Come forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love..
Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.
Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.
She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.
In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.
*Trigger Warning* The beginning of this book has a fade to black sexual abuse scene that might be considered a trigger for some. There is no graphic descriptions but the implication of what will take place is present.
I’m SO not sure how to review this book. One of the reasons I really enjoyed this book so much is that it is NOT your typical romance novel. The hero is so very different than the typical romance hero (but the heroine was pretty typical, tbh). I enjoyed the writing and the…atmosphere of the story.
Nicholas – the hero – is…very damaged. It’s hard to tell exactly HOW damaged he really is. Sadly, while the text does a pretty good job of portraying his manic moods, the reader is mostly told rather than shown how fucked up Nicholas really is.
The author did a great job of making Nicholas into a sympathetic character. While I can’t deny the character’s immense charm and sheer wish fulfillment factor (cause let’s be honest, how many women with super HAWT gay friends haven’t wished that guy liked to taste the vagina at least once?) Nicholas was rather off-putting, vulgar and rude during his primary introduction to the reader. I felt his constant references to his desire to “fuck” Fred and his in your face flirting/unasked for touching was close to taking it one step too far. I can believe that his very feminine side allowed Nicholas physical liberties with women that most men don’t have access to – so I assume that Nicholas was rather spoiled by women’s reactions to him. Nicholas uses women and sex with women to drown out his despair in the same way addicts would pick up a bottle.
His fingers travel up my thigh, and dance in between my legs for a brief second when he goes on, “You felt nothing here?”
“Seriously Nicholas, back off or I’ll punch you.”
He raises his hands in the air in surrender, but doesn’t move his lips from my ear. “One final thing,” he whispers. “When I was inside Dorotea last night, I closed my eyes and pretended it was you.”
It takes a skillful hand to get me to change my initial impression of a character and this author did it with such skill that I can’t put my finger on the point that Nicholas changed for me. In the beginning he was a beautiful/handsome opportunistic man-whore who would shag any women he felt attractive but in the end he was a beautiful soul that had been damaged but was trying to locate and nurture happiness. Gosh, that sounds a little trite. I just know that by the end of the book I just wanted to take Nicholas and hug him and hug him and hug him. And then maybe do him afterwards, lol.
Dealing with Freda (Fred) was an act of patience as it took some time for us to get used to each other…and sometimes she would still throw me for a loop. I’m not a huge fan of 1st person narratives – they usually don’t work for me. The first person narrative in this book worked for me about 60% of the time but I was often thrown out of the storyline by Fred explaining things like the difference between clothing sizes in the US and UK. I was also put off by Fred’s constant self-esteem issues, body image issues, and slut shaming.
Fred is a US size 10 with what appears to be some serious boobs going on. Not fat at all in my opinion -where I’m from a size 10(US) woman who takes care of herself is a beautiful (and sexy) thing to behold. The pic below is of Katie Green. She’s a size 10. If you think this is fat…I got a frying pan that wants to meet your head. The term is “voluptuous.” So it was annoying that “fat” is one of the terms that Fred calls herself and is called by at least one other. On the flip side (and typical for romance), Nicholas thinks Fred’s body is amazing and that her breasts are the best thing since sliced bread.
Another problem I had with Fred is that she is a horrible slut shamer – at least in her own head. She has a friend, Anny, who appears to be a little promiscuous. Fred disparages Anny about sex (either verbally or mentally) every time Anny is on page. Anny being a slut had no bearing on the plot though I did find the threesome funny (at first, until the slut shaming started). I appreciate well rounded secondary characters but “the slutty one” isn’t quite it.
To give Fred her due as a character, she is pretty funny in a snarky way. She admits that she has self-esteem issues (why she has self-esteem/body image issues is a mystery to me and there are no reasons given or suggested by the text) and that her snarky way of speaking often hurts feelings and/or insults people. I could see her brand of humor not going down well with everyone but I enjoyed it. I also appreciated the fact that – while she did call herself fat – she never called herself ugly or felt she was un-loveable or any of those tired and used up romance tropes.
The major theme of this book is acceptance, I think. Acceptance of who you are, acceptance of others as they are, and acceptance of the fact that [you] deserve happiness. I believe that everyone has someone out there to love them – love them with that kind of deep and abiding passion that can change worlds. The problem is 1) recognizing/finding this person and 2) accepting the love that person provides. I think that it this message of acceptance and love is what makes this book so beautiful to me. Fred loves Nicolas exactly as he is and doesn’t want to change him [except the womanizing part, of course]. Fred accepts Nicholas as he is and Nicholas accepts Fred. Their relationship is beautiful because it shows two broken halfs making a complete whole.
And the epilogue. OMG. Totally made me tear up. I can’t…it’s just so touching. I just wanted to hug them both by the end.
And I think – after all is said and done – what makes this book a little magical to me is that the characters reached out to me – stopped being characters – and became real.
I really, really enjoyed this book. There wasn’t as much angst as I was expecting (thank God – though more than plenty was present and seemed to almost drip off the pages at times) and I really loved the sexual tension between Nicholas and Fred. I love the complexity of the characters and I enjoyed the snarky humor.
This is such a complicated book about a complicated relationship between two very complicated people. I’m almost positive that I haven’t done this book justice in this review,so the best suggestion I can give is to read it. If you found anything I said in this review intriguing, that is.