This review was originally posted to The Geeky Waffle and has been reposted here with permission.
In All The Feels, the sequel to last year’s Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade has somehow managed to up the emotional – and trope-filled – ante in every conceivable way.
Alexander Woodrowe is in hot water with the Gods of the Gates showrunners. In the final weeks of shooting the last episode of the series, he was arrested by the Spanish police for getting into a bar brawl. Enter Lauren Clegg, cousin to one of the showrunners, who has been hired to be Alex’s minder until the final episode of the series airs.
But of course, things are never quite that simple. Though Alex chafes at the idea of having to be watched all the time, a part of him relishes the constant company. Meanwhile Lauren, who spent 13 years as a therapist in an ER, is enjoying the slower, less dangerous pace of her new temporary gig. Naturally, as the two find their rhythm, there is plenty of snark and banter between them to get those sparks flying.
Fans of Spoiler Alert will remember background mentions of this setup as related to Alex’s best friend and co-star Marcus. The first half of All The Feels actually takes place concurrently with Spoiler Alert. There is enough plot in the first half that could have constituted a novel all on its own, but thankfully Dade keeps the story going after the major blow-up at Con of the Gates, where Alex reveals he’s been writing explicit fanfiction about his own character Cupid, critiquing the final unaired season, and posting it on AO3.
It’s obvious to anyone reading that Olivia Dade consumes – and possibly writes – fanfiction. And I mean that in the most loving way possible. All The Feels is chock-full of some of the best tropes. Forced proximity. Emotional hurt/comfort. Only One Bed. Slow burn. Plus one I won’t dare ruin for you here, but yes, I cried.
Because Alex and Wren’s proximity is initially dictated by necessity, and not by their choice, it takes a while for them to come around to just being friends. Even as they gradually realize they’re attracted to each other, it takes a while for those feelings to come to fruition. Once they do decide to act on their feelings, it’s at the end of a lengthy slow burn period and it feels very earned, for them and for the reader. The frequent communication between Alex and Wren throughout the more intimate scenes was also just so knee-weakeningly sexy.
But beyond their sharp banter and searing chemistry, there is the emotional core of who Alex and Wren are that grounds the story. Both of them are genuinely good people who want to do their best by those around them. But a deeply-held guilt from his past is slowly eating Alex from the inside. A lifetime of putting others first has left Wren burnt out. The story doesn’t shy away from why they feel this way, and neither of them approach it in the same way, and therein lies the inevitable tension that carries them through the story.
The characters themselves are a delight. Wren has such a dry sense of humour, perhaps partly fuelled by the way the world treats women who don’t meet a strict set of criteria, and by 13 years in an emotionally taxing profession. But not all of it strikes me as defensive humour. She is genuinely that sarcastic, which is a perfect counterbalance to the bubbly, excitable, impulsive Alex. Some of that comes from his ADHD, sure, but so much of it strikes me as just pure, sincere, Alex. The two of them have such big hearts, it’s a blessing they found each other. I suppose absolutely terrible, failing-upward cousins can be useful for something.
As a complete personal aside, as someone in her early 30’s, I’ve enjoyed that the leads in both All the Feels and Spoiler Alert are in their mid-to-late 30s. It’s one thing to objectively know there’s no cutoff date to find a happily ever after, and it’s quite another to see it shown in such a swoony-yet-meaningful way.
I don’t think I’m doing justice to how much I loved this book. I read it in one sitting. I cried three times. There’s no way to really get into what I loved about it without robbing readers of discovering it themselves, so do yourself a favour and check out this very aptly-named novel.
All The Feels is available October 26, 2021.
Special thanks to Avon Books for the advance copy for review purposes.
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