Tuesday, May 24, 2022

‘Something Fabulous’ Review: A Hilarious Regency Romp With Heart

An uptight duke and two headstrong twins. A marriage proposal gone horribly wrong. One fabulous road trip. Something Fabulous is Alexis Hall’s latest hit, made up of equal parts hilarity and heart. It’s a historical romance that isn’t afraid to be thoroughly modern in its characterizations (and its treatment of its queer leads) while still retaining the charm of a Jane Austen novel. It’s laugh out loud funny, but its moments of sincerity are breathtaking.

Our protagonist is Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, whose every move is governed by maintaining his status and the order of the world. His best friend might be his valet, and his existence is lonely, but it satisfies him. He’s spent his life not understanding the way others move on instinct and feelings, finding comfort in routine and a sense of duty. Since he was a boy, he has been intended to marry Arabella Tarleton, and being a gentleman of his word, he travels to propose despite feeling nothing for her.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) for poor Valentine, Arabella has notions of “romance” and “adventure” rather than “quiet, dutiful life” on her mind. Insulted and scared by Valentine’s proposal, Arabella bolts. Arabella’s equally fanciful twin brother Bonny is convinced that if Valentine could simply propose again and mean it, Arabella will change her mind. Thus begins a madcap chase across the English countryside after Arabella as the grumpy Duke finds himself opening up to the carefree Bonny. But will his newfound feelings trump his fears?

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First and foremost, Something Fabulous is incredibly entertaining. Hall’s worlds are always populated with side characters who are just as funny and well drawn as the leads, and that is no exception here. The plot moves at a brisk pace, but never so fast that the reader is lost. It’s the type of novel that almost requires a full afternoon to simply get lost in the story with no other obligations (I finished it in one sitting). It’s packed with romantic tropes that always feel fresh, and if you’re looking for a solid regency romance, you’ve found one.

But Something Fabulous contains hidden depths beyond its fluffy premise and promise of a happy ending. Hall chooses to make almost every character in the book queer with wonderfully rich lives. A running gag is Valentine’s complete obliviousness to this, and it’s both hilarious and effective at driving home how ridiculous it is to assume that heterosexuality is the default setting. Valentine himself is demisexual, and it is moving to watch his growing realizations about himself and how he loves as the book goes on. It’s a journey that is rarely portrayed, particularly in this genre, and it’s done well.

Bonny at first seems like he has his life figured out, bursting with confidence and light that calls to Valentine. But we soon learn that there’s more to Bonny’s sunny disposition than meets the eye. These two characters help each other become the best versions of themselves, and their sweet (and it must be said, extremely hot) dynamic is what gives Something Fabulous its beating heart. I could read another five books about their lives, and hopefully they will make an appearance in the forthcoming sequel/spin-off novel Something Spectacular. Witty, entertaining, and all manner of hot, Something Fabulous is sure to please Alexis Hall fans looking for his trademark sense of humor and a skillfully crafted romance.

Something Fabulous is out now wherever books are sold. You can learn more about Alexis Hall’s other work on his website.

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