My second NetGalley book for July, and this was an interesting novel about 30-something entrepreneurial lives in Chicago with a deliciously diverse cast and a good amount of detail – just what I like. I was a bit sad to realise this was a sequel as you really would need to read “Have We Met” first, because this one has spoilers for that, but it’s a good standalone read, too.

Camille Baker – “The Moment we Met”

(2 July 2022, NetGalley)

Tiwanda has just turned 30 but she hasn’t actually got time to turn 30 properly because she has a day job she hates and is trying to develop her soap making / chocolate making experience business on the side. When her grandma and aunt (the main family in her life as she lost her mum at a young age and her dad a little later) stage an intervention, it works, and it comes at the same time as a chance in an incubator programme for Black-owned businesses in Chicago.

We watch Tiwanda progress through a conference and mentoring, meeting a range of other folk, including a Deaf couple (her cousin can sign fluently, she can sign a bit, and that’s probably down to the author being an ASL interpreter) and a lesbian woman who becomes a good friend. There are also two characters who use “They” pronouns Meanwhile, she updates her best friends, two friends and a cousin, and adopts a dog, and this again is done carefully, demonstrating good dog adoptership.

But there’s a slight fantasy element, which was OK but not entirely perhaps needed – she’s had an app, Met, sent to her via her cousin Corinne, who found her partner through it (in the last book), which is a sort of sentient dating app which sends matches her way in real life, chiming when she meets them. She meets four matches and can ask the app a question a day, but of course real life does butt in and change her decisions. I didn’t mind this element as it was in the background, just a bit of “woo” when she feels like it might be influenced by her late mum.

The diversity in the book is intensified by Tiwanda having gray/grey sexuality (which I think, having researched it, is a position on the asexual continuum where someone has limited sexual responses but only to someone they’re very close to and safe with), and she’s attracted to men and women. She panics if people move too fast on her and shuts them down. A man she ends up dating models how best to relate to someone who identifies thus, taking things very slowly and gaining her consent to “move to another level” which might be holding hands, etc. She isn’t shaken out of this by meeting Mr Sexy, she’s allowed to be herself and live as she needs to, which is refreshing and unusual (there was an aromantic character in “Yinka, Where is Your Huzband” so maybe this is a way of being which is getting talked about finally.

In the Acknowledgements, Baker notes that, writing this during the pandemic, trauma from that era seeped into the novel and had to be excised, much as the original language can seep into ASL when she’s interpreting – an interesting point. A good read with a nice lot of detail about setting up a service-orientated business and not too much over-steaminess. I’d definitely read more by this author.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for approving me to read this novel via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “The Moment we Met” was published on 5 July 2022.