Olivia Dade has done it again with All the Feels (pub. November 16, 2021)–she has written a delightful, funny, fat-positive romance featuring a fat female lead!
Lauren Clegg is between jobs, having burned out from being an emergency room mental health clinician for several years, when she is asked by her terrible cousin (who runs a Game-of-Thrones-like popular show) to be a minder to an unruly actor who has just gotten into a bar fight, creating negative publicity for the show. She needs the money so she can have a break to figure out what she wants to do next, and figures it has to be easier than dealing with people showing up at their worst in the ER.
Alex Woodroe plays Cupid in the show and has been described as a “delightful asshole” by one of his co-stars. He has classic ADHD, never shuts up, and gets into trouble because of his impulsivity. Lauren quickly finds out he is generous to a fault, supporting not only his mother, but several charities and friends. She quickly realizes that the reason Alex was in trouble was not just a drunken brawl. Alex is intrigued by Lauren, taking up the mission to make the humorless “Nanny Clegg” laugh and break through her tough exterior shell.
Alex initially thinks Lauren looks like a bird–she is very short and round, with relatively skinny arms and legs–and she is not conventionally pretty, but her features are interesting. People are often cruel to her because of the way she looks, and she typically ignores the taunts. I loved the fact that Dade chose Lauren to be fat not like most plus-sized models (hourglass figure, tall), but fat like more of us–shaped like the Venus of Willendorf.
Alex is a defender of anyone who needs defending, and recklessly loyal to anyone he cares about. Given the way society treats people like Lauren, there are bound to be clashes that risk the bad publicity Lauren was hired to prevent.
I loved the characters, the banter, the settings (Pacific Coast HIghway), the tropes (“close proximity” and “only one bed!”), and especially the way Dade writes about anti-fat bias without perpetuating it. Her fat characters are trying to love themselves in a fat-hating society, just like so many of us. I also love that she includes characters that are not neurotypical–like Alex with his ADHD–and she describes how his brain works and does not work in a way that seems very real to me.