Dumond, Susie. Queerly Beloved. Dial Press, 2022. ISBN 978-0593243978 400 pp. $17
In this queer romance set in Oklahoma in 2013, baker Amy meets a hottie customer (new-to-Tulsa Charley) and makes a bold move to ask Charley out alongside her blueberry muffin. At her next shift, Amy is unceremoniously fired from her job when the homophobic owner discovers “Amelia” is lesbian (and obviously a threat to her daughter and family values).
Amy’s bartending gig is not quite enough to pay the bills or maintain her vehicle, so Amy begins moonlighting as a paid bridesmaid – not quite a wedding planner, but someone who can do emergency repairs on cakes, dresses and even relationships on what is often emphasized as both the most important and possibly most stressful day of one’s life.
Dramatic tension is built by Amy’s love for weddings (and for love) and her understanding that she lives in a red state where the governor is vocally anti-marriage and prevents legislation offering equal rights, let alone protection for the LGBTQIA+ community. Charley seems allergic to weddings, but Amy has grown up with HIV+ uncles in a LTR and knows the kind of loving commitment to aspire to when you choose to walk a path with someone. Amy and Charley’s dating is slotted around Charley’s crazy work and travel schedule and Amy’s bridesmaid gigs. They manage a real connection and a very sweet romance between someone not all the way out who leans to the femme side, and someone rather out more to the masc side, both a little shy and scared and funny and awkward.
The wonderful details about baking, and life in a primarily Christian flyover state is balanced with strongly drawn, non-stereotypical queer characters, a supportive mom turned activist, and realistic tension with less accepting family members. The wedding details range from over the top to hilarious, and tun spur of the moment events at the Wizard of Oz themed gay bar come to life with descriptions about food, decorations, fashion and music. A Thanksgiving cooking competition among family members was a fun detail.
Following a solid and realistic progression of events, this novel is also an examination of how far we have come, even in the last 10 years or so, of accepting people for who they are and who they love, our understanding of gender identifies, and a novel where there are no assumptions and introductions just include pronouns is wonderfully refreshing. And, a conflict between Amy and her best friend is well-resolved, with a believable amount of anger, meanness, stewing, and a strong apology scene.
Overall, Queerly Beloved is a great, solid read with a satisfying ending (and a bonus strawberry champagne cupcakes recipe!)
I received a advance reader’s review edition of #QueerlyBeloved from #NetGalley