Sunday 20 March 2022

CBR14 Book 4: "Something Fabulous" by Alexis Hall

Page count: 363 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Official book description:
Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.

Just in case anyone was wondering, this book is unashamedly and extremely queer. It would not surprise me if several of the innkeepers and random people who are encountered over the course of the story and barely get to say two lines are also queer, it just didn't fit into the narrative to confirm how and in what way. So considering it's also a Regency romance, some disbelief will need to be suspended, because the very illegal nature of many of these queer relationships is not really dealt with in any way. Which was fine by me. 

I wanted to give this book five stars, but Arabella Tarleton made it utterly impossible for me. I get that she's a woman of meager financial means placed in a pretty undesirable situation with regards to her family wanting her to marry a duke she in no way likes or wished to spend any time with, but the completely irresponsible way she runs off and keeps spreading melodramatic lies about her situation was just insufferable to me. It might have been fine if it happened once, but the second or third time Valentine and Bonny catch up with her and she still keeps on with her ridiculous slander, I wished someone would drown her in a lake. I'm sure I should feel more sympathy for someone of my own gender, but I found her deeply frustrating and couldn't understand why her lovely companion put up with her either. Everyone in this story, including her twin, would have been better off without her. 

The rest of this book was delightful and I laughed out loud several times. Poor Valentine may be a rich and powerful duke, but he's deeply out of touch with his feelings and it was probably good that he had to go haring off through the south of England on an unusual road trip with a handsome young man, even with some of the misadventures they have along the way. 

Boyfriend Material is still my favourite Alexis Hall novel, but until the sequel comes out later this year and possibly surpasses it, this is in second place for me. 

Judging a book by its cover: I'm honestly not entirely sure what I think about this cover. I think I like it? I do like the very colourful coats on our heroes, but the face of the individual I think is supposed to be Valentine seems too leering and wrong to me. I also would have wished for more of a background image, not just ghostly outlines of buildings. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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