I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Thoughts after reading:
This was absolutely fabulous. Everything I had hoped for, and more. When I wasn't cackling like a hyena, I was dying from the awwww. Perfect follow-up to TMIR.
Put this on your TBRs RTFN!
First off, that cover, OMG. How perfect is that cover showcasing the dual nature of Sanford Stewart and Helena Handbasket.
Where Sandy is quiet and shy, Helena is fierce and in your face. Where Sandy wants to be loved for who he is, including the part of him that is Helena, The Queen doesn't need a man. Or so she says.
In this follow-up to Tell Me It's Real, told entirely from Sandy's/Helena's POV, there were moments when I was cackling like a mad hyena, prompting odd looks from my long-suffering husband, and moments when I wanted to hug Sandy and tell him that everything would be okay. That it didn't matter if Darren was only Daniel Day-Lewising him with the fake dating plan they cooked up to save the club in which Helena performs.
See, Sandy and Darren have a bit of a history. There's some hinting at it in TMIR, though we don't find out just what that history is until we get to about, oh, the middle of this book. It's then that we finally understand why Sandy (and Helena, too) hates Darren so much. And we also get some insight into why Darren is so apparently mean to Sandy too. I say apparently because... well, you read this and find out.
But as the old sayings go, there is a fine line between love and hate, and the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. And neither one of them, neither Sandy nor Darren, are really indifferent to each other.
The plot is basically that Darren's father, the illustrious jerk-face mayor, is trying to get Jack It to close down by having a hand in refusing to renew the contract for the club. Sandy is drawn into a scheme to convince Darren to put in a good word with Daddy Dearest to stop that from happening, a scheme that depends on Sandy pretending to be in love with Darren, to save the bar. And save crack-babies in the process.
Of course, as with all schemes, nothing goes as planned, and while Sandy and Darren are busy despising each other (or pretending to) while pretending to date, they are also spending a lot of time together, and maybe hate isn't quite the feeling they have for each other. But feelings must be hidden at all cost, so it takes quite some time (the length of this lengthy book) for them both to pull their heads out of their asses.
Of course, the snark and humor in this book are deliciously OTT, as I expected them to be (scenes of morning-after breakfast, spying on Darren, gay bachelor auctions, and plenty of on-page moments with Paul and Vince), and this book is a rollercoaster of OMG, dying of laughter and Huh, didn't see that coming.
Nana and Paul's parents were as fabulous as ever, and even Johnny Depp, the parrot who hates Paul, but preens for Vince, also gets some screen time.
I'm still giggling just thinking of the family brunch (and BACON!). Tj's back in full force in this book. Where How To Be A Normal Person was more introspective and quiet, The Queen and The Homo Jock King is full of blurt-it-out rambling, what-the-hell-just-happened goodness, chockful of fantastic supporting characters, and so many hilarious one-liners!
Helena's signature evil glares and death-threats, pushy waiters who are in desperate need of evil glares to back off, Vince not getting the sarcasm and pouting, Paul being the very best friend a Queen could have, bacon and Brian (you'll need to read this book to get this), Izaac the bartender's nipples, Charlie's threats of spanking Sandy, the parrot throwing homophobia at Paul only to catcall-whistle at Vince not a second later, Nana's bluntness, Paul's parent's obsessions with their son possibly being a pony, Sandy being jealous, Sandy being oblivious, Sandy being Helena - I could go on and on.
I could, but then I would be spoiling things, and you should really experience this book for yourself. I will say that Tj probably wrote the hottest sex scene of any books he's written, and while it may come (hehehe) only once in this book, it is worth the wait. Years and years of foreplay have a way of creating one explosive resolution to that UST. Hot damn!
Of course, this isn't all just humor and laughs, oh no. There are some really sweet moments too, and we get some history on Sandy and Helena, and how they came to be the people they are today. It's important that you don't look at this as simply a comedy of errors and wrong assumptions, but that you also understand who Sandy is, what made him create Helena, the pain and loss he's seen, and why he reacts the way he did when Darren did that thing.
And that is the magic that is Tj Klune, you see, how he is able to write these characters. There are scenes that seem OTT but that have a purpose, and then make you go, to quote Darren, "Wait... what?". There are moments that make you go OMG and moments that make you go awwww. There are moments that are so full of emotions that I had maybe, possibly, quite certainly, a few tears in my eyes.
Sandy is a special character, and so is Darren. Both have a vulnerability they are loath to show to the world. Sandy invented Helena to hide behind, to see him through the tough moments. And Darren hides behind the Jock King persona, too afraid to let the one he loves in when it mattered and clueless how to go back to fix the thing he broke.
And that is Tj's gift. He creates complex characters, with feelings and hidden depths that aren't apparent at first, but are slowly revealed amidst the hilarity and snark and sarcasm.
Seriously, read this. If you liked TMIR, this is definitely a book you don't want to miss. And yes, it was worth the wait. (Three years, Tj, what the hell? Okay, kidding. Sort of.)
Now, please write me another for Cory/Kori, okay? They deserve their own book, dontcha think?
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **