he’s ever known. Relationships suck when his date won’t even go out in public with him, which is why he hasn’t bothered. That is until her. The woman on the internet who gets his every quirk. He’s hooked on a person he’s never met. The way she gets his jokes, the uninhibited sexuality and…just talking to her. She’s everything he’s ever wanted, only she’s a stranger. Unless he can convince her they should unplug and take their virtual relationship off-line.

Tamara Roh has heard all the insults from slut to whore and they bore her. She refuses to let other people define her. Life’s tough in the gaming industry, and if she can’t handle a few insults the haters will chew her up and spit her out. Her only haven is with her friends and in one very explicit chat room. On-line she can be anyone she wants to, even the normal girl-next-door who just happens to get off on dirty talk, erotic gifs and video chats from the neck down. She might not be able to trust guys in real life to see past the Hot Asian Girlfriend stereotype, but with her internet beau anonymity is her safety net. The only problem is…she’s falling for a man who thinks she’s someone else.

First Impressions

The opening scene of this novel present us with some holy sh*t sexy robotics. At this point Steven and Tamara have a solely sexual, and internet-based relationship. While the two have yet to meet in person, this doesn’t prevent them from getting intimate. Steven is an extremely intelligent robotical engineer (if that’s even what it was called), and in this opening scene we see that he has sent Tamara a…how to put this delicately? Personal pleasuring device? A BOB if you will. But he’s done his fancy robotics work to create a glove which he can wear when she uses it to control the BOB whilst they have a voice chat at the same time. What a way to start off a book! Off the charts sexy, but I must say it leaves the reader with a pretty false first impression. This slightly over-the-top opening scene made me think that we’d be dealing with a purely erotic and sex-charged novel. While there are definitely a number of graphic scenes with a plethora of dirty talk, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story also deals with some pretty timely and meaningful themes related to appearance, stereotypes, and harassment.

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From One Extreme to the Other

Based on the title I sort of assumed we’d be dealing with a modern adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. True, there is the basic underlying tale of a beautiful woman falling for a man whose appearance is less than perfect, but we soon discover that both of these characters face difficulties in life based on their appearance. Steven has a port-wine birthmark which takes up a rather large portion of his face, and has negatively impacted all of his previous relationships with women who were too embarrassed to spend time with him in public. However, it’s not just our male lead who faces the pressure when it comes to societal standards of beauty.

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Tamara is a gorgeous Asian-American with a rather prominent chest, and she feels the men in her industry view her as the ideal gaming stereotype. They treat her as an object, and care more about what she looks like than what she has to say. Tamara has to work her damnedest to be taken seriously as a woman in a male-dominated field. I think the author did a great job of exploring both sides of the coin when it comes to beauty, and how most everyone has their doubts and misgivings when it comes to how others view them. Our couple manages to have some deeply meaningful conversations about appearance, and I found Tamara’s quote below to be especially poignant and inspirational as she attempts to tell Steven why he shouldn’t care what other people think:

Say there’s a hundred people in here, right now…Of those one hundred people, chances are there’s really only ten who aren’t so wrapped up in what’s going on with them to even notice you. And of those ten? Five want to be you. They like what you’re wearing, they find you attractive, something. And then the other five? You’ll never make them happy. They’ll hate you, think terrible things about you, whatever. Why live your life for those five miserable people? Are they more important than your happiness? No, they aren’t. So tonight–those five people who want to stare at you or me–why do they matter more than the person sitting across the table? And if they do, why are you here with the wrong person?

I’m sure at some point in our lives, each of us has experienced a moment where we were self-conscious about how others viewed us. Whether it be our perceived beauty, our weight, the clothes we wear, hell maybe even the way we walk. And, I don’t know, I guess this one scene really spoke to me, and helped put things in perspective in a way I hadn’t considered before. Not bad for a book that opens with a dildo operated by a robotic glove, am I right?

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#MeToo/#TimesUp

Another way that this novel delves deep into some pretty serious subject matter relates to Tamara working in a primarily male-dominated field with alpha male gamers who always want to be in control. Her beautiful appearance attracts a lot of attention, and unfortunately it is often unwanted attention. Tamara is a strong bad ass trying to make her way in the gaming industry, but she has sort of developed a reputation as a bitch and a complainer. Why you might ask?

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Well, a few years before she reported to the police and a lawyer how she was drugged and raped at a con event by some rather popular gamers. Tamara isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and others…when it counts. Another aspect of this which I found to be so fascinating is when she explains to Steven why she feels she must also  tread extremely lightly when the men she interacts with cross the line of professionalism.

We live in a society that protects men from their wrongdoings by shifting the blame. Which is why, when I’m going to call someone on their shit, I want it to be something more than a slap on the wrist. When I cry wolf, I want people to listen to me, not say, well, she cries wolf about everything.

I found this sad truth to be unbelievably relevant in regards to #MeToo and #TimesUp. How this strong woman felt she had to remain silent during the less egregious moments of harassment in order to maintain credibility should something worse eventually happen. She had to save her wolf cries. Her interactions and discussions with Steven surrounding this topic were also surprisingly complex, as we see how he tries to protect Tamara by urging her to stand up for herself in every instance, no matter how big or small. While he simply wants the best for her, she views his statement as hurtful in that he must see her as weak, and he doesn’t recognize the potential risk to her career. It was such an interesting argument as both sides are presented so eloquently and passionately.

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Series: Gone Geek, book 1. I’m excited to continue on with this series, and read future novels featuring Tamara’s bad ass female friends.

Should you read it? Don’t let the opening scene fool you! While this is definitely an erotic read at times, and our lead couple explores a whole other level of dirty talk, it does deal with some pretty serious and important subjects. From self confidence to sexual harassment, these more sensitive topics were dealt with extremely well. That being said, part of the story near the end could have used some more focus, specifically surrounding the contents of Steven’s private notebook which contained lists that somehow tested Tamara’s commitment to him? I don’t know it was kind of confusing. Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

Smut Level: If the robotic glove wasn’t shocking enough, these two also explore using some pretty intense dirty talk. However, it also resulted in an interesting conversation involving whether or not Steven was comfortable calling Tamara his “slut”. They have a very clear discussion about how she’s comfortable with it, but he doesn’t have to say it if he’s not comfortable. They’re just trying out something new together as a couple, and it’s kind of cute how Steven can’t even mention the word to her when they are removed from the moment of passion.

Get it on Amazon:Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Inked Press. 233 Pages.

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