A romantic comedy of love lost, faked, and found…
Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting week of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. A genderqueer artist who lives life by their own rules, Link inspires Carter to build a new future. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.
Lilah Suzanne has a gift for telling love stories that hit a really sweet spot; written with a light touch they are low angst and yet never shy away from the highs and lows of falling in love, learning to be in love, learning to trust yourself as you work it out.
Jilted manages all of the above, and so very well.
Before I begin I’d like to make clear that I identify as cis-gendered and so I can’t speak to the accuracy or depiction of Link as nonbinary from an #ownvoices point of view. The story read as respectful and well done, but again, I can’t speak to this as a lived experience and would love to hear from #ownvoices readers!
To begin, I have to give Suzanne credit for characterization from the get go. We are offered snapshots of who Carter and Link are in the first two chapters but from their own perspectives: this means we get unreliable narrators from the start. I love when this gets pulled off well because then we get to watch the characters figure themselves out, we get to experience their insecurities and how they affect their choices, mistakes, and triumphs from within their experiences. Since the majority of this book is told from Carter’s perspective, I’ll say that with him, Suzanne gets it exactly right. Carter has absorbed what he thinks people perceive, how he interprets others reactions to him, and how those have been internalized into behaviors and habits in his interpersonal relationships. The Carter we meet in the first chapter sees himself as others do. The arc of his struggles really unfolds throughout the book as he and Link have this wonderful and unexpected New Orleans adventure together, following him home as he begins to assess his happiness (or lack thereof) and back to New Orleans as he attempts to recoup and figure himself out. I loved that he didn’t initially. That despite the big move and choice to follow a dream (rehabbing an old home from start to finish), figuring himself out doesn’t just magically happen.
Because the book is told mostly from Carter’s point of view, Link is harder to pin down in the same way. I love that though, because Carter’s version of Link is really lovely and enigmatic. Link is fun and sensual; there’s something about their way of seeing and relating to the world that seems to disorient Carter in a way he really needs. There’s a quality to Link that hooks the reader, that speaks to volumes under the surface. Personally, there was something almost intangible (but really not, because we are still seeing Link through Carter’s eyes and again, unreliable narrator seeing through a lens of their own issues) that drew me to them; I always wanted to know more, loved their moments on page, yearned for each moment of closeness they and Carter shared.
I do appreciate books that are both studies in character growth and healing, and obviously love stories and romance are a thing. Jilted does capture both and in a beautiful setting. I was at times frustrated by Carter’s two steps forward-one step back progress, particularly when he and Link mis-communicated. This kind of narrative is difficult to capture because there’s a line between progress that’s realistic and frustrating a reader with too many obstacle and I think everyone’s bar for that line is a slightly different—a very different strokes for different folks kind of thing. Honestly, this is a small quibble in an otherwise fantastic book.
Ultimately, I loved both Carter and Link. I think their chemistry was so well done, it snapped right off the page at me (in a great way). Their sweetness and humor made for a really lovely story to get lost in. Additionally, wow this book has some great secondary characters. In particular I found Carter’s sister to be perfect. Their dynamic is gold; they aren’t always kind but they always love each other. Even when they fight and even when Carter is upset or angry, their actions speak volumes to their love for each other.
Let’s not forget New Orleans, which felt like a character of its own. The fake honeymoon portion of the book (such a delicious trope and so well done) brought the city to life for me. Here the reader gets to see one side to the city with such a rich sense of place. Even better, in my opinion, is the view of New Orleans we get when Carter moves back. Because it’s a different city, it’s a different layer: it’s not the New Orleans one visits, it’s not the trappings and the outings. It’s a life. It’s a sense of place that’s less about a fleeting moment in time, it’s about coming home.
Lilah Suzanne is the author of Amazon bestseller Broken Records, part of the Spotlight series along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story Halfway Home, which was featured in the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who 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”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently 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 queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.