What Matters Most
Writing as Gracie Leigh, well-known queer romance author Garrett Leigh ventures into m/f romance with What Matters. I liked it, though What Matters is a particularly apt title. I’m grading it based on what matters most to me, versus some specific problems I think some readers will have. (Spoiler: the principals forego condoms when they have sex).
Opposites Eddie Dean and Sam Novak find themselves working together and falling in love. Eddie is a college student and musical prodigy who has grown up surrounded by wealth and privilege. Her life takes a radical turn when her father declares bankruptcy and abruptly tells her she’ll have to foot her own bills moving forward. After reaching out to her boyfriend (and soon to be ex) for comfort and not so great sex, she realizes her relationship is only slightly less depressing than her financial situation. The next morning, she stops for breakfast at Jimmy’s Café and spends the meal worrying about her precarious financial situation and lack of marketable job skills.
Her luck is about to change. Jimmy’s needs a waitress, Eddie needs a job, and the next morning when she shows up to work, she meets Sam Novak – the owner’s grandson and her new boss. To her dismay, Sam is handsome, arrogant, and unimpressed with Eddie’s waitressing skills or designer jeans. With little instruction or guidance, they get to work and as days and shifts pass, the relationship begins to evolve.
Early on, Eddie struggles trying to balance work, school and Sam’s disdainful and dismissive attitude. But the more time they spend together, the more Eddie thinks about him. And dreams about him. And wants him. Fortunately, Sam seems to have a similar change of heart and it isn’t long before he corners her in the kitchen, anda passionate kiss leads to their ending up naked in her bed later that night.
I liked both principals and their prickly relationship, and I loved their crazy chemistry and lust for one another. However, it’s clear from the beginning that Sam and Eddie struggle to communicate – secrets and dumb misunderstandings nearly sabotage the relationship before it has a chance to grow. I’m not a great fan of the Big Mis trope in general, and Ms. Leigh throws a couple of them in here, but I think they work in context. This is a young couple learning how to love – things are great when they’re naked, and not so great when they aren’t. They slowly struggle their way forward, but I like their odds and I’ll be rooting for them.