The cover caught my eye, and I couldn’t resist picking up a book about two sapphic women navigating their careers and relationships in their thirties and forties. While some of it worked for me, there were other parts that weren’t my jam.
Charlotte is a courier for an art museum, which means lots of travel on very short turnarounds. An unexpected layover in Madrid leads to her reconnecting with Adriana, who was a few years ahead of her at Yale, but who she always had a crush on. They met over a decade ago when Charlotte was still an undergrad and Adriana was a TA. But now, three nights together in Madrid fuel a connection that neither woman wants to do without. But can they overcome the geographic differences and the disparate stages in their careers to finally be together?
“Sweet Lord, Adrianna. What are we doing? How can we have spent all this time trying to advance in a field dominated by people who think we are less? That what we do doesn’t matter or isn’t real. I’m just so goddamned tired of it.”
This book is slow paced and very angsty. Not only are both characters experiencing all the problems of embarking on a long distance relationship, but they’re also two queer BIPOC women in academia with all the nastiness and stress you’d expect from that. Adriana is in her forties and much further along in her career than Charlotte, though only four years separated them in grad school. With a teaching position at UCLA, she’s doing a sabbatical fellowship in Madrid studying pieces belong to a particularly art interested nun. She’s a consummate planner and very focused on her career, to the exclusion of anything else. Meanwhile, while Charlotte’s similarly talented and hardworking, she’s had two year long teaching positions that went nowhere. She ended up in her current courier/curator combo for lack of other options. Charlotte misses teaching students and the museum isn’t receptive to many of her ideas for new exhibits, choosing instead to stick with the same old white men of middling quality instead of “politically correct” fads (that is, anything that centers anyone not male, cis, het and white). The friction between their careers and love lives comes to a head when both have a chance at new opportunities – but, again, on opposite coasts.
“What you see before you is a big ball of confusion. I’m living an out of body experience. When I left I was perfectly fine being here, being single. And now I can barely get up in the morning without her lying next to me. And all it took for me to get this way was three days. I feel crazy.”
What this book does well is the emotions – and the steam! Each woman admires the other for their knowledge of their field and their accomplishments, though Charlotte has had less opportunities than Adriana. I never doubted the depth of their connection, and the various coping habits both women employ each time they have to leave each other was heartbreaking. But the exhilaration of them meeting up again matched the bittersweetness of those moments. The in-between, though, was super angsty, from wondering about what their relationship status is to the fear they’ll lose interest in each other while they’re apart to the frustration of being on two different continents. At times, it was a bit too much angst for me. Even when they’re apart, though, they still manage to connect in the margins, including some very hot video chats. And, woo, this book is steamy. Belying her demure exterior, Charlotte likes being in control in bed (or on the sofa, or the countertop, etc). But besides the steaminess, the scenes showed their deepening connection and the possibilities of what their relationship could be, given time together. The bleak moment, however, was everything I didn’t like about the book – super angsty and way too judgmental, honestly, and it made me dislike one of the main characters for their childish response. There wasn’t quite enough space left in the book for my opinion of her to recover, either.
Overall, while there was a lot I liked about this book (the emotions, the academia bits), there was just a bit too much angst for me. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this author, however.
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.