Courtney Milan has reminded me why she is one of the best romance writers currently publishing. With Hold Me, she has stepped outside traditional romance characters, but tells a beautifuly traditional romance story.
Both protagonists are people of color. Maria is Latina and Jay is Thai. Maria is a trans woman and Jay is bi. It matters and it doesn’t. It matters to them as individuals, it does not matter to them as a couple or to the story.
The story is a hate to love, but lo! we were in love all along and didn’t know it. Maria and Jay have had an online only friendship for a year and a half before they meet in person. But when they do meet, they don’t have any idea who they are. Jay is awful, and if they hadn’t already established the online messaging friendship, I would frown upon making him a redeemable love interest. Their online friendship is important to them both. This rang true to me. I have relationships with people that I have never and may never meet that are important enough that I would donate a kidney or bone marrow if they needed it.
IRL, Maria dishes Jay’s disrespect back to him and stands up to him. He begins to realize what an ass he has been before he realizes who she really is to him. And he has her alter ego to work it out with online. Without knowing it, they give each other backstage passes to their relationship. Leading to this wonderful scene after an ugly exchange.
“Sorry,” I type. “Just a case of wanting cookies I don’t deserve.”
She sends back one character: “?”
“You know.” I feel even worse explaining this to her. “Cookies. The praise people expect for being a basically decent human being. Except apparently I’ve been awarding myself cookies and doing it wrong.”
“I know what cookies are. I just didn’t think you did.”
I frown, and type. “Why?”
“Not to stereotype, but cookies are usually transparent to men. Men think they always deserve them.”
I’m frustrated. Unhappy. My sentences come out choppy. “Yeah. Probably. I fucked up.”
As readers, we need these exchanges too. Jay and Maria work through more than just their unfortunate first in person meeting. In the end, they deserve each other in the best way possible.
I thought this was a lovely book, and I wasn’t ready for it to end. I want more Maria and Jay.
This month is trans awareness month, this week is trans awareness week, and Sunday is Trans Remembrance Day. I am not going to worry about whether Maria is an accurate representation of trans womanhood. And I’m not going to worry about whether Jay represents Thai Americans. Both characters are wonderful and worth your time. Go buy the book and encourage Ms Milan to keep writing outside the box.
Once again, a huge thank you to Mrs. Julien for making it possible for me to read this now.