Alright this was my second ALC from Libro.fm that I have gotten to. There were so many great choices that I wasn’t sure where to go next, but @diaryofaclosetreader had recently reviewed this one and spoke so highly of it. Plus, her blog post interview with the author was super fun. So I figured those were as good of reasons as any to make this my next listen.
This is a fake dating romance trope novel. Luc O’Donnell’s parents are both famous (now sort of aging) rock stars, so he’s grown up tangentially in the spotlight. And recently, his highlights in the tabloids have been…less than complementary. So much so that, in order to save his position at work (through some highly questionable pressure that really only works because his self-esteem is so low), he is “forced” to find a fake boyfriend to make him look more respectable. A mutual friend introduces him to Oliver Blackwood, an uptight and “normal” barrister, the perfect stand-in to make Luc more reputable. They strike a mutual deal, wherein they each will accompany the other to an important social engagement as a fake boyfriend. But their time together, getting to know each other to make the ruse believable, takes an unexpected (for them anyway) turn when the feelings start to get real.
Alright HOLY SH*T I LOVED THIS BOOK. I am really thinking that it will be a top ten read for me this year. (And apparently I need to look into more m/m romances because last year Red White and Royal Blue made that list for me as well!) Anyways, this review is likely to be a lot of gushing and adoration and encouraging everyone to freaking read this. Let me see…let me just list a couple things that stood out to me the most, as far as why I was so into it. First, and VERY importantly, the writing is freaking incredible. It’s fast and smart and current and witty and flowed so well and was just so easy to read (or, in this case listen to…related to which, let me say for the record and because this was an ALC, the narrator was freaking great – totally crushed it). The banter was fantastic and the commentary (internal and external dialogue from in-story observers) was so good. It was real and sarcastic in all the best ways (and the dry British sort of way), with wonderful tone and, honestly, was some of the funniest I’ve ever read. With the exception of the emotional parts (and even sometimes then, to be honest…again, in a good way) I don’t think I have ever laughed or smiled or smirked or snorted so much while reading. It was the best experience.
Luc was a phenomenal main character, the exact perfect realistic mix of messed up and vulnerable. And I enjoyed that as the story went, Oliver got more complex and Luc (who really grew a lot throughout) ended up being able to help Oliver back, as far as helping him work through stuff and being supportive. I thought it was great that both had issues, and both got their “moment,” if you will, to get support as needed. And it was all reasonable and genuine and still, insofar as it was possible and the clear end-game of it getting to a better place becoming clearer once things started to get legitimately serious between the two, pretty healthy.
Looking at some supporting characters, their friends were all pretty great characters as well, especially Luc’s (I truly loved Priya), and their involvement in the final scene(s) got me in all the happy/funny feels, but still, again, in a way that felt truly supportive and, when necessary, serious. Luc’s coworkers made me laugh so much; definitely they were perhaps more stereotype-y than others, but their comedic additions were super enjoyable to read. Also, a favorite character that deserves her own special mention and fan club (IMO): Luc’s mother. She was a gem and I was so excited every single time she made an appearance. There were also, of course, some moments of seriousness, as I mentioned, especially with Oliver’s family (and a bit with Luc’s as well). And these were handled with respect, acknowledging the different kinds of family challenges one can face, and really doing a nice job focusing in on the more subtle types of trauma that aren’t always easy to display or explore or are, really, even showcased as much in fiction.
All in all, as should be incredibly obvious by now, I loved this book. I haven’t had so much fun, or been so…truly entertained…by a story in a while. I was totally sucked in, was compelled to just keep listening (like literally I couldn’t make myself press pause on this and binged like 80% of it in one day, which is, to be clear, a solid 7 or so hours of listening). I was so invested in Luc and Oliver and their relationship and their friends and Luc’s narrative voice (so, like, Hall’s writing) and just the whole thing was fantastic and hilarious and sexy-sweet and exactly what I wanted/needed!