Chandler Cohen has reached rock bottom. Her dreams of being an author have deflated into a career as a ghostwriter. Her dreams of a relationship with her longtime crush died with a whimper when he gave her the “It’s not you (except it’s totally you)” talk after they finally hooked up. And the cute, fun guy with whom she had a spontaneous romp turned out to be the worst lay she’d ever had. The cherry on top? An interview for a new ghostwriting gig—the memoir of a former second fiddle on a hit supernatural show from 10 years back—reunites Chandler with her horizontal tango partner from her one-night snafu. He’s her new client.
Finn Walsh, better known as Oliver Huxley from “The Nocturnals,” has been working steadily since he was a nerdy Lord of the Rings-obsessed kid, desperate to lose himself in make-believe to distract him from his emotionally abusive father and his severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. “The Nocturnals” was the highest his star ever rose, and he’s now settled into made-for-TV movies and paid appearances at fan conventions. Lots of fan conventions. After Chandler agrees to write Finn’s memoir, she crisscrosses the country by his side, helping him figure out how to tell his story, figuring out what she wants her own story to be—and teaching him better bedroom technique.
Rachel Lynn Solomon has a lot to say in Business or Pleasure, analyzing the hierarchy of celebrity culture; the way even liberal, urban, educated adults find it hard to talk about sex, especially bad sex; and the mysterious allure of monthly subscription boxes. Fortunately, she says it all very, very well. Her voice is sharp, funny and penetrating, describing her characters with warmth and affection without letting them off the hook.
Finn is an appealing and charming hero who is open to improving himself, especially when it comes to his performance in bed. His experience with OCD isn’t a gimmick but an important aspect of his life that Solomon explores through thoughtful details such as Finn’s day-to-day fixations on cleanliness in restaurants and living quarters, and the microaggressions he hears from the more toxic people in his life.
Chandler, meanwhile, is also supremely relatable: a former “gifted kid” who was constantly told she’d be a big success. Over the years, she whittled her dreams down to size, but it’s still uncomfortable for her to realize this is where she’s landed. She may be the leader when it comes to Finn’s sexual education, but she’s still the follower in other situations, as Solomon avoids making her either a waif needing to be saved or an angel come down from heaven. She’s real and flawed and likable and fun.
Solomon dives wholeheartedly into the messiness of life and emerges with a beautiful, moving, truly romantic story about characters readers will appreciate and understand on a deep level.