I was so excited to see a commercial f/f romantic comedy that I pre-ordered When Katie Met Cassidy, Camille Perri's second novel. It was pitched as laugh-out-loud funny, romantic, sexy, and thought-provoking, so even though I was wary of the Gay-For-You premise, I had high expectations. One of the things that Gay-For-You often signals is that a character is actually bisexual (or bi and demi) and as a bisexual reader, I am always on the hunt for representation in fiction.
The book let me down.
Katie and Cassidy are both attorneys and they meet one morning as they're both running to the negotiation table. Katie initially mistakes Cassidy, a butch lesbian, for a man, while Cassidy is thrown off guard by Katie's femme charms. I assumed this initial meeting was intended to play up their differences and set up some comedy, but the jokes never landed.
Instead, it felt like a sweet romance that would lead to a sexual awakening for Katie and an end to Cassidy's attempt to sleep with every woman in Manhattan.
That's what I thought I was getting, and I was on board for that. Unfortunately, the book is full of microaggressions that built up over time, bothering me as a bi femme reader. Cassidy's friends, who gather at a bar most nights, initially all hit on Katie, but then end up saying things like "is she even gay?" Cassidy's best friend does a two-fer at one point, telling Cassidy that not only is she better off without a "straight girl," but if they had stayed together, Cassidy would only have broken Katie's heart when she eventually cheated on Katie. Because Cassidy's a philanderer and incapable of commitment or something.
What bothered me most, though, was that in the black moment, Katie literally pretends that Cassidy doesn't exist. They're on a big official date and Katie runs into the fiance who left her for her best friend right at the beginning of the book... and Katie says she's there on a date with a doctor and he's stepped out. And Cassidy is supposed to forgive her?
I don't know, y'all. Do bi people not exist in this universe? Is there not a way that Katie could have come to terms with her sexuality without hurting Cassidy in a bunch of ways? Have none of Cassidy's friends ever heard of a bisexual woman?
There's definitely some stuff to recommend this book, though. It's genuinely sweet and funny when Katie awkwardly goes shopping for a "how to have lesbian sex" book and studies how to please Cassidy. With humor and realism, Perri describes how Cassidy's friends are struggling with events that make them feel like they're aging out of the scene they've spent their adult lives in. When they aren't making assumptions, Katie and Cassidy have chemistry together. I genuinely liked a lot of the book.
That said, the little papercuts add up. A Native character is described as having an "exotic" name. Much of what I think was supposed to read as humorous came off as bi-erasure or anti-femme. It felt in some ways like book written by a gay woman about gay women for a straight audience. Which I suppose is what it is?
I'm not sure whether I can recommend it or not. I liked the book up until about 80% of the way through, at which point everything came crashing down and I started to feel bad about myself. I'll be on the lookout for reviews from straight and lesbian women, because maybe it didn't feel as bad to them.