Corey Reviews Providence by Leigh Hays

As a reader, I seem to be in a mood for books featuring functionally effed up characters who somehow pull each other into being their better selves. In Providence, Rebekiah is a photographer who uses her camera to both make a connection with women and to keep them at a distance. She meets wealth manager Lindsey, whose very remoteness seems to attract women until they are frustrated when she won’t change for them. When Lindsey admits she is “bad at relationships,” Rebekiah’s simple response is “Then let’s not call it that.”

What exactly do they share, then? Well, some really hot and sometimes adventurous sex scenes for one thing. The two women first build trust through power-exchange encounters, and then later build emotional trust. Rebekiah is part of the local BDSM community, but you know what’s really kinky? Wealth management.

I had to fight back repeated “uh huh” moments because I just don’t get what it’s like to live with wealth. A central part of the book is Rebekiah inheriting $32 million after her friend dies a slow death, with Rebekiah having fended off the rich relatives so she can follow her friend’s wishes that the money not go to waste. Lindsey ends up meeting Rebekiah in her role as wealth management consultant after Rebekiah declares she wants to give all the money away.

Okay, so… who inherits that much money and doesn’t immediately think about how it can be used to help family or friends?  In fact, we later learn Rebekiah has a deep and complex relationship with the woman who raised her and who now needs elder care, but it took a wealth manager to point out she could set up a trust to care for her family? And even though Lindsey grew up adjacent to wealth, I suspect her definition of not rich (she’s the daughter of a Senator after all, and my punk ass assumes she never really had to worry about money, ever) differs from my definition.

I got really hung up on class issues during my first read of this book, even though the author carefully provides reasons for why the “money was a hot mess wrapped up in an emotional landmine.” Then I finished a re-read and all that critique melted away. I thought I’d want to just go back to those book-marked sex scenes, but instead I wanted, even needed, to read the entire book again.

I enjoyed how Rebekiah sleeps with her friends, likes to look, takes control, wrestles with the intersections of her art and personal life, and discovers a new whatever-we-want-to-call-this-besides-a-relationship with Lindsey. I also liked how Lindsey is experienced enough to enjoy sexual discoveries, feels seen and desired, gives up control (but takes it back too), and despite her past patterns, does change incrementally as she and Rebekiah build their emotional ties.

This debut novel by Leigh Hays is recommended. I’m eagerly awaiting the follow-up.

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