Something I love about Georgia Beers’s books is all the heart that she puts into her stories. Her characters are decent people falling in love in gentle ways. For those reasons, I was ready to love BLEND, but it ended up feeling a bit flat.
BLEND is an opposites-attract romance between a light-hearted and warm Lindsay, a wine bar manager, and the prickly and emotionally distant Piper, daughter of the wine bar owner. This is a trope that Beers favors (all five books I’ve read by her have been opposites attract).
Also typical of Beers, the romance develops slowly. The characters spend half of the book getting to know each other and overcome their initial dislike. My only problem with this slower development is that it provides for very little time to go from a first kiss to confessing feelings. As readers, we end up with a tiny view of them as a couple. And with so little weight behind the romance, we barely have enough time to believe that they will last and that the professions of love are meaningful.
There are lovely moments in the book when Lindsay and Piper begin to bring out the best in each other. Piper helps Lindsay see her work as valuable, while Lindsay helps Piper deal with the grief of her father’s passing. And the supporting characters are friends and family who generally want what is best for them.
While Lindsay does grow as a character, BLEND definitely belongs to Piper. She has to confront how much she misses her father, how she doesn’t want his wine bar to change, and how to be with someone who is always open about her feelings. Interestingly (strangely maybe), most of Lindsay’s story involves details of wine bar operations, but we never really know what Piper does for a living. And while the book manages to give us a lot of Piper’s sorrow, it barely touches how irrelevant Lindsay’s family makes her feel. It’s a peculiar disparity especially for a book that has so little story.
Additionally, many scenes in the book felt unnecessarily long when the book would have made a strong novella. The description filler made BLEND something to skim instead of savor. And the writing didn’t live up to Beers’s earlier work that I find so charming.
Also, there is a scene in the book where Lindsay and Piper are discussing when they knew they were gay. It could have been a nice scene, but it was muddled by the idea that the best indicator of sexuality is gender expression. Piper knew she was gay when she was young because she was a tomboy and liked sports, while Lindsay did not realize she was a lesbian because she preferred typically “girly” things. Is this a scenario that is true for many queer people? Yes; however, it isn’t universal and implying as much is harmful when we still seem to be having conversations on who is queer enough.
One of the book’s greatest flaws is the black moment that relies on a power dynamic that never really feels present until the end of the book. Lindsay manages the wine bar, but Piper controls the finances. On a particularly bad day, Piper ends up firing Lindsay. First, there is so little conflict in the book that this feels unnatural and as if it comes out of nowhere. Second, it drags in a power dynamic that wasn’t really present for most of the book. We go from sort of a coworker situation to boss-employee. And boss-employee romances involve an intense power dynamic that needs to be navigated carefully, and I don’t remember seeing the employee fired. As a romance reader, it seems like a step too far. Could Lindsay forgive Piper for stealing her security? Could Lindsay trust Piper again when her reaction to a very bad day is to fire her lover? I don’t know, but I know I wouldn’t.
Power dynamics are treacherous, and BLEND didn’t handle them with the care and consideration they need. This relates to a more general complaint I have with a great deal of f/f romance: the conflict is so minimal that the black moment usually feels forced and untrue to the characters...but someone could write an essay on that.
Overall, BLEND is a book that will appeal to fans of Georgia Beers, but I don’t think it holds up to her best work.
Content Warnings: boss-employee relationship, deceased father, sadness over the loss of a parent, divorced parents, difficult step-family relationships