Something Something, Book #2
Review of Something Something, Book #1
Heat Factor: There’s an orgy. At a poetry reading.
Character Chemistry: “I am very attracted to you but I know I can’t keep you and that is preemptively breaking my heart.”
Plot: Peggy woos an opera singer.
Overall: Spectacular indeed.
Late in the book, after a kidnapping gone very very awry, Peggy articulates the thesis of this series:
She had always chosen to be the naysayer, the sensible one, the voice of reason when dragged into the latest round of Tarleton hijinks, but she had never once said no. Because, at the end of the day, a world full of adventures, romantic reversals, grand gestures, and happy endings was simply better than a world without.
I guess this is the thesis of the entire romance genre writ large, but this series in particular is purposely conscious of the way Romance Tropes—as we find them in books—make things better. So readers should not be surprised to find that this book references genre romance tropes deliberately, frequently, and joyfully.
This book is also very queer—deliberately, frequently, and joyfully. This is not a queer historical romance where the characters are carefully closeted (as is the case in books by Aster Glenn Gray and K.J. Charles, for example). No, the characters in this book are open about their sexual desires, in whatever form they take. Our protagonists, Peggy and Orfeo, are both non-binary pansexual characters—and are broadly accepted as such by their friends, family, and acquaintances. (Note: Peggy is occasionally misgendered by minor characters.) Even Orfeo’s vaguely villainous patron is not villainous because he wants to limit Orfeo’s gender presentation or sexuality; rather, he wants to control Orfeo’s time and attention in order to guide their musical talent to his specifications.
Before I talk about the romance, I think some background information on the characters is warranted. Peggy has been in love with her best friend for years, though the feeling is not reciprocated. Peggy is trying to get some space by going home to the country, but when Belle summons Peggy to London, of course Peggy goes. She is not amused when it turns out that Belle has called for Peggy so that Peggy can woo someone for Belle, Twelfth Night style. Especially since it will involve going to a musicale, and Peggy is so bored by the arts, and musicales are the absolute worst. But she goes anyway.
Enter Orfeo. Orfeo is a castrato who is visiting London to show off their spectacular singing, and Peggy is duly impressed—and, in fact, faints after the performance, much to her deep and abiding embarrassment. (“It was a bad grape!”) There is a lot of talk throughout the book about the haunting quality of Orfeo’s voice. Thanks to the power of the internet, here’s a recording from 1904 of Alessandro Moreschi, the last castrato affilitated with the Sistine choir in rome, singing:
Unfortunately for Belle, Orfeo has eyes only for Peggy. (Honestly, Belle has read enough books that she should have expected that to happen.) Peggy finds herself similarly drawn to Orfeo, though she fights her attraction: because she’s there on behalf of her friend, and, more importantly, because she’s afraid of being hurt. After all, Orfeo is spectacular, and Peggy’s deepest desire is to have a quiet, normal life in the country.
Most of the conflict of the romance is therefore internal, and centers on the question of whether snatching a short time of joy will be worth the sadness when it ends. Once Peggy decides that yes, it’s worth it, she and Orfeo have various adventures running around London (this is when the poetry orgy happens). Of course, since we’ve been building up to this moment for the entire relationship, Orfeo and Peggy do separate in a truly gutting scene that is both shocking and inevitable.
But don’t worry, there’s a happy ending—probably the most “ever” happy ending I’ve read in any of Alexis Hall’s books. If I were feeling more cogent this morning, I could write a whole case study in how it plays with the heteronormative HEA, but I’m not, and also, I don’t want to spoil anything.
A final note: I’ve seen some pearl clutching about the sex scene that occurs late in the book and how “spicy” it is. Maybe I’m jaded, but I didn’t find it shockingly explicit or anything? Anyways, reader be warned, there is a sex scene where Peggy and Orfeo are joined in bed by other characters. Who were not at the poetry orgy.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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3 thoughts on “Review: Something Spectacular by Alexis Hall (2023)”
This sounds interesting and different. Complex characters.
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It was definitely interesting and different; if you’re interested, I would recommend starting with Something Fabulous (the first book in the series), which is very similar in tone but is a little more straightforward in terms of how the love story plays out. (Note: I liked this one better.)
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