Book Reviews

Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but… *looks both ways* I don’t usually review m/f romances. And that’s because I don’t usually read them either! I made an exception for Hang the Moon because I loved Brendon when I met him in Written in the Stars. Boy howdy, am I glad I did, because this book is ADORABLE.

Annie is lonely in Philadelphia, so she leaps at a promotion that will take her to London. Before she leaves, she wants to tell her best friend, Darcy (one half of the couple from Written in the Stars) about the promotion and the move overseas in person. Wanting to surprise Darcy, Annie shows up in Seattle, only to discover Darcy isn’t there. Good thing Darcy’s younger brother, Brendon, is happy to show her around. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous and thoughtful, far from the dorky kid she remembers.

Brendon is the creator of the popular dating app OTP (One True Person). And while he may be a tech CEO concerned with growing his business, he actually believes in the idea of true love, too. Brendon’s horrified when he learns Annie doesn’t believe in love and vows to show her it’s real by wooing her with popular romcom tactics. Given his childhood crush on Annie, and their easy chemistry, he’s more than okay with the easy excuse to spend more time with Annie. Of course, it isn’t long before Brendon’s the one learning that real feelings come from more than grand gestures. And Annie has a major choice to make as she learns life is about more than the corporate ladder.

I love Brendon. Like, I really, really love him. He’s the sweetest, cinnamon rolliest dude ever. He’s so lovable and enthusiastic that he reminds me of a golden retriever, but that feels unfair as a descriptor because he’s much smarter than that (and would have to be, to run a successful business). My heart melted when I learned two these two things about him:

  1. When he was 10 years old, he wanted to be Hugh Grant when he grew up.
  2. He has a tattoo from the film Up. (When I read this, all I could think was “OF COURSE HE DOES.”)

If I had to sum Brendon up in one word, it would be “earnest.” That’s probably my favourite thing about him, because he never displays an iota of cynicism. Brendon is consistently kind and thoughtful, whether it’s with Annie, Darcy, or his employees.

Of course, this leads to my only complaint about the book. The part of me that’s worked in tech for the last two decades finds Brendon entirely improbable. Is there a male equivalent of a Mary Sue (especially at work)? Because he’s too perfect. I raised an eyebrow when I learned he drives a Smart car that looks like a wind-up toy, not because it’s quirky, but because he’s well over 6 feet tall and I cannot fathom any CEO doing that. All of that said, while I didn’t find Brendon particularly believable, his characterization didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story too much. In fact, I probably would have bailed on this book immediately if he were a tech asshole, and recognizing that, I chose to suspend my disbelief, embrace him wholeheartedly, and soak up his sunny disposition.

Annie, on the other hand, seems to have gotten all the cynicism that Brendon never received. Since Darcy moved from Philadelphia to Seattle (covered in Written in the Stars) Annie has leaned all the way in on her career and out of her personal relationships. I enjoyed seeing her get gobsmacked first by Brendon’s hotness and then by his personality, and then seeing how she slowly lets her walls down as she gets to know him.

For me, the best part of Annie’s character arc is seeing her grapple with the idea of “supposed to do” vs “want to do” with her career, since she’s not actually excited about where her career is heading. This question is the primary tension in what is otherwise a fairly low-angst story. Also, even though the story has nothing to do with the quarantimes, it feels like a real thing many of us are considering as we imagine life after covid. I would have appreciated seeing Annie reflect more on the privilege it takes to have the option to shift careers based on personal passions. However, I was glad to see Darcy’s girlfriend, Elle, specifically articulate that sentiment to Annie when she talks about moving from astronomy to astrology (you can learn all about her journey with that in Written in the Stars).

“Didn’t it . . . scare you shitless?” Annie asked, laughing lightly. “Talk about a leap of faith.”

Elle nodded. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge I was extremely privileged to be in the position to shift course like I did. I had my family to fall back on—not that they liked my decision or even supported it, but they’d never have let me suffer because of it.”

As for the romance, it worked really well for me. Annie and Brendon are so freaking cute together. Their attraction is immediate and mutual, and I enjoyed the “oh damn, my best friend’s little brother got REAL hot” element. Their time spent around Seattle makes me want to book a trip to finally go check it out with my husband, because it sounds like so much fun. If I could, I’d go to their wedding, because it would be epic (how could it not be, when the groom is the all-time biggest fan of romcoms and he has that tech CEO money?). Also, in an all-time first, both the conflict resolution AND the epilogue made me cry, because they were both so perfect, so hats off to the book for that.

The portrayals of friendship were especially effective and affecting. We see Annie spend time with Darcy and Elle, both individually and together. I liked seeing Annie and Darcy pick up their friendship like no time has passed. But also, and more importantly, I appreciated seeing them discuss Darcy’s difficult feelings about Annie’s move to London. They’re so raw and real, and those conversations added to my overall appreciation of the story.

“Call it wishful thinking on my part, but I’d always hoped we’d wind up back in the same city. At least the same coast. Philadelphia’s far enough as is, but London?”

“You never said,” Annie murmured.

“I didn’t think I needed to. I thought it went without saying. You’re my best friend.”

Annie said nothing, because honestly, she hadn’t thought Darcy would care.

Darcy frowned. “I guess I was wrong. It didn’t go without saying.”

I’d like to close by addressing the proverbial elephant in the online room. I’ve seen a bunch of people who were confused by the marketing for Hang the Moon because the blurb says it’s an “#ownvoices queer rom-com” and yet nothing else about the blurb or cover image distinguishes it from other m/f romances between heterosexual people. Let me demystify it for you! Annie is bisexual, which makes this a queer romance. We see her flirt with a female presenting barista in the opening pages and Annie’s bisexuality is referenced in a few other spots. One of my favourites is during the sex scene, when Brendon checks in after going down on Annie:

She gave a breathless laugh. “You’re the Obi-Wan of oral.”

As someone who prided herself on her own cunnilingus skills, she bowed down. Brendon gave her a run for her money.

I don’t know how the publisher could have made it more clear that this is a queer book without bringing up Annie’s dating history in the cover copy, and doing so would have felt gratuitous since it has no bearing on her relationship with Brendon. But nonetheless, this is indeed a queer rom-com, no doubt about it.

Hang the Moon ended up being more personal for me than I would have guessed. I mentioned in a recent episode of my podcast that I was reading and enjoying it, and a few people reached out to tell me they wouldn’t read it. It wasn’t “queer” enough for them because Annie’s HEA is with a man. As a bisexual woman married to a man, that stung, especially because Hang the Moon brought me so much joy. This book is important for women like me, showing that we can absolutely have our HEA with a man and still proudly claim our queerness. Plus, it’s such a joyful celebration of love that it’s like a warm hug. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will read it again.

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