Review of Flipcup by Kim Hartfield
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the head of the straight girl who one day decides that it would be fun to experiment with another woman, meet Chelsea.
Chelsea is half the lesbians I know’s worst nightmare and the other half’s fantasy, that toaster oven dream of ”converting” a woman, half-forgetting that bisexuality is a thing.
One day, Chelsea, 22, decides to swear off men because she’s had more than enough of stupid hookups (her words). A year off to make changes in her life suddenly sounds really good. She’s full of good intentions until she meets Tara. Tara’s a flirt and Chelsea more than enjoys the attention, to the point that she considers having sex with her. Tara isn’t a man so Chelsea wouldn’t be breaking her vow, right? And since Tara’s always flirting, she’d probably be open to no-strings sex, right? Yeah, well, not exactly.
While I easily believed the chemistry between the MCs, I didn’t feel anything substantial that would explain their need to get into a real relationship, though it got a lot better once the relationship was on. Tara keeps praising Chelsea’s openness and lightness but the reader doesn’t get to see all that from Tara’s point of view. The most we know about Chelsea is in chapters written from her POV and what she shows – i.e. what she believes she is – isn’t very attractive and definitely not what I’d call open. Yes, she’s open to fun and experimenting but she’s self-centred (even her friends complain about it), she’s obnoxious, she’s clueless, and she’s borderline offensive in her stereotyping. For some reason, we get to know Tara a lot better, or rather we get to see what makes Tara interesting and attractive while all we see about Chelsea is the negative stuff. All the good we’re told about but not shown. Once I realized that, I gave Chelsea another chance and came to the conclusion that she’s worth it. As immature and selfish as she is at the beginning, she undeniably grows as the story moves on. She’s flawed but willing to do better, and she acts on it. She’s as good for Tara (who grew up in foster care and has a terribly hard time to trust) as Tara is for her, both expressing their better self with the other by their side.
You may have noticed that Flipcup is #7 in the Vino & Veritas series. It can absolutely be read as a standalone, however. Vino & Veritas is the wine bar and bookshop where Tara works. Chelsea is the beer distributor. The series is an extension of Sarina Bowen’s universe, the World of True North, inspired by Sarina Bowen’s True North series and open to various authors. Everything is explained here.
If at the end of the story you want more of Tara and Chelsea, you can get a bonus epilogue by subscribing to the publisher’s and the author’s newsletters. It’s a nice little addition, but even without it, the story feels complete.