Alice & Jean by Lily Hammond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
Alice & Jean tells the story of Alice Holden, a war widow with two small children, who has fallen in love with Jean Reardon, the woman who delivers her milk every morning. The story starts off very fast with Alice already being head over heels for Jean (and vice-versa) so the reader doesn't get a very good sense of why Alice has fallen for Jean until near the end of the story when both women confess when/how they fell in love with the other. The pair face a lot of obstacles together- from Alice's overbearing and downright evil mother, to the whispers of the neighbors about Alice being seen with that woman, to the stereotypical man who feels jilted and can't stand women being together.
Which brings me to things I didn't like about this book: I feel like Big Jim was overdone. I do realize that there are plenty of men like him the world, but I really feel we could have done without his macho homophobia. And I understand that his actions were the means to the happy end of the story but just once I would like to read a f/f love story that didn't include alpha males or rape.
I also wasn't that impressed with Jean. The story definitely fell into that stereotypical "one is very femme and the other is very masculine" trope that I'm very, very burnt out on in f/f fiction. And maybe it wasn't the character herself as much as it was the way people treated her (Alice saying she wishes Jean were a man so they could get married, Tilly saying she wishes Jean could be her father, the men treating Jean like a man, etc.,) I think gender expression and fluidity is great and amazing (I myself am nonbinary) but I feel like Jean was only a stand-in for a man in the story. We don't get a sense of how she feels about her gender, only that she likes to wear trousers and enjoys jobs that are traditional more masculine. I would have felt more comfortable with her if there had been more discussion on how she identified or how she felt about having people continuously treat her like a man.
I did like the story, though. I loved the way the group of women came together to protect Alice from Big Jim because we have a severe lack of solid, powerful, and protective female friendships in LGBTQAI+ literature. I also loved the fact that Alice does not forgive her mother in the end but does reach a compromise with herself that makes her happy.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick f/f read with minimal sex scenes, strong female friends, and a HEA ending.
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