When Katie Met Cassidy follows two distinct women – traditional Southerner turned plucky New Yorker, Katie Daniels, who has just been dumped by her fiancé, and sexy, androgynous Cassidy Price, who makes a meal of wearing men’s tailored suits and putting notches in her bedpost. The two seem an unlikely pair, but over the course of Camille Perri’s novel find their way to each other in fits and starts.
While Perri’s tale is a romance, it lacks some of the requisite heat and deep yearning that make for the best entries in the genre. Cassidy and Katie are both richly drawn women, their hurts and insecurities painted in vivid detail – but it can be a bit difficult to see why they are a good fit for each other, which the two even admit to themselves at various points. There’s nothing wrong with the notion of opposites attracting, but Perri never fully builds a convincing enough reason for these two to be together. They make mammoth decisions about sexuality and how to lead their lives without much grounding in why beyond the gut instinct of attraction, an attraction we are told more than we feel on the page. It’s not to say such choices are not true to life, just that it doesn’t make for a romance you can really lose yourself in.
The most compelling part of the novel is the questions it raises about identity and finding one’s place in the world. When Katie finds herself drawn to Cassidy, she begins to question her sexuality, wondering if her desire is merely a phase, loneliness, or something more profound that she’s never considered. Self-discovery can be a slow and painful process, and it’s fascinating to watch Katie wade into her feelings and attraction, picking apart past friendships and relationships in search of answers. Perri has a keen understanding of how confusing (and fluid) sexuality can be, a reality she conveys on the page with empathy and wit. Ultimately, Katie never really settles on a label or decision beyond wanting and loving Cassidy – and that’s the essential point. It doesn’t matter who you love, only that you do love them – open-heartedly, unabashedly, and with as much as oneself as you can.
Along the way, Katie also rediscovers parts of herself she has long buried to please others in her life – and the story is not only one of her finding herself romantically, but of her beginning to understand how partnership means a space where you can fully be your truest self without judgment or regret. Cassidy goes on a similar journey of self-discovery as her interest in Katie finds her turning away from a life of casual sex and meaningless encounters in her favorite dive bar, The Met. The bar is a second home to Cassidy – a place where she found herself and her people, which helped her define the out, proud, unapologetic woman she is. As Cassidy becomes increasingly drawn to Katie, she learns to redefine her sense of belonging.
For both women, the novel is a tale of their love and relationship, but more than anything an examination of what it means to find one’s home and identity in another person, to share a love that encourages you to be utterly yourself with unflinching honesty. This message of embracing love and setting fear aside is a noble one, something essential in a time that seems increasingly determined to police not only who we love, but the very fabric of who we are – we just wish the romance burned with the immediacy of the passion such truths might ignite, rather than feeling a bit lukewarm. A romance is meant to guarantee a happily-ever-after at its conclusion by definition, but it should never feel undeservingly inevitable. B