Dade, Olivia. Ship Wrecked. Avon, 2022. 416pp. ISBN 978-0063215870 $17.00
I might have squeed when this one showed up in my NetGalley queue. Dade, author of a series of Guardians of the Gates themes stories based on a fictional epic (and possibly epically bad) fantasy television series, their stars, and their love interests, has done it again. I might or might not but definitely did read it three times even through my TBR pile is through the roof.
Ship Wrecked focuses on the story of Maria, a Swedish actress brimming with insults, jarred herring and body positivity, and her Viking-esque also full-bodied co-star Peter. Their meet-cute is a one-night stand that starts in a sauna and ends with Maria sneaking out the next morning… only to bump into Peter in the casting session. Having been left before, and never quite measuring up to his father’s dreams for him (hint: not acting) makes the rejection sting all the more and he plays it cool. Their talent and chemistry land them the roles that launch them into superstardom. Over multiple seasons of a shipwrecked story arc that leaves them filming remotely with a skeleton crew, Maria wins Peter over to friendship, not realizing his slow burn for her. When filming is finally over, and they are free to risk a crash and burn they give in to their passions, expecting geography will separate them, but an unexpected press tour forces them to stay in proximity, but meet one another’s families as well, waaay too early into a typical romance, but somehow, just right for their six-year friendship.
Dade’s male characters are real and flawed, and always have something to overcome: Marcus’s dyslexia, Alex’s ADHD and anxiety. For Peter, it’s a social ineptness that leaves his unable to make small talk or form friendships. Outgoing Maria seems to see through his surly mask and without taking on his emotional load, facilitates the crew forming a sort of family while on location, and helps Peter open up and make connections. He makes the mistake of not sticking up for her once, and then finds ways to keep her safe during some dangerous and dramatic filming moments. While they fundamentally disagree on the value of their job, it is cynical (or savvy) Maria who recognizes the choice to cast fat actors may have been to have them dramatically lose weight for their storyline, and she flat out refuses. And to be clear, she has her own hangups and issues and needs to resolve them. When Peter gets offered a job filming on location in another country, will Maria be forced to abandon her dreams to follow him, or to abandon her love to pursue her own path?
This warm, funny, sexy novel also dips into themes of abandonment (her adoption in late childhood, the death of his mother and rejection from his former fiance) and details the making of a television series. Body issues are dealt with handily–not jus challenged, but denounced–Maria refuses to starve herself or shave for the gig, no matter what the producers want, and is armed with an iron-clad contract, suitcases full of snacks, and a social media following for support.
One of my favorite part of these books is the reintroduction of past characters through their group chat thread. The exchanges are delightful and true to form and Dade manages to both remain true to the characterizations and move their stories forward. Bonus: the cover art is by the same artist as the previous two books, and is just perfect. Also: Why isn’t this series called Guardians of the Gates?
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #ShipWrecked from #NetGalley.