Publisher: Interlude Press
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Received From: NetGalley
Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: summer romance, class discrepancy
TAGS: new adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, coming of age, Brazilian character, Latinx character, POC character, ownvoices, interracial relationship, Latinx author, POC author
WARNINGS: mental illness (cyclothymia, depression, anxiety, panic attacks), therapy sessions, self-harm, suicide mention, ableism, cheating mention, past abusive relationship, amisia/aphobia, acemisia/acephobia
This book was both incredibly heartbreaking and wonderfully soothing at the same time. Jude Sierra did a lovely job of creating characters that I cheered for the whole way through. Characters who I felt crushed for when they went through something that seemed nearly insurmountable, and then ecstatic when they pushed through to the other side, even if they were a bit worse for the wear. Both Reid and Joaquim were incredible characters, and their chemistry was on fire, in all aspects of their relationship. I loved so much how hard they tried to understand and be there for the other, even when they didn’t quite know what was happening. It was so so difficult to watch Reid struggle, and see them struggle together, but they work at creating open avenues of communication, which was so nice to read. Also, I liked that Reid and Joaquim were basically an established couple through most of the book, because we got to see them work together to solve problems, even if they argued about things at first. Plus, it enabled Reid to have a support system while he was struggling, and we were able to see the two of them having to adapt together.
And, on a more personal level, it was so wonderful for me to see the two of them adapt to each other’s needs–for example, the moments where things may have turned sexual, but Reid only felt in the mood to cuddle and Joaquim changed course to accommodate without question. I loved watching Reid finally start to find himself and learn how to fight for himself, while also finding love and realizing that there are people out there who can, and will, love and accept him for who he is. Mental illnesses and all. And that is such an incredible message to send to people who may share Reid’s experiences, and/or other mental (and physical) illnesses.
Also, this novel is very clearly a deeply personal story for Sierra. Even without reading the Author’s Note at the end, in which she writes a bit about how Reid’s struggles and experiences mimic her own, it is unmistakably something Sierra put her whole heart into. For me, that made the story even more poignant and touching, and I love that she wrote this book and shared a piece of herself with us in this way.
While I loved this story so much, there were a couple things that threw me a bit for a loop, with regards to the writing/ When I first started the novel, I wasn’t expecting it to be written in present tense and that took a bit to get used to, but overall, it wasn’t much of a problem. Also, Sierra’s writing has an almost dream-like quality that worked for most of the novel, but there were a couple instances where the vague, lyrical prose made it slightly difficult to keep up with what was happening. There were a couple spots that I had to reread to make sure I was getting the full picture down correctly. Probably the thing that threw me off the most was the lack of contractions, especially as it came to Reid’s speech patterns and some of the narrative bits. As someone who grew up in the United States, Reid would be likely to use contractions more often not when he’s speaking, so the fact that he didn’t use them much at all made him sound a bit stilted at times. It’s obviously not a dealbreaker and didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the novel, but it was somewhat jarring at times.
Overall, this book was an incredible adventure and love story, and I would absolutely recommend people read it! This was my first read by Jude Sierra, and I definitely plan to read her other works!
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.
Jude began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”.
As a sucker for happy endings and well written emotional arcs and characters, Jude is an unapologetic bookaholic. She finds bookstores and libraries unbearably sexy and, to her husband’s dismay, is attempting to create her own in their living room.
She is a writer of many things that hope to find their way out of the sanctuary of her hard drive, and many that have found a home in fanfiction communities.