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Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man’s suit. While at first Katie doesn’t know what to think, a chance meeting later that night leads them both to a dimly lit lesbian dive bar that serves as Cassidy’s second home. Soon their undeniable chemistry will push each woman to confront what she thinks she deserves–and what it is she truly wants.Amazon
Why THIS Book?
It’s still #PrideMonth, and I am still reading queer books to celebrate.
A friend of mine who is way more up to date with all things cool (Hi Cynthia) told me that on “gay TikTok” (or maybe “lesbian TikTok”) there was quite a buzz about this book… so… I decided to swallow my apprehension about reading romance and give it a go.
The title was hopeful. It made me think of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. (Part of me wonders if any of those TikTok-ers are old enough to get the reference…). That movie was a sort of re-tooling of some of the themes in Pride and Prejudice if you want to go that way, but at the minimum, it was “adversaries who turned friend”s and then “friends turning into lovers”… both of which are staples in the romance/rom-com worlds…. So why not do those tired tropes with some lesbians? Sounds promising, right?
Atmosphere / Style
I swear I am going to create a “New York Book” Bingo game for myself. Name dropping of New York boroughs? Check. Name dropping of brand name clothing? Check. Someone is a lawyer, someone goes for a run, someone says they could never possibly live anywhere else besides New York, bagels!, workaholics, meeting for dinner at 8pm or later, no one ever needing sleep….Check, check check, checkcheckcheckcheck….
I already bitched about all the New York books that I have accidentally been reading, so I won’t repeat myself. And yeah… this one is on me. I decided to just read this book based on knowing very very little about it. I usually like going into a book almost blind… it works really well sometimes… and sometimes it bites me in the ass.
So, yes. It is another New York book. A specific rich person New York book full of celebrity chefs.
As for the writing… oy vey. It is overly simplistic. There is not a simile or metaphor to be found. And… because I know you are like me and want to know… the lesbian sex scene (yes, one) is PG-13 at best. And no, you don’t have to be overly graphic… but as a queer person who like wlw stuff… this book gave me nary a tingle, nary a blush… nothing. There was nothing sexy about any part of it, even the “sexy” parts. I’m not saying it should have been raunchy.. But it should have at least been interesting.
Plot / Characters
Girl meets girl. Girl likes girl but girl is straight… or is she?
It doesn’t matter. And not in a “you don’t need labels to find happiness” sort of not mattering… as in… no one seems to really care or even have a conversation about anything of substance so this woman who has never had a queer thought ever is suddenly… maybe… a lesbian. Maybe.
Could she be bi? We don’t know, this book seems to forget that bi people exist. Speaking of her lesbian object of affection and epiphany, this lesbian is mistaken for a dude a LOT and the writing is vague enough that even if we get strong trans/trans masc presenting vibes, they are ignored. Transgender people don’t exist in this book either. The only time it is even brought up, the question is deflected…. And for the life of me, I can’t tell if it is deflected because the lesbian/trans(?) character doesn’t want to talk about it or if the author just doesn’t want to “go there”. It is maddening.
Specifically, Katie is a horribly boring straight girl country mouse in the city stereotype with no depth and Cassidy is every possible lesbian stereotype smooshed together into some sort of Frankenstein conglomerate that is both borderline offensive and laughable in its absurdity.
Also, there is zero tension. Since we know this is a romance, we know they are going to solve any issues that come up… and the issues that come up are so milk toast that we don’t care about them anyway.
It all comes down to this: queer culture is not one size fits all. But in this book, everyone can be swapped for something else. The rich set in their ways playboy is now a rich set in their ways playgirl. The young ingenue is still… the young ingenue. And they can even share each other’s clothes (including bras) and shoes… that is how interchangeable they are. They are both workaholics until it is time to take a long weekend out of town… to go horseback riding… and only one of them gets any sort of background character development. But her backstory could just as easily been retrofitted for her love interest.
No. It was problematic and honestly felt a little condescending to queer people… in my humble opinion.
And yes, I know the author is queer. I vaguely remember her article about how “it is a good time to be queer if you are rich and white”... which, like her book here, barely scratched the surface of some big ass interesting and thorny problems. That blurb and this book both feel like lip service to bigger ideas about identity and power. “You could say I sold out,” she says… and I agree. I wish I had not paid full price for this book.
Would I recommend it?
No. Not even a little. Take out the very superficial puzzlement about identity that one character *almost* has, and this is a very tired, very cliche, very poorly written book about two people falling for one another in the most boring ways possible. The fact that some queer identity gets shoehorned in seems like an obvious means to corner a market As Perri herself says (possibly missing the irony) “Radicalism needs to go beyond what can be bought and effectively sold as queer-branded. Rainbow T-shirts will not save us.” Neither will badly written lesbian books written for straight people.
*** ASPECT Method (I created this, I used it, feel free to do the same.)
A Atmosphere: How did it make me feel? What was the world like? This might include the overall tone.
S Style: What was the writing style like? Simplistic or sophisticated? Clunky or beautiful?
P Plot/Pace: Was it engaging? Were there holes? Did it feel too rushed or too long?
E Enjoyment: Was it a chore to finish or compelling enough that I picked it over other fun activities?
C Characters: Were they believable, sympathetic, interesting?
T This? Why did I read *This* book?