I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this one. It was atmospheric and haunting, and thought-provoking. SMG created a non-Victorian gothic world that was, in turn, vivid and eerie and both beautiful and terrifying.
CW: Attempted rape, Sexual assault, Incest, Cannibalism, Drugging, Eugenics, Forced marriage, Graphic violence, Murder, Racism, Sexual harassment. The book also contains discussions about colonialism, race, and genetics.
Read “Make Me” for a book club, and some folks said book #2 was better. They were not wrong. Team Finn all the way.
Series: Fox Family Crime Syndicate
CW: Dubious consent (dub-con), Non-con, Recording sex without consent, Murder on page, Torture on page, Mentions of (off page) suicide, Grief/Loss of loved ones, Emotional and physical abuse from a parent, Panic attacks, Primal/CNC, Breath Play, Exhibitionism, Impact Play, Orgasm denial and forced orgasm, Praise, Degradation, Back-door play
This book, a library loan, was a slow start that never really clicked for me. The characters were OK, the story was OK, but nothing was standout. Perhaps it is unfair to judge anything after finishing Bohemian, my year to date favorite read.
Summary: When Calvin Ellis’ life of routine and structure is overturned with the death of his grandfather and his inheritance of a beloved yet troubled bookstore in Big Sur, California. A bookstore once famous for its literary gatherings and rebellious tendencies is now in danger of closing its doors. When Lucia Bell shows up to a photo shoot at a bookshop located in the middle of nowhere, her glossy lifestyle as a supermodel is abruptly brought into sharp focus. She unexpectedly finds herself captivated by the mild-mannered, geeky proprietor. Calvin and Lucia explore their innermost hopes and dreams when a storm traps her in Big Sur for a few extra days. When the storm finally dies down, they face a moment of truth; the path ahead will involve making a choice, but the answer is uncertain as to whether their future will involve one another.
Review: This book is my favorite read of 2023 so far. Nerdy, awkward, book-loving Calvin (with a strong hot alpha hidden away) pairs with his opposite, Lucia, who is a secret poet. I loved the setting. Book lovers and publishing plots are my kryptonite; this one has books, poetry, and flirting using both.
Characters: I have read many reviews that think these main characters are unrealistic. For me, that was part of their charm. If I wanted realism in my reading, I would focus on non-fiction. A book-loving computer nerd who comes to terms with his sexual kinks, swoon. A supermodel who really was a pawn of her family and always wanted to be a poet, swoon. Add into this secondary characters who have me running to follow up books (I see you, Gabe and Nia) is why Kathryn Nolan is on my list of authors to complete their whole bibliography this year.
Tropes and Triggers: Forced Proximity, Opposites Attract, Soft Dom; BDSM, Explicit Sex, Death of a loved one, and grief
Plot: I loved the Central CA location, which allowed for a wild small-town feel, exactly what this story needed. The plot of scholarly vs. Hollywood worked in this location because of the inclusion of the infamous bookstore and its literary glamour vs. the modeling photo shoot and its Hollywood glamour. The whole plot of this book is the juxtaposition between things, scholarly vs. glitzy, introvert vs. extrovert, dom vs. sub, etc. And KN worked it supremely well.
Quotes: “But the stars were bold and big, and the ocean was roaring against the shore, and I felt, so clearly, the rightness of the universe.”
“This bookstore—Calvin’s bookstore—was like something out of my wildest dreams. When I was little, before modeling became my life, all I wanted was for my parents to drop me off at a bookstore like this one, where I could lose myself in words for hours.”
“You bring joy and love to my life. I love your supposed imperfections. I should have told you I believe in you, and I want you to do the same. I should have told you that you have so much to offer to the world, and I want a front row seat to your continued blossoming.”
Stars: This book broke my star rating system. 5-stars are not enough.