I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
When she arrives for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy doesn’t expect much from Cherrywood Grove. Then she runs into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings… and also the daughter of Trisha’s favorite childhood TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?
But as it turns out, Gabi’s easy charm is a facade. Since the sudden death of her father, Gabi has been pulling away from her family and what she really wants, weighed down by secrets she can’t express. Trisha might be the perfect person to help her, but is getting so involved in Gabi’s life really the right choice?
This was a truly beautiful and well-written book. It dealt with so many different life experiences, especially about the many ways different people can come out to both themselves and others. I particularly liked and related to Gabi’s own path in coming out and how this isn’t always as straight-forward as media (or real life) usually portrays it.
On the other hand was Trisha’s own history as a gay trans woman, and I feel like both stories were dealt with in a very serious and delicate manner. There was definitely something in both of them that every queer person might relate to, and in many ways this book was a study in being queer, particularly a queer woman.
I haven’t read the previous two books in this series and this didn’t affect my enjoyment: past characters make cameos here, but that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how I wish more romance series had a mix of queer pairings and experiences, and while I don’t know how male queerness is handled in the first two, I really appreciated that this third book focused entirely on being a queer woman.
We so rarely get to see this and there were certainly types of experiences that this book didn’t handle, but we have a gay trans woman, a young gay woman who’s never been in the closet, a bi woman married to a man, and a woman who, despite growing up in a queer family, still struggles with her own coming out process. It’s… real, and it’s raw and this is a book I would have loved to read when I was just past my own questioning and coming to terms with who I was for the first time. I still loved to read it now and there were so many moments I highlighted because they just fit.
There were other themes such as family, friendship, death and grief that, paired with how seriously everything else was handled, made this book rather heavy to read, particularly if you, like me, expect the uh, more “usual” kind of (lighthearted) romance. That is not to say that it was difficult to read or that I didn’t want to read: I basically read this in three sitting on three different days because every time I started reading I didn’t want to stop. But it was emotionally heavy and I saw it more as a study or queerness, like I mentioned before, and as a character study.
The best way I can summarize my experience with this book is in two very separate statements:
a) what a wonderful book;
b) I didn’t have fun reading this book.
The second thing isn’t necessarily negative; some books aren’t meant to be fun. Maybe if I had read the first two in the series I would have known what to expect, but I didn’t, and as a general rule I’m expecting to experience at least a little bit of fun while reading a contemporary romance.
Speaking of the romance itself, it comes, but it comes very late. It makes sense within the book, much more than if things had been rushed: the relationship is very well developed and sweet, but it’s a friendship for a higher percentage of the book than what I would expect from a book marketed as, you guessed it, a romance.
Maybe your best bet is going in without expectations of what this book is or isn’t, but if you’ve read this far into this review I guess I already gave you some expectations. In any case, this is a novel I would highly recommend for its many themes and a pairing we need more of (trans f/cis f). I don’t know if I will go back and read the first two books in this series, but I definitely want to keep an eye for future work of the author.
Rep: cis Mexican-American gay woman, trans gay white atheist woman
TW: grief, loss of family member, discussions of homophobia and transphobia, food, straight weddings, religion