Hello My Darling Bookworms,
I fell head over heels for Olivia Dade’s writing when I read Spoiler Alert (review) so it was only a matter of time before I started reading her back list. I enjoyed the entire There’s Something About Marysburg series via audio, thanks be to my Library’s Hoopla services. Kelsey Navarro is an awesome narrator, by the by. What’s so refreshing about Olivia Dade? Well, aside from being extremely witty and smart, she also writes plus-size heroines over the age of 35-ish. Most of the rom-coms I’ve read feature couples in their late 20s to early 30s, and reading love stories featuring older characters is a nice change of pace. I mean, I’m super married and all that, but love stories are so VIBRANT. Most literary characters in my age bracket are burned out parents and other middle age malcontents. To be fair, I am both of those things as well. But escapism. Plus it makes me happy when handsome guys find big girls irresistible. Let’s go to Marysburg, shall we?
Teach Me by Olivia Dade: Rose is a dedicated History teacher at Marysburg High School. She’s phenomenal- the students trust her and often push themselves out of their comfort zones to tackle her AP courses. Unfortunately, her department chair is an EPIC douche canoe, and when a shiny new teacher comes along, he sabotages Rose’s well-established system. Martin is new to Marysburg- he moved to the area when his ex-wife relocated so he could remain close to his teenage daughter. He is the unwittingly recipient of the spoils of Rose’s fractured system, causing friction between with his new co-worker. Are they rivals? Or could they be so much more? A few highlights for me: I love that Rose sort of retained joint custody of her in-laws after her divorce, and that said in-laws are wacky and pretend to be decrepit so that stubborn whippersnappers will allow them to pay for things. I am also extremely amused at the Goth softball team and their epic grudges. These teachers are so passionate about what they do and about shaping the lives of the weirdo kids who want nothing more than to see them fall into dunk tanks. The swoon is real, here, folks.
40-Love by Olivia Dade: Tess is on an epic tropical vacation to celebrate her 40th birthday with her BFF. Unfortunately, she loses her bikini top in the ocean early in the trip and has to flag down some random guy to help her out before she inadvertently flashes a bunch of kids. Turns out, the dude in question is the resort’s tennis instructor. Meet cute via accidental boob escape wasn’t on my radar, but did I enjoy it anyway? Yes! Well, minus the secondhand embarrassment. Tess is the Vice Principal at Marysburg High, and spending a large part of her supposed vacation working on initiatives to earn her a promotion to Principal. She finds herself with a little less time to work after her traitorous BFF sets her up with a bunch of tennis lessons with the Dude Bro. Lucas may be young (26) but Tess soon discovers that he doesn’t fit the stereotypes she expected. This is an exceptionally well done age gap romance, but I think I struggled with it as much as Tess did. It made me do a lot of thinking about why I have a knee-jerk cringe reaction to this sort of thing and how much it’s changed with age. I think a LOT of the potential weirdness in an age gap romance depends on the age of the younger party- I mean, human brains aren’t even fully developed until your early 20s, you know? And it’s totally relative, because 3 years can be a huge chasm if you’re talking about teenagers whereas a 10 year gap is NBD if the parties are both over 30. It’s just the power dynamic in real life situations is so often disconcerting (especially with high profile people- there is no 60 year old movie producer who needs to be dating a 20 year old starlet. That is creepy. A huge differential in money and influence may be a bigger factor than age, now that I think about it.) Anyway, it’s always an uphill climb for me to be like “yes, OK, this is a healthy, balanced relationship” when there’s a significant age difference in the characters. All that said, I’m sold on Lucas and Tess. Lucas has an old soul and sun damaged skin, while Tess is fun and definitely kept young by working with teenagers. It’s all good.
Sweetest in the Gale by Olivia Dade: This was a collection of short stories set in Marysburg. The first two featured teachers at the school, the last wasn’t directly school related. It kicked off with the love story of Candy Albright, the overenthusiastic English teacher we met in Teach Me. You know, the one who spearheaded the “Frankenstein is not the Monster” initiative? Epic. As the heroine of the subsequent story describes her “terrifying, but in a fun way.” She finds romance with a fellow English teacher. Then there’s Simon, the buttoned up math teacher, who falls for Poppy, the new art teacher whose side hustle is creating murder dioramas. Yeah. You read that right. We round things out with a sweet romance between Elizabeth and James, the oldest couple in the trio. Their only ties to Marysburg High were an offhand mention that James was a former English teacher (maybe he taught there? I may have missed a reference) and the fact that they attend a political town hall at the school. Short stories aren’t usually my jam, though I feel like these were more novella length? IDK, somewhere in the middle, perhaps. All that is to say, I’m STOKED that I got to read more about Candy. What a phenomenal character. I adore overly passionate weirdos. They’re the best kind of people.
Whew! I’ve got a lot of love for Marysburg, apparently. Go forth and read some Olivia Dade, Bookworms. You can thank me later.
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