Come forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love..
Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.
Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.
She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.
In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.
DNF at 70% because I can’t be arsed to finish.
I hate to be the one to say it, but this book is nothing special. It’s the typical angstapalooza one would expect from NA, only dressed up in drag. Once the novelty of that facet wears off, there’s not much left for it to stand on.
The female MC, Freda, is your run-of-the-mill Mary Sue, only prone to drop f-bombs instead of the breathless “Oh my” made popular by her one of her counterparts. She’s incredibly self-conscious, is emotionally constipated, suffers from foot-in-mouth syndrome and childish outbursts, and makes no bones about slut-shaming and body-shaming everyone around her, to include those she considers friends. She even throws out a few ableist lines, because, you know, she’s an equal opportunity offender.
Speaking of said “friends”, she’s got the bitchy roommate who’s her total opposite in every way imaginable, the gay bestie, and the “slutty” chick they all talk shit about the second she’s out of earshot. They’re so stereotypical that the author even felt the need to poke fun of it:
“It makes me feel normal when I can see that my life is full of stereotypes. If I didn’t have such a bad attitude and a habit of swearing I could be a reject from a future chick lit novel written by Bertie Ahern’s daughter.”
Yes, because we readers love to be patronized. If you know how played out these themes are, why include them? Why not break from the mold? Perhaps she felt that she’d done enough of that with the male lead, Nicholas, who also answers to Vivica.
He certainly challenges the trend of towering, testosterone-fueled ragebeasts that serve as love interests these days. Viv is in touch with his feminine side, and he doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it. I loved this aspect of him. There’s nothing sexier than unapologetic self-awareness dipped in unabashed self-confidence.
“Coming towards the end of the song he makes his way back over to me, stops slap bang in front of my table and goes down on his haunches, his legs spread wide with one arm resting on his bent knee. The pose gives me a good view of the bulge at the front of those tight hot pants.”
Unfortunately, he comes with a lot of the pseudo-alpha douchiness that’s so prevalent in romance novels. He’s aggressively protective of Freda even after she not only repeatedly tells him that she can handle herself, but proves that she can. He also continues to make aggressive sexual overtures toward her throughout the ENTIRE first half of the book, even after she not only repeatedly tells him to stop, but also slaps the shit out of him at one point.
And then we have the plot. It’s as stereotypical as the supporting cast of characters. Slut of a male lead finds solace in the vagina of the virginal MC, heavy themes aren’t treated with the depth they deserve, contrived drama abounds, unnecessary misunderstandings lie in wait around every corner, and space best used for character building is instead filled with yet another sex scene.
In short, interesting premise, but for me, it fell flat. I could have loved this had it further distanced itself from the rest of the formulaic pack, but alas, it didn’t, and so I did not.
If anyone out there knows of gender non-conforming romances that truly break the mold, by all means, rec away.