Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
And she’s brought it. Rachel Van Dyken’s The Setup, the last of the stories for the Pleasure Ponies, is coming. We’ve read Knox’s, Leo’s, and Slater’s stories, all of them offering some humor, some $exy, and a lesson meant to highlight some of the challenges we face daily. Whether it’s a lesson about forgiveness, loving yourself, or creating your family with the people who love you most, the guys of Wingmen Inc. have entertained, titillated, and admonished us along the way.
Van Dyken’s The Setup is the story for the last of the Pleasure Ponies, Finn. We know that he’s wealthy with a healthy trust fund, a crazy aunt, a sister who he adores and seeks to protect, and a tortured relationship with his parents who see him as only a bank. What The Setup shows us is another secret about Finn, one that may surprise the most ardent fan of Van Dyken’s Bro Code series. In this story, Finn finds himself attracted to Jillian, the office manager for Wingmen Inc. As Wingmen Inc. prepares to release a new app, Jillian and Finn, the only single people in management, are tasked with testing it for a last-minute glitch. Forced to act as each other’s “wingmen” with dates acquired through the app, Jillian and Finn recognize quickly that they are attracted to each other. However, given that they work for the same company and Jillian’s financial situation is precarious, Jillian tries to ignore her feelings for Finn. Even more, she feels unworthy of him because he’s wealthy and incredibly attractive. Will Jillian spurn Finn and his advances, or will these two accept their growing attraction and feelings for each other and find their HEA?
What I love most about The Setup and this series, in general, is its love for Van Dyken’s fans. She wrote these books because her fans wanted the stories of the other male characters from Co-Ed, Knox’s story. I love that Van Dyken listened and offered up Seducing Mrs. Robinson, Avoiding Temptation, and The Setup. In doing so, she created a series that tickles your funny bone, steams up your metaphorical glasses, and makes you think over everyday challenges.
In this book, Finn and Jillian are funny. From the outset, each teases the other in ways that ensure page-after-page chemistry. It’s clear that these two need to end up together because it seems easy. As Finn and Jillian double date while on blind dates, it’s clear that they are meant for each other. They cajole, challenge, and fight with each other as a means to foreplay, and it makes for a fun read.
Coupled with the humor of this book is a real lesson about accepting one’s body. Jillian is every woman. We get a sense of her when she says, “…plain old Jillian,” or “[b]ut not for me. I looked like a bowling ball that forgot her pants.” Through Jillian, we realize she’s not a size 0 or 4 for that matter and she probably looks like your average girl next door. She struggles to see herself with Finn who is a walking Adonis. Yet, once we see Jillian through Finn’s eyes, we know that he finds himself instantly attracted to her “curves” and “@ss.” This is a man who knows what he likes even when Jillian doesn’t love herself enough to accept it. In fact, Finn challenges Jillian’s thinking when he says, “That’s the problem, Jillian. You say you see me. But you really don’t. And in that case, you’re right, we would never work. Because I see you. But you don’t see me.” This is the challenge of Van Dyken’s story: learning to accept yourself and expecting that others will love and accept you too. I love when romance writers like Van Dyken couple a “better than average” person with someone perceived to be a Venus or Adonis. It’s a reminder that there are no “types” for someone, and it admonishes us to love for inner beauty over falling for one’s outer beauty.
Like Leo and Slater, I fell in love with Finn. Honestly, to me, he feels like the most insecure Pony. There is something special about his challenge in The Setup that intrigues you and pushes you to root for a happy ending for him. Add in his Aunt Nadine, the antics of the Wingmen Inc., and one cute chihuahua, and you can’t help but fall in love with his and Jillian’s story.
Once again, Rachel Van Dyken has pleased us with the stories of her Pleasure Ponies through The Setup. I think she’s easily fulfilled her duty to her fans (although I’d love a bonus scene where all of the PP find themselves in a quadruple wedding a la Jane Austen). Finn and Jillian’s story, like the ones that came before it, once again titillates and makes you laugh out loud. These guys who seem so secure and strong show us that no one is ever really set. There is always a challenge to overcome or a happy ending to be found. The Setup is just another Van Dyken story that leaves you satisfied and with a huge smile on your face.
In love and romance,