You know that video of Ellen saying we should be kind to everyone, including George W. Bush? This is exactly what this book is about. Well, that, and baseball. And romance.
Britt Iverson is brought back to Kentucky when her father is rushed to the hospital. Her whole life is in California, where she has fled as soon as she could, leaving behind bad memories from her mother’s religious beliefs. It’s not the life she wanted, though, everything having fallen apart a few months ago. So when she finds herself needed in Leland, with the perfect job to boot – helping her father resurrect interest in the Longdogs, Leland’s minor league baseball team –, it seems reasonable to give it a try, if only for a couple of years. Then she meets Ninah, a teacher at the local high school and an absolute Longdogs fan. Ninah is instantly charmed by Britt, not just because she’s so different from her ex, whom Ninah split up with three years ago when said ex turned out to be a MAGA supporter.
I know that the personal is political and that lesbian romance novels are political simply by existing and giving wlw visibility and stories we can relate to but I’m also happy when politics actively enter my romance once in a while. Of course it helps that it’s my kind of politics. I’m not American and I don’t live in a country where Donald Trump is president but the topics the characters address in this novel – racism, homophobia, small-mindedness in general and also how more and more people feel free to voice their prejudice –, they’re problems many countries are facing at the moment, including mine. We might seem more subtle about them at times but the violence is the same. As are the strength and feelings of belonging when you fight back with others. So it feels good, sometimes, that a story is set in the real world. Not all the time, of course, since escapism is essential too. But once in a while.
I wanted to believe in the romance between the main characters, but it felt a tad forced at times. At first I wasn’t sure Ninah was interested in Britt because Britt was interesting or because there was a lack of single lesbians around. And Britt held herself back until she didn’t, with no warning, taking me aback a little. And Ninah too, actually. Even so, they make a nice couple, and I really liked that both stood for what they believed in.
Anyway, I also enjoyed getting back to Leland, even if, as usual, I don’t remember much about The House on Sandstone (it seems I gave it 3 stars at the time, guess I’ll need to read it again) and the way the author describes the good and the bad of life in a small town. There were good secondary characters too, from Carly and Justine to Britt’s father and the GSA students. I’m often cautious with stories set in the Bible Belt, since it’s a very different experience from anything I’ve lived, and I don’t pretend to understand the importance of religion for some people, yet I thought that was very well dealt with in this book. So all in all, while the romance itself might not be a full 4 stars, the novel is.