I bought Katie Porter’s Messy some time ago when I saw folks on Twitter talking about it. I read it in those dark days of late December when I was stressing about all the end of year stuff, my inner perfectionist was yelling at me about the sorry state of my baked goods, and I was missing my dad and the relationship I wish we had. Why am I bringing up my dad in a review of an erotic romance? Because a central element of Messy is that Harlow’s father is dying and she is grasping for any bit of connection and closure she can get with him.
Harlow’s father, Silas, is emotionally closed off and verbally abusive to pretty much everyone around him. He was a founding member of a once popular, now defunct British rock band, but he moved to California in a huff when he was kicked out of the band. Harlow did not grow up with the band, except for their ghosts. This is important because when Harlow meets Alex, they have an emotionally and erotically charged encounter, and then Harlow tells Alex that his former best friend and band mate is back in England and dying.
Messy is fraught with emotion. The characters and their relationships are complicated. Harlow yearns for intimacy, but keeps Alex at an emotional arms length while starting a sexual relationship with him. At the center of their dance is Silas, who refuses to give either the emotional closure they want. And yet, Porter gives us small glimpses of Silas that humanize him, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say Silas is redeemed. Harlow has to figure out how to find peace with herself about her relationship with her father, and how to let go of the desire for answers. Despite her best attempts to keep feelings out of her relationship with Alex, he becomes a sanctuary for her, not a self inflicted wound.
Katie Porter is actually two people (neither are the Congresswoman), Lorelei Brown and Carrie Lofty. Today I learned that Lorelei Brown has transitioned to hospice care. If you are looking for a gut punch of a read softened by sexy times and a happy for now ending, I highly recommend it.
CW: cancer, death of a parent, caregiving for a dying parent, verbal altercations, emotional abuse, toxic parent, past drug and alcohol use