2022 Reading Review: “A Glasgow Kiss”

If y’all know me and my millions of passions (personalities?), you know I love Glasgow. So, when I saw a hot pink cover featuring the title A Glasgow Kiss on the shelves of my local Waterstones just in time for Valentine’s Day… well, is that destiny at work?

And that was how I decided to spend my Valentine’s Day: reading a romance novel set in good ol’ Glesga.

Now, this might be unfair. I am not particularly keen on romance novels. I’m good with romance being a plot in a book, but not the whole thing. Moreover, I just struggle with the romance genre in general. There was a few weeks during my undergraduate where I was overwhelmed with work—schoolwork and part-time job. I found myself with one single day to do nothing, so I sat and read a cheesy romance novel. And it might as well have been the greatest story ever told because I felt amazing after reading it. I was so exhausted and tired from running around, handling stresses, and doing schoolwork that reading ANYTHING not school-related felt awesome. I keep hoping I’ll find another romance novel that does the same. But, alas, perhaps I won’t.

I still give it a shot now and then. So that perfect combo of Valentine’s Day, my beloved Glasgow, and a pink cover (you mean you didn’t know it’s one of my favorite colors?!), I thought this might be another opportunity to give romance a go.

Spoilers ahead—but the big ones will be in the Opinion section.

Story

Well, it’s a romance novel, so be prepared for the common tropes. The “will-they-won’t-they”, the tingles and titillating desires, the steamy writing. Yes, I dare say A Glasgow Kiss hits all these marks.

But our story focuses on a young woman—though she doesn’t consider herself so young—logging into a dating app and the trials and tribulations that come with it. After some struggles in the dating and sex games, she still finds herself attracted to her coworker and being pushed towards him by her fellow colleagues. But is he the one or just causing more distress?

Readers follow her highs and lows—and even some downright dirty times—as she maneuvers dating, sex, and working towards becoming a nurse.

Characters

Our main character is Zara, a 29-year-old student, looking for love and not having much luck. A bit unaware of herself and definitely lacking in self-esteem, she signs up for a dating app and immediately finds herself chucked into a date. Zara is constantly aware of her size and seems to have a few body image issues, but she never seems to lack for attention. She is studying to become a nurse and approaching her final work placement, while working part-time at an aesthetics clinic.

Ashley and Raj. Workers and owners at the clinic that Zara works at. Ashley has been Zara’s best friend since high school, is an Instagram model and influencer, and is addicted to the Power of Positive Thinking (though we really don’t see her talk about it too much). Raj is the owner of and a doctor at the clinic and seems to have a good working relationship with both Ashley and Zara. They all seem to genuinely care about one another.

Tom Adams. Ahoy, here be our heartthrob of the book. Or at least we’re meant to think so. (Listen, my personal preference: the Scottish accent, even the Glaswegian one, is way more attractive than the English one, so our main man having a London accent? I wasn’t feeling it. Sorry, lads!) Tom is a surgeon at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and an aesthetician at the clinic that Zara—and Ashley and Raj—work at. Dr. Tom, or as Zara and Ashley refer to him “Sugar Daddy”, is known to be a lover of the ladies and clearly has taken a bit of a shine to Zara, even early in the book. But is he the one for her?

Writing

The writing is very casual and conversational. It may be beneficial to have some experience with Scottish and/or Glaswegian slang. E.g., in the US, we use “fanny” to refer to our behinds—our bums, if you will—whereas over here “fanny” refers to a woman’s genitals. This is probably a good thing to know if you use this word with any sort of regularity, but in a book that does mention “fanny” quite a bit, you should know the difference.

So, when I say casual and conversational, it is because it does read like Zara is telling the reader her story. There’s a lot of turns of phrases, jokes, hyperbole, and things like that.

Will You Like This?

First and foremost, are you a fan of romance novels?
Do you like humor and crazy escapades and experiences in your romance?
Are you A-OK with body issues and sometimes gross sex and post-sex experiences?

Then this book may be a good fit for you! A Glasgow Kiss feels quite silly and funny, and it does not take itself too seriously. It also doesn’t shy away from showing some the grosser, realistic aspects of body concerns and sex. There are a lot of fun things about A Glasgow Kiss, and it’s sure to have plenty to offer audiences who seek this in their reading.

Opinion (Spoilers)

Okay, brutal honesty? (Or as brutal as I will get?)

This wasn’t for me.

Again, I stress: this is not my genre. And I don’t want to knock something that’s not my thing. I’d much rather build up the things I like—which I’ll attempt to do here. But I have to vent about some dislikes first.

I also want to add another disclaimer: I HATE having issues with other people’s stories. Because I know I am going to be publishing a novel too. I know how challenging it is to write a novel and then put it out into the world for both praise and criticism alike. It’s terrifying! And any criticism can feel like someone has just spat on your baby. I don’t want to be that.

But I’m also trying to remember that, hey, this is the reason why we have SO many different books in various genres. So many people have loved this book, and I can see some of the fun things about it. But let me get my venting out of the way first.

Dislikes

Zara’s personality drove me up a wall. She had little to no accountability for herself, and that bothered me. She didn’t own-up to her own screw-ups when she had them. It felt like she often blamed everyone else for issues she contributed to. And, yes, this is realistic; people do this all the time. But I wish she’d had more of that realization about herself. Her transition at the end to realizing she can be her own love-of-her-life? I mean, I love that message, but it felt too quick. It felt rushed and I didn’t see the connections and build-up—and I certainly didn’t see her taking ownership of her own mistakes.

She also sometimes felt unbelievable. She is almost thirty and her period shows up that unannounced? And she doesn’t know how to use a pad? I mean, it is a big world; I suppose this could happen. But for someone who dealt with period issues twice in the novel, it seems like she’s mostly regular, and pads really are not that difficult to figure out, even if you primarily use tampons.

Also—and this is totally a personal thing—some of the sexcapades seemed rather absurd. Especially the after-effects. Listen, I am not a coquette in any sense of the word, so I cannot speak to how relatable Zara’s love life is, but it felt very forced. And even a bit gross to read. There were a few scenes where I put the book down and just said, “What did I just read? And why am I reading this?”

It also drove me NUTS how she kept saying “shave her vagina” when you don’t shave your vagina; you shave your vulva. Your vagina is inside your body. And, yes, I knew what she meant, and I know a lot of people say this, but it irked me so badly.

Finally, there were quite a few typos and formatting issues I noted. I don’t like digging on this, but considering this wasn’t an indie or self-published venture, it had a publishing house behind it to catch those issues. And some of them I noticed were not just small things, like an out-of-place comma. A woman who “pulled out of a man” did a very different sex act than the one described. (And, hey, no judgment so long as there’s consent, but words gotta match the scene occurrences).

Likes

I do like that the book ends with an empowered character, taking ownership of her life and not clinging to a man that clearly didn’t value her. Yes, her personality for most of the book drove me insane, but I’m happy it didn’t have a “happily ever after” ending with the man who was her main love interest. He was a dick, to say the least. And I’d rather read about her realizing her own worth and building her life than the “the guy and gal got together”.

There were realities and not just “the beauties of sex and relationships”. A lot of romance novels build up something that is not realistic. While I had some issues with the believability regarding her period issues, I liked that she HAD a period. It’s a thing women have to deal with and ignoring the realities of it in books just because it’s not sexy is silly. And some of the sex stuff was messy—and, as I said previously, kinda gross. Again, while I had some issues with it, I can’t deny that it’s realistic; sex isn’t always pretty and romantic and clean. While I might not particularly care to read that all the time, I can’t say that it isn’t interesting to see the realities of bodies and sex.

I also liked some of the Glasgow- and Scottish-isms. What can I say? That is definitely a weakness of mine. But I wish there was more of it. There were a few times where I thought those characteristics and locations could have played a bigger role. If you’re setting something in NYC, that gets a lot of description; why not do the same for Glasgow? If Sophie Gravia goes on to write more romance, I hope she shows more of Scotland and Glasgow’s personality.

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