I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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With True Brit, her first self-published novel, Con Riley makes quite a departure from her previous novels which often had a melancholy overall tone and were primarily about loss and pain.
There are some moments in this novel too that deal with the pain from losing someone dear, but the true departure is in the overriding theme of this book, a book about friendships, about perseverance in the face of adversity, and a book about finding that what you never expected.
When Ed and Pasha meet, they are both contestants on a British talent show, and facing possible elimination. Pasha, intent on winning at all cost for reasons not immediately clear, discovers that the contest may be rigged (big surprise there) and devises a plan to stay with the show by pretending that he and Ed are a couple. Reluctant but for his own reasons, Ed agrees to the ruse.
As Ed and Pash(a) grow unavoidably closer, that what was pretense becomes more real than either of them anticipated. It catches them by surprise as much as it throws them off track, and they are faced with tough choices.
There is some great banter, some humor, but there were times when I held my breath to see what would happen next. Through it all, there is genuine emotion.
The story is wonderfully paced, believable in its plot progression, and for someone as cynical as me realistic enough to believe the developing relationship.
The author painted a complete picture for both Ed and Pash, giving them their own sets of idiosyncrasies, their own sets of reasons for acting the way they do, and their own goals for the competition.
She also created a fabulous character in Anya, making her someone who despite being only 16 can see beyond the fallacies of youth, and recognize the big picture.
She created a hateful and very unlikable villain, and gave the characters what it took to defeat him.
The book, throughout its ups and downs, is ultimately hopeful. The characters are willing to learn, willing to listen, and willing to do what it takes to succeed. Even if their ideas of success changes along the way.
A superb performance from one of my favorite authors. I really liked how themes from fandom (shipping) and social media (hashtags, videos, Twitter etc) were included to make this story feel relevant in today's culture.
Highly recommended at 4.5 stars. I urge you to click the pre-order button as soon as you can.
I will leave you with this quote:
The view was hazy without his glasses, but Pasha could see what was outside clearly in his mind's eye.
Seagulls would soar overhead in the morning, and they'd both be here to watch them.
** I received a free copy of this book in its non-finalized form. The quote may be slightly different in the book's final version. A positive review was not promised in return. **