We Could Be So Good | REVIEW

Review: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian AceOfBens.com
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You know, for someone who reads a ton of queer non-fiction, it’s odd that this is the first queer historical romance I’ve read, isn’t it? I’ve seen Cat Sebastian’s books all over Bookstagram and BookTok but never picked them up because I’ve never been particularly interested in historical fiction, romance or not. Admittedly, I was a bit slow getting hooked into this story, but I’m ready to chalk it up to the new-to-me genre and my having read it around Christmas, since once I got into it, I absolutely adored Nick and Andy.

Loosely inspired by a few real events/headlines from the 1950s, as explained in the author note at the end, We Could Be So Good follows Nick Russo, and reporter for the Chronicle whose first instinct is to help everyone else but is happy going about his business himself, and Andy Flemming, a walking disaster who’s struggling to fill the giant shoes his father is trying to leave for him as he prepares to retire as owner of the Chronicle.

It’s a soft, slow burn romance that explores not only Nick and Andy’s relationship as it shifts from professional to platonic to romantic, but also their relationships with themselves and their communities as these two reconcile their roles as members of the NYC media with their existence as queer people in a time when being publicly out could get you arrested. The overarching theme of the story seemed to be, “Hey, it’s a scary world out there and there might not be much we can do to change it, at least not all at once, but we have each other, and that can be okay.”

But Nick’s tired of dead queers. Nick’s tired of people like him having to suffer in order to provide the right kind of ending. He’s done his time with shame and doesn’t want any more of it.

Cat Sebastian, from We Could Be So Good

For a portion of the story, Andy is engaged to their co-worker, Emily, but of course they grow apart and realize they want different things and break up. Some readers were annoyed that the plot point about Emily cheating on him felt brushed over because Andy wasn’t mad about it, but I think that’s just a nuance of infidelity that’s overlooked—sometimes a relationship is just over and no one wants to admit it, so when it ends in a typically awful way, it doesn’t always matter? You’re just relieved one of you finally called it quits And that’s how the three of them can stay friends after all that. Emily comes around a few times after their break up, still on good terms with both protagonists because she’d been friends with Nick before Andy even met her, and Emily reassures Andy that she’s happy for them, and I kind of really like that detail.

There’s also another Chronicle reporter, Mark Bailey, whom Nick is reluctantly friends with (and who is the protagonist of the companion book, You Should Be So Lucky, out 7 May 2024.) If memory serves, there’s nothing that Nick doesn’t really like about him. It’s just that Nick saw Bailey at a bathhouse once and kept him at a distance because he was scared getting closer to this co-worker would somehow out him even though neither of them were openly gay, but that’s anxiety for ya! This doesn’t stop Bailey from leaving books about queer people on Nick’s desk as a way of saying, “I’m here for you when you finally do want to be friends.”

Keeping it vague here because of spoilers, but there’s also a scene where Andy pretends their friend Linda—who is very much in a relationship with another woman—is his girlfriends as part of an alibi. She just goes with it as it’s sprung on her, finding the humor in it while still taking his safety seriously because, like I said, this cast has each other’s backs.

Once criticism I saw a few times was that it lacks a plot, which of course isn’t true, but it’s a slow-paced romance that’s more of a glimpse into these two men’s lives as they intertwine. That can make it feel like a handful of subplots sewn together if you’re not into character-driven stories or can’t connect well through third person POV.

Another is that it’s a white cis romance (which of course is true) that apparently has been hyped up as a sort of leftist romance? Well… Let’s not stretch the truth. As much as I enjoyed this book, I can’t say either protagonist or the plot itself is anything all that progressive. Nick and Andy mention some of the major headlines at the time about marches and protests, but they’re still in that “this is terrifying and I want things to change but I can’t imagine getting so politically involved” mindset.

This is a romance, though, so I should probably talk about that some more. Nick and Andy are one of those couples that just balances each other out so completely. When one of them is being ridiculous about something, luckily for them, the other usually has a bit more sense at the time. Even when Andy’s being his typical disaster self, Nick might tease him for walking into work on crutches and shyly admitting that he slipped and fell on a fish while out on a boat, but he’s going to take care of him. When Nick’s anxiety gets the best of him, Andy is there to remind him that he doesn’t actually have to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. By the end of the book, they both securely knew they have each other.

Reading a queer story set in the 1950s was ultimately a wild ride just remembering what it was like to be queer in America at that time (as much as someone born in the 90s can “remember” it) and hoping that we’re still actually moving away from those times in real life… Anyway! If a character-driven historical romance with plenty of self-discovery and self-growth sounds like your thing, We Could Be So Good might be one to pick up!

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