Author: Olivia Dade
Publisher: Avon-HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
One Sentence Summary: It starts as a publicity stunt for handsome actor Marcus to go on a date with plus-size fan April, but it quickly becomes more, until their long-held secrets threaten to rip them apart.
Actor Marcus Caster-Rupp has played a fictional version of Aeneas in a long-standing TV series, and I think that’s what drew me to Spoiler Alert. I prefer Greek mythology, but did enjoy reading The Aeneid by Virgil, so the mere mention of Aeneas in the book description was more than enough for me to hit the Request button. Of course, it also mentioned fan fiction, of which I have exactly zero experience with (I can say little more about Twitter), but I figured I’d be able to figure things out. It proved to be a bit of a crash course in both fan fiction and Twitter, and I’m still not quite sure I understand how either operates, but it was fun, light, and fluffy, and just slightly off from what I expected from a romance.
The Plot: A Layered, But Sweet Romance
Marcus is the golden haired, dimwitted actor playing a fictionalized Aeneas based on a fictional book series inspired by The Aeneid. Off screen, though, he’s intelligent; just dyslexic. As the dimwitted actor, he only works out and styles his hair. As the real Marcus, he hates his story line as the series wraps up and has spent the last two years writing fan fiction anonymously, becoming best online friends with Unapologetic Lavinia Stan.
April is a plus-size geologist who has shipped Aeneas and Lavinia and writes fan fiction based around their story. She’s kept her hobby under wraps, but, as she starts a new job where three of her new colleagues have formed a truly bad folk band, she decides to start to reveal herself, by posting a full body image of herself in a Lavinia costume to Twitter. Of course, the trolls come out. Surprisingly and unexpectedly, so does Marcus, and he asks her out.
It starts as a publicity stunt, but they’re surprised to learn they actually find each other interesting and someone they can slowly open up to. Both of them come with their baggage, but it might be Marcus who keeps the biggest secret, the one that can spell ruin for them if he makes just one tiny slip.
As a romance Spoiler Alert is predictable, but it’s still fun. Marcus and April have a ton of chemistry together. Their relationship is easy, but there’s a really good reason why. It’s known to the reader early on, and had me practically yelling at Marcus to just tell her already, but his reasoning made sense. Much of this book is centered around the insecurities both of them have lived with all their lives, which wasn’t helped at all by their parents. It’s difficult to erase one’s history and start over, and this book proves that. It makes Spoiler Alert character driven despite it’s predictability. But it also shines a ray of hope that everything can be overcome and it’s possible to move forward.
My favorite parts were the interstitials. These ranged from bits of the fan fiction written by some of the characters, excerpts of scripts, and chat conversations between Marcus and April. Brief as they were, they helped paint a beautiful picture of them and their evolving relationship. It also helped point to their insecurities. Honestly, I felt their insecurities ruled too much both in their relationship and the story and made it drag on a little too much, but I did appreciate that it touched on sensitive topics and helped flesh out the characters. This is a layered romance, adding some complications and offering food for thought.
The Characters: Equally Layered
Spoiler Alert is about Marcus and April, an actor wearing a mask under his character and a geologist with a secret love of writing fan fiction. They come from similar backgrounds in that neither could fully satisfy their parents. It helped bring them together, but also felt a little overboard because there were similarities in how they were treated by their families. It is nice they had a deeper kind of understanding of each other, but the similarities made it a little boring.
On their own, they’re equally compelling, though. While their romance was sweet, albeit a little peppered with some secrets, I loved that they were both older (late thirties and forty), established, but still reeling from past hurts. It did feel like an awful long time to hold onto the injuries of childhood, but watching them grow alone and together was very sweet. Marcus was so much more complicated than most people thought he was. Watching him wrestle with letting it go was a little heartbreaking because it could have gone in so many ways. I loved April’s hard won confidence, though she still carried a scared little girl inside her like so many women still do. Her layers were gradually exposed and it just made her into a stronger, more confident character.
The story revolved around Marcus and April, but I would be remiss in not mentioning the characters that made up their world. There are Marcus’s co-stars and April’s work colleagues. They were all so much fun and had their own ways of encouraging Marcus and April both as people and as a couple. There was nothing but love and support for our couple, though I did find some of them more interesting than Marcus and April now and then. The one thing that annoyed me was that Marcus has a good number of co-stars, but they’re mostly only included during the interstitials, so it was difficult to even figure out who they were in relation to Marcus. Except his best friend, Alex, who was an incredibly fun character.
The Setting: So Close, Yet So Far Away From Hollywood
Most of Spoiler Alert takes place in Northern California. As a native of Southern California, I found I got a general feel of California, especially when it came to talk about earthquakes. Other than that, though, I had a harder time remembering it’s set in California. There weren’t really any landmarks mentioned and the atmosphere lent more of a small town feel. But it was a convenient location, not too far and not too close to Hollywood. It put Marcus and April not too far away nor too close together so there was still a distance hurdle, but it was almost negligible.
Overall: A Complex, but Sweet Story
There’s a lot of different pieces in this book, from fan faction to fat shaming to learning disabilities to discussions of Roman mythology. It made the story feel like it blew up a little, but can still be distilled down into a very sweet romance between two people who are a bit older than standard romance characters. It really focuses on their insecurities and how they are able to overcome them together and separately to turn them into a couple truly worthy of each other. It did seem to lag a bit in the middle, especially when their romance seemed so perfect despite secrets hanging over their heads and the shift to the parental disappointments that had been placed on them all their lives. But most of it is a cute, fluffy read about two very sweet people who need and love each other.
Great if you enjoy: romance, women’s fiction, somewhat light reads, fan fiction, Roman mythology, books about actors, insecure main characters who grow
Not great if you’re looking for: standard romance, quick and easy reads, simple plots, great parent-child relationships
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups should do
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Thank you to Netgalley and Avon-HarperCollins Publishers for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.