Trade Me: Review

June 10, 2015 2015, 3.5 star books, contemporary, Layla, lgbtq, romance 16 ★★★½

Trade Me: ReviewTrade Me by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #1
Published by Self-Published on January 19, 2015
Genres: adult, contemporary
Pages: 279 pages
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Systems. But when he makes an offhand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart...but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Hey, y’all, I have a recent New Adult book to recommend: Courtney Milan’s Trade Me. This is one I’ve been meaning to review forever, but I love Courtney Milan so much, it’s hard for me to put my feelings about her books into words sometimes.

But they’re basically this: only Courtney Milan could make me love a New Adult book about billionaires. And have me anxiously making grabby hands towards the next book in the series, which I am even more excited about. End of 2015, why are you not here yet?!

To be totally fair, Trade Me is about much more than billionaires and/or their secret pain, and that is probably one of the reasons that I liked it so much. When I read a book by Courtney Milan – and I have read them all, because she is one of my favorite authors and I love her, and if you haven’t read her romance series go do that now – I know that it’ll be smart, be centered on a complex female character, and engage with social issues in a meaningful way. (For example, some of the secondary romances are same-sex couples! There’s a romance about women doing scientific research!) And Trade Me definitely does this; one of the reasons it works so well for me, despite being a book about billionaires, is because it asks us to think about what it means for a book to feature a billionaire love interest (i.e., how screwy is the power differential between the hero and heroine). And, more importantly, it keeps Tina front and center in the narrative.

For Trade Me, the premise is as follows: when billionaire tech-company heir Blake Reynolds makes a classist comment in a college seminar, our protagonist Tina Chen, who comes from a lower-income family and is working her way through college, calls him out on it. She challenges him, saying, “Try trading lives with me. You couldn’t manage it, not for two weeks.” While Tina’s just trying to make a point, her words spark something in Blake (who is desperately trying to escape imminent and overwhelming responsibilities, and maybe disappear altogether). Blake approaches Tina with the offer to trade lives: he wants to switch places with her and inhabit her life. As part of this bargain, Tina will help him with an upcoming product launch for a new smart-watch and receive about $50,000 over the course of three months. In return, Blake will live in her place, live off what she does, and treat her life as if it matters. Tina doesn’t want to get sucked into caring about Blake (she has enough problems of her own) and further stipulates that the relationship between them ends when the trade does. Fair enough, and they’re off.

What I liked about this book: oh boy, so much. That doesn’t mean it was perfect – it’s not – but I still loved it. Tina is a great character – she’s smart, she’s determined, she doesn’t put up with Blake’s nonsense, and she loves her family fiercely – and I would happily read more books about her. And while she accepts Blake’s deal because she needs the money, she’s clear at communicating to him that this will never be a real trade: at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, his family, money, and connections will always be there for him. She doesn’t have that luxury. Additionally, I love it when authors build a community around their heroine, and Milan does this: Tina’s family and best friend, Maria, are fleshed-out and complex characters (here’s hoping we get more about Tina’s family in future books; Maria is the protagonist of the next in the series, so I know we’ll see more of her). Finally, I’m a sucker for snappy dialogue, and this book delivers; there is, for example, some seriously funny flirtation around non-disclosure agreements and the product launch that closes the novel had me grinning like a maniac.

My only reservations around the book were mostly centered on the trade itself. Much of the action that takes place during the trade seemed to be around the upcoming Cyclone product launch (and, consequently, Adam and Blake’s relationship). I sort of wanted more about what Tina was up to during the trade independent of Blake? And, in turn, how the trade affected Blake? There’s maybe more telling than showing when it comes to seeing whether or how their deal changes their lives. Additionally, Blake is dealing with a problem – View Spoiler » – when the book opens, and while this ultimately gets dealt with in a healthy way (he seeks professional help), there were still some things about this that left me feeling unsettled. Here’s the biggest one: View Spoiler »

Despite this, I really liked Trade Me and would recommend it if you’re looking for a New Adult that doesn’t heavily play into some of the tropes of the genre. Tina is an A++ protagonist and I rooted for her the whole way through, I like how the book engages with class privilege, and I loved the humor. Has anyone else read it? If so, what’d you think?

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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16 Responses to “Trade Me: Review”

  1. Rose D.

    Love Courtney Milan! Totally On the list. Along with 700 million other books…

  2. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Hmmm, so very interesting to see a male character dealing with those sort of issues instead of it being the female one! And I love that the female seems to be the one being the one with the mental fortitude and strenght of character as a way to equalize somewhat the power inbalance since we have a billionarie as a love interest!
    Great review Layla, I might be adding this one to my TBR pile!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…BEA 2015 Recap – Day 3 Friday!!

  3. J. Oh

    I recently read Courtney Milan for the first time after one of your posts (I normally don’t read outside of children’s/YA often), and was really pleasantly surprised by The Duchess War. I saw that she had written this one, too, and was wary because, in general, I really don’t like NA, and of course there’s so much potential for it to fall in with the typical tropes I don’t like. But your review is encouraging! I definitely want to read some more Milan, so I’ll keep this one in mind.

  4. Amanda

    I haven’t loved a lot of NAs but you’ve hooked my curiosity. She’s been an author I’ve been wanting to try. Off to the library site!
    Amanda recently posted…Review: The Shore

    • Layla

      It’s one of the things I like most about Courtney Milan’s work – she’s awesome at revisiting the tropes of the genres she works in. (Like, the first book of hers that I read – I kept expecting certain things to happen because those were the things that happened in historical romances, but she kept on thwarting my expectations and I loooooved it. And she’s continued to do that since and in super interesting ways, too.) She primarily writes historical romances, and this is the first contemporary thing she’s written, I think, but I’m excited to see her continued work in NA. This is not to diss stuff that plays into romance novel or NA tropes btw, ’cause I like that stuff too, but it’s important to me that lots of different stories get told in lots of different ways. So, I’m still down to read about tattooed bad boys on motorcycles helping college girls explore their sexuality, but this was a nice break. :) Give it a try? I recommend her work A LOT.
      Layla recently posted…Trade Me: Review

    • Layla

      I mean, I think I’ve seen this stated elsewhere, but if I’m giving this 3.5 stars, it’s only because her previous work sets the bar so high for me. She’s one of my favorite authors and I think she is so, so super smart and interesting and her romance novels are books I actually re-read (a rare feat for me these days when there’s so much new stuff I wanna read, too). Are there faults? Sure. But I’m more willing to believe that they’re just based on preferences I have as a reader than like … a lack of rigor or thoughtfulness on Milan’s part, which is not always the case. She’s the best. If you’re looking for a new NA series to tackle, I highly recommend – along with all of romances.
      Layla recently posted…Trade Me: Review

  5. Nikki

    Definitely going to be reading this. I read the spoilers too and that honestly just made me want to read it more. Having been through the condition that Blake suffers, I find it interesting that this book is taking it from being such a female dominated subject to showing that it doesn’t matter if you’re rich/poor or male/female.

    Thanks for the great review!

  6. Alexa S.

    Ah, Layla, you’ve totally made me want to consider reading Trade Me, thank you very much. Tina sounds like an AWESOME protagonist, and I’d love to read more about her!
    Alexa S. recently posted…Love Letters for Lara Jean

  7. marjorie

    Great review. I don’t read contemporary romances and the very thought of billionaire heroes makes me shudder. (I live in NYC’s East Village, a once-creative and -diverse community rapidly becoming the domain of rampaging entitled finance bros.) The only reason I picked this up was because Milan wrote it. And I too found it very funny and loved Tina. I also loved Blake’s foul-mouthed, abrasive dad, Adam, and I loved the way Tina managed him. And I too was really into the peripheral characters; Tina’s mom in particular is an AWESOME and nuanced figure. Perhaps predictably for me, I found the billionaire — Blake — the least interesting part of the book by far.

    But Milan knows how to make a story flow, and there’s so much humor and hotness. I’m in for the sequels.