Because of Her – K E Payne
This book contains two of my favourite things: lesbians and the city of London.
Guys, I am so excited about this.
I didn’t know much about the author when I selected this on netgalley, admittedly, I chose it because I liked the cover (yes, I know its a bit dull, but the London skyline can make anything beautiful ok?) and then I read the blurb and decided I definitely wanted it. Then I started reading up on the author and SERIOUSLY, SHE’S FROM BATH!
GUYS I LIVE IN BATH THIS EXCITES ME MORE THAN YOU WILL EVER KNOW.
Reading up on the author also lead me to reading up on the publisher, this is a book from Bold Stroke Books, an American publisher that specialises in LGBT fiction, I didn’t know that such specialists existed, but I’m kind of glad that they do. Although, I don’t really get why the sexuality of the characters means that an extra genre gets added on to a book. This is a YA book, it should just be labelled as one, but that’s just me. Either way, I am glad that fiction about non heterosexual characters is out there and has a publisher that makes sure that their stories are being told.
I also discovered that this is KE Payne’s fifth book and that there is a sixth coming out soon, so I have a lot of catching up to do.
Here’s the blurb:
For seventeen-year-old Tabitha “Tabby” Morton, life sucks. Big time. Forced to move to London thanks to her father’s new job, she has to leave her friends, school, and, most importantly, her girlfriend Amy, far behind. To make matters worse, Tabby’s parents enroll her in the exclusive Queen Victoria Independent School for Girls, hoping that it will finally make a lady of her.
But Tabby has other ideas.
Loathing her new school, Tabby fights against everything and everyone, causing relations with her parents to hit rock bottom. But when the beautiful and beguiling Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, Tabby begins to wonder if life there might not be so bad after all.
When Amy drops a bombshell about their relationship following a disastrous visit, Tabby starts to see the need for new direction in her life. Fighting her own personal battles, Eden brings the possibility of change for them both. Gradually, Tabby starts to turn her life around—and it’s all because of her.
Ok, so lets talk about this book for a moment then shall we?
Firstly, I love it when I’ve actually been to a book’s location, this is set in London, not just any old bits of London, but bits of London that I’ve actually been to. I’ve said this before, but I’m a very lazy reader, I like being able to focus on characters instead of having to distract myself thinking about what places look like.
Secondly, this was kind of refreshing. I read a lot of LGBT fiction (like a LOT) and although this didn’t excite me the way that the Miseducation of Cameron Post did, it was a nice change from a story about someone realising their sexuality and having to come out and that being a traumatic experience for them. I know that stories about coming out are important and rightfully so, but sometimes, its just nice to have characters that have dealt with this before the story opens, just so there is something else to focus on. This did that well, although there was a little bit of coming out, from Tabby (who was out to herself and her friends but not her parents) and a lot of it from Eden (who wasn’t out to anyone – btw, she has an absolutely fabulous name and I’m a little in love with her myself), this was much more about knowing who you are and dealing with a seemingly hopeless crush and then the starting of something new.
The whole thing is narrated by Tabby who has been secretly dating Amy for two years until she is suddenly taken away from small town life in the north of England and moved to London where she has to deal with a long distance relationship and the fact that she’s moving on and finding new and interesting people. I loved that aspect of this book, like I said, so much LGBT fiction is focused on the beginning of someone’s romantic history and the fact that we got to see Tabby struggling with a long distance relationship and discovering feelings for a new person was, as I say, refreshing. I’ve not read much YA where this is a plot point, long distance relationships are hard and there is a lot of foil there for a good tense story, I’m hoping I can find some other titles with this as a focus, so I can see how they compare. The whole long distance with Amy part of the book was really well done, I got a real sense of their frustrations and how everything seemed so intense because they’re seventeen and they’re each other’s first love and now all the things that were promised are obviously never going to happen. It made a nice change from insta-love which seems to be a trend in books that I pick.
This was a little predictable, like most romances are I suppose and the ending was a bit more John Hughes than was necessary for my liking but overall, I really liked this, its endearing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who was new to the LGBT genre, I think its a nice stepping stone and the fact that it isn’t all doom and gloom is a nice change.
I was a little disappointed that Tabby didn’t spend more time talking about her feelings on her sudden change in location, moving from a small town to a big city and especially moving from the north of England to the south is a big culture shock and I think a little more of that would have helped me as a reader get to know Tabby a little better and help me understand a lot of the anger she has towards her dad. Also, as much as I love the idea of having a publisher that works solely in this genre (is it a genre? See my confusion at the beginning and insert it here.) it is a shame that the publisher is American and the author is British, because words had obviously been changed for an American audience. Not loads of them, the general Britishness of a London based story was still all there, but every now and again there would be a principal instead of a head and the odd little phrase which stuck out because a British teenager wouldn’t say such a thing in that way. In the grander scheme of things, this doesn’t matter too much and honestly, doesn’t distract from the story.
My only other criticism was how much drama there was between Eden and Tabby, we know from the blurb that Tabby meeting Eden makes her adjust to her new life, but seeing as she spent the previous two years in a secret relationship with Amy, I didn’t really see why she made such a fuss about Eden wanting to keep them on the downlow for a bit. This criticism is entirely a me thing rather than the book thing though, I think I’m maybe getting a bit old for teenage relationship dramas.
All in all, I actually rather enjoyed this, and like I said, it was a nice change of pace and I think it would make a great gateway book into the wide array of LGBT fiction that exists. This will be available from March 18th and can be preordered from Bold Stroke Books now.