ARC review: At the Stroke of Midnight by Tara Sivec

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Cynthia prides herself on perfection. Even though she grew up in a trailer park with a stepmother who openly hated her, once she married Brian, the most important things in her life were her pearls, her PTA meetings, and her volunteer work.  Then Brian disappeared.  He ran off with the babysitter and left her and their daughter alone with no money and no plan. Now, her neighbors are getting suspicious, bill collectors are hounding her, and she needs to find some way to put food on the table, so she decides to toss aside her pearls and do the one thing she can: start stripping.

It isn’t easy.  Cynthia’s become a little straight-laced over the years and forgetting everything her horrible mother-in-law taught her takes some work. But with the help of two friends and one grumpy (but gorgeous) man, maybe Cynthia can finally get back on her feet.

What can I even say about this book?! It’s my first by Tara Sivec and I certainly hope it’s not my last because I cannot wait for Belle’s story. The book was really well-written with great, even pacing… but I wasn’t totally convinced at the beginning.  The thing is, PJ is the world’s biggest jerk (maybe second biggest if we include Brian).  It took some time for me to stop seeing him as a jerk and start accepting him as Cynthia’s love interest. But once I did? Someone grab me a fan – or maybe a bucket of cold water – because he is some love interest. Wow!

I loved that throughout the book, there was absolutely zero slut shaming, zero derision directed toward stripping as a profession, and zero insinuation that PJ would somehow “save” Cynthia from the indignity of it all.  Cynthia is proud to do this for herself and her daughter. She’s happy to have the control back in her life and honestly, it was so empowering! This is the first book I’ve read with a plot even remotely like this and I loved it so much.

Cynthia was a wonderful character, but I also fell in love with our other two main girls, Ariel and Isabelle.  Ariel is bold, brash, and unabashedly herself. I can’t wait to read about her romance with (I’m guessing) Eric.  Isabelle is this quiet, unassuming librarian who spouts off random facts when she gets nervous, and I am eagerly anticipating (like give it to me NOW) her romance with (again, guessing) Beast.

This was such a fun, funny, and empowering read. I highly recommend it.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

I received a free advance copy of At the Stroke of Midnight from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.

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