"Portrait of a Stranger," by Rose Brookins & Mina Petkova
(YA) LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
Three chance encounters. Two boys. First love.
CHARLIE is lost in his own life. At twenty years old, his single act of rebellion has been to convince his parents to let him go to art school. Everything else, though, is a bit of a mess. He is good at art but doesn’t know what he wants from it. He’s not at all good at having a girlfriend and he definitely doesn’t know what she wants from him. Now it's only a week until the summer holidays and he's not even begun sketching for his final assignment; instead, he's moping through central London, so distracted that he ends up shoplifting. It’s a miserable day in the making…until he meets his Stranger.
PIP thinks about his Good-Looking Thief for days after they meet, daydreams tinged with wistfulness more suited to the memory of a summer long ago. But he soon lets it go. Even in his own fantasies he can't bring himself to ask for the bloke’s number because the truth is, he's no good at befriending people. Certainly not posh, artistic types with girlfriends. It’s all right. He's used to not having his way; when you live in the kind of area he does you learn to put your head down and keep going…especially when you’ve been out since you were twelve.
With a light touch that does not shy away from exploring complex issues of self-discovery and desire, ‘Portrait of a Stranger’ delivers a mesmerizing story of friendship and first love. Readers will be cheering for Charlie and Pip from their first chance encounter to the final page and beyond.
Holy flippin’ hamburgers, y’all. My read this week grabbed me by the readerly hair and didn’t let go, even long after I finished reading. (I try to stay ahead on my reviews, so I read this bad boy over a month ago, and I can attest… these characters burrowed into my heart and won’t be going anywhere any time soon!) Portrait of a Stranger by Rose Brookins & Mina Petkova is a gorgeous LGBTQ+ (m/m) romance that straddles the lines between YA and NA with a grace and maturity not out of steps with its characters ages, but written so bloody phenomenal you won’t feel like you’re in the heads of overly young boys. It definitely avoids that sometimes “watered-down” quality found in the YA/NA genres. (Not to say all YA/NA authors fall into that category, but there are some who sacrifice the quality of their writing for internal realism and, for this reader, it tends to be a put off.)
Portrait of a Stranger doesn’t follow the typical “rules” when it comes to plot and story structure, either. In fact, it bucks them quite a bit. But guess what? That’s one of the reasons I adored it. While I get there are reasons behind the predictable character arcs and plot structures, the simple fact remains… they’re predictable. Sure, there are a million different ways to attack them, but it was refreshing to read something where I didn’t know what to expect because the authors didn’t follow any of the normal conventions.
I won’t give specifics as to how they “buck” the system because, quite frankly, that would steal the intrigue of reading something so far out of the norm. Just know… this is a unique read that doesn’t hold itself accountable to traditional publishing standards. And you’ll love it. Without question.
Then there are the characters themselves. Hot dayum. I fell so hard for these boys it isn’t even funny. This is going to be one of those reads where I hold onto the characters for years to come. I even bought the book despite being provided an ARC to review because… I had to own it. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I’m only saddened it isn’t available in print. If it were? I’d pay all the necessary shipping to get it off to both Rose and Mina, so I could have an autographed copy to add to my authorly “soul” collection. 🤣
So, seriously, folks… what are you waiting for? Portrait of a Stranger is available for your immediate reading pleasure. It’s also available on Kindle Unlimited!
Until next time,