Series: Reluctant Royals #3.5
Published by Avon Impulse on March 19, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?
I can’t properly express my love for this novella and this series with actual words. I’m sure that when I’m reading them, my face just looks like a giant squee gif.
This is the first time I’ve read a romance, or any book, actually, involving someone who designs escape rooms. Frankly, I’ve never really thought about the process very much, and I do wish we’d seen a little more of his process, and of the final product. If I had any quibble with this book, that’s it. I really wanted to see the escape room Gustave came up with after working with Reggie.
Actually, I do have one more quibble. Alyssa Cole, how dare you come up with something like Girls with Glasses, then not figure out a way to make it magically exist in reality? Because I want to spend literally all of my free time on that site.
I’ve been interested in Reggie since we met her. And every mention of her in the preceding books just whet my appetite more. I was initially disappointed that she was only going to get a novella, but now that I’ve read it, I think it was exactly right. Reggie and Gustave had a slow burn, one that was so satisfying and charming to read.
While I liked Gus a lot, I LOVED Reggie. She’s the character to read this book for. She was self-assured and confident, and no delusions about how lucky she was. She was physically disabled, spending most of her time in a wheelchair, and she knew exactly how lucky she was in everything she had. She recognizes that hardly anyone is able to have even one high-tech, brand new wheelchair, much less 6 of them, each of which she uses depending on the situation and the terrain she’ll be navigating. She understands it and appreciates it, but she also understands that that little bit of privilege in no way protects her from the absolute shit world she deals with being a woman, a woman of color, and a disabled woman of color who dares to exist on the internet.
Reggie’s family dynamics were fascinating. We saw quite a bit of them from Portia’s side in A Duke by Default, so I appreciated that we got to see them play out from Reggie’s point of view. I tried to make excuses for their parents for a while, reasoning that they’d been close to losing Reggie when she was sick, and I can’t even imagine the scars fear like that leaves behind. And Portia was a train wreck for a long time, and as a person who holds a grudge, I get it. But, wow, they made it difficult. Portia was trying her best, all through A Duke by Default to be the person they wanted her to be, and they gave her no relief whatsoever. Reggie refused to let them treat Portia badly, sticking up for her twin at every opportunity, and seeing how much love she had for Portia, even though their own relationship had been rocky, made me love her even more.
Reggie and Gus’s relationship was a slow burn. Looking back after I read it, I was astonished to realize just how long they took to move from hanging out watching TV to even admitting they were interested in each other, much less acting on it. You don’t see that in a novella very often, and, frankly, it was refreshing. I’m not going to change from my preferences for dirty, dirty, dirty books, but sometimes it’s a nice change.
I don’t know if I believe that Gus and Reggie will be together forever; I felt like this was more of an HFN rather than an HEA, but I don’t care. This novella was exactly what I needed, and I can’t recommend this, and the entire series, enough.