This is not something I do very often but since I firmly believe these two books should be read as one, I’ll review them together.
I’m not sure I need to introduce this story so I’ll be quick. An aspiring writer, Jules Moretti is, when the story begins, the assistant to Vivian Carlisle, the most powerful woman in fashion, the revered and feared boss of internationally renowned magazine Du Jour (by the way, can someone please explain this name? What am I missing? Is my Frenchness getting in the way? It sounds very unsexy to me). When Vivian finds out, in the midst of her third divorce, that she’s pregnant, her assistant seems to be the only person she can trust and turn to, and the relationship between the two women begins to change.
I’m one of probably a handful of sapphic fiction reviewers who haven’t read the legendary Truth & Measure as fanfic. Not on purpose, it’s just not the way life has taken me. I’ve explained before that I didn’t read fanfic until very recently. I found lesfic very soon after coming out in 1993 and was happy rereading favourites while waiting for new books to get to me. By the time I found out about fanfiction, I didn’t have time to read outside of work. I’m still catching up on all this. With so many intriguing new books being released each month, it’s taking a while… The way I see it, I’m so late to the party, there’s no rush anymore. These stories aren’t going anywhere, neither am I, we’ll meet when the time is right.
What all this means is I started reading these books with an idea of what they were going to be about but no expectations. I don’t know how close the end result is to the original fanfiction or not. I don’t know if it’s disappointing or if it’s better. All I know is how much I enjoyed it. The blurb promises humour, chaos, and self-discovery and Roslyn Sinclair definitely delivers.
The way I read them, the first part sets the scene, introduces the characters and the plot, with chaos and twists, while part two is more contemplative, the MCs have become a couple, and despite a detour to let Vivian reclaim her professional superiority, the plot focuses on the relationship and the anticipation of the baby’s birth. And sex. A lot of sex. It’s kinda cool, by the way, that a pregnant woman is shown as a sexual being, desiring and desired.
I was a bit surprised that Sinclair chose to keep the magazine setting, so close to the movie that started it all (The Devil Wears Prada, in case anyone doesn’t know). On the one hand, of course, this familiarity makes it extremely easy to dive right into the story, to picture the characters, the office etc. On the other, it makes it difficult for the MCs to grow into their own personalities. After a while, however, Vivian and Jules flourished as themselves in my mind as Sinclair leads the reader deeper into who they are. That’s when I got to really like them, flaws and all.
While I wasn’t sure why Jules was head over heels over Vivian in the first book, I liked Vivian a lot more in the second. The more she revealed about herself, the more interesting I found her, beyond the self-centred ice queen. Jules is a bit of a doormat at times but as someone who has more than once lost the ability to talk in the presence of a beautiful woman, I can relate. And standing up for herself, be it to Vivian or to her parents, is part of the character’s growth, maybe my favourite part. I love when characters come into their power, into themselves.
As others have noted, the chemistry, in the first book, isn’t self-evident. Even Vivian seems to doubt it at first. My feeling is that the chemistry is more obvious to those who read the fanfiction first. Since I kept seeing the actresses of the movie in the characters, it felt implied and mostly worked for me (I’m a sci-fi reader, suspension of disbelief is par for the course), but I would have loved it even more if the author had built it up. That said, I didn’t have this issue at all in part two. On the contrary, the chemistry shines through right from the start of Above All Things. Vivian has undergone some sort of personality change on the way, she didn’t care about sex before Jules and she can’t get enough now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, Sinclair writes some of the hottest scenes I’ve read and I’m very happy believing in the power of love. Not just pregnancy hormones, as Vivian seems to think at first. I’m convinced she’ll keep lusting after Jules till the end of times.
I do, however, have a slight issue with Vivian’s age. The insistence on it in the context of pregnancy and the way she’s written sometimes make her sound more ancient than her forty-two years. My understanding is that she’s fifty in the fanfic, so maybe that’s why.
Anyhow, I enjoyed reading this story a lot, I read each part in less than two days and whenever I had to put my e-reader down, I was reluctant to do so. Sinclair writes her characters in such an exhilarating way (the humour and chaos mentioned above) that I was just happy to spend time with them. The dialogues are witty, there’s angst and longing, all things I love.
There are some absolutely delightful scenes, in Above All Things especially. I can’t go too much into detail without spoiling but there’s one in particular in which Vivian and Jules discuss the baby’s future that made my heart warm and fuzzy.
If I wasn’t convinced I understood the relationship at first, the uncertainty was all gone way before the end. I love both characters together, and the length of the story means I got to know them as individuals too – Jules a little more – and I love them both. I’m now looking forward to rediscovering them and this story in its fanfic form, at last. And in audio as well.
If you’re curious about the process, about how Truth and Measure was born and how these two books came to be, the author explains everything on her blog.
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