I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.
HOLD ME isn't just the smartest romance you'll read; it's also an ode to the Bay Area. Like a modern-day PRIDE AND PREJUDICE set in Berkeley, CA, HOLD ME is about two characters who initially dislike each other intensely because of a misunderstanding and/or misplaced sense of pride, only to realize that they're practically perfect for each other and/or soul mates. I love PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and enemies-to-lovers plot lines, so obviously this was like crack candy to my inner-book-addict.
Maria is a transgender woman of color who enjoys dressing up to the nines. She's a little ditzy and fun, and reminded me of a Latina Elle Woods (from Legally Blonde). Her outfits are just as cool, too. She has a secret though: she's a crazy smart blogger who's become famous for her brainy, witty blog about pop science and nobody knows her real identity but assumes she's some bigwig male scientist/researcher/thinktank worker, not even entertaining the idea that she's a female undergraduate.
Jay, on the other hand, is a Chinese/Thai professor who spends all his time in a lab. He's close friends with Maria's brother, but ends up insulting Maria by assuming that she's some airheaded moron who's trying to get into his lab for brownie points. He doesn't realize that he's met Maria before; he's a devoted follower of her science blog and has been chatting with her for years under the name Actual Physicist. The reader gets to watch their virtual relationship develop even as their dislike for each other increases in real life, wondering all the while, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEIR PATHS DIVERGE? Because you know they will. Jay was just as fascinating to me as Maria. He has a lot of issues under his belt, but he's also quite prejudiced, and one of the things about him that Maria likes the least is his assumption that pretty woman = stupid woman.
I love, love, loved this book. I loved the diversity - the Bay Area is diverse, and Milan really shows that to great effect in HOLD ME, and in a way that feels totally realistic and dimensional and not like someone ticking off a diversity checklist. I loved Maria and Jay's backstories. I loved how Maria was transgender without her transgender identity being the focus of the story. I loved that Jay was bisexual and we hear about his past relationships with men and women. I loved the relationships. I loved the descriptions of San Francisco, Berkeley, and BART. It's true, there only are a few cities where you can go and have like four different noodle places to one block.
Courtney Milan is a good writer. I knew that. But sometimes her historical novels are a little too vanilla for me. Not in, like, the sex way, but in the sense that they're just pleasant and inoffensive and a little bland. I always enjoy them, but few are particularly memorable. HOLD ME, by contrast, was like a rainbow firecracker going off in a dark sky. This book made me giggle. It also made me cry. It gave me all the feels. When I finished the book I wanted to scream giddily and dance around to Hoku's "Perfect Day" a la Legally Blonde in honor of Maria's adorably girly-girl personality.
This book took everything I love about myself, my friends, and my home, and turned it into something magical and wonderful.
5 out of 5 stars
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