Two weeks later, still swooning on my fainting couch over this one. It definitely hit me in my swooners. I want to be friends with Lauren, and I want to hug Alex, and I love them together so, so much. I did end up rounding down, though, for a couple of reasons. But first, the positives.
This is a direct companion to the first book, Spoiler Alert. You get a lot more context for Alex’s actions in that book, and a key climactic scene there is also important here. I did like this book more, although some of the issues I had with it carried over a little bit. Mostly, it’s all about Alex, who is a true literary delight. He’s so energetic and caring and charming (but not in a creepy way, and I say this as someone who is extremely wary of charming people; I don’t trust them). He’s funny, and he gets such pleasure out of pushing Lauren’s buttons, and it’s clear that even as she’s trying to remain professional and closed off, she likes it, too. Alex likes to poke fun but he is never cruel.
Honestly, everything to do with Lauren and Alex together was wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing. The way he especially gets so excited when he can act out his favorite fanfic tropes with her had me rolling (and it was steamy in such a good way!) And the way that his emotional openness pushes Lauren to reevaluate some things for herself was also wonderful. The interludes between chapters continue to be a delight, whether its fanfic or movie script excerpts, or text-chain conversations, I was always happy to see one pop up.
But I do have three main issues. One has nothing at all to do with the quality of the book but I did still want to mention it. The original title of this book was Slow Burn, and if it was the publishers who decided to rename it, they made a bad decision. The new title is all right I guess, but it’s a little too “current events” for me, and doesn’t tie in to the fic trope title thing, nor does it really convey anything really important about Alex and Lauren’s relationship.
As for the actual book, I continue to think Dade’s beef with the Game of Thrones showrunners is extreme and gets in the way of her own stories. The way the showrunners of the fictional Gods of the Gates TV show are portrayed makes it clear they are pointed stand-ins for the GOT showrunners. I’m totally and 100% fine with criticizing story choices. That is a motivating factor behind Alex’s behavior during this book and the previous ones, and it is valid. But Lauren’s cousin (one of said showrunners) is a cartoon villain, which I might not have had a problem with at all if I didn’t know the context behind it, so it just pulls me out of the story and annoys me whenever it happens. When she does manage to ground that character in this story rather than just relying on him as a whipping boy, he works much better.
My last issue is that the third act break-up conflict just didn’t feel organic to me. It felt overdramatic and not in tune with the vibe Lauren and Alex had been putting out previously. I’m not opposed to third act break-ups in general like I know some romance readers are, I just think they need to be handled right and I don’t think this one was. It was too showy. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say that it just didn’t feel right. The ending made up for it, but it’s still making me hold back that fifth star from disgruntlement.
But don’t let that criticism stop you from reading this. It is otherwise delightful in every way.