Aoife reviews Training Ground by Kate Christie

training ground kate christie

I was not, unfortunately, super into this book. Training Ground is the first book in the Girls of Summer series by Kate Christie, and to be honest, it reads more like a prequel – the whole book is just backstory for book 2. She categorises TG as a ‘contemporary lesfic with a romantic arc, but not a traditional romance’, and that seems accurate for what I know about the rest of the series, but the first book falls into YA for me – it’s about queer teenagers growing up and having messy teenage romances. Also sport.

The book follows two young girls who meet ‘by chance’ at a hotel after a soccer tournament. It’s a classic YA set-up: girl meets girl, they share a mutual attraction, one has a boyfriend and secret crushes on girls, the other has a Dark Secret. No one has ever understood Jamie/Emma like Emma/Jamie understands Jamie/Emma, and they share so many interests – including a secret love of some cooking show. Over time, they become close enough for Jamie to share the story of her trauma, and they become best friends and possibly more. They are each other’s anchors, and Emma buys Jamie a bracelet with an anchor on it to prove it.

Unfortunately, the book falls into a common YA trap: Too Much Angst. Jamie has a lot of (very valid) angst surrounding her trauma, Emma has a rocky relationship with her dad and a lot of angst about liking girls as well as guys, both girls have a lot of angst about liking the other, and after becoming even closer after Tragedy strikes, the relationship falls apart. This was annoying because not only were Jamie and Emma genuinely adorable together, the disintegration of the relationship was both predictable and so easily fixable. Obviously they had to move away from each other for the storyline in the next book to work, but I feel like it didn’t have to go quite the way it did for what will obviously be a dramatic meeting and falling in love ten years after the events of Training Ground.

A lot of this book didn’t ring true with me. I’ve long accepted that while some things in life are universal, American high school isn’t one of those things, but in regards to the things I can comment on, the writing missed the mark. The dialogue, with a few surprisingly funny exceptions, didn’t seem very natural to me, and though the writing was okay, I felt that it leaned a little too heavily on clichés about teenagers. I have no idea how realistic the soccer bits are, being allergic to sports – but hey, Jamie and Emma are cute together, and I’m a big fan of Jamie’s therapist, Shoshanna.

(My biggest problem with this book – which 2003 do you know where teens vape??? It is not a 2003 I have lived in.)

Despite my review of this book, I’d consider picking up a copy of Game Time when it’s released in spring (autumn for you northern-hemisphere folk) this year, because I’m hopeful that Christie will be on firmer ground with not-teenagers. And I mean, who doesn’t want to read a romance about two pro soccer players?

TW for rape/sexual assault, homophobia and transphobia.

Jordan reviews Gay Pride and Prejudice by Kate Christie (and Jane Austen)


Along my bookshelf, the possibility of seeing a classical book is actually really slim. About the only things I have are Little Women, a bunch of fairy tales, and a couple of somewhat old lesbian books. But the classics, like Melville and Pride and Prejudice are not something you’d find in my stuff, mostly because when I tried or had to read them around college, I nearly stabbed my eyes out so I wouldn’t have to read them. This isn’t to say that classics like those aren’t brilliant books, in fact I can recognize a lot of great things from them in other stuff, but the way books were written over even thirty years ago is vastly different from the majority of books written today.

That said, I will admit I enjoyed reading Gay Pride and Prejudice by Kate Christie (and Jane Austen) way more than I could say for Pride and Prejudice and I can point out exactly why. The whole reason I kept hanging on to getting through this book was because of the lesbian tones that Kate had weaved into the book, which particularly focus around Lizzie and Caroline. The original story, I managed to get through the first couple chapters before I gave up on it, because I’m a reader from the age of movies, to where if you don’t grasp me in the first chapter chances are I am not going to hang on very long to finish the book.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t know what happens in the normal Pride and Prejudice though, I actually know it quite well since I enjoyed watching things like ‘Lost in Austen’ and even ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’. So I wasn’t going into this book totally blind in what was changed, in fact I could recognize a lot of the changes, such as the father of the Bennet girls inner monologues quite a bit about his own tendencies toward men, and that he only hopes his favorite daughter Lizzie, with her preference to her own sex can find some kind of same happiness too. And this is just one of the many things that changed for this book and really what made this book shine to me.

So, for consistency sake, I think I do need to talk about what the plot is, as I’m sure there are others out there who don’t know the whole plot of Pride and Prejudice either. The story still focuses on the daughters of Mr Bennet, with most of it being directed around Lizzie and Jane, the two eldest daughters. The whole story starts with a new man moving into town though, Bingley, which sparks the events and introduces Jane to Bingley and Lizzie to Darcy… or in this case… to Darcy and Bingley’s sister: Caroline.

Much like any romance specific story, Lizzie is at first revolted or turned away from Caroline, much in the same way she was Darcy, in fact, the author did an amazing job with realizing that a lot of the same reasons she doesn’t like Darcy in the normal book, could be said for Caroline too. And really this whole book shines because of how well the author was able to interweave the gay elements into a story that wasn’t even remotely gay and in different ways too. Charlotte and Lizzie weren’t just childhood friends they were also the first lovers for each other, but they also had drastically different views for their futures. The whole reason the Bingley’s had moved to the area where the Bennet’s were? Because Caroline was found out by the husband of a woman she was having an affair with so they left.

Really, I think the whole reason I loved reading this, was because it was essentially well crafted fan fiction, using non-gay characters and making them gay. So, for the story I don’t want to give away a lot, because the whole reason I kept sticking around was because I wanted to know HOW Caroline and Lizzie would end up together facing a society that doesn’t condone such a thing at all. And while the ending was technically expected, it was only to a degree that I had expected it. So there’s a bit of a few twists in the end that I found all the more interesting in terms of diversity, since I was thinking of the Bingley’s and Charlotte as Asian and a few characters as black, thanks to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Overall, I have to say the story was decent, at least the areas that Kate Christie had manipulated. They were fun and kept me actually yelling at my kindle at one point as to why Lizzie and Caroline didn’t kiss. (Don’t worry it’s resolved later). But when it comes down to it, if you didn’t enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice then you probably aren’t going to like this one either, unless you can pretty much read anything lesbian, then the gay plots will probably pull you through it. In the same vein, if you loved Pride and Prejudice but don’t much care for gay romance plots, then it’s again something you’d want to avoid. But how could you not love gay romance plots?!

Either way, it was a fun read that unfortunately took me forever to get through, though that may not be the case with everyone and at least it wasn’t Gay Moby Dick… I don’t think I could have taken that.


Lena reviews Gay Pride and Prejudice by Kate Christie (and Jane Austen)


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At this point, I’m kind of convinced that Kate Christie and I have some bizarre rainbow mind connection we’re not aware of yet.  Not only is “Gay Pride and Prejudice,” her delightful book, an idea I’ve had in the back of my head for several years, but it follows the same romantic trajectory that I would have used.  All I can say is, great minds think alike, and Christie has done such a marvelous job and I’m glad someone got around to gay adaptation of this story.  It’s about time.

Christie’s book follows the current trend of classic literature with a twist.  There’s been “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (which has since spawned a sequel and graphic novel), as well as “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” and it seems fitting that someone’s updated a classic book to include something a bit more prevalent in contemporary culture.  Not to make sea monsters feel overlooked.

The book is great fun.  It’s clear that Christie worked to keep as much of Austen’s original language and while this edition does require a bit more exposition, the prose still retains Austen’s sparkling lightness.  Christie also does a wonderful job of letting the reader in on the joke while still giving them plenty to wonder about.  It’s refreshing to see a book about lesbian romance in which being a lesbian is not the big scandal or secret.  We are not on the edges of our seats wondering who is gay, but wondering who they will end up with.

What I liked most about reading this book was wondering in what ways it would deviate from the original.  All of the original elements are still there – a relationship initially based on pride and disdain, an unexpected declaration of love, family scandals, and some weddings – but they’re all tweaked slightly.  Discovering just how they would be tweaked and how much the plot would curve while still following the path we already know.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I did have a couple small complaints.  The narrative did tend to leap from one character to another and it was hard to preserve Austen’s narrative style that was so daring at the time.  The original novel stays resolutely in omniscient until it leans gently towards a character and gets so close with its third person narrative that it dips into a stream of consciousness moment before springing away again.  I understand why Christie opted for a more roving close third, we would never have gotten anyone’s sexuality through dialogue and the novel would have been slowed down considerably.  And my other minor complaint does include a small spoiler.  It will be in the next paragraph.  I think that’s fair warning.

Because I’m a romantic, I was pretty bummed there wasn’t a first kiss scene.  It’s totally silly, and there probably isn’t one in the original book, but I still wanted it.  I was also kind of surprised, just because Christie had stayed pretty close to the Austen pastiche, that there was direct mention of sex.  But it was kind of fun.

That’s all for the spoilers.  “Gay Pride and Prejudice” is great fun to read and I’ve already told all my friends to read it twice.  I’m excited to see what’s next for Kate Christie, maybe even some more gay adaptations of classic literature.