Book Three of Stephanie Shea’s ‘A Gia, San Francisco Romance’ Series
Andy and Whitney [i.e. Avery’s half-sister from Book Two, see our review here] meet again after six years apart, when Andy left San Francisco for London to study and become a director. They meet again in town by pure chance, and the awkwardness of the moment doesn’t escape either of them. They used to besties in high school until they started dating. It was amazing, it was great, they had ups and downs, like any other couple, but all in all they were doing well. Until they weren’t. And now, six years later, Andy is back.
Andy is actually after Jenn Coleman, chef patron of Gia’s Restaurant, keen to interview her for a docu-series she is working on about black women of power. Not only is Jenn black and self-made, but also queer and famous, making her appearance in the series even more meaningful. However, Jenn is not interested in appearing in front of a camera. She barely likes spending time front of house in at her own restaurant, and is much more comfortable creating in her kitchen. Whitney happens to be an employee at Gia’s Restaurant; it would be convenient to ask her for a favour so she can meet Jenn, but Andy finds the idea reproachful. It just wouldn’t be right. Especially because she is not expecting Whitney to still be mourning her departure, even less owe her anything.
As a matter of fact, Whitney has indeed moved on, and is currently dating Isabelle, a doctor. She is trying, at least. Because despite all her efforts, she knows deep down they are not meant to be. There are too many things that don’t work between them, and it’s just a matter of time before they go their separate ways.
While in town, Andy goes home to see her parents and meets Kasey, a very good friend of hers, for a drink. Once again, she runs into Whitney, who’s in the same bar with Isabelle. Andy can see them, but she can’t hear their conversation. What is really happening is that Whitney is finally breaking up with Isabelle. The following day, Andy goes back to Gia’s and meets Whitney again. She didn’t expect to find her ex-girlfriend working there, but she quickly recovers from the surprise and explains to her what she is trying to achieve. Unfortunately, they also start talking about other things, one word leads to another and after a very heated discussion, they end up having sex in the office. It is clearly a mistake, because it leaves them both even more empty, angry and confused.
Life goes on and Whitney’s brother is in a bit of a pickle. He has Encanto on Ice tickets, planning to take his daughter and his pregnant wife, but his wife gave birth earlier than expected and it’s not exactly the right time to leave her alone with a baby. As he doesn’t want to disappoint his daughter, he asks Whitney if she can go. There are two adult tickets though, so in the spur of the moment, Whitney asks Andy to come along. After a very pleasant night and a brilliant show, Whitney and Andy decide to have a drink somewhere. Things take yet again an unexpected turn and they end up hot and breathless on the sofa, but they accept their encounters are only a temporary thing: it will all be over as soon as Andy leaves San Francisco.
In the meantime, Andy manages to persuade Jenn to take part in the docu-series, so she starts shooting at Gia, meaning that Whitney is forced to see Andy more often than she would like. During a conversation with her mother, Whitney tells her that Andy is back in town, and the woman suggests she should talk to her ex and see why she really left all those years ago, clear up the air and finally move on.
The dreaded conversation takes place, but what comes out of it sheds a new light on many things, giving them a totally new perspective on their past, but, most of all, starting a nuclear fallout that will break down all the walls they built and allow them to have the much dreaded resolution they deserve.
What do I think about ‘Take Two’? Well, Stephanie Shea has done it again. But bigger and better. I simply loved her book! It’s a clean story, with lots of twists and a much more realistic setting that the previous one. This is a book that girls can identify with, because many of them might have gone through the same things. It’s the (in)famous ‘the right person at the wrong time’ situation, and the kind of story we want to read when approaching LGBTQ+ books.
Romance as a genre is fine, there is nothing wrong with an old fashioned love story, it’s appealing to many and I can see why: we need that bit of hope at the end of another stressful day, we crave that escape, we would pay good money for Prince(ss) Charming to sweep us off our feet and take care of all our problems. But so many times stories are artificial, unrealistic and not at all relatable. That is not the case with ‘Take Two’. What Stephanie writes about could have happened to me, or you, or your neighbour, it might be happening right now or in 10 years’ time; we’ve all made poor choices based on fear and we’ve all had to deal with the consequences; we can all think of situations where in hindsight we could have done things differently, perhaps hope to have a second chance, to explain or repair a damage. Most of the times, we don’t. But this story gives us hope, strength and courage. It’s never too late, don’t give up yet, believe you can do it, and if you can’t, be proud of yourself for trying.
A brilliant, brilliant read, a confirmation of Stephanie’s talent, a massive improvement from the previous efforts and the certainty she will continue on the same upward path with her next book. People, get reading now!