ARC Review – We Could Be So Good

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book I’ve been looking forward to reading so much, We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian. I’ve enjoyed the other two books by Sebastian I’ve read, and I had high hopes for this one too. Did it live up to my expectations? Read on to find out!

Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.

Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.

***Thank you to Avon for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

In short, this book was so, so good. See what I did there? 🙂 It was even better than I expected, and I anticipated enjoying it a lot because I’ve loved some of Sebastian’s other books. The 1950’s isn’t really a time period I think of when I think about queer romance, likely because much of the media from then was incredibly sanitized to idealize the nuclear family. This book did a great job of showing what it would be like for queer people to live and fall in love in that type of societal environment where they are largely invisible and actively erased. It was both nerve-wracking and heartbreaking to walk the tight rope with these characters of carving out a life for themselves amidst their fear of persecution.

We no longer have the energy to hide. You can’t know the strain on a person in always pretending.

The story of this book was pretty simple. It was mostly just about following these two men as they become friends, build intimacy, and figure out they are madly in love with one another. There’s also a couple side plots related to investigating police corruption and one of the men becoming ready to accept his role as the head of the newspaper. However, they play relatively minor, albeit important, parts in the story. The focus is truly on the relationship and the characters, and I just ate it up. I found the entire journey to be an emotional one, and I was happy that there wasn’t a disastrous third act breakup, only a slight hiccup that made sense given the progression of the relationship up to that point.

Families might usually be bonded by blood, but maybe sometimes they’re bonded by shared secrets, by a delicate mixture of caution and faith, by the conviction that hiding together is better in every way than hiding alone.

The characters in this book were so awkwardly clueless that I wanted to smash their faces together for the first half to make them understand they were in love. lol. Nick was a loner who kept everyone at arms length because he was afraid of them finding out he was gay. He had a bad history with the police despite his brother being an officer (hello family dysfunction!) and was terrified of being found out and arrested. Andy was so horribly out of his depth at adulting, while also having pretty serious abandonment issues. Nick saw how much of a mess Andy was and basically decided to adopt him. They became inseparable friends and the rest was history. Andy slowly had a bi awakening, which was a treat to read, and the two of them worked to figure out their feelings and how to have a relationship despite their emotional baggage and society’s roadblocks. So much of this story was about facing fear and carving out a space to feel safe despite facing persecution. The characters also spent a lot of time tackling their internalized homophobia telling them that they couldn’t and shouldn’t have the life they wanted with each other. It was all very heartfelt, and the writing of the dialogue had the perfect level of cheesiness.

Honestly, he’s used to it. Fear of exposure has been a constant in his life; he doesn’t know how to stop being afraid any more than he knows how to stop his heart from beating. Sometimes he feels like the fear is crowding out everything else, though. He wants the good things in his life to take up the space they deserve, but he doesn’t know how to go about doing that, or even if it’s possible.

The only aspect that left me slightly wanting a bit more was the world-building, specifically the newspaper office. It was basically all vibes and no substance. Don’t get me wrong. The vibes were really cool, and I loved the setting. The characters just didn’t really spend any time doing actual reporting or newspaper work. It felt like all their work happened off the page, which will likely be fine for a lot of people given how well the writer sucks you in with the central relationship. I would have loved to actually have more scenes of the two men actively doing their jobs together, though. They had great chemistry, and I’d have loved to see it applied to some investigatory work more often.

“I love you,” Andy repeats, “and I want to be with you, and that’s all there is to it. The rest is details. The rest is… administrative.”

All in all, this was a wonderful queer historical romance with brilliant characterization and a cool setting. The journey in this one was largely character-driven, and I found it both thought-provoking and emotionally compelling. Therefore, I rate this book 4.75 out of 5 stars.

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