Title: All the Feels
Author: Olivia Dade
Publication date: November 16, 2021
One Sentence Summary: After getting himself arrested, Alex, star of the hit TV series Gods of the Gates, is given a minder, the humorless Lauren Clegg, who must go everywhere with him for the next nine months.
All the Feels is the sequel to Spoiler Alert, but felt more like a companion novel instead. I found the romance and the characters tedious and, unfortunately, as much as I liked Alex in the first book, he wore me thin not even halfway through. Lauren kind of confused me, though I did kind of like her quiet dignity and strength. I liked the representation, but, it still fell flat. In the end, I had more fun flipping back through Spoiler Alert as there’s some overlap between the two books. I liked the depth it added to both stories and getting to see where the author had been going in the first book with Alex and Lauren, but, overall, All the Feels felt a little long and the romance took too long to get started.
With Gods of the Gates wrapping up filming, Alex has gotten himself into legal trouble. Furious, the producers decide that, until the final season has finished airing, he needs someone to go everywhere in public with him.
Enter Lauren Clegg, an ER therapist who has finally burned out. Minding Alex will be a piece of cake compared to what she had to deal with in the ER for over a decade.
But Alex has a particular streak to him, one that makes her job difficult, but which also helps bring them together.
Last year, I really enjoyed Spoiler Alert (Marcus and April’s story), so was expecting All the Feels to be just as wonderful: a sweet romance wrapped in some really heavy topics. I also really liked Alex in Spoiler Alert, so was looking forward to getting to know him and Lauren more. Unfortunately, the whole story fell flat to me and I enjoyed flipping back through Spoiler Alert as the two books overlap more than actually reading All the Feels.
My biggest problem with this book was actually Lauren. Even though I’m not plus size, I still very much appreciate books that represent women like her (I did like that she’s about my height, though). For much of the book, she seems to take it all in stride quite well, even though she’s minding a man who repeatedly reminds me of how much she reminds him of a small, round bird and (lovingly) jokes about her size (we’ll get to Alex next). But what bothered me the most, though, was the fact that she’s an ER therapist, but seems to be a complete pushover and doesn’t appear to have any boundaries. I was trained to be a psychologist and boundaries is the biggest part of the job. Yet Lauren didn’t seem to have any, especially when it came to family, and with Alex to some extent. Everything was fine to her and as expected. I couldn’t help wondering why she kept saying yes at work and wasn’t in therapy herself when her job was so demanding and emotionally taxing. It also bothered me that, as the story unfolded, it appeared that Lauren didn’t really have any self-worth until Alex started revealing his feelings for her. It was like she needed a man to validate her to light the fire under to go for what she wanted and exude confidence in her appearance. I liked her initial dour characterization as it made for some fun banter, but it quickly fell away and I felt much of her interactions with Alex degraded into playful, yet potentially harmful jokes.
And then there’s Alex. So, I really liked him in Spoiler Alert. He was a lot of fun and was clearly bouncing all over the place. He very much felt like the life of the party, so I really liked that All the Feels gave him depth and clear motivations that really did tug a bit at my heart strings. But what completely failed were his repeated, affectionate jabs at Lauren. For the entirety of the book, he constantly referred to her (to himself, to others, and to Lauren’s face) as a small, round bird and just would not stop mentioning how short and large she was. I couldn’t help thinking that, if I were Lauren, I’d probably deck him. Her patience with him was annoying, but, this being a romance, the romance that abruptly bloomed between them halfway through was just kind of mind boggling. And then there’s the fanfiction. He was so into it in the first book, but it was barely present in this one. Even though I’m not a fan of fanfiction, I was really missing it here.
The romance was my least favorite part, which is weird considering this is a romance. But it really doesn’t start up until about halfway through. The first half is focused on Lauren minding Alex and making sure he doesn’t get into trouble (how that was supposed to work, I still haven’t the foggiest idea. Is she supposed to physically restrain a man who appears to be twice her height? Is she supposed to clap a hand over his mouth every time he tries to say something? Is she supposed to drag him away from bad ideas?). An easy friendship blooms between them, which was nice and cute. There were some bits of romantic feelings thrown in, but nothing that said these two were falling hard for each other. It felt more like a story of two people with baggage who find a kindred spirit, but not necessarily a life partner. I enjoyed their camaraderie much more than their romance. And then the second half hit and, with it, the romance. I felt like I was being knocked over the head with it, it came on so strongly.
But Marcus was in it. He wasn’t seen much, but I did adore him and April. I didn’t like that April wasn’t in the story. Maybe because this was meant to focus on Lauren and only one plus size woman can be in a book at a time? I honestly have no idea why she was excluded when she was Marcus’s partner for much of All the Feels. Every time Marcus appeared, I felt like I was looking over his shoulder for April. There wasn’t even really much of an explanation for why she wasn’t around. But Marcus was wonderful. I loved getting a bit of his story from Alex’s eyes. My absolute favorite part was flipping back through Spoiler Alert to find the same scenes in both books, but from different perspectives. It made for an interesting, in-depth look at Marcus and April. And, clearly, the author had put some thought into Alex and Lauren because the overlap was so incredibly smooth.
Alex’s mom was also a big plus for All the Feels. Considering she’s basically the only family the reader gets to know, she was like a breath of fresh air. She was so down to Earth and so loving despite the hurts she had suffered years before. Alex is clearly very fond of her, and it definitely goes both ways. She’s such a sweetheart and such an incredible mother. I really wanted to see more of her, but getting the small amount the reader does get of her was enough to soften my heart a little towards this book.
Overall, I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to think of this book. The romance was not smooth. The characters annoyed me. The story didn’t really make sense to me in terms of Lauren’s jobs. I appreciated the representation, but a book needs more than that to be good. I really wanted to like this because I loved Spoiler Alert, but there was just too much time spent on Alex affectionately degrading Lauren.
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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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