CBR 12 Bingo: Pandemic. Between pandemic stress and some personal stressors, I’ve been wanting to read light-hearted books, especially funny contemporary romance.
The novel is told in the first person from the perspective of Lucien (Luc) O’Donnell, who is the son of formerly famous rock star parents. Five years ago his boyfriend sold his story about dating Luc to a tabloid, and Luc has been a mess ever since. He works for a charity focused on saving the dung beetle, and after a rather unflattering photo is taken of him and printed by a tabloid, some wealthy donors pull out of an essential fundraising event. They basically view Luc as the “wrong kind of gay,” and his boss insists that he improve his image or he’ll be fired. At a colleague’s suggestion, he decides to find someone respectable who can pretend to be his boyfriend. Enter Oliver, a friend of a friend. Oliver and Luc don’t have much in common, but each needs the other. Luc needs to be seen in public as a “good gay” and have Oliver accompany him to the fundraiser, and Oliver needs Luc to accompany him to his parents’ Ruby Anniversary party.
What I liked:
- The book is funny, both the dialogue and Luc’s internal thoughts.
- One of Luc’s co-workers is incredibly dumb, to the point where you almost wonder how he stays alive (for The Good Place fans, think Jason), but it’s very amusing.
- I really liked Oliver. He was interesting, especially as more information about the source of his insecurities came to light near the end of the book. In fact, I might have preferred the book to be from his perspective.
- Luc’s mom is a hoot, and she and Luc have a good relationship.
What I didn’t like:
- The author’s editor fell down on the job. There were several places where a word was missing or the wrong word was used. For example, Luc works for an entomologist, and given that the fundraiser and his work setting are a substantial part of the book, getting the field right seems like it should be important, but 2 out of the 3 times that entomology is referenced, it’s written as etymology. That’s a very different field.
- The way Luc’s boss basically gets away with being homophobic. She herself doesn’t seem to care, but it’s a problem that she basically says he’ll be fired unless he can find a way to appear as the “right kind of gay” (I might be paraphrasing but that’s more or less how it’s referred to) so that he doesn’t offend donors. There are a couple of mentions of possibly suing, and I felt like the reasons not to weren’t strong enough. And I really wished a pair of homophobic donors would have somehow gotten their comeuppance at the end (without affecting the fundraiser).
- Luc has a lot of self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. A lot. Which is fine, but the frequency with which that was brought up got old, and by the time I was about 60% through the book, I was really tired of it.
I enjoyed reading this and I recommend it. I just wish its flaws didn’t stand out so much.