Glasgow-based writer Allie McDermid releases Love Charade, the first in her Lovefest trilogy of romance novels featuring lesbian love stories. One of our protagonists, Holly, has returned to Glasgow following a series of personal and professional disasters in London. Dejected and working for her parents, her hesitant return coincides with Shawlands’ inaugural Lovefest event. We also meet Jen, the owner of a neighbouring cocktail shop that is barely breaking even. Holly reluctantly volunteers to participate in Lovefest’s main event – a contest to find the most successful and social media- savvy new couple – and stumbles upon Jen following a murky meet-cute. The coveted cash prize inspires the women to fake a romance to win the money, but naturally, the course of true love never did run smooth.
It is refreshing to see both a story unfold in SNACK’s very own Shawlands and a queer romance not drenched in angst and agony. Too often such stories are mired in misery, so one with brevity, such as Love Charade, is a welcome change of pace. The premise of the novel is original and lends itself to the couple’s more conflicted moments, and works well. Love Charade also boasts a charming set of supporting characters. At times it feels the novel relies too heavily on omniscient narration, and the protagonists could perhaps be more distinct to avoid their stories blending too closely, but the plot has enough dramatic pivots and ample heart to overlook this.
There are elements that seem authentic in the plot, such as the trepidation seen in Jen and Holly as they navigate the beginning of their relationship. There are moments, perhaps, where this trepidation veers too close to adolescent, ‘first-time’ romance, which would work if we did not know each character had been around the block, one recovering from a long-term relationship break up. But then, this is the first entry of three: maybe the next instalment will present a couple at different stages of their lives, contrasting Holly and Jen’s experience starkly.
Love Charade is perfect for anyone (especially our Shawlands locals) eager to indulge in a heartfelt queer romance; one that can thaw even the coldest cynic’s heart.