1) this is not as light hearted as GRUMPY FAKE BOYFRIEND. There are many cute fluffy moments, but it'I want to start this review by saying two things:
1) this is not as light hearted as GRUMPY FAKE BOYFRIEND. There are many cute fluffy moments, but it's core is about a woman struggling with clinical depression and her learning to accept it doesn't mean being alone.
2) This book was HARD for me to read at times. I've never been diagnosed with clinical depression - as part of my general anxiety diagnosis and my specific social anxiety diagnosis my therapist documented "depression episodes" directly related to my anxiety.
As such, while I have not experienced the exact same nature of Courtney's depression (no one can ever truly experience depression the same way) I have experienced ELEMENTS of it.
This is all to say, I recommend this book with few reservations, but please if you have depression or know that reading about a person who is trying to get a handle on their own will trigger you, ask someone who knows your triggers to read the book first.
The rest of my review is behind a spoiler cut since I'll be discussing some pieces of what Courtney is going through.
(view spoiler)[In GRUMPY FAKE BOYFRIEND we learn little about Courtney other than Naomi is fiercely protective of her and loves her unconditionally. We learn she's been her older sister's support - her only real support - for years and she worries that Courtney will never see a bigger picture beyond her depression.
From the get go Courtney is up front about her reservations about what her future would hold. She wants normalcy, or what she considers normalcy, and while thankful to have her sister's support is low key jealous that her sister found a boyfriend she loves (and who loves her) so much.
Courtney is certain - both due to a former beau's callous mishandling years ago and much of her immediate family's careful, but useless handling of her - she can never have a relationship or family of her own. She doesn't feel it's safe for her, or fair to whoever she's with.
This is the first thing that struck home for me. For years my anxiety made me certain that it was inevitable my friends would grow tired of me and drop me. It happened before and I largely haven't changed so the circumstances of my previous friends' reasons for dropping me surely are based in fact so it was only a matter of time beforey new friends thought along the same lines.
The second thing that struck me was that Courtney - consciously or not - viewed therapy and medications as "failures" because they never worked for her. They didn't "fix her" like others tbought it should so why go through that rigamarole over and over again? She knew the pattern of her depression, she just had to deal with it and the fall out that she'd eventually have to deal with.
For a variety of reasons I didn't want to go near a therapist. I didn't want to touch medications. It felt like I was being weak by even considering it. I was "better" than that. I just had to try harder. Give a little more to my new friends so they'd feel I was useful to have around.
Before my therapist I would often concoct elaborate ways the friendships could end and how it would feel to deal with it. I'd forget a birthday and my friend would instantly shun me because I obviously didn't care as much as I should or I'd want to skip an event because of the crowds and they'd accuse me of never supporting their interests.
These are all things that often occurred in my youth or actions former friends would say to me when they tired of me. I forced myself into situations that I wasn't really sure I wanted to be part of just because I didn't want to lose my new friends. Which made things worse of course.
The easy solution would have been for Courtney to communicate with Julian. But as is proven later on that's not always the case.
Aside from his wealth, Julian is one of the most well adjusted, down to earth and NORMAL romance heroes you will ever read about. Even his flaws - being a workaholic, throwing money at problems, being too good start everything ever - don't lessen that. Which is exactly the problem.
When things finally come to a head between Courtney's on-coming depression and Julian's inexperience with what that means, he makes every single mistake a person can make when trying to reassure a person with depression. Not maliciously, but born from ignorance. He did his research on the internet but didn't internalize what that really meant.
And Courtney, already in the early stages of her depression cycle and having spent much of her time obsessing over whether she deserved to be loved and whether she was really just a burden to Julian, lashed out. Again not maliciously, but because she could literally not make the connection in her head that Julian cared. She'd hit the wall of "if he cared he'd do this" in her mind, unable to hear the voice that said "he's trying, help him understand".
The cycle of self recriminations and hatred and shame that Courtney goes through is one I know very well. Lau handles that so convincingly I had to stop reading and remind myself this wasn't me on the page. The rising tide of anxiety I felt reading what Courtney was going through tore me up.
This all said I appreciated seeing how they both came separate understandings about their relationship before talking about it all. Granted, this is a romance so some of Courtney's realizations felt more abrupt then Julian's, but I was so happy they had a plan to fight for their relationship that I didn't even care.
This is one of the very few romances I've read where I felt many of the emotional beats were relatable to me almost perfectly (for reference DEVIL IN WINTER is another one). And Julian (who happened to be played by Lewis Tan in my head) was, if not perfect, so very on point with his development that I wanted exactly what his Po Po wanted (lots of cute babies from the two of them). (hide spoiler)]...more
I recently read the Red Winter (by Annette Marie) trilogy and a friend recommended I check this trilogy outWell.
This is gonna be an unpopular opinion.
I recently read the Red Winter (by Annette Marie) trilogy and a friend recommended I check this trilogy out. And I can see why she'd say that - on the most basic level these both are inspired by the same sources and have a great deal in common.
Suzume is a spoiled, arrogant, impatient and frustrating exiled Princess. Due to her mother's sins, she's gone from beloved of the Court with an extremely eligible marriage prospect to a failure of a Priestess at an unremarkable and remote mountain shrine. Something she frequently tells us. Endlessly she whines out loud and silently about everything she lost. She makes no real effort to fit in, choosing instead to make enemies every time she opens her mouth.
Then there's Kaito, the Dragon she accidentally releases and of whom she meets her match for arrogance and attitude.
Rin, a kitsune and formerly married to a hanyou she cared deeply for before his passing, joins after a few chapters of her own third person POV. I liked her.
Akira/Tsuki - a pair of siblkngs cursed by Kazue 500 years previously, join the merry band and they're OKAY, tho I like Akira better.
Hisato terrorizes the group regularly. I didn't like him.
Suzume pissed me off. I took such an immediate dislike to her that grew as the book went on.
But my real problem friends was THE OBVIOUS PLOT GRAB FROM INUYASHA. Red Winter was obvious about it - the marketing material was up front about the comparisons. It distinguished itself however in the genuine relationship it built and the secondary characters.
This does no such thing.
Suzume is a reincarnation (view spoiler)[ sort of (hide spoiler)] of Kazue. Kaito was in love with Kazue (who betrayed him) . A weird half demon shapeshifter THING created from darkness terrorizes the heroes in his quest to obtain Suzume and become a god. Kaito treats Suzume like shit and whether it's out loud or silent compares her to Kazue CONSTANTLY. Kazue's unfinished business is inherited by Suzume, who emo-whines constantly that Kaito doesn't see her, only the piece of her that is Kazue. A Quest must occur to gather fragments of the Shikon no Tama scattered pieces of soul to unite them and defeat the Dark Thing once and for all.
This felt so all over the place with some convenient shit that happens (a girl in possession of a destiny will find that deus ex machina will track her down no matter what) and THAT ENTIRE WISH PART. True spoilers under cut.
(view spoiler)[At one point somehow Suzume stumbles upon a powerful Yokai who grants her wish to make Kaito forget all about how Suzume is Kazue reincarnated since he wants bloody revenge on Kazur and has stated multiple times he'd be happy to settle for killing her reincarnation.
Two pages before this wish Kaito and Rin are discussing how he's ready to move on the past to build a healthier future with Suzume. LITERALLY AS HE IS ON HIS WAY TO TELL SUZUME THIS she has the Forget Me Nao wish granted.
The only reason I can think of as to why they'd have Kaito resolve to do better by her, only to backtrack so hard he nearly beheads her when he finds out who she is, was a sloppy attempt to foreshadow later on why he can't help but be drawn to her.
It was singlehandedly the most frustrating chunk in a book EVER for me. (hide spoiler)]
So there you have it. I'm morbidly interested in the rest so I have book 2 on deck....more