Trade Me by Courtney Milan
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.
Trade Me is the first book in the new Cyclone series by Courtney Milan. It has a fresh new idea, which I really enjoyed. Blake has lived a privileged life as the son of a wealthy tech genius (pretty much Steve Jobs but with much more foul language). But wealth doesn’t make his life easier. Part of being in the public eye means being used for free PR for his dad’s company. And now the time has come for Blake to step up into his dad’s shoes.. . except well, he’s not sure he can do that.
Tina has worked hard her whole life to do well for herself and help support her family at home. Since her mom’s never been too responsible for their financial situation, Tina’s always felt pressured to help out to make sure that everything is going well at home.
After a heated discussion about the privilege of wealth in class, Blake offers Tina the deal of a lifetime. They will switch lives and Tina will make a lot of money, live in Blake’s house and help launch Cyclone’s new product. Blake will watch every penny, live in Tina’s sorry excuse for an apartment and help support her family back home.
I loved the idea behind this. It was a really great concept and it was fun to see how it played out. I was almost expecting it to be a little funnier, since it’s a pretty great base for a whole lot of jokes, but honestly the book focused more on Tina’s obligations to her family and to Blake’s obligations to his dad. I loved loved loved the amount of diversity in this book. Tina is Chinese, her parents immigrated with her to the US when she was young and they’ve lived here since. Her mom is a firecracker, doing everything she can to help other immigrants stay in the US. She was pretty much my favorite character, with a take no prisoners attitude and a great sense of humor. It was so interesting to see Tina’s family and how her upbringing influenced her choices and who she was as a person.
There’s also a lot of secondary story lines and issues that really pulled me into the story. I’m always a fan of books dealing honestly with tough topics and Blake’s OCD and eating disorder was a great way to address a really serious issue. Also, in the books i’ve read regarding those issues, they were always portrayed in women so I was so happy to see that it was Blake dealing with them in this book.
One of the issues I had with this book was the chemistry between Tina and Blake. It just wasn’t really there for me. I could see why she liked him, but I never really felt a connection between the two of them that made me want to root for them together. And that could be me, but that’s a major part of the appeal for a NA book and it fell pretty flat for me.
I did enjoy the first ~%80 percent of this book. And then. . . well it just fell apart. I won’t get into the details, but the end felt far more rushed than the rest of the book. It almost seemed like there needed to be a quick way to tie all the details together and it all culminated in a revelatory car ride for Tina. Which I just wasn’t sold on.
Overall though, this is definitely worth the read, if only for the cast of diverse characters you’ll see in it. I enjoyed it enough to read in a few days. The romance wasn’t what I was expecting, but this first book definitely sets up a great basis for a new series by Courtney Milan.