I’m not sure how Conventionally Yours ended up on my radar since I’m not a reader of romance novels generally speaking. Basically, it’s a queer romance with a twist on the standard enemies to lovers plot, namely the setting is serious card gaming and convention. On the one side, there’s Conrad the good-looking friendly guy who seems to have the perfect social life and image, but is actually dealing with major issues in his life. On the other side, there’s Alden, the seemingly uptight, prissy, and equally perfect in his academics and career focus, but it actually dealing with major issues… Both of them are members of a v-log (are these still a thing?) called Gamer Grandpa, in which they play a game similar to Magic: The Gathering called Odyssey, while an older semi-retired math professor commentates, and two friends, Payton and Jasper, provide technical support. Professor Tuttle scores tickets to a major convention and proposes a road trip in his beloved black Lincoln sedan “Black Jack” for those who can’t afford (Conrad) or don’t want to (Alden) fly. Professor Tuttle is injured at the last second and can’t go, Payton decides to fly, and Jasper has a family emergency just as the trip from somewhere in New England to Las Vegas is getting started. This leaves Conrad and Alden to try and survive each other for the week long trip out to Massive Odyssey Con West, and then it’s only a matter of time….
The narrative alternates between Alden and Conrad each chapter, but thankfully they don’t overlap a lot in terms of story progress. While their perspectives and personalities are certainly clear and quite different, their voices aren’t that distinctive which annoyed me slightly. I was also pretty convinced this was YA based on the story and general style until I got to the first sex scene about 2/3 of the way through. The sex is not terribly graphic but also unusually direct about things like “the awkward and sticky part” afterwards; it’s definitely more explicit than most YA romances that I know of (which granted aren’t that many).
The YA vibe is still kind of there in the final act of the book at the convention and the competition where Alden and Conrad have to face being more public as a couple, possibly face off in the competition, and figure out if they can get through the issues that they haven’t really worked through by this point, both individually and not. The ending works nicely, but in some ways it’s a bit too neat. Most of the emotions overall are pretty relatable, and that’s really kind of the saving grace of the story.