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.