Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Review: The Gossip by Jenny Holiday

4.5 stars
Release Date: 4 October 2016
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is my own.

Romance novels where there is a imbalance of power between the two main characters can very easily go wrong. But this one didn't. In fact, The Gossip went very, very right, thanks to Holiday's customary lovable characters, plus a funky 1980s setting. 

Dawn Hathaway garners social power and popularity through her popular gossip column in the university newspaper. Maybe, if she breaks a few college-level Watergates, her media mogul father will finally take an interest in her. 

In the meanwhile, someone else has taken an interest in Dawn: Arturo Perez, well-liked campus cop. He sees Dawn's vulnerability and isolation, and keeps a close eye on her over the course of her university career. With eight years between them in age, as well as the cop-student divide, he knows that nothing can ever come of it, but when Dawn is caught up in a tragic series of events, Art can't stop himself from stepping forward and offering his support. 

It's been a while since I read any Jenny Holiday and I'd forgotten how much I loved her. Her heroes are consistent favourites for the feminist ways they relate to their heroines, and Art is no exception. He's all too aware of how his position could potentially affect their relationship. When he realises trying to stay away from Dawn isn't going to work, and she insistent on being physically intimate, he gets creative: 
"This is how this is going to work," he said, using his teeth to gently scrape down to my collarbone, where he started pressing urgent, openmouthed kisses. "I require not just consent, but continuous consent."  (loc. 1276)
With this policy in place, Dawn must explicitly ask for anything she wants Art to do, or he won't proceed. Later, he explain his reasoning:  
I'd been so over-the-top with the consent thing because I was so wary of the age and power differentials between us and of the emotional wringer she'd been through this past fall. So many people in Dawn's life had let her down, had "not seen her". I wasn't ever going to be one of those people. (loc. 1382)
And he isn't. Art is caring, considerate, sweet and honest. His yearning from afar and his interactions with Dawn both gave me butterflies. Dawn, on the other hand, is a much more ambiguous character. She trades in gossip and values social acceptance and popularity, but it soon becomes clear that she has her reasons, and she isn't shallow or malicious. Holiday builds her up well over the course of the story, so that the reader becomes extremely fond of and sympathetic toward a character who initially seemed like an anti-heroine. 

The novella follows Dawn and Arturo's encounters over several years. At the beginning, there are their infrequent encounters as campus cop and student. Slowly, their odd repartee develops into an odder friendship, and then, from there, the romance. The plot similarly weaves throughout these time periods, before reaching a denouement in the final months. 

Readers should be aware that the plot does include a suicide, which also had the potential to be a deal-breaker. It was - in my opinion - handled with appropriate delicacy and gravitas, so that while it was affecting, it was never overwhelming. But that is, of course, a very personal judgement, and one that each person must make themselves, given their own circumstances and the circumstances of those around them. 

The Gossip won't be released until October 4, but you can pre-order it at Amazon now. Alternatively, you can read the preceding novella in the New Wave Newsroom series, The Fixer, which features Dawn's editor Jenny and her attempts to enlist art student Matthew in her crusade to save the college's historic art building. I didn't love it quite as much as The Gossip, but I still liked it a lot. 

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