Friday, March 16, 2018

Courtney Milan - Hold Me

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

Comment: This is the second installment in the Cyclone series by author Courtney Milan. I've read the first one back in 2016 and I liked it. I had all intentions of getting to this one sooner but well, you probably know why delays and postponing happen when it comes to pick books. Nevertheless, I didn't forget I got interested in this book while reading the other, so this month I picked it up. The series will have 5 more installments, including two novellas, but since the author is known for her slow paced writing, it's sage to assume it will take some time. But to be honest, I'm more interested in two stories in particular, let's see.

This books focuses on two characters from the same universe of the last story, this time the main female character is Maria, Tina's housemate.
Maria is a very smart woman, but she hides vulnerabilities with amazing shoes and a killer look, which leads some people to assume she isn't as smart as in reality. This is exactly what happens when she first meets Jay, her brother Gabe's friend. Jay is attractive, he's a professor at Berkeley but his focus makes him dismissive of others at times and he judges Maria rather quickly. As time goes by, the two of them increase their animosity every time they meet, usually randomly.
However, Maria has a very popular anonymous blog where she presents apocalyptic scenarios using math and statistics odds and other scientific things which makes her blog very well researched. She has had a commenter for at least an year and a half and they hit it off perfectly, even while maintaining their identities secret.
What will they do, though, when they discover their perfectly in love pseudonyms are the same real life hating known selves?

Courtney Milan is truly a very smart person and she does an amazing research work to complement her novels. Most of her characters (male and female but especially female, yay) are competent, smart, logical in their intelligence and that comes across really well. Is it just the result of a research well placed within the story line? I don't think so, the author's knowledge from her university background shines. Of course this can make some parts rather difficult or boring for those not familiar to the concepts but for me, even while not understanding most of the technical content, this was  a winner because mrs Milan knows what she's doing.

I think one of the goals intended in this novel - just my opinion based on how I read this - was for us to focus on the wrong judgment we often make of others based on their looks or circumstances and how that can be negative on the long run. Jay mistakes Maria for someone insipid just because she wears heels and is good looking. Like when we say glittered or flamboyant dressed women must be air heads, for instance. 
I do like how the author takes a position against labels of any kind but at the same time, there are moments where I feel it's a necessity on her books for that to happen, and the characters can't just be themselves, they must personify some concept or something. This is not a critique, just a statement of fact.

So, not having labels in people makes it more complicated to know what to expect from that person so we really need to know someone before saying we like them or not and that also means we should focus and be interested in who that person is, not what defined them in their past or something. This was what seemed more obvious for me in the relationship between Maria and Jay. They are two smart people who don't like each other based on a wrong first meeting but they already like each other from other anonymous conversations. We really shouldn't judge a book by its cover...
But Maria and Jay also have inner characteristics, for example, Maria is trans and Jay is bi. These labels we like to use to - in a way -  even know how to deal with people and know how to speak with them about some subjects, were not fully addressed here. I get why, this is not important for who they are, for what they need to eb to interact with others. 
But it's part of their personalities, part of what made them the person they are now. I would have liked to see them discuss that better.

In the bigger picture of enjoying this book however, these details lack as much importance as I made them have. I actually loved all the steps taken for them to gt to the point where they admitted their feelings for one another, where they admitted their fears and even guilt over events they could control and how brave they both were. This felt like a very complete, well paced love story.
Sometimes one needs to empathize, or to be in sync with the characters and often that makes some readers like something a lot and others not as much. 
For me, this romance worked out well. I'd change this and that for personal preferences but I can't say I wasn't plenty satisfied with the story as it was presented. I hope the next one is as good for me.
Grade: 9/10

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