THE PLOT: ‘Rosewater’ by Liv Little is a contemporary sapphic romance about a 28-year-old who’s floundering. Elsie is a fiercely independent poet living in South London. But when she’s suddenly evicted from social housing, her life implodes. Estranged from her family, she turns to her childhood best friend for help. The problem is that they had an argument and haven’t spoken for three months. Regardless, Juliet generously lets Elsie move in to her flat and rebuild her life. But between their reruns of Drag Race and nights smoking on the balcony, Elsie starts to wonder if they could be more than just friends.
RATING: I’ve got to start this review by stating that I’m just not a romance girlie. No hate on the genre but I find plots that hinge around romance boring because, for me, it feels too low stakes. Perhaps it’s because I don’t think falling in love and settling down is the meaning of life, but I always end up thinking the characters should just move on and find someone new. So, that being said, I really struggled at the start of this book and almost DNF’d. Not because it’s badly written but simply because it was boring and I didn’t care about the characters. However, I am glad I persisted as it picked up at the halfway mark and I became invested in the story. That’s why I’m giving this book three and a half stars.
GOOD BITS: This book didn’t quite have the endearing, complex characters or lyrical writing that I expected. However, I began to enjoy it when the main character’s depression lifted and the plot began to be affected by external events (rather than internal emotions). I think I liked it because the main character had more agency and began to get her life together. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the character’s backstory led to her depression but reading about someone lying in bed and watching Drag Race isn’t very entertaining. Especially when I could just put the book down and watch Drag Race myself.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Although I don’t typically like romance as a genre, it usually grabs me when the characters have an interesting backstory and there are external forces keeping the lovers apart. Unfortunately, at the start of this book, the backstory felt too drip fed and contrived for me to care. The characters also felt too familiar. I’m from the same area of London and the characters felt a bit too millennial “hipster” and performative in their wokeness. It just felt too everyday life for me and not interesting enough to be a novel.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams, ‘Open Water’ by Caleb Azumah Nelson, and ‘Hope and Glory’ by Jendella Benson. I think this is a good book and lots of people will enjoy it, so I don’t want to put you off if you’re looking for a contemporary queer romance. I just didn’t love it.
Thank you to Dialogue Books for my #gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. Rosewater is out now and you can order a copy on my bookshop.org profile: here.
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