Jo and Liza are best friends in Manila. They are opposites and live very different lives, but love each other nonetheless. Jo is a sex worker who takes everything one day a time, and she meets up regularly for sex with a married woman Liza doesn’t approve of. Liza, on the other hand, is a sales clerk who’s on a mission: meet a nice American man online, fall in love and get married, then move the rest of her family out of the Philippines and into the United States so they can all have a better life.
After a string of breakups with online American boyfriends, Liza’s plan seems to finally be working. Christopher is nice, he adores her, and they get along in person when he flies in for a visit. So, of course, Liza says yes when Christopher proposes to her.
Liza’s plan never took into account the possibility that she and Jo would develop romantic and sexual feelings for each other, or how she would feel when they kissed. Both women have a big decision to make: do they keep going with the lives they’ve always thought they wanted or take a risk to forge a new path together?
I love how different Jo and Liza are and how well their friendship works. It’s incredibly beautiful and also entirely platonic, at least at first. If you skip to the end of this review for the excerpt, you’ll see one of my favourite moments, which is also one of their first interactions in the story. Liza needs a place to live and shows up at Jo’s with all her stuff and Jo takes her in, barely any questions asked.
Jo and Liza are challenged by the attraction that pops up between them. It’s confusing to them at first, which feels authentic to who they are, since those feelings throw a wrench into both of their lives by challenging the foundation of their friendship. I was practically holding my breath to see if they could survive such a shift, even though I knew I was reading a romance, and I was happy that their journey isn’t neat and tidy. Both Jo and Liza have to evaluate their priorities and figure out what really matters to them and I appreciated seeing how difficult that is for them.
The Writing Style
This story is beautifully written and the romance has an incredibly slow burn to it. It’s not so slow as to be frustrating, however, and it works because Jo and Liza have to grapple with their feelings. Most friends-to-lovers romances I’ve read drive the tension with “but what if she doesn’t feel the way I do? I don’t want to ruin our friendship!” While there’s a bit of that, the tension worked especially well for me because it’s more about Liza having to decide what to do about Christopher. Her decision doesn’t just impact her, it affects her whole family who’s also hoping for that new life in the United States. This brings higher stakes into the romance in a way I’m not sure I’ve seen before and really liked.
I liked a lot of things about this one. The biggest ones were:
- The way Jo’s job is no big deal to Liza at any point in the story and how Liza accepts it as entirely valid
- The setting, since I’ve never read an f/f romance set in Manila before. It was vivid enough that it sometimes felt like a character all its own
- The ending is more of a “happy for now” than a “happily ever after,” which feels right for these characters and the point at which we leave them
The one thing that bothered me is where the epilogue started. I can’t get into specifics because I don’t want to spoil it, but it was a little confusing that it was called an epilogue at all. If it would have just been a regular chapter, it would have made more sense and I would have scratched my head at it way less.
A Heads Up
Some lesfic readers don’t like reading about sex between a leading character and a man. In this story, we do come across that, because of the nature of Jo’s job. However, I didn’t find any of the sex to be overly specific and all of her sex with men is with clients, not with a partner.
I finished reading this book a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about Jo and Liza ever since. If you haven’t read this one yet, I recommend you at least try a sample because it’s great and well worth checking out.
Excerpt from You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista
“Can I stay here for a while?” [Liza asks]
“Like you have to ask.”
“I’d understand if you don’t want to.”
“Spare me the drama. Just get inside.”
Relief and joy plain on her face, Liza grabbed Jo’s cheeks and gave each one a grateful kiss. She mouthed a litany of thank you, thank you, thank you, you’re the best, like a broken record. With a scowl, Jo quickly rubbed her face to get rid of the faint taste of sweat and cigarettes Liza left on her. She picked up one of the boxes and felt her arms buckle under the weight.
“What’s in here, Liza? A body? Fuck, I will ride with you through hell and back, but no way I’ll cover up a murder for you.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9798656829908
- Publisher: Indie author
- Brigitte Bautista Online
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