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Book Review: Anything But Easy

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Certified “Sex Doctor” Kira Murphy has always been a free spirit. She’s passionate about preventing STIs, making sure kids get all of their vaccines, and celebri-stalking her favorite politician - Barclay Lucas. Sure, he might be a Tory (for U.S. Peeps that’s the equivalent of the Republican Party), but despite his party trying to dismantle social protections, he’s one of the good ones. He’s out to save the world and look good in a Savile Row suit. But celebrity crushes aside, Kira’s out to make sure her patients receive the best care possible. So when a depressed, young man with HIV enters her examination room, she’s going to do what she can however she can to make sure he’s given the help he so clearly needs.

Barclay Lucas has always been the responsible one. The reliable one. Mr. Fix-it. But when his brother, Henry, is diagnosed with HIV and falls into a depressive spiral, Barclay doesn’t know what to do. However he doesn’t need to, the eccentric and quirky doctor at the NHS hospital has managed to get through to him. But she’s not his actual doctor. So Barclay needs to change that.

And with that, staid and conservative Barclay meets weird and wonderful Kira and their lives will never be the same.

I’m torn about this book. I’ve loved Susie Tate’s writing in the past and Kira’s been a long time favorite of mine since I first read about her in Beg, Borrow, and Steal. So I was super excited to read this book. I like politics stuff. (Anyone who knows me in real life can tell you that). Plus, Anything but Easy has two of my favorite tropes – Fake Dating and Enemies-to-Lovers – it’s like this book was tailor made for me. 

So why am I so torn?

Let’s start with the some of the good.

Kira is still her quirky fun self. She’s unpredictable and has a very idiosyncratic way of speaking. I loved seeing her interact with her patients. She’s like the definition of Manic Pixie Dreamgirl. She’s tiny. Quirky. Out to save the world. And she possesses very little in the way of common sense or self preservation. But, just like the character herself says (which, nice lampshade hang) she’s a bit of an acquired taste. She reminds me in a lot of ways of Fandom!Darcy. You know the one who is able to draw Bruce out of his shell, keep up a prank war with Clint and/or Loki, and ride herd on all of the scientists while winning the heart of whatever Avenger the author wants to pair her with. You know, that Darcy.  I like that Darcy.

But like Fandom!Darcy, Kira does some things that people in real life would find questionable or in really bad taste.

So I liked Kira. She’s a nicknamer. An idiosyncratic talker. She’s a bit like me, but with less fashion sense. 

So on to something I didn’t like.

The hero.

I don’t know if it’s me, but Barclay didn’t grab me the way I wanted to. And I admit a lot of it is because of the current political climate. The Tory party is the one behind Brexit. The party of Boris Johnson, Theresa May, and Margaret Thatcher. I had a hard time rooting for him because for all that he was a nice guy, he’s still on the political side of a party that has caused a great deal of harm to marginalized people. It’s like I said in a recent post, you may claim not to be a racist but if you support a racist institution and work to keep it in power, then you are, in fact, a racist. That’s true here. The Tories are doing that in Britain just like the Republicans are doing that in the United States.

Barclay may care deeply about his brother. But he still felt his brother’s HIV diagnosis would hurt his political career. This is something that actually happened in the book!!! 

He may like Kira’s quirkiness, but dear Gods is he embarrassed by it. He’s selfish. He does things that make it difficult for Kira to do her job effectively and doesn’t apologize for it. Because he doesn’t care about the people Kira is helping, only himself.

So I didn’t really like him.

Unfortunately, my dislike of the hero played into my “meh” feeling regarding the romance. It didn’t land for me. The chemistry felt forced. It’s also the main reason I didn’t like The Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley.

I’m also leery of obsessed-fan hooks up with the object of their obsession and finds true love. As someone who has had to be the person to stand between the fan and the person they’re obsessed with, I can tell you this isn’t how it works. I’ve read a few other stories with this trope and it really bugs me. Probably because of the objectification but also because of my own experiences with being stalked.

Back to the good.

The writing is on point. Funny. Witty. Great banter. Seriously I really love Susie Tate’s writing. The scenes with Henry and Kira’s friends are some of the best. The creative nicknames and insults are faboo. I will need to add some of them to my repertoire.

Since Tate is a doctor herself in Britain the medical stuff is on point. I loved the scenes where Kira got to show just how awesome a doctor she was. Give me competence porn, I am so here for that.

The story toes the line on sexy. It’s steamy and acknowledges that sex takes place but most of the scenes are closed door or hinted at. So people looking for super clean, this likely isn’t for you. Nor is this for someone who wants spank bank material in their romance. I wasn’t in the mood for sex at the moment, so this worked. But I don’t like the moralizing that’s often in so-called “clean romances”… sometimes you don’t have to have explicit sex to have a good romance.

Back to the not so good. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. It was okay. Not bad, per se. Just not my cup of tea. I like to see more agency in my leads, and while Barclay had agency in his storyline, Kira did not.

Ask my editing clients and one of the things I tend to ding them on is characters, especially their female leads, having agency in their own stories. That they’re the ones driving the story arc and not the other characters – particularly the male characters.

So while Kira’s story was resolved, she didn’t have a lot of agency in it. Which fed into Barclay tramping up and down all over her agency.

This book needs a whole heap of content warnings including: depression, suicidal ideation, frank discussion of STIs, frank discussion of HIV/AIDS, Medical trauma, medical neglect (not by the heroes), sexual harassment, workplace sexual harassment, parental neglect/abandonment, mentions of past child neglect/abandonment, mentions of stillbirth/miscarriage, ableistic language in regards to mental illness, sexual assault, use of the g-slur in reference to clothing/appearance (this was not in reference to the Irish Travellers who do call themselves by the g-slur but in reference to clothing/appearance/lifestyle choices of two white characters), use of food descriptors for POC skin (cappuccino instead of brown or Black), microaggressions in descriptions of natural hair (wild and unkempt). The last three are things that are easily correctable. But they are things that do exist, and I hope the author educates herself as to why they are problems. (I provided links to some resources when I sent in my review so she can’t say that she wasn’t given sources. We’ll see where this goes.) In all, I both liked and disliked this book. I still love Kira. I loved Henry. Libby, Mark, and Millie are great as always. But because of the issues I’ve listed above I feel like I can only give this: Two Stars.

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley

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