It might not be obvious at first blush – I do look like a crochety old man – but I do love me some love stories. Whether they end happily or tragically, whether they’re published independently or by more mainstream publishers, whether it’s steamy, flirty, or chaste, I’m willing to give it a go.
The books I read for my 2014 Goodreads challenge should be more than enough proof. Alongside heavy hitters like Stephanie Perkins and Jenny Han are works by Sarina Bowen and my #romanceclass classmates Chrissie Peria, Chris Mariano, Kesh Tanglao, and Miles Tan.
The first locally-written and independently published love story that I’m reading this year is Ines Bautista-Yao’s Only A Kiss. Will I love it or loathe it?
Only A Kiss tells the story of Katie and Chris, two twety-something who’ve known each other since they were kids and have been friends for most of those years. I say that because once puberty swoops in, things get a little bit complicated between the two. As the years pass by and different people enter their lives, will Katie and Chris ever find themselves together again? Or will it really just be only a kiss?
Unlike Chrissie, Chris, Kesh, and Miles, this isn’t Ines’ first time at writing a romance novel. Ines’ earlier works are One Crazy Summer and What’s In Your Heart, both published by Summit Media, and you’d expect that she’d have a few tricks up her sleeve. And she really does! She leaves little creative details throughout the book that not only mark the passage of time for these characters, but how much they’ve grown – or not – since they’ve last seen each other.
It’s a stylistic choice that gives the whole book a very beach-y feel. There’s a very specific rhythm to how the events happen in the book, which I can only describe as like floating on a really calm ocean. There’s a regularity to the story’s movement that I found very soothing. The fact that the imagery was consistent and that everything was tied together very neatly at the book’s end also added to that effect.
Another thing I found really fascinating about Only A Kiss was the fact that you could clearly see what social strata we’re moving in here. To quote my own Goodreads status on this book: “Class C and D would google to find out the legal drinking age in Europe. The upper-up actually have a friend in Europe they can ask about the legal drinking age.” While the rest of us have a knock-off Last Supper on our walls, or graduation diplomas, these kids have abstract paintings on their walls. Murano glass is even mentioned at one point and I don’t know why but all of it was completely fascinating to me.
If there’s anything to gripe about, because of the way she’s written it, there is an inevitability to everything that happens between Chris and Katie. While I did get a little twinge in my cold, dead heart when the big misunderstanding between the two of them happens, the tension didn’t quite stretch out into that delicious angst that you kind of want to see in books like these.
But really, that’s just a small complaint in what is generally a fun little book that fans of love stories can spend their time with. Pick it up at your nearest Fully Booked, and pretty soon, at a National Book Store!
Here’s an excerpt!
Katie took a deep breath, touched up her makeup, and stepped out of the stall. She had to see Chris sooner or later. Even if she had no idea how she felt about him anymore. But then again, what did she expect? It wasn’t as if he was still her best friend. Feeling like she had lost something (her mind, maybe?), she swiped on some lipstick and decided it was time to face the music. No matter what song was playing.