Cover Image: The Inverts

The Inverts

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Member Reviews

Bettina and Bart, having grown up as childhood friends and having discovered they preferred their own sex, agree upon a marriage to hide their homosexuality, which was a crime in the 1920s and 30s in which this story is mostly set. A good setting for an interesting story, but sorry to say, I was very disappointed.

Not only are the characters all very unlikeable, self-centred and superficial, there is no real story behind it, just an endless chain of parties, drugs, alcohol and superficial often violent sex inbetween, decorated with a lot of swearwords and verbal abuse. There is no development, peak or any hope for better relationships. The crime towards the end did nothing for it too. Only the last chapter showed a bit of humanity.

I wouldn´t have finished the book if it weren´t for a review. So thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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In The Inverts, we see the lives of Bart and Bettina, two childhood friends who enter into a Lavender marriage and live a decadent lifestyle full of drink, drugs and affairs. 

This is an absolute train wreck in slow motion, and I have to say that I am completely here for that. We know that something bad is going to happen because we're told at the beginning of the book, and then after that the whole story is building up to that moment. I'm keeping it vague to avoid spoilers, but there was definite tension as I waited to see how things were going to go down, which I really liked.

About the characters. Well, everyone in this book is absolutely awful. There were pretty much no characters that I liked, and it felt a bit like watching soaps or reality TV. I did feel for the main characters at times, but most of the time I just really didn't like them, and felt they were kind of getting what they deserved. Or, at times when things seemed to be going alright, that they were getting more than they deserved. 

The book has a great sense of atmosphere, and the place and time came across really well. However, the plot dragged a little at times, and then ended rather abruptly. I did enjoy the book, although I did need to read something with nicer characters afterwards!

3.5 stars.
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This is a breathtaking, and. Brilliantly witty and course novel. I loved both of these characters and found them lovable and roguish in equal measure. They just spring off the page and fill you with joy. Wonderful cast of characters and intoxicating story. Might need a cocktail or two to enjoy the spirit of this novel.
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I loved reading The inverts! Bettina and Bert are amazing main characters and I love their characterization, their bond and how strong and stubborn they are! The story is brilliant, funny and made me think so much about queer love, friendship and loyalty!
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Bart and Bettina have grown up together, privileged and good-looking, too young to be personally affected by the Great War (though Bettina's older brother came home with a bad case of shellshock and a single arm). At the outset of the Roaring Twenties, they are discovering adult life, and coming (via separate experiences) to the same conclusion: they are both inverts. Bart is seduced by a gorgeous young French artist, Etienne, on a school trip to Paris; Bettina is caught in flagrante, in the school boiler room, with her friend Margo.

It seems inevitable that they should marry: they love one another, they share a sense of humour and a defensive prickliness, and neither of them is likely to be a good spouse to anybody. Cue wild parties, booze and drugs, a career in movies for Bart, a series of best-selling books by Bettina -- and, bookending it all, a murder mystery.

The blurb gives the impression that this is a light-hearted romp through the Twenties and Thirties, and it is often very funny: but it's also painful and sometimes depressing. Neither Bart nor Bettina is especially lucky in love, and despite their early promises to be kind to one another they treat one another very cruelly. Most importantly, though, they are not characters that I could warm to. There's a sneeriness to them, a disdain for their 'friends' and families, and a strong vein of hypocrisy in their attitudes. At different times, both try to overcome their innate prejudices: Bettina manages it during the Second World War when she's working as a rat-catcher, Bart achieves it from time to time, but they're both too selfish, too superficial, for it to really stick.

The language is lush and sensual, with a lot of food-based metaphors -- though these sometimes jar in conjunction with the frequent slurs against fatness. Descriptions of the physical often tend towards the earthy or even the gross: sweat, vomit, Bart's brush with the Spanish Flu. Glasses and cigarette butts are lipstick-stained, and everyone has bad breath. There is a relentless insistence on bodily functions: Bettina letting loose a long-held fart, Bart burping into his whisky, a newborn baby already leaking urine.

Which is not to say that the story isn't interesting: the arc of Bettina and Bart's relationship with each other and their myriad affairs, the raucous parties and decadent soirees of the Twenties and Thirties, the secrets within families and the openly queer folk in the London arts milieu. Some fun cameos, some poignant moments: if only they had happened to nicer people ...

Thanks to Netgalley for the free review copy!
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Ok, whew. Here we go, I guess. I was going into this book, hoping for a fun, dramatic read with serious undertones, I was expecting glitter and a bit of queer history. What I got instead was… something different. I’m not sure where to start, but I really did not like this book. I wanted to, but I unfortunately did not.

The thing is, I can like books even when the protagonists are unlikeable. Not in this case, though. The protagonists were horrible and to be honest, the side characters weren’t exactly better. Bettina is headstrong, always needs to be in the right and really petty. And she is a hypocrite. How to describe Bart, though? He really likes sex and sexual encounters in general. Bettina does, too, but I’m not sure how describe Bart other than either indifferent or aggressive and out for sex.Oh, did I mention they’re both quite superficial? And selfish?

I couldn’t really understand their friendship. They’re supposed to be best friends and while they do know each other really well, they are constantly fighting or making trouble or being angry at each other. They apparently have the same humor and find each other incredibly funny but for me, they were mostly just rude or annoying.

The protagonists are very sexually active. All. The. Time. Do they have any hobbies, really? Other than seeing a human being and wanting to sleep with them? And then, more often than not, actually sleeping with them? I don’t think so.
Their families weren’t better. Their mothers were both gossiping all the time, the fathers died at some point. The siblings, too. The lovers? Uhhhh. There was just depth missing.

I also really had problems with the pacing. There is this subplot that frames the main story set in the 1990s. It was off-putting and in my opinion, didn’t add anything to the story except confusion. I guess it’s supposed to make it more interesting, bring a murder mystery into it, but I just found it a bit unnecessary.

And I thought the book would be mostly set in the 20s and a bit the 30s, theose decades really „whizz“ past, as it says in the synopsis. There are a lot of time leaps so that you suddenly get thrown into a complete situation than the one in the chapter before and it really put me off. Some things I’d like to have discussed in greater detail were just thrown under the rug, never to be mentioned again. I would have liked to see the characters deal with grief, for example. Or with their addictions. But they never do.

Then there’s the matter with genitals. And bodily fluids. Both were mentioned very often, sometimes at seemingly random points in the story. Sometimes in a sexual context, sometimes, as I said just completely random. And I really do not need vivid descriptions of bodily fluids and what they look like and taste like and… just, no.

I just felt very uncomfortable reading this book. I wish there would have been trigger warnings, because I had to put it down at several times or skip a few pages because I couldn’t deal with it. Please take the trigger warnings I gave above seriously.
But yes, I wasn’t a big fan of the book. Neither the plot nor the characters could really capture me. It made me feel slightly sick and uncomfortable. I wish I could say something positive but I really can’t. There was jsut too much going on there, the ever present fatphobia, the various drugs, homophobia, … I don’t even know where to start and stop.
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I love the whole concept of this! I'm so interested in LGBTQ history and in my day-job I work with older people., so it was fantastic to see some representation of older LGBTQ history. I found the first couple of chapters a little bit bumpy because it seemed like a few characters were described as fat, and I felt it was used to categorise them as lazy/grotesque etc. However, the voices of the main characters are really really strong and within a few chapters I was really feeling it. It's definitely funny and naughty, there are some really fun working class Welsh idioms that really sang out to me, and I love the excess and luxury of the 1920s seen through an upper class lens. There are also moments of real pathos! And it is great that the main relationship at its heart is a complex friendship.
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I hate writing bad reviews because I know there's an actual human being behind this who put a lot of effort and time into writing this. And I implore you, if you're the author and don't want to see negative things written about your work, please stop reading here.

I initially gave this book two stars after finishing it because I thought: Well, I did like the first 100 or so pages. Then, after sleeping on it, I just couldn't. And here is why.

While the story itself sounds like fun and glam and two best friends making the best of being stuck in the 20s (all things that drew me to this book), that took up about one chapter. Everything else was just a little off for me. There's this added "suspense" with a murder mystery shoved in there which was the biggest anti-climax I've ever read in my life. It's there in the first chapter, it's there in the last chapter but it's... not exciting an dare I say even a little boring?

Okay, let's talk about the characters. I didn't like any of them. Not a single character. Not one. There were some that had moments where I felt like I could start to like them only to be absolute idiots a second later. It is hard to read a book if you're not rooting for anyone or even sympathising. Especially when they're the main characters. Why did I not like them you ask? Well, this ties in nicely with my next point.

Who here loves trigger warnings? I do. Because there are just some things that I stay away from. From how this book was presented, I did not see suicide, drug abuse (though let's be real, it's the 20s, I did expect drugs in one form or another), sexual harassment, murder, a very weird fascination with genitals and so on and so on, to be in this book. But it was.

The MCs also came across a bit predator-y with both of them fancying anyone of their own gender with a pulse and constantly daydreaming about sex. Except for one time, when one of the MCs did more than daydream and actually harassed their household staff. And when the person resigns, they think about how that's ridiculous and over reacting. Just no. Generally, this book relies a lot on disgusting descriptions and I am not quite sure why. Everything smells horrible, everyone's teeth are rotting, if someone is losing bodily fluids we WILL know about it and I don't like it. I also didn't like the obsession with genitals. I did not need to know how every single character's genitals look like ESPECIALLY those of kids. I kind of kept slowly blinking at the book when the description of a newborn was 5 lines long and 3 of them was about genitals. NO. I even read this part out to three friends to see if I am being too "snowflakey" but they were absolutely horrified. So was I and I still am, frankly. After that, I kind of just wanted this book to end and I was only about halfway through.

Not that I would have missed a lot if I'd stopped right there and then because to me, my summary is that I wish I hadn't read it. I was triggered, I felt really anxious during and after reading it, I was disgusted and uncomfortable and for the murder mystery then ending like that was... well, a letdown honestly. I wouldn't recommend this book. Sorry.

edit: I forgot about the fatphobia. Which is there all the time. It's gross.
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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – as always, thanks so much to Netgalley for sending this to me!

The Inverts follows Bart and Bettina, two best friends who share a unique predicament: their sexuality. Bart is gay, Bettina is a lesbian, neither will ever be satisfied in a heterosexual relationship. The only sensible option, of course, is to marry each other. After all, they’re best friends, platonic soul-mates – what could possibly go wrong?

The book spans several decades of Bart and Bettina’s ‘lavender marriage,’ as they navigate various secret love affairs: Bart’s relationship with a French artist, Etienne; Bettina’s schoolgirl fumbles; Bart’s secret nighttime trysts in parks; new love unexpectedly found in war-torn Britain. I’m obsessed with this dynamic in fiction – a gay man and a lesbian becoming best friends and marrying to help protect one another – and these two were fantastic. They love each other, they hate each other. Their friendship, idyllic to begin with, is at times toxic and turbulent, but they care so much. They’re the definition of ride or die, and I loved their dynamic. It’s worth mentioning that neither of them are saints; they’re messy, cruel, manipulative, stroppy, and kind of awful in a way that makes for fantastic reading. If unlikeable characters are a deal-breaker for you, this book might not work for you, but I had so much fun. Even when they were awful, they were entertaining, and what else can you ask for?

I feel like it’s been well-established that historical fiction is not generally my thing. I’m a contemporary girl, but I’ve wanted to get into historical settings, in particular the 1920s, which is a period I’m very drawn to on an aesthetic level. I’ve read so many books set in this era, chasing a very specific, Gatsby-esque atmosphere: glitter and corruption, prohibition, decadence, flappers and finger waves, and I’m overjoyed to say that I finally found it. This book was all sex, drugs, more sex, booze, old movies, boarding schools and mansions and rolling countryside. It had a strong sense of time and place that was really grounding, and I think the author did a great job of capturing the feel of each time period. The best way I can describe this book is Oscar Wilde meets The Great Gatsby; it’s decadent, queer as hell, super messy, and filled with awful but amazingly compelling people. It also gave me Addie LaRue vibes in some ways – Bart’s first love, Etienne, reminded me irresistibly of Remy, a character Addie loves and loses all in one night. 

I was genuinely so pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this book, with all its mess and mayhem. It was, at its core, a book about queer friendship and solidarity. I didn’t realise how long I’ve been looking for a book like this until I found it. That being said, there were a few issues that I had with it.

Firstly, as mentioned, the book is told in a series of snapshots as we fit bits and pieces of Bart and Bettina’s life together. At times this worked well, but other times it made things feel disjointed and a bit disorienting – sometimes we skip a few days, other times years, and scenes would start and finish in the middle of nowhere with no real sense of context. It was almost as if some scenes had popped into the author’s head half-formed, she’d put them into the book and left it at that,  an approach I can definitely sympathise with as a writer – but as a reader, it doesn’t really work. I felt some context was sorely needed in some instances. It almost felt more like a screenplay in some ways, with these random jumps in time and place. (As a side note, if this were a movie, I’d SO watch it. Hollywood, take notes.)

There’s also some weirdness with the framing narrative. The story opens with Bart and Bettina’s kids all grown up, there’s some vague murmurs of a murder, which is swiftly forgotten and not referred to again until the end. I think this was supposed to inject a sense of intrigue into the narrative, but because it’s never brought up again, it just felt kind of pointless – like it was being dangled under our noses the whole time but without any additional hints or allusions to what might have happened, just the vague knowledge that it was a thing and would presumably be addressed again at some point. When it was, it was kind of underwhelming, to be honest. I liked the murder itself, but why introduce it so early on if it’s going to be completely irrelevant for 95% of the book?

Finally, while I loved the writing style – which is mostly rich, detailed and evocative – it is also, on many occasions, gross. Yes, bodies are disgusting, people aren’t perfect, they ooze and leak and whatever, but I really don’t want to hear about it. It was so jarring to me that on one hand we have descriptions about Bart emerging from the water like a gleaming salmon, and then on the next page, graphic descriptions of crusty snot, hissing farts and – on one occasion I would really like to erase from my memory – baby genitals. I’m not especially precious, but I definitely felt squeamish at times, and I wish the author had held back a bit with these descriptions, because honestly they were super disgusting and made me cringe.

Overall, though The Inverts was a pleasant surprise, and I loved this celebration of messy queer friendship, camaraderie and the different kinds of enduring love that one finds over a lifetime. I think this is definitely a book that’s going to stick with me.
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“The Inverts” is a historical novel set in the ‘20s, England, about two queer best friends who enter a marriage of convenience. I’m glad that I read other reviews before reading, because it prepare me for the book it is, instead of the book that was marketed to be. It is a book about queerness and friendship, by it’s less of a celebration and more of a nuanced look into the complexities of being queer in the first half of the last century and the specific relationship between Bart and Bettina. 

I still really liked the story and I enjoyed the exploration of the characters and their relationships, which I found interesting and human, despite having many issues. My main problem with the book is that I’d like to see more of the historical aspect of the novel, at some point in the story I truly forgot this was supposed to be in another time, because of the very sparse descriptions around the characters. At times, the book passed as a contemporary novel about people who are very rich and queer, and even if that could be a comment on how the upper classes work, besides the blatant homophobia and the references to historic events and characters who were queer, the queerness of the book also seemed quite modern. 

In any case, I still enjoyed the book and I thank NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
#NetGalley #THEINVERTS
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Possible spoilers


I absolutely adored Barts and Betts, they were fun,charming,frivolous and ever so slightly smutty. Or perhaps slutty.

They picked a perfect relationship and they made it work.

But as the book went on I adored them less,as is the way,when their selfishness and pig headedness came more to light.

Glad to say I adored the book all the way through,and it's a slice of mischeiviousness I'll be recommending to quite a few others.
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Bert and Bettina, both gay, enter into a lavender marriage to confirm to society's expectations at the time, but that doesn't mean they don't have love affairs in secret. You won't always warm to the two but you will laugh at the caustic humour and be drawn in by the whirl of the 1920s and 30s. But tragedy awaits ... 

This novel drew me in and kept me turning the pages.
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I really wanted to love this, and it started out so well! Everything about this book is absolutely vivid, Jeans paints a great picture of two absolutely self-obsessed people from money who both realise they are queer in a time when it was absolutely unacceptable to be so. 

It’s not that characters have to be likeable to make a good story, but you do have to want to keep reading about them, and around the halfway point I just, didn’t. They were awful to each other and everyone around them, and descriptions of their debauched lives went from fun to honestly a bit depressing to read about. I thought I was getting a fun queer read about a lavender marriage in the 20’s, two friends against it all - and the book certainly starts off suggesting this - but it got to the point where I couldn’t understand why they were still friends, let alone marrying each other.

It’s such a shame to be writing this review as it seemed like this was going to be such a fun read!
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A platonic romance - refreshing to read.

I loved the relationship between Bart and Bettina.  The world was well built and the language throughout incredible.  I devoured the first half of the book, but I did feel the plot slow down towards the middle to end and was a bit put off by the souring of their relationship which was what I thought made the story special.

The ending did pull it back and I found the epilogue particularly sweet and realistic - having know elderly relatives in similar situations with their partners. 

Overall, it was a good novel but it left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
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The Inverts is about a marriage between Bettina and Bartholomew, one that will give them the veneer of respectability beneath which they can let their true desires rip. Aged seventeen, Bart makes a lunge at the gorgeously voluptuous Bet who he’s known all his life but feels nothing. Four years later facts are faced: both prefer their own sex but this is the 1920s, respectability must be maintained and they hit on the perfect solution. Why not marry each other? Their honeymoon is spent in Paris where Bart introduces Bet to Étienne, the love of his life. Bart’s acting career takes him to Hollywood accompanied by Étienne while Bet enjoys her own adventures in London. As the years march on, their marriage becomes stormier eventually ruptured by a particularly vituperative row until, on a visit to her mother, Bet is discovered in flagrante which leads to a reconciliation with Bart thanks to an act that will come back to haunt them.

Crystal Jeans’ novel manages to be both hilarious and poignant. Both Bet and Bart are careless of their privilege, caught up in their pursuit of pleasure to the point of being thoroughly obnoxious spoiled brats but they’re also outrageously funny, occasionally endearing and their war experiences improve them no end. Jeans pokes pleasing fun at the upper classes while managing to retain our affection for this louche couple who are the stars of the show, weaving vivid period detail through their various shenanigans. If you’re after a bit of a romp with an unusual premise and don’t mind a bit of filth with your humour, I’d recommend this one.
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I really struggled with this one, I'm not totally sure why, I just don't think it was for me. I have seen so many good reviews for this and I wanted to love it, but I suppose that's what makes reading interesting....we can't all like the same things in life! Thank you anyway NetGalley and publishers for letting me give this one a go
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This book was a gas to read and the story was very interesting. I loved the attention to historical detail and the care the went into the characterizations of the protagonists.
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Was this the worst book I've ever read? Not even close.
Am I still cringeing at the contents, though? You bet your buttocks I am.
I don't even want to talk about the plot and the characters, but there was just a lot of questionable content surrounding genitalia (and icky descriptions that made me kind of miss Fifty Shades of Grey for a moment there) and loads of fatshaming that just cemented the fact that I wasn't going to enjoy this novel.

It's definitely not for me but from the reviews I've seen it get, a lot of people really enjoyed this, so this may be one of those "it's me, not the book" cases.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing a copy of this title an exchange for an honest review.

This title held such promise, filled with positive representation and queer history. However, we are instead presented with two characters who struggle to more the reader, even despite the struggles they are met with. Characters appear to live in a complete bubble and other people outside this bubble (including the world as a whole) seem secondary to their own lives.

This coupled with a thick dose of fatshaming and at times, questionable phrasing surrounding genitalia which leaves a dark shadow on the book made this less of a fun tale of friendship and love and more of a slogging read which drags on too long and seems to forget its own plot.
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I really wanted to love this book. It had all the makings of an instant favourite, judging by the blurb. It sounded like a fascinating, featuring two gay best friends who marry each other and navigate their way through the Roaring 20s and onward. I expected queer history, a bit of fun, and a story of friendship.
Yeesh, was I wrong. 
The story starts strong, with a glimpse into the lives of Bart and Bettina (our queer best friends) back in the early 1920s, then veers off into the 1990s, with hints of a murder mystery type situation. Then we shoot right back in time again to when Bart and Bettina first start to come to terms with their queerness. It looks to be a promising tale, with touches of scandal and salacious behaviour (or what was considered as such back in the 20s). The characters seem interesting enough, although I don’t actually like any of them. 
So far, so good. 
But as the story carries on (for far too long, to be honest), I realise that all the characters in this book are awful, horrible people. They stop being interesting after a while and just become predictable and boring in their constant repetition of self-indulgent, vile behaviour. I don’t mind horrid characters – in fact, I rather enjoy a good villain. But these petty behaviours aren’t worthy of the term ‘villain.’ One could make excuses and justify their obnoxious behaviour by pointing out that it wasn’t easy being queer back in the 20s – naturally, they’d have repressed anger and act out against how unfair life was for anyone outside the regimented ideas of ‘normal’ conduct. Except that they’re behaving badly towards each other, rather than railing against the outside world that’s done them harm. And the characters in this book are all rather well-to-do and are pretty much able to carry on as they please, albeit behind closed doors. You almost want to tell them to check their privilege. And the murder mystery that was hinted at in the beginning of the book comes crashing back in at the last minute, and isn’t that big a deal, really. By the time it gets to the point, you’ve almost forgotten there was an element of mystery to begin with. 

As far as any queer history – there are a few little references scattered about – Polari is mentioned, as is Radclyffe Hall – but the characters themselves live in such a bubble that until the war comes along, the outside world doesn’t seem to affect them.

I also didn’t enjoy the writing itself – don’t get me wrong, the structure and style area sound and rather masterfully executed, but the content is frequently, well, gross and crude, to put it bluntly. I’m not a prude or squeamish by any stretch of the imagination, but it seems like the author couldn’t go more than a couple of pages without mentioning snot, vomit, farts, saliva, or some other bodily function. The characters all ‘fuck’, rather than make love or have sex. Thighs are described as resembling slabs of meat on a butcher’s counter; breasts are blue-veined. And everyone seems to have terrible breath, usually saturated with garlic but occasionally with onions, whisky, smoke, or just a simple ‘sour’ taste. I looked up the author’s blog, and apparently, this grossness is just her thing – I believe she has a post about something to the effect of ‘women can be gross, too’. She may think she’s being edgy and feminist and so on, and if that’s her style, then good for her. For me, it felt forced, like someone who goes out of their way to say ‘fuck’ in every sentence for shock value, as if to say, ‘See how outrageous I am!’, rather than just making an intelligent argument. 

There also was a fair bit of fat-shaming, and generally disparaging references to people’s looks. Not to mention the fixation on genitals – I’m not sure if it would count as transphobic or even transphobic-adjacent, but it was uncomfortable to read.  

I shall shut up now, as I don’t like writing bad reviews – once I get going, I get mean and petty about it. And let me just point out – Crystal Jeans has successfully published a few novels, and I haven’t. She is an actual author, and I’m just someone running her mouth on the internet. And most of the other reviews of this book are positive. So, ya know. All of this is just my opinion. Feel free to read this and make your own. 

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing a copy of this ARC in exchange for what is probably a far-too-honest review.
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