I decided to review the #COYER book club reads together in one post. These are our April 2021 picks – Mystery month. Interestingly, both our picks ended up also being historical mysteries. The adult one a bit more classic historical mystery and the YA pick has a fantasy angle. I liked both well enough, but I also don’t think Historical Mysteries are my favorite genre.Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Narrator: Isabelle Ruther
Series: Spoiler Alert #1
Published by HarperAudio on October 6, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
Length: 12 hours 48 minutes
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?
I discovered Oliva Dade in 2021 and this has been on my TBR ever since, so I was thrilled when it won our votes for February 2022 COYER Book Club. And it did not disappoint. I loved every minute and found myself finding excuses to keep listening when I normally would have to put my book down.
The characters are wonderful. I adored April and related to her on so many levels. As I’ve come to expect from Ms. Dade’s writing, the body positivity is everywhere. April is plus size and loves herself. Marcus is a fit as fuck Hollywood star and he loves April (including her body). So that’s great. I did have a few – okay many! – moments where I was yelling at April and wanting to shake her with frustration because she’s still very insecure about her body and over-reacts/reads situations wrong because of that insecurity. But GAH did that make her all the more real! Who of us – size be damned! – doesn’t have sensitivities where are body is concerned?!
Marcus is just so… I challenge you to read this and not fall in love with him. Beyond his love of April, just the struggle he has gone through. Look – both April and Marcus have some shitty parent situations. April’s I’ve been in, almost to the T, and so I commiserated with her so fully. But Marcus’s parents!! I wanted to climb into the book and punch them out — and I am not a violent person (pretty sure I haven’t punched a soul in my life). But as a former teacher, I was infuriated with them, because as teachers they KNEW better. No should have known better. No. They knew better and acted anyway. Notice I’m not saying what they did — read it and find out for yourself 😉
And as much as I challenge you to read this without falling in love with Marcus, I also challenge you to read it without crying. I sobbed. Many times. Happy tears and heartbreak tears. So why 4.5 stars? Well, there’s one very specific scenario (that would be 100% spoiler to tell you) that April does something I can’t understand and well it pissed me off. Maybe it was true to character, and it all worked out, but it pissed me off enough to lob off half a star.
The narration by Isabelle Ruther was fantastic. I just checked and I’ve never listened to her before. In fact, it doesn’t look like she’s narrated many books. But I wouldn’t hesitate to pick her up again – she had great voices and I was able to enjoy at my standard 2x speed.American Royals by Katharine McGee
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Series: American Royals #1
Published by Penguin Audio on September 3, 2019
Genres: Romance, Contemporary
What if America had a royal family?
When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne.
As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America's first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling.
Nobody cares about the spare except when she's breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn't care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her.
And then there's Samantha's twin, Prince Jefferson. If he'd been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.
I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked the story overall and I am definitely interested enough to continue the series.
I think my main complaint is that this is an alternate history of America, and yet not enough is altered for me. We have this really huge change – America never became a Constitutional Federal Republic (moving forward I’ll say democracy for ease of use, though that’s not technically accurate); instead it’s a Monarchy. George Washington accepted the request to become King and his heirs still rule. That’s a huge change for how our modern world would look. The author chose not to address the impacts of America becoming a democracy in more than very small alterations that really only look at the executive branch of government. It kind of assumes a structure similar to Britain’s royal family I feel like, without the consideration that America’s history shaped other governmental changes as well. But I do understand that isn’t the point of this book and that, as an historian, I probably just look at this whole situation a little more deeply than her typical audience. And I did enjoy the little moments where she pokes fun of the ludicrous idea of an elected executive branch (which also sometimes critiqued the flaws in our system).
Getting that off my chest, it’s a good story. It’s basically just the story of teenagers falling in love, while also maneuvering in a very complex world because they are royalty or royalty-adjacent. I enjoyed all the different perspectives – we have Beatrice, who is the eldest daughter and the first female in American history who will become queen; we have her younger siblings, twins princess Sam(antha) – who thinks of herself as the spare – and Jeff(erson) – we don’t actually get his POV; we have Sam’s best friend Nina – a commoner who’s grown up with them and whose mother works for the King – and; finally, we have Jeff’s ex-girlfriend Daphne, a nobleman’s daughter who REALLY wants to be a part of the royal family.
The different perspectives (all female) really showed four distinctly different aspects of this world, and I enjoyed that. Beatrice was probably my favorite POV because hers was the most mature. She has so much pressure as the heir apparent and her POV really highlights the sacrifice and hardship of her privilege and responsibility. The other’s, while I enjoyed them, each bothered me in different ways. Sam is just so YA. She is very caught up in herself and “poor me, I’m just the spare; no one cares about me.” But she grows as a character and she is likable, even if frustrating. Nina is also pretty YA, but not in the annoying way. Just in the false steps and innocence. And I liked how she captures what it must be like to be swept up in the wake of the royal family, but not being one of them truly. And Daphne. Ya know, you’d think I’d hate Daphne. She’s definitely the villain of the story. But I feel truly sorry for her. Her social climbing family has put so much pressure on her, that she’s becoming the worst version of herself. I really hope through the course of the series her character gets some redemption.
I listened to this book, narrated by Brittany Pressley. It was my first time listening to her I believe, but I enjoyed it. I felt like she delivered the four different pov’s really well – I never didn’t know who’s perspective I was listening to and their voices fit their personalities well. I look forward to listening to more of the series.