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Mitch doesn't think much about his daughter's claim that there's a princess next door . . . until he meets said "princess" while at the house party. While he tries to explain to his daughter that Chi-Chi isn't a princess, he has to fight his own attraction to the confident man. Not because of who he is or the way he expresses himself; nope, Mitch is okay with that. Rather, he's afraid that as an older man with two kids, he's so far out of Chi-Chi's league. But fighting that attraction is hard, especially once he knows that Chi-Chi feels the same way. Mitch is having a hard time keeping up with work, the house, and the kids, and Chi-Chi offers to lend a hand, quickly becoming a bit of a nanny/babysitter for him. He loves spending time with the kids, but he wouldn't mind more time with their dad. But once Mitch comes into his life, Chi-Chi begins to question his longtime dream of going to NYC and making it on Broadway. Can they make things work, or will he truly be giving up his dream . . . for nothing?
Mitch is a widower, a little over a decade older than Chi-Chi, and also identifies as bi, though he's never "went all the way" with a man before (only kissing and some quick hookups back in college).
Chi-Chi is a drag queen at a local club, and working multiple day jobs to try and save up enough to head off to Broadway.
Now, Chi-Chi never identifies himself in the book, but Mitch brings up the possibility of Chi-Chi being genderqueer because he likes to dress in very feminine clothes and wear makeup, even when he's not in drag. He is NOT trans, nor does he wish to be a woman, and Chi-Chi makes that clear a few times. So for the purpose of this review, I refer to Chi-Chi as genderqueer based on those things. However, if I've misidentified him, I'll happily correct myself!
I liked the premise for Outside the Lines, and did enjoy these two men. I also really liked Mitch's kids, and the domesticity of their relationship. It was truly cute to see, and they all (Mitch, Chi-Chi, and the kids) clearly cared for one another. However, I did wonder if Chi-Chi was truly happy about turning away from his longtime Broadway dream, and at times it felt a bit like Mitch took advantage of Chi-Chi being there to take care of the household for him, even if perhaps he didn't intentionally do it.
Their chemistry is pretty hot, and there's one scene in particular -- when Chi-Chi pulls out his toys so Mitch can explore a bit -- that caught my attention.
There were a few moments of "Oh, you're bi . . . " directed at Mitch, which I didn't care for. At one point Chi-Chi wonders if Mitch won't just up and leave him one day for a woman, like many of his previous hookups have, and I wanted to shake him for thinking that. One, because that's biphobia, but two, because Chi-Chi's previous guys weren't bi and leaving him for a woman, they were dicks who saw him dressing in feminine clothes and then got mad/tired that he was not, nor would he ever be, a woman. That's not the same thing at all as a bi man getting sick of Chi-Chi and deciding to leave him, which is how he made it sound.
Overall, this was a quick read, and a cute romance between an older widower and a younger man who, I'm presuming, would identify as genderqueer. The kids didn't interfere with the story or annoy me, and I actually liked having them around. I thought Barley's writing style was solid, and I'll probably try another book from her in the future.
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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.
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Until Next Time,
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