Rafe: The Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon. 2018 Read by Lacey Laurel.
Content Warnings for review: References to an abusive relationship in the past and sex on the page.
Hilarious, hot, and full of heart, this romance between a surgeon and her new nanny for her twin daughters feels exactly like the domestic sweetness I needed. It is definitely going to be a comfort reread for me. In fact, it already is. I started out reading this in ARC ebook form, and recently reread it on audio.
I devoured this superfast when I did the first read, could not put it down. Weatherspoon often creates worlds I want to hang out in, and writes heroines I want to be friends with, so sometimes I savor her books and try to take them slow, to spend more time in them, but I zoomed through this book, was just not able to slow myself down. The emotional and sexual tension was intense and drove the story, and I ate up all the domestic moments, they were so soothing.
I was riveted as much on the audio as I was with the ebook, this is a book that is unputdownable. I fell really hard for Sloan on first read and still loved her so much on audio, and loved the kids in the book, a lot. I wanted to be Sloan’s friend, which is often how it goes for me with Weatherspoon’s heroines. If I could pick my top three heroines by this author, Sloan would be on that list, along with Keira from Sated, and Kayla from the Sugar Baby series. (I do recommend both of those for folks looking for more comfort reads by Weatherspoon; they are wonderful.) I love the way friendship works in the book, and how Sloan is awkward with it, how important it is to her to have these new friends.
I really liked Rafe as a character, mostly because he was kind and was working on his shit. I could feel the insight into his character more on the audio, more because its a slower read than because of the performance. He felt fuller, and you could see more clearly how much he struggled with anger still. I really liked the bits about toxic masculinity, and how Rafe was like, I’m not nice, I’m just not an asshole. And the way that was both attractive and also made Sloan nervous. I loved the moment where Rafe’s stepmom tells him he has to be upfront with her, it was such a lovely thing to see him get checked in that way, and witness him taking that in, responding to it. It made him feel more real.
I definitely got why Rafe was into Sloan, she was amazing and this great mix of powerful and vulnerable and super smart and a great mom and just awesome and complex, but I puzzled over why she was into him when I read the ebook, other than that he was kind, and safe and she had instalust/chemistry. On audio, it felt much more clear that what turned the key for her was how good he was to her kids and how hard he fell for her kids, and also how caring and careful he was with her. How much he cared about supporting her and making her life easier. How gone for her he was. I got it, on another level, with the audiobook, and could see how much it meant that he was up for commitment, direct about what he wanted, did kind things for her every day, and adored her children, especially in contrast to her ex-husband.
I loved the audio performance for the most part, especially the women’s and girls voices. There was one notable exception. The volume of Rafe’s voice was softer than the rest of the characters, which made it hard for me to hear him when he spoke and parse his words. This was a substantial enough issue that if this had not been a reread I would have switched to ebook. Since I knew the story, I stuck with the audio.
I found the bits about her abusive ex and the incident with him near the end less difficult on the second read, likely because I knew what was going to happen. I did find the end of the book slightly jarring, but the epilogue helped smooth that, some.
This is a very high heat erotic romance. The instalust was intense, and while I can’t really identify, as I don’t experience that, I liked hearing the audio performance of it, it gave it another layer. The sex scenes were super hot per usual with this author, and were great on audio as well as in ebook. I loved the way this heat was also in the context of Sloan being kind of awkward about it while still having really strong desire for him, and the way their sexual relationship evolved felt deeply consensual to me, which is often a kind of sticky thing with employer/employee romances and especially nanny romances. I trusted that Weatherspoon would be attending to consent, and was not at all surprised at how deeply consensual this felt, for both of the MCs.
I loved seeing and hearing about some of the other characters I knew from other books, and I’m excited at the concept of series that’s about wrapping up loose ends from other books. I’ve read almost all of Weatherspoon’s backlist, and many of them are books I reread once a year, so seeing those loose ends get tied up sounds really wonderful to me.
Sloan was a gifted student and got advanced schooling very young. This is referenced with a light touch, and I appreciated especially the thoughtful way this rep shows up in her experiences making friends, and her vulnerability in relationships. It has shaped her life, you can see that, and it’s presented in a way that felt real. I am often frustrated by how this kind of thing is presented in romances, and this one worked for me.
I went into the audiobook listen after interviewing Weatherspoon about this book, and listening to her interview on When In Romance podcast (discussion starts at 22:00 mark), and both of these interviews added so much to my rereading experience. In particular, I was struck by the way they discussed fluffy reads and what makes books feel fluffy. I would not characterize Rafe as purely fluffy, because the heroine is a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship, and her abusive ex is still in her life as they have joint custody, and is still acting abusively at several points in the story. Despite that aspect of the story, I still found this romance to be a tremendous comfort, both times I read it. On the podcast they name a few elements that can make a book (and this book in particular) feel fluffy; one is that the black moment is not between the MCs but where the MCs join forces against an external force or enemy. The other is that the book and the characters in it (especially women) are kind to each other, and in particular that black women are not subjected to the kind of micro-aggressions and macro-aggressions that are often part of daily life. These are both intentional choices that Weatherspoon makes for her fluffy books.
When I reread Rafe I could see why these choices helped to create a reading experience where I could relax more, not be on guard as much, even with Sloan’s abusive ex in the picture. For me, another thing that contributed to it being a comfort read was all the small domestic every day moments where we just pause and witness the characters cooking or doing things they like around the house, taking care of kids, etc. I also found it really soothing that the kids were treated with respect, had clear boundaries but also had their autonomy and intelligence and personality honored by their caretakers. Seeing that kids are safe and well cared for, the details of that, helps me to relax into a book that has kids as characters. The consent in the book was stellar, which is definitely a thing that eases my mind. There was also a lot of humor, and none of it was mean, which I’m not surprised by, as Weatherspoon generally delivers on that, but it creates this sense of I can relax and enjoy this book. Neither of the characters was isolated, they had folks in their lives, family and friends, that they trusted and could go to for support, and that’s another quality in a romance that I find comforting.
- Black woman trauma survivor heroine.
- Formerly incarcerated hero.
- Black queer woman author.
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Hero refers to being incarcerated as a teen. Reference to a secondary character’s family member being diagnosed with cancer and passing away. Heroine has an ex who was (and continues to be) emotionally abusive, and cheated on her. Incident where ex is emotionally abusive toward the kids. Incident where ex physically attacks the hero. Relationship between boss and employee, where power differential is openly addressed and stakes are discussed; it felt fully consensual. Sex on the page.
- Source of the book: ARC from the author. I bought the audiobook.
- I am friends with the author on Twitter.
- All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
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