Spoiler Alert

Spoiler AlertSpoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (Website, Twitter)

Genre: romance

Setting: mostly San Francisco

I read it as a(n): paperback

Source: public library 

Length: 403 pp

Published by: Avon Press (6 Oct 2020)

Her Grace’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

April Whittier is a fandom nerd, and proud of it. She writes fanfiction about her favorite show in her free time, and she loves cosplay. She has never really shared her true identity with her online friends, though, because she is worried they will reject her for being fat. When she decides she wants a change in her life, she posts an image of herself on Twitter in full cosplay regalia. Many people are very kind and supportive, but there are the inevitable fat-shaming assholes who bully her. The lead actor of the show she loves, Marcus Caster-Rupp, sees it happening online and decides to ask her on a date to dinner. She cautiously accepts, not sure if she is interested in what she sees as a PR stunt. When she arrives at the restaurant, April is stunned not only to find that the two of them have instant chemistry but that Marcus seems to have a much deeper side to his personality than his vapidly narcissistic public persona implies. He also has secrets, the biggest of which is that he is the friend who has been beta reading all her fanfic for years. Marcus found that out by accident and doesn’t know what to do with the information. Cue things going right, then spectacularly wrong, and adult angst.

So I really do not read romance. I read this one to tick a box for a couple of reading challenges I’m doing for 2021. I picked it because I am intimately familiar with fandom and fanfic and cons and everything associated with geekdom so I thought it would be somewhat more tolerable than the usual romance novel. I was surprised to find that not only was it tolerable, but I actually really liked it! I think that proves fandom just makes everything better, right? Yes, you know what is going to happen in the end. Yes, there is angst and some silly stuff. But April and Marcus are both really well developed characters and have complexity and depth. They are not both hot young things. They are 35 and 40, respectively, have had their share of relationships in the past, have lives outside of each other, and are thoroughly independent. I liked it. I didn’t ever think that either of them was a sucker or codependent or pitiful. 

A big part of this book was how accepting April was of her body. She didn’t feel shame for being fat, and she learned how to stick up for herself if people started fat shaming her. The book showed that it isn’t just the skinny people who can have a HEA or a relationship with a conventionally attractive person. Marcus thought right from the moment he saw April’s coplay picture on Twitter that she was beautiful and genuinely didn’t seem to understand why others didn’t think so as well. He loved her body, which is terrific, but not necessary because April already knows she’s hot. I loved seeing the body positivity, though. 

The secondary characters are also pretty well developed, though some more than others. There is a blurb at the back of the book that indicates two of the secondary figures will be getting their own book in summer of this year, so that is nice since I liked one of them a great deal. I may or may not read it (I probably will), but either way, I’m glad the author is getting established in her field. Based on this book and her author bio, she seems exactly like the kind of person I want to be friends with. 

Overall, a delightfully geeky love story that should appeal to anyone who knows what it’s like to belong to a fandom family.


Home Again

Home AgainHome Again by Kristin Hannah (Website, Insta)

Genre: drama/romance

Setting: Seattle 

I read it as a(n): paperback

Source: a gift from a coworker

Length: 448 pp

Published by: Ballantine (30 Oct 1996)

Her Grace’s rating: 2 out of 5 stars

***Supreme spoilers below***

When she was 17, Madelaine Hillyard got pregnant. Her filthy rich father kicked her out because she besmirched his good name, whatever the fuck that means, and she had to rely on help from her best friend, Francis, the brother of her baby’s father, Angel. Angel took off when he learned Madelaine was pregnant, aided by the gift of $10,000 and a new Harley from her dad. Skip ahead about 17 years and we learn that Madelaine kept her baby, used the trust fund her mother left to her to put herself through med school and is now a highly respected cardiothoracic surgeon in Seattle. Because who doesn’t have a trust fund to help make life as a single teenage mother bearable? And of course she never got over Angel and she is a weak parent whose 16 year old daughter, Lina, hates.  

In the intervening years, Francis became a priest but of course he is also in love with Madelaine. But he helps take care of her and Lina and Lina never knows he is her uncle because Francis had asked Madelaine not to tell her who her father really is. Who the fuck knows why; that makes no sense to me. If a kid wants to know who their parents are, they ought to know. 

Meanwhile, Angel has managed to become a big movie star, but when he was young, he had an infection in his heart. Years of partying have damaged it to the point that he needs a transplant to survive. When his situation becomes critical, he is transferred to a better cardiac clinic. Of course, Madelaine is assigned as his surgeon. Cue adult angst. Eventually, Angel gets a new heart but not in any way anyone expected. He ends up with Francis’s heart when he is suddenly killed in a car accident. Cue more adult angst when Angel finds out.

If this book were on film, it would be one of those squishy, cheesy Hallmark movies. As soon as you meet all the characters, you know who will end up with whom and what will happen. Angel does away with his wicked and immature ways. Lina finds out who her dad is. Madelaine learns, finally, how to be an effective parent and it makes Lina decide she loves her mom and so she won’t be a teenage asshole anymore. And Francis gets closure because he’s a ghost and can see what happens until everything resolves nicely. 

I just can’t even. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and if this is typical of her style, it will be the only one. I just don’t get why this genre is appealing to so many. You don’t even have to read it; you already know what will happen in, like, chapter three. But whatever, to each her own. The author is, apparently, quite popular and has made a good life for herself with her craft, so good on her. It isn’t my cup of tea at all, I just read it to check off a task for the Read Harder challenge.


25760151Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (website, Twitter, FB)

Her Grace’s rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Genre: romance

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Kim Staunton

Source: public library

Length: 09:27:00

Published by: Harper Audio (26 Jan 2016)

Eddy Carmichael (pronouced Edie – I was confused when I saw it spelled out because I listened to this as an audiobook) is an independent woman, determined to go to San Francisco and open her own restaurant. On her way from her home in Denver, Eddy encounters all manner of folk from the genuinely helpful to conmen and thieves. Her journey stalls out in Virginia City, NV, where she nearly dies from being dumped in the desert by a conman who stole all her money. Lucky for Eddy, a townsman, Rhine Fontaine is riding out and spots Eddy, unconscious. He takes her back to town and gives her into the care of Miss Sylvie. Rhine has worked hard to create and maintain his own little empire and is one of Virginia City’s most popular and prominent citizens. Eddy and Rhine are, of course, instantly attracted to one another but Eddy fights to hide it, because in post-Civil War America, interracial relationships are against the law. 

Meh. Romance. They just… All seem the same to me, even ones that are obviously well written like this one. It did have some interesting things to say about politics. Nothing much has changed in that regard for a very long time, it seems. Shame on us. 

There were also some interesting points about Black culture and passing as white, which of course backfire spectacularly when it becomes known that Rhine is passing as white and he is really biracial. 

I recognize that this was a well written book by a very popular romance writer. But honestly. I think every romance I’ve ever read follows the plot of Innocent Virgin gets rescued from Some Kind of Danger by a Playboy, who instantly falls in love with said Innocent Virgin, repents of his wild ways, and sets about winning her heart, which will always happen eventually. It’s sooooo boring. I also just hate it when a woman gives up her dreams for a man. Sure, Eddy basically got everything she wanted in the end, but it was so unrealistic and worked out perfectly that I just can’t. Why doesn’t she say she’s going to SF and if he wants to come, he can? Or why isn’t that something that the man offers? Or why aren’t readers left guessing for the better part of the book who the lady’s love interest is rather than introducing two characters and that’s it, you know who will wind up together. I guess I just don’t understand the appeal of romance novels, but hey, read whatever floats your boat. For me, that isn’t romance. Not really my cuppa; literally, I only read so I could check off a box for the 2019 Read Harder challenge.


A Bollywood Affair

40098577A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Priya Ayyar

Source: Hoopla Digital

Length: 10:23:00

Publisher: Blackstone Audio

Year: 2014

Mili was a 4 year old child bride in an arranged marriage and grew up doing everything she could to become the ideal wife for her husband, an officer in the Indian Air Force, a man she’d never met but who she knew would come for her one day. She went to college because an officer’s wife should be educated, and her studies take her to a post-grad program in America. Meanwhile, her husband’s brother, Samir, famous Bollywood director and notorious playboy, finds himself with a serious case of writer’s block on his next script. When his brother gets in a bad accident and it comes out that his marriage to Mili hadn’t been annulled when they were children as they had thought, he sends Samir to America to get Mili to sign the annulment papers since he himself was bedridden and unable to do it himself. While there, Samir finds himself unexpectedly bewitched by Mili and her onyx eyes. His writer’s block miraculously cured, he devotes his time to writing and to Mili, who was injured and needs help because she’s a klutz and has no one to help. Sam sets himself up as her new neighbor and naturally, drama ensues.

I am not a reader of romance. I read this because it checks the box for one of the 2018 Read Harder tasks. I enjoyed it well enough, I laughed out loud a couple times, but I confess that I find the whole romance genre baffling. Two people meet, they have drama of some kind, they have a big fight for some reason, there is a separation, then they get over it and end up happily ever after. Maybe sometimes the man is an alpha male asshole, maybe sometimes he’s a sensitive beta. Maybe the lady is a shy little wallflower, maybe she’s a spitfire. Maybe it’s a lesbian couple, maybe it’s two men, maybe it’s some other combination on the gender spectrum. But the formula always seems to be the same. I just…it’s boring to know how it will end before you even start reading. Do people read romance just for the sex? This is NOT a rant against this book or Sonali Dev in any way, I just truly don’t understand the appeal, I guess.

As far as romance books go, this one was fine. I liked Mili, she had dreams and did what she needed to carry them out. She had gumption and ambition and learned how to speak her mind. She was a loyal friend. All are qualities I admire and value. Samir was a spoiled brat but he also was loyal to his brother, anyway. He turned out nice enough. I’m not sure what else to say about it, really. It was a fun and fast read, but nothing surprised me or anything. It seemed to follow the formula I was expecting to the letter.

I do definitely want all the Indian food now, though. The descriptions of food, festivals, clothing, and locations were all really vivid and rich, which I loved. Made me want to travel.