Trade Me (Courtney Milan)

Trade Me is the first novel in the Cyclone series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 06.06.2020

Plot:
Tina Chen just wants to get her degree, so she can support her family properly and never have to worry about money again. Unfortunately, Blake Reynolds is also in her class, billionaire son of Cyclone Technologies. And when he makes some comments about being poor that drip with his privilege, Tina just can’t stick to her usual routine of keeping her head down. She calls him out and tells him that he couldn’t survive a month in her life. To her surprise, Blake approaches her later and proposes just such a change: he will live in her shoes for a while and she in his. It is too good an opportunity for Tina to make some extra money to pass it up, but it soon turns out that trading lives without getting close to each other is impossible.

After the entire thing with Milan and the RWA, I wanted to show my support for her by buying one of her books, and since I’m not much into historical romance, there weren’t that many options for me from her works. So I picked up Trade Me although I had my concerns about the premise. Would this turn into a “poor rich people have it hard, too” thing? I am glad to say that my concerns were completely unnecessary – Trade Me knows what it’s about politically, it’s a fun read and I very much liked Tina and Blake.

The book cover showing a white, blond man embracing an Asian woman.

Trade Me gets so many things right, I am still amazed that it managed all of that. How the trade works – and doesn’t work. The fact that it acknowledges that people with money do have problems, yes, but crucially – they also have the means to fix those problems as much as they can be fixed, which is a distinct advantage over poor people. The way that Blake just never considered some aspecets of Tina’s life and her class because he never had to deal with stuff like that and he sits back and learns from it. So, the political side of the story is handled very well – and since it’s a very political story, this is sorely necessary.

But Trade Me also subverts other expectations. For one, Tina is Chinese-American – rare enough for a heroine in a romance novel. Her best friend Maria is trans – and the protagonist of the next installment in the series, which is doubly rare. And I have to say that I was also pleasantly surprised by the relationship between Blake and his father which goes against the usual “upper class neglect” dynamic we often get to see in these stories.

Where Trade Me fulfilled expectations was in the romance department – Blake and Tina just work well together, their chemistry is palpable and I loved watching them grow together. So it was no question for me: as soon as I had finished Trade Me, I got myself the other published novel and short story in this world. I hope they’ll be equally as great.

Summarizing: Looking forward to read the rest of the series.

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