Riley isn’t looking for much from her life. Her job is fine; it pays the bills. She has a girlfriend, Colleen. She has a best friend, Luna, her ride-or-die bestie with whom she goes clubbing, standing in as her wingman while Luna finds a handsome young man to spend the night with. And really, what more could she ask for? Sure, Riley spends more time walking on eggshells where Colleen is concerned, and sure, she does more than her fair share of other people’s work, but that’s just part of life. Part of her life.
What isn’t part of her life is Sawyer, with her bleached blonde hair, wicked smile, and red lips, Sawyer who rides a motorcycle, works at a bar, and smokes. The other woman is exciting and friendly (and Riley could use another friend), but Riley has a girlfriend. They have an anniversary coming up! When Riley catches Colleen kissing another woman, she doesn’t know how to feel, any more than she knows how to feel when she finds out her mother is dying. A mother who told her to never darken her door again. A mother who didn’t want a gay daughter.
Riley goes home to say goodbye and to, maybe, make peace with her estranged family. But life isn’t a fairy tale, and Riley will have to learn to say goodbye to more than just her mother. Riley is going to have to learn to say goodbye to so much more.
While there is a romance in this book, the focus of the story is on Riley, herself. Riley the friend, the daughter, the girlfriend, the obedient little worker; Riley with all the identities she cloaks herself in so she doesn’t have to be just Riley.
All her life, Riley wanted to please and be loved by her mother. She lied about her sexuality, hid her first girlfriend, did everything she could to appease and apologize, and it’s a pattern that’s carried through to her relationship with Colleen, who uses emotional abuse, gaslighting, victim blaming, and slut shaming to keep the collar and leash tight around Riley’s neck. Colleen doesn’t like Riley having a friend like Luna, one who goes out to drink and get laid, one who has equal claim to Riley’s life. It’s a toxic and soul-crushing relationship, but Riley is too accustomed to it to know if she wants to get out of it, let along knowing how to get out of it.
Riley learning to stand up for herself, learning to let go of the things in her life that cause her pain — and giving herself time to mourn them — is the large focus of this book, with Sawyer, the vibrant, very interested woman in the background being, for the most part, a potentiality that Riley isn’t certain how to actualize. Sawyer is interested in Riley, but on hearing that she’s lost her mother and her girlfriend, Sawyer backs off instantly as anything more than a friend. It’s not until weeks later that she even lets Riley know that she’d be willing to take the friendship to the next level. But she’s going to wait until the time is right, until Riley is kissing her not because she’s lonely, or horny, or looking for comfort … but until Riley is kissing her.
This is a lovely little romance with strong female friendships, an understanding therapist, and a woman learning that she’s enough. The writing is good, the pacing is good, and I cannot wait to read more of this author’s work. They have a deft hand with relationships that feel real, grounded, and earned. I really hope you give this story a chance!