Desert Isle Keeper
Let's Talk About Love
One of my students recently asked me for some reading on asexuality – she’s thinking it’s a label she may want to own, and wanted to know if I could recommend some fiction books to help her understand it better. I couldn’t, so I headed to the direct messages of some friends and asked for their best ace rep books. This is the first one that came back with a glowing endorsement from someone who is asexual, so I passed it on the recommendation, and ordered it from the library myself.
This is 100% one of the best empathy-building reads I’ve read in a hot minute.
I’m not asexual, but I know many people who fall somewhere on that spectrum and struggle to explain what it is and what it isn’t to people in their lives. Alice’s story of doing the same gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly of this process. She’s navigating parental expectations for her life outside her sexuality, shifting feelings within herself, a new friend which may threaten the dynamics of old friendships… in short, Alice is in college and all that entails.
I adored this book. Ms. Kann’s writing style is fresh, her idioms feel spot on, and her obviously extensive research shines. I loved that every character was messy, that none of them knew what they were doing (except the therapist), and that they all had learn to bend towards each other. I loved Alice’s first person PoV, so I could know what it felt like in her skin a little more than if we had an omniscient narrator.
I’m grateful for this story, which may sound ridiculous. However, a lot of Alice’s life is different than mine, and any time I get to spend in the well-crafted story of someone whose life has different rhythms than any I’ve experienced is a gift.
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Voracious reader, with a preference for sassy romances and happily ever afters. In a relationship with coffee, seeing whiskey on the side.
|Review Date:||January 20, 2021|
|Book Type:||New Adult|
|Review Tags:||AoC | asexual | college | interracial romance | LGBTQ+ romance | PoC | Queer romance|
Thanks for reviewing this one, Kristen. It has been on my TBR for ages, and I wondered if AAR was going to feature it.
Having said that, I feel the need to address some of the mixed reviews I have read about Let’s Talk about Love. Specifically, there were a lot of self-identified asexuals on Goodreads who brought up some glaring issues. And a number of these flaws came up multiple times. Normally, I don’t pay much heed to often squealy pseudo-reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, but in this case, some of the arguments were well laid out and sound.
First, there was a consensus that Alice sounds a bit too young and immature for her age. Granted, she’s only 19, but quite a few reviewers were annoyed that she sounded more like a 12 – 14 year old, which they believed promoted negative stereotypes about asexuals being inherently immature or juvenile.
Second, a number of people expressed concerns about the vilification of Alice’s ex-girlfriend for wanting a fulfilling sexual relationship. I hope there’s more going on in that incident than the annoyed reviewers are saying. But it sounds like from the complaints that the MC/author portrays the crux of the problem as mixed-orientation incompatibility- which a number of asexual reviewers said would be a totally legitimate reason for a break-up.
Third, there were a number of worries about Takumi’s total acceptance of Alice’s lack of interest in sex. For a character who is not asexual, the arguments went, Takumi is way too chill about the whole affair and Alice is being unfair for not being willing to meet him halfway.
As for my own thoughts on this, I have to say the criticisms of Takumi’s and Alice’s mixed-orientation relationship (from what I have read) are spot on. Of course, nobody should have to have sex if they don’t want to. But at the same time, how much of a relationship is it if one party gets to call all the shots? Relationships are about compromise. I’m not saying a mixed-orientation relationship can never work, but making it work means one party can’t have it the way they want it 100% of the time. A few critics of the book said they would have been a lot more accepting of the relationship if Takumi had been on the asexual spectrum or if Alice was willing to make sure her partner’s needs were met as well.
Finally, Kristen, if your student is looking for some more ace book recs, author Claudie Arseneault has a list here: The Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database (claudiearseneault.com). At this time, it is just SF/F recs, as the author is a speculative fiction writer. But at least it’s a start. I know asexual stories are hard to find in any genre.
Interesting criticisms. Not having read “Let’s Talk About Love” I can’t say if I think they are valid when directed at this specific book, but to me they they’d be valid and need to be addressed when discussing such relationships (whether in novels or RL). As for the heroine’s immaturity, I’ve read too many romances where the heroine seemed much younger than the age given, although it’s not as much a problem lately as it is in older books.
I recently read Cat Sebastian’s “A Delicate Deception”, which has an asexual secondary character (female) who winds up married to a gay character (male), which suited them both and looked to be a warm companionate relationship, even if not a romantic/sexual one. But he is a duke and needs an heir. The issue is glossed over, and while their love for children and family could be met by adopting/fostering children, I don’t know that the law in early 19th C England allowed an adopted, and certainly not a foster, child to inherit a title. Liked the book but the lack of an answer for this bothered me a bit.
Ooh, I really liked Cat Sebastian’s A Delicate Deception! Yes, I definitely remember the asexual secondary character and the gay duke pursuing a marriage of convenience as a subplot. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I do recall them considering either a) raiding an orphanage, as the duke put it (although, like you, I wondered about the legality of such an action in the ton), or b) having relations just for reproductive purposes. Given the time period, it sounds like the characters would have had to pursue option B. Maybe Sebastian left it to the reader’s imagination though as the average 21st century romance reader might find the notion of queer characters taking up reproductive efforts offensive.
Overall, I don’t think the issue was glossed over that much considering they were a secondary couple to the main hero and heroine. Plus, I was actually impressed the secondary characters behaved realistically for the time period. Historically, a lot of people had to settle for “lavender marriages” to protect reputations and fulfill societal requirements for their station in life. Sebastian handled it well, I think. Both characters obviously challenged one another intellectually and formed a healthy friendship. There was definitely a sense of their union being one based on mutual respect, which is always important- even if they had to do the deed a few times out of societal necessity.
Oh, totally true. But I think this issue is especially touchy with asexuals who are tired of the portrayal of fellow asexuals as perpetual children, regardless of the genre.
I agree 100%. In fact, I think a lot of problems with unsuccessful mixed-orientation couples directly stem from a lack of communication on the subject. This isn’t light subject matter. That’s why couples (or multiples, as the case may be) really need to dig deep into this before the relationship becomes too involved. Because if one party can’t abide sex, and the other craves it, you have to examine the workability of such a relationship with extreme care. I’ve read too many real life examples of mixed-orientation couples being married for years in misery before one or both of them figured out, “This isn’t fixable. It’s not working out.”
AFAIK, an adopted child couldn’t have inherited back then, so yes, it would almost certainly have had to be option B.
Either that or they would have to live in the country for a while away from prying eyes and then steal a foundling off of the church steps to pass off as their own… But I’m guessing option B would have been more practical.
P.S. Am I the only one who thinks the duke in A Delicate Deception is like an early 19th century Elton John in terms of his style and mannerisms? Maybe that’s just me, but I mean it in the best possible way. :-)
Still can’t. Here is an extract from Hansard (the official record of business in the House of Commons) that I found of a debate about changing the rules regarding adopted children and those born out of wedlock to inherit titles. Some daughters of holders of hereditary titles have also entered the foray fairly recently and, though the rule was changed prior to the birth of HRH Prince William to allow the eldest child of a monarch irrespective of sex to inherit, it wasn’t applicable to the wider aristocracy.
House of Commons Standing Committee (pt 3) (parliament.uk)
This is such a fine book, and such a wonderful story!