Blurb: Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally. It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.
Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.
Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.
Review: I don't know that I've ever read a book that I simultaneously loved and was incredibly frustrated with, but somehow Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall has made it happen. Objectively, this book was positively spectacular. The writing, the characters, the quips, the queerness. Just a 5 star read all around.
But--and apparently I'm not the only one--I really loved Valentine, who we're supposed to not really like that much...and pretty much disliked everyone else in the book (at least at various times--cough Bonny--if not the entire time...looking at you Arabella). There were a few redeeming side characters that had me hooting with joy though.
Valentine was an awkward virgin, probably demisexual, Duke just trying to live his life without offending anyone and fulfill his dead father's dream of marrying a childhood acquaintance. And everyone acts like he's fucking Satan for it. I just wanted to wrap the poor, innocent, adorable little Valentine up in a rug and explain how sex works to him while patting him on the head whenever it got to be too much for him. Meanwhile everyone was else was treating him like garbage for just trying to do the right, albeit misguided thing. And no one was explaining it right to him. Just yelling at him a lot. Excuse me while I go weep.
Bonny was decent hero. I appreciated his loyalty to his sister and his openness with who he was and refusal to be ashamed about it. Trading a lick of his asshole for information was pretty fucking fabulous as well. He did make me want to pull my hair out a couple times in his treatment of Valentine, but I did still like him as a character. And I've definitely never read a character like him before in a historical novel (MM or otherwise) so he was for sure a breath of fresh air.
But god, this story was so cute and entertaining from start to finish. I adored that almost every single person was cute. I could not get enough of Valentine's on-going confusion and misinterpretation of events because he didn't know guys could fuck guys and girls could fuck girls and nonbinary people exist. I laughed so hard every time Sir Horley popped into the storyline with his painted naked babies on the ceiling and asshole colored bedroom.
I highlighted so many quotes and like...absolutely none of them were romantic. I was just highlighting all the unbelievably bonkers shit that Alexis Hall puts in his book and we're all just like, "Yeah, okay. Makes sense to me because you're obviously a genius." Because he is. And this book is.
Did I like it? I don't know. But I loved it. I cannot explain any further. Just laughs, laughs, frustrated screeching, more laughs.