Healing Through Fake Dating: Cover Story by Rachel Lacey

Cover Story by Rachel Lacey cover

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Natalie Keane is one of Hollywood’s top leading ladies. Unfortunately, with fame comes unwanted attention, sometimes in the form of crazed fans turned stalkers. With award season approaching as the man who held her hostage gets released from prison, Natalie agrees to extra security. To avoid another tabloid spectacle, her bodyguard, Taylor Vaughn, poses as her in-house girlfriend. Is it the perfect cover story, or will fantasy and reality blur as these two women grow closer?

After reading Rachel Lacey’s Stars Collide last year, I was all too eager for another sapphic celebrity/forced proximity story. This one even features a character from Stars Collide (plus a few fun cameos): Taylor, who was previously Eden Sands’ security detail. The story is layered, focused on healing from past trauma instead of the trauma as it happens. With most stories, we neglect that process, going from a dire situation to a rescue to a happily ever after epilogue. Lacey invites us to recognize how trauma can have a ripple effect on our lives, and how healing is an ongoing process. Natalie learns how to build a safe space for herself, even knowing that nothing in this world, including her own safety, is guaranteed.

To be completely honest, the chemistry felt rushed and forced for me. There’s a flare of initial attraction between the two women when they first meet, not when Taylor interviews to become Natalie’s bodyguard, but even before that, as a memory. We don’t feel and experience that moment live, which fails to give readers the chance to experience what the characters felt as it happened. Most of the conflicts don’t feel dire, which creates a lack of tension. Since the story is focused on healing after a trauma, it’s more reliant on internal conflicts for momentum. We get a lot more show than tell (internalizing than action) as a result. Also… there’s an adorable little kitten in the story, and while she becomes a way for the main characters to bond in a cute found family moment, she’s all too quickly forgotten once the main characters start sleeping together.  

Recommended for fans of Alexandria Bellefleur and Anita Kelly’s sapphic romances.

The Vibes 

⭐ Sapphic Romance
⭐ Hollywood Romance
⭐ Actress/Bodyguard
⭐ Fake Dating
⭐ Forced Proximity
⭐ PTSD/Healing From Trauma

Quotes

“I’m less afraid when I’m with you.”

“Everything felt better, brighter, less overwhelming or terrifying, when Taylor held her.”

“Our cover story became a real-life headline.”

“She brought Natalie here to show her the stars, but instead, Natalie had made her see stars in a completely different way.”

A Belated Bi Awakening: Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

the cover of Imogen, Obviously

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Imogen Scott has endless experience as a straight queer ally. Her friends are pan and bi, her sister is out, and she never misses a Pride Alliance meeting. While visiting her best friend Lili at college, who has her own little queer community, Imogen takes “supportive” a step further. She pretends to be Lili’s ex-girlfriend and bi. The longer she wears the label, the more she wonders if it fits… especially when she’s in the company of Lili’s new friend, Tessa. Can Imogen keep her story straight, or is she finally starting to see who’s staring at her in the mirror?

This recent streak of bi/sapphic YA books (One Last Stop, Perfect on Paper, and now this) has left me slain. It’s all too much. I am FEELING too much. Be still, thy bi heart.

In all seriousness, this is the exact story little baby bi me needed back in high school, and I’m so glad it’s on shelves for adolescent readers now. There’s SO MUCH to discuss: the themes of self-identity, friendship, and coming-of-age so perfectly layered to make Imogen so obviously (I had to) exactly who she is. Imogen’s “bunny” brain is a realistic mental chaos of self-doubt and queer questioning. Everyone assumes straight is the default, when really, it should be bi until proven otherwise. Most people aren’t given the chance to question their sexuality, to explore who they are, instead establishing themselves in a pre-determined box. I’ve been there, and Imogen’s constant questioning and confusion make her emotions all the more real. She questions if queerness looks a certain way, or if we’re supposed to have our queer awakenings by a certain time, or if we’re supposed to be certain, but how could we with the constant DISCOURSE over everything? Imogen’s voice leaps off the page, making her easy to like; a character you want to follow to the end. Lili is everything as a best friend (and queer mentor), while Gretchen so perfectly straddles the line between well-meaning and toxic. We’ve all had that friend we realized (almost too little, too late) wasn’t looking out for our best interests, the one in the back of your head spinning every worst fear until it became a play-it-on repeat thought. Though she could have felt too extreme, we see why Imogen hears Gretchen out, why Imogen gives her a second chance, allowing her to become the cranked-up monster of self-doubt in Imogen’s head. Also, The Owl House, One Last Stop, and Sailor Moon mentions were everything.

This had an awkward start for me, namely because of all the names and identities we’re given in the first few chapters. It felt like Imogen’s younger, queer sister was less of a character and more of a plot piece (both to prove that Imogen was surrounded by self-aware queers and to show what queerness looked like in Imogen’s eyes). She doesn’t have some cute scenes with Imogen until the end, and by that point, I wanted more.

Recommended for fans of Perfect on Paper and One Last Stop.

The Vibes

❤️ Young Adult
❤️ Queer Cast
❤️ Bisexual FMC
❤️ College/Coming-of-Age
❤️ Identity
❤️ Romance & Friendship

💬 Quotes

❝ The only way to let someone into your reality is to retell it. ❞

❝ One girl can’t topple your entire sexuality, right? ❞

❝ All these moments, scattered and separate. All these disconnected dots. ❞

❝ Then she buries her face in the crook of my neck, and every breath she breathes feels like a love letter. ❞

❝ How I felt. Dizzy, off- balance, unsteady. Like my bones were too big for my body. Like I couldn’t zip myself closed. Like I’d colored outside my own outline, stepped out of frame, made myself three- dimensional. ❞

A Blossoming, Neurodiverse Love: Late Bloomer by Mazey Eddings

Late Bloomer cover

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After winning the lottery, Opal Devlin puts all her money in a failing flower farm, only to find an angry (albeit gorgeous) Pepper Boden already living there. Though she’s unable to find her grandmother’s will, Pepper claims she’s the rightful owner of Thistle and Bloom Farms. While they agree to cohabitate, Opal and Pepper clash at every turn. Can something softer blossom between these polar opposites, allowing a new dream to take root and grow?

Oh. My. (Sappho.) Goddess. You may think you know Mazey Eddings’ writing style, but I assure you, you do not. Many of us read The Plus One and/or Tily in Technicolor last year, but Eddings has far exceeded herself with this one. As a neurodivergent author, Eddings’ stories often have some element of neurodiversity/mental health, shining a light on the different ways people’s brains work while embracing those differences through beautiful, realistic characters. Opal and Pepper are no different, both on the spectrum yet unique in their behaviors and view of the world. These women are not predictable, pre-programmed components of a story; they are ever-blooming, learning how to plant roots alongside one another, share sunlight, and rise despite being different species. Both plants, growing and adapting to different elements, yet very much the same. While Opal and Pepper have always struggled to fit in with the world around them, they manage to cultivate a safe, healthy garden for one another.

This is one of those overwhelming, layered, awe-inspiring sapphic stories that will tug at your heartstrings long after you read it. Eddings’ language leaps off the page, making it a little reminiscent of One Last Stop (be still, my little sapphic heart). I’ve beyond annotated Late Bloomer, when I’m usually selective about choosing quotes. You don’t just see love blossom between these two women; you feel it. It made me smile, laugh, get all messy and misty-eyed. As I said, neither woman is predictable. Opal feels directionless at the story’s start, allowing her (fake) best friend and (on/off) ex to step all over her. I expected her to be the wallflower, especially with the BITE we see from Pepper (pun unintended) in her first chapter, but the two balance each other out. When Pepper feels uncertain or anxious, Opal steps forward, bold and unwavering. When Opal begins to crumble, Pepper holds her up. They support each other, never allowing the other to wilt.

Unfortunately, this book relies heavily on miscommunication. Both women are eager to hide their real feelings at the risk of scaring the other. That lack of communication continues until almost the last chapter.

Recommended for fans of One Last Stop and Imogen, Obviously. Side note: please, please read the author’s note. Good goddess.

✨ The Vibes ✨

❀ Neurodivergency/Autism Spectrum
❀ Sapphic Romance
❀ Grief/Healing
❀ Forced Proximity
❀ Spicy/First Time
❀ Cottagecore Vibes
❀ One Bed
❀ Touch Her and You Die
❀ Dual POV
❀ Miscommunication
❀ Flower Competition
❀ Grumpy/Sunshine

 Quotes

❝Slowly, she leans toward me, and my heart pounds so violently in my chest that my head swims. Is she . . . It almost seems like she’s going to press that smile to my mouth. Teach me how it tastes.❞

❝Ah. There’s the you I missed.❞

❝I used to stress over finding a label that fit me. Lesbian. Bisexual. Pan. Demi . . . I’ve filtered through them all many times over, none ever feeling quite right. Just say queer and move on with your life, Diksha finally told me late one night after what was probably my sixth sexual identity crisis of my early twenties. But what does that mean? I’d wailed, draining more boxed wine into my plastic cup. My brain loves order and labels and concise frameworks to understand things, and not knowing where I fit feels unbearable. It means you’re you, and only you get to decide who you like and when you like them, Tal had said from their chair in the corner. The name of your feelings isn’t anyone’s business but yours.❞

❝But instead, she reaches out to me—opening her hand like a flower unfurling its petals to the sun. I stare at it. The ink stains and calluses and chipped nails and bitten cuticles. For a moment, that hand looks like a second chance.❞

❝Her poems spoke softly—as intimately as confessions between lovers—about the terrible, wonderful ache of being in love.❞

Take a Shot on How You Get the Girl by Anita Kelly

the cover of How You Get the Girl by Anita Kelly

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While coaching East Nashville High’s girl’s basketball teen, Coach Julie Parker expects passionate players and quick springs, not for the star of her fantasies, ex-WNBA baller Elle Cochrane, to show up with the niece she’s fostering. Despite being all heart-eyed and tongue-tied, Julie convinces Elle to become her assistant coach, allowing Elle to keep an eye on her niece. Neither expects sparks to fly along with basketballs shooting across the court, even as Elle helps Julie navigate the unfamiliar terrain of dating. Will they continue sitting on the sidelines of their own lives, or finally take a shot?

Dear Anita Kelly. Thank you. Thank you for a story about two beautifully, vulnerably queer women who are so real and authentic and layered. What easily could have been a trope-filled sapphic sports romance is instead a stunning exploration of identity, mental health, and personal growth. Bear with me, Lesbrary readers, as I try to find my words. This story started with Julie’s megawatt heart-eyed celebrity crush and a little forced proximity, but it became so much more. Between her queer twin and best friend, Julie always thought she was a little behind in defining her queerness, but there’s no timeline, no deadline. She always struggled to find her label, her place (only to realize they’re just… whatever!), and it’s not until Elle steps into her life and throws her out of her comfort zone that Julie gets the chance to grow into herself. I also adored that Jules couldn’t fully pick one label (“15 percent general queer, 10 percent lesbian stereotype. 20 percent ace, 55 percent dumbass.”) because identity is in fact a spectrum. She does mention the possibility of being demisexual at one point, which my girlfriend identifies as, and honestly… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a character recognize that as an option before. To say it brought tears to my eyes is an understatement.

In a way, Elle has been stuck in a comfort zone, too, until she starts fostering her niece and coaching alongside Jules. Elle is so patient with Jules, so willing to step back and give Jules the chance to process her own thoughts, recognize her own needs. There’s a give and take to their relationship: when one falters, the other steps in to help them find their balance again. There are so many layers to this story: “There’s this idea embedded into our culture of getting over things,” “Maybe all love is a surprise, followed by practice,” “You can be happy and still feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing.” There’s so much to appreciate in the little lessons these women learned. Together. (If we’re keeping track, I cried three times while reading this book: when seeing “demi,” at the news clipping, and during Jule’s speech. I need more tissues now, thank you.)

There is one topic I wish received a little more attention, namely because it isn’t discussed often enough. Elle meets with the school’s weights guy, who assumes all the players on the team are girls: “the ingrained hierarchy and immovable binary of most sports.” Elle and Julie made a “space for any player who wanted to put in the work, regardless of their identity.” Kelly mentions fighting for equality in sports within her acknowledgments, but I do wish we’d seen a little of that fight as a source of conflict within the book.

The story is a bit slow at the beginning, but once it finds its momentum, it GOES. I will say I wasn’t aware this was a duology when I grabbed this ARC, but the references to the previous story weren’t so heavy that you can’t enjoy this one as a stand-alone.

Recommended to all readers, whether you’re looking for a sports romance, sapphic romance, or simply a good book with lots of mental health love. This one is going to stay with me for a long while.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Vibes

🌈 Sapphic Ship – Lesbian/Demi
💞 Fake/Practice Dating
🏀 Sports/Workplace/Forced Proximity Romance
🏆 Mental Health Rep
📚 Part of the Nashville Series
🏆 Contemporary Romance
🏀 Dual POV
💞 Smut
🌈 Queer Main & Side Cast

💬 Quotes

❝ Any relationship that’s worthwhile, whether it’s friendship or romantic or sexual, only really works when you try. ❞

❝ But that when it came to identity, when it came to queerness, the whole point was that there were no tryouts. If you were even thinking about it, you were already on the team. That labels weren’t meant to confine, only to bring comfort to those for whom they were useful. That Julie didn’t need to ascribe to any of them, if she didn’t want to. ❞

❝ “There’s nothing wrong with you, Julie,” Elle said in that same half-whisper that was slowly going to kill her. “You’re not behind on anything. There’s nothing for you to be behind on. There’s nothing, and no one, you have to track your own life by.” ❞

❝ Maybe all love was a surprise, followed by practice. A step out of comfort zones, followed by hard work. Lurking in all the places you didn’t expect, places that become a forever part of you. ❞

A Sapphic Spin on You’ve Got Mail: Read Between the Lines by Rachel Lacey

the cover of Read Between the Lines

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❝Her online crush, her real-life crush, and the woman who’d crushed her dreams were all the same person, and her mind was still struggling to snap all the pieces into place.❞

Books have always been a part of Rosie Taft’s life. That happens when your late mother once owned a Manhattan bookstore you’ve now inherited. The only thing missing from Rosie’s life: a romance to rival the ones she reads about. Though she has a flirty online friendship with lesbian romance author “Brie,” they’ve never met, never turned those flirtatious remarks into deep, romantic gazes in reality. Jane Breslin works for her father’s property development business by day, but by night, she lets her hair down and steamy side out as a romance writer. When the business terminates Rosie’s bookstore lease, their worlds collide and online identities are revealed. Can Jane pen her way back into Rosie’s heart for a happy ending?

By some coincidence, I watched You’ve Got Mail for the first time a few months ago. There’s something about the sweet simplicity of 90s rom-coms that can get a heart all warm and cozy. Obviously inspired by the same premise, Read Between the Lines is a modern-day, WLW spin. The enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract elements fills you with hope as you wait for all the pieces to click into place. Once they do, the romance feels easy, natural… but realistic in the sense that so many problems are ignored in exchange for that bliss. For a moment, Rosie and Jane exist in a comforting, sweet bubble, but as in real life, you can’t ignore reality forever.

I adored Lacey’s Stars Collide (and I’m eagerly trying to get my hands on her upcoming release Cover Story), but it’s obvious this was one of Lacey’s first lesbian romances. So much of the chemistry between Rosie and Jane was built off-screen, through the texts they exchanged long before the story started. Unfortunately, that makes it seem like there’s not a great deal of chemistry between Rosie and Jane once their true identities are revealed.

The source of conflict feels a bit exhausting. Rosie remains hung up about the fact that Jane’s family’s company is the reason she’s losing her bookstore, but Jane herself isn’t the reason. Rosie struggles to disassociate losing her bookstore from Jane the entire time. Deciding to leave the family business, while a point of character development for Jane, shouldn’t have been a solution solely for Rosie’s benefit. None of the problems (internal and external) either woman faced built enough tension to give the story momentum.

The smut scenes are…not great. Some of the word choice is repetitive (“swirled and plunged” included, which is just… please don’t), and there’s more of a focus on logistics over emotion. Fade to black paired with a little post-coital pillow talk would have worked just as well (and perhaps felt less rushed, distance, and awkward). Again, it feels like this was Lacey’s first WLW romance, in which case, you can see the growth in later novels.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 Recommended for fans of You’ve Got Mail, Cleat Cute, and Fly With Me.

✨ The Vibes ✨

❤️ Enemies to Lovers
❤️ Sapphic Romance
❤️ Books About Books
❤️ Lesbian MCs
❤️ Contemporary Queer Romance
❤️ Book 1 in a Series
❤️ Opposites Attract

Medieval Queer Chaos: Gwen & Art Are Not in Love by Lex Croucher

the cover of Gwen and Art Are Not In Love

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Gwendoline and Arthur have been betrothed to one another since birth. Too bad they absolutely hate each other. When forced to spend a summer in Camelot together, Gwen and Arthur discover tantalizing secrets about one another: Gwen witnesses Arthur kissing a boy, while Arthur learns that Gwen has a crush on the kingdom’s lone lady knight, Lady Bridget Leclair. Stuck at a stalemate, they make a reluctant pact to cover for one another. While Gwen and Bridget finally connect, Arthur finds himself enamored by Gwen’s brother. Can they navigate their messy feelings to find their own places in history?

Oh my goddess, the queer chaos in this is everything. Lex Croucher has spun Arthurian legends of old into a queer medieval YA rom-com that could easily alter history as we know it. Gwen is a bi baby, newly navigating her feelings for a badass lady knight, while Arthur is a gay, sassy messy shooting heart-eyes at Gwen’s brother (the one-day king). The dialogue is EVERYTHING: sassy, quick-witted, and all too entertaining. There’s somewhat sexy sword-fighting (come on, sword-fighting is always sexy, but when your queer crush is schooling you, it’s all the better), fake dating (does it count as fake dating when you’ve been betrothed since childhood?), and heart-warming found family vibes. The queer panic and nervous humor were all too relatable, even though the story is set in medieval times. That’s a true feat; you can connect with the queer chaos, even if you’re shooting heart-eyes in the 21st century.

That being said, let’s talk about Gwen and her lady knight. I mean, get ready to absolutely SWOON alongside Gwen. Lady Bridget Lechlair is all fierce confidence—a necessity, when everyone has an unpopular opinion of you simply because you’re a woman, regardless of your badass abilities—but she’s also an enigma with a gooey interior. I loved seeing Gwen find her confidence through Bridget, discovering her voice and standing up for them both when necessary. Though Gwen is a royal, she’s questioned her inner power and authority, as everyone around her has made it clear her only worth is in her marriage to Arthur as a political move. Spending time with Bridget gives Gwen the chance to realize she’s worth so much more. Though the story’s quick wit and banter stand out, I think this character development is the story’s real strength. Sometimes, you need someone who believes in your potential before you can see it yourself.

The only real hang-up for me was the pacing. The ending felt especially rushed, which was a disappointment after the queer chaos dragged a bit. I wonder if the writer paused for a moment, then returned to finish the latter half of the story. I also found the relationship between Arthur and Gabriel (Gwen’s brother) a little underwhelming when it had so much potential at the start. Regardless, I appreciated all the queer hijinks and humor.

Recommended for fans of Heartstopper, Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow trilogy, Red, White, & Royal Blue, and the TV show Merlin. Get ready for a swoon-worthy, medieval mess of pining and romance!

The Vibes
⚔️ All the Queer Ships (w/ Serious Queer Panic)
⚔️ Fake Dating
⚔️ YA Debut
⚔️ Found Family
⚔️ Medieval/Historical Fiction/Rom-Com
⚔️ Enemies to Allies

What classic story would you love to read a queer retelling of?

Sweet Sapphic Chaos: The Fiancée Farce by Alexandria Bellefleur

the cover of the Fiancee Farce

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“She was a total fucking goner. Whatever magic Tansy was made of, Gemma wanted to drown in it, revel in the honeyed heat burning her up from the inside out. It was better than the finest bourbon she’d ever had the pleasure of sipping.”

After losing her parents and a traumatic romantic experience as a teen, Tansy Adams focuses all her time and energy on her late father’s bookstore. To dodge questions about her love life, Tansy invents Gemma, a fake girlfriend inspired by the stunning cover model on a best-selling romance book. She never expected that real-life Gemma would step into her life, play along, and announce they were engaged, imploding that white lie into a full-on farce. Gemma van Dalen, the outcast of her wealthy family, needs a spouse to inherit Van Dalen Publishing, her grandmother’s legacy. In exchange for Tansy’s hand in marriage, Gemma offers to save Tansy’s beloved bookstore before it’s sold off. Can their marriage of convenience work, or will Gemma’s scheming family get between them?

“As for feeling like you’ve failed, well, failure is an inescapable part of life. But failing doesn’t make you a failure. And I’m sorry your father made you feel like the two were synonymous. You are more than your achievements, Gemma. You are brilliant, and ambitious, and you are good, do you hear me? And what you do or do not achieve in this life has no bearing on your value.”

Oh. My. Goddess. That’s right: goddess, because that’s exactly what these two cunning, sassy women are. Alexandria Bellefleur has taken the generally predictable “marriage of convenience” trope and turned it into an emotional, powerful story about finding the love you don’t realize you deserve. Both Tansy and Gemma are full of so much pain, their family trees full of broken branches (and in Gemma’s case, poisonous barbs). For them to find love and family in one another so unexpectedly (for them, at least, because, come on, that’s what we’re here for), so flawlessly…it’s not only swoon-worthy and sweet, but a relief. It’s the insane, instant, undeniable chemistry between Tansy and Gemma that empowers their every interaction from the start, but unlike other marriage-of-convenience stories, smut doesn’t drive their relationship. What starts off as a business relationship blossoms from a friendship to a true partnership. Gemma is sweet and giving as she navigates her first real relationship, while Tansy comes out of her shell to defend Gemma when no one else has. These goddesses support one another, even when the relationship is only a farce, until it all becomes real. The character development between them both is a flawless example of how empowering love—and having someone by your side—can really be.

As much as I loved every interaction between Gemma and Tansy, it’s difficult to love everything that happens outside of their sweet sapphic bubble. The toxic men—namely Tucker, Gemma’s cousin, who manipulated teenage Tansy and shared underage nudes of her—seem unrealistically cruel. Tansy’s step-mother goes from a social ladder-climbing step-Bridzilla to suddenly sympathetic. None of the secondary characters have real layers, making them no more than pawns to the story’s plot progression. Because of that, none of the conflicts or twists are surprising. The boardroom scene/resolution seemed beyond unrealistic, regardless of how sweet the gesture was. You may need to expand your suspension of disbelief and focus on the sapphic sweetness for this one.

Recommended for fans of Stars Collide, Cleat Cute, and Love at First Set. This heartwarming sapphic romance is full of feels: a stunning addition to any shelf.

✨The Vibes ✨

❤️ Fake Dating
❤️ Marriage of Convenience
❤️ Bi MCs (Bi4Bi)
❤️ Sapphic Romance
❤️ Mental Health Rep
❤️ Opposites Attract
🌶️ Spice

A Literal Love Song: Stars Collide by Rachel Lacey

the cover of Stars Collide

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“You’re more than your sexuality. So much more.”

After her divorce, pop star sensation Eden Sands’ latest album lacked the spark fans and the industry have expected of her after 20 years. Meanwhile, Anna Moss, her fellow Grammy nominee, is beginning to rise, though people in the industry don’t take her as seriously as she hoped. To rekindle that spark, Eden invites Anna to join her on stage during her Grammy performance, only for fans to focus on the spark between them. Following the unexpected popularity of #Edanna, Eden invites Anna to open her upcoming tour. The more time they spend together, the more they realize that chemistry exists off-stage, too. Is there something more to what they’re feeling?

Mild Spoilers Ahead. Book Contains Sexual Scenes.

Rachel Lacey does a wonderful job at exploring topics of self-discovery and identity. Eden and Anna’s love story gives a respectable nod to many realities of life as a celebrity. As a young star, Eden is forced to mature quickly. Allowing the adults in her life to make major decisions on her behalf stole Eden’s control, leading her to claim that control in extreme ways as an adult. Fans have mobbed Eden, tugging at her hair, getting in her personal space, and claiming some unspoken right to flash cameras in her face, leading Eden to further seclude herself under the guise of safety. So much of her young life was controlled that she lost the chance to explore her identity beyond the pop star on stage. Meanwhile, Anna is forever seen as a teen character she played (while in her 20s), prompting no one to take her seriously. One of the things I loved most about this book was the mentorship between the two women. While Eden helped Anna recognize the control she could have over her career, Anna helped Eden recognize who she was and the life she could have outside of the spotlight. A lot of the conflicts in this story were internal; Eden’s self-discovery and sexual awakening, the words of a controlling and toxic ex haunting Anna. Eden and Anna helped one another through their self-growth.

In my favorite scenes, Anna coaxes Eden to talk through her thoughts (finally, a sapphic book that avoids using miscommunication to simmer the story in tension). Anna reminds Eden, “You don’t have to label yourself before you’re ready… or ever, if you don’t want to. How you identify is so personal, and you’re under no obligation to share it with anyone.” For many people, recognizing who they are—labels or not—is a lonely process. Anna never pushes or rushes Eden, but she does help Eden work through her concerns. You’re never too late to decide who you are. I didn’t navigate my own sexuality until after college, but I wish I’d had a friend to help me understand it, the way Eden had Anna. Even when their relationship blossoms into more, their friendship never wavers. Rachel Lacey does an incredible job at describing how out of tune you can feel for so much of your life, only for the static to clear because of an event, a realization, or a person. I’ve met that person and I can say with certainty that it can change everything.

Though I loved the internal conflicts both main characters had to navigate to mature and develop, the lack of strong external factors seems unrealistic. The major external factors are the mobbing fans and Anna’s ex; the latter of which creates the only major blow-out scene in the entire novel. While we see Anna mature throughout the story (both in how she treats Eden and in her career growth), her maturity unravels in that scene. Eden, who is usually steadfast in her composure, steps beyond the professional veneer she wears in a moment of immature jealousy. That scene, presented in the last few chapters, felt like a rushed, inserted source of conflict before a HEA ending. Even Anna’s ex felt out of character in these scenes, jumping from one extreme to the next, brought in as a last-minute trigger for Anna’s insecurities about her relationship with Eden. There were other external conflicts to explore that would have strengthened the story. For example, the media is never posed in a negative light (as if the media wouldn’t distort the truth or paparazzi wouldn’t mob both popstars). What if Eden was only enamored by the situation (a concern that could have crept alongside Anna’s other doubts)? During the second half of the novel, Eden and Anna were surrounded by so much BLISS that I kept waiting for a real problem to challenge their relationship. The strongest relationships navigate problems and survive, all the stronger for it.

Recommended to anyone in need of a warm and fuzzy romance read. Ideal for fans of sexy slow burns, workplace romances, and celebrity romances.

✨ The Vibes ✨ 
👩‍❤️‍👩 Lesbian and Pansexual Main Characters
💞 Sapphic Romance
🎤 Workplace Romance / Forced Proximity
🎙️ Dual POV
🎵 Slow Burn
⌛ Age Gap
💗Friends to Lovers
🏳️‍⚧️ Transgender Rep
❤️‍🔥 Sexual Awakening
🌶️ Spice

A Sapphic Romance That Soars: Fly With Me by Andie Burke

the cover of Fly With Me

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They were mirrors in a way. Both of them watching their loved ones suffer. Both unable to help in any meaningful way. Both coping—one with work and the other with a list. Both scared shitless of hurting the other one.

Content Warnings: Terminal illness, chronic illness, misogyny, toxic relationship, grief, traumatic brain injury

ER nurse Olive Murphy’s fear of flying doesn’t stop her from getting on a plane to honor her brother, but it seems her fear is misplaced. A medical emergency forces Olive to leap out of her seat and into action, only for the flight to get redirected. She would have missed the marathon she was meant to run at Disney if not for Allied Airlines pilot Stella Soriano: a gorgeous, type A woman who captivates Olive with a glance. They share a magical day at Disney together as the video of Olive saving a man’s life goes viral (after all, she did TECHNICALLY save Mickey Mouse), prompting an uptick in positive press and sales for the airline. Stella sees it as an opportunity to earn her long-deserved promotion and asks Olive to play the role of her fake girlfriend as they generate more press. Can Olive stand playing a fake role when her heart is already on a one-way flight?

Get ready for a sassy, steamy, sapphic love story bound to soar into your heart. Andie Burke’s debut novel has a little of everything; an insta-crush, fake dating (complete with a binder full of rules and research!), sharp and witty banter, plus some real and raw mental health rep. Between their anxieties, family responsibilities, and messy emotions, both Olive and Stella are relatable main characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Sparks fly from the moment Olive and Stella meet, and Olive’s mega-crush is adorable without making her seem adolescent. We gain a lot of insight into both characters’ lives despite the fact that the story sticks with Olive’s point of view, which isn’t always an easy feat. The prose is descriptive but not overly flowery, but it’s the character development that really flies off the page. I absolutely adored Olive’s best friend, too (imagine Felix from Orphan Black).

Burke does a wonderful job of normalizing mental health conditions without it being the main focus. Olive’s symptoms are as much a part of her as the heart-eyes she wears when Stella is in the room. After her (toxic) ex broke up with Olive because her anxiety disorder and panic attacks were “too much,” Olive is afraid her symptoms will eventually scare Stella away. Meanwhile, Stella’s responsibilities as her father’s caretaker (who has Parkinson’s) create the cracks in her type-A facade and show us why she’s so committed to earning her promotion. Both characters encounter misogyny as well. While some readers might feel that there’s too much going on, Burke carefully stacks these issues atop of one another. That’s life; we’re all juggling multiple conflicts, both internal and external. Read the quote I selected again. These women are mirror images of one another. Their struggles, while different on the surface, make it all the easier for them to empathize with and support each other. There’s also no perfect, easy solution to the problems these women are facing because, again: that’s life.

A part of me does wish this story split the POV, allowing us to see Stella’s perspective. Keeping the focus on Olive ensured Stella’s feelings for her remained hidden, but…come on. We all know where a sapphic romance novel is bound to end: with a sapphic romance. The “fake dating girlfriends with benefits” situation is where the story really gets messy. It’s difficult to believe that Stella doesn’t have romantic feelings for Olive at that point. The miscommunication trope is still my least favorite, but it lingers much too long in this one, leading to a not-at-all surprising third-act breakup. Even so, this remains the best sapphic romance I’ve read so far this year.

Recommended to fans of the fake dating trope, serious character development, and a heart-eyed, healing main character.

 The Vibes ✨
✈️ Fake Dating
✈️ Bisexual Main Character
✈️ Sapphic Ship
✈️ Panic Attacks/Depression/Mental Health Rep
✈️ Debut Author

Major thanks to the author and publisher for providing an ARC of this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

Ted Lasso But Make It Sapphic: Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

the cover of Cleat Cute

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“Calling Phoebe loud and obnoxious and gay ignores all her layers and contradictions. That’s Grace’s issue with fame—people take you at face value. Nobody bothers to look for the person beneath the brand.”

⚠️ Spoilers ahead. Book contains graphic sex scenes. ⚠️

Phoebe Matthews is ready to take her first season as a professional soccer player by storm. She even gets to play alongside her idol, Grace Henderson: the veteran star of the US Women’s National Team. Since they met, there’s been a spark of chemistry between them, and Phoebe can’t help but flirt with and seduce the woman she’s had a poster of since childhood. Though they’re on the same page on the pitch, a little miscommunication outside of the game leaves them both mentally spiraling. Are they brave enough to make a move both on and off the field?

The few factors that drove me to finish reading this book were the focus on fame, personal identity, and neurodiversity—NOT the relationship between Grace and Phoebe. The story touches on Grace’s preference not to reveal too much about who she is outside of soccer, in an effort to protect her privacy, until soccer becomes her entire identity, both to the outside world and herself. From the beginning, it’s also obvious that both main characters are neurodivergent. Phoebe is diagnosed with ADHD by the epilogue, and though Grace isn’t diagnosed with autism, it’s mentioned as a possibility. Though their neurodiversity is obvious from the first two chapters, the topic isn’t discussed in any way that matters to the story. There’s so much going on under the surface of these characters that would have made the story beautifully important if they were the focus, rather than a subtle plot point that’s slipped into the end of the book.

I almost DNFed this book many, many times; it takes a one-star read for me to give up on a book, rather than give it the benefit of the doubt. Though I did finish it, I dragged my feet every step of the way. The most obvious issue with this novel is the point of view. A third-person objective point of view is cold and distant. It leaves readers disconnected from the characters and the story. For Phoebe—passionate, energetic, a thousand thoughts a second Phoebe—we’re cut off from what she’s really feeling. Beyond that, this POV is choppy, especially for a story that primarily involves women. Unfortunately, the objective POV means the entire story is tell; we’re not shown through actions or imagery or any form of creative writing. The tension between them doesn’t last long enough to keep readers enthralled, either; once the sex is introduced, that’s apparently all that matters.

Every other sentence starts with a name to avoid referring to too many “she’s” within a single thought. The writing also lacks descriptive language, even though the story is set in vibrant New Orleans. For all the scenes focused on food, we never smell, taste, or experience a moment with the characters. Even during gameplay, there’s no sweat, heat, or the sound of screaming fans in our ears. The readers are kept at arm’s length at all times. Perhaps worse: the sex scenes read like fanfiction—a first-time writer’s fanfiction. Instead of steamy, the word choice makes it awkward and off putting. “Baby girl?” Really?

Despite my issues with it, I do recommend it for fans of workplace romances, Ted Lasso, or A League of Their Own. You’re going to get serious “Ted Lasso but make it sapphic” vibes from this, I promise; Phoebe and Grace are very much Jamie and Roy. If you’re in your sporty romance era, give this a try!

✨ The Vibes ✨

⚽︎ F/F Romance
⚽︎ Neurodiversity / ADHD and Autism Rep
⚽︎ Sports Romance
⚽︎ Secret Dating
⚽︎ Workplace Romance
⚽︎ Miscommunication
⚽︎ Grumpy vs Sunshine