Too Late… I Love You is a contemporary romance by Kiki Archer, and it won Best Independent Author and Best Book in the 2015 Lesbian Oscars, so it’s safe to say my review does not reflect the consensus on this one!
It’s the story of Connie Parker, a bored, unhappy, apparently straight housewife and want-to-be novelist, who goes to playgroup with her oh-so-gay stereotypical gay friend and falls in love with Maria, a fashionable, Italian businesswoman and single lesbian mum.
I have really mixed feelings about this. It’s a book that I really wanted to like, it should be cute and funny and I liked the love interest, Maria. Both Maria, and our heroine, Connie, have young children and as a fairly recent lesbian Mum, I found it being a book about lesbians as mothers quite appealing.
I can remember feminist literature lectures discussing the function of the heroine within the structure of the stereotypical romance novel. We talked about how the heroine was made blank, with no background, no mother, there for the reader to self impose themselves onto: for the reader to live vicariously through. I think that dynamic changes a bit, generally, in lesbian romances. We’re able to more easily superimpose ourselves on either side of the relationship, after all. Are we the heroine, or her love interest?
The point is, this is where Too Late… I Love You really fell over for me. Not really because I couldn’t identify with the heroine, but because I felt actively ridiculed by her. Repeatedly. And it’s kind of hard to feel too fondly towards someone and her relationship, when you know exactly what she’d be thinking about you, your partner, and your family, if she met you and it’s frankly really unpleasant.
We’re a lesbian family and we’re more out than “Earth Mother” and “Crusty”, but we’re not young, slim and pretty, my partner did breastfeed late and, horrors, in public, we’re both socially awkward. This is how the characters are introduced:
Earth Mother and Crusty. Both social outcasts. Earth Mother for her
sheer size and refusal to wear a bra; constantly breastfeeding her son Lucas, even
though he was now over four. And Crusty because of the dandruff. A real nervous
mouse, in a state of perpetual blind panic.
Maria also gets in on the act when she finds out about Connie and Ryan’s bitching, although she’s shown to be less obnoxious than them in the long run:
“Should I go and talk to Loose-Titty-Tie-Dye instead?” Maria pointed to the
arts and crafts tables where Earth Mother was now breast feeding her son on full
display like a life model for the budding artists. “What do you call her friend? The
one that’s always with her? Is she called Jumpy?”
It all turns out well in the end; Maria makes Connie get to know them, but they are called Earth Mother and Crusty throughout the book and are used for horrible, awkward comic relief and I just can’t care about characters as mean spirited and bitchy as Connie and Ryan, who we’re clearly supposed to think are wonderful and just like us.
I can see how this is all apparently very funny, but it’s a romance novel and once you find yourself empathising more with the comic relief than the heroine, it really fails.
This is novel was clearly never intended for me. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t like it much.