My rating: 3 out of 5 starsGenre: Contemporary romance, new adult
Part of a series?: Book 1 of Cyclone series
Format: E-book borrowed from local library
Publication date: Jan 2015
Heat level: Warm
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I recently made a somewhat spontaneous decision to devote the rest of 2017 to reading more of the well-known romance authors whose books I keep hearing mentioned by other bloggers and podcasters. Courtney Milan is definitely on that list. It is a bit strange that I didn't start with one of her historicals since that is my comfort zone. I read mostly Christian historicals, though, and I haven't been able to reconcile the presence of sex scenes in a historical setting. Anyway . . .
Trade Me is the first book in Courtney Milan's Cyclone series. Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds are college classmates who come from totally different backgrounds that still influence their life choices. Tina's family can barely make rent from month to month, while Blake spends the equivalent of Tina's yearly tuition without batting an eye. When they get into a heated debate in class about what it means to be poor, Tina tells him that he couldn't last a month living in her circumstances. Little did she know that he would seriously want to make that trade. Exchanging houses, incomes, and jobs puts them in closer contact than Tina expected and she is not sure she can handle the feelings that surface.
The one word that keeps popping up when I think about this book is "angst". I don't read a lot of contemporary or new adult romance so I don't know if that is a common element of these subgenres. The amount of time I spent in Tina and Blake's minds almost made me feel like I was reading literary fiction, which is something I avoid. Blake was constantly thinking about the particular problems inherent in what looks like an otherwise charmed life, while Tina kept reminding herself of the reasons why she can't let herself be attracted to Blake and why she didn't have time for love. Luckily, the novel had some positive elements to balance out all the agonizing.
One of the positive elements was the dialogue. The banter between Tina and Blake was fun to read, especially during the few times that Tina allowed herself to let loose and enjoy Blake's company. The way Tina consistently held her own against the brashness of Blake's father also made for some enjoyable passages.
From what little I know of the tech industry, Milan's portrayal of Cyclone Technology (the company that Blake's father founded) felt accurate. On the flip side, the description of how Tina's family had to make choices between paying one thing or another because they didn't have enough money to pay everything definitely rang true. Errors seem to stand out more to me in a book that is set in a time period I actually lived through, but there weren't any obvious ones in this book.
I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of the actual trade in the book. One of my favorite tropes is the "fish out of water" scenario. There weren't enough scenes of what it was like for Tina to live in the lap of luxury or how Blake dealt with being broke. The trade was really used as a vehicle for Tina and Blake to spend more time together. That isn't necessarily bad, but I just wish there were more awkward mishaps resulting from living someone else's life.
I rated this book Warm as far as heat level because there wasn't much sexual content; this book was heavy on the longing and light on the action. However, there was enough cursing to give me pause if I were thinking of handing this book to some of my more conservative friends. At least three of George Carlin's seven dirty words are used in this book, a couple of them repeatedly. They weren't jarring to me, but I know that some readers don't even want the occasional "damn" in their books.
Overall, I think this book gave me a good sampling of Milan's writing. I'm not sure if I will read the next book in the series, but I am eager to check out one of her historicals. I don't know why I waited so long to check out her work.
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