Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
One of my favorite movies of all time is My Fair Lady. I’m a HUGE musicals kind of girl, and Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison have a chemistry that just seems to work in a way that seems unexplainable. Plus, I’m a girl who loves a makeover story, especially one that changes both the hero and heroine. In her newest book, My Bare Lady, Piper Sheldon treats us to a spin on this Pygmalion story, and it’s everything you love about romance.
Suzie aka “Short Fuse Suze” is a stripper at the G-spot. She’s been a biker babe, associated in the past with the Iron Wraiths, the biker gang of Green Valley. Yet, Suzie is more than a stripper or a biker babe; she’s compassionate, protective, and intelligent. Unfortunately, those traits seem lost to her outward appearance. Enter Clifford aka Ford. Clifford is an adjunct professor at the University of Tennesse who is studying human behavior to assert that, given opportunities, people can be more than their past. As an engineering professor, he also moonlights as a property inspector. This job finds him at the G-Spot, inspecting renovations. He determines there are problems, and he cannot approve the plans. On leaving the strip club, he happens to see Suzie dance, and he is instantly attracted to her, but his staid and buttoned-up persona distances him from her. The owner of the G Spot is unhappy with Clifford’s refusal to sign off on his plans, and he decides to use Suzie to persuade Clifford to approve his plans. During a pre-arranged event, Clifford makes a bet with a wealthy local businessman for funding his research by asserting that he can change people’s perceptions of Suzie by giving her opportunities to improve. What Clifford fails to realize initially is the impact Suzie will have on changing him.
Piper Sheldon’s My Bare Lady takes the Pygmalion story and dials it up a notch. There is so much to this story beyond the changes of its hero and heroine. This story focuses on self-fulfilling prophecies as defining one’s life; it focuses on preconceived judgments based on one’s appearance; it’s about addiction; and it’s about the differences between the theories of academia vs. the application in the real world. There is so much headiness to Sheldon’s story that a lesson is learned with each turn of the page. She’s challenging us to consider privilege and its effect on one’s life. She’s reminding us that women are more than objects through her heroine, Suzie. And she does this in ways that are seamless to the story.
Intertwined in these messages is an irreverent romance between seemingly two different people. Except that they are more alike than different, we note as their romance develops. Clifford grows into his new name, Ford (a moniker given to him by Suzie), as the story progresses. As his controlled personality loses its strength, he becomes so much more likable. From his appearance through to this research, he is so composed and almost robotic that he needs the messiness of Suzie to allow him freedom of personality. His journey, honestly, is my favorite party of My Bare Lady. It would be easy to offer that honor to Suzie, but she’s the heart of this book.
Suzie is every woman who has been told that she can’t be more, who has been diminished. She’s been marked figuratively (and sometimes literally) by men who don’t believe in her value. It begins with her father and ends with Occum, the strip club owner, and the other bikers. When you are told you nothing more than a pretty face, you live your life with that restriction. When Ford helps her see her value beyond her appearance, it’s magical. However, reading her vacillate between this truth and her previous understanding of herself can be disheartening at times. Yet, isn’t this the way of us? Don’t we undermine our sense of self based on other’s sense of us? Sheldon points us to this through the characterization of Suzie. It’s a reminder that we can be more, that we are not defined by our past, our looks, our skillset, etc. My heart ached so many times for Suzie, and I was thankful she finally found her happy ending.
There is a depth to Piper Sheldon’s My Bare Lady, one that runs deeper than its inspiration. Through the romance of Ford and Suzie, she admonishes us to consider our perceptions of others. Do we only see the surface value of those around us? Do we foster their growth, offering them opportunities to be more? What is society’s responsibility for providing opportunities to the lives of those born with very little? It’s not often that a book brings these social issues to the surface in the light-heartedness of romance. And trust me, the levity of romance is still here in the teasing of Suzie and Ford’s change of personality. But My Bare Lady is something more: it’s a representation of the marriage of social ideals and sweet, sexy fun. And it shouldn’t be missed.
In love and romance,