Dammmmmmnnnnnnn! Olivia Dade keeps getting better and better. She doesn’t need to, she was already pretty close to perfect, but she keeps doing it anyway. I received and advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
April Whittier is a geologist who in her down time writes fanfic under the name UltimateLaviniaStan. Her fandom of choice is an incomplete book series retelling of the Aeneid, which has been adapted into a tv show (like Game of Thrones). April has kept her real life and her online life separate, but now she wants to stop compartmentalizing her life and let the people in different areas of her life know all of her. In her fanfic community, she has become particularly close with Book!AeneasWouldNever.
Marcus Caster-Rupp has just finished filming his last scene as Aeneas in the final season of Gods of the Gates and he is ready to shed his public persona as good looking but not too bright. Marcus started writing fix-it fanfic as a way of expressing his frustration with the tv show scripts. He is Book!AeneasWouldNever and he has to keep it a secret or risk losing his career and a lot of money. He considers UltimateLavineaStan one of his best friends.
Both are at transition points and wanting to be more open and honest about who they are. In that spirit, April posts a picture of herself in cosplay on Twitter and some trolls predictably start fat shaming her. They tag Marcus into their nastiness. Marcus asks her on a date. April accepts. This story isn’t about how a ridiculously handsome actor can date a fat woman and fall in love. April’s weight is a part of who she is and it informs the way she interacts with the world. It is never a real issue between them. Marcus thinks April is gorgeous. He is already half in love with his anonymous writing partner and when she inadvertently reveals that she is UltimateLaviniaStan, it doesn’t take much to tip him all the way over. Of course, he doesn’t tell her about his alter ego and, of course, his secret online identity is a looming problem.
Olivia Dade does two things in this book that I normally hate – secret identity and grand public gesture – but she does them so well and so organically I don’t hate them. Marcus is so used to conforming himself to other people’s expectations and being rejected when he does not meet them, that keeping the secret when he knew it would hurt April feels like exactly the kind of thing Marcus would do. Everyone agrees it was a bad choice. The way Dade shows them resolve the hurt gets into spoiler territory, so I will leave it at she makes it work. There are a couple of grand public gestures and neither are intended by the person making the gesture to be a grand public statement that they’ve changed and are worthy of love now. Again, going too much into why they work gets spoilery.
Self-inflicted angst aside, the world of Marcus and April is so comfortable. It has taken me a long time to write this review. Partly it’s because I loved the book so much it took a while to focus my thoughts. Partly it’s because every time I return to this review I end up rereading Spoiler Alert. It’s not an angst free book, but it is soft and comfortable.
Not everyone is going to like the interstitials, and not all of the interstitials work for me. But I did enjoy the way they deepened understanding of the online relationship between April and Marcus before they meet in person.