When he was little, River’s parents told him fantastic tales about intelligent life on other planets. Growing up, he started to suspect that aliens were actually already here on earth. And, for the last several months, he’s convinced that his next door neighbor is an alien in disguise. All River needs is some proof–and more than his neighbor never using the AC during the oppressive summer heat in Las Vegas. Luck strikes when River notices his neighbor leaving in the middle of the night. Armed with cameras and a mostly functional car, River and his uncle follow their neighbor out into the middle of the Nevadan desert. There, finally, after years of searching, hoping, and believing, River finds irrefutable proof that not only are aliens real, they have integrated into Earth societies. River also meets Kai, the hottest being he’s ever seen. In addition to a smoking hot bod and a wickedly straight-edge personality, Kai also has a special pouch containing tantalizing extra appendages River wants to get up close and personal with.
After living on earth for thirty years, Kai feels he has a reasonably good grasp on human beings. That helps him in his role as a captain in the secret Alliance of Neutral Alien Lifeforms (aka “ANAL”). Every now and again, some curious believer gets too close and it’s up to Kai to use his alien powers to erase their memories. When the adorkable River comes barreling onto the base where he works, Kai is dumbstruck with attraction. Though he would never run headlong into anything with a human, Kai’s dual hearts and especially his tentacles are dead set on getting up close and personal with River. When Kai’s powers for altering and erasing human memories fail to work on River, though, a small window of opportunity opens for the men to have a chance for a committed connection.
It’s Not Unusual to be Loved by an Alien is the first book in the series Tentacular Tales by Chloe Archer. It’s a super campy, science fiction romp starring the super sex- and gay-positive River and the very buttoned-up Kai. The story has a very pronounced opposites attract trope that is greatly helped by having the chapters alternate between using Kai and River as narrators. River also conveys a strong manic-pixie-dream-boy trope. Personally, I wasn’t too into him as a character. Part of the dislike came from how he seems to have zero brain to mouth filter for anyone in any situation. As an example, the first time River meets Kai’s parents (which is probably the second time he’s met Kai), River happily just announces how fuckable Kai is to all and sundry. But points to Archer for indefatigable consistency in River’s character. From start to finish, he never loses a single iota of what makes him him.
I felt the prose handled the concept of “contemporary” in a bizarre manner. Twenty-two year-old River calls the CD player in his car a “relic,” refers to an animated series from the 90s as old and weird, and seems to think his paternal uncle is practically geriatric. At the same time, River seemed blithely aloof to the fact that his precious Britney Spears and Beastie Boys were of that same generation. It was off putting that there was this disdain for this bygone era (except the music I guess), yet River’s own “boo-to-be” was probably more familiar with all those cultural trappings given that Kai’s 13 years older than River and definitely closer in age to River’s older uncle.
I thought Archer did a good job pacing the plot. Each chapter opens with a little quote that reflects Kai’s or River’s cultural background. Kai’s chapters explained the stages of his species’ mating rituals, which often mirrored the romantic developments in the story. River’s chapters had snippets from the tentacle porn fiction he writes and posts online, which is sparingly reflected in the main story. In addition to this slow-burn, tease-Kai-till-he-capitulates romance, there are also a few cases that Kai’s ANAL group is facing. One involved a secret drug ring smuggling drugs onto Earth and giving them to unsuspecting aliens. Another involved a hostile species actually distributing those drugs. The first one seems to be a theme that will stretch at least into the next book, as we never get a lot of details about who is smuggling drugs, how, or why. But the later provides a lot of opportunities to showcase how River (as annoying as I thought he could be) can shine working with the secretive ANAL team that works to keep the existence of aliens on earth secret.
Overall, this book wasn’t really my cup of tea. I liked the premise and thought there was a fun plot and spicy love story. But I was kind of put off by River’s blinding extra-ness. I thought this aspect improved when Kai and River finally accepted their feelings for one another, but if I hadn’t had the benefit of seeing things from Kai’s perspective, River’s inability to take no for an answer would have sent up red flags for me. Howevever, readers less keyed into (or keyed up by) those themes might really enjoy the balance between romance and action and who wouldn’t love tentacular sex?