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Something Fabulous #1

Something Fabulous

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From the acclaimed author of Boyfriend Material comes a delightfully witty romance featuring a reserved duke who’s betrothed to one twin and hopelessly enamoured of the other.

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.

363 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 25, 2022

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About the author

Alexis Hall

51 books11.7k followers
Genrequeer writer of kissing books.

Please note: I don’t read / reply to DMs. If you would like to get in touch, the best way is via email which you can find in the contact section on my website <3

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5 stars
1,960 (25%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,955 reviews
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 51 books11.7k followers
December 18, 2021
Something Fabulous is … I don’t know. It’s ridiculous. It’s a big gay regency romp about a overly dramatic beautiful rainbow sunshine unicorn + a overly dramatic demisexual grumpy duke, going on a cross-country chase.

This book has the unofficial subtitle of Dude, Where’s My Curricle? (which should tell you all you need to know) and is the campest and silliest and most fun thing I have written.

I can’t wait to share Bonny & Valentine’s story with you all <3

Release date: January 25, 2022.
Buy links / content guidance here.
Profile Image for Jenny (Nyxie).
741 reviews33 followers
January 26, 2022
Nope nope nope nope nope.

Just ….

Bit of a rant ahead. If you loved the book, I love that for you. But this was Not for me.

Bonny Tarleton is *mean* and his sister is a *disaster* and Valentine was just fine being quiet and living his life, and they completely hated him for it. I don’t understand why quiet people are always told they just need to *live laugh love* a little, and their lives will be Perfect. Maybe they’re already friggin perfect, did ya think of that? What in the sound of music / Mary poppins / Pollyanna / manic pixie dream boy was this even. Quiet, practical people don’t need to be fixed. Valentine spends the whole book apologizing for trying to do the right thing and I hated it.
Profile Image for Helen Hoang.
Author 5 books48k followers
November 30, 2021
This book was such a fun escape, a true Regency Romp, and unabashedly, gloriously, dare I say FABULOUSLY gay. It's silly, swoony, and so very sexy. In fact, I thought the love scenes were beautifully authentic and showcased how special #ownvoices writing is. Alexis Hall is a gift to romance.
Profile Image for Devon Rose.
498 reviews12 followers
January 28, 2022
Okay…poor Valentine. I cannot understand why a book where a man (who was just trying to do what was expected of him) is constantly belittled, insulted, ASSAULTED, and demeaned can be so well loved. Bonny and his sister are absolutely disaster characters and are completely unlikeable. They come across as spoiled brats who tell lies and even threaten to murder people who don’t give them their way. It makes no sense.

Even the beginning catalyst of the story made no sense….he asked her to marry him as had been expected for years and he did it in a perfectly fine way for two people who are obviously not in love. HE DIDNT WANT TO MARRY HER EITHER, and was only doing it out of duty which would also help her (and her brother) not be impoverished.

So why did she throw a giant baby tantrum and run away? I was so confused. The author should have had Valentine actually DO something offensive so that I felt some sympathy for Belle and Bonny but the poor guy didn’t do anything but be uncomfortable in his own skin the whole time.

And, in fact, the whole time he is mostly worried for what the world will think of Bonny and Belle and is actively trying to give Belle a better life. He even tells her he will be a respectful husband and give her her freedoms to do as she likes. For the time period this book is set in that is a HUGE concession and I just don’t get where all the vitriol and disgust came from towards him.

But when they tie him up and threaten to murder him and/or leave him tied up for days I am done. There just wasn’t any REASON for it. He never once tried to bodily kidnap anyone or hurt anyone or anything. It was just ridiculous and made me hate every character in this book other than Valentine.

I can’t even read anymore because I know now he will confess his love for Bonny or whatever and probably chase after him….which i suppose would be FINE, right? And, frankly, I don’t want to read about Valentine falling in love with someone who would physically assault him. 🤷🏻‍♀️ I don’t think that’s romantic at all.

On a positive note: some of the banter and the dialogue between characters was quite funny so I do know this author has talent. But this book was terrible, I don’t care what the ARC readers say.
Profile Image for Nadia.
756 reviews21 followers
January 28, 2022
I hate dumb people in books. I hate people who make excuses for idiocy. I love a good fanciful/flamboyant character, the author TJ Klune does this extremely well with the lightning struck heart series but this book made me so angry.

I feel bad for Valentine. I don't think Bonnie is good enough for him and I hate Bonnie's sister Bella.

For example I don't understand how Valentine is the villain here. (I'm on chapter 19 right now)

-He was bound to a chair, tried to break free and people were mad at him for causing a ruckus and hurting someone accidentally.

-Chapter 26 duel happens Bonnie is mad at  valentine because his sister forced valentine hand into a duel

-  Chapter 31 Bonnie is STILL defending his sister who legit SHOT Valentine. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!


I read this book as a farce and Valentine was the "straight" character. But unlike any farce I've seen or read as a play, I didn't find this amusing at all. I can't put my finger on it, I think because I saw all of the characters except for Valentine as selfish and rather patronizing. The pacing was all off.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rielle.
540 reviews47 followers
January 28, 2022
DNF @ 48% (Skimmed to about 70%)

Strong start with lots of humor and banter.

That humor departed and the banter grew stale. I was completely annoyed with the sister and basically the entire plot because it surrounded her.
February 14, 2022
The premise of this book sounded so fun and interesting, and it definitely could’ve been if it wasn’t for the characters.

I just struggled to find the so-called romance and humour in the notion of a man being regularly assaulted and demonised by a hypocritical bully who claims to have been in love with him since childhood, as well as the bully’s ridiculously manipulative, spiteful and brattish twin sister - aka one of the most unlikeable characters (if not THE most unlikeable character) I’ve ever read.

Valentine deserves far better.
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
505 reviews337 followers
January 25, 2022
I was up for something fabulous. I got something hilarious, marvelous, glorious, frivolous, virtuous, ridiculous, languorous, amorous and of course Something Fabulous.

Something Fabulous is a queer Regency fairytale and it’s witty, fluffy, dramatic, and soo addictive. It’s also slightly over the top. The humor, the old-fashioned language, the emotions, think big and it’s probably even bigger. Discussing if an ache can be vast and empty? Check. Saying things like histrionic chit? Check. Crying because of a bee? Check.

Bonny is adorable. A butterfly, light as a feather and bright and charming and sweet. Valentine is grumpy at first but beneath that prickly surface is a beautiful flower and I loved watching Valentine grow and to fully bloom.

I smiled and I grinned and I laughed out loud while reading this fantastic and absurd and fabulous book. Sometimes it was like I was looking at a slapstick, overly dramatic and hysterical, and completely over the top. At these moments, I thought: it’s getting cringe-inducing. But immediately after those moments, Bonny and Valentine were so sweet, and my heart melted. And more importantly, Valentine’s heart melted as well, finally allowing his feelings to come up to surface. I adored Bonny and Valentine, and finished this book with another huge smile on my face.

I received an ARC from Montlake and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Chara.
97 reviews3 followers
February 4, 2022
“Actually, I find laughing at you very soothing.”

And that's the problem, isn't it? Everyone is laughing at Valentine while he is in actual discomfort most of the time. I don't like it when people laugh at others, it's one of the worst feelings in the world. Being laughed at, I mean.
That's what irked me the most about this book, because it was meant to be fun and everything was treated as such, even when it was hurtful.

It kind of was a comedy, sometimes. Also beautifully written (not that I had any doubts about that), with great dialogues and great banter and all that. It also stabbed me a couple of times because that's what Alexis Hall does.

But Valentine's internal turmoil clashed badly with the supposed fun.
And the romance… I think that Bonny broke Valentine's trust one too many times (while acting like it was Valentine's fault) for the happy ending to be an option. He never took his side, always blaming Valentine for his manners without blaming Belle for… being the reason of every single mess of the book.

And you know, everything started to go downhill with the part. Valentine was really struggling, and no one cared. And yes, he had been rude, and he actually deserved some kind of… scolding, I guess, but ? Really?

Not to mention that everything was always his fault, even when he , because apparently he had an angry-looking face, so it was a reasonable thing to do. What the hell? And it made me so mad that Valentine believed it too.

There's also the fact that I couldn't stand Arabella, I couldn't stand how everyone simply fell for all her bullshit like it was normal. And she kept doing it, she kept being dramatic and unreasonable and selfish and an awful brat. She really expected everyone to know how she felt without even caring how others felt, and that included her twin brother. Peggy. Everyone.
I don't know if the author actually meant for her to be so unpleasant, but she totally ruined the story.

I don't know, the book was engaging. I don't think Alexis Hall could ever write boring and bland stuff, because the writing is so beautiful and flawless, and the main character's struggles are always relatable in one way or another.

But this time, this book… I don't know if it's me, if maybe I'm incapable of laughing; if maybe the author didn't do their best, or if I simply expected something else.
Profile Image for Grace.
204 reviews1 follower
January 27, 2022
This book did not spark any joy in me.
37 reviews2 followers
January 29, 2022
DNF at ~50% (HOLY SHIT IM ONLY 50% IN???)

I kinda hate this book a lot... which is a shame because Boyfriend Material is one of my all time favourite romance novels!

I just really, really, really despised all the characters in this one, except poor Valentine. Like, I think if Hall wanted this book to work, Arabella needed to be wayyyy more sympathetic than she was. Belle is AWFUL right from the prologue and she just never gets any better, but the book kept wanting me to be understanding of her. I kept waiting for Bonny to admit how awfully his sister was treating both him and Valentine, but instead he goes off and just keeps siding with her over him! It came to a head when they get to the Cabin, and it just made me despise everyone. They became irredeemable in my eyes after all that. I swear, at some points I almost wanted to cry because of how badly they were all treating Valentine, it was utterly insane. I can deal with that, though, if I feel the meta-text is condemning the behaviour, but I kept feeling like the book wanted me to root for them over Valentine and I just couldn't!

It felt low-key abusive! Bonny forces him to run after Belle, despite the fact that he clearly doesn't want to go after her. Then, when he's justifiably angry at her for the way she's treated him, they all turn against him and treat him like a monster. Then!! They lie about him being an abusive monster, and do nothing to rectify the situation after learning it was a lie!!! AND THEN!!! When he tries to escape after they've threatened him at gunpoint and treated him like shit all evening they once again treat him like a villain when he accidentally hurts someone, while trying to escape, despite the fact that he immediately apologizes and shows clear remorse, something none of them ever extend to Valentine. I HATE THESE PEOPLE WHAT THE HECK????? I just wanted to hug the poor guy and tell him that he did not deserve to be treated this way!

Anyways I hate everyone in this book, and it's really making me re-evaluate Alexis Hall's writing ability.
Profile Image for Willa.
137 reviews
January 29, 2022
Yes, let's take a quiet, anxious man who just wants to do the right thing and be left alone and relentlessly bully him for an entire book. The twins are total bimbos, I don't understand why Valentine even likes Bonny. Bonny doesn't even try to understand his feelings but the book acts like Valentine's the bad guy. They tie him to a chair and lock him in a cellar! Then he apologizes for accidentally hurting someone trying to get free! Someone who TIED HIM TO A CHAIR. tbh it all reads very emotionally abusive, constantly apologizing to someone when they've wronged you. Also, Arabella is the worst character ever. In an old school historical, the hero would shake her for being such a hysterical ninny, and he would be right to. Ugh. This book ruined my day.
Profile Image for Chloe Liese.
Author 17 books7,173 followers
November 4, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake for the advance review copy. All opinions are my own!

Alexis Hall has such a gift. SOMETHING FABULOUS sparkles with brilliant comedic timing, dry wit, and romping ridiculousness, yet within its depths is profound emotionality. Weaving in clever, Wildean satire, it was also an achingly tender, vulnerable personal journey for Valentine into deeper understanding of himself, and toward his ability to be seen and loved for who he really was.

Often when authors write historical romance, they shy away from facing head-on the deep privilege enjoyed by white men, the aristocracy, and those participating in heteronormativity, but not Alexis. He slipped in by turns hilarious and poignant commentary on those subjects, and absolutely made me cry with Valentine's grand gesture proposal at the end.

This was a touching delight to read, and I'm beyond thrilled that Alexis is writing historical romance. Also, let it be known when the duel turned into an impromptu pigeon murdering, I laughed so hard I cried.

I can't wait for the world to have this book! Thank you again to the publisher for the chance to early read it.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
793 reviews4,136 followers
August 18, 2022
'twas okay

it had Alexis' usual humor, which i wanted and i had fun listening to the audiobook

the story got a bit repetitive after a while (how often can this woman run away??) and some conflicts could have been avoided

also...i like my smut a bit...less weird? the "your asshole looks like a blooming flower" dirty talk (?) was.... honestly uncomfortable to listen to.. especially in public... i really want to forget about that
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,320 reviews283 followers
February 25, 2022
Something Floofy. Something Frivolous. Something Frustrating.

By 2/3 through this book I was done. I'm in a terrible mood, it's February Something in Minnesota, and I'm listening to absolutely favorite narrator portray the world's most frustrating comedic character written by one of the authors whose work I most admire. I feel a little dead inside, because I suddenly want to murder these pages, I'm screaming for an editor and I'm wondering why we give a damn about... And I put this down. I stopped listening for weeks. I switched to NPR.

When Hall is good, he's not half good, he's great. He is fabulous, but he failed to strike the balance here between the comedically absurd, the emotional, and the I might rip my hair out feeling I had through the entire middle of this book. By the end, I'm wondering why anyone cares for Arabella who the entire plot revolves around or if they are just going to cut ties with her. She's toxic, initially kind of hilariously dramatic but then just comes off as the worst sort of person. She so overshadowed the book, I could barely find an ounce of investment into the other relationships in the book because I just began dreading her next scene. Man, I hate some characters - but this was another level. Her development was too little too late.

It was delightfully queer, infused other irritating characters with endearing qualities, but failed for the Arabella-shaped elephant in the room for me.

I finished it, because Nicholas Boulton. But it was... Something all right.

Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
596 reviews1,839 followers
January 6, 2022
rep: gay demi mc, gay li, sapphic side characters, genderfluid side character, achillean side characters

ARC provided by the publisher.

Something Fabulous is the kind of book you want to read when it's raining or you just had a bad week. It's the kind of book that will absolutely, one hundred precent make you feel better about everything in life. Even more than your usual romance, this is truly a remedy for your cold aching heart.

The greatest thing about Something Fabulous, though, is the LGBT experience. Or rather experiences. Because we have an mc who is deeply repressed and the whole book is basically about him discovering that yeah, he can fall in love with other man and no, there's nothing wrong with him not wanting to just hook up with strangers. But there's also the love interest who's a complete opposite of that. There's another achillean man who's a bit of a slut, but also has a heart of gold. There's an almost married sapphic couple. Another sapphic character who's not really all that much into romance. A character who we would describe as genderfluid probably, with our modern terms.

In a word, there's a lot! And all those characters have different background, live their queerness in different ways. Which is absolutely beautiful to see in a book, and especially in a historical fiction one. Frankly, there's like maybe one or two cishet characters who show up for half a chapter.

If you're looking for some angst, though; if you're looking for pacing that makes sense and is something that you're used to in romance novels; if you're looking for a story that will make you cry more than just happy tears - this is probably not a book for you. Because Something Fabulous is all fluff. If anything, it's a celebration of the LGBT community and the various ways in which we love.
Profile Image for Eugenia.
1,667 reviews255 followers
January 29, 2022
What a farce! 😍

I ADORED this farcical romp across the British countryside.

A Duke
A gentleman
A lady
A lady’s companion
An ostler
And assorted characters

Suspension of disbelief
(This is a farce, after all)
Alone time so no one looks at you funny while you chuckle, snort, and laugh your way through the story.
Something to strangle or throw (one of the characters will force you to do this).

The audiobook (unforgettable)

You may fall in love with Bonny, the gentleman.
You will want to slap Valentine upside the head.
Scenes with Arabella will cause steam to come out your ears and daggers to fly out your eyes.
Side aches from hard guffaws may be treated with ice.

The funniest rimming scenes EVER!! 😂😍😂😍😂
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,857 reviews685 followers
September 19, 2021
Something Fabulous was Something Fabulous indeed! No plot, just vibes. It's basically one big shit post of a book with a very adorable romance. I'm pretty sure I laughed at almost every page. Our main character, grumpy demisexual duke Valentine, and I have more in common than I'd like to admit. I'm always very happy to find a new comfort read!
Profile Image for M'rella.
1,325 reviews179 followers
March 5, 2022
I am joining team Valentine and DNFing at 18% (skimmed through the rest of the book, tho).

- non-stop annoying banter
- though some verbal exchange is funny, the story itself is not
- spoiled, immature, lying, hypocritical, manipulative, murderous twin brats
- extremely unlikable unhinged female character
- author making an idiot out of the only decent and likable character by forcing him to stick with the idiotic twins (yes, idiocy all around)
- author making fun of aromantic person and trying to cure him of it by the way of the above mentioned idiotic twins
- verbal, emotional and physical abuse, which is supposed to be funny(?), but made me angry instead
- this book reminds me strongly of TJ Klune (not a compliment)

Check out the rest of DNFs and 1 star reviews for more details.
198 reviews44 followers
January 26, 2022
No. No. No. Why did Alexis Hall suddenly turn into T.J Klune? The over-the-top ridiculous Tales-from-Verania T.J Klune? Fans of Mr Klune may enjoy this book, but not me. My mind is too rational to accept this silliness, this lack of reason and logic.

By 32% I gave up. Somebody let me know if I should continue. I adore Alexis Hall’s other books, and I adore his humour, but this felt like it was written by somebody else.

And to think I was so excited when this book arrived at my Kindle shelf… Haizzz
Profile Image for Emma.
1,251 reviews104 followers
October 14, 2021

Thank you to Montlake and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Something Fabulous was a mixed reading experience for me. On its surface, the story is relatively light and fun with some truly hilarious banter. This meant I was completely blindsided by Valentine's internal emotional conflict. He has a lot of internalized aphobia and arophobia that drives how he views himself as well as how he connects, or fails to connect, with others. Seeing things that I've thought about myself -- and am still working to unlearn -- on the page over and over again was really, really hard for me to read. Valentine's internal conflict to unlearn his aphobia and arophobia is a main storyline that occupies a lot of the story, which I was completely unprepared for based on the marketing around this book. The internalized aphobia and arophobia were also both left off of the content warnings provided by the author.

To focus briefly on the things that I enjoyed, there are so many queer characters in Something Fabulous all largely living life on their terms, which was beyond lovely to see in a historical romance. The satirical elements of Something Fabulous are also incredibly well done. It's clear that Hall is deeply familiar with historical romance as he played with tropes so wonderfully in ways that were a delight to read.

My overall impression about Something Fabulous is how strongly I wish that the internalized aphobia and arophobia had been signaled in either the synopsis or the author's content warnings. The presence of these themes in the story were triggering and made it impossible for me to enjoy the HEA/HFN.
Profile Image for cel ✼ readwithcel.
267 reviews525 followers
November 9, 2021
it’s alexis hall’s world and we’re just living in it

“i believe we know when we do wrong. we feel it. in our hearts, our soul, our conscience. and nothing i have ever learnt or known or felt has taught me to believe that love is wrong.”

✼ thank you to netgalley and montlake for an arc of something fabulous in exchange for an honest review.

if you’ve breathed in my general direction, you may know that alexis hall is one of my favorite authors. an autobuy author. i’ve impulse reread boyfriend material a worrying number of times and made my way through his backlist this year. one thing his books have in common: they’ve all brought me immeasurable joy.

something fabulous is no different.

something fabulous is a regency romp following valentine, a reserved duke who unwillingly proposes to arabella tarleton, so horrifically that she flees. in a bid to find her, arabella’s twin brother, bonny, gathers valentine on a cross-country chase but as they bond, valentine starts to question what he thought he knew about himself and about love.

this was a whole queer party! the campest, wildest, silliest, most outrageously fun book. at multiple points my brain went “am i having…a fever dream?” but complimentary! i was literally in tears from cackling. i joke that Hall is single handedly saving 2021 but am i joking though? this was sunshine in a book. a breath of fresh air. a much needed reprieve.

as always, Hall excels at creating characters you’ll fall in love with. with valentine - naive & profoundly lonely. watching him challenge what he’d internalized about the world, about attraction, and as he came to understand his own relationship with attraction made my chest ache. with bonny - wholesome, charming. believing so fiercely in love and yet never judging valentine. i would give my left lung for him. and arabella - a drama queen with violent tendencies.

this book is delightfully Hall. the wit, banter, feelings, and clever literary references - his voices radiates through. i love recognising it and knowing that there will always be this voice to return to for comfort and joy. what a wonderful voice to know.
Profile Image for BakaRena.
512 reviews20 followers
January 26, 2022
Horrible twins torturing poor Valentine. I'm sorry and I like Alexis Hall but this irked me.
I felt some of me in Valentine and it made me feel bad that he tolerates all of this and not just goes away and does what makes him feel good. Not just apologize and justify himself to everyone. Why does he have to live up to expectations of others.
I suppose I needed a state of mind that this is not serious but Valentine's problems didn't seem not serious to me and I really hated the twins for forcing their ideals on him and not respecting his wishes.
Unfortunately, this kind of humor is lost on me. I've been really eager to listen to another Alexis Hall-Nicholas Boulton combination but well, hopefully it's not the last one.
Profile Image for Lacey (laceybooklovers).
2,063 reviews10.5k followers
May 17, 2022
I wish I could've loved this more! I actually was really enjoying the book when I first started it because of how over the top everything was. It felt like a funny, silly historical rom-com, which I didn't mind at all. But then things got... annoying. I kept feeling so bad for the hero, Valentine, because everyone walked all over him, Bonny (the other hero) and Arabella (Bonny's sister and Valentine's intended) in particular. The writing is fun, but I just didn’t like anyone besides Valentine.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
55 reviews2 followers
January 28, 2022
I received a copy of Something Fabulous as an ARC from NetGalley for review.

I previously reviewed Something Fabulous last fall when I received it as an ARC, and I’ll be honest, my first review had rose-tinted glasses on from the excitement of getting approved for an ARC from one of my favourite authors. While I read, there were so many things that bothered me, including the way every single other character treated Duke Valentine.
But, like Valentine, I let it happen. I pushed through the book and tried to brush off the cruel treatment of the book’s only demisexual character because hey, it’s a rom-com, right? Some cruel humor is okay…. Except it isn’t.
After rereading Something Fabulous to remember what rubbed me the wrong way, it doesn’t seem fair for me to keep my previous review up. 
Part of why I was so excited to read Something Fabulous is because it was going to feature a demisexual character. I couldn’t wait to meet Valentine and see how his romance progressed. Honestly, especially after a reread, I’m incredibly disappointed with the representation and with the story.
Valentine is basically made out to be the bad guy by every single character. He’s the jerk, he’s the heartless Duke, he’s this, he’s that. But he’s really a man who was perfectly happy the way he was, who didn’t even want to marry Arabella, and who got completely shit on for being who he is. Valentine’s lack of understanding of romance and intimacy is basically the reasoning for every cruel action against him throughout the book. He’s constantly ridiculed and called names by Arabella; she shouts at him, she falsely accuses him of assault and gets him locked in a cellar, she shoots him, and she gets away with it and is “perfectly justified” in her actions by just about every character, leaving Valentine feeling absolutely lost and hurt without understanding her reasoning.
When we actually got to the point of Valentine falling for someone, it’s Arabella’s brother, Bonnie. This… this is problematic to me because Bonnie literally defends his sister in all of her actions, instead of defending or even trying to understand Valentine. I understand it’s a book, a rom-com, and the physical aspect of the romance is supposed to happen within X amount of pages, but as someone who’s demisexual, this representation felt way off. As soon as Bonnie confesses feelings, Valentine suddenly realizes he feels the same, cut to sex scene, cut to happily-ever-after.
I’m honestly really disappointed in this book because usually Alexis Hall is quite good with representation of different sexualities; I’m disappointed in myself for brushing off my feelings through the first read because of my excitement to even get the ARC; and I’m disappointed that Valentine ended up stuck with the Tarleton family after all. He would probably have been better off alone.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ariana  (mostly offline).
1,388 reviews45 followers
January 27, 2022

A “frankly very silly book” Alexis Hall says in the Acknowledgements.
An indulgence, he calls it, written during the first UK lock down.
All I can say is: what fun he must have had writing it!

I have always loved Hall’s brilliant way with words, with this book being no exception. The humour, particularly in the first half, is clever, sharp and wonderfully funny. As some of it is based on words, meaning of words etc. it’s no wonder I salivated.

So, for the main characters:

Valentine broke my heart repeatedly. Steeped in duty, choosing a life of “safe boredom” and indifference over the “terrifying” prospect of love, he’s shut himself and his feelings away for good, having no idea whatsoever how to deal with emotions or social niceties.

… they all lived and breathed and talked and laughed and hoped and felt. He was the one who sat, still and silent, trapped in his unbelonging. Maybe he was the painting. Maybe he always had been.”

Basically, he comes across as an arrogant, overbearing, entitled block of ice, (“I’m a duke. I’m popular by default.”) while on the inside he wants to belong and be much more approachable, but is totally unable to act upon it.
“How did you …make someone smile?” That question hit me most, showing in 6 words how deeply lost Valentine is.

Well, until Bonny.
Who is unapologetically gay, and warm and lively and kind. Bonny had made himself: from books and stories, and hopes and dreams. As Valentine had made himself from duty and fear and mistrust and ignorance.
They could not be more different if you tried. I applauded how often Bonny gives Valentine a chance to be better or redeem himself. But then he has seen glimpses of the ‘real’ Valentine:

I really could like you,” Bonny told him … ”when you’re true. When you allow yourself to admit uncertainty. When you allow yourself to laugh. When you’re not too afraid to care.

I loved their acerbic word battles at the beginning of the book. Absolutely brilliant!
As is Valentine’s innocence and naivety when it comes to sex. He is a virgin on so many levels and has no idea that men can love each other (or women as a fact) His journey of self-discovery is dealt with in a rather sweet and touching way.

Now while all this sounds rather serious, it really isn’t, and it isn’t meant to be.
There is no doubt that this is a deliberately OTT gay extravaganza in which virtually every character is queer. The setting is historical, but in a loose way that incorporates some modern views and language – again a conscious choice by the author.

I really adored the relationship development here, which is the main focus, but I did have one big niggle:
Arabella annoyed me to no ends. She is so over the top, I wanted to shake some sense into her, just a little bit. Even with an understanding that Valentine isn’t the most sensitive of people (LOL! To put it mildly) her behaviour towards him is downright crazy at times, not even mentioning what happens in the last third of the book! And worse she never apologises for it!

Apart from the fact that books are also very central to the story, the humour is what shines throughout:

She trained her eyes … upon the portrait that hung in pride of place above the fire, for she considered it a far superior sight to her suitor’s disagreeable visage. It depicted Boudicca, her uncle’s prize hog.

“In any case”- Tarleton(=Bonny) shrugged - ”marrying you is probably better than going to America.”
“I’m flattered.” (Valentine)
“You shouldn’t be. They do terrible things to tea over there.”

“This is England. If people died of rain, there’s be nobody left.”

Leaving on that happy note. 😂
Have a fun time!
Profile Image for Simon.
5 reviews
June 18, 2023

This book was, quite simply put, infuriating. I kept on waiting for any kind of catharsis but it never came, and I was left feeling hollow. Every character save for Valentine was unlikable at best, and down right irredeemable at worst.

Starting off with the worst character we have Belle, a selfish narcissist who seems to have deluded herself into thinking she's some tragic heroin, doing nothing but behave abysmally throughout the entire book and being allowed to get away with it. Not only is she completely unfair to Valentine, who literally never did anything wrong, she also lies to others constantly, to the point where she puts literal lives in danger. She spins the wild and fantastic narratives that border on delusions for all that she seems to believe them herself, and ropes others into her ridiculous strop, all because she doesn't want to get married to a perfectly reasonable man. I've never seen a character so completely up themselves, and it would be forgivable of she weren't one of the main focuses of the book. Why the author decided to have so much of the book revolve around this fucking nightmare I don't know.

Bonny is just the slightly tamer version of his sister, although equally selfish and full of childish notions of fantasy and fairy tale. He does nothing to earn Valentine's respect, let alone his affection, and in more than one occasion puts Valentine in horrible situations just because he's a self riotous prick. Him trying to blame Valentine for getting shot was the last straw on me holding anything other than contempt for the character, because of course it's the thoroughly abused and rightfully angry man's fault that he got shot by your sister yes? Definitely not hers. His constant defence of his sister's bad behaviour towards the man he supposedly loves is completely aggravating, and he doesn't treat Valentine particularly well either. In fact, i was shocked to see him remark on another man's sexiness right after taking Valentine's virginity.

Valentine to me felt very much coded to be nerodivergent, making the characters poor treatment of him even worse. Not once is he listened to, constantly being spoken over and having unfair judgments about his character made. I don't think the author intended for him to come across as nerodivergent, but to me he very much did, causing me as a nerodivergent reader to feel very attacked right along with him. Characters constantly point out that he is rude, with very little evidence to support this, and his social awkwardness seems to, in their eyes, warrant him to be put through hell. All because he did what was expected of him and asked Belle to marry him. I was rather disgusted by the way the author seemed to revel in torturing this introverted, socially awkward character in the name of supposed comedy.

I tried to keep telling myself that the book was satire, a slapstick take on regency romances, but I honestly couldn't deal with how absolutely abhorrent the cast was. And the catharsis never came, there was never a moment of remorse from these phycopaths, never a chance for Valentine to give them a real telling off, because they even managed to convince him, time and time again that he was the villain.

Honourable mentions of bullshit include:

Valentine getting tied to a chair and being threatened to be left there for days

Valentine being held at gun point because when said chair broke it, very obviously by accident, hurt someone

Being locked in a cellar at gun point

Nearly getting seriously hurt in a duel set up by Belles lies

Bonny defending Belle shooting Valentine because he 'scared her' despite her being shown to want him dead just pages before

Belle could have gotten an innocent bystander killed because of her lies if Peggy hadn't messed with the guns

I also want to mention that as an asexual reader, the demisexual rep in this book was very poor. I went into this really excited because the demisexual rep was so heavily emphasised in the advertising, but was thoroughly let down by the lack of thought put into portraying an asexual character.

And just over all the entire cast treating the socially awkward, nerodivergent coded main character like absolute shit.

I would not reccomened this book at all
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,430 followers
January 28, 2022
I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

4.5 stars

2021 for me has been the year of discovering how much I love (queer) historical romance, so I was delighted to see Alexis Hall had written this. I know it's not appropriate to call it a romcom since it's histrom, but...it's a romcom in historical romance form.

The key to reading this book is not taking any of it seriously, because the book doesn't take itself seriously either. Once you let yourself just vibe with it you'll be on the most delightful roll.

I loved Valentine and how he came to understand his own relationship with attraction, and how Bonny was, in contrast, so in touch with his own, but never judged Valentine for the way he experiences his feelings. I also loved every side characters, from Belle and her genderfluid friend, to the sapphic ladies, to Sir Horley with his, um, hunting lodge. Basically everyone was queer and there was no negativity about being queer (aside from some internalized aphobia and queerphobia from Valentine himself).

Basically I can only recommend this book whether you're a histrom veteran or have never read historical romance, because you're guaranteed to have lots of fun.

TWs: some internalized aphobia from a demi character, captivity, guns, gun injury
937 reviews31 followers
January 26, 2022
DNF 20%

Gave up. Found neither character interesting, likeable or entertaining.
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