Books

Resist!

My Antifa Lover is one of the worst romance novels I’ve ever read—but it does manage one stunning feat.

A masked and hooded antifa member and a woman with hearts over her eyes and her hands on her face.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Marcos Calvo/iStock/Getty Images Plus and LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

There’s an infamous internet maxim best known as Rule 34: If it exists, there’s internet porn about it. Nowhere is this rule more evident than in the vast catalog of self-published romance and erotica available on Amazon. Kindle’s direct publishing scheme makes it incredibly easy to have your original content appear worldwide. And while that’s been a boon for authors who have traditionally been locked out of the overwhelmingly white and straight publishing industry, it also means that a few short months after protests exploded across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a book appeared in the Kindle library called My Antifa Lover: A Riot of the Heart: Steamy Romance Against Fascism.

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Written by Jessica Stranger, My Antifa Lover bills itself as the story of “a young congresswoman [who] falls in love with a daring masked protestor in Seattle, Washington. After encountering him at a non-violent burning down of a federal building she can’t tell what is hotter, the fire or her feelings developing for him.” This description raises some questions. Primarily, how exactly does one “non-violently” burn down a federal building? Also, did My Antifa Lover predict the storming of the Capitol? After spending $3 of Slate’s money and approximately four hours slogging through this 88-page book, the only answer I can imagine is that the person who wrote the description was drunk.

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As a bona fide romance enthusiast, a person who isn’t a fan of fascism, and someone who read the 50 Shades series entirely voluntarily, this book is right up my alley. Unfortunately, My Antifa Lover is not only laughably bad from the syntax level up; it also delivers on approximately zero of its promises. There is no burning of a federal building, nonviolent or otherwise. The protester the young congresswoman falls in love with isn’t antifa, nor is he masked. There isn’t even any sex!

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The betrayal here is deep. Let’s get into it: My Antifa Lover is primarily told from the perspective of Alexandria Preston, who is indeed a young congresswoman. I’m assuming she’s in the House of Representatives, but I can only guess because Stranger seems to not understand how exactly our government works—or where it’s located. The book takes place in Seattle, even though we are ostensibly dealing with the national legislature, which is preparing a bill aimed at reducing divorce rates in America. According to our plucky narrator:

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The divorce rates were increasing up to 80% and this was nowhere a reliable source anymore for a safe and secure relationship. Anyways, I shrugged off all the thoughts in my brain and went into the meeting room after smoothing out my black skirt and sliding my hair down my face.

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You might be asking, “How does one shrug off thoughts in their brain or slide their hair down their face?” I have no answers for you.

Anyways, this new bill forces men to pay $1 million to their wives if they want to divorce them. This is the future liberals want. Still, Alexandria’s motive for supporting it isn’t entirely clear. She says at one point that she agreed “for personal reasons,” then goes on to mention a sister, but this sister is quite literally never mentioned again. In fact, when Alexandria talks about her family later in the novel, she says she only has “my mother and my little brother who just joined college.” I can only assume that Alexandria’s unnamed plot device sister was murdered by her husband after he divorced her. R.I.P.

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After the bill is sent to the Senate for review, Alexandria finds herself at a press conference where she comes to a realization about men’s motivations: “All the boys protesting made me think that they were against this law because they wanted to screw whoever they liked. Marry whoever they wanted and leave the girl when she gets old and useless.” Hmm. Despite the protests, the “head of the congress house” Benedict Wilbur supports the bill because of something something the police. The politics of this book are both convoluted and a bit further to the right than the title suggests. Stranger is no stranger to political romance; her most recent novel, Not My President but My Lover: Who Could Possibly #Resist? A Sordid Love Affair with President Donald Trump, requires no further description than its title. Importantly, Not My President is marketed as satire. And though My Antifa Lover is not, I dearly wish it were.

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It’s at the press conference that Alexandria encounters her nonmasked protester, who eloquently asks her, “Would you have passed this bill if you ever a man?” (Typos are not mine.) She narrates, “He accused me with his eyes more than his words and my breath got caught in between my throat as his question settled in my mind.” Alexandria has never thought about how she would feel about this law if she were a man. Alexandria is stunned to realize her actions might unfairly affect half of her constituents. Alexandria is in love. It only goes downhill from here. She leaves the press conference shaken to her core, with a promise that if she sees the protester again, she’ll “have to slap that devilish smile off his face myself.”

This does not happen. The next time she meets the protester, it’s at a lake that she says she “claimed as a child.” This, despite the fact she also says she grew up in Nashville, not Seattle. The fake childhood lake is apparently also a favorite of the protester, who we find out is named, I shit you not, Corner Smith. Corner helps Alexandria work through her internal turmoil about the divorce bill while Alexandria admires “how the sunset glow fell upon his dark hair that wasn’t covered with a cap right now.”

It was at this point that I began to wish for the sweet release of death, a wish that was very nearly granted when Alexandria’s home is later stormed by protesters hellbent on killing her for her involvement with the bill. Why they chose to target a random congresswoman rather than the author of the bill is unclear. As Alexandria cowers in her home, her one thought is not to call her security team but to call Corner to yell at him for leading the mob. Naturally, we find out when he rescues her that he wasn’t involved. He invites her to stay with him while her house is cleaned up, and the two watch documentaries about squirrels and do not have sex or even kiss. Alexandria decides to speak against the bill she has already voted for, provoking the ire of Benedict Wilbur. Wilbur exacts his revenge by revealing that Corner Smith is actually Chris Wilbur … his son. Alexandria finally makes good on her promise and slaps Corner/Chris. The two don’t speak for some length of time that I can’t be bothered to check. During that indeterminate period, Alexandria ignores all his calls, texts, and unannounced visits to her home. Here I started to think Alexandria needed a new security team.

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This suspicion was only confirmed when Alexandria is lured to an abandoned house on the outskirts of town after her secretary informs her a Congress house meeting is taking place there. Smart woman that she is, Alexandria doesn’t tell anyone about this strange meeting place and is ambushed at the house by unnamed assailants who set the building on fire with her in it. In her dying moments, Alexandria thinks only of her regrets about Chris/Corner.

I should have told him that I loved him. I should have let him know that I cared. That after doing all the work of the day, he was the last person I thought about before I went to sleep every night. But all I did was create hurdles, break promises and tell him lies. And now when I die, he will never know the truth. The truth that he has become the most important person in my life in the past two months.

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Bear in mind that the two still have not kissed.

It’s not over yet, folks. The total lack of actual romance apparently wasn’t enough to stop Chris/Corner from installing a tracking device on Alexandria’s car during one of his unannounced visits to her home. Alexandria, girl, please get a new security team. This bit of stalking ends up being her saving grace, though, because Chris/Corner busts into the burning building to save her after following her there. After the requisite hospital room reunion, we find out Benedict Wilbur is behind the entire scheme. For the crimes of holding Alexandria’s secretary at gunpoint, arson, and attempted murder, Wilbur is “fired from the seat of Congress.” That’s it.

Some other stuff—which does not include sex—happens at the end, but honestly, I’m out. I will say that in its sheer awfulness, the novel manages a truly stunning feat: In pissing off its target audience of liberal romance readers and conservative Amazon reviewers who didn’t bother to read the book, My Antifa Lover has united the two broken halves of this country. I hope Jessica Stranger is proud.

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