Have you encountered the Once Upon a Con series yet? If not, and if you’re looking for something nice and wholesome and tremendously fun to read then I highly recommend it. I was lucky enough to score an advanced review copy for the latest book in the series Bookish and the Beast and I’m delighted to be bringing you a review today!
Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.
On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.
When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.
But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.
These books bring about that same feeling you get when you read really good fanfiction – and it’s 100% intended. These books are essentially love letters to the idea of fandom and they just work. Take Bookish and the Beast, within around 10 pages (arguably by the time you’ve finished the blurb) you can pretty much guess everything that’s going to happen and you just get to sit back in whatever comfy spot you choose to read in and let it happen. I chose to read this when things were a little bit manic worldwide and I have no regrets, it was the perfect comfort read. If I owned copies of the other books in the series I have no doubt I would have picked those up too!
What I will say about Bookish and the Beast is that it feels the least believable of all the books so far. That’s not to say that any of this is supposed to be something that really happens – I mentioned it’s like fanfic right? – but something about the way this book is so isolated, taking place far away from the glamour of Hollywood film sets or the crowded floor of a convention there’s just a little bit of that suspension of belief that slips away. I think it’s the nature of Beauty and the Beast to require just a little more belief to not slip into the ‘but hang on a minute she’s his prisoner’ mindset – and we’re reading sappy romance here, we don’t want to be thinking too hard about the class divide!
But once you’ve let the romance and the silliness of it all take you this book is superb fun. It’s lighthearted and lightweight and while there are some sad moments, of course, it’s all worth it for that happy ending. I think it suffers from not being quite so connected as the other two books are – there are odd mentions of other characters but nothing quite so concrete. I was confused by some of those mentions – and I’m wondering if there’s a storyline that will be explored in another book, but as yet Goodreads has yielded no clues.
I really appreciated the subplot of trying to get Rosie’s friend Quinn crowned prom royalty – it was a fun story to explore with a non-binary character and I thought the representation was great. I continue to want a Once Upon a Con book where the main romance is queer but alas not yet!
Essentially, if you like/need lighthearted contemporary silliness (even if you’re not normally a contemporary reader) I think this whole series is worth a shot. While Bookish and the Beast may not be the strongest book within the current releases I still think it’s just perfect for a sunny afternoon with nothing more to do than to lose yourself in a teen romance and the idea of being swept off your feet by a handsome but troubled movie star.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Bookish and the Beast is out June 16th!
What say you? Will you be picking this up? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!