I was writing my review of Catch and Cradle and browsing the author’s website where I found about this novella, starring Iz, Hope’s nonbinary housemate, and I just had to stop everything and read it. It’s set a few months after the first book but both stories can be read as standalone, though I recommend reading Catch and Cradle first.
Iz and Marina have been best friends since they were toddlers. Lately, they’ve both felt their relationship change, culminating in a sloppy drunken peck on the lips on New Year’s Eve. A month and a half later, Marina flies to Halifax to celebrate Iz’s twenty-first birthday. They haven’t mentioned the kiss since it happened and the resolutions they’ve taken in their time apart are radically different. Iz, who has been hurt before and is convinced they suck at love, is determined not to act on their feelings and wants to prove to Marina that they can be trusted not to mess up their beautiful friendship. Marina, on the other hand, feels not giving these new feelings a chance to bloom would be worse than risking said friendship.
Like in Catch and Cradle, the writing is snappy and the characters lovely. They’re so cute and genuine you can’t help rooting for them, even when they’re acting stupid. Again, I love the group of housemates and how supportive they are of one another.
The author faced two challenges on the chemistry front. First, she had to write the evolution from childhood friends to lovers in a plausible way. Iz and Marina literally have known each other their whole life. They always loved each other and now they’re in love with each other and it’s both sudden and not. Rose writes the change and the complicated feelings it brings in a very sensitive way.
The other challenge was the novella length and the fact that the story happens over a very short period of time. Stop and Stare isn’t the whole story, it’s the story of the few days when Marina and Iz go from friends to girlfriends, from children to adults too in a way. There was a risk that it would feel rushed or artificial but it doesn’t. Every look, every stuttering breath is hot and meaningful and a promise of more.
Also, the author seems to have a thing for pinning a girl’s hands above her head and I’m not complaining.