Counter Culture is a sweet, heart-warming holiday LGBT romance featuring our two main characters, Robin Christopher and Archie Levine.
Robin works in retail at a story called Willoughby’s, and in an effort to copy the American craziness of Black Friday, Robin’s boss is planning a massive celebration and store sale and wants Robin to play an integral part in it.
One night while walking home from work, he stumbles across Archie Levine, a young man dressed in Victorian Style clothing and whom we learn later on is a Steampunk (not a “Steampunker” as was stressed in the book). We also learn that Archie lives with and looks after his mum, tries to remain on good terms with his ex and be a good father to his little boy. With all that he has on his plate, he has no intention of getting into a romantic relationship with anyone any time soon, but yet, he finds Robin intriguing.
So at their first haphazard meeting, the two men only speak a couple of words to each other and go on their way, though they both think about each other quite a bit in the days to come. But as fate would have it, they bump into each other several times over the few days and eventually end up spending time together.
Then Archie’s mum is infuriated by a local department store who appears to disregard the plight of the homeless and plans a protest at the store. Archie, who once was homeless himself, shares in her fury. It doesn’t help that both Archie and his mum hate this particular store with a passion.
As it turns out, the store in mention is Willoughby’s, the same store where Robin works. When Robin discovers that Archie’s mom is planning a protest, he panics, and lies about his place of employment, first to her and then to Archie.
So the question is: how long can Robin hide his place of employment from Archie and his mother? As we can guess, Robin’s lies are eventually found out, and things end up getting pretty messy once they do, especially given that this new budding relationship is fraught with misunderstandings and lack of communication.
So I thought that the meet-cute courtesy of an old refrigerator was adorable. I appreciated that the author didn’t serve up the same old, cookie-cutter characters, and cookie-cutter struggles. Archie and Robin were superlative together; their connection shone right from their first meeting. There was also plenty of sass, snark, and humor to keep the story light and fun.
Though the premise of the storyline was vaguely familiar, it was also completely unique. I really loved how the author weaved in elements of Steampunk into the story and enjoyed learning more about the Steampunk culture.
I also enjoyed the many messages of this book, one of which is how we should not judge people based on our preconceived notions of them and that things are not always as they seem. Additionally, the story respectfully tackles topics such as homelessness, wealth inequality, mental illness, respect, and social class and in so doing, gives the reader plenty to think about.
I loved how the author concentrates on building up the characters in the story. The relationship really develops between the two protagonists, and it’s not done in a hurried manner. The overall steam is low (there is one quite explicit sex scene), but ask me if I minded? NO!
The sexual tension was delicious in its delayed gratification, and often, I find too many sex scenes in a book destroy the romance between the two characters. Here, we’re on this journey of self-discovery with Archie and Robin…and neither of them takes the relationship lightly. We were a good portion through the book before the characters kissed for the first time, and I personally enjoyed the slow burn.
All in all, I thought Counter Culture was a delightful, feel-good Christmas romantic comedy with sweet & charming characters and plenty of humor. I enjoyed the plot-line and the many interweaving threads throughout. The author’s witty and sophisticated writing style and storytelling really worked for me. I thought the plotting was exceptional, and I found myself completely engrossed in the book in no time at all. Counter Culture is a lighthearted romantic romp that warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face at the end.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.