Book Talk: Trade Me by Courtney Milan

Book Talk: Trade Me by Courtney MilanTrade Me by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #1
Published by Author on January 19, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 279
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart...but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Going back and reading through Courtney Milan’s backlist has been largely disappointing, so I was really excited to finally get to Trade Me. When I got into contemporary romances again, the Cyclone books were recommended to me by several different people I trust, so, despite the ugly covers, I was really feeling hopeful. You guys, even with the hype, Trade Me was so much better than I was expecting.

In Trade Me, Milan tackles the overdone trope of the Cinderella story, but in typical Milan fashion, she flips the trope all over the place. She’s done this in historical fiction too, but there’s something refreshing about knowing she can do that just as well in contemporary romances. I feel like both historical and contemporary romance are currently undergoing a slow revolution into something less problematic and more fun, and Trade Me is a perfect choice for anyone looking for romance novels about more than just sex.

Tina Chen’s poor. Like, really poor. Her family is on food stamps, and she lives in a “converted” garage and commutes 45 minutes to college because that was the only way she could swing it. Of course, she still has to work two jobs while maintaining a fantastic GPA in incredibly difficult science and programming courses, as she prepares to become a doctor.

The last thing Tina wants to do is waste time on billionaire Blake Reynolds, son of Adam Reynolds (aka Cyclone’s CEO aka basically Steve Jobs). They’re the only older students in an intro course they’d both put off, and when he speaks some privileged bullshit in a discussion about food stamps, she schools him up one side and down the other, making a joke that he couldn’t last one week in her life and shouldn’t judge something he doesn’t even begin to understand.

Right after class is where you realize that Blake’s not the guy you expect him to be. He apologizes to Tina and wants to take her out for coffee, but she refuses because she doesn’t have time to educate him or to date him. That would maybe be the end of things, except that Blake found himself considering that whole trading places option.

The basic premise is that Blake offers to pay her quite a lot of money (aka how much he spends monthly) to swap lives. Essentially, this means that she lives in his amazing house, drives his Tesla, use the latest technology, and no longer needs to work two jobs. He has to live in the freezing converted garage, take the bus, use an old laptop held together with duct tape and a prayer, and work as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant. Also, there’s bonus fake dating!

I was a bit worried about the trading premise, but I liked how it played out. Blake wanted to escape his life, and aspects of Tina’s life did help distract him from his own problems (stress about his dad’s desire for him to take over Cyclone and an eating disorder), mostly because he had to work so much harder every day and didn’t have time to work on Cyclone stuff. However, he realizes pretty quickly that he can’t ever really put himself in her shoes because he does have a safety net that she doesn’t. Blake’s always respectful and willing to learn. He’s a really sweet guy, and I love how much he enjoys watching Tina refuse to take people’s shit, even if it’s his.

Both Tina and Blake have complicated relationships with their loving parents. Blake’s father, Adam, has always loved him fiercely, but they also affectionately call each other “bastard” and “asshole,” and Blake’s feeling crushed by his dad’s expectations. Adam’s also not quite what you expect him to be. That relationship has a seriously satisfying character arc, and the ending of the novel, though melodramatic, is amazing.

Tina’s family immigrated from China, escaping persecution, and now her mother works obsessively to rescue other people in the same group. Tina respects her mother’s drive, but she’s crushed by the need to make sure all the practical things get done over helping others: paying bills and buying her sister’s medication. As much as she loves her mother, Tina’s been the responsible adult for too long. Her whole family is really delightful, and the road trip to her house is one of the best parts in the whole book.

Trade Me rocks. It’s a bit more contemporary than romance at times, but omg I loved it so fucking much. Read it.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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