* * * *
Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.
Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?
Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review
I hadn't thought about how much story the world of the Reluctant Royals has in it. Alyssa Cole has managed to stretch this series out by continuously introducing fascinating characters with equally fascinating backstories ensuring that there'll be no suffering from boredom here. Admittedly, the premise that mega nerd and influencer, Reggie reaching out to fellow mega nerd and bit of an introvert, Gustave to request the use of his voice to help her fall asleep sounds way out there. But if I've learned anything from my exposure to the Reluctant Royals is that unlikely things do happen and usually result in some amazing consequences.
So, yes, Reggie makes her offer to Gustave and he takes her up on it though making a few changes. Since he has to create this escape room based on a popular anime that he knows nothing about, why not make a counter offer? They could barter services, so to speak: his voice for her anime knowledge. And they have a deal which means ample opportunity to get cozy with each other every day as they work on their projects. Gustave may be a genius at puzzles but he's not so adept at understanding people and social cues. Reggie is different for some reason. They've already established a relationship when she was his one and only YouTube follower way back when, so it's not like they're complete strangers. He finds her mind fascinating. She feels the same way about him though she hasn't necessarily wanted to get close to anyone. She loves this career she's created and the fact that it's founded in something she loves doing. Her enthusiasm is infectious and it only spurs Gustave on to want to do better.
At no point does Gustave treat Reggie's disability as a hindrance. In fact, he's more impressed by how she's navigated her surroundings to work for her, not letting anything stop her if she can at all help it. He even manages to get the industrious workaholic to take a breather every now and then. The main challenge is in dealing with her parents. If you've read Duke by Default then you know that Reggie and her twin sister, Portia have always been pitted against each other. The expectations placed on them have resulted in strained relationships between siblings and parents. I liked that we got to see Reggie's perspective on this.
Can't Escape Love was such a pleasing read. I love seeing two people perfectly matched in intellect and passion make it work.