Winter Sunlight

Courtney Milan's Cyclone series

As part of my new "think about happy things more often" initiative, I am going to try to start posting more about things I have enjoyed lately, and here's one: Courtney Milan's Cyclone series.

These are romances that, generally speaking, fall into the "new adult billionaire romance" genre (i.e. financially struggling young lady falls for billionaire). However, they're highly atypical billionaire romances that really feel more like general contemporary romance, or just contemporary fiction that happens to involve a romance. They are also very much about the world that the characters inhabit -- which is Silicon Valley, at a fictional, vaguely Apple-like tech company called Cyclone -- and about the ensemble consisting of the main characters' families and friends, which is what really sucked me in. I am a huge sucker for ensemble series and these books hit that button hard. I started with the second book in the series out of vague curiosity, then snaffled the first book immediately because I wanted to find out more about these characters, and at this point I'm glomming onto all the short stories and I just want to know everything about these people that the author is willing to share. It is very obvious from the part of the series that's out already (the first two books, plus various associated short stories) that the author has mapped the entire thing out in her head and has large parts of the future books written, bits of which intrude on the earlier books in various ways. It's huge and fascinating. It feels like a universe.

The series also does something that I have not seen in any other romance series I've read, at least not to this extent: she mixes het couples with various flavors of queer couples. The genre standard is to separate them out into different series or, at most, maybe stick one m/m into a series that's otherwise het. These books just sort of fling a bunch of characters together and then follow their various romances with an air of pure IDGAF. The first book is straightforwardly het romance. The second is still het, but with a bisexual hero and a trans heroine. Based on the covers, there's a lesbian one coming up (in which one of the heroines is trans; she's a supporting character in one of the other books) and the eventual book for the fan favorite, "when is this guy going to get his own book" character has been very heavily implied (bordering on outright stated, as of the short stories) to be m/m. Meanwhile there are a couple of other het couples with books still to come, as well as another book about the first couple who are the fulcrum of the series. Nearly all of the couples (possibly all of them) are interracial - first book is a Chinese-American heroine and a white hero, second book is a Thai-American hero and a Latina heroine. Ha, oh, and despite being technically New Adult, one of the books in the series is going to feature a couple in their fifties. The IDGAF is very strong with this series; the author is obviously just kicking genre conventions out the door, writing what she wants to write, and having fun.

The books so far are:

Trade Me - By far my favorite in the series, mainly because of the main characters' parents, who are AMAZING. I also really loved the heroine. THE PARENTS, THOUGH. Also, this book completely surprised me with a couple of the plot twists. It starts off with a really basic romance plot and you're like, okay, I totally know where this is going, and then at a certain point the book veers suddenly into OKAY WHAT??? and from there it's just a wild roller coaster ride through increasing levels of OMGWTFBBQ.

Hold Me - To be honest I was pretty meh on this one compared to the first, though obviously it engaged me enough to buy the first book (which was where my love for the series kicked up to eleventy). The couple never quite grabbed me, and while the first book handles the numerous issues it addresses (race, class, eating disorders, religious discrimination, and more) with a low-key approach that felt very organic to the plot, there were times when the second book got too hamfistedly didactic for my tastes. That said, it is an enjoyable romance novel and it may be some people's favorite; it just wasn't mine.

The next book will feature Blake, Tina, and Adam from the first book again, rotating POV between the three of them. *makes grabby hands*

If you want to sample a little of the 'verse, this short story contains no spoilers; it's just a little slice of life at Cyclone.

She's also got, I kid you not, a short story in which one of the main characters from Cyclone accidentally travels in time and meets the main character from one of her historical series. It's crack fanfic. About her own characters.

And if you've read these, come join me in the comments and talk about them! Particularly if you want to talk about Adam Fucking Reynolds. :D

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Oh! Oh! I love Milan's writing in general, but series like this are just CRACK to me. *makes grabby hands*

Haven't read any except her historicals--didn't even know she wrote anything else. But YAY. Thank you for pointing these out.
I haven't read her historicals, but I really loved these! I hope you enjoy them too. :D
I'm not into romance myself, but I love that she's written crack fanfic about her own characters!! That's just wonderful!! :D
I am a huge fan, but I feel like we can't discuss, because basically i totally agree with you about everything. We can only squee together about all of Teh Awesome. (I'll start: I also thought Hold Me was well-written and engaging, but i do not love it with the white-hot intensity with which I loved Trade Me. also, AFR just wins, and I cannot wait for book three.)
But when did "discuss" start to mean "disagree"?? Squee can totally be part of a discussion! I am SO ready for book 3. :DDD

One thing I did really like about Hold Me is that it expanded the Cyclone world in ways we didn't see in the first book. Actually it really interesting starting with that one and going backward because the first book, for all that it's about Cyclone's founder's son and an actual product launch, doesn't actually deal with the Cyclone social milieu in the way that the second book does. I suspect that going in the intended direction would've had the opposite effect (the first book introduces the company, the second book fleshes it out) but for me, going back to the first book felt a little like "hey, where did all the people go??" after the second book introduced us to the house parties and the Cyclone kids playing together and the whole overall benign-cult nature of the place.

*stalks the author's website for news on book 3*