This Queerly Beloved review contains mild spoilers.
Susie Dumond’s debut, Queerly Beloved, opens with Amy, a queer baker in mid-2010s Tulsa, covering a coworker’s shift. Like many, Amy has two jobs. Her first is at a bakery called Daily Bread run by a notorious homophobe. The bakery is beloved by many Christian Tulsans, but especially members of a megachurch in the area. Amy pretends to be devout and straight, and in exchange, gets to hone her craft at the bakery.
In addition to her day job, Amy is also a bartender at the local Wizard of Oz-themed gay bar, which honestly, I would love to visit. As it so happens, Amy is asked to cover a fellow baker’s shift after spending her night bartending and her morning working in the bakery. When her night gig, day job, and extra shift are done, she’ll have worked a full 24 hours. Unfortunately, the alternative is telling her coworkers at the bakery what she does with her evenings – not exactly an option if she wants to keep her day job.
Just as her incredibly long work day is coming to a close, a hot gay stranger walks into Daily Bread. Charley, an engineer, is new in town from Texas. She’s passionate about her career; she works for an oil company where she focuses on environmental impact and sustainability. Amy offers her the last two blueberry muffins, turns the shop’s sign to “closed”, and winds up asking Charley on a date.
Before that date happens, Amy gets tipsy with strangers at a wedding (a wedding that she happens to rescue from a near cake-related catastrophe, by the way!), who happen to be planning their own wedding! They ask Amy to fill in for a bridesmaid who can’t make the event and she accepts, mostly because they’ve offered to pay her. She thinks it’ll be a one-off gig, but when her boss at Daily Bread finds out she’s queer and fires her for it, she winds up becoming a bridesmaid-for-hire (apparently this is a thing?) and turns out, she’s really good at it. Also, Amy loves weddings. She and Charley go on a series of dates – their first date is at 6 a.m. which is honestly a bold choice but I support it – and Amy falls for Charley. Hard.
Queerly Beloved has Tulsa at its core, with references to landmarks and statues peppered throughout, and for a brief moment asks what it means to be queer in a place that doesn’t always love you back. Although the romance in the novel takes a backseat to Amy’s journey, that’s actually a good thing. We get to see Amy grow from a people-pleaser into someone who chooses to take up space. Amy’s chosen family is lovely, as are all the scenes set inside Ruby Red’s (did I mention the Wizard of Oz themed bar?), and the all too familiar “ex who is kind of your friend but only because you still see them around” is a relatable touch.
Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond is available now.
I nearly picked this up in the airport! Next time I see it Ull seize my chance. Thanks for this review!
You had me at “queer baking romance” (!!!!)
this is on my library holds list and now i’m even more excited to read it!