Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy is a contemporary, F/F romance novella. It’s part of the Reluctant Royals series but it works fine as a stand-alone. I loved this ramble through New York City and although the romance is a bit too rushed to be completely plausible, I’m certainly rooting for these two.

The story begins with Likotsi Adele, the personal assistant to the prince of Thesolo. She is on vacation in New York City when she runs into an old flame, Fabiola. Flashbacks reveal that eight months prior to this meeting, the two started what was intended to be a fun, short-term relationship when Likotsi was in New York for a few days. However, within the few days that Lukotsi had in New York before returning to work in Thesolo, the two fell in love. Likotsi hoped to continue the fledgling relationship long distance, but she got a break up text from Fabiola and considered herself “ghosted.”

So, at the start of this book, Likotsi has relocated to New York but not reached out to Fabiola. She’s surprised to run into Fabiola on the train. Fabiola points out that she did not ghost Likotsi; she sent a break up message explaining the reason she wanted to call things off. Now that Likotsi is back, Fabiola wants to take her out for tea and soup dumplings, which turns out to be on Likotsi’s list of things to do. The two set out to complete the list, and Fabiola adds some extra stops, including a visit to a freight elevator turned into a museum. The following is gross, but hilarious:

Each row of shelves was a separately curated exhibit, and Fab was looking at a row entitled, “Objects removed from anal cavaties during emergency room”

“Oh, dear,” Likotsi leaned forward and then away. “A two-liter bottle? Really?”

Fab squealed again. “There’s a can of Raid! Why? How?”

“Perhaps there was an issue with cockroaches?” Likotsi guessed. “They can survive anywhere, you know.”

They looked at each other and burst out laughing, their glee filling the small space. Likotsi’s face was stretched wide with mirth, the tug of her smile almost unfamiliar. It had been so long since she’d felt joyful silliness well up in her like this.

Through current adventures and flashbacks, Likotsi and Fabiola explore their past and present relationship. They each reveal how sad they were when Fabiola called things off, and Fabiola reveals the life-changing event that made her realize that she could not invest in a long distance relationship at that time. They share dedication to duty and to family, a strong work ethic, a total lack of snobbery, and high ambitions. They also share a mutual delight in things that are beautiful, pleasurable, or unusual. It’s their shared glee at these things that makes me root for them, especially since they are so serious in their professional lives (especially Likotsi).

The subplot involves Fabiola’s aunt, who is from Haiti and is waiting for her annual immigration meeting. The rest of the story consists of the two main characters walking and talking and having sex. Even the conflict is pretty minimal. The pleasure of the book comes from the solid writing, the fun trip through secret neat spots in New York, and spending time with two very funny, smart, and talented characters.

I really liked this novella and am giving it B+. My one major quibble: the relationship develops so quickly that it’s a little unbelievable. Between the few days in flashback and the few days in “current time,” they’ve known each other for a little over a week in total. However, this story is relaxing and enjoyable, with a serious and timely subplot that doesn’t overwhelm the main storyline. I would happily read this over and over again, especially for all the food and the often funny dialogue.

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