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André by Jayce Ellis

If JEREMIAH was good (it was), ANDRÉ is great. This is an author coming into her own. ANDRÉ is by turns heartwarming, thought-provoking, gut-punchingly real, and so hot you’ll want to open a window. Let me be clear: more of you should be talking about ANDRÉ, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The setting here is so familiar; we’re not talking about untouchable billionaires, we’re talking about the people who work for them in the real world. In the first book, it was emergency services and legal administration. Here, it’s financial advisors. It’s so delightfully realistic and yet also seems so unprecedented; some of these jobs are, frankly, super boring, and yet Ellis points out that the people who do them certainly aren’t. The side characters are once again a delight, helping to move the plot forward while still being interesting, well-rounded people in their own right, exactly as side characters should be. I loved Fiona, Jake, Brian, and Howard. But they had nothing on André and Marcus. These characters are SO GOOD. Jayce Ellis has proved she has a fantastic narrative voice, and it’s even better here than it was in the first book. I sank happily into both main characters’ heads, easily finding myself within their distinct personalities, informed by so much of their personal histories.

The casual cruelty in André’s family’s supposed acceptance of his sexuality hits home in a heartbreaking and familiar way; so many have experienced the way that ‘support’ can come couched in conditions that are designed to break you. The long-lasting impact of his family’s treatment of him is explored thoughtfully, with self-awareness on his part that is often lacking in so many characters (and people!). It’s paired with additional trauma that has an impact on his career, and it seems almost insurmountable. And there’s no magic cure, as there shouldn’t be. It’s something he has to work through, unfair as it is – so much of what has caused his issues is not his fault. It’s external – people, family, culture. And we all internalize that stuff, as André does, and turn it into our own personal weight to bear. He struggles with his own expectations of himself as much as Marcus does, in different ways.

Marcus’ plotline is one that hit me really, really hard, in ways I can’t talk about without spoiling a pretty big plot twist that, frankly, surprised me as much as it did Marcus. And I loved it. It was such an unexpected turn for this book to take, and I deeply appreciated the way Ellis approached an issue that is almost never addressed in modern romance novels. And Marcus went. through. it. trying to figure himself out, while still balancing everything he needed to keep up with (I think we all know that I appreciate a book that addresses the practicalities of a situation – in real life, you can have all the personal crises you want but if you can’t keep up with your schoolwork, or your career work, there are longer lasting consequences than a novel has room for, so the fact that both Marcus and André cling grimly to getting shit done is deeply appreciated over here).

The happy ending in this book is so thorough, so hard-won and solid, that even the villain of André’s past getting his well-deserved and solid comeuppance registers as barely a footnote with the protagonists, so secure with each other that while they’re satisfied to see it happening, they don’t really need the ‘closure.’ It’s like sprinkles on the top of their (and the reader’s) sundae of happiness, and I’m here for it. This whole book is about moving past things that you couldn’t control, and coming into your own with the life you truly want. Like JEREMIAH, I’m deeply satisfied that these people will be WORKING for their happy ending; they’ve formed a partnership with clear goals in mind but they haven’t actually REACHED those goals. It’s such a realistic, wonderful way to end a romance; with characters who are in love and working together towards a bright future, with acknowledgement that they still live in the real world and have commitments. I said in my review of JEREMIAH that I loved the fact that you could picture these two together, their story ongoing, after the book ends, and the same is true here. André and Marcus have more life to live, and they’re going to live it together. (And PS, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo that is delightful, as the setting for this series is the apartment building that several characters live in.)

I honestly don’t have enough words to describe how much I loved this book. There’s so much more about it to say, and I’m flailing trying to describe the impact it had on me. I’m trying to write a review for something I flew through in three hours because I couldn’t stop reading it, something that I identified with in SO MANY WAYS, something that was a joy to read for a multitude of reasons. I’m mad that I didn’t read this the SECOND it became available to me. I want to read it again, to pick up all the nuances I missed, to wallow in these characters, to enjoy those steamy scenes again – both the ones where they were having sex and the ones where they weren’t! I want to think more about gender roles, and race, and mental health, and family, and community, and everything else this book wraps up into a compelling package. I want you to read it, too.