Book Talk: Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Book Talk: Hold Me by Courtney MilanHold Me by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2
Published by Author on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 303
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

Trade Me was a great contemporary romance novel. Like, really, really good. But Hold Me is so much better. Well, for me it was, and, since this is my blog, my opinion’s basically gold. Only not redeemable for goods or services or able to be worn as a fashionable bit of jewelry. Aaaaanyway, Hold Me gave me absolutely all the feels, so much so that I almost happy cried on an airplane; I managed to restrain myself, but I probably made some really embarrassing faces.

Like Trade Me, there’s a slow burn to this romance, but this one’s even slower and burns that much hotter. Maria, known as the best friend/roommate in Trade Me meets her brother’s friend Jay in less than ideal circumstances, i.e. he proceeds to treat her like shit believing her to be less intelligent and comes off like a pompous asshole.

Listen, you guys know I love hate-to-love romances, and this one worked so well. Often, I pick up a book marketed as hate-to-love, and they never really hated each other? Or it’s resolved in like a chapter? There’s nothing wrong with that, but it really doesn’t do the hate-to-love trope for me. The best example of a book that promised that and didn’t deliver was Hating You / Dating You, which wasn’t bad but wasn’t that at all really. Hold Me gets it right.

After that first truly awful encounter, Jay continues to make a complete dickwad out of himself over several encounters. Because of his back story, beautiful, confident women who take pride in their appearance put his back up. That’s no excuse, obviously, and he’s going to be taken gloriously to task for it. Jay’s whole arc is confronting the fact that he’s not as good a man and feminist as he thought he was.

Were it just for their physical encounters, I probably wouldn’t have shipped them like fire, but add in another of my favorite tropes and I was toast. Jay and Maria fall in love over a texting app, having “met” each other on Maria’s blog that imagines plausible fictional apocalypses. Of course, neither of them knows the identity of the other, but you realize that under all the attitude on the surface, they get along so well. Or at least they will, once they both work past their issues.

Maria’s amazing. She’s confident, strong, brilliant, and unwilling to take people’s shit. However, under all of that, she does have her own insecurities, largely going back to her parent’s kicking her out of the family when she revealed as a child that she was transgender. Even though her grandmother, who is the literal best (and total badass), takes Maria in and loves her unreservedly, that leaves major scars on the psyche. Obviously I can’t speak to the rep, but I really loved that Maria being a transgender person was never an issue in the romance. That clearly won’t always be the case, but this may be the first book with a transgender main character that didn’t make that the main obstacle in the prospective romance.

This book really hit me in the feels, because both of them are, deep down, trying to internalize the same lesson: that they are enough. When I first watched a Brené Brown TED talk and she said “you are enough,” it made me cry, and it still does. When they say that to one another, it’s always an emotional gut punch for them and for me, in a good way. It’s lovely but scary to let yourself believe. I found this book not only romantic and well-written but emotionally satisfying and heartening.

Courtney Milan has so many books in this series planned out, and I’m going to lose my shit (in a pretty undramatic fashion but still) if they do not actually happen. Hold Me is up there with The Hating Game and The Kiss Quotient on my list of the best contemporary romance novels ever, and it has the added bonus of being mega diverse (Latina and Asian leads, who are transgender and bisexual respectively). If you read contemporary romance and have not read this series, omg what are you doing with your life, fix that.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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