Rating: 4.75 stars
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Andrea can see the writing on the wall, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up without a fight. Mechanical animation is dominating the scientific community and is all the rage among the nobles—the nobles who fund the academics. Mechanical animation is threatening to end the other fields of study associated with spell craft and Andrea has absolutely no problem writing scathing articles and being very public about it. He’s got three research assistants to pay, and he’s not going to let the other scientists edge him out of his research or the financial arena.
Attending a party with his brother, Andrea thinks he might be able to discuss his work with other nobles and perhaps begin a friendship necessary for funding. What he ends up doing instead is escaping the party to find an observatory with a truly beautiful telescope inside—accompanied by a man who is just as beautiful and interesting as well. Only, not long after meeting, Andrea discovers that “Gregory” is actually Leon Gregory de la Marche VI, the Marquis de la Marche—pioneer in the field of Mechanical Animation and Andrea’s biggest rival.
As soon as they realize who each other is, the feud that had once been waged only between letters and articles in academic publications spills over and they argue heatedly. But Andrea’s brother is keen to marry Gregory’s sister and he begs Andrea to make peace with the Marquis. Peace might be too much to ask for, but the wildly flaring attraction between the men mean that an alternate agreement might not be out of the realm of possibility.
When I first started reading this book, I didn’t expect to like it nearly as much as I did. After reading the blurb and then seeing the length I was sure there was absolutely no way to get everything the blurb promised onto so few pages and for it to be enjoyable. I have never been so glad to be wrong. Far from being a disappointment, this book was delightful! It was a perfect little novella that had me grinning stupidly throughout and left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling at the end
I liked both characters here, but for this book it was less about who they were individually and more about what they became when they were together. Andrea is studious and largely unconcerned with what others think and Gregory is intelligent and determined and those things make them both enjoyable, but they’re absolutely volcanic when they get within a few feet of each other. Born entirely of ideological differences, their feud makes them just about incapable of speaking to each other without passions rising and civil conversation devolving into an argument. It probably doesn’t help that they’re wildly attracted to one another either. It’s absolutely wonderful. For fans of the banter/rivalry/witty discourse type of relationship, this one is incredibly well done.
The only disappointment for me was that the sex felt like it didn’t quite match up with the intensity found in the rest of the book. Ottoman gets bonus points for thinking outside the box and making the scene something other than a typical romance novel sex scene and for handling the physical parts of a transsexual character getting naked with someone else in a credible way. It was nice, but really I was expecting their first time together to be incredibly explosive because of the way their relationship had been building, and it actually very well might have been. The actual first time happened off screen and what we get onscreen is the second time, which is much less hurried and more creative, but lacked the heat I was looking for after reading the rest of the book.
But that truly was the only disappointing thing about this entire story. It was very well written and the premise and setup were an interesting take on the rivals to lovers trope. Plus they were actual, legitimate rivals, competing for funding and recognition in the academic world, which was nice. The level of tension and constant conflict throughout was perfectly balanced. The ending is also the most adorable ending I have read in a long time. The parting line made me laugh out loud; it was seriously the best. The pacing was also superb. In true novella format, we didn’t stay in any one scene too long, so we didn’t get bogged down anywhere, yet nothing felt missing and all of the issues presented were resolved. So refreshing.
The last thing I have to commend the author on is the handling of the trans issue. I was so concerned that there just wasn’t enough time to really do the complicated issue of being a transsexual person justice, but I’m so glad I was wrong. The issues involved were spoken about frankly, but were also dealt with sensitively, respectfully and intelligently. It was clear the author knew quite a bit about the trans community and their struggles and emotions. In the space of 52 pages, Ottoman not only managed to address the social, legal, practical, physical, medical, and emotional parts of being a transsexual, but also managed to include a romance and a plot in there as well. I definitely salute you for that.
Overall I am confident about recommending this book. There’s a great story here, really cute byplay between great characters, and the added bonus of a really well-written trans character.
Note: A Matter of Disagreement will be released March 26th from Less Than Three Press