Trade Me is a fun read you can feel good about. Last year I spent months rereading and contemplating Courtney Milan’s brilliant and overtly feminist The Brothers Sinister series. The series was set in Victorian England in the early days of the Industrial Revolution when women had few legal rights and the opinion of others could mean the difference between safety and disaster. Trade Me is Milan’s first contemporary romance and is no less bold.
There are no overt misogynists or blatantly gender based obstacles faced by our heroine, Tina Chen. Feminism doesn’t need an obvious opponent, the patriarchy is inherent to the system. What makes Tina a feminist heroine is her insistence on being seen and heard. She asserts her value and demands respect. Her primary obstacle in the world is not her gender, but her poverty. Like Milan’s previous heroines, Tina lives on the edge of disaster. It’s a different kind of disaster, but no less profound.
And the wish fulfillment part? That comes in the form of tech scion and billionaire, Blake, who offers to trade lives with her for a period of time. Blake has his own issues with being seen, heard and respected. His desire to escape his life leads to his offer to swap lives for a while and he offers Tina enough money that she will be able to complete her degree without also supporting herself and her family. Unlikely device to keep these two in contact aside, Tina and Blake are lovely, as are their families and friends. I adored Tina’s mother. Though she is one of Tina’s life challenges, I would aspire to be her, and Tina is very much her mother’s daughter. It is a little harder for me to detach from reality and accept some of the contrivances and high drama of romance in a contemporary setting. But that’s ok. I still read it in one sitting (reluctantly attending to various dog needs). I plan to reread it as soon as I post this review.
I’m not going to get into it much, but Milan is laying the groundwork to go where romances generally fear to tread. Milan has a liberal agenda and she wants to bring us to her side by making us fall in love with people we are generally told to ignore, at best. I have subscribed to her newsletter, and so should you. Go buy Trade Me and then join me in waiting impatiently for Hold Me. Still unconvinced? Read Mrs. Julien’s review, and then read Malin’s forthcoming review.