Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own.
Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.
April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.
Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.
With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?
Thank you to Avon for an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review
Trigger Warnings: parental abuse (emotional and verbal), mention of a co-worker being racist and misogynistic, parent being fatphobic, use of b*rber, parent being ableist, cyber-bulling,
This book is the perfect contemporary for those of us that don’t normally read contemporary. I apologize for wanting some magic in my life.
This book has the best fat rep. Let me remind people of something. Just because an author is plus size does not always mean the representation is going to be ethical and considerate. A lot of us struggle with internalized fatphobia and that’s very apparent in some books by plus size authors. This is not one of those books.
Dade does not shy away from describing the curves of April’s body. She shines the spotlight on April’s body like she’s very keenly aware that we shouldn’t be afraid looking at ourselves with love. To have a heroine so adamant that she be treated with love, not in spite of her body, is beautiful. April does not struggle with internalized fatphobia unlike what many ownvoices reviewers have stated for the heroines in previous publications, such as One To Watch.
April decides she’s had it with fatphobic people. She no longer wants to hide herself or her body. She enters a contest for her favorite fandom, Gods of the Gates (think GOT but a fantasy interpretation of the Aeneid). She dresses up as Lavinia and experiences an overwhelming amount of love but also cyberbullying. In response, the actor that plays Aeneas asks her out on a date. They actually have a really amazing time. But, he finds out she’s his beta reader for the a03 lavinias server.
Marcus is dyslexic. It takes him more time to think about things, particularly when reading. When he was young, his parents emotionally and verbally abused him. They actively still treat him like his career is worthless, insinuating that he is not worth unconditional love. They make him feel he’s something less for his disability. In a lot of ways his parents reminded me of my own teachers as well as my own father. It does a lot of damage to a person to be constantly told you’re stupid. When you grow up like that, you don’t have any self confidence. It’s an uphill battle trying to convince yourself that you’re worthy of love. It is hard to convince yourself you are intelligent when all you’ve known is abuse.
Marcus thinks April will not want to be with him. He’s not a very trusting person. Both April and Marcus have a lot of trust issues that they help each other through. They cry on each other’s shoulders, tell each other about their parents, and what they’ve endured in life because of their parents.
I love it when two people that have experienced something traumatic lean on each other and teach each other about relationships. It reminds me that those of us that have been through trauma mess up a lot but we’re still worthy of love.
I love that Marcus loves April’s body but doesn’t fetishize her as something exotic because of her largeness. He’s considerate to check his privilege and emotions in considering April’s feelings. He’s ethical about his online relationships by making sure everyone knows his age, gender, and sexual orientation. When he does mess up he doesn’t push her to try to change her mind but still makes sure to go through his mistakes by owning up to them.
Marcus is afraid of telling her. He likes April. He really likes her and doesn’t want to lose her. The more time that passes, the more afraid he becomes of losing her. Marcus is very soft and bashful. He’s relatable to me. They both are but Marcus’ experiences with ableism are very in line with a lot of what I have experienced. I don’t have dyslexia but I am neurodivergent. I relate the way he’s hiding himself from love.
This book is very cathartic to those of us that hated the way Game of Thrones treated women. It is very meta in that way. This is a book that is fanfiction about fanfiction writers falling in love only to realize one of them is the actor to their favorite fandom. It’s very four walls but cute about it.
I would like to speak about a problem that made up a lot of the novel. April doesn’t connect the dots until about 80 percent into the book. Despite this, April notes how similar Marcus is to her online friend. It is almost like a deliberate finger pointing over and over. We even get snippets of his stories echoing the very things that occured in their relationships. It feels a little like shoving the reader through the door. The author wants us to realize that April is thinking about it but isn’t assuming. Instead this makes her seem like she’s blatantly ignoring something even though it’s placed right in front of her.
Another issue I had has to due with a word that I did not expect to be in here. There’s a reference to North African Amazigh kings but the author uses B*erber, meaning barbarian and therefore a slur against Amazigh. It may not be well known but it is both an author’s and their editor’s responsibility to check ethics. It is my responsibility to check this to warn reviewers, particularly those that have been harmed by this word.
I also found it odd how BIPOC don’t really seem to have a place in this book but are brought up for what seems to be detail in the world building of Dade’s world without really considering making BIPOC more than just as a conversation piece. We barely get to know April’s former co-worker Bashir. The one time we do see him is through a conversation about a racist and misogynistic co-worker.
Another point that concerns BIPOC is the Gods of the Gates community conversation that SFF readers and Romance readers have over and over again. The historical inaccuracy conversation. I love that this is brought up but I would have loved it not to have been controlled by 2 white people in a book that is for the most only bringing up this conversation when BIPOC are mostly absent from the book.
I want to make it clear that even though I did have a lot of issues with some things that doesn’t mean I don’t still recommend reading this book. I absolutely recommend reading Spoiler Alert, especially for plus size readers. There’s also some problems as well and I want to be honest about that, especially for readers that may be harmed by these problems. This is a great romance but even great romances have some problems. I think Olivia Dade has an amazing talent. Once I picked this up, I could not put it down. Her voice is addictive and feminist. I needed to read a heroine like April more than I ever knew.