Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.
To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.
But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.
This was such a refreshing NA romance!! Though there’s the overused billionaire trope, there were so many other aspects to this story that made me go ‘yes, this genre needs more of that.’ These characters were ethnically diverse, the billionaire hero was so down-to-earth, the heroine a smart and sassy chick, their banter was top-notch, and even though they both had a lot of baggage, I never felt like any of it was contrived or put in for drama’s sake. They’re genuine characters and I could really relate to them, especially the heroine Tina. Not to mention the side characters were all so amazing but at the same time they didn’t overshadow the main characters either. But what I loved the most about this book is that it’s just smart. Nowadays, most of the angst and conflict in NA romances stems from cheating, love triangle, sex, making each other jealous, miscommunication, blah blah, and I mean…give me something new. Something fresh. Some real drama. And oh boy, this book delivered on that part. From the intellectual sparring between Tina and Blake to the very real-life struggles both characters had with their families and worries about their future to their collaboration about creative products in Blake’s Cyclone company, all of it just really worked for me. This is a book that picked at my brain, made me think, and at the same time got me emotionally invested as well. I like books that engage both my mind and my heart, so this one was a winner.
The basis of the story is that both Blake and Tina agree to trade lives for a semester, with Tina getting Blake’s car, income, house, and company duties and Blake getting Tina’s
shack living quarters and uh…
“Congratulations. You have $15.22. There’s also about nine pounds of rice left.”
LOL! Anyways, I just want to reassure you this is not your typical rich guy falls for poor girl romance. The reasoning behind their switch is actually pretty deep and more thoughtful than I expected. And even though he’s labeled as a billionaire, Blake is a far cry from what you’d expect from men of this category. He’s not an arrogant, cocky bastard who feels the need to act like a jerk and love BDSM; he’s what I call a REAL guy. Someone who has issues and struggles through life just like we all do, and doesn’t throw his weight around just because he’s wealthy. Same goes for Tina. She’s one of the most candid and blunt heroines I’ve ever read about. And her whip-smart attitude and quick reflexes are just laugh out loud hilarious.
There’s an underlying attraction between the two, but it isn’t until they switch lives and the semester progresses that their feelings really grow, even though they agreed that after all of it is over, everything would go back to normal.
This is the only part I had an issue with – the romance is weak and there’s definitely a strong connection between the two, but because there was just so much going on in the background, that bond didn’t get a chance to manifest and develop. However, I very much enjoyed the antics from the side characters like Blake’s dad and Tina’s mom, and whenever these two were together, I felt the connection, so this wasn’t too big of a problem for me.
“You’ve never been invisible to me. I saw you the first day we crossed paths, and I’ve been seeing you ever since.”
I also have to mention that the author really did her research. I’m Chinese, and though I loved that this heroine was too, I was also a little nervous that anything culture related would be butchered. It’s safe to say that wasn’t the case. Tina’s interactions with her family made me nostalgic and think of how I would have some of the same conversations with my parents and siblings. I also really loved reading about Blake’s relationship with his dad. Their father-son bond made me laugh like crazy but also tugged at my heartstrings.
For a seasoned historical romance author’s first NA novel, I am pretty impressed. Even with the romance being a little weak, this character-driven story was highly entertaining and a fresh take on billionaire romances. It’s definitely a book I’d recommend if you’re in the mood for some non-generic fun!
Trade Me is the first book in the Cyclone series and can be read as a standalone. There will be another book following this couple, though it’s totally optional as this book ends quite nicely relationship-wise. Book 2 will be about Tina’s best friend Maria and considering her past, her book might prove to be even more diverse and intriguing than this first one.
ARC provided by Victory Editing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4 stars!