Gotta Catch Her by Kelly Haworth. Ninestar Press. 2019.
I decided to read this book because I’d heard positive buzz and I love geek romance, and was promised Pokemon-like geekery in a cute f/f romance. Also, that cover completely grabbed me. Isn’t it great? Gotta Catch Her was definitely a light f/f romance, and the MCs do play a Pokemon-like game. (I’m not a Pokemon player so I can’t speak to how much like it this game is.) It also has a great dog, that was a highlight of this story for me.
One of the things I appreciate in queer romances centering cis characters that are written by trans and/or non-binary authors is that they are less likely to include the cissexism that is often present in queer romances, and this book is a good example of that. I can relax in stories like that, which make them cozier for me as a trans reader. I also appreciated the way that the love interest’s bisexuality was not an issue at all for the MC, as this is a rare thing to find in a lot of f/f romance, and another thing I’m often bracing for. This is a book that might hit the spot for folks wanting low-conflict, low-angst, light contemporary f/f.
That said, Gotta Catch Her didn’t hit the mark for me, overall, as a romance.
This book has three central tropes: it is a meet-cute romance, a geeky romance, and a single parent romance. For me, the most satisfying of these tropes was the meet cute. I enjoyed the adorable start, the awkwardness, the dog’s role in the meet cute. That scene really worked for me, and was the most engaging one in the story.
I was especially excited for the geekery, and it felt like this book skimmed the surface of it, which was a disappointment. One of the things I love about geek romances is the way characters get really focused on their special interests, read things through the lens of them, think about life through associations with them, get tremendous joy from thinking about them, engaging with them, and meeting others who are also into them. I don’t need to also be into the special interest to enjoy stories that are geeky in that way, because I can ride along with the joy the character feels, the investment they have, and I can recognize my own self in the relationship with the special interest, even though my special interests are different.
In this story, I couldn’t feel either character’s joy or investment in the game; the game mostly felt like a device to bring them together. I wanted more detail, more engagement in this aspect of the story. It felt more like a thing the MC felt like maybe she shouldn’t be into because it’s for kids, but I didn’t know why she was into it or what it was about it for her or see her engage deeply with it. I know this is a novella, and allowing for that depth might have meant sacrificing other things in the story; I personally would have preferred less about Ann’s job, and more about her geekery, especially given that this was marketed as a geeky romance.
I was a bit unclear as to why we spent so much time with Ann at her job; for a long time I thought there might be an antagonist that would emerge at work, related to the audit, someone that was doing something shady. I felt like the text was cueing me to look for that by spending so much time on it and having all these workplace interactions that didn’t seem to serve the central storyline or create a character arc for Ann. I still am a bit baffled at how much of the story centered on her at work, as it didn’t actually lead to a secondary arc. It left the book feeling muddled to me, and created disappointment around the main tropes in the story.
The single parent trope went in a surprising direction that I don’t often see in romance, and it made me uncomfortable. It felt like the love interest being a single parent was the central obstacle in the story. (This may partly be because there weren’t other stronger conflicts or issues to take the limelight.) We have an MC who resents her love interest’s child and the way he interrupts her dates and time with her love interest, the way he gets Rachael’s focus and attention. This really did not work for me.
I don’t need characters to be perfect, but this feels like an unresolvable issue. Unfortunately, there is not even an attempt at a resolution to it, the MC just stops mentioning it, and I guess we’re supposed to believe this isn’t a big deal and will just go away once Rachael commits to a relationship with her? I didn’t buy that, which made it rather hard to buy into the happy ending; I wasn’t at all sure these characters were well suited or belonged together, and a big part of that was that I see this as a very big deal. Resenting a single parent for prioritizing her child’s well being and having an unpredictable schedule because she’s a parent is a set up for disaster, in my view. In addition, I feel that this approach to a single parent romance misunderstands what readers are wanting from that trope. In order for this resentment to work, it meant that the MC never got to know the kid, so neither did the reader; he barely seemed to have a personality. We never got to see the MC bond with the child, or share the load in caring for the child, or create intimacy with her love interest around understanding new things about the difficulties of parenting. These are the things I really want from this trope, and Gotta Catch Her took it in a completely different direction.
Overall, this book didn’t work for me as a romance, in the way it used two of the central tropes. The characters didn’t engage me as deeply as I’d like, and I didn’t feel a strong chemistry between them. The characters also felt a bit thinly drawn, which I think was partly because of the workplace subplot that took up so much space in the story but didn’t really add much to it. I wasn’t invested in them as a couple, and for me that’s one of the bigger signs a romance isn’t working for me. I want to be rooting for them to be together, that’s part of what makes a romance enjoyable for me.
- Lesbian woman MC.
- Bisexual woman love interest.
- Pansexual non-binary author.
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Sex on the page.
- Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
- I am friends with the author on Twitter.
- All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
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