Kalyanii reviews Too Late… I Love You by Kiki Archer



It takes something special to soften the heart of a woman as jaded as myself who also has a notoriously difficult time suspending her disbelief; yet, on a snowy Tuesday afternoon, yours truly turned the final page of Kiki Archer’s latest novel and sighed. Bringing the coffee mug to my lips and gazing upon the flakes falling outside my window, there was no denying it. I had been touched.

Connie Parker tells herself she has the life of her dreams. After all, she is the mother of an adorable three-year-old son, Noah, who provides her with boundless love and gives her days meaning. So what if his father, Karl, has chosen to stay with her out of a sense of duty and obligation? Though he remains more committed to his work than either Connie or Noah, Karl has made it clear that she should be grateful for the roof over her head and the opportunity to tend to her son as a stay-at-home mom.

Yet, it is within the under-stairs cupboard where she writes that Connie finds solace and glimmers of possibility, for, through the journey of her protagonist, Bonnie Blythe, she stumbles upon her own personal truth and takes to penning a precedent for the unfolding of all for which she yearns, which comes to manifest alongside her burgeoning friendship with Maria, the mocha-eyed single mother who shows up one morning at playgroup.

Too Late… I Love You is nothing if not a page-turner. In spite of all attempts to set the book aside in order to tend to my to-do list, I couldn’t help but surrender to my need to discover what happens next, abandoning my best intentions for the hours that lay ahead. Not an inkling of the formulaic or predictable finds its way into Archer’s tale. Thus, my every expectation was shattered with each new twist and revelation. My attention remained rapt throughout, though I found a rather overdone thread of banter and innuendo toward the beginning to grow old quick.

Yet, not all of the humor was lost on me. The descriptions of Earth Mother’s pendulous breasts, unabashedly displayed at playgroup, had me laughing out loud; and, Connie’s visit to the sex shop provided some pretty interesting visuals, to say the least. Connie’s best friend, Ryan, contributes a hearty dose of campness to the tale, which truly wouldn’t be the same without him.

In spite of its impressive entertainment value, Too Late… I Love You addresses important topics such as same-sex parenthood, bisexual stigma and closeting in a tone that is affirming without being victimizing and courageous without coming across as preachy. Each occasion is handled without a break in the humor or pause in the plot, propelling the story’s momentum and subtly foreshadowing some of the most memorable scenes.

In truth, I’m incredibly grateful to have encountered Archer’s writing and will be exploring her earlier works as well, for there is something tremendously freeing in laughing out loud while allowing yourself, in the moment, to believe in fairytales, even if not your own.

Elinor reviews Too Late…I Love You by Kiki Archer


Remember how I was just wishing I could read some romance involving lesbian parents? My wish came true in Kiki Archer’s new book, Too Late…I Love You! It features one out lesbian single mom, a few characters who surprise you, and some truly fun romance. Too Late…I Love You begins with the story of Connie, a young woman living with her boyfriend, Karl, and their three-year-old son, Noah, in London. Connie and Karl had only known each other a few months when Connie got pregnant and they’ve spent the years since then trying to do what they think is best for their child, even though they’ve never really been in love with one another. Karl works long hours and Connie stays home parenting and has recently started writing a romance that weaves its way through the novel. Karl and Connie aren’t terrible to each other, but they’re not happy together either. Connie’s okay plodding along because she adores her son and spends a lot of time with her best friend, Ryan, who’s gay and understands Connie in a way her boyfriend doesn’t. This seems like enough for Connie until she meets Maria, an out lesbian who has always been a single parent. Maria’s daughter, Alice, is just weeks older than Noah, and when the kids meet at playgroup, the children become fast friends. Their mothers bond and discover that they have similar senses of humor, values, and that they love talking to each other and flirting. Their friendship deepens as Connie’s unhappy partnership dissolves, and the characters wind their way to a happy ending–with a couple of surprising twists.

This was one of the most fun romances I’ve read in a long time. The premise sounds like angst might be on the horizon but Archer deftly avoids unnecessary drama. Karl and Connie act like mostly decent if imperfect people, even as they realize they’d do better apart. I appreciated that Karl and Connie’s decisions about their relationship are kept mostly separate from Connie’s growing friendship with Maria, and that they’d already separated before Connie and Maria edge toward anything more than friendship. Maria and Connie’s connection is illustrated through Archer’s excellent dialogue and it’s easy to see why they like being together. Though they get close fast, it makes sense. Both have been hungry for the company of another parent who gets them, and when they find each other, they’re delighted. Ryan and Connie can be judgmental and snarky, especially at the beginning, but they calm down quite a bit, especially once kind, self-assured Maria enters the scene. A novel within a novel can be hard to pull off, but here it’s used to great effect to show Connie’s inner world, the thoughts and feelings she isn’t always ready to admit even to herself.

Another thing I loved about this novel? There’s a minor bisexual character and multiple characters actually use the word “bisexual” to describe her–she even uses the word herself! When Connie wonders if bisexuals are “real,” Maria insists that of course they are. Since Maria is ten years older than Connie and Connie respects her and views her as sophisticated, this pronouncement carries a lot of weight. This book manages to steer clear of most bisexual tropes and that alone is quite possibly a reason to read it.

I also liked how Connie’s feelings and identity progressed in a natural way. She doesn’t have an identity crisis when she realizes that her friendly crush might just be a regular crush, but she does think about whether or not the word “straight” fits her anymore. Her language for herself changes over time. She handles her feelings like a modern young woman who has an out gay best friend, so the novel avoids coming out cliches. Connie also considers the other differences between herself and Maria that might prevent a relationship. For one thing, Maria’s older, more mature and worldly. For another, Maria’s from a family of successful restaurateurs and owns a cafe. Though Maria has stayed home with Alice, she has some work responsibilities, and she has a very different class background than Connie. She also has more sexual experience than Connie. Connie worries more about their real differences and her ability to be a satisfying partner to Maria than she does about her own sexual orientation. I thought this read as very realistic and, more importantly, like the characters were adults.

I cannot emphasize enough how much the characters in this book seemed like grown-ups. The characters’ motivations are understandable. You’re happy when Connie and Karl break up but he isn’t a monster, even if he’s sometimes a jerk. Connie’s concerns make sense and fit her personality. Even things I personally disagreed with–like Maria’s description of what “real” lesbian sex is like–were consistent with and true to the characters. When the final twist is revealed, a character’s previously unexpected actions make sense.

Without giving anything away, there are a couple of big surprises near the end. Some seemed like huge coincidences, but the foreshadowing was decent and I personally thought they were fun twists. In the end, the theme that family is chosen rather than just about biology stays strong, and that’s exactly what I want in a book about queer families.

Plus this book is hilarious. The dialogue and the goofy physical comedy shine. I cared about the characters and had a great time reading about them. I highly recommend this to fans of lesbian romance and anyone looking for fun light reading.

Elinor reviews One Foot Onto the Ice and When You Know by Kiki Archer


[This review contains some spoilers. -ed.]

Kiki Archer’s lesbian romantic comedy, One Foot Onto the Ice, and its sequel When You Know, are the fun tale of Susan and Jenna. Susan is an uptight teacher at the British boarding school she attended just under a decade ago.  Jenna is her free-spirited former classmate, now a ski instructor in the Alps, who spends most of her off hours hooking up with every woman in her path. One Foot Onto the Ice begins when Susan leads her school’s week-long class ski trip, Jenna turns out to be the ski instructor.  Jenna charms Susan, Susan fascinates Jenna, and it isn’t long before the two are sleeping together and falling in love.  However, Susan’s repulsive coworker, Marcus, believes he and Susan are heading toward a relationship and that Jenna has conned Susan into sex. Marcus sets out to wake Susan up to Jenna’s supposed lesbian trickery.  Jenna’s recent fling, Amber, would like to be more and stirs up plenty of trouble for the couple as well.  The students, ages eleven through eighteen, provide some entertaining and interesting subplots.

When You Know is what happens in the months that follow that whirlwind fling, with Jenna and Susan attempting to build a relationship despite being in different countries, having dramatically different social lives, and being pretty new at the whole serious girlfriend thing.  Their efforts adjusting to the relationship, and the resolution the sequel provides around secondary characters like Marcus, ties up the loose ends of the first book nicely.  This book also deals with social media use and the problems it can cause.  By the end, When You Know finally gets our heroines living in the same place, with compatible lives, and both characters are a bit more mature.  Reading the sequel resolved most of the few concerns I had about its predecessor, which is one of the best things a sequel can do.

These books are campy, full of slapstick, and made me laugh.  They are mostly light, and easy and fast reads.  I enjoyed them a lot.  Archer manages to show Jenna and Susan’s chemistry through delightful banter.  While it indulged in some clichés, Archer made these forgivable.  Yes, Jenna and Susan are in love and in a “committed” relationship after less than a week, with Jenna making some major life changes because of it.  Yes, Jenna goes from having sex half the women on the mountain to dedicating herself to monogamy with Susan at breakneck speed. But they’re also twenty-six, both inexperienced in relationships, and caught up in powerful feelings and an exciting connection.  They also both have flaws in their judgment, with Susan incorrectly convinced in both books—despite all evidence—that Marcus is harmless, and Jenna oblivious to the possibility that her instant-romance with Susan might tick Amber off or, in the sequel, that going out drinking until 5 a.m. on her first night away from her brand new girlfriend could stir up Susan’s insecurities.  These hints at naivety make it more realistic that they could jump into a “serious” relationship after a couple of days.  Susan voices some reasonable doubts in the second book, which helps too.  I’m not sold on their relationship being an easy one in the future, but I was thoroughly convinced that people might behave like they did and feel the way they felt.

I was less convinced of Susan’s innate sexual prowess and quick adjustment to her new lesbian identity.  Susan had very little sexual experience, none with women, and was not even aware of her attraction to women until Jenna entered the picture.  She goes from considering Marcus as her best romantic option to being comfortable as Jenna’s girlfriend exceptionally quickly, with no exploration of whether she’d ever had feelings for women before or whether she’d ever been attracted to men either.  She and Jenna have mind-blowing sex almost as soon as they attempt it (though this is preceded by an endearingly awkward scene of Susan trying to rid herself of pubic hair as soon as she sees Jenna naked, with disastrous consequences). The sex scenes are pretty hot but sometimes a little over the top.

It is a romance though, and a very entertaining one at that, so I’ll grant it leeway. I recommend these books to anyone interested in lesbian romance.  The books are best together, and as a pair they make one of the most fun lesbian romantic comedies I’ve read.

Anna M reviews But She Is My Student by Kiki Archer and LoveLife by Rachel Spangler

Putting potential lovers in unequal positions of power and seeing what happens is a commonly used technique in romance novels. Current heterosexual romance novels are littered with boss/secretary and boss/nanny relationships, which . . . ick. So I found it heartening to read two lesbian romances recently, But She Is My Student and LoveLife, which explore similar power dynamics without the “ick” factor. Both of them feature couples who [spoiler] do not give in to temptation when it could be construed as an abuse of power.

But She Is My Student, by Kiki Archer, is a British romance that centers on newly minted teacher Katherine Spicer. The weekend before her first teaching job, Kat makes an instant and deep connection with another woman that she meets at a gay club. She doesn’t know anything about her mystery woman, who disappears suddenly, but her face is all too familiar when it pops up among the students in her senior-level class. Freya Elton was tagging along with her lesbian cousin when she met–and kissed–the woman of her dreams. But when she finds out that her Kat is “Miss Spicer,” she’s at a loss. Despite the fact that she’s only a few years older than Freya, dating a student is a line that Kat absolutely will not cross.

Another girl in the class, Bea, has her sights set on Freya, further complicating the plot as Archer explores the question of what happens when you fall in love at first sight with someone who is off-limits. Archer rounds off the love story with an uneven cast of characters–students, administration, teachers, and Kat’s roommates–whose storylines are intertwined. Although the work could have used a few more passes under the eyes of a careful editor, the central conceit was engaging and it was satisfying that neither Kat nor Freya gave in to temptation while their student-teacher relationship continued. Some of the obstacles between the pair were a bit of an imaginative stretch, but overall But She Is My Student is a sweet story with the title of a Lifetime Movie.

In LoveLife, by Rachel Spangler, working-class Joey has an overwhelming crush on the professional-looking woman who regularly visits the coffee shop where she works. Through her best friend’s machinations, Joey discovers that the woman is a life coach named Elaine, which only deepens her feelings of inadequacy. As a college dropout who has spent the last several years supporting her bereaved father, Joey has trouble believing that she deserves love from anyone, let alone someone like Elaine. For her part, Elaine has just moved back to Buffalo to reconnect with her family, but finds herself falling into old patterns instead. When Joey’s meddling best friend Lisa sets her up for a consultation with Elaine, she finds herself opening up to the life coach about her lack of confidence . . . and her desire for a seemingly perfect woman. As Joey realizes that she could actually benefit from coaching to get her life back on track, she also understand that she’s put Elaine in the awkward position–once she reveals that her dream woman and the life coach are one and the same–of continuing a professional relationship begun under false pretenses.

Joey and Elaine are both very relatable, and Spangler does a good job of carefully nurturing the spark of their attraction as they struggle to keep their client-advisor relationship professional. She throws in Buffalo-specific details for spice, but characters beyond the two women (and Joey’s lifelong friend Lisa) are a bit more roughly sketched. It’s clear from the book that she did her homework when researching life coaching, and the novel fairly glows with its characters’ earnest approach to self-improvement. After an almost agonizingly extended will they/won’t they, Spangler ties up the threads in a satisfactory way.