So basically, my thoughts on this book are that it made some entry level mistakes, but I enjoyed myself anyway, because it also did some things I really liked. I’ve been having trouble buckling down to actually write this review, so I’ll do what I always do when that happens. Wait 5,000 years to review it and then do a pro/con list.
Let’s start with the stuff I didn’t like about it first, so we can end on a positive note!
- How the central conflict between them was based on assuming things about each other, and not communicating. I feel like, unless this is done exceptionally well and the author is trying to say something by doing it, this is a trope that needs to go away for a long time. It’s not interesting anymore, if it ever was.
- I did not get Michael’s logic at all, re: his dad. Sure, your dad is a jerk, how exactly is that meaning that you will be a jerk, too? You are different people. And that also means you will never have love? If this was going to be his motivation, I think it needed to be more subconscious and less of a direct fear. Because as a direct fear, it makes no sense. Michael was otherwise a very self-aware character who is sensitive to the feelings of others, and that is not the type of person who literally thinks he can’t be with a woman because his dad cheated on his mom and ruined her financially.
- I thought it was an unnecessary coincidence that the mom of the guy pursuing Stella just happened to be the stalker client of Michael’s. Those two didn’t have to be related at all.
- I loved Stella. She’s so smart, and so capable, and her attitude about learning how to be intimate and date from Michael is just practical it makes me want to give her a hug, but I would never do that to her because she would hate it.
- Michael’s tattoo. I am waiting for someone to do fanart of this. (Whole body dragon!)
- All the sex. I love love love when sex is part of the plot, part of the emotional arc of the characters, and not just the culmination of the romance, like oh now they are together. And it is so hard to find it done well in traditionally published fiction. I thought Hoang did very well in making most of the sex scenes not just sexy but actually show us things about the characters (and showing each other). Stella hires Michael to teach her how to have sex, and they both grow because of it.
- Stella being on the spectrum (I can’t remember because it’s been so long, but it’s implied that she is actually autistic, though on the higher functioning end of it closer to what used to be called Asperger’s. It added such a refreshing dynamic to the story, and seeing her navigate her life with her neuratypicality was interesting, and emotionally engaging. I particularly liked the way that Michael responded to her, and when he realized what was going on, how he gave her what she needed without making her feel lesser (his cousin is autistic and he was educated about it because of that).
- Michael’s family. Especially his mom.
- The way money was treated. Stella is very rich because of her job (econometrician) and Michael is not well off because of his mother’s medical bills, and because of his father’s behavior. Hoang knows they need to be equals for their relationship to work, and I thought their economic differences were handled very well.
- I’ve never seen a contemporary romance hero be a fashion designer before (or an escort!) and I liked it.
Really, the list of things I liked about it is much longer than the list of things I didn’t. I will definitely be checking out the sequel, which will feature Michael’s cousin, who is autistic as well.
CBR Bingo: Underrepresented (Review a book by an author from an underrepresented group.) (A twofer! Asian American, and authors on the a autism spectrum.)