Reviewing Trade Me by Courtney Milan.

I love my romance novels but I am exhausted of the cliches – rich tycoons and the sexually inexperienced woman? Boring. Rich businessmen and the sexy but doesn’t know secretary? So dull. These plots put me off romance stories for a long time (I realise now that I was definitely reading the wrong books for me) but recently I have started reading them again. Some of them I still don’t enjoy but some I love, and I love Courtney Milan. Her historical romances just make me happy and when books do that, they win. I had no idea that she was writing a contemporary romance until an author I love (*cough* Alisha Rai *cough*) was raving about it and the female protagonist on Twitter. I was intrigued so I got myself a copy.

But when I read the blurb and saw the words ‘billionaire hero’ my hopes crashed quite a bit. What I didn’t realise until I started reading this at this billionaire hero is a Courtney Milan billionaire hero. Blake Reynolds wants to switch lives with financially poor Tina Chen and it should have been a book about their comic mishaps and sexual tension as he teaches her a lesson about how hard he really does work. But it isn’t. It’s so much better. Blake wants to run away from his life as quickly as he can and swapping with Tina is the only way he can see that happening. This is a story about their relationship and we don’t actually see all that much of their new lives. And it’s not just about their relationship – the secondary characters are so well written that the story is as much about them as it is about Tina and Blake.

Blake is terrified of disappointing his very successful father whom he loves, while Tina has an intense feeling of responsibility towards her family. Her family immigrated from China when her father was tortured for practicing Falun Gong. In America her mother now devotes herself to helping other immigrants even if this means that Tina’s little sister doesn’t get her medication every month or that the bills won’t get paid. I loved Tina’s mum so much – by day she is a cake decorator and there is one scene where she decorates a cake for someone recently out of prison. Her advice in icing had me cackling.

Blake too is far more than a rich son. Beware, I am going to put in a spoiler. It is a mild spoiler because it isn’t hard to guess but it still is a spoiler. Blake has an eating disorder. He is an athlete and his relationship with food is, in his words, a ‘problem’ – he would rather run for hours than eat. See Blake is a Courtney Milan hero – he has no desire to rescue Tina, persuade her, or assert his alpha-ness over her. Instead he listens to her. I loved his relationship with his father (who has the same attitude to swearing that I have – the more the merrier) and I LOVED Tina’s relationship with Blake’s father. Their back and forth made some of the funniest scenes in the book.

Courtney Milan got the details in this book so right and Tina’s relationship with her mother doesn’t ring false at all. Tina’s love, resentment, anger, and amusement towards her mother was so incredibly relatable. Her issues and experiences as an immigrant were even more so. But I also related to Blake and relating to a male character is something that doesn’t happen very often. He is a runner and instantly I liked him. Courtney Milan’s description of running, of getting away from everything by running really struck a chord.

I loved Blake and Tina’s story and what makes me very happy that this is the first in a planned trilogy of books. The second one is going to focus on Tina’s best friend Maria and while I can’t wait to find out what happens to Tina and Blake infant to know what happens to Maria more. She is a trans heroine that I can’t wait to read about.

This was an innovate romance and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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