A MelanieM Review: Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Everyone has their secrets.

Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram.

Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again.

Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next.

To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside.

Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?

LGBTQ Enemies to Lovers Romance

Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James is the tale I have been waiting for since I finished To Be Continued (#lovehim 3.5), the so aptly named novella and the first part of Digi and Gram’s story.  At the end of that complex bit of storytelling, Digi walked away from everything, including Gram, in order to find himself after the escalating events of that story.

Now in Not Gonna Lie, we dive into back Gram and Digi’s lives a year later.  It’s not exactly what we expected to find for both of them.

One thing I will mention immediately is the length of this story.  It’s much longer than any other books in the series and because of that we get a story richer in layers, more plot threads throughout the novel, and on whole just a thoughtful, authentic, beautifully written story. James takes a deeply honest look into the “media culture” of vloggers and their fans, including the dark side of popularity and online mass bullying and attacks.  If you’re familiar with beauty vlogger James Charles, who is people forget only 19, and the current morass he finds himself the center of, then this story will resonate with you. One minute you’re 18 and your yearbook photo goes viral, then you’re a star with a Cover Girl contract and a popular vlog at 18, and then a feud and the loss of millions of followers.  All still at the age of 19.  Such is the fickleness of the media and popularity and James gets it.

And makes it painful and intimately more real for us when we fall back into the lives of Gram and Digi.

What the blurb is not saying is why Digi is returning to Webcom and that is as big a part of this story as his reuniting with Gram.  And yes, it has also to do with the media, and bullying in the worst way.  Everything that Digi thought he was getting away from and had found him again.  It’s hard to mention aspects of this story without giving away details that lead to spoilers because the blurb is so vague that I feel that anything I mention is a surprise and important element that the reader should find out for themselves.

There are so many large things here that S.M. James gets into because of the characters.  It’s not just bullying and cyberbullying but also bulimia and eating disorders, something that Digi has been fighting for a long time (and was brought on in To Be Continued).  Along with this in the story goes cutting and self harm, so if these are triggers for you, please sake note.    Again, I will say that the longer length of the book gives the author the time to delve into the reasons behind such actions and the treatment received. It will make your  heart hurt and hold out hope for others in Digi’s situation.

And still there’s more.  Along with Gram and Digi reconnecting and working through a strained and tumultuous past history (along with their mothers competition as well), we also get a mystery, and the stress and strain of Gram’s new ever higher level popularity and the effects its having on him.  And his crazy fans.

Oh the complexities of this amazing story and all the characters.  Yes, still a romance and oh, so much more.  A social commentary, and perhaps a subtle warning too.

After all the many stories I have been reading in this remarkable YA series, I wasn’t quite prepared for just how exceptional Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James turned out to be. A beautiful continuation of Digi and Gram’s story from To Be Continued, a social commentary on the media, vloggers and the powers of popularity and its whims.  And even more, the stress these days of just being young.  That’s heartbreaking too.

So you can imagine how you feel when a romance posts a win, even a HFN, and it makes your heart soar.  If only for a while.  This is one you will want to read and cheer for the win.

I truly love all the stories that come with this series but this one?  Oh, this one is really something exemplary.  Pick up To Be Continued and then read it and Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James together for an amazing reading experience.  I highly recommend them and the entire series which I have listed below.

Cover art: Story Styling Cover Designs. Brands the series and works for this story.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 430 pages
Published May 16th 2019 by May Books
ASINB07PSMHV8Y
Edition Language English
Series#lovehim #4

Series #lovehim

That Feeling When (Archie and Landon)

No Big Deal
To Be Continued(3,5) Digi and Gram
In Real Life(4.5)  Archie and Landon  coming soon, hopefully.

Love New Adult Stories? Check Out the Release Blitz for Not Gonna Lie (#lovehim #4) by S.M. James (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Not Gonna Lie

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Release Date:  May 16, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s:  Enemies to lovers

Themes:  Online bullying culture, eating disorder, anxiety

Heat Rating:  1 flame

Length:  85 000 words/ 400 pages

Add on Goodreads

Not Gonna Lie is a standalone story within the #lovehim series.

There’s also the novella prequel (To Be Continued, book 6).

It will show you where it all began for Gram and Digi.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

At this year’s Webcon, nothing will stay secret for long.

Blurb

Everyone has their secrets. 

Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram. 

Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again. 

Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next. 

To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside. 

Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?

Excerpt

Gram tosses his cell phone onto the bed between us. Playing along, I grab his phone and check the screen, and the selfie we took last night stares back at me. I smile, we both look relaxed and totally comfortable, even though my hand on his thigh had me buzzed in that exact moment.

I set my mug down and toss the phone back to Gram before rolling onto my side. “Reminds me of when we used to vlog together.”

He stares at the photo for a minute. “Yeah. It does. Did you see the comments?”

“Nope.”

“Turns out, people are still insanely curious about where you’ve been for the last year.”

“Eh. Why?”

“Because you disappeared, Digi. You were one of the biggest vloggers and then you were gone. All those comments are asking about you. So … let’s collab.”

“What?”

“Well we’re friends, aren’t we? I haven’t lined up any guest vloggers yet, and if you do this with me, I won’t have to.”

“Yeah, no. I’m not doing that anymore.”

“I’m not saying you have to go back to it, but this will give you a chance to tell your piece, then everyone will stop speculating and you can go back to whatever the bloody hell you’ve been doing.”

I scrunch up my face, not real interested in the idea. “I dunno, Gram. I like being able to come here and not be hassled. If I do that, I’m opening the door on everyone thinking they can stick their noses back into my life.”

He sighs. “I can’t say I don’t understand. And it is your choice though.” Gram watches me, completely unguarded for a change. There’s no tension in his face, and it’s the way I like him best.

“Hey, remember that time we snuck off while our mom’s were on a panel, and went to that dolphin place?”

“Oh yeah …” His gaze goes unfocused and I know he’s remembering that day. “Yeah, that was amazing.”

It was. We’d spent the whole day there, participating in the training sessions and swimming around. Gram hadn’t started dying his hair at that point, and I can still picture the way he kept pushing his black bangs back off his face.  

His gaze flicks to me and away again. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

I blink, noting how wide my smile stretches. “I just felt real close to you that day.”

“Probably because you kept hugging me.”

“I think that’s when we first really became friends.”

“When I first realized I’d never be rid of you.” He pretends to cringe, but doesn’t do enough to cover the affectionate tone.

“When I first realized I never wanted to be rid of you,” I counter, knowing he won’t expect it.

He sighs. “You just say whatever is on your mind, don’t you?”

“Sometimes. Unlike you. You never say what’s on your mind.”

“I do when it’s important.”

“So tell me what you’re thinking now.”

“Well that’s easy, I’m thinking I’m going to be late.”

The smile drops from my face as I glance at the time. “You don’t have to go yet.”

“You know my schedule, do you?”

“I just … I mean, you can hang out for a bit longer if you wanna. We can order breakfast up here. You won’t have to worry about fans interrupting that way.” I’m just throwing out words at this point, but his schedule doesn’t start for another two hours and he’s clearly ready. There’s no reason he has to race off, right?

“I thought you were tired,” he says.

“Not anymore.”

He’s frowning at the bed and it takes him a bit to answer, like he’s trying to come up with an excuse to go. “I told my mother I’d eat with her …”

“You get to see her any old time. We’re only here for two more days, Gram. Would you really deny me your company?”

He laughs despite clearly trying to hold it back, and shoves my shoulder. “Okay, fine. Just stop.”

“Stop what?”

“Being so needy.”

I shrug, sitting up so I’m facing him. “What can I say? I like attention.”

“Tch. No you don’t.”

“I like your attention.”

Gram frowns, wide mouth falling into a pout. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me, Digi Lynch.”

I blink, eyebrows pulling up. Flirting with him? Am I? I replay my words over, and actually, I think I might be. Huh. “Would that be a bad thing?”

“It would be a strange thing.” He’s still looking at me odd, so I leave him to be confused and pick up the room phone to order our breakfast.

Gram settles back against the pillows, long legs stretched over the bed and crossed at the ankles. He’s not too much shorter than I am, but he seems smaller. Maybe it’s the over excitable personality he puts on for his vlogs, or the way his delicate face scrunches when he’s trying to be mean. I could scoop him up easily, like I did when we took that photo, and I’m hit with the impulse to do it again.

I grin as I imagine how surprised he’d be if I just grabbed him and pulled him close. I dunno want I’d do when I got him there—hug him for sure, but maybe … maybe he’d let me kiss him again?

“I’m sorry for shaving your eyebrows off,” he says suddenly, glancing over at me.

“Gram that was two years ago.”

“But I didn’t apologize.”

“You didn’t, but like I care now.”

“They’ve never grown back properly though, have they?”

I rub a hand over my eyebrows. “They’re a bit of a mess.”

“They make you look permanently bewildered.”

I laugh, lying on my side so I’m facing him. “To be fair, I feel like I don’t know much of what’s going on anyway.”

“You are adorably vague.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Gram screws his mouth up to the side, but his eyes light up, and it’s all I need to know that he’s definitely flirting with me too.

About the Author

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee. 

Member of SCBWI. 

Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.

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