Cam Girl, by Leah Raeder
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Unteachable and Black Iris comes a new, sexy romantic suspense novel about two best friends who are torn apart by a life-shattering accident…and the secrets left behind.
Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.
Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.
Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.
She’s got nothing left to lose.
So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.
It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question:
Can we meet IRL?
Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that will bring back a ghost from her past.
Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself…
Before you read this review:
1. Sorry because it’s darn long. I’ll send you margaritas to ease the pain.
2. I tried to be as vague as I could about this, because I feel like if I spill one detail, I’ll end up giving half of the plot away.
3. Thanks to Karen, who recommended this book endlessly to me.
Now to the thing!
I wanted to wait a couple of days before writing this review because my mind is a mess, but then I figured that one of the most beautiful things about reading a book that leaves you not knowing where you stand, is precisely that. So, please, excuse the mess I’ll be sharing with you.
This was my first Leah Raeder. One of the things that stuck with me the most about her writing was not only that she managed to write a wonderful book in first person (I normally struggle with those) and made it interesting and engaging. But also – her prose, the way she describes things through analogies and metaphors that suit so perfectly well her characters (Vada’s voice, in this case, who is an artist) was just gorgeous to read. More than once I sighed and reread a sentence or paragraph because it was so beautifully written, that it seemed like … Dumb… Not to read it again. Her descriptions of things are so vivid, so real, so powerful, that they suck you in. Whether she’s describing an accident (which, let me tell you was just… Beautifully written which made it awfully creepy for me – in a good way), or describing a simple snowflake, or Frida Kahlo, she just transports you, and you feel what she wrote for you.
The same way she sucks you in with her descriptions, she sucks you in with her… – I’m not sure if this will be right – but I think of it as reflective writing. As you read, the characters somehow resonate with you… I say this both as a praise and as a… Well, not so much of a praise.
You see, both girls in this book, Vada and Ellis, hide things. Or ignore things. Or crush things. Things about themselves that are causing them a very strong inner struggle. What you read here is two women who can’t fully accept themselves, so they hurt themselves. And each other. And they hurt others on the way too. It’s not lovely. It’s not cute or pretty. It’s raw, and it makes you wonder. It makes you question, not only th character, but yourself. It made ME question myself. It’s been a darn long time since a book has actually caused me to take a closer look to a part of me that maybe I’ve managed to bury… And it brought it out to the surface a bit. Only a bit.. and it was…interesting.
Vada and Ellis have been friends for ages, and friends with benefits for a very long time. Their inner struggles, their fears, their insecurities. It all played a part. This book presents you with a very realistic portrayal of codependency. Of that.. Sweet and sour obsession that sometimes come with it.
Vada’s ingrained homophobia (and misogyny – I thought this was spot on, and I appreciate that someone wrote about it. A sad but real thing that continuously goes on in RL), keeps her from enjoying herself and being truly honest. I didn’t always like Vada. I don’t think I was actually supposed to like her. But her inner war, every battle that she was fighting seemed so real. She was selfish. She was, at times, a bit manipulative. She was honest though.. Most of the times, anyway. And i found her honesty painful and liberating at the same time. I loved how she just realized that her bisexuality was part of her. That whether she decided to settle down with a man or a woman, she would always be bisexual. She would always be attracted to both sexes. That committing to a man wouldn’t make her straight, just like committing to a woman wouldn’t make her gay. I loved this because this is something that seems forgotten or overlooked in books. This was a refreshing and powerful read in that way.
Ellis, dear… How I struggled with her. At first I liked her a lot. Of the two, she seemed to be one who knew where her heart was. What she wanted, and how she wanted it. I still think she was the one who never doubted what she wanted from Vada. I think Ellis was effortlessly wise, but I also think her comfusuion. Her jealousy. Her insecurities. Those demons that she was fighting alone, made her act.. Recklessly. I loved her character because she is different from many other characters I’ve read, but I still had a difficult time getting her. I’m not sure I fully did.
One of the things I loved the most was he Ryan/Max subplot, which went perfectly well and made this story work beautifully for me. It was Blue, though, who kept me going and on my toes. Inside me lives a detective (who sucks at detective shit but who cares) , so give me a mystery and I’ll be yours fact that my mind was working furiously throug characters and reading clues in lines here and there was incredibly incentive for me.
This book, as you can imagine from its title, deals with sex. I think some of the scenes in this book were incredibly sexy. Some of them actually surprised me because I’ve never been fan of… Cyber sex. I don’t quite… Buy it… But .. Um.. Yeah. The way the author worked the sex for money thing was also interesting and refreshing. Here we see a girl (Vada, artist and cam girl) who is in complete control of her sexuality. I think, that usually, we get a different picture. I’m sure that in RL it runs both ways, but it was nice to see this as not being stigmatized, if that makes any sense.
There were moments of right anger and frustration in this book. Like I’ve said before, I didn’t always understand the MCs motivations for some stuff. They both pulled some not very nice things on themselves and each other. I found myself wondering if I’d be able to forgive some of the things I read. I want to think I would.. But.. God only knows. Because of this, I was in awe at the deep love and connection these two girls shared. The deep love and understanding that in the end shows that they have for each other.
My only niggle with this book is that.. I’m not sure I completely buy Vada’s change of heart after the Blue incident. I’m not quite sure her change of heart actually came from the heart. It seemed to me like a knee jerk reaction and that troubles me a bit, even though the outcome of it all was lovely. I still have a weird feeling in my belly about it.
Finally, I think you all should read this book. Not only is the story great, but you’ll also read the beautifully touching, and heartfelt acknowledgements by the end of the book.
ETA: This book features a Latin (Puerto Rican) character. As a Latina this filled me with happines and joyious grinning. While the focus was not on the cultural side of the character, what we saw of it it was well written. All the kudos and love for the use of “mamá” vs “mami”. I suspect that this will make, my dear Mexican friend, Mónica, extremely happy! 🙂
AMAZON || BARNS AND NOBLE