Tag Archives: politics

Love, Hate & Clickbait by Liz Bowery

Love, Hate & Clickbait by Liz Bowery

Bowery, Liz. Love, Hate & Clickbait. Harlequin, 2022. 336 pp. ISBN 9780778311898 $15.99


Political campaigner Thom is convinced that his employer, the governor of California, will be the next POTUS, and is only in the job for how far it will launch his own career. He vehemently dislikes his co-worker, data analyst Clay, who comes off as smug (Clay thinks Thom is pretentious). When the governor makes an off-handed remark about her lack style because she doesn’t have enough gays on staff, there’s an uproar. What do you do when you can’t spin it? subvert the narrative. Clay and Thom are caught in an intense argument during the fallout, and a reporter snaps and posts a photo that makes it look like there’s about to share a heated kiss. The governor offers a promotion and raise to both men if they agree to fake-date throughout the campaign–and things escalate from a few gads about town, and spending a LOT of time together, and eventually getting off together under the guise of being the only options for the time being. When the governor demands a proposal at the Santa Monica pier, they gamely go along; how far will they take it, and at what cost.

At the beginning of the novel neither are out; in fact, Thom breaks up with his girlfriend in chapter one, choosing work over her; Clay’s preferences were very subtle and not disclosed until at least midway through the novel. When Thom realizes that he is in fact attracted to Clay, the subject is dispatched in about a paragraph that he’s open to whatever and it’s NBD, really. Thom is distanced from his family, and it’s never resolved, and pretty sad. Homophobia and bullying are barely addressed. A side plot with Clay’s first tech start up and some challenges with his current project are not fully resolved, except he settles when charged with a lawsuit. The narrative exposes problems with fame, politics and clickbait, but doesn’t take a strong stance in analyzing.

This book is terrific for wonks! I had to look up a few things, including stump speech, body man and pork. While in most cases I discerned from contact, I found Political Dictionary really helpful. The writing is sharp, funny, and set firmly in present day, and there are some really lovely moments of introspection, witty banter, and steamy sex…but the lack of character development and Thom almost always being terrible made this a 3-star instead of a 4-star book for me. It was a fun read and very entertaining.

Love, Hate & Clickbait might be a read-alike for Red, White and Royal Blue or Not The Plan, for those who like their romance with a side of politics.

I received a free copy of #LoveHate&Clickbait from #NetGalley.

Not the Plan by Gia de Cadenet

Not the Plan by Gia de Cadenet

de Cadenet, Gia. Not the Plan. Dell, 2023. 320 pp. ISBN 978-0593356647. $17.00


I really wanted to love this novel. I thought it might be straight read-a-like for Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue–a romance about less than perfect people of color in a political setting. When Isadora, chief of staff to a state rep, accidentally spills coffee on a hot stranger at the airport, things escalate a bit to typical travel stress… but when they are seated next to one another, she decides to drop any instinctual snarkiness and be kind. Their meet cute doesn’t evolve to an exchange of contact information… and no one is more surprised than Isa when Karim turns out to be the new intern at the rival representative’s office. Although from the same party, the interoffice politics are likened to the drama of the Montagues and Capulets (another Shakespeare allusion, this publishing season is full of them) and she can’t be seen fraternizing with the enemy.

Trust is difficult for both Karim and Isadora; he’s struggling to extricate himself from a toxic marriage to a person with poorly managed bipolar disorder, and as he slowly lets down his guard and reveals his past abusive relationship, the symptoms and behaviors he describes very closely mirror those of Isadora’s manipulative, emotionally stunted and demanding mother. The portraits of and compassion for the mental health of others rings true, even as Karim and Isa struggle to set healthy and reasonable boundaries with difficult personalities. Adding to Isa’s stress are her career goals in a men’s world; her reputation is impeccable and political dealings on the level, but she knows just one perceived slip will lead to scandal and being accused of sleeping her way to the top. All she wants is to see her majority leader make it from the state to federal playing field.

The relationship progresses at a believable pace based on their mutual attraction, interests, and values. Supportive roles played by Karim’s brother and Isa’s (gay) best friend and co-worked provide space to vent and add to character development. The political setting gives a glimpse into how the sausage is made, and even the sordid scandal that comes at the denouement rings true. In an ugly scene, Karim and Isadora encounter and deal with sexualization (her) and racial slurs (him) and cope with it well.

As a reader who favors humor, a clever turn of phrase, painterly descriptions and sensory detail, I found the writing straight-forward but too monotonous and pedestrian for my taste–even through the multiple sex scenes, which were blow-by-blow detail and went on for 20+ ebook pages. The repetitive “blunt, honest?” before laying down a truth was overused, as were their pet names (the creative “beautiful” and “gorgeous”). While de Cadenet avoids the pitfalls of telling instead of showing and intersperses dialogue with action with success, there are long passages of exposition, and the vocabulary and actions were not varied like those of a seasoned storyteller. I plodded through, picked up Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun as a palate cleanser, and bingo: stellar writing, carefully chosen details, neuroses on full display, quirky characters. Better writing and better editing could have Not the Plan a four-star story.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #NotThePlan from #NetGalley.