Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I think there is always a challenge in acting reductive towards books based on a blurb or a cover. I’ll be honest. I went into Co-Ed, Rachel Van Dyken’s book that started the Pleasure Ponies phenomenon, looking for a good chuckle, some steamy love scenes, and a bit of sweet. What happened, though, is something all together. Yes, the Pleasure Ponies are the BMOC Adonis purveyors of pleasure. Yet, once you start reading Co-Ed and her newest Wingmen Inc. book, Seducing Mrs. Robinson, you recognize quickly that these books are sweet fun at their surface, but belying its surface are lessons about self-love.
This truth is especially true and necessary in Van Dyken’s Seducing Mrs. Robinson. It would be easy for me to say that this story follows the trope of older woman/younger man. However, this is but one simplistic representation of this book. The heroine of this book, Kora Robinson, handles a more serious situation: domestic abuse. This abuse affects her emotionally, mentally, and physically in ways that undermine her self-confidence. Her characterization drives the depth of the story. Yes, all of this is underscored by a burgeoning romance with her former and present student, Leo Blackwood. It would be easy to be distracted by their palpable chemistry. However, to do so would be to miss the power of Kora and Leo’s story.
The purpose of the Wingmen Inc. aka “the Pleasure Ponies” is helping women heal. Most of these women have endured some type of break-up or inciting experience that has caused them to doubt themselves. It would be silly to believe that these men are wholly responsible for their change. It would also reduce the work that each of the women must do in order to overcome their trauma. Yet, what these men do is speak truth into the souls of these women, truths about self-love. This truth becomes imperative with Kora Robinson who uses the services of Wingmen at the insistence of Leo. Our hero has adored Kora from afar, as far back as high school when she was the only teacher to challenge him. She recognizes his lackadaisical attitude, and she expects more from him. Unfortunately, at the time, he is her student, and she is married. However, Leo sees her clearly and pines over her from afar.
Four years later, Kora shows up as his professor for his senior seminar. This time, though, she’s separated and trying to obtain a divorce from her abusive husband. Just as he did four years prior, Leo recognizes the changes in her, and he’s insistent towards helping her move past her hurt. For much of this story, Leo and Kora dance around their attraction for each other. It’s apparent it’s there, but Kora works hard to ward off his advances. Plus in utilizing the services of the Wingmen Inc, Leo, Sawyer, and Finn’s employer, Leo and Kora’s relationship cannot progress without breaking their contract. These elements conspire to build the attraction between these two. Van Dyken is brilliant in these moments, as their building sexual chemistry is the driving force through this story. Their chemistry is palpable that you don’t want to put the book down as you might miss the moment when they embrace their reality and finally consummate it.
Once these two embrace their interest each other, complications arise, potentially derailing Kora and Leo becoming a couple. I’ll be honest. I thought the story lost some of its magic after this. Leo becomes a bit of a life-savior for Kora, and they move quickly into a happy ending. Don’t get me wrong. It’s satisfying for them to find their HEA, but it felt a little underwhelming to me. I’m thankful that Kora finds her inner strength again, and I love that Leo, along with Finn and Sawyer, are able to help her realize it for herself. Yet, Kora’s happy ending feels wrapped up a bit too much in Leo and less in her own strength. Again, this may sound particular but it was my feeling at Seducing Mrs. Robinson’s end.
Rachel Van Dyken’s Seducing Mrs. Robinson is full of laughs and romance. If you’re looking for something light, there is some of that here. On the other hand, don’t reduce it. Van Dyken is doing something important here hidden in the seemingly light faire of the Pleasure Ponies. Intertwined within the stories of these men of Wingmen Inc. are stories about loving yourself and overcoming domestic abuse. These are powerful messages that we all need to hear as we seek to find ourselves in the books that we read. For me, Leo Blackwood is the star of this book. Like Kora, he too is touched by domestic abuse, and it adds another layer to the discussion on this heady topic. Don’t be confused with Van Dyken’s intention for this series of standalones. At their surface, they are meant to make us laugh and entertain us, but at their core, they are here to challenge our thinking as we fall into their stories of romance. Rachel Van Dyken’s Seducing Mrs. Robinson will put you to task and leave you with a smile on your face in the end.
In love and romance,