“We are tutor and student. Roommates. Sparring partners. Friends. Anything you want us to be.”
Thank you very much to CreateSpace Publishing and Netgalley for providing a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
I wish there were a way I could go back in time and read Leo Loves Aries for the first time again, so I can experience all the excitable tension, laughter, and amusement I did when I read this for the very first time. Anyta Sunday’s Leo Loves Aries is a light-hearted and touchingly sweet novel that, within half a dozen chapters, quickly became a favourite.
A new person will enter your life in the early year, Leo. Look past any moments of frustration they might bring and laugh—this could be the start of a thriving friendship.
Theo Wallace usually laughs at the horoscopes his mom sends. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend and practically friendless, this one begs him to reconsider. Because a friendship that stuck, that thrived…
Well, that would be a reason to leave past pains behind and look to the Bright Future.
When his sister Leone challenges him to find her the perfect date for a spring wedding, Theo uses it as a chance to make new friends. Theo’s ex economics tutor and newest roommate Mr Jamie Cooper seems to be a possible and convenient match. Real convenient. Like written in the stars, convenient.
All he has to do is make sure this Jamie is good enough. Could really be the one for her, and the friend for him.
But watch out, Leo, the stars have a surprise in store…
Leo Loves Aries is not your typical LGBT contemporary novel: the hilarity far surpasses any other m/m contemporary I have ever read, and even days after I finished reading the novel, I still have a smile on my face any time I think of it. As it was my first Anyta Sunday novel, I can say for sure it definitely will not be my last – I’m steadily making my way through her bibliography and have since read rock, True Colors, and the short story Leo Tops Aries.
What sets Leo Loves Aries apart from other contemporaries – at least for me – is the protagonist Theo, the ‘Leo.’ Despite being the most obtuse person to ever grace a page, Theo is quirky, humorous, and immediately loveable. His inner dialogue is both comical and sympathetic, and his banter is decidedly witty and highly entertaining. I adored the relationship he has with his sister Leone, who is blind, and the care he takes to ensure she is safe at all times.
“Was I right?”
“About wanting what this place has to offer?” Jamie leaned against the doorjamb to his future bedroom and looked at him. “I reckon you were.”
Jamie, the love interest and the ‘Aries’, practically stole my heart the second he appeared on the page. While Theo is attempting to set Jamie up with Leone, he and Jamie form an intense friendship … that Jamie views as flirting and emotional foreplay before they eventually start dating. Too bad Theo is the most dense person in the entire world and doesn’t understand this. He believes his budding feelings for Jamie are platonic, but the reader can see past that. The romance building between Jamie and Theo is a delicious slow-burn, a constant ‘will-they-won’t-they‘ that has you on the edge of your seat, desperately wanting to smack the upside of Theo’s head for being so slow in understanding his feelings.
While the story-line is quite simple in its entirety – Theo and Leone are trying to find dates to their exes’ wedding (both Leone and Theo’s exes decided to start dating each other) – this doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the novel or the reading experience; if anything, it enhances it, as the plot really focuses on the heady, slow-developing romance between Jamie and Theo. It’s electric, natural and undeniable, and as much as I wanted the two to get together, I never wanted the banter and flirting to end.
“It was like he was choking inside and close to drowning. His throat was closing in, and it made him desperate to find Jamie, because he was a good swimmer and he would not let anything happen to him.”
Leo Loves Aries is also incredibly diverse, aside from the gay main characters. Theo’s sister, Leone, is blind and I believe she is a great representation: Leone is headstrong, self-reliant, and very caring. After the love interests, she’s my favourite character. One of the background characters, Ben, is demisexual and even gives the proper definition of what demisexuality means, which I highly appreciated. MILD SPOILERS: Despite these great inclusions of diversity, I did have a little issue with the way Theo’s sexuality was explored … as in, it wasn’t really. At the beginning of the novel, Theo is a straight man who is still recovering from the shock of his breakup; slowly, as he and Jamie become closer, he enters into a friends-with-benefits situation with Jamie and, well, that’s it. He very quickly accepts the fact that he is sleeping with a man, and the entirety of the revelation that he is attracted to a man is distilled with a shrug and a “sex doesn’t define me attitude.” Now, while I think Theo’s positive attitude surrounding sex is fantastic, and one I wish society strives to have too, it was a little irking to read his “coming-out,” if you will, constrained into one page, and then just shrugged off. I had assumed Theo would eventually realise he is bi, but instead it is more of a “gay for you” vibe. I’m not saying there’s anything necessarily wrong with this as I think Sunday’s intent was to showcase how versatile sexuality is; I just would have liked more bi representation, I guess. As someone who is bi, refusing to acknowledge Theo’s dual attraction gave me the feeling that being bi is somehow wrong, especially when Theo continually made reference to the fact that he is definitely not attracted to men, just Jamie. I have since read two more of Sunday’s novels which feature bi characters, so I know she’s okay with this, but I don’t understand exactly what she is going for in Leo Loves Aries.
The slight erasure of bisexuality is my only complaint of the novel, and everything else is simply wonderful. The writing is phenomenal, particularly the ways in which Sunday wrote the dynamic between Jamie and Theo. It’s so hard not to root for these guys to be together, especially when Theo doesn’t see the double entendre in Jamie’s words, or his own for that matter. This book definitely had the potential to be riddled with cliches/tropes – I mean, horoscopes? Siblings finding dates for each other? Discovering you like the guy you chose for you sister? Roommate romance? – but it was pulled off with finesse, and that is certainly attributed to Sunday’s skill at writing. I finished this novel feeling really, really happy and wanting to read more sweet and fluffy books like Leo Loves Aries.
“Fear not rejection and heartbreak, Leo. Hold your head up high, be your glowing, fiery self and the right people will gravitate to you, maybe even a soul mate among them.”
Leo Loves Aries is a touchingly beautiful novel that will leave the reader with a giant grin on their face the moment the book is over. Anyta Sunday is a fantastic author, and one I will be keeping an eye out for. In September this year, the second book in the Signs Of Love series Scorpio Hates Virgo, will be released. No word on the protagonists yet, but here’s hoping we see a little bit of Theo and Jamie! 🤞🏼🙏🏼