4.5⭐️ – Katia Rose is still pretty new to the sapphic author scene, but her name is already associated in my mind with books I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy. Catch and Cradle was adorable, as was the free spin-off novella Stop and Stare.
The premise for This Used to Be Easier is the same as Stop and Stare: two childhood friends and a kiss that changed everything. The rest of the story is very different, however. At twenty-two, Meg Doyle is back in her hometown of Chapel Creek after the program that was supposed to send her on an internship at the Paris Opera got cancelled. Meg never felt like she fit in in Chapel Creek but at least, she had Connie Shipley by her side. Until they kissed as the result of a dare and nothing was the same after that. Connie’s life isn’t going as planned either. Even before that fateful kiss, she was grappling with anxiety and her parents’ hold on her. Bumping into Meg again might be just what she needs to realise she deserves more.
A word of warning: Connie’s scenes with her parents made me feel claustrophobic, the mounting anxiety perfectly described. It might be a trigger for some, but to me, it was very much worth the effort. Katia Rose handles the mental health issues really well, and it’s why it feels so accurate and relatable. Some parts might be a little hard to read but they bring a lot to the story. It Used to Be Easier begins as a cute NA romance, then gets a lot deeper. Not angsty so much as real. I felt really proud of Connie by the end, for taking control and believing in herself.
As is common with New Adults novels, there’s a fair amount of character growth, including from pretty important side characters. Meg’s mum is wonderful and overwhelming, and I loved Meg’s relationship with her younger brother, a teenager with Down syndrome. But what I’ve come to expect from Rose, and the main reason, I think, why I love her stories, is the chemistry between characters. It’s palpable and makes everything plausible. I also appreciated the way Meg and Connie try to solve problems by talking to each other. They don’t always manage, but they try. And despite dealing with some rather challenging topics, this book never feels heavy, never loses its rom-com feel.