Author: Robin Talley
Released: November 13 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Historical Fiction / LGBT
Goodreads Rating: 3.97 (of 222 ratings)
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In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.
Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Harlequin Teen and NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
Review: Well, this was a surprise.
I honestly will admit that there were was two things that had me a little skittish about this book. the fact that it is a MASSIVE ebook (literally like 6 1/2 hours) and the fact that I would now have to read 6 1/2 hours of a historical fiction. I love me some history, but like, that is a lot of history??? But omigosh, it was wonderful, and this is definitely contemporary historical fiction done right.
This story has like, four stories within this one story. We have Abby who is in modern day 2017, trying to keep her head above water after a complex breakup with her first love and her parents’ messy love life. When she discovers a lesbian pulp fiction story that really resonates with her, she makes it her mission to write her own and discover more about the mysterious life of Marian Love. On the flip side, we go back to the 1950s when the story was first being written with Janet Jones, who fell in love with her pulp novel that would forever change her own life story.
So yes, for the record, that is Book Janet Reads > Janet’s Life > Janet’s Book She Writes > Abby’s Life > Abby’s Book She Writes. Oh, wow, that’s 5. So, yes, lots of stories within stories and characters. Lots of characters. It honestly worked for the most part, but there were a few times that I was like, wait, who’s Sam??? Which story is she in??
But honestly for the most part, Talley did a wonderful job. Each storyline that would pop up was intriguing. The history she was discussing was interesting enough, but she made sure to keep it forever intriguing, and I was so so fascinated. I have to say that I didn’t know anything about 1950s lesbian pulp fiction, and I didn’t know as much about the Lavendar Scare as I should, but Talley brought both items to the forefront effortlessly. I felt intrigued in both Abby’s and Janet’s plots, and I was pretty eager to get back to both of their POVs each time I would go away from enough.
As I said, there was a lot of characters, but Janet and Abby certainly shone. They were wonderful main characters, and I definitely was rooting for them hardcore. The other side characters were rather well done as well. And the romances were complex, messy, and realistic.
The biggest complaint that I did have would be sometimes the stories within the stories would get a bit overwhelming, and it would slow down the pacing a bit. I was going with a 4.5, until I read the ending, and tbh, it felt a bit lackluster. We were doing this huge search and everything, and it just fell…it fell pretty flat to me.
Rating: Overall, it was the perfect blend of history and contemporary, and Talley created such a fascinating cross storyline. Few bumps but overall SUCH a great read despite its massive size! 4 crowns and an Ariel rating!
What do you think? Do you love stories within stories? What do you do with lots of characters? Is anyone else now intensely Googling lesbian pulp fiction? Let’s discuss in the comments below!