The Ex Talk very much appealed to the NPR nerd in me, so if you like romance and you like public radio, you probably don't need to read the rest of this review.
Rachel Bloom's brand of humor isn't for everyone, but if it's for you, you'll love I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are. Fans of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend like me will appreciate the blend of gross, awkward, honest and er, musical? humor contained in these essays, screen-plays and journal entries by a young Rachel.
Be Dazzled is the sparkly gay book I hoped it would be.
By now maybe you've noticed that I've been on something of a gothic romance kick lately. Maybe you don't follow my reading that closely. This is expected, you are a real human with better things to do. (Unless you're Google crawling the internet, in which case hiiii robot overlords.)
After a lengthy--for the romance genre--break following the first in the Greycourt series, Elizabeth Hoyt returns with When a Rogue Meets His Match. I'm not sure why this series is received less favorably than the Maiden Lane series, but to me the hallmarks of her historical romances are still there. Her writing still pulls the emotions out of me and her plots are complex and action-packed.
The folks from the LGBTQ centre are a mix of lovely and grumpy old people who throw out love-hate banter at all their classes. Clyde, Leo’s old-person partner and friend, is hilariously grumpy –like, people have made formal complaints about his ridiculous insults. The Clyde sub-plot reminds us about the perspective of gay men of the 80s: that they paved the way, the loss they felt, and the stigma many older people in the LGBTQIA+ community still carry with them. Clyde’s romantic interest is from the same generation, and struggles with unlearning the need to be undercover about being gay. He's also given a wonderful introduction to the world of feeling genderqueer and publicly dressing accordingly.
One of the best and most laugh-out-loud enjoyable things about this book is the extremely current dating situation. Leo has to explain to Clyde why he didn’t ask for Merrick’s number (because he needs to stalk him online first to see if he’s married and/or racist) and we obviously experience the classic, painful accidental Instagram double-tap crisis. There’s an unpacking of whether he has the rainbow flag in his bio and a panicked avoidance of actual phone calls. The Instagram ‘like’ situation escalated so amazingly and almost too realistically! I was sitting on the couch listening and felt like I was sitting on the couch right next to Leo and his best friend. Their adorable friendship also had me missing casual late-night hangouts over-analysing crushes with friends. Sidenote: Leo’s voice sounds a lot like Troye’s Sivan, incase that’s something you’re into.
Throwing Hearts is everything N.R. Walker's books always are: Adorable, warm, charming and fun, with interesting characters who are undeniably and openly into each other, which results in memorable dates and sweet, intimate affection. 10/10 recommend!
Content Warnings: There’s some casual meanness and judgement of men who use Grindr and hook-up at gay clubs. Grief and mention of Clyde’s boyfriend who died in the 80s along with most of his friends.
When I heard that Where Dreams Descend was being pitched as a gothic circus fantasy romance, I was intrigued. Then I saw the cover and I swear I gasped. The cover blurb from Claire Legrand says it's perfect for fans of Caraval and The Night Circus and while that is absolutely true, I got some pretty strong Phantom of the Opera vibes as well.
More mini-reviews! Reviews of Teddy Spenser Isn't Looking for Love, Instant Karma, In a Holidaze and Kingdom of the Wicked. That's an m/m contemporary, an f/m YA contemporary, an f/m contemporary and a YA fantasy.
Kendall is a vet, which is nice, but she’s quite moody and judgey about her clients, especially when she’s on-call. She’s vegan, divorced, and has a close circle of queer friends. She also has two cats named Bacon and Eggs. She’s a bit too comfortable, though, and realizes she should really get out more and enjoy life. Enter Joey and the meet-disaster: After an intriguing introduction to each other while waiting at a laundromat, Kendall (who has a meowing cat in her handbag) makes a rushed exit. The chaos results in them switching laundry loads and leaves her in a “lost scrubs, found thongs” situation.
Joey is new in town, ready for a fresh start, and totally belongs in one of our Romantic Occupations lists. –She’s a French-language translator, mostly of manuals, most recently of hair-dye instructions and shampoo bottles. She makes a memorable entrance at the vet where Kendall works (her dog just ate her leather harness) when she’s asked: “Full name?” and proudly says “Ozzy Pawsbourne, Prince of Barkness!” only for the receptionist to reply that “…Oh, I mean your full name...”
Kendall and Joey's adventure list is inspired by a line in a Frank O’Hara poem: 'Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous.’ Their adventures include buying a sex-toy in a female-owned sex shop, an appointment with a gender-freeing hairstylist, and having a suit made by a queer-friendly tailor. There’s also an attempt at having a one-night-stand and a camping adventure that ends up being a series of absolute fails.
Both women feel an attraction from the beginning, but tell themselves to just stick to friendship. So The Adventurers overall feels like a low-angst, slow-paced adventure in queer friendship. The actual Romance bit happens quite quickly at the end of the book, so it feels slightly rushed but we're happy for them! I'd recommend if you're looking for something light, sweet and hopeful.
More mini-reviews! Four audiobooks: Fence: Striking Distance, Once More Upon a Time, The Midnight Bargain and The Vicar and the Rake. That's an m/m contemporary YA, an f/m fantasy novella, an f/m historical fantasy and an m/m historical romance.