**This review may contain spoilers**
Although I’ve never reviewed a book for this blog, I’ve always been an avid reader and have my undergrad degree in English Literature (I originally planned to be an English teacher) so I’m pretty excited to review something new for you. Being ill for a little while and unable to look at a screen or really do much, I rekindled my love of reading and ended up ploughing through quite a hefty number of books during my six weeks of bedrest. During this time, I used my limited screen time to search new books and see what people were recommending and I eventually made my way into the ‘bookstagram’ side of social media. Upon browsing for my next batch of books to add to my ever growing TBR list, I came across a title that peaked my interest, ‘The Accidental Pinup’ by Danielle Jackson which was set to release on September 6th. I instantly pre-ordered my copy and was excited to see just how ‘pinup’ this accidental pinup was.
My book arrived two weeks after the release date and I instantly set aside time to read it and was pretty impressed from the first chapter. I’ve been reading ‘chick lit’ since I was a teen and over time, there has been a growth in the diversity of central characters. Years ago, it felt like every piece of ‘chick lit’ I picked up was centered around two white protagonists who fall into one of the main rom-com trope be it enemies to lovers, friends to lovers or small town romance etc. In recent years, I have been so excited to find ‘chick lit’ where there is a diversity of cultural backgrounds for the characters, a diversity of skin tones and more bi-racial pairings of love interests. Furthermore, there have been more and more books published that center around their characters having a wide range of issues such as autism, depression and other mental health issues, dealings with systemic racism, addictions, fibromyalgia and similar chronic illnesses and many other similar issues. It’s honestly been so refreshing and has made me relate and enjoy character experiences even more. All that aside, from the first chapter of “The Accidental Pinup” by Danielle Jackson, we are already told that issues the story will revolve around include being plus size, systemic racism, sexism and a mixed race coupling. I was so ready.
Our story revolves around Cassie Harris, a curvy black photographer and business woman running a pinup/boudoir photography studio. When her pregnant best friend and business partner, Dana, launches a size-inclusive collection of lingerie in collaboration with a larger lingerie company, Cassie is keen to be the photographer for this gig. Unfortunately, she is in direct competition with her white male counterpart, Reid Montgomery, who has often beaten her in getting jobs she has applied for. Reid has great photography skills but often gets by and job offerings due to his charm and doing exactly what the client expects, which was hinted is a direct results of his emotionally unavailable parents and troubled and struggling brother. When Cassie’s business partner, shares images of Cassie with the larger lingerie company, she is pressured into becoming the model for the campaign instead of the photographer.
Cassie reluctantly accepts the modelling job on the grounds that she be credited as the art director of the lingerie campaign. Little does she know that the large lingerie company has secretly ensured that Reid is in-charge of the campaign, has full artistic licence and he must deliver exactly what the larger lingerie company wants. In fact, he is paid a hefty amount of money to persuade and basically manipulate Cassie into changing her ideas and directions to suit what the studio wants.
Through out the story, Cassie shares her struggles of being a person-of-colour, constantly being overlooked for white counterparts. She tackles issues of systemic racism and goes into details how much harder she must work for very little recognition. This theme is quite important as it gives a voice to a wider community and highlights issues that can be found in any job or industry. Furthermore, Cassie explains the struggles of being body positive and learning to love her body, and her quest to make other women do the same. This theme reminded me of the girls that run Sherbet Birdie Photography in Sydney as they have openly talked about their love of making women see themselves as powerful, strong and amazing humans.
There’s an instant attraction between Cassie and Reid which develops into a relationship as the story progresses but despite this, Cassie is wary of sharing top billing with Reid as he’s always beaten her out for jobs and doesn’t fully understand her struggles as a plus size woman of colour. Despite Reid having some family issues, they don’t seem to be on the same level as Cassie’s issues which are societally based. Reid is honestly more worries about his secret deal with the lingerie company executives and it’s inevitable revelations which will threaten their romantic and professional relationship.
Whilst reading the novel, personally, I didn’t buy the romance between Cassie and Reid. It felt a little too quick and there was no build up or slow growth of feelings; there were no reasons or connection between the two characters and it felt really forced. It just didn’t feel like the characters clicked and their relationship never felt solid. Of course, we know Reid’s secret will be revealed and this will stress their relationship but honestly, I didn’t feel as connected to this relationship as I’d hoped I would. Throughout their relationship, Cassie openly explains her experience of struggling to be taken seriously or even noticed as a black entrepreneur and artist but sometimes these conversations felt a bit pushed aside once more romantic and spicier scenes came into play.
I loved the novel being set in Chicago as it made for a great location especially when shoot location scouting. There was also a great mix of secondary characters including individuals with a range of cultural backgrounds and queer characters. There was also a challenging of racial stereotypes within the book with Cassie’s background being that of an artistic child of high-achieving and wealthy parents which is contrast to Reid’s dysfunctional childhood home. With Reid being very successful as a photographer, his upbringing highlights systemic racism and he is slow to recognise his racial privilege.
Overall, this novel was a fun read that made space for some very interesting conversations and points of view. I wish there was a greater resolution to some of the issues Cassie highlighted as the way these issues were “fixed” felt really forced and not at all believable. I finished the novel still feeling that Reid didn’t really understand Cassie’s struggles and although he tried to make things right, it really came across as somewhat a pity prize or a consolation prize. Cassie’s issues were so often pushed aside that I kind of wish the author went back and held onto the problems highlighted a bit more. By the end of the novel, I didn’t believe that the relationship between Cassie and Reid would last; I personally don’t see how it will continue and navigate further jobs, industries and issues.
I was rooting for Cassie’s character from the first chapter. She held so much power when she shared that her dream as a black woman was to photograph other black women in lighting and styles that empowered them and showed their unique and striking beauty. She had me. I was on board for her vision, but when she started letting herself be pushed around by her best friend, Reid and the lingerie company, it was like she forgot what she originally stood and fought for. She let herself be spied on, manipulated, lied to by Reid whilst he was being paid to do so. She honestly deserved better and should never have let people treat her with so little respect.
Cassie’s best friend Dana, was also a let down. She was supposed to be Cassie’s ride or die and business partner yet she shared Cassie’s private photos with the lingerie campaign manager without Cassie knowing. She never once fought for Cassie’s dream of shooting the lingerie campaign and guilted her into becoming a model whilst promising she will be credited as the creative director. This further made me feel like Cassie was a pushover. No one fought for her, she didn’t even fight for herself yet even after she finds out that Reid was paid to spy and lie to her, and continues to take her photography jobs, she just think “he said he was sorry and he’s so cute so I guess it’s ok”. No! You deserve better Cassie!
I personally found Reid’s character really flat; as a model I have come across the typical white male photographer who is good looking, is charming in the industry and doesn’t ever struggle to market himself. When he breaks up with Cassie because he recognises his privilege and how easily he get’s photo jobs, it made me feel like he didn’t want to fight the system for the woman he supposedly loved. I also felt icky about his characters when it’s stated that he had had sexual relationships with the large lingerie companies marketing manager and this being a huge reason he has been re-hired for jobs time and tie again.
There were plenty of fun moments throughout the novel and I kind of enjoyed reading a “romance” like this in a setting I am very familiar with; the model world. I was cheering for all the body positivity talk, the push for inclusiveness in the industry and the attempt at highlighting some very serious and real issues such as the systemic racism and class issues. This was a fun read and it didn’t take me long to get through the novel.
As a pinup, yeah sure I see where the author was trying to go. The western idilic pinup image is slowly shifting towards a more open and inclusive community. We still have a very long way to go so I can see this story challenging some of the issues we have in the community today. I was personally hoping for a bit more of a greater reward for our main female protagonist and I felt like a relationship was a consolation prize in the end.
I would give this novel 2 out of 5 stars and a spicy rating of 3 out of 5 chillies.
I got my copy here.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.