It was 1 am last Thursday and I had just read on page 78 April’s confession to Marcus on their (tweet) date that she writes fanfic and that her handle is UnapologeticLaviniaStan and OMG! Marcus makes the connection and suddenly I remembered that I will be chairing a meeting in the morning. My first thought was ‘Maybe I don’t need to sleep?’
I want to thank CBR12 for making me embark on an Olive Dade marathon (Dadeathon), three books in four days: Spoiler Alert, Teach Me, and 40-Love. Not really missing a beat between the books.
In Spoiler Alert we first meet Marcus Caster-Rupp, a lead actor in what is clearly a Game of Thronesque hit series, Gods of the Gates, where he plays a god, Aeneas. It’s the last shootings of the final season, and like Thrones, the last season has messed with the storylines and themes of the source material and previous seasons. Additionally, the last season is misogynist. The fans will go apeshit (except some dudebros will become apologetic). Marcus has an easy, outgoing and most shallow public persona and past traumas (his undiagnosed dyslexia made his parents strained and his mother sort of blames him for being a burden on her and her career; and they don’t like Marcus’s roles at all). To vent his frustration, Marcus writes God of the Gates fanfic, stories that basically critisise the showrunners’ decisions regarding character and story arcs. If it came public that Book!AeneasWouldNever – his pen name – is Marcus he could be in a lot of trouble, contract and reputation-wise. Book!AeneasWouldNever’s best fanfic friend is UnapologeticLaviniaStan, in real life April Whittier, a geologist who is moving from a private sector dirt sample-digging to state regulator of said dirt-samples and sites from which they are taken. She’s been keeping a tight lid on her personal life, her God of the Gates fanfic & cosplay hobby in order not to have any trouble at work in the private sector. The career move should entail more freedom to express her publicly, and so it is: given her new freedom she tweets a picture of herself in cosplay which – given her size – brings in the dudebros giving hurtful comments. While chilling Marcus finds the post, decides to give her his support and asks April (aka @Lavinia5Ever) for a dinner date.
April agrees. They meet at a restaurant for a private date, Marcus acts shallow but depth, perception and intelligence seeps through some of his comments which makes her intrigued. At some point April reveals her fanfic hobby and her handle, and the rest is history: Marcus wins April over (he was already head over heels), they fell in love, and when a dinner with April’s parents does not go as it should have (a source of her trauma is her parents, especially her dad) and afterwards, while going over the situation Marcus reveals he was Book!AeneasWouldNever April breaks up due to trust issues. Enter soul searching and a grand gesture.
Inserted into the book in Spoiler Alert are satirical fanfic samples and excerpts from Marcus’s movie scripts. Some of them are positively meta, like the script where the manic pixie girl is named – Pixie. There’s also a considerable emphasis on pegging in some fanfic samples (written by Marcus’s best friend, Alex, also an actor in the Gods at the Gates), but this the new gold standard now and I bend to our new overlord of romantic fiction, Olivia Dade.
Teach Me introduces us Rose Owens, a history teacher at Marysburg high school, an immaculate and stylish dresser in black, highly composed at any time. But passionate about teaching (20 years of experience) and helping underprivileged children learn and get ahead. Like she did (source of trauma #1). She has also been married to a one rich Barton (source of trauma #2), who in the end viewed Rose as something quiant (because of the teaching “hobby”) and moldable as a trophy wife (exercise & lose weight). She runs an Honors World History course which is a preparatory course of AP World History (she also teaches it), in order to get the other than well-off students interested in history and learning and extra work required, and to encourage them to apply to AP courses which, hopefully, is a chance to escape poverty by getting educated.
So, now you surely get her internal turmoil when just before the start of the school year her supervisor for 15 years, Keisha, asks Rose to her room and tell her the news that the head of secondary social studies, Dale (a misogynist, asshole, calling kids DOA – Dumb on Arrival; a definite source if not trauma then aggravation) has given the Honors World History – her Honors World History course! – to a brilliant new recruit, Mr. Martin Krause. Keep your finger relaxed. No clenching, thinks ever-so-composed Rose.
Mr. Krause does have an impeccable teaching pedigree, 25 years of experience, 15 years of AP World History with exemplary pass rates for the exam. No slouch. And when Rose sees him (even with clothes on), definitely a looker, too. Mr. Krause seems to be very considerate, intelligent, understandable. To Rose’s irritation: she would like to hate him for taking her classes.
Mr. Krause is a divorced dad. He moved to Marysburg in order to be near his daughter, Bea, before she leaves for college next year. Bea loves her dad, takes a liking to Rose (it’s mutual) and sees quickly that her dad likes Rose and that she likes him, too. Kids nowadays.
He has two traumas, one of which is trust: her ex-wife cheated on him. The other – you can read about it in the book.
Rose and Martin start to cooperate with teaching; they start to do each other favours out of love: Rose will go to Martin’s house (with “chaperone” Bea’s approval) to nurse him: he has a sudden back problem. And there she can gaze and leer Martin’s surprisingly lean and muscular torso.
They meet, start dating (supposedly discreetly), be open about their lives and circumstances, have lots of sex (and more sex), have a falling, the subsequent grand gesture – and no more spoiling. Sorry.
40-Love: The assistant principal of Marysburg high school Tess Dale, is on a summer vacation with her best friend, Belle. It’s two weeks – all she can spare due to the normal duties of an assistant principal; but she also has to sacrifice some of her time on the beach for work: the principal is retiring, so Tess must work on her pitch. She wants that job! At the same time, she will be celebrating her 40th birthday.
But in the beginning of the book Tess is in a bind, her bikini top does not work well with her H-cup breasts. While adjusting them a sudden wave! and the top is gone. Wary of headlines like Buoys of Terror: Assistant Principal Dunn Corrupts Innocent Children with Her Enormous, Naked Gozangas, she starts to look for help. Somebody to shield her temporarily while a towel can be found. She sees a tall young man, waves him with one arm, keeping herself modest with another. The supposed dudebro approaches, looks happily at Tess, makes a joke about “wardrobe malfunction” like it was not accidental, with a European sounding accent, but helps her anyway. Or rather, Tess get glued to his back, pressing her bosoms tightly against the stranger’s muscular back while grabbing him with her both feet. Upon seeing her friend Belle, The dude is tasked to go get Tess a towel. He goes and talks briefly with Belle, who brings it to her.
The dude is Swedish and named Lucas Karlsson. Happens so that he is an ex-Tennis pro with one Grand Slam victory to his belt. Brittle bones ended his career when he was very young. Now he is 26 and works as the Tennis teacher at the resort. Which Tess does not know until she goes to have (expensive and non-refundable) tennis lessons paid for by Belle as a birthday present (gee, I wonder why). All Lucas has ever known is Tennis, so he does not know what to do with the rest of his life. Tess, being a pedagog and thus an observer of people quickly sees many of Lucas’s strength: he is an excellent teacher, even coach, he has a high working ethic and he is good with people.
Needless to say beside tennis there is the first kiss, more kisses, shower, lust, sex, love, more sex. Tess names his penis Mr. Perky, that ought to tell you everything. Due to the fact that they live and work in different places, Tess makes the rational decision to break up – it wouldn’t work, as work is all she does: she is rational and maybe a bit uncaring which is how she has analyzed her self after the end of her last relationship with a professor named Jeremy) (one of her traumas). Whereas Lucas and Mr. Perky have never been in a steady relationship due to the requirements of the life of a Tennis pro. This is a first for him. No spoilers for the rest, you figure it out.
All three books have the same ingredients and plot points: there is a confident young (or youngish, at least to me) woman who is a highly competent, passionate professional but who has some trauma or bad experience which has left her with an emotional scars that she is anyway hiding away. She meets a man who is not what he appears to be: namely, he is not shallow, or a slob or a typical male who does not really listen but wants to give (impose) his proper and 100% correct opinions to her. (I can only say that we men do want to talk.) The woman is thus vary of the man in question and suspects that his true nature gets through, or in case of Marcus in Spoiler Alert his shallowest public persona is the true persona. Also the man has had his own traumas, but he is considerate, gives her space, listens, I mean, really listens, turns out to be someone who you can trust, and who loves you just the way you are. The women are not size zeros (spoiler alert (sic): it really does not matter to us men, if you are size zero or not). There is instant but carefully, considerate and hidden chemistry. Then there is proximity, friction, ie slight touching / petting; followed by love, lust, smut, sex, more lust, smut, sex and love; the inevitable breakup; the grand gesture; and (not really but spoiler) a happiest ending.
Incidentally, my relationship with my missus has a lot of features from Teach Me and 40-Love. I don’t play tennis, though, and I’m older than her, but we met and fell madly in love at work when we were both 40-something. Finally, my missus could make headlines, too. Being excellent at her work, that is!
P.S. I did sleep three hours that night.