Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals) by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice ShyThis novella features Likotsi, Prince Thabiso’s no-nonsense assistant, who we met in A Princess in Theory. The implication in that book was that she was maybe a bit of a player, but we also know something happened to/with her while she and Thabiso were in New York City. This book tells us what, as well as rights thing.

At the beginning of the book, Likotsi is in New York and on vacation and has a plan for the day, in the form of a list. She’s going to visit all the places she visited last spring with Fab, a woman who she’d fallen hard for in just a few dates. A woman who abruptly and without explanation cut off contact. Likotsi's hope is that by visiting these places, she can form new memories that will replace those she had involving Fab, and can move on.

When they run into each other on the subway, that plan is foiled. Fab invites her to go for tea. Likotsi barely says yes, but she thinks maybe she can find out why she was unceremoniously dumped months earlier. They hang out and begin making new memories in new places, which is driving Likotsi crazy, even though she can’t step away. And then, Fab reveals to the reader why she ended things. It’s a while longer before she tells Likotsi, but when she does, they are finally able to come to an understanding. And a plan for the future.

This was my first true ff romance, but I think I picked a good one—I love Cole because she writes great characters, and this one met those expectations perfectly.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek book coverQueens of Geek is technically a YA romance, not something I usually review here (generally they’re too tame, but I made an exception because it was what I read this week and the characters are all eighteen so it could be considered New Adult, which I would review here). So.

As the title implies, there are some serious geek themes in this book. First of all, it’s set at “SupaCon,” a fictional ComicCon, that’s in San Diego, I think. It’s about three best friends from Melbourne, Australia making the journey to the US for the first time. It’s narrated by the two women, Charlie and Taylor.

Charlie’s an upcoming movie star with a popular video blog. Her parents are from China, though her race has no relevance to the story from what I could see. It just makes everything more realistic, as Australia is diverse, too. Charlie also has pink hair and is bi, though her last relationship was with her male co-star, making it a very public one. The breakup was painful and also public and she’s a little gun-shy now. She has a crush on another up-and-coming star, Alyssa, who’s also going to be at SupaCon.

Although Taylor is one of Charlie’s best friends, they aren’t very alike—Taylor is shy and anxiety-riddled. She’s also on the spectrum, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s only a few months earlier. But she’s hoping to step a bit out of her comfort zone at SupaCon, even if she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t have a lot of confidence in general, but especially body confidence because she’s not some stereotypical sexy mama. She’s a little “curvy.” She credits Charlie with helping her to avoid falling down the well of self-loathing.

The third friend is Jamie, who also happens to be the guy Taylor’s been in love with for ages. Not that she’s going to say anything, because she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, which she values dearly. The friends all plan to move to LA in the fall. Taylor and Jamie have applied to UCLA and Charlie is moving there for her career.

A lot of reviewers have admired this book for its positive messages about women and girls. Throughout the book, they support, protect, and help each other out. And it is great, since a lot of books show a more negative view of female relationships. At times, I did think the book got so caught in all the good it was trying to do that the story itself suffered. Nothing ever got too dire—things mostly went at least okay for the characters.

Also, I have to mention that this book has some of the best two-way communication I’ve ever seen, even between Taylor and Jamie. Much of the dialogue could be sample conversations in a self-help book about how to communicate effectively. People say what they feel and what they mean and they actually understand each other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I noticed it.

Charlie and Taylor are both good characters, though I think Taylor is a little more complex and developed than Charlie. This is probably because her anxiety is explored in great depth. Jamie isn’t as developed as the other two, which I thought was a bit of a shame. I’d liked to have seen more of him. He’s also Hispanic and originally from Seattle but we don’t get much of him except to see how supportive he is of Taylor.

For those who live in geekdom, this book’s a dream. There are so many pop culture references that you’ll have to appreciate it. I’m not as in the mix as I used to be, but even I got a lot of the references. Overall, this was an enjoyable read with a lot of positive representation of things that frequently get a pass in the romance world. Still, it was light and fun.