Courtney Milan is a romantic genius and let me tell you why.
Hold Me is a pretty standard romance novel in a lot of ways. The premise plays off of how normal it has become to have long acquaintanceships, friendships, and even romantic relationships online without ever meeting each other in person, or even knowing if you’ll actually like each other face to face.
Driven, focused actuarial student Maria Lopez moonlights as the creator of one of the world’s most popular nerdy blogs. Driven, focused physics professor Jay na Thalang is one of the blog’s biggest fans and most frequent commenters. The two begin to chat behind the scenes and quickly strike up a friendly flirtation that leads to something more, so they start thinking about taking things analog.
However, they don’t realize that they’ve already met in person–and can’t stand each other.
I’m sure you can guess what happens next.
But here’s where the genius bit comes in. Maria is Latina and transgender. Jay is Asian and bisexual. But NONE of those things are the point of the book. The romance is!
Y’all know I’m a big fan of people being their #ownnormal and that’s exactly what this is. There’s no icky stereotyping, awkward genital-based interrogations, shoehorned-in identity proclamations, confrontations with prejudiced local yokels, and they never have a “haha we’re interracial my parents will hate you btw what do you eat?” conversation. Maria and Jay are a regular romance novel couple with good chemistry, plenty of steam, and the right combination of complicated meet cute madness and predictable relationship patterns to make this a pretty good read. It’s their personalities that make up the conflicts and joys, not their identities–because who they are is totally normal if you’re not a shallow bigot.
There are a lot of reviews claiming the author crammed too much diversity into this book but for those of us who ARE the diversity, I think this book will seem…well, normal. Diversity is normal, and it’s totally possible to be lots of different things at once. In this book, it even manages to be pretty cute.
The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is that as much as I love nerds in books and real life, there are a few too many moments where Jay gives too much “uptight jerk who comments on blogs late at night” and not nearly enough “sexy professor having a bad day”. Also, it’s the second book in the Cyclone series and the first one, Trade Me, is such an absolute delight that this sequel has a hard time measuring up.
Four stars, a pair of high heels and some grant money to Hold Me.