Trying to catch up on my reviews. I don’t want to get as behind as I was last year, while also giving myself permission to…just not write reviews for some things I read (longer than a couple sentences, anyway).
But here are three mini romance reviews for audiobooks. Two I listened along with my wife on our last two road trips, and the last I listened to on my own.
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Marcus Castor-Rupp has a secret: as one of the hottest actors around, he’s carefully designed his public persona to be a happy-go-lucky golden retriever—bubbly, cute, and shallow as hell. But on the down low, he secretly writes fan fiction for the show he’s in. April Whittier is a big fan of Gods of the Gates, writing fan fic with a community of other writers, and also cosplaying. When April gets the nerve to post a pic of her cosplaying one of the main characters of the show, the picture goes viral—and she’s fat shamed. Marcus catches sight of her picture, sees the gorgeous woman, and responds to the trolls by offering to go on a date with April. On thing leads to another, and soon the two are dating…but can it last? And will Marcus trust April enough to reveal all of himself?
Delightful in every way.
There is not much more I can express beyond that. I loved Marcus’ and April’s relationship. It felt real, and Dade handled the power dynamic in a way that felt realistic and not overpowering, with missteps on both sides, particularly when a fan begins dating a super-famous actor.
I loved the fandom, too! One of my favorite things is reading about fake fandoms, and…I guess I’m another Gods of the Gates junkies. Oh, the show Itself sounds awful, but the fandom that popped up around it, particularly on the Lavinicus server and the fanfic websites, were truly delightful. I loved the end of chapter extras, so much that I was kinda looking forward to them instead of…the actual plot. Whoops.
One of the downsides of listening to a romance with your wife is that…when things on page get heated, there’s a tendency for real life things to get a little heated too. Which is great when you’re home, but not so great during a road trip to your in-laws.
So thanks for that, Olivia Dade.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially famous—his father is a famous rockstar (his mother a less famous rockstar who retired after releasing a joint album) who split when Luc was young and is on his way to a full-blown comeback. When a less than savory image of Luc leaks, his homophobic bosses urge him to clean up his image—get a stable, nice boyfriend and stop dicking around. Luc finds Oliver Blackwood. Barrister. Ethical vegetarian. Boring as hell. Willing to be a fake boyfriend. But Oliver has his own issues, and soon the two are finding it hard to deny their chemistry.
The book itself was entertaining, but it did not need to be over 400 pages of minimal plot. Luc’s work relationships with his boss and coworkers was…holy yikes EEO complaints, and while I’m glad he finally started getting his life together, it just goes to show how much damage romantic and parental relationships can do to a person.
I enjoyed the banter between Luc and Oliver, however, the constant break-ups gave me whiplash so hard my teeth started to rattle.
Their relationship became less interesting to me than Luc’s relationship with other people, particularly his mother (and her very close friend), his deadbeat dad, and the other people revolving around his life, and turned into less of a fake-dating book and more a story about a young twenty-something trying to get it together and work through the trauma of parental abandonment and assholery.
I was very excited, however, to learn that Alexis Hall is a gay man, making this mlm #ownvoices. I feel that a lot of popular mlm are written by straight white women for…straight white women, which is um, problematic (for a whole lot of reasons). So yay! Cute ownvoices mlm story!
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics
When Lucy Muchelney’s ex-girlfriend marries out of the blue in order to receive her inheritance, Lucy is left feeling like she’d rather be anywhere than right there. But options are few for a woman of limited means, until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth asking her recently deceased father to translate a groundbreaking book on astronomy from French into English. Lucy arrives at the Countess’s home in London, and finds a woman just as lonely as her—and work that is riveting, challenging and insightful. But there are a lot of barriers between them, beginning with the society of scientific men determined to prevent women from entering their hallowed midst.
This was the second book I listened to with my wife in the car, and let’s just say that the sex scenes were very well written (and that she was incredibly frustrated that we could not stop).
I really, really loved the relationship between Lucy and Catherine, and this was another romance where the power dynamic between the two was handled really well! Catherine was older, titled and wealthy, and Lucy was younger, non-noble and basically a spinster—however, Lucy was the pair with experience and the means to navigate their relationship. I did like that their disparity in standing was addressed, along with lots of historical information on sapphic relationships in Regency England.
Additionally, I loved the major themes of the story—in addition to learning a lot about historical astronomy, there was a big theme of women in science and art, and how women’s roles are continuously devalued in favor of men’s accomplishments. A big theme of the book was the idea of what constitutes original work—who gets credit, who does it, what does that mean, what about contextualization and so much more. Also, what constitutes art? What is art and what does it mean to be an artist, particularly if you are a woman?
While the wrap-up was a bit too neat and tidy for my liking (I did like the big reveal, although it was easy to figure out), this was definitely an enjoyable listen and another author named Olivia I’m going to have to watch out for!