I was in a romance mood. You all know I get that way periodically and it’s been awhile since my last one. Plus, the Holiday Season kinda gets me like that. I came across this one while I was checking it in at the library, remembered that @diaryofaclosetreader said it was super sweet and fun (a good review of a romance from her always makes me mentally bookmark it), and after seeing there were no holds on it, promptly checked it out to myself. The best job perk!
After a tough childhood of never being smart enough for his parents, Marcus Caster-Rupp has made it big as a main actor in a GOT type tv series. And he’s found the perfect way of letting off steam at the way his character’s story arc is treated on the show: writing fanfic about his character. Anonymously, of course, as he’d be fired if anyone found out. April Whittier, also trying to move past a childhood of “disappointing” her parents with her weight, has finally gotten a new job, one with more supportive/positive coworkers, and has decided she’s done hiding her fanfic and cosplay hobbies (focused, of course, on the show Marcus stars in). When internet trolls come at her over her plus-size cosplay, Marcus steps in and asks her out on a date, which ends up going really well. But there are (of course) complications when Marcus finds out that April is his best fanfic friend and has to keep his role in that world a secret from her. As their relationship moves forwards, but baggage from their pasts and Marcus’ big secret come closer to the surface, they’ll have to decide if they’re the real-life OTP or not.
Oh goodness this was super fun and sweet and, though I’m not into fanfic myself, what I read is the most wonderful love letter to that community and its power and support and depth. Actually, it’s interesting…I have never really gotten into fanfic/cosplay, nor felt the urge to, but I do love books about it. Like this and OMG Queens of Geek was life-changing, well, more like mindset-changing (but still very important) for me. Anyways, I loved the role fanfic played throughout, both as a mental health assist and safe space for both April and Marcus, a super sweet thing they both ended up having in common, and just in general as a plot device. It did a lot to move the story forwards, connect characters and, of course, add drama. One thing I was really into was the little sections between each chapter with snippets of fanfic, show scripts, the books the tv show was based on, and DM conversations between April and Marcus before they knew who the other was IRL. It added depth to their relationship, as well as giving more insight into the world and fandom around the book show/tv series that was central to the plot. And it was fun to read! Especially the short sections from some of Marcus’ other (ridiculous) movie roles – some of those had me rolling! A last note on this theme, OMG I wish I had a real visual of April’s final cosplay. It just sounded so cool and honestly, even though my imagination is pretty solid, I would have loved a visual here. Haha. I’m gonna have to Google and find some fan art for it!
On some more serious notes, this book tackled some bigger issues as well. Both April and Marcus had some very deep-seated and long brewing issues with their parents, and they way they had been treated growing up (in relation to their weight and an undiagnosed learning disorder, respectively), leading to some very real adult baggage and difficult present-day relationships with their parents. This gave them something really major in common, but also created some trust issues for each that ended up causing some secret-keeping and miscommunication (the roadblocks that all great romance novels tackle). All these moments were handled like adults. Adults who have emotions and insecurities and sometimes handle things wrong (so, like, every adult ever), but are willing to accept new information and change their minds and listen/trust their hearts as they gain perspective. I always appreciate that in romances. Drama and mistakes are 100% going to happen, but how they’re worked through, that’s what makes it “real,” and makes me really buy into the characters and their relationship.
Anyways, I thought it was a great look at parental expectations for perfection, for “better” (as defined by them) for their kids, and the (mostly unintentional) scars that can leave. Also, it was a great look at some of the types of scars and more subtle parental baggage. Neither was obvious, in the way physical abuse or neglect can be, but the subtle mental/emotional manipulation and strain, was intense for both and, truly, lifelong. I thought Dade handled both really respectfully. Also, especially in relation to being fat, Dade’s writing is spectacular. It’s genuine in both its joy and discomfort, personal and public, and the ups and downs of that. She calls out, with resounding clarity, the horrible and prolific messages about fatness being bad and sinful and to be hidden and fought against and posits instead the pride and confidence that come with being wanted exactly you are.
Some final thoughts. I loved how much April loves her unique job. I’ve never read about a geologist before and it was super fun and her pride in it was fantastic. This is a new theme I’m seeing in contemporary romance (check out The Boyfriend Project for another great example of this) and super into. Also, April has freckles and, as a girl with some serious freckles myself: *heart eyes.* The steam factor!! I mean, since the MC, April, writes explicit fanfic, I had high hopes here…so I’m happy to say that Dade delivers. And last, is it just me or does the illustration of the male MC on the cover not look exactly like Chris Pine?! (And was that on purpose??)
This contemporary romance was so entertaining, really funny, smart, nerdy, empowering in ways both obvious and subtle (sex and body positive – yes!), steamy and satisfying. Plus, it’s everything fandom-dreams are made of. I am pretty sure I know where the next book in the series is going, couple-wise, and I’m ready for it!