Erryn reviews ‘How Not to Blend (Lovestrong #1)’ by Susan Hawke. The ebook was published January 13, 2019 and 276 pages. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Michael Pauley, released on January 30, 2019, and is 6 hrs and 27 mins long. A copy was provided for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I loved the sound of the story and I adore Michael Pauley.
One clueless single dad…
Dr. Corbin Davis is a busy guy just trying to do his best as a single parent. He may be oblivious to a lot of things, but surely he would’ve noticed something as important as his 15-year-old son Grayson being bullied, right? And what the heck is nonbinary, and why hasn’t Gray shared this all-important part of himself with his own dad?
Plus one sassy Southerner…
Andy Ferguson, or Kandi as the Thursday night drag community knows him, is just trying to get along in a small town and hold things together while he takes care of his beloved Gam-Gam. If she’d just get off his back about finding himself a man, that would be fantastic, thank you very much. He’ll get around to love…one of these days.
Equals a pair of fake boyfriends who will keep you in stitches.
When Corb gets the wild idea to ask Andy to pose as his boyfriend to let Gray know that his dad is bisexual and open-minded enough to talk to about his nonbinary status, Andy is amused and just intrigued enough to say yes…especially since he seems to be in the market for a fake boyfriend himself, if it will get Gam-Gam to quit nagging.
***Check out the giveaway at the bottom of this review for a chance to win one of several prizes***
I’m going to start this review with the narrator, Michael Pauley. I adore his work and he can do no wrong. When I discovered in the first minute of the audio that there was an elderly lady, I knew I was in for a fun ride. Not only is Gam-Gam a fabulous character, but she offers Michael the opportunity to do one of the voices he does best – ladies of a certain age. He also handles the other women wonderfully, including a teenage girl. Then, of course, he performs the men perfectly. From the surly and hurting teenager to the confused father to the drag queen Kandi to Kandi’s drag mother, he hits every single note brilliantly. I just adore him and when I see he’s the narrator, I know the quality will be amazing and the performance right on the mark.
Okay, now onto the book. I loved the book. I am not an mpreg fan and so have avoided Ms. Hawke’s books despite hearing good things about them. When she published a book that was set in the real world with real characters, I pounced. From the opening scene I was pulled in and I stayed entranced through the entire book. Andy is adorable. Barista by day and, once a week on Thursday nights, a drag queen named Kandi. He is very clear about who he is and what he wants. He has several close friends, including his coworker and his Gam-Gam. He also is frenemies with his grandmother’s dog. It’s a true love/hate relationship and although Andy claims the dog is possessed, he also treats him with great affection.
Corbin, a hottie doctor Andy’s been crushing on, is a vastly different character. Widower and single father since the passing of his wife, he’s kept his private life (what of it there is) from his son, Gray. Like many people, he doesn’t wear his sexuality on his sleeve. He’s bi-sexual but has little interest in either gender these days. Busy with his practice and raising his son, he has enough on his plate. He’s so distracted, he misses the longing looks from Andy the barista every morning when he comes for his coffee. Corbin is a pretty good dad who, when confronted with his son’s expression of being nonbinary, is confused. Now, not all confused parents would run off to ask a drag queen for advice, but since Andy’s not just any drag queen, it works.
I love Andy’s interactions with Gray. Closer in age to the teenager, Andy is empathetic to the teen’s trauma and being bullied in school. Andy is a fierce ally and advocate, giving Corbin a great example of how to handle all the incidents. In the end, the violence escalates until drastic action takes place. All realistic, I might add. If gay students are regularly harassed and bullied, it’s doubly so for trans and nonbinary students. A few states have brought in anti-bullying legislation as well as education campaigns, but these are issues that have been too-long swept under the carpet. I love that Ms. Hawke brings them out into the open without offering pat and simple solutions. These are complex characters and I love that.
There are several crisis points in the book and I was drawn into each one without feeling manipulated. There was no melodrama, just realistic scenes easily pulled from real life. Does everyone have a fake boyfriend? Well, no. But it’s a popular trope because we love watching two clueless and hapless guys discover that moving from fake to real might be complicated, but it can also be worthwhile.
I truly enjoyed this book and am glad to see this is just the beginning of a series. Eventually, when he’s older, I hope Gray gets his own book because if anyone is deserving of a happy ending, it’s that kid. He’ll succeed because he’s got a great dad and because he’s got Andy in his life. Sometimes having a true ally means all the world – especially if he has good make-up tips.
I loved the banter and Andy’s Southern charms are great. Good dialogue is always a bonus and the witty repartee cannot be missed. An enjoyable listen.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Comment on this post for the chance to win one of several prizes including audiobooks, ebooks, and $5 gift cards
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This giveaway ends on March 8, 2019 at 11:59 PM CST. GOOD LUCK!
Susan Hawke is more widely known for her mpreg writings as Susi Hawke; this new name is a departure from that. Whether written by Susan or Susi, the books are filled with that all-important love, laughter, and family; the only difference is that this name has no male pregnancy.