Maria runs a blog where she runs through various (post-)apocalyptic visions – all with an eye on the science. But she has always been careful to guard her anonymity, even with the one commenter she has been exchanging messages with for over a year. When Maria’s brother comes back to the city, he introduces her to his colleague from university Jay, thinking that they would get along. But rarely has there ever been a more instant dislike than between Jay and Maria. The thing is, though, that unbeknownst to them, Jay is Maria’s commenter and if they’d only let themselves, they’d probably like each other a whole lot.
Hold Me is a wonderful romance novel. I practically devoured it, although the whole enemies-to-lovers thing isn’t usually my preferred trope. Well, what can I say, it absolutely is when it is executed as well as it is here.
Maria is an awesome character, and she is awesome from the start. Jay is rather more complicated in that regard. He has some issues and by issues I mean that he is a sexist asshole while thinking he is a feminist. Fortunately, the novel is entirely aware of that, and Maria is, too. And she calls him out repeatedly and he actually works on this stuff and gets better and he apologizes. Insert “you know what that is? growth” gif here. I can live with that. In fact, I can live with that very well.
I also reallly liked how Maria’s being trans was handled here. If you’ve read Trade Me, you already know this about her, but if you didn’t know, it is only mentioned pretty far into the book because there is just a lot more to Maria than being trans. Yet, it is not like being trans doesn’t play a huge role in the person she is and I thought that this fact was beautifully engaged with.
I felt ever so slightly conflicted about the fact that Jay is bi. Don’t get me wrong – I’m bi myself, I always love when bi characters make an appearance anywhere. But that it is a bi person who dates a trans person made me wonder whether Jay’s very easy acceptance of Maria basically comes from him not caring whether she is a man or a woman, and not from him seeing Maria 100% as the woman that she is. There is just a bit of wiggle room for transmisia here that wouldn’t be there with a straight character. At the same time, though, the book never leaves any doubt that Maria is a woman and Jay also never seems to see her as anything else, so that entire paragraph is probably just me being overly cautious.
And genereally speaking I absolutely loved that we got a trans Latina and a bisexual Filipino as main characters for a romance novel (with added religious diversity as well). I absolutely want more of that, yes please. And in the end, I was absolutely happy with Jay and Maria and how they are together.
Since it was Trade Me that brought me to Hold Me, I also liked that we got glimpses of how Tina and Blake are getting along, though there tantalizing few of those. They make more of an appearance in the novella Year of the Crocodile that takes place at the same time and that I have yet to read. But once I read that, I might have to dip my toe in Milan’s historical romances (usually not my cup of tea), just so I can read more of her stuff.