The Lily Cafe is thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the book blog tour for Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers! Thank you to Lia Ferrone at Harlequin Trade Publishing for both the opportunity and a review e-copy.
Title: Honey Girl
Author: Morgan Rogers
Publisher: Park Row Books
Publication date: February 23, 2021
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ+, Own Voices
HONEY GIRL (Park Row Books; February 23, 2021; $17.99) by Morgan Rogers is a stunning #ownvoices debut, a charming, lyrical, and introspective romantic coming-of-age story about Grace Porter – millennial, Black woman, astronomy Ph.D. – who wakes up after a wild night in Vegas married to a woman she doesn’t know.
Strait-laced and structured all her life, Porter now faces life without a plan for the first time ever. Between her disappointed military father, the competitive job market, and a consuming sense of aimlessness, finding and falling in love with her wife across the country seems to be the only right answer. But Porter’s problems are just as big in Brooklyn as they are anywhere else, and she realizes she’s going to have to face adulthood whether she’s ready or not.
Honey Girl is a beautiful story of a new Ph.D. recipient figuring out her place in the cosmos. Grace Porter has worked tirelessly and single-mindedly for the past eleven years to prove she’s the best, but, when the job that should have been hers slips through her fingers because she’s black and queer, she runs to Las Vegas with two of her friends, only to wake up married to a woman she barely remembers (and who woke and left before Grace did). Part romance and part women’s fiction, but mostly romance, I loved that it focused on Grace figuring out what she wanted instead of what others wanted and expected of her.
Part Romance, Part Grace’s Personal Journey
Honey Girl had me fooled, but not really in a bad way. I mean, I knew it was listed as romance, but, while reading it, I kept forgetting. Most of the story focused on Grace figuring out where to go after the job that was supposed to be hers for the taking fell through so badly that she went to Vegas. The story followed her as she tried to figure out her next steps while taking care of herself and trying to take others’ expectations of her to heart. Looking back, there was a lot of running she was doing, but each time brought her closer to her being able to be true to herself instead of what someone else wanted for her. It felt more like women’s fiction most of the time. But, when I forgot, the ending hit me, and reminded me I was reading a romance.
I really did love everything about this story. Even though I’m not black or queer, Grace still spoke to me, the story spoke to me. Grace had her life figured out, but it didn’t work the way it was supposed to. I loved that the whole book focused on her trying to figure herself out and what was going to be best for her. She came into her own in this story despite fleeing Portland and NYC before ending up back at her mother’s orange grove in Florida, and what a beautiful journey it was! She learned and grew and experienced and had her eyes opened. Of course, things got scary for her now and then, but they made her grow and re-evaluate. The focus on her friendships was also absolutely stunning. None of them were perfect, none of them had their lives figured out, but they were always, unquestioningly, there for each other. Not only did this turn out to be a gorgeous story about Grace’s journey, but it was also a lovely story of the strength of friendship.
But Honey Girl is also a romance. Grace married Yuki in Vegas, but doesn’t even know her name when she wakes up alone in a hotel room. During the first third of the novel, the reader is introduced to Grace’s world and the people in it, and her tentative search for the woman she married. The middle part was all about the romance as Grace and Yuki finally meet, fully sober this time. They were so adorable together, yet so awkward as they navigated a blossoming marriage. I loved reading about how they got to know each other and kept their hearts open yet protected as they explored each other. There were good times and not so good times, but I loved reading about how they let each other into their worlds, how they admired and supported each other. But the last third had Grace running yet again. I kept forgetting this is a romance, until the ending when it ends on a romance-perfect note, but had me longing for another chapter.
Honey Girl presents a real look at life for a millennial woman. There’s the pull between parental and self-expectations and also the need to stretch a bit and come into her own on her own. There’s the running away until there’s nowhere left to run to. Being neither black nor queer, I can’t speak too much about either experience, but, as an outsider, I thought it was beautiful and the whole book just felt like it could embrace anyone and let them find a bit of themselves in it.
Strong and Bold
Honey Girl is Grace Porter’s story, but, while it was focused on her and her experiences, the people around her also had their own bits to say. This was most definitely a strong character-oriented and driven novel. It read like Grace had been given a loose outline of her story and then told to run with it. The characterizations were incredible and intense, as were each of the characters. I loved how interesting and distinct they all were, and they each lent a little bit extra to the story and to Grace’s self-narrative. Individually, they were all amazing, but, put together, they really made the fabric of the story come to life.
Even though I’m a few years older than Grace, she really spoke to me. Driven, hard working, always with her eyes on her goals, I loved everything about her and I felt so sad and angry when what was supposed to work out for her didn’t. The barriers she faced as a queer woman of color were front and center, but she always worked hard to batter through them. But there’s also a softer side to her, one that constantly wonders at the cosmos as her doctorate is in astronomy and who always cares about her friends even when she feels more self-centered. She’s afraid of letting down her guard, of being derailed, so I really loved the journey she was on to not just be there for her friends, but be there heart and soul no matter how it might affect her own plans.
And then there’s Yuki, Grace’s wife. If this is a romance, I can’t not talk about the other half of the couple. While the story revolved around Grace (and I do wish Yuki could have had her own narrative as that’s one of my favorite parts of a romance novel), the reader still gets a strong sense of her. She feels more self-assured, more confident of what she has to offer and where she wants to be. She’s tentative with Grace, though, and so hopeful it almost broke my heart. At the same time, it’s easy to pick up her fears and doubts, and I just wanted her and Grace to be so happy together forever and ever.
Grace and Across the US
While Honey Girl kicks off in Vegas, the city of drunk romance and accidental marriages, most of the story is set in Portland, where Grace lives, works, and attended graduate school and where her father and stepmother live; NYC, where Yuki lives with the three most entertaining and wonderful roommates ever; and Florida, where her mother still owns and runs her orange groves when not traveling the world in search of herself. But most of the story took place in the small moments between the characters, in Grace’s heart and mind.
I got a lovely sense of rainy Portland, the ever bustling NYC, and the warm tropical Florida sun, but I really loved how the story was set against the people. The interactions were so nuanced, the friendships so strong and secure, that the characters could have been anywhere and still have played out the exact same story. The physical setting was a lovely backdrop, but it’s really the fabric of the relationships that shone.
A Gorgeous Journey and Romance
I loved almost everything about Honey Girl. I loved that Grace could still speak to me even though I’m quite unlike her. But I also appreciated that the story had a focus on the barriers placed before her, of her fighting tooth and nail against the rigidity of professional environments and her own and her father’s expectations. The story was gorgeous in so many ways. The one thing that let me down was how suddenly it ended, but, well, if one ever needed a reminder of the genre, there it was! Still, everything else was perfect. The romance was sweet, the friendships were strong, and the family was wonderfully loving and dysfunctional. Overall, an incredible and delightful novel from a debut author.
How many cups of tea will you need?
About Morgan Rogers
Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls that are looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. HONEY GIRL is her debut novel.
Follow Morgan Rogers
Thank you to Lia Ferrone for a review copy and the opportunity to take part in the book blog tour for Honey Girl. All opinions expressed are my own.