Book Review: Undone by Christina Lee

“The Devil Wears Prada” meets a slow burn, enemies-to-lovers queer workplace contemporary romance in this lovely novel from Christina Lee, “Undone.”

I’ve been trying to read more indies and I’ve found myself going through a lot of frogs, and not for the reasons people say. Many of them are copy-edited or proofread, but I give up on them because the stories or characters aren’t interesting or realistic. “Undone” caught my attention because of the interesting characters.

This is the story of Shae Shanahan, a 20-something trying to make it in the big city with no clue what he wants to do with his life. He takes a job through a temp agency for a prickly fashion stylist on a talk show, who’s desperate enough to take on an assistant who’s clumsy, indifferent about fashion and can’t even sew a button. Shae learns to navigate Rowan’s moods by giving back snark, and their banter together is delightful.

The first half of the book did a good job of building the slow burn, but not a whole lot happens outside of the office relationship. This is a true workplace romance. Where this book really shines is in the details of working in the fashion industry and the job of a stylist; I could tell the author had worked in the field herself, because it felt quite authentic in a fresh way, without overdoing the infodump which I often find when people have firsthand experience.

I did wish Shae had more character development; he never really changed much beyond small-town fish-out-of-water kid who’s judgmental about rich people, but I found him charming and I enjoyed his chemistry with Rowan. The author was a little too over-the-top with his clumsiness; it was a charming character trait at first, but then she went overboard with the number of times he’d trip over his feet or stumble into things. A little goes a long way. As we grew to understand Rowan better as he opened up to Shae, their seemingly turn-on-a-switch enemies-to-lovers flip made more sense.

I also liked how Rowan was a side – he didn’t care for anal penetration. I don’t see that dynamic often enough in gay romance and I liked how they navigated it and how it had affected his past relationships. Added an element of tension that made the narrative stronger. And I appreciated the single POV; this could have been a dual POV, but I don’t think we would have gotten the same impression of Rowan and how the hate-to-love aspect changed through other people’s perceptions of Rowan and Shae.

All in all, this was a steamy contemporary romance with heart and complex characters, and I found myself peeling back Rowan’s layers along with Shae throughout the story. Really enjoyed this one.

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