Can't Escape Love
Series: Reluctant Royals #3.5
Also in this series: A Princess in Theory, A Princess in Theory
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Release date: March 19th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: Pure Textuality PR
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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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?
The Faerie Queen’s review
I did something very silly and jumped from reading book 1 to book 3.5, but whatever, I really wanted Reggie’s story. I will definitely be going back to read the other books because this series is fab though!
Anyway, we met Reggie in the first book as a badass lady who runs a website for geeky women to safely celebrate their geekitude. (Because the internet and the real world aren’t always too kind to nerdy women…) Reggie is killing it with her website, but she’s starting to slip up because she can’t sleep. Before she even started the website, she stumbled across a livestream of a guy who liked to talk while solving puzzles, and his voice used to calm her enough to sleep. She used replays of those livestreams until months before when they were all deleted. Now desperate, she hunts down the guy’s email address and asks him for recordings in exchange for payment.
But he has other ideas. Because Gus needs her, too. He finally has the chance to design an escape room, but he doesn’t understand the anime it’s supposed to be based on. So instead of taking payment, Gus suggests an arrangement: he’ll talk her to sleep if she helps him get this escape room right.
On the one hand, the premise is a bit weird, and both Reggie and Gus acknowledge that. But also… I get it. I listen to Calm’s Sleep Stories every night while playing wave sounds on loop in the background, and I do find some men’s voices particularly relaxing. I would love to find a guy who will read me to sleep to be honest! So this worked really well for me.
What really struck me about this book was the dynamic between Reggie and Gus. Reggie uses wheelchairs (she has a whole fleet) and lives in a house designed around her needs. (My OT heart swelled, guys.) She has got her life sorted and can take care of herself, and she is tired of people thinking she needs help and a carer. She’s a BAMF, but a very cynical one. While she’s very secure in her body and her sexuality, she doesn’t think she can try another relationship because there always comes a moment when the other person sees her disability instead of her.
But Gus doesn’t. Gus is wonderful in his own way. You see, while it’s never explicitly said – and I actually like that – Gus is on the autism spectrum. He is very open about how he struggles with recognising emotions, but he has strategies to work with that. I’d say that he’s actually better at recognising emotions than other men simply because he is aware he needs to look out for cues. His directness was endearing and cut through a lot of the miscommunication BS that you can find in romance novels and RL relationships. And what I loved most of all? The fact that this book destroys the myth that autistic people don’t want relationships or feel emotions. Because Gus knows what he wants – Reggie – and he does something about it without ever being pushy or crossing lines. FABULOUS MAN.
Their relationship was pretty much perfect for me and I am super jealous because I, too, would like to revel in my geekiness and have a guy support it and not question me when I know something he doesn’t. Plus, the fact that they could be around each other in silence? UGH WANT. Each doing their own things while enjoying the companionship of being together. That is utopia right there.
Anyway, this is a long review for a novella, but I am a Fan. All the stars for not only racial and cultural diversity, but also neurodiversity and disability rep.
Dear Mr. Kendoku,
I hope this email finds you well. You may not remember me, but three years ago I used to tune in to your Streamlive.com channel, The Puzzle Zone. We chatted quite a bit over the course of three months, or rather I sent messages in the live stream chat function and you responded.
I’m writing with what I’ll admit is an unconventional proposition. I’d like to request approximately ten hours of audio recordings of you speaking. I’m willing to pay a more than reasonable amount for this product, and will have a contract drawn up specifying that it is for my personal (noncreepy) use, protecting you from any unlawful dissemination of said product. I look forward to hearing back from you.
There. Nice and formal and businesslike, so there was no reason for him to think she really needed his voice, even if she did. But maybe it wasn’t the right tone? They’d spent every night together for three months after all—that was longer than any of her relationships had lasted. They’d kind of been friends.
Not enough for him to want to keep in contact, though.
Kakuro Kendoku’s email address had been unearthed by Reggie’s twin sister, Portia, Jill-of-all-trades and amateur internet detective. Portia, who was off on some kind of Eat, Pray, Swords journey of self-discovery in Scotland, had accidentally found out her boss was the secret love child of a duke using those same skills. Reggie was not in royal watchers fandom, but even she was intrigued, and the hits to Portia’s blog posts on GirlsWithGlasses were a bonus.
Reggie was certain she’d weirded her sister out by asking for anything from her, let alone information on a guy, since they usually didn’t talk about dating and personal stuff like some twins did. She’d let Portia think whatever she wanted because the reason she needed Kakuro was embarrassing.
His voice was the only thing that could help her sleep when her insomnia got this bad. She’d discovered that over the course of their short online friendship, a friendship in which neither knew the other’s real name, age, or location—their knowledge of each other was limited to what they’d revealed in the privacy of a totally public online live stream. The thing was, it had been private, since no one else had ever tuned in.
Whenever she couldn’t sleep, she’d revisit the stream’s archives; it’d still been up six months ago when she’d had her last battle with a recalcitrant Sandman. But it was gone now, deleted, and though she’d hoped that she wouldn’t need his soothing voice for a good long while, she needed her auditory Ambien now.
It pissed her off—she shouldn’t have to rely on a stranger like this, though he wasn’t exactly a stranger at this point. She didn’t know what he looked like, had never seen higher than his chin and mouth because his camera had been set up to focus on his hands, creating a kind of reverse Kakashi-sensei situation, but they’d “talked” almost every night after a couple of weeks of her lurking on his stream. She’d stumbled across it while looking for stuff to post on her fledgling website; his voice helped her focus as she worked late at night, searching for content and writing articles, figuring out how to turn her hobby into a hustle.
She had a great memory, but she hadn’t really known him then. It was her repeated bedtime listening sessions of his archived videos had led to her inadvertently absorbing things about him and his life. His relationship with his younger brother, who would sometimes walk around in the background of the videos and try to distract him. How often he mentioned his grandmother. His love of crunching on shrimp chips like his mic wasn’t picking up the sound, how he’d gone to school for architecture and been in between jobs. He’d also had a really nice mouth, not that it mattered. So he wasn’t a stranger, but she’d let herself turn his voice into a necessity, and now she was paying for it.
What if he says no?