Worth the Wait: A Review
My summary: Avery Crown has everything she’s ever wanted: a fifteen-year-long run on the successful home renovation show King and Crown, co-hosted by her best friend and asexual beard Alistair King. When the show visits her hometown of Portland, she’s reunited with the woman she left behind to achieve her dreams. Merritt couldn’t care less about stardom. She runs an antique store with a dojo in the back, and her local reputation as an ice queen and heartbreaker precedes her. However, when she sees Avery at a high school reunion, she realizes that her feelings for the one woman who broke her heart haven’t faded.
This book is a lovely summer read. It has everything: a romance with heroines I desperately routed for, prose that went from light to poetic to touching, a solid setting, and a memorable cast of characters that I desperately need spin-off books for.
First: Any book that takes me from “the name Merritt reminds me of ferret” to “OMG MERRITT IS SO COOL” in one chapter is going to be awesome. I loved how many inversions of narrative expectations there were: Merritt isn’t the small town girl left behind—she’s the girl who was too self-assured and cool to relentlessly pursue fame. Avery’s on TV, but she’s not the exceptionally beautiful one. Avery is the one who broke Merritt’s heart, but Merritt is the ice queen. Et cetera.
You can tell Karelia Stetz-Waters really knows the city of Portland, and it is such a breath of fresh air to read a contemporary romance that isn’t set in New York (or even on the East Coast!). I loved how submerged Merritt is in her community, particularly since it’s filled with other amazing queer women.
Stetz-Waters writes in-depth, layered relationships really well. One niche thing I love in books but rarely see is when characters are well-developed but never get any direct “screen” time. I don’t think we ever actually see Avery’s “momager,” but her mother is nevertheless constantly in the background. She shapes Avery’s life and psyche so much, and I thought it was the sign of a talented writer that the mother’s presence could be so deeply felt without ever having her on the page.
The secondary characters were all amazing. Having skipped right ahead to book 3, I had assumed that Merritt’s two best friends had their own story in a past book, and I was so sad to find out this wasn’t the case. And Avery’s celebrity friend, DX? She is AMAZING, and I am desperate for a book on her. These are the kind of bad-ass roles that are always given to men in Hollywood. Stetz-Waters paints amazing portrayals of women martial artists, women millionaires, women rock stars, etc. God bless quality lesbian fiction. :’)
One drawback is the ending. There were sort of two climaxes when there only needed to be one. I think the novel is about 5,000 words or so too long, and dragging it out for the final few scenes actually made me less convinced the characters belonged together. The easy solution to the problem, after we were told there were no easy solutions, felt like a cop-out that could have been avoided if the characters had just gotten together earlier. I respect trying to make things as hard for two characters as possible, but dragging out an obvious HEA can sometimes backfire. Overall, though, the novel did not drag—only the last bit did.
I really enjoyed Worth the Wait. It’s always a gamble to write a second chance romance with emotional drama that occurred in high school, but since both narrators acknowledge that they feel infantile for still being hung up on each other, it feels realistic to me. I think many of us are more emotionally attached to our pasts than we would like to admit. Stetz-Waters's prose and characterization allowed the drama to feel real, never forced, and from the beginning I felt like Merritt and Avery were made for each other. This is a nice little treat to add to your summer reading list.