Krait reviews How Still My Love by Diane Marina

howstillmylove

I was looking for a fluffy contemporary romance when I picked up How Still My Love, and with a few caveats, I think it delivered.

The novel follows Beth, a woman who’s thrown herself into work at her successful graphic design studio after the end of a disastrous (and abusive) relationship several years past. Her best friends set her up on a blind date with Toni, a local schoolteacher, and the romance blooms from there. Through a few time skips – some more successful than others – we follow Beth and Toni through a delightful honeymoon period, buying their dream house together, and then smack into the wall of the overarching conflict. Toni desperately wants a baby and Beth can’t articulate just how terrified that makes her. A roller-coaster of miscommunication and misunderstandings follows –including the use of a classic, if a bit cliché Big Misunderstanding – until finally, several years later, Beth and Toni earn their happy ending.

I will admit, I struggled a lot with the first third of this book. Beth’s whacky-but-loveable friends come off as, well, pushy and kind of terrible. Our first introduction to Laurel, her best friend, involves her carelessly injuring Beth in a way that invokes the specter of Beth’s physically abusive ex-girlfriend, with the implication that, tee-hee, this happens all the time. Her company is so tight-knit that everyone shows up to pressure Beth to go on this blind date she’s really quite opposed to. I eventually warmed up moderately to Laurel and her husband, but they had to combat an awful first impression.

Toni, on the other hand, is lovely once she’s introduced. She seems to be nice, attracted to Beth, and a generally sweet and sensible person. Honestly, for that first chunk of the book, I would have rather been in Toni’s head, not Beth’s. Beth falls head-over-heels in lust with Toni at their first meeting, and head-over-heels in love with her after three days. And during that time period, there’s a great deal of tell, not show, language. Everything Toni does is ‘sexy.’ Her hair twirling, her dimple, the never-identified nail color on her toes. Toni is also written with instant mind-reading powers – she reads Beth like an open book, which juxtaposes oddly with their later communication problems.

Thankfully, after some significant time skips – three weeks, six months for a single chapter, three years later – the novel smooths out. Toni’s significant flaws fill her out as a character, and we see Beth grow up a lot over the intervening time. Without going into any more detail, I will say that Beth and Toni are a brilliant demonstration of the importance of couple’s counseling. Still, I did feel like they deserved their happy ending, and I was glad to see them find it.

Overall, How Still My Love is a decent contemporary lesbian romance. If you don’t mind fairly simple prose and a dash of misunderstandings and family-related angst in your fluffy romance, you’ll probably enjoy it.

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