By Danielle Roberts
In high school, I remember the fandom around the Twilight book series. My friends gushed about the love story. They hung up posters, scribbled on their notebooks, and wore t-shirts to the movie theater claiming whether they were Team Edward or Team Jacob.
I felt like there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t drawn to the male characters at all. I didn’t admit it or know what it meant at the time, but I thought to myself “I’m team Bella.”
Countless times before that growing up, my adolescent brain consumed romcoms and love stories about what relationships were “supposed to” look like: Boy meets girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy and girl fight then make up and live happily ever after.
Representation matters. It took me 25 years to fully realize my sexual orientation because I never saw myself reflected in the pages or on a screen.
Like many others in the queer community, I had minimal exposure to LGBTQIA+ characters, and the exposure I did get involved families disowning their children after coming out, kids getting bullied, or Black Trans women getting assaulted or murdered.
Never the hero. Never a happy ending. Always surface level or through the lens of someone straight.
Until I found Haley Cass and her debut contemporary novel Those Who Wait.
Cass wrote with such depth that I physically felt the presence of and could see myself in both protagonists, Sutton Spencer and Charlotte Thompson, in this slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance about coming out, politics, resilience, and standing up for what’s important in life and in love.
Sutton is the daughter of a U.S. Congressman and going to graduate school, contemplating what comes next for her career. She is awkward and shy yet unintentionally charming. She puts her heart on the line and asks for what she wants when it really matters. Charlotte, on the other hand, is New York City’s youngest deputy mayor and knows how to use her charm to get what she wants, which serves her well in the world of politics. She’s driven yet unknowingly sweet, and she’s not willing to compromise her career dreams for anything.
Sutton has recently come to terms with her bisexuality, and she’s ready to start dating but feels hopeless when talking to women. Her best friend Regan creates a profile for her on SapphicSpark, a women-seeking-women dating app, then sends a not-so-subtle message to a woman whose picture caught Sutton’s eye. Charlotte, who mainly uses the app for discreet hookups to relieve work stress, is planning to delete her account to maintain a low profile during her upcoming election campaign. While she’s an out lesbian to her family, the public does not know, and she prefers to keep it that way. With the prospect of one final hoorah, she responds to Sutton.
Surprised and mortified, Sutton apologizes for Regan’s unsolicited message, letting Charlotte know that she doesn’t do casual. Intrigued, Charlotte starts giving advice to Sutton on how to navigate dating women on the app and in real life.
Clearly seeking different things, a natural friendship blossoms between them through text message, with building flirtation and unmistakable chemistry, until the pair meet in completely unexpected circumstances, and their personal and professional worlds collide. Charlotte realizes that Sutton is part of an influential political family whose support she needs in her campaign.
Is it a good idea for their friendship to continue? Can they make a deal where their friendship and attraction benefit them both, or will the lines continue to blur?
You’ll have to read it to find out. It’s one of those books that you can’t put down, and you miss the characters when it’s finished.
What I loved the most was how Cass beautifully articulated the internal struggles of coming out while centering Sutton and Charlotte as full human beings outside of their sexual orientations and relationship with one another, with supporting characters that enhance the vibrant world that they all inhabit.
And even better: it’s written by someone from the LGBTQ+ community and centers strong female voices.
I’ve now read Those Who Wait five times and know I’ll read it several more; and every book Cass writes moving forward will be on my pre-order list.
Other books by Haley Cass
Forever and a Day: A Those Who Wait Story
Good things come to those who wait and now Sutton Spencer and Charlotte Thompson get to reap the benefits. They spent months circling around admitting their feelings, but the time for denying their love is over. As the world watches, their lives never stop growing. The only thing that’s for certain is that through every hurdle that comes their way, they’ll face it together.
A collection of snapshots of a life lived and loved. A follow-up to the bestselling novel, Those Who Wait.
When You Least Expect It
Caroline Parker knows three things to be true. First, she is going to be Boston’s most sought after divorce attorney by thirty-five. Second, given how terrible her romantic track record is, falling in love isn’t in the cards for her. And third, Christmas only brings her bad luck – being broken up with not once, not twice, but three times during the holidays is proof enough of that.
When she runs into Hannah Dalton on Christmas Eve, she has no reason to believe her luck will change. After all, though Hannah is probably the most gorgeous woman she’s ever seen, she’s also straight. And married to Caroline’s work rival. While being hired by Hannah throws her for a loop, winning a divorce case and sticking it to her ex-colleague should be enough of a thrill.
But as the months slip by, bringing her closer to both Hannah and her adorable daughter Abbie, the lines between attorney and client begin to blur. And she could have never predicted just how much she wants them to.
In the Long Run
Free-spirited and easygoing Taylor Vandenberg left her hometown of Faircombe, Tennessee as soon as she could, and in the twenty-five years since, she has rarely looked back. She wouldn’t change anything about how her life has turned out – having traveled to nearly every country, never staying anywhere long enough to feel stifled. Very few things can hold her attention back in Faircombe: her sister/best friend, her precocious niece, and perhaps the prospect of riling up Brooke Watson.
Brooke has known Taylor for her entire life, given that her best friend is Taylor’s younger brother. And a lifelong knowledge of Taylor means that Brooke knows she’s trouble: irresponsible, takes nothing seriously, and is irritatingly attractive. Unlike Taylor, Brooke loves their town so much that she’s spent her adult life dedicated to making sure it doesn’t get swept away like many of the other declining small cities of the American South. Faircombe means the world to her, and she’s willing to do just about anything to make sure it flourishes.
Even if it means working with Taylor, whose path seems to continuously be crossing with Brooke’s everywhere she turns…