I apologize to readers and the author for the delay in this review; I was a little distracted with the WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS!!! (Sorry, I’ve waited all my life to say that and I’m going to use every opportunity to get it out there. WORLD CHAMPIONS! CUBS! THESE WORDS GO TOGETHER AT LAST!
Ahem. Okay, I will get focused—at least for a bit.
Hold Me is the second full-length book in Courtney Milan’s contemporary “Cyclone” series. We met Tina’s roommate Maria Lopez in Book 1, Trade Me (previously reviewed here).
THE PLOT: Maria Lopez leads a double life. By day, she’s a college student with a rough family history. By night, she runs a popular website discussing statistical data of theoretical apocalyptic events. She keeps this identity hidden, but a lot of professors and really smart people love her blog and beg to meet her and possibly hire her astonishingly smart self for projects. (Although they assume she’s probably a guy.) One fan she comes to know as Actual Physicist has, only through texting and email, become a best friend and maybe even more. But they’ve agreed to keep their identities secret and not meet, so the relationship hasn’t progressed to the next level.
When Maria and her brother’s friend, Professor Jay Thalang, meet for the first time, they immediately hate each other. Jay assumes he knows everything about Maria just from her appearance and dismisses her. Maria understandably bristles at this and doesn’t hesitate to tear him apart. There’s a physical attraction, but so much animosity that they’d probably never get past it…if they weren’t already in love as Em and Actual Physicist. Of course, they don’t know this yet.
What follows is a complex love story between two people with a lot of baggage between them. Even if they find out who the other is, is there any way to work through A) the way they met; B) Jay’s issues with his past, and C) Maria’s abandonment issues?
MY TWO CENTS: I should just talk about how much I LOVE THIS BOOK and leave it at that, but I have to say something else first. I’ll try to keep it brief.
This is the first romance I’ve read with a transgender person as one of the leads. When I realized we were getting a book about Maria, I had a split second of, “Do I want to read this?” I’m sorry for even that split second. I consider myself an LGBTQ ally, but it took Courtney Milan writing this book to make me understand that claiming that title takes more than just accepting that all people have human rights. People also deserve representation and inclusion. They don’t deserve me wondering if should dare read a book about them, like they’re some sort of forbidden element, or the mysterious “other.” Am I afraid that reading book will change my gender identity or sexual orientation? No. Do I enjoy books that represent the extreme complexities of human emotions in relationships? Yes. Do I believe that all people everywhere, regardless of gender, orientation, race, size, ethnicity, or religion, experience these emotions? Yes. Therefore, it would be ridiculous to turn away from a book from a favorite author when she’s representing a group of people that doesn’t include me.
And here’s the thing: this is a romance with problems you would find in any other romance. The conflict in the story doesn’t come from Maria being transgender or Jay being bisexual. Those things help create the characters, but they’re not the point. It’s more like the transitive process in interfering with the relationship development. For example, Maria is terribly skittish of love because her parents threw her out when she was 12. This tends to throw a roadblock into believing others can love and accept you unconditionally. There are no roadblocks involving her gender identity specifically.
As far as the story goes: it’s not just that I didn’t want to put it down; I didn’t even want to be bothered with going to work if I could be reading this instead. It’s enthralling. The reader is caught up in, “WHEN will they figure out who the other is? Will Maria and Jay make up in person before they find out they’re already in an online relationship? Who figures it out first? How will they react?” And then, actually making a relationship work is like a whole other (equally complicated) story.
One more thing: I love how the world of the Cyclone series was getting more fleshed out in this book. Adam and Blake Reynolds only make brief appearances, but Tina has a meatier role. So does Angela Choi, who will be a main character in the upcoming book Show Me.
COVER NOTES: Once again, the author had photos taken to represent the characters accurately. So we see representations that are the correct ethnicities (imagine that!) plus Jay and his tattoos, and Maria being gorgeous. Too bad her awesome shoes aren’t on the cover, too, but one can’t demand everything.
BOTTOM LINE: Are you hesitating in reading this book? Please don’t. It’s a fantastic love story. You will love it, you will love the characters, and you will learn something—about statistics, or human nature, or both.
TEACUP RATING: Five plus out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.
NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Find Me, about Tina and Blake (again), should be out sometime in 2017. The description is on Courtney Milan’s website now. Also coming soonish is After the Wedding, the next book in Milan’s historical Worth saga.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.