Hello from [checks map] Utah! I am taking the long way home after driving from New Jersey to California and spending a week in Disneyland with my family. I started making the return trek on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot — but it’s tiring!

I did manage to read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian. If you’ve been hanging around the blog since I revived it in 2022, you should be familiar with Sebastian. She’s written The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, and The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, which are set in 1750s England.

In We Could Be So Good, she’s stepped out of that realm and into New York City in 1958. Our two heroes are Nick, a reporter; and Andy, son of the publisher who is learning the ropes in the hope that he’ll take over that paper someday. We know from the jump that Nick is gay, though he’s not out, as it would have been a criminal and personal liability. Andy is bisexual, though it takes him some time to admit it, and even then it’s after he’s been in a serious relationship with a mutual female friend.

I wanted to write a lot more about why I liked this, but I’m wiped out. Is it enough to say I recommend this book? I recommend this book. It’s a lovely story, and not just sent in some random time and place. In her author’s note, Sebastian wrote that she wanted to show queer life in New York City at the time. “There’s a pervasive believe that in the 1950s queerness was never discussed in public or private unless to disparage it, but this was not the case,” she wrote.

A lot of people angry at LGBTQ+ folks for being their true selves LOVE to say that there weren’t any queer people before, it must something nefarious. But of course there were queer people! In the case of Nick and Andy, they could have gone to jail for it. Despite that, queerness wasn’t completely hidden.

Case in point: I took the featured image for this post in front of Hotel Del Coronado, and not just because I happened to stop there while I was reading this book. The hotel also gets an oblique mention in We Could Be So Good. It’s where Some Like It Hot, one of my favorite movies, was filmed: “Then, without much discussion, they go to a matinee and watch Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon spend two hours cross-dressing before Jack Lemmon elopes with a man, which is just proof positive that the world has conspired to force Andy to think about queerness.”

If you haven’t watched Some Like It Hot, please do — and re-watch it if you haven’t in a long time. It holds up really well, especially right now.

So yes I liked We Could Be So Good very much. I’ll also note for regular Sebastian readers that this is at a lower spice level than the 1750s romances. Not a criticism – just an FYI.

Nail polish: You Do Blue by Essie.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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