REVIEW: Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Dear Rebekah Weatherspoon,
I LOL’d at the cover quote. (For the visually impaired, it says ‘”Gimme!” – People you know on Twitter’). Frankly, I was probably one of them.
You’ve described the book, unapologetically, as “fluffy af” and it is. It is very low conflict; Rafe is a good guy who is careful about consent, loves kids, is a good cook, doesn’t deal in toxic masculinity at all and doesn’t get the least bit bent out of shape about the idea that the woman he loves is wealthier and more successful than he is (all while also not being a sponge). In these end times, it turned out to be just what I needed.
Dr. Sloan Copeland is a divorced mother of twin girls who has recently moved to LA from Seattle. She and her ex are both heart surgeons. Her ex, still in Seattle, is a dick. Sloan’s daughters are Avery and Addison and they’re just about to start school when the nanny up and quits in a very irresponsible and not okay kind of way. Sloan is in a bind and puts out feelers for a replacement. (Even though she is in a bind she is still careful to find someone skilled, safe and reliable because she’s not a monster.)
As it happens, Rafe Whitcomb, 6’5″, red-haired, bearded, muscular and heavily tattooed, with a heart made of marshmallow, is between jobs. The family he had been working for decided to move to Australia and he decided not to go with them. He’s thinking about what’s next and whether being a live-in nanny is right for him or whether he needs to do some other kind of child care work in the longer term. He’s beginning to want a life for himself and he’s found nannying isn’t conducive to romance.
Rafe comes highly recommended so Sloan decides to meet him. For his part, Rafe feels bad that Sloan was left in the lurch and thinks the least he can do, if he likes her and the girls, is to stay for a few months so that Sloan can have some time to find a long term replacement. As it happens, he falls for the girls and Sloan pretty much at first sight so the whole “I’ll give them six months” thing gets tossed almost immediately.
Sloan is an African American woman with biracial daughters. Rafe is white but his dad remarried an African American woman and he has biracial younger sisters whom he adores so he knows how to do Black hair (essential knowledge for the job of course). He’s a gentle giant kind of guy, kind and safe and strong. Sloan is instantly attracted and Rafe is pretty much a goner from the get. The girls (who are pistols) quickly adore Rafe too.
I wondered, while I was reading, why I didn’t have an issue with them getting together. I mean, she is his employer. There is a power imbalance. Rafe is much bigger physically than Sloan and while that went some way to evening up the different types of power they each held, it also made me think about those different kinds of power and each of their potential vulnerabilities. While the mileage of others may vary, I decided that there were a number of reasons which meant it all worked for me. They talk, openly and like grown-ups, about their attraction and agree they’re going to put the girls’ well-being first and they will be mature in their dealings with one another, notwithstanding the attraction. Rafe wasn’t relying on the job for a roof over his head or food in his stomach. He had a place with his parents not far away and other employment available to him. It was unlikely that Sloan could do significant damage to his reputation even if she turned out to be a weirdo who made up stories about him, such was his reputation already. (As it happened, Sloan was not a weirdo and in this case, Rafe’s judgement call that she wouldn’t do that kind of thing was right. I knew that too because this book is not a psychological thriller. It’s a fluffy romance.) If Rafe had’ve turned out to be a weirdo (unlikely given his glowing references) or put pressure on her for a relationship or otherwise behaved badly, Sloan would have been in a bind re childcare but she’s well-off and I felt confident she wouldn’t feel forced to keep Rafe around. The story did enough, showed me enough to calm any concerns I might have had about a romance within an employer/employee relationship.
Their relationship does progress very quickly but I was there for it. I wanted something to sigh happily over and not overthink (notwithstanding possible evidence to the contrary above). And, really, Sloan and Rafe are perfect together.
Not everything worked for me. I haven’t read all of your backlist and so there were characters I knew nothing about who seemed to take a reasonable amount of the story. The author’s note at the back explaining the Loose Ends series (of which Rafe is book 1) said that these were secondary characters who had appeared in other books and they would be getting their own HEAs. What was a bug for me will likely be a feature for those who know the cast already however.
There were a couple of scenes which didn’t seem to add much to the story and I wasn’t sure why they were there. There were quite a few typos.
Sloan’s ex-husband was a bit of a caricature. It seemed his main purpose in the plot was to show just how awesome Rafe was in contrast. I didn’t care all that much though. And the conflict involving the ex didn’t quite hang together for me when I started to think about it – something about the timeline (had the children been crying all the way from Seattle?) Once again however, it served to show just what a good guy Rafe was so I rolled with it.
I learned that “sprung” means deeply attracted these days (oh lordy I’m so old). Perhaps it means that here (in Australia) now too (again, O.L.D.) but when I was growing up it was slang for being caught out; more of a “gotcha” kind of thing. I also learned a new meaning for ham. (Even fluff can be educational. Take that haters!)
Rafe was a wonderful cinnamon roll hero and I loved his openness about what he wanted. He was never pushy with it but he didn’t leave Sloan in any doubt of where he stood.
“This isn’t a part of your job,” she said when he joined her back at the island.
“It’s a part of the other job I might want to interview for.”
“What job is that?”
“The man in your life,” he said with a little cock of his head.
I loved Sloan’s friend Xeni. She was a crack up. Some of her lines had me laughing out loud.
“I think we both know what’s going to happen here.”
“You’re gonna try to hold off and then after like a week you’re gonna go mad with lust and throw yourself at him. Trust me. Once the pussy’s been activated and the juices start seeping into your brain, all reason goes right out the window.”
In addition to offering to put a hex on Sloan’s ex-husband (bonus points), she also gives Sloan most excellent advice about how to proceed with Rafe:
…As far as Xeni was concerned, there should be no boyfriend talk until they slept together. Yeah, things were great so far, but there was still a chance Rafe was terrible in bed.
And then Xeni had explained the layers of terrible. Terrible, but willing to learn versus lost cause terrible. Sloan needed to complete a bedroom evaluation on Rafe before she moved on to Do You Wanna Be My Boo. If the sex was bomb and she was really starting to catch feelings, then, Xeni said, it was time to slow the fuck down. Rafe was in her life and he wasn’t going anywhere for now. She didn’t need to jump to boo’d up talk one week in. What she did tell Sloan to do was ask him if he was seeing anyone else. It’d never dawned on her that he might be sleeping with other women, which, no shit. Why wouldn’t a guy like him be out there playing the field? She definitely needed the answer to that question before she slept with him.
If all of that was in order, then Sloan needed to ask herself what she really wanted. Fuck buddy, boyfriend or the future father of baby #3. There was nothing wrong with any of those options, but she needed to be clear about what she wanted before she had a serious conversation with Rafe. Xeni, best best friend ever.
Rafe has a couple of moments of nerves about whether he’s in Sloan’s league given their professional disparity but he doesn’t agonise about it and he never, ever, seeks to diminish Sloan in any way to make himself feel bigger. He doesn’t sulk or require any pandering. Sloan doesn’t have to do emotional labour to benefit his ego. (Thank you baby Jesus.) Rafe’s comfortable in his own skin and he knows his worth. So it was only a moment or two of self-doubt and then he was fine. Sloan felt Rafe was a bit out of her league at the start but that was mostly because her ex had done a number on her self-esteem. Plus, she had been a Doogie Howser type child prodigy and had little relationship experience. She didn’t let that hold her back either thankfully. Her ex-husband tried to convince her otherwise but she too, knows her worth.
I read Rafe in a couple of nights, impatient to get to the book as soon as I could. I stayed up too late to finish it. I made the happy book noise when it ended with a sappy sexy epilogue. So it gets a B+ from me. If I was grading on whether the entire book worked for me, maybe I’d give it a B but Rafe and Sloan (and Avery and Addison) were so delightful and it was just so exactly what I wanted and needed to read right then, I’m sticking with my B+.