Kiss Me, Nate! by Judy Bagshaw

A novella published by Pearlsong Press, Kiss Me, Nate! by Judy Bagshaw is a romance about teachers and thespians. Julie is a high school English teacher trying to get through to her students why Shakespeare is wonderful. Unfortunately, there’s always that one irritating teen who thinks school is a joke and teachers are clowns, so this is where we meet Brandon. While Julie is trying to talk Macbeth, Brandon calls her a “fat bitch” under his breath, sending the classroom into titters. Julie doesn’t want to lose her cool, but this teen keeps pushing her buttons, and it’s so easy to lose control of a classroom. On her drive home, Julie is in a minor fender bender. Already angry about work, Julie yells at the guy who bumped her, even when he offers to pay for the damage. He ends up calling her a “bitch,” too.

Of course, this is the meeting of our romantic protagonists. What would a romance novel be without a contentious or instant-attraction meeting? It’s got to be one or the other. Not only is the man, Nate, our leading guy, but he’s also the newly-hired gym teacher at the same school where Julie teaches. He’s highly praised for his work in inner city schools, helping to get students interested in their own lives through dedication to a team instead of causing trouble. Julie’s ashamed, but she wants help with the Brandon situation, which means she’s going to have admit she was rude, and thankfully, Nate acknowledges he was rude, uncharacteristically so, as well.

The plot of Kiss Me, Nate! is a somewhat unbelievable, but that may be only because I’ve worked in community theater, which is almost entirely run by volunteers. Without much discussion with her, Julie is declared director of the next local play, a rewriting of The Taming of the Shrew, and she, without thinking, feels pushed into it and accepts. I thought there might be some connection between the play’s title and how the relationship between Julie and Nate develops, but there isn’t: they both are full adults, she in her late thirties and he nearly thirty.

Can I pause and say that I love how Julie is older, and as grown-up people, that doesn’t matter to them? She’s also a tall fat lady, and he’s the gym teacher. It’s all wonderfully different! Nate’s role in the play is actually replacing the lead, who injured his arm, and Nate also wasn’t really onboard willingly. Nate, the gym teacher with no acting experience. When I worked at a theater, it was common for volunteer actors to spend 10+ hours per work, for six weeks, which is a big commitment, before they reach tech week and the actual run of the show. Anyway, reality aside, we’ve got stable adults in a relationship.

One thing I dislike about some books with fat characters is this notion that a fat woman is a “real” woman, a concept Nate thinks: “Although he did like that she was tall and very curvy. He liked his women to look like women.” In 2021, when the definition of “man” and “woman” is more fluid than ever, I find the notion of “women to look like women” offensive and misguided. Thin women are women. Fat women are women. Transwomen are women. Disabled women are women. Women without makeup or dresses, who wear farm boots and overalls, are women. I understand that fat women have had to defend themselves against the societal notion that thin women are feminine, and any extra weight is detracts from femininity. Bagshaw’s novella was published in 2013, but her characters feel pretty 1990s as a result of Nate’s feelings.

There’s some drama with the drama, especially when Brandon, who is involved with the play’s crew, is accused of vandalism in the theater. Readers learn more about Julie’s and Nate’s past relationships, which give Bagshaw room to talk about verbal abuse, abandonment, abortion, trust issues, and what happens as you get older and your ex’s still want to talk to you. Kiss Me, Nate! is a fluffy book, good for vacations, especially if you’re looking for a little mystery, a little non-graphic sexy romance, and helping a problem teen find his feet.

21 comments

  1. If all women were the same, we’d be so boring! Romances generally make me really happy to not be in the dating game. I have zero tolerance, especially now that I’m in my thirties and I think I would probably end up alone and be 100% fine with that.

    Like

  2. I think I got married early and often because it was easier than going out on dates, it was certainly a lot better than going to the pub single. Milly made me work though. I had to bring my car over from the eastern states so I could take her to the drive in (she wouldn’t go in the truck).
    I like rom.coms, I’m recommending one to you tomorrow. Difficult teens always have issues, that’s a different genre.

    Like

    • Ha! I can imagine Milly saying, “You’re not wearing THAT, are you?” on date night. A movie I really enjoy is called American Splendor. It’s based on the life of comic artist Harvey Pekar. In the film, he’s been married a few times. Then, he meets a woman who’s just as weird as she is. On their first date, which is going terribly, it ends with her on the toilet because she ate “yuppy food.” When she finally comes out, she says, “I think we should skip the whole courtship thing and just get married.” So they do!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A shame about the “real woman” bit as it sounds fun but that does jar. Also the assumption you can just get into community theatre like that, a bit like the assumption someone who works in a library is a librarian that annoyed some other ex-librarians about The Book List!

    Like

    • Depending on how big the community theater is, they will find a spot for you. However, it’s almost never the lead! I knew one director, from my time at a larger community theater, who would really take a big chance on new people with amazing results. Most directors were not like that.

      I did notice that everyone things if you work in a library, you are a librarian, but I also saw that idea perpetuated in small libraries where many folks have no library degree but are THE head employee, director, etc.

      Like

  4. The comments about dating made me laugh. I have held the whole concept of dating to my heart and found that it does not spark joy; that’s why I don’t do it.

    As to the rest, I don’t think I would find a romance with the background of dealing with a difficult student especially escapist! Though I also like the fact that she’s older and it’s not an issue.

    Like

    • A fun date feels like magic; however, all the awful dates in between, the kind where you want to excuse yourself to the restroom and crawl out the window, sure feel like a barrier to entry.

      You’re right, a challenging student story isn’t terribly escapist, but given the length and subject of the book, I knew it would work out. This teen was going to come around and realize he’s human.

      Like

  5. This sounds fun! I like that she’s older and it’s not a big thing. In my recent read The Ex Talk, it confounded me that the main character mentioned more than once how much older she was than the male love interest. But she was only FIVE YEARS older. I was like, that is nothing. What’s the big deal?

    Like

  6. This sounds fun and fluffy! I generally dislike the hate meet that turns into romance though since I find that so unrealistic. If someone calls me a bitch when we meet, I’m never gonna fall in love with him (but maybe I’m a bit of a grudge holder!) It does sound like they deal with it as mature adults here at least.

    Like

  7. I’m not sure why exactly, but this book sounds really engaging. Do I like the idea of adults acting in a play together and falling in love? Perhaps. I will say, not a huge fan of that cover though…

    Like

    • Eh, Pearlson is a small press, so none of their covers have that special something that comes with a press that has money and pays high professional cover artists. Another blogger asked the other day if we are more drawn to the cover or the synopsis of a book. I started ignoring covers quite a while ago when I realized oftentimes the cover is more indicative of the corporate nature of the press than it is the contents of the book.

      Liked by 1 person

Insert 2 Cents Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s