I’m honored to kick-off the BLLC Review. Throughout 2017, our reviewers will post critical, heart-warming, and thoughtful reviews on a variety of books every Thursday.
When I Was Your Girlfriend is a romantic escapade featuring Dee Armstrong, a smart, capable, and stable woman with just enough flaws and hang-ups to form an interesting and strong-willed character.
On page one, the reader learns that Dee is “the only black lesbian midwife in Philadelphia.” Thank you Nikki Harmon for giving your protagonist a kick-ass profession. I appreciate the symbolism because, personally, I believe we are mothers of the universe.
Dee is serial dater, six months into a solid relationship with Pepper. For Dee, however, the love is lackluster. When Dee begins to question why she can’t muster up or sustain that head-over-heels feeling for any of the (many) women has dated, she realizes that she’s only been in love once.
Candace is the long-lost love who swept Dee off her feet in high school. They have been out of touch for 15 years, but this doesn’t stop Dee from traveling across the country with her best friend, Vivian, in pursuit of Candace—all because her flame for Candace hasn’t died. Though Dee is optimistic about the quest, she isn’t prepared for the realities of their pasts or the possibility that their youthful love has fizzled out. This alone turned into a bit of a mystery, which drove my curiosity for answers just as much as Dee.
Speaking of Vivian, she’s got a from-the-hip and down-to-earth personality that nicely balances out Dee’s single-minded desires.
Overall, I enjoyed the moments of depth throughout this story as well as Dee’s clear voice, her whims, humor, and interests—which are completely opposite of my experiences. The pacing irked me a bit until I realized that Harmon would weave flashbacks to build a past and present plot that leisurely unveils this love story. Harmon sprinkles throughout the thrills and challenges that Dee and Candace faced while navigating an all-girls high school and abiding to the expectations of conservative families.
During these flashbacks, Dee and Candace were sometimes too naïve for me. They were overly sheltered (on many levels) and sometimes too ignorant to elicit my sympathy. This doesn’t overshadow the fact that they are closeted teen lovers who are too scared to risk the sanctity of facades for the freedom of honesty and the right to lay bare their sexuality. There are too many Black families that teach youth to be shallow about sexuality without realizing the ramifications that poor self-image and efficacy have on adulthood and the overall damage it causes to our cultural legacy.
‘Nough said there.
Unfortunately, there were many distracting errors throughout the read. Also, the midwife subplot with Laurie and Leslie allowed Dee to showcase her professional talent. However, this subplot crashed and burned; for me, it didn’t add significance to Dee’s journey.
Nonetheless, When I Was Your Girlfriend is a homerun for readers who enjoy spoon-me romances. This novel was released in January 2016, and I hope that Harmon doesn’t wait long too long to publish another.
Reviewed by: Lauren Cherelle
Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, The Dawn of Nia (Resolute Publishing, 2016). Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.