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.❞

A Lesbian Road Trip Romcom About Death: Here We Go Again by Alison Cochrun

Here We Go Again cover

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I read Alison Cochrun’s previous book, Kiss Her Once for Me, and liked it, but I was not expecting to love this one quite as much as I did. Some of that is for reasons that will translate to many other readers, and some of my enjoyment comes from it combining my own random interests. Either way, I highly recommend this one, even if you have no experience teaching high school English and aren’t also contemplating getting assessed for ADHD.

Just as high school is such a pivotal time of life despite being only four years, my three years teaching and learning to teach had a permanent impact on me. I may not have been a high school English teacher for long, but I think some part of me always will be—and it’s still my back-up career. During those years, it completely consumed me. I would lay awake at night trying to figure out how to be a better teacher. My practicums were the most stressful times of my life. So it won’t come as a shock that I deeply related to this story about three high school English teachers. Unsurprisingly, Cochrun used to be a high school English teacher herself. (It’s also dedicated to teachers: “For all the queer educators out there. You save lives simply by showing up. Thank you. And for every queer teenager who became a little too attached to their English teacher. I see you. I love you.”)

Logan and Rosemary are rival English teachers at the same high school, but once, they were best friends. Then one kiss ruined their relationship, and now they can’t stand each other. It doesn’t help that they are classic Type A (Rosemary) and Type B (Logan) teachers, each judging the other for their opposing styles. How did they end up in the same profession? When they were teens, the only person who saw and accepted these two struggling queer and neurodivergent teachers was Joe, their Mexican American, openly gay English teacher. In their conservative small town, Joe was a life-saving presence for them, and they both followed in his footsteps.

Joe isn’t teaching anymore, though. He’s only 64, but years battling pancreatic cancer has ended with him being recommended hospice care. Both Rosemary and Logan have been helping take care of him, but he has a deathbed request that will be a lot more challenging to fulfill. He wants to die in his cabin in Maine, and he wants Logan and Rosemary to drive him there. Together.

Because the two of them can hardly be in the same room together, the idea of being in the same car for almost a week seems impossible, but they can’t ignore Joe’s pleas for them to make up and help go out the way he wants to. Besides, Rosemary has—unbelievably—just been laid off and doesn’t have a guaranteed job to go back to after the summer, so she needs something to keep her anxious brain occupied. So, she makes a giant binder of travel plans and convinces Logan to get on board, and off they set: a dying man, two mortal enemies, and a dog, all crammed in a van together.

I love a road trip story, and just as you’d expect, being in a confined space together forces Logan and Rosemary to communicate. There has been a lot of miscommunication between the two of them over the years, including Logan believing that Rosemary is a tight-laced, high-achieving, heterosexual neurotypical person with everything under control. In reality, they’re both neurodivergent lesbians, and Rosemary manages her anxiety with a desperate need to try to be in control, with a plan for everything.

The two of them haven’t been friend since they were 14, but neither of them moved on in the nearly two decades since. Rosemary keeps so busy with teaching that it allows no time in her life for dating, while Logan keeps her relationships to casual hookups only.

Logan planned to graduate and travel the world, having big adventures. But when her mother left her dad, she was determined not to do the same thing, so she’s been living with him ever since. This road trip is the first time she’s really left their small town.

As they travel, the two of them continue to butt heads, but they also reluctantly reconnect as adults—and finally address what actually happened the day they kissed. Logan’s instincts to run away from conflict mean that it’s not so easy to repair their relationship, though, especially when Logan refuses to grapple with Joe’s imminent death.

In the acknowledgements, Cochrun calls this a romcom about death, and that is accurate. I appreciated that it doesn’t have a particularly romantic view of death. Rosemary and Logan have to change Joe’s diapers as he howls at the indignity. Death is not a quiet, noble affair. It’s prolonged and painful—both for the person dying and their loved ones. There is a little bit of “Tuesdays with Morrie shit,” as Joe refers to it, but it’s not cloying.

(Spoilers, highlight to read) I also thought the first sex scene—Rosemary’s first time having sex—was especially well done. They both go very slowly, with clear consent at all times. It’s sweet, and since I’ve had some sex scenes completely turn me off of the book recently, I was glad to see it treated with such care.(End of spoilers)

A lesbian road trip romance + ruminating on death + both characters having ADHD + all the main characters being high school English teachers made this a home run for me, but you don’t have to have my exact configuration of interests to enjoy this friends to almost lovers to enemies to lovers romance. And yes, I cried.

Official content warnings: This book contains references to an off-page death of a parent due to overdose, and it includes the on-page death of a parental figure.

Sporty Sapphics: Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

the cover of Cleat Cute

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Meryl Wilsner’s Cleat Cute is probably one of the most talked-about sapphic romances of the fall, at least in my circles, and in my opinion, the hype is deserved. It follows serious team captain Grace Henderson and enthusiastic up-and-comer Phoebe Matthews from a rocky first impression to a growing respect to genuine romantic feelings, all amidst preparations for the World Cup.

As someone who cared about soccer for one weekend and never before or since, I will say first that you definitely do not need to care about soccer to care about this book. Soccer is of course the backdrop, and it’s important to both of the main characters, but none of it is so detailed that it loses readers who aren’t soccer fans. As a theater person rather than a sports-of-any-sort person, I could still relate to a lot of this book, with all of the passion and dedication, even to the point of overdoing it and needing the reminder that, hey, it’s okay to rest.

I loved the characters a lot. Their banter made me laugh, and I smiled a lot through most of their interactions, whether it was in a this-is-funny way or a I’m-so-happy-for-these-characters-connecting kind of way. I definitely felt like I could understand why they liked each other, which is the most important thing for me in romance.  I loved how seriously they took each other, pretty much from the beginning, especially when it came to how they handled each other’s neurodivergence, even before either one had actually put a word to it. I will say that I would not have been mad if some of the side characters got more page-time as well because they were all lovely, but I get that it’s not their story, so.

I will say that most of the conflict seemed to stem from miscommunication, which can be frustrating and isn’t usually my favorite, but it was so understandably in-character that I actually didn’t really mind it here. It never felt contrived, and it was resolved quickly enough that it didn’t make me wonder how they would ever be able to make a relationship work moving forward. I also have to say, the way the final misunderstanding was resolved was fantastic and it actually made me cackle.

This was definitely my favorite romance I’ve read in a while, and while I’m not actually a huge romance reader, this was definitely one to remind me why I like coming back to this genre.

Alexandria Bellefleur Continues to Make Seattle the Romance Capital with The Fiancée Farce

the cover of The Fiancée Farce

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In a year of reading romance novels, I have learned a lot about the genre. First, and most importantly, I enjoy it so much that I usually read an entire novel within a single twenty-four hour period. Another thing that I have noticed—something that threatens to temper that enjoyment from time to time—is how often romance plots revolve around class differences and wealth. Romance, it turns out, often costs money. Considering one of the main conventions of the romance genre is the grand gesture, that should be no surprise. Most of the time I can overlook this pesky intrusion of reality, but I was less successful in doing so while I was reading Alexandria Bellefleur’s latest, The Fiancée Farce (2023).

Before getting into The Fiancée Farce, I want to talk about Bellefleur’s previous three novels: Written in the Stars (2020), Hang the Moon (2021), and Count Your Lucky Stars (2022). These three Seattle-based novels share a cast of characters who I very much wish were real people with whom I could be friends. As someone who wishes she still had her Rainbow Brite doll, I am partial to Elle, one of the main characters of Written in the Stars. Darcy, the grumpy to Elle’s sunshine, is a great combination of ice and red hair. I could also easily see myself as Annie, the protagonist of Hang the Moon, who has found herself directionless and alone. She comes to visit her best friend Darcy in Seattle and meets Brendon, the man who wants to sweep her off of her feet.

Okay, so the M/F romance in Hang the Moon was definitely my least favorite part of these three novels. My second least favorite part, though, was Brendon’s obsession with grand romantic gestures. The convention of the grand gesture bothers me on some level because I don’t really think that it proves much of anything about one’s feelings for another person. Indeed, to me, it proves access to wealth and/or resources, which is why it should be no surprise that Brendon is the CEO of a matchmaking app company. Now, don’t get me wrong—Bellefleur approaches issues of class much more effectively in Count Your Lucky Stars. And, yes, I know that romances are escapist. Still, give me J.Lo’s “My Love Don’t Cost a Thing” over Richard Gere at the end of Pretty Woman any day.

Another potentially expensive romance trope is the marriage contract trope. While I understand the convention of money changing hands in a fake dating/marriage contract situation, six million dollars is quite a lot of money. That is how much Tansy Adams needs to keep her stepmother from selling her father’s beloved independent bookstore, above which she lives in an apartment filled with memories of her deceased parents. The novel begins with the culmination of a six-month-long deception, the purpose of which is to mollify her overbearing family. According to Tansy, she has been dating a woman named Gemma. Except Gemma isn’t real. Well, that isn’t entirely true—Gemma is real, but she is a romance cover model who Tansy has never met. Well, that also isn’t entirely true—Tansy hadn’t met Gemma until she arrived at her cousin’s wedding. The same wedding where Tansy had just inadvertently caught the bouquet.

The Fiancée Farce exists in the same Seattle as Bellefleur’s previous three novels. If Bellefleur is not on the city of Seattle’s payroll yet, she should be, because I have never seen a better advertisement for the Emerald City than her novels. Of course, the reality of living in Seattle requires a cost-of-living conversation, a conversation that lives at the heart of The Fiancée Farce. Ultimately, the plot of the novel revolves too closely around the exchange of money to capture the whimsy of Bellefleur’s previous three novels. Gemma’s family, the van Dalens, as well as her friends (who have clearly spent some time with Rory Gilmore and Logan Huntzberger in the Life and Death Brigade) too persistently hammer in the trope of immoral wealth. There is also a subplot involving Tucker van Dalen that I could have lived without. We get it—rich people often don’t behave well.

Bellefleur creates a cast of awful family and eccentric friends to show that Gemma van Dalen is not like them. The reader, though, is ready to believe that from her first appearance, not to mention that half the book is from her point of view. If Gemma didn’t have a heart of gold, how could she possibly earn the love of down-to-earth and delightful Tansy? I think the answer to that question is what I have taken away the most from a year of reading romance novels: the delight in reading these novels is that I know what is going to happen, and it makes me happy. The author’s main responsibilities are to create characters who I’d like to meet in real life and to ensure the delight of predictability. Of the four novels by Alexandria Bellefleur that I have read in the past month, The Fiancée Farce is the one that sparked the least delight. Tansy is adorable, and Gemma indeed has charm—but I hope that Bellefleur will dump the rest of the van Dalen family into the Puget Sound in her next novel.

Content Warning: revenge porn

Liv (she/her) is a trans woman, a professor of English, and a reluctant Southerner. Described (charitably) as passionate and strong-willed, she loves to talk (and talk) about popular culture, queer theory, utopias, time travel, and any other topic she has magpied over the years. You can find her on storygraph and letterboxd @livvalentine.

A High-Heat Heist: Double Exposure by Rien Gray

the cover of Double Exposure

Note: While I’ve avoided major plot spoilers, this review is relatively detailed regarding the character arcs and themes.

Fittingly enough, I’ve been exposed to Double Exposure by Rien Gray twice. The first time was through the Happily Ever After Collective, which releases monthly romance novellas from a variety of authors. Last year, Double Exposure released to patrons along with other second chance romances, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m delighted to have my own print copy of this book due to its recent wide release. 

Double Exposure is a romantic suspense novella about a pair of rival art thieves, Jillian Rhodes and Sloane Caffrey, who are hired to steal the same target—a never-before-seen collection of infamously scandalous photos. Ever since a steamy encounter gone awry, they have been at each other’s throats from a distance, but competing to pull off a heist at the Art Institute of Chicago brings the tension between them up close and personal. The stakes rise as they realize a larger game may be afoot—if they can overcome their own drama to uncover it. 

Jillian’s client is the son of the late photographer whose scandalous affair is depicted in the photos. For the client, retrieving them before the exhibit opens is a matter of his family’s honor. For Jillian, it is a matter of bragging rights. Sloane is just as determined to prove they’re the best by stealing the photos for a greedy baron. Though they loathe him, they’re happy to take a large sum of his money in exchange for a successful heist.

While the thieves are equals in ambition and ability, their approaches and backgrounds couldn’t be more different. As a charismatic con artist born into a rich family, Sloane steals to redistribute the wealth and return pieces stolen by colonizers. Meanwhile, the ever-pragmatic Jillian prefers stealth to small talk. She grew up with next to nothing and survived alone at a young age, so she still prioritizes self-preservation and independence. For all their differences, each acknowledges the other as their only worthy rival. What they lack is trust. After a messy misunderstanding left them brokenhearted, they have spent years sabotaging each other, turning to vengeance rather than risking reaching out. They’ve isolated themselves by placing each other on pedestals, untouchable, when they both yearn to be with the one person who might understand them.

Their second chance at love echoes a second chance at life, as the characters have already remade themselves. After traumatic childhoods, they cut ties with their families and built up their careers. Jillian has fought to claim the freedom, security, and access she once lacked, while Sloane strives to heal the damage of their family’s harmful legacy. Each of them attempts to take charge of their own futures and change the world around them. Double Exposure is interested in the different ways that people wield power, and what happens when that balance shifts, whether the power stems from perception, money and status, or institutions. This is mirrored in the ways that Sloane and Jillian, as exes and rivals, are constantly trying to one-up each other. Neither is used to the vulnerability that comes from a willful give-and-take, and they have already been burned by their last attempt to open up to each other. 

If you’re interested in romance that doesn’t follow the traditional formula, a second chance romance novella offers a unique opportunity. Because the two have already met, tried to be together, and broken up, this book reads almost like a more developed third act of a traditional romance novel. It explores the already established barriers between the two and challenges them to overcome those barriers. Meanwhile, they have a heist to worry about, as well as threats they aren’t even aware of.

Double Exposure effectively maintains its gripping suspense. The prose is precise, with each word and detail carefully chosen and arranged. The writing itself feels confident in a way that sells the characters’ competence. It leans hard into the satisfaction of watching masters at work, as both Sloane and Jillian approach the heist fully aware they are at the top of their field, with plenty of specialized knowledge woven into the narration to demonstrate it.        

For me, the most memorable aspect is the characters. I was especially drawn to Sloane due to their charm, cunning, and life’s mission. Being nonbinary, Sloane is keenly aware that their gender presentation affects how people perceive them, and they must keep this in mind as they take their more public, sociable approach to their work. This blog’s readers may also be glad to know that Jillian is bisexual and a side character is a lesbian.

If mutual pining, cutthroat competition, and intoxicating intensity appeal to you, then give this book a chance to break and mend your heart.

Content notes drawn from the book: In addition to explicit sex between consenting adults, this book contains “brief references to societal transphobia, historical anti-Black racism in Chicago, class discrimination, and exploitation of the opioid epidemic, as well as one incident of gun violence.”

Emory Rose is a lover of the written word, especially all things whimsical, fantastical, and romantic. They regularly participate in National Novel Writing Month as well as NYC Midnight’s fiction writing challenges. They are fueled by sapphic novellas and chocolate.

Sweet, Chaotic Bisexuals: Love at First Set by Jennifer Dugan

the cover of Love at First Set

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“Queer chaos trumps moral fortitude, especially when making out is involved.”

For Lizzie, working at a gym isn’t just a job; it’s her home. For now, she’s only the check-in girl (and occasionally, the owner’s punching bag), but one day, she could manage her own. When her bestie (and emotional support himbo) and boss’s son James asks her to play plus-one at his sister’s wedding, she agrees, hoping to find a chance to talk to his parents about a promotion. One drunken pep-talk later and the bride-to-be, Cara, realizes she doesn’t want to get married after all. It doesn’t help that Lizzie is crushing on her hard—or that Cara decides to stay with her brother while getting her derailed life back together. Afraid his sister plans to set him up on a blind date, James urges Lizzie to keep her distracted. Can Lizzie girl the hell up and keep her crush under wraps?

Lizzie is a beautifully realistic mess and knows it. Growing up with an unreliable, emotionally-abusive mother taught Lizzie she could only rely on herself, while her economic status triggered some serious self-esteem issues. Though her self-reliance and independence are strengths, her unwillingness to trust others also becomes a weakness.

Jennifer Dugan heard the phrase “queer pining” and understood the assignment. Lizzie’s insta-crush on Cara spurs some hilarious self-talk that puts the “com” in this queer rom-com. The constant, silent, somewhat reluctant pining is intense, raw, and real, but her sass and sarcasm never let it get overly sappy. Though Lizzie can’t see it, Cara’s obvious crushing is equally intense, making these two lovesick, bisexual messes the perfect match.

Unfortunately, everything I loved in the first half of the book becomes exhausting by the second half. Lizzie allows both James and Cara to manipulate her into favors that benefit them too often. Her self-proclaimed cowardice spurs the story’s internal conflict a little too much. The self-deprecation that was once funny became painful enough to become cringy, too.

While I love a slow burn, Lizzie and Cara’s relationship is too focused on showing physical development, but not the emotional development. We don’t see the pillow talk or hidden moments between them that lead to them falling in love with one another. The external conflict—Cara’s mother—is written as a two-dimensional antagonist. Her motivation for keeping the women apart is status, but why? (Did she grow up in poverty, or feel shamed by a group with higher social status at one point in her life?)

Vague spoilers below.

My biggest pet peeve is a plot powered by miscommunication (in this case, a complete failure at communicating from the start), and this story relies on it all too much to reach an unsatisfying happy ending that’s tied up in a literal bow. The writing was so strong and held so much promise in the beginning, but I’m afraid the third-act break-up, blow-up dinner scene, ultimatum, and ending didn’t do it for me.

End of spoilers.

Recommended for anyone who loves pining and scheming of Shakespearean proportions. This sapphic rom-com will be a sweet if chaotic addition to your TBR.

 ✨ The Vibes ✨
👟 Sapphic Rom-Com
👟  Bi Visibility
👟  Gay Best Friend
👟  Economic Classes
👟  Shakespearean Miscommunication, Pining, and Scheming
👟  Self-Esteem Issues

“Don’t sit behind the gym counter of your life when you’re meant to be in front of it. “

Sweet Summer Bi Vibes: Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

the cover of Cool for the Summer

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“Just because you’re telling a good story doesn’t mean it’s the right story. And I think it’s really important to tell the right story.”

For three years of high school, Larissa had extreme heart-eyes for Chase Harding; the sweet, popular, football star any girl would die to date. After returning from summer break, Chase finally seems to notice her, but it’s not Lara’s stylish blonde bob that catches his attention: it’s the newfound confidence she gained over the summer. Enigmatic, too-cool photographer Jasmine is the one Lara spent all summer beside…and, on more than one occasion, kissing. The girl Lara can’t stop thinking about. The first time Chase flirts with her, Jasmine walks through the doors, only to reveal they’re completing their senior year together—and that she has no interest in picking up where they left off last summer. Everything about Lara’s senior year appears perfect—supportive friends, the most popular boy in school at her arm…so why can’t she get Jasmine and their summer together off her mind?

⚠️ Spoilers Ahead! ⚠️

Cool for the Summer is a light-hearted, quick summer read with definite queer Grease vibes. The story’s sweet, relatable sapphic spin is bound to hook you from the get-go. Lara is a first-generation Russian Ashkenazi Jew who thought she’d spend the summer working at an indie bookstore, only to travel to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with her mother instead. While staying at her mother’s boss’s beach house, she spends time with seemingly stand-offish Jasmine. The two bond in little moments we see through flashbacks—snippets that demonstrate even a summer is enough to discover real, life-changing love. Larissa’s character development, especially as she steps out from behind the shadows her friends have cast, is a beautiful example of how one moment can trigger metaphoric self-discovery and growth. Though her time with Larissa triggered that development, we see the continuous ripple effect it causes.

Adler doesn’t shy away from topics rarely explored in YA, including positivity regarding masturbation and sex. However, I do wish she’d explored some of the emotions behind those moments. Since Lara internalizes a lot of what she’s thinking and feeling, there was no real discussion that would have added depth to those scenes. However, I do wish I’d had this story growing up; it possibly could have changed everything.

I can’t stress quite how relatable this story was for me. Everything from the three-year-long unreciprocated crush to one summer of stolen moments and unexpected feelings that ultimately led to newfound self-awareness and -discovery were all pieces of my own bisexual coming-out story. Sometimes, the ever-after we write in our heads isn’t the ever-after we end up wanting—a realization Lara almost has too late.

This story was an opportunity to shatter a great number of bisexual stereotypes, especially since Lara is in a relationship when she realizes her feelings for Jasmine. There’s a brief comment, made by Chase, that almost delves into and defies those stereotypes of bisexuals “not being able to choose,” but Lara bites back her anger and brushes by it too quickly. While I’m beyond grateful that we’re getting more bisexual and overall queer stories, I do wish we could have opened that discussion. At the very least, it should have been a conversation Lara had with herself— her constant internalizing provided the perfect opportunity for it.

Anyone who’s read one of my previous reviews knows my biggest rom-com trope pet peeve is miscommunication. The entirety of this story feeds off the miscommunication between Lara and Jasmine. While that fear and confusion are real and relatable (I’ve lived through it myself), I do wish there was at least ONE attempt from either of them to try, long before that miscommunication escalates the conflict between them.

With how short this story is, there’s definitely room to explore the emotions behind certain scenes in-depth. Again, Lara internalizes almost everything instead of using a friend as a sounding board, leaving this story with more “telling” than “showing.”

This quintessential summer read is ideal for lovers of YA, happily-ever-afters, and stories of self-discovery. It’s also perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Alice Oseman. Happy reading!

✨ The Vibes ✨

☀️ Summer Love
💜 Bisexual (Questioning) and Aroace Rep
✡️ Jewish (Ashkenazi and Sephardi) Rep
🔎 Self-Discovery
⌛ Past/Present Timeline
❤️ Happily Ever After
💕 Love Triangle

⚠️ Content Warnings: Brief Biphobia, Underage Alcohol Consumption, Parental Divorce

Danika reviews Melt With You by Jennifer Dugan

the cover of Melt With You

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This is a sapphic YA romance with an ice cream truck road trip, and if that doesn’t intrigue you, we have very different tastes in books. To be more specific, it’s a friends-to-lovers-to-enemies?-to-lovers? ice cream truck road trip sapphic YA romance.

Fallon and Chloe were best friends practically their whole lives. Their moms are best friends who own a gourmet ice cream truck together. (It’s called Love at First Bite, and all the flavours are romance movie puns.) Their moms imagined they’d be as close as sisters, but that’s not exactly how it turned out. Instead, they ended up sleeping together. But Chloe cancelled on Fallon the next day and disappeared to university, and they haven’t really spoken since.

For Fallon, it just reinforced that the night meant nothing for Chloe, and she was foolish to think otherwise. After all, Chloe’s motto is, “It’s not that deep.” When Chloe shows up in town acting like nothing happened, Fallon is pissed and wants nothing to do with her.

That’s when their moms drop the bomb that they have an important business meeting at the same time as their biggest moneymaker event of the year. They need Chloe and Fallon to work at the event, or Love at First Bites will likely go under. But that means driving the truck out there and working shoulder to shoulder for the event. It’s a nightmare for Fallon, but she can’t exactly say no. Meanwhile, Chloe seems to be using the opportunity to win Fallon back over, but she doesn’t understand why Fallon is so angry in the first place.

It’s hard to imagine a better premise for a sapphic summer read! I didn’t love this quite as much as I hoped, but I think that I might have to face that YA romances just aren’t clicking with me lately, so I think that’s a me problem. We’re firmly inside Fallon’s head for the narration, and I found her directly addressing the audience (“I know what you’re thinking, but…”) a little akward.

Also, this book is dominated by miscommunication. Fallon even addresses that she knows everyone will think they just need to talk, but she’s sure she knows what Chloe is thinking and that it’s not worth talking about. This made the middle chunk of the book drag for me, because despite road trip hijinks, the dynamic between Chloe and Fallon is stuck in this dynamic, which made it feel like there wasn’t any progression in the core story.

Still, it delivers on the promise of the description, and it was a quick, light read. If the premise appeals to you and you don’t mind a miscommunication-based plot, toss this one in your tote bag for your beach reading this summer!