A Review of "Kiss Her Once For Me" by Alison Cochrun Rating: 4/5
Just in time to entertain readers during Thanksgiving travels or get into the holiday spirit, Alison Cochrun’s second novel “Kiss Her Once For Me” was released to critical acclaim, if not from the world at large then at least from this writer and fans of queer romance. In a return to three central themes present in her debut book, “The Charm Offensive,” (of which my review would run several pages) Cochrun centralizes the story around representation of the asexual spectrum, discussions of mental health, and found family. Characteristic of her style, Cochrun’s voice and tone are self-deprecating, sarcastic, and honest in a combination that makes for a classic rom-com in written form. “Kiss Her Once For Me” is a story about a struggling artist, Ellie, whose last Christmas brought hope, snow magic, and heartbreak. This Christmas, contrary to her original plans to stay alone in her dingy apartment, Ellie is swept up by the wealthy and attractive landlord, Andrew, who owns the coffee shop where she works, dragged into a drunken marriage contract, and forced to spend the holiday with his family. To her surprise and mortification, Andrew’s family includes his sister Jack, the very woman who broke her heart last Christmas. Ellie’s journey includes a battle with depression, feelings of failure, and strained relationships with her parents. These obstacles prove vital to Ellie’s growth throughout the story – she is unable to reconcile a happy ending without facing these things head-on. Her journey is relatable in its raw portrayal of these low points, support from steadfast friends, and her nonlinear path through romance, career, and life. While Ellie’s representation of a demisexual identity is important and something that I appreciate seeing written on the page, it also feels kind of textbook and is rarely discussed in detail. Besides the brief mentions of what demisexuality means to Ellie within the context of the plot, there is little exploration of this identity during her journey. This makes it feel more like a label tagged onto her character than a real part of who she is. On the other hand, Andrew’s family makes for a wild cast of lovable characters, including two affectionate and intoxicated and/or high grandmas, an organized yet spontaneous mother, an emotionally distant dad, a sharp-edged and protective pseudo-sibling, the many-layered Andrew, and the rebellious yet soft Jack. This lineup of family that welcomes Ellie, in addition to a few more friends, to their holiday home make each moment of rom-com-worthy cringe, pining, and disaster worth reading through to the end. Rife with allusions to classic Christmas songs, queer art, and an array of identities and characters from all walks of life, “Kiss Her Once For Me” is sure to make you laugh, ache, and, if you’re like this writer, cringe from secondhand embarrassment.