Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Summary from Goodreads: Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own. 

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

That cover. LOOK AT THAT COVER!! AHHH!!!

SO. Spoiler Alert, y’all. I’m pretty sure this is a book-length troll of S8 of Game of Thrones wrapped in a delicious, sexy romance between a plus-sized geologist and fanfic writer for a Rome-but-make-it-also-GOT book/TV show fandom and the bananas-HOT actor who plays a main character in the adaptation WHO ALSO writes fanfic as a way of dealing with his frustrations at the direction of the show. (That’s the short version.)

April Whittier, geologist and fan of the book series and TV show Gods of the Gates (it’s basically series-length Aeneid fan-fic), finally gets up the courage to post a full-length picture of her Lavinia cosplay on Twitter. It goes viral – but not in a good way. Fat-shaming trolls are slamming her left and right. One of them tags in the actor playing Aeneas on the show, Marcus Caster-Rupp. Marcus, who has just completed filming on the final season of GotG, takes one look at the photo and tweets out that he thinks she’s beautiful and he would love to take her to dinner when he’s back in California.

*record scratch* One of the most attractive actors alive, who is known for being a bit dim and for his devotion to his hair products, offered to take a fan out to dinner? A fan who is not a slim, Hollywood-sized woman?

April is a bit taken aback. More than a bit. As a fat woman, she’s automatically on her guard. But, after DM-ing back and forth, she decides that a) it’s actually Marcus making the offer not a PR flunky and b) Marcus hasn’t made the offer out of pity so takes him up on it. They have a really nice dinner. And some chemistry. And something in common – they both write fan fiction about characters from GotG. April writes under the screenname Unapologetic Lavinia Stan. Marcus writes under Book!AeneasWouldNever – and he internally panics when April starts talking about her writing. Because, as BAWN, he is her best friend in this writing community. He’s nicknamed her Ulsie. They beta-read each others’ stories. And NO ONE knows that he is BAWN (OK, fine, his IRL best friend and fellow actor on the show Alex knows about his writing but that’s it). There’s a clause in his contract that states he can’t criticize the show in any way – writing AU fic could risk his career. He keeps mum and plays ignorant about the fanfic community. When he and April decide on a second date, he distances himself as BAWN thinking it for the best to give him time to develop an in-person relationship with April.

And what an “in-person relationship.” The chemistry between them is on HIGH ALERT right from the start. A spontaneous public snogging session is interrupted by the paparazzi, which leads to a misunderstanding. But they try a third date – a donut-shop crawl that leads to more snogging which leads to….*whew* *fans self.*

Y’all, I read this book twice in a row. This is a perfect fall romance. I am loving this trend of contemporary romances where the characters are adults. April and Marcus are in their mid-to-late thirties, they both have established careers that they love. But both are still bearing psychological baggage from childhood – April’s parents are extremely image-conscious and fat-phobic, Marcus’s parents are Classics teachers who never suspected he had dyslexia and are not supportive of his “superficial” acting career – and they need each other to have the mental strength to finally deal with that. They have to learn to fight for themselves in this relationship as well as fight for each other. (And this is where Marcus’s reticence in revealing his fanfic really comes into play…no spoilers.) Each chapter of the book ends with a relevant chunk of fanfic or script from either Marcus’s career or a section of DMs between April and Marcus (in their fic-writing personae). On a personal note, as a fat woman myself I delighted in reading a hero who doesn’t try to change the heroine and who worships her fat body with all its “curves and valleys” (and her mind, Marcus loves April’s mind, too, of course, but their physical scenes are fire).

In between all of this is the drama of Gods of the Gates. Someone in the cast is leaking scripts from the final season. The showrunners are actual jerks. Alex finds himself saddled with a minder to keep him out of trouble (and you know he and Lauren are going to be the next book). The cast – with one exception – hates the characters’ arcs in the final season. It’s delicious. [All this is why I’m sure this is a book-length troll of S8 of Game of Thrones – even Marcus’s hyphenated name and physical description calls to mind Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, hottest dude on the show IMO, not to mention his armor on the book cover. I luuuuuuuurved it.]

I’m gonna read it a third time. And probably a fourth, too. There are so many little secondary details to this story that make it extra-delicious on re-read.

Spoiler Alert is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a review copy I received from the publisher.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Her Night With the Duke by Diana Quincy (Clandestine Affairs #1)

Desire knows no reason…

When Lady Delilah Chambers finds herself stranded at a country inn on a rain-swept evening, she’s forced to fend off a group of ruffians with the help of a handsome gentleman. Irresistibly drawn to each other, Leela and the stranger spend one reckless night in each others’ arms—and then go their separate ways. But the very next day Leela receives the shock of her life when she meets the duke who is set on wedding her beloved stepdaughter.

When it finds two destined hearts…

One night isn’t enough with a woman as fierce, fiery, and brilliant as Leela. Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, cannot believe his good fortune when their chance encounter leads to an unforgettable evening of passion. Yet Hunt’s luck runs out when he is introduced to his prospective mother-in-law. Dowagers aren’t supposed to look like this… 

Leela and Hunt are determined to keep each other at arm’s length, which should be easy enough for two intelligent adults with reputations to uphold. The problem is all logic is lost when it comes to a passion that refuses to be ignored.

Stranded at a rural inn due to a storm, there’s only one couch (the inn doesn’t have any free rooms), so why not have a mind-blowing one-night stand with an intriguing stranger…only to find out days later that you will connected to this individual through an impending marriage. Not to each other…. Oops.

And that’s the runaway premise of Her Night With the Duke. Leela is on her way back to her deceased husband’s estate from her travels in the Levant to support her step-daughter Tori during an impending betrothal. When Leela is menaced by racists at a roadside inn – whom she dispatches handily with a knife – she attracts the admiration of a fellow traveler, one Elliot Townsend. Why not indulge a mutual attraction for just one night? Elliot inspires a passion that she didn’t realize possible. When she wakes in the morning, wrapped in his cloak, he’s gone.

Elliot, for his part, never would have dreamed he would temporarily misplace his consequence and spend a mind-blowing night with a stranger at an inn. EVER. He’s trying to escape the curse that afflicts every-other generation of the Dukes of Huntington. One generation wrecks the duchy through extreme profligacy, the next generation repairs it. Elliot’s elder brother died whilst trying to wreck the estate, so Elliot is determined to prove everyone wrong by being an upstanding member of the aristocracy as the perfect specimen of ducal consequence. Which does not involve bringing a mysterious, soul-ensnaring woman to multiple orgasms in a night before fleeing at dawn. It involves marrying a young, virginal woman who will make the perfect duchess, Lady Victoria.

And fate laughs. Because “Tori” and “Lady Victoria” are one and the same. Elliot has shagged senseless the woman meant to be his future step-mother-in-law. Leela, for her part, throws up on Elliot’s boots when introduced to him at tea. The two of them try to avoid each other during the house party meant to lead up to Elliot’s betrothal to Tori – who seems rather awed by his station and can barely put two words together around him while she chats easily with his private secretary – but they keep being drawn into each other’s company. When Elliot’s betrothal to Tori is announced everyone will have to decide where their hearts lie…. (No spoilers, this part is so good!)

I LOVED Leela – strong, forthright, intelligent (far more than Elliot, haha), and determined to be herself and live her life despite the Patriarchy and Racists who try and get in her way. She’s lived her own life since her husband died – travelling to meet her mother’s relatives in the Levant, writing a bestselling travel memoir about that journey – and isn’t looking to mold herself into a Society lady ever again. But she’s also still a human character, who is vulnerable and trying to find where she fits into the world as a biracial woman in the Regency. I loved her relationship with Tori and how she tries to champion and protect Tori despite Devon’s (the awful brother/stepson) continual attempts to be the worst person on Earth.

Where I got tripped up a bit was with the hero, Elliot. Overall, as a character I understood where he was coming from in fighting this “degenerate curse” that ravages every other generation in his family and how he was really trying to combat his brother’s profligacy. Except it leads him into a really bad corner of “My Reputation And Consequence Is The Most Important Thing To Me” and he says some really bone-headed things as a result, especially to Leela. I don’t think he really suffered the consequences of these actions or that he did enough groveling to make up for. He doesn’t risk enough to make up for being a twat, in my opinion. Quincy should have taken a finger. (Why yes, I am a Fated Mates fan, did you have to ask?)

Overall, I loved Leela and Elliot. The story was really good and I loved the denouement (though if you don’t like baby-logues you might want to skip the Epilogue) but I required more groveling.

Her Night With the Duke is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher, but I also got a finished copy in the mail from Avon (? I don’t remember requesting it).

Austenesque · mini-review · stuff I read

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels by Rachel Cohen

Summary from Goodreads: An astonishingly nuanced reading of Jane Austen that yields a rare understanding of how to live

“About seven years ago, not too long before our daughter was born, and a year before my father died, Jane Austen became my only author.”

In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her new reality. For Cohen, simultaneously grief-stricken and buoyed by the birth of her daughter, reading Austen became her refuge and her ballast. She was able to reckon with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, paying attention to the world, reading, writing, and imagining through Austen’s novels.

Austen Years is a deeply felt and sensitive examination of a writer’s relationship to reading, and to her own family, winding together memoir, criticism, and biographical and historical material about Austen herself. And like the sequence of Austen’s novels, the scope of Austen Years widens successively, with each chapter following one of Austen’s novels. We begin with Cohen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she raises her small children and contemplates her father’s last letter, a moment paired with the grief of Sense and Sensibility and the social bonds of Pride and Prejudice. Later, moving with her family to Chicago, Cohen grapples with her growing children, teaching, and her father’s legacy, all refracted through the denser, more complex Mansfield Park and Emma.

With unusual depth and fresh insight into Austen’s life and literature, and guided by Austen’s mournful and hopeful final novel, Persuasion, Rachel Cohen’s Austen Years is a rare memoir of mourning and transcendence, a love letter to a literary master, and a powerful consideration of the odd process that merges our interior experiences with the world at large.

This is going to be a very short review. It has taken me MONTHS to read Austen Years. I was expecting a slow read, something to savor. What I got was floundering around. I’m still not sure why Cohen was only able to read and re-read Austen’s novels (and only five of them, not the full six or any of the juvenalia) for a number of years. Some of her thoughts about the books are interesting, and she writes beautifully about her father, but it’s such a scattered book that I couldn’t follow her thesis.

There was also a sentence where Cohen stated that the young woman Willoughby seduces and leaves pregnant in Sense and Sensibility dies, which that is not anything that happens in any edition of S&S I’ve read, so I’m waiting for a library hold to come in so I can check that in a finished copy.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · stuff I read

Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh

For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays.

Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life.

We’ve been waiting for years for Allie Brosh’s follow-up to Hyperbole and a Half. It’s finally here!

I really, really liked Solutions and Other Problems. There’s a lot of funny stuff inside, funny stories about her as a kid (the one with the neighbor and the cat door, lol), funny stories about her different dogs and cats. But there isn’t a “The God of Cake” chapter, where you just laugh until your belly hurts. This is a much darker book, specifically in the chapter “Losing” where she talks about the sudden death of her sister. There are just a series of panels of the two of them as children. It’s heartbreaking.

As much as I loved reading this book, the collection as a whole felt unfocused. I don’t think the arrangement of the chapters served the material as well as it should have. Hyperbole felt kind of linear in a way, but Solutions ping-ponged around.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book because I am not cool enough to have got my hands on a galley.

mini-review · Romantic Reads

Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai (Pleasure #2)

Summary from Goodreads: Hungry for a touch…

Rana Malik is over being her family’s resident black sheep. She’s on a mission: ditch the casual hook-ups, revamp her bad-girl image, and fall in love with a proper Mr. Right even her conservative mama can’t find fault with. Not on the menu? The beautiful, brooding Mr. Right Now who lives next door, and all the ways he whets her appetite.

Starving for love…

Artist Micah Hale had it all–women, success, friends and family–until his world changed in a single act of senseless violence. Now struggling to conceal his scars and get his life and career back on track, he knows he has nothing to offer a woman except his body. He’s not looking for love…but he can’t control his craving for the sexy bombshell voyeur he’s caught looking at him.

Just one bite. Their attraction boils over, and their defenses are stripped off along with their clothes. They promise they’ll walk away if it gets too hot. But it’s hard to do the right thing…when being wrong feels so good.

I had Serving Pleasure hanging around the Nook for a while so I picked it up since it’s the next Fated Mates readalong. Rana and Micah are fantastic characters, each trying to figure out their lives in different ways. Rana is trying so desperately to turn herself into a different “good” girl for her mother’s approval, despite the fact that she’s an incredibly capable adult who kept the family restaurant going when her father died. And Micah, oh man. He’s struggling so much with how to regain his life and independence after being attacked by a model’s jealous boyfriend. I really liked their sex deal – “we’re only here for the sex don’t you dare fall in love with me” – part of this erotic romance (Alisha drops us right in the middle of their voyeristic relationship from the get-go). Because of course, falling in love is what happens.

Alisha gives us some fantastic scenes with Rana’s sisters as well – sibling relationships is something she’s always done so well and she doesn’t skimp here. Devi gets some page time here, which is really nice since the end of her book left a few things unsaid with her sisters after the big climactic scene where the sisters realize that Devi is in a committed ménage (if you haven’t read Glutton for Pleasure, go do that, fyi it’s two brothers, although the “swords” do not cross).

Small content warning: Micah’s assault happens a while before the book starts, but he does relate the event on page and has some psychological trauma as a result of the attack.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this on my Nook.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan (The Wedgeford Trials #1)

Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything. 

ALLLLLLERRRRRTTTTT!!! Courtney. Milan. Has. A. New. Full. Length. Novel. WHEEEEE!!!!!!!

Chloe Fong is a planner – her to-do lists have to-do lists (seriously – if bullet journaling had existed in Victorian times, Chloe would have had the most efficient bullet journal of ever). She has a lot to get finished today – most important, and possibly the one she procrastinated on the most, is to figure out a name for her father’s secret recipe special brown sauce so they can launch the new product during the Wedgeford Trials (the Trials are like a cross between Capture the Flag and LARPing, it sounds like a hoot). What Chloe does not need, is one Jeremy Wentworth popping up to tease her to distraction. Three years ago she told him to leave her alone until he could be serious – and he did exactly as she said.

Jeremy Wentworth fell in love with Chloe about five seconds after he met her around the age of 12. And now he’s back to try and convince her that he is serious. Serious about loving her, serious about wanting her in his life. There’s just one wrinkle – Jeremy is actually the Duke of Lansing. The same duke who owns the entirety of the village of Wedgeford, this wonderful place made up of people hailing from cultures across the British Empire. Jeremy first visited the village as a lark instead of going to visit his horrible cousin during school holidays. He told no one that he was the duke because he loved how he seemed to fit right into this rich, multicultural community that immediately assigned him a Trials team. Jeremy is also half Chinese and has experienced the racism and microaggressions from his family and the peerage – would Chloe, as a British Chinese woman, want to be his duchess?

The Duke Who Didn’t is a sweet, low-stakes-but-still-with-teeth Victorian historical romance. Chloe wants to make sure her Ba gets the recognition he deserves for his delicious Brown Sauce (think Worcester Sauce, but maybe with elements from Chinese cuisine) and Jeremy needs to convince Chloe that she’s his one, true love. What I really loved is that Jeremy doesn’t want to change Chloe – he loves her glasses and lists and determination and her love for her father and the village – he just wants to figure out how to both be the Duke of Lansing and take care of her. The reveal, when it comes out that Jeremy is really the duke the entire village makes fun of, was so delicious. Courtney packed this book with so many good things: pining, good food (ugh, the bao buns, do want), a duke in disguise, a small road trip, only one bed, and, at the very end, a bit of delicious revenge.

I love this little book. The Duke Who Didn’t is out today! (Brief content warning that Jeremy and a other characters discuss racism they have experienced from white British people, but it isn’t graphic or violent on the page.)

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the author.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Naughty Brits by Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan, Louisa Edwards, Tessa Gratton, and Sierra Simone

Summary from Goodreads: Everything is hotter with a British accent…

Sarah MacLean – A Duke Worth Falling For: Her career in tatters, celebrity photographer Lilah Rose retreats to the British countryside, complete with fluffy sheep, rolling hills…and Max, the stern, sexy farmer who tends to them. But their lazy days and lush nights aren’t as far from the spotlight as Lilah thinks, and Max will have to reveal the truth if he is going to convince Lilah that some dukes are worth the risk.

Sophie Jordan – Better with You: When the author of a controversial self-help book starts receiving threats, she has no choice but to accept a bodyguard on her UK book tour. Vee Mathers is famous for asserting that women don’t need men—especially for sex!—but at security specialist Luca Moretti’s first, burning touch, she starts to think she might need to revise her theory…

Louisa Edwards – Not a Bad Boy: Writer Mallory Pritchard moved to London for research—and to get over a bad breakup. When she (literally) runs into Hollywood’s hottest action hero, Ian Hale, at a dog park, she realizes her heart isn’t as broken as she thought! Ian is even more devastatingly sexy in person, which makes Mallory wonder…is there room for a regular girl in his glamorous movie-star world?

Tessa Gratton – Songbird: Former American soldier Daniel Kelly’s mission is simple: close the deal to buy a Welsh pub on behalf of his family’s corporation, and survive another anniversary of the worst day of his service. Too bad that from the moment he sees the pub’s owner, Elspeth Gwenlan is the only thing Daniel wants to conquer—even if it means lying to her about his agenda.

Sierra Simone – Supplicant: After being left at the altar by her cold and brilliant professor, Church Cason, Charlotte Tenpenny had to leave school to take care of her younger brother. But a fateful night brings Church—and his delicious, drugging kisses—back into Charlotte’s life. And it stirs up a reckoning years in the making . . . 

So, Naughty Brits is a super-fun anthology (it’s all m/f couples, even if a couple of the characters seem to be bi or pan in their history) and seem to be arranged in order of increasing filthiness:

  1. Sarah MacLean – sweet and more traditionally structured; the hero seems to be from the line of Matthew MacFadyen characters in boots and a sweater (he kinda fails to tell her he’s a duke) with a plus-sized heroine; steamy sex scenes, including one on top of a “folly” on his estate in the outdoors
  2. Sophie Jordan – quick and dirty; the hero is described as an Italian Henry Cavill-lookalike; he’s the bodyguard, she’s a curvy author with three trash ex-husbands who wrote a book about not needing men that’s making TEH DOODZ predictably mad; there’s bananas sex in a stairwell at the British Museum during a gala
  3. Louisa Edwards – the only author in the anthology I’ve never read before; a plus-sized nonfiction writer researching the history of cookbooks meets a clear Tom Hardy-like Very Famous Actor while they’re each walking their dogs in Regents’ Park; there’s a steamy no-touching sex scene in a study room at the British Museum (a direct quote “You’ll wear nothing but me for days on end…” <– pretty sure my knickers caught on fire right there) plus what is possibly the drrrrrtiest BJ I’ve ever read in the backseat of a car
  4. Tessa Gratton – her first published adult romance writing; Welsh pub owner who studied opera and is trying to decide whether to sell her family’s pub and an ex-military guy who seems also to be a Henry Cavill-but-American-lookalike whose family company is the one trying to buy the pub (clearly, there is a lie by omission); bonkers messy sexytimes up against standing stones and in the doorway to one of the British Museum’s galleries during a gala (this gala appears in all the stories in some way)
  5. Sierra Simone – absolutely the filthiest story of the bunch, which is unsurprising given her previous writing; it’s a student/former student and her archaeology professor – who are clearly into kink – but he left her at the altar four years ago and on meeting her at the British Museum gala (where she’s working as a waiter) he immediately gets her off in one of the galleries; later there’s just flat-out exhibitionism in the Museum; I couldn’t tell you what he’s supposed to look like because he doesn’t seem clearly described but after this week’s circulation of that deceptive movie poster of Johnny Flynn getting not-pegged against a wall (which is UNFORTUNATE because goddamn, can we have that movie??) that’s what he looks like in my head now.

So yeah – great anthology, totally delivered on it’s premise.

Dear FTC: I wasn’t lucky enough to get a galley so I had to wait until this downloaded to my Nook at midnight on September 15.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Better Than People by Roan Parrish (Garnet Run #1)

Summary from Goodreads: It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, waking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

Better Than People is a super-adorable m/m romance between a dog-lover with extreme social anxiety and an artist/illustrator with a broken leg who needs a dog-walker for his pack (he’s got four dogs plus a cat who likes to accompany them on walks plus three more cats). Jack and Simon are each very interested in each other but Simon’s words get all jumbled up and Jack worries that he’s scared Simon off. Simon’s social anxiety isn’t the “do some breathing exercises and you’re fine” kind, it’s the “literally can’t say anything because you can’t make the words come out of your mouth and people really crap all over you for it” kind. Luckily, Simon has a fantastic grandma – she’s a hoot – who helps him sort out some feelings. And when Jack realizes that if he asks Simon if he would rather text him what he wants to say, rather than speaking the words, they realize that perhaps there is a mutual attraction.

Overall, the trust that’s built between Jack and Simon and their romance is really well-done, particularly with the care that Jack takes to give Simon the space he needs with his anxiety, even if they each make human mistakes and argue. But they resolve their problems like adults so the stakes never become fraught. This also a lovely romance with a “virgin” hero – Simon has never had a first kiss and it’s so sweet when Jack realizes he can give that to him.

Dear FTC: I purchased a copy of this book at my store. (Which was surprising that it just showed up in the store order, because it’s from an imprint of Carina Press and, despite being a division of HarperCollins, it is fiendishly hard to get Carina titles in the store as actual paper books because they’re all listed as print-on-demand.)