Who’d Have Thought – G Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Benson is rapidly becoming my favourite author. I love that when I pick up one of her books I’m going to get an extremely well written book, with a narrative that explores all the different aspects of being queer and falling for someone. This one is my favourite read of Benson’s so far, but I suspect I’ll probably end up saying that about each one I read!

Hayden is an ER nurse. She works long hours but is struggling to make ends meet. Sam is a neurosurgeon at the same hospital. She has a reputation as a typical surgeon with no bedside manner. Hayden spends a lot of her time bemoaning Sam – Dr. Thomson – to her best friend and fellow ER nurse, Luce.

When Hayden discovers she’s yet again broke before the end of the month, she finds her responding to an advert looking for someone to enter into a fake marriage for a year. It amuses her to find that the advert has been placed by none other than Sam. She really needs the money, but can she be with Sam for the required year.

The period where they negotiate the “dating”, telling friends and getting married is amusing, stopping it from becoming perfunctory as they navigate each other whilst trying not to offend or cause one of the other to walk away, each for their own reasons.

I loved getting to experience Hayden and Sam really falling for each other as they got to know each other. I enjoyed how Benson used the new realities of their life together, such as them living together, and Frank the cat loving Sam to show each other their real selves, and therefore see past their arrangement.

For me, underneath all of the romance, was a real exploration of what marriage really is. We all have our different reasons for getting married, or not as the case may be, and I really enjoyed this exploration of the reasons why it was necessary for Hayden and Sam to enter into their fake marriage, what it meant to both of them and how it changed into something else. The external reinforcements, whether positive or negative, from those around them also served to support this.

As always you get the opportunity to spend time with a range of queer characters, and I loved both Jon, Sam’s brother and Luce, Hayden’s best friend. The discussion of Luce being non-binary and how it impacts their decisions to enter into relationships and their acceptance by others was dealt with really well.

I don’t want to give away any spoiler, but I’m always amazed at how much Benson manages to pack into a book, without losing power from any of the stories and the two secondary storylines in this book are heartbreaking. The way Hayden and Sam deal with them together really cements their relationship and gives you as the reader the opportunity to see different aspects of their characters.

I would highly recommend you read this one if you haven’t already. All romance fans will love this one. Word of warning, it’s on the long side, but is very hard to put down – I kept sneaking five minutes here and there when I supposed to be working!

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Flinging It – G. Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is a beautifully written book about a divisive topic – infidelity. Benson approaches the topic from a character-driven point of view, giving us the opportunity to get inside the main character’s thoughts and feelings, giving us the ability to understand even if we might not necessarily agree were we to encounter the same situation in real life.

Both Frazer and Cora are heads of department at a hospital in Perth, Australia. Frazer heads up the midwifery department and has been fighting to introduce a new programme for high-risk patients, to improve their lives in the lead up to the birth of their babies and put them in good stead afterwards as people. As you’d expect that comes with budgetary fights and it’s suggested that she gets Cora’s support for the project as she’s head of the social work department.

Frazer buries herself in her work. She’s had a bad break-up and isn’t looking for anything serious despite her friend’s attempts at convincing her otherwise. Cora is married and is in the process of discovering she’s in an emotionally abusive marriage. As they begin to work together they discover they have an attraction to each other that neither was expecting, especially Cora who has never been attracted to a woman before. The affair is complicated by the fact that Cora is married to Frazer’s boss.

Neither are proud of their relationship, but recognise the power it has over them. Whilst I didn’t always agree with how they went about things, I was so absorbed in the writing and pacing of the book I was drawn to keep turning the page to find out what happened next.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I really appreciated how once they are found out their affair changed and forced both of them to look at life differently. I also appreciated that those that found out didn’t only provide judgement, they provided support and friendship too.

I liked the ending for the two of them. It felt authentic and focussed on themselves first, which I think must be harder to express and write successfully.

I love how Benson always includes a veritable array of characters who identify as LGBTQ+ as side characters in the narrative and this book is no different in that regard. Frazer’s friendship group and their insistence on setting her up provided some much-needed light-heartedness at times. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Frazer’s sister, especially when she has her own big reveal.

I felt that Benson’s depiction of one of the high-risk patients, Jack, a pregnant trans man, was done in a sensitive, engaging way that would encourage lots of people to think differently about someone facing this situation (or to think about it for the first time perhaps).

I’d definitely encourage romance fans and fans of character-driven books to give this a try.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Thing About Tilly – G. Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I haven’t had the opportunity to read a Benson full-length until this one, and I’m really really glad I started here. This has firmly planted itself as one of my top three books of the year. It was slower, deeper and far more powerful than I was expecting. I couldn’t put it down because of how I felt about the book.

Tilly, Evie and Sean have been friends since university. They’ve stayed close for over ten years. Tilly’s a runner, not an actual athlete, someone who runs from her emotions. Evie and Tilly both have unrequited feelings for each other, but never talk about it. When Tilly disappears after a fight between the two of them, Evie unexpectedly falls pregnant. The world Tilly returns to will never quite be the same again.

I loved the narrative and the construction of the storyline. I enjoyed how the change in point of view included Sean, and that it wasn’t just about Tilly and Evie. The additional viewpoint Sean provides on how the pair have grown together over the years and the impacts of each episode of Tilly leaving, adds both empathy and understanding for both Tilly and Evie.

I don’t want to reveal the underlying narrative or the issues the characters face, because a big part of the enjoyment for me was the discovery. I spent a lot of time guessing in my head trying to work this out and I couldn’t, adding to my enjoyment levels further. The book is long, but I never felt bored with the story. Every chapter was needed to paint the picture of day to day life and the impact of Evie being pregnant on her friendship with Tilly.

The diversity in this book is fantastic. I felt at home with this small group of queer friends, one bi, one pan, one genderqueer and aromantic. Evie and Sean aren’t white. One of my favourite parts of the diversity is how it’s just normal in their world. They are descriptors of the characters, but not the most important thing about any of them in the narrative. There are small things dotted throughout the book to illustrate heritage, respectfulness and identity.

The secondary characters are great. I loved Evie’s mother. The people that Evie works with all come alive on the page despite their brief interludes. I also loved that this book was set in Australia. It provided a refreshing setting that just felt right.

It’s safe to say I would highly recommend this to all queer romance fans. You’ll need to put some time aside, but it’ll make every minute worth it.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.