Heat Factor: Not quite fade to black, but the sex writing is more focused on the emotions than the mechanics
Character Chemistry: Veering into insta-love territory; maybe it’s fate
Plot: Grace has an identity crisis
Overall: Messy and beautiful
For the record, I really enjoyed a lot about this book. But I think marketing it as a romance does everyone a grave disservice. If you’re looking for a sapphic Vegas-wedding-gone-right book, this *technically* fits the bill, but the romance plot does not ground the story. Sure, Grace’s out-of-character wedding is the precipitate factor that pushes her out of her safe (toxic) world of structure and routine, but her path to healing only partly involves Yuki. Yuki herself remains a cipher. I was never quite sure why Grace decided to stay married to Yuki – she had a gut feeling that they were happy when they were drunk and decided to get married, and though that was perhaps enough for Grace, it wasn’t enough for me. Hardcore romance fans, who want the swoon of the love story, may therefore be disappointed in this book, which is light on the romance and heavy on Grace’s journey of self-discovery.
Our story opens with a dream – a drunken haze of champagne pink and roses, that turns out to not have been a dream at all. Rather, Grace awakens in a Vegas hotel with a hangover, a ring, and a note from her new wife, whose name she doesn’t know. Grace has just finished her PhD in astronomy and is hunting for jobs. It’s not going perfectly, like it was supposed to after her eleven years of working and striving and being better than the best, so she’s not in a good space. Her marriage, perhaps because it’s so wildly out of character, becomes something she can latch on to; in her words, it’s something that feels “good” in her life when everything else feels so out of control.
However, summarizing the book that way doesn’t really capture what’s going on here. The book is loosely divided into thirds. The first third takes place in Portland and covers Grace’s backstory with her family (her parents and her found family) as she slowly reveals her secret marriage and processes her emotions around it. The second third takes place in New York, as Grace spends the summer with Yuki, the enigmatic wife. And the final third takes place in Florida, where Grace learns to stop running and works on her relationship with her parents. More than a romance, this is a book about Grace learning to accept help – and figuring out that pushing herself until she breaks means that she has no space left to help others who love and need her. (This revelation sort of includes Yuki, but is more tightly focused on her friends.)
I suspect that many people will feel seen when reading this book. Grace is a deeply lonely person who struggles with feeling like she must be perfect to be love, to make those who love her proud. So when she feels seen – by her friends, by Yuki – it hits really hard for the reader because it hits really hard for Grace. With that said, there are some content warnings for this book, including anxiety, depression, and self-harm; if you struggle with reading extremely messy characters who are really working through some shit, please continue with caution.
Tonally, this book is interesting, because the persona Grace shares with others leans feisty – she cracks jokes and she (at least pretends) that she doesn’t put up with bullshit. But the reader is a bit removed from this. We are not entirely in Grace’s head (the book is written in third person), but we are deep enough in her thoughts that there is a distinct disconnect between the jokes and what’s going on with her internally; her sadness and loneliness and anxiety are really overpowering. Though other characters might laugh, I never did.
The language leans poetic, which worked for me in the beginning but started grating later in the book. Too many siren metaphors, perhaps? Anyways, here’s a short passage from early in the text:
What happened in Vegas is tucked away in her suitcase. It is under her shirt in the shape of a key. It is hidden in her hair with the last little bits of dried petals. It hides in the gold ring wrapped around her finger like a brand.
As you can see, we’re in third person present here. We’ve got metaphors. We’ve got allusions to earlier images in the text. The result is that the book feels really immediate – though it sometimes also feels really forced, like I was at a meeting of my college poetry club. Overall, though, the writing worked for me, and some passages are both beautiful and really capture the essence of what’s going on with these characters.
Is this an important book? Yes. Is this a beautiful book? Yes. Is this a satisfying romance? Well, the jury’s out on that one.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
Looking for something similar?