First of all, I want to clear one thing up. This is not a “sweet romance” in the way that the romantic community define it as a genre:
A ‘sweet’ romance doesn’t usually contain explicit sex scenes. Referred to alternately as ‘tender’ and ‘wholesome’ this range of books spans the spectrum from the very chaste, faith-based ‘inspirational’ stories to those stories which reflect contemporary attitudes toward sex but which stop at the bedroom door…just.
There’s explicitly defined, close-up sex in this, and sex becomes an issue pretty early on. If I had to peg a genre for this, it would be New Adult romance, with its preoccupation with college, growth and, yes, sex.
But is Dormitory Dearest sweet in the more sugary sense? God, yes. And it’s delicious. This is, in fact, one of the most best lesbian books I’ve read in 2017.
Nerdy Natasha goes to University
Nobody knew me, I could reinvent myself if I wanted, I could be a totally new person and carve out a completely different path in life if I so chose. But once I got to school, i found that I simply couldn’t help but be me. Geeky, introverted, freaky me.
The book is kept to the tight perspective of Natasha, a freshman at college, a geeky introvert who is simultaneously extremely analytical and completely clueless. She admits to having trouble with empathy and frequently can’t figure out the best way to handle other people’s emotions. In fact, she seems to be very much on the spectrum, or at least neurologically different to her classmates.
Her Arts program dormitory of geeks and her sweet, supportive roommate Whitney give Natasha the chance to fit in better and open up more, gaining some self confidence. She still, however, can’t admit that she’s the big L word, despite acknowledging that “logically, I knew I was a lesbian.”
Then she becomes infatuated with Hosannah, a kind-hearted junior who is frank and open about being lesbian, and about her attraction to Natasha. It seems like everything Natasha wants is opening up to her.
Only Natasha’s own personal issues stands in the way of her happiness. But they are a pretty big obstacle. Especially as Hosannah has been burned by “gay until graduation” before, and doesn’t want to be used as another straight girl’s passing experiment with bisexuality.
A loveable and realistic cast of characters
Natasha is really well written. She is smart, almost puppy like in her desperation to love and be loved, and completely useless when it comes to people. She will tell the girl she is trying to impress that her stand up routine wasn’t funny, dump all her personal problems on a professor who has said “Can I help you?”, and, more dangerously, string along a boy she wants to be friends with because saying “No, I’m a lesbian with a girlfriend” seems too difficult.
At times Natasha is frustrating in her social ineptness and lack of empathy. What makes up for it is that she is truly caring as well, just so fixed in her own perspective that it’s hard for her to relate to other people.
Hosannah is really likeable. She’s incredibly patient with Natasha, who she obviously adores, but also draws lines and tells her to cut the crap when Natasha goes too far, such as seeing Whitney’s bereavement only in terms of how it affects Natasha. She is willing to put in the time to help Natasha cope with coming to terms with her lesbianism—and coming out—but not to be a doormat.
Natasha’s friends are wonderful, too. Really, this is a book with no bad guy. There’s a lot of conflict and drama, and it all comes from the conflicts within Natasha as she tries to navigate her new life, and makes mistake after mistake.
The whole book feels incredibly authentic and drew me straight in.
Why it’s not a lesbian sweet romance…
There’s not a lot of sex scenes, but what there is is lengthy and explicit—and at the same time very lacking in porny feel. Natasha describes everything with her typical obsessive attention to detail, and her sheer joy in relating details like the lack of symmetry in Hosannah’s nipples or Hosannah’s little pot belly is very endearing.
Natasha is straightforward about wanting sex and what she describes as “the inevitability of sex”, and that’s oddly charming. Her unabashed pleasure in physical intimacy is cute as hell, and you can see why, despite her sharp corners, Hosannah sees her as worth the patience.
…and why it’s a sweet lesbian book
Dormitory Dearest made me laugh out loud, and also made tears prickle my eyes. I read it pretty much in two sittings, despite it being a full length novel.
The most important thing for me in any lesbian fiction is that I care about the characters. I really cared about the oddball heroine and her beloved, and really wanted them to sort things out and be adorable together.
Absolutely, especially if you are looking for lighthearted lesbian fiction. This was a really enjoyable, tender, often funny read, and I’m looking forward to reading more books by Nicolette Dane.
Publication and Availability
Dormitory Dearest is self published in Kindle and paperback, and available free if you are a subscriber to Kindle Unlimited.