David is in love with Tulip, a kind and unusually quiet fairy in his social circle. But everyone knows Tulip doesn’t date humans. David tells himself he is happy to be Tulip’s friend, because he doesn’t believe a fairy could love him and Tulip has never tried to “keep him”—as fairies refer to relationships with humans.
Fairies are drawn to David, describing his great “shine,” but David knows only too well how quickly fairies can forget humans, and thinks he’s destined to be alone. He can’t see his own brilliance or understand how desperately Tulip wants him, even if Tulip believes David can do better.
But exhausted and more than a little tipsy at a Christmas party, David makes his feelings too obvious for Tulip to deny any longer. Because of a past heartbreak involving a human, Tulip is convinced someone as shiny as David could never want a “silly, stupid fairy” in his life. Now, if he wants to keep David, he’ll have to be as brave as his shiny, careful human.
In the world of the beings, magical creatures live alongside humans, although they are tolerated at best. Like the marginalized humans also struggling for acceptance, the beings are slowly overcoming the stereotypes about them while relearning their own lost history. Fairies are the most well-known of the beings, and yet are so misunderstood. In some tales they are idiotic sluts who break hearts. In others, they are the regal creatures who ensnare hapless humans with the power of their beauty. They have magic they never seem to use, they refer to “keeping” the humans (or other beings) without ever explaining what that means, and they constantly talk about to the “shine” they can see around people. They are especially fascinated with those humans and beings who are shinier than others.
All humans glow with different colors to fairy eyes, but some more, some brighter. Like brave, careful David who draws fairies to him, and discovers that sometimes the old stories about fairies are true.
“Would you like to come in?”
That was all he wanted, even if it wasn’t a good idea. But Tulip stepped back and opened the door wider, and David couldn’t say no to his still, hopeful expression. He followed Tulip in, thinking vaguely of passages from his thesis about thresholds and liminal spaces and what it meant to cross a fairy border.
“As long as you don’t keep me for a hundred years,” he joked as Tulip closed the door behind him. “I have work to do.”
“I will fight my need to keep you,” Tulip promised seriously. “Even if I think you work too much, especially lately.”
David avoided his intense tone by glancing around. The apartment hadn’t changed much since his last visit. The same mix of living plants and flowers that Flor had, although much less than Flor, the same collection of artwork and posters on the walls, with the addition of drawings from the children Tulip read to. The nest of pillows had a cat tree next to it, which was new. The curtains had been drawn, probably to keep out the cold, and the living room smelled richly of chocolate. David realized why when he turned and saw all the square and heart-shaped boxes stacked on Tulip’s kitchen table.
Some of them were the kind that children gave out, with cartoon characters on the front. It didn’t stop David from going tense, because there were just as many fancy boxes wrapped in red cellophane, or the brown-and-pink packages that Zucchero was known for. Someone had either driven an hour to get those or paid to have them shipped here.
He twitched, and for some reason remembered his mother telling him he’d have to work twice as hard as everyone else to be taken seriously by some people. Tulip wasn’t one of those people. He didn’t care about David’s skin tone or if he was mixed or not, but he still probably wasn’t interested in a sick, exhausted human doctoral student who didn’t have his life together.
“Yeah, you don’t have to eat those.” David turned back and tried to smile as he waved at his little bag of chocolates. “I should have realized you’d have more than enough today. Of course you do.” His smile became slightly more genuine. “Everyone loves you.” And they knew Tulip better than he did, judging from those gifts, or had more money to spare. Or were a thousand times better at this than David was. He had to get out of here before he managed to screw things up even more.
Tulip furrowed his brow as he looked from David to the table. “But you gave me these,” he argued. “I’m sure they’re wonderful.”
David reached out to stop him, but Tulip tugged at the ribbon until it trailed to the floor, then popped a chocolate in his mouth. He took another one from the bag and held it out for David to take.
Tulip’s expression was dark and serious, so David took the chocolate from him and ate it. Even with his cold, he recognized immediately that the quality of the chocolate was not high. The chocolates in the Valentines from the little kids at the library were probably better. He stopped for a moment, then quickly swallowed and reached for the bag again.
“Don’t eat those. I’m so sorry.” He raised his head when Tulip kept the bag close to his chest. “Tulip, really. There’s no need to be nice about it. They must have been leftover stock from last year or something.”
There was no sign of anything but pleasure on Tulip’s face. “You gave them to me. Because you were thinking of me.”
David attempted jazz hands. “It’s a thing I’m doing now, being spontaneous. Well, as close to spontaneous as I can get. Obviously it’s not working out well, but I’m trying.” He rubbed his nose. “I was too careful before, I can admit it. Always thinking things out. Thinking too much. So….” He blew out a breath. “I wasn’t… planning for anything. You know that, right? I wanted to thank you, and this is… this is a day to give people candy.” He paused to gesture to the gifts on the table. “As you know.”
“I do.” Tulip held on to the bag so tightly the plastic crinkled.
“Next time I’ll be thoughtful again, I promise. No cheaping out on the chocolate for someone who loves it so much.” David crossed his heart.
He thought it was playful, but Tulip watched him sniffle and try not to sneeze and didn’t appear amused.
“You love chocolate too.” Tulip bit his lip, hesitant, then went on. “I never thought you would be here today. I assumed….” His wings gave an agitated snap, and something stirred in the nest of pillows by the window. A moment later, a cat stretched and started to get to her feet, but Tulip called David’s attention away from her. “Did no one bring you something for the day? I don’t understand.”
David didn’t need to be told he was shiny one more time. He shook his head. “Tu, you know me and my dating history. It’s nothing. Most people don’t get anything on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t even get anything when I was dating someone.” Stopping there seemed wise. Tulip was starting to look alarmed. “It’s nice that you thought I would, though,” David added. “But it’s not something I’d expect from anyone.”
Tulip reared back, his attitude startled and slightly angry. He swept a look over David. “You said your heart wasn’t broken. You weren’t lying, but….” His voice wavered as his stare became piercing. “You didn’t lie, but you weren’t telling the truth.” He released a pained breath. “David, who did this to you?” His sparkle flickered in the light, gold and black, and the world seemed to still. “Who?”
For a long moment, David couldn’t draw in air. Then he put his hands out in a calming gesture. “Tulip. Humans only bring each other gifts for this day if they’re in love. That’s all.”
Tulip blinked, and the gold of his eyes became even more intensely beautiful. “You’re David. You should be buried in gifts.”
Review by Debbie Attenborough
David is in love with Tulip, has been for some time, but Tulip doesn’t date humans. After getting drunk at a Christmas party, David reveals his feelings for Tulip, TO Tulip and something changes between them both. But Tulip doesn’t think anyone as shiny as David will want an old fairy-like him. Can they work it out?
I have one thing, and one thing alone to say to you, Cooper! Are you listening to me?? Do you know what it might be?? It’s this.
I wanted Tulip and I didn’t get him! I wanted to know about the things he kept saying, and what they meant to Tulip. Because he said several times, he wanted to KEEP David. And that obviously meant something important and we didn’t get what it was! ( I figured it out, but I still wanted to hear it from TuIip!) I wanted to know how he felt, staying away from David, and how he felt when he finally realized what an idiot he was being.
David is a deep soul, and his dialogue shows that. I did glance over the bits when he was talking about his theories and his dissertation. I got lost with some of it. But I did like David, I really did.
This is book 6 in the Beings In Love series, I have not read them, but I have book one to listen to at some point. Looking back on the blurbs for those books, only one of those couples appears in this book, so, possibly, it’s not necessary to have read them. But Tulip and David have some history, their first meeting, and I wondered if it appears in one of the other books. Because I feel like I missed something, you know? Something important, but I can’t figure out what that something might be. It didn’t affect my reading experience, though.
I loved all the beings in this book, the fairies especially, and I am tempted to go back and read the other books, at some point.
Because we only got David and I desperately wanted Tulip…
R. Cooper spends way too much time empathizing with nonhuman creatures (and avoiding actual humans). She is in love with most of her characters, and thinks of the rest of them as her babies who need all the care in the world. This is, incidentally, also how she regards the people she is fond of, which makes her not unlike one of her fictional dragons, hoarding friends.
Her preference is for the damaged, struggling ones to find their happy endings, and when other people read her stories and like them for that reason, she is incredibly, stupidly pleased about it. Feel free to find her on social media and tell her that, or just bug her about her characters. You will make her day.