True confession: this book should not have worked for me, and yet, it totally did. Somehow between all of the things I don’t typically like (celebrities, closeted characters, a queer character hung up on a straight person), I inhaled Breaking Character. Such a satisfying slow burn.*
The truth is that I was drawn in by the characters. Both Elizabeth and Summer are lovely people just trying to exist. Also, this is 100% a cinnamon roll (Summer) breaking down the walls of a woman most think is an ice queen (Elizabeth). And while there is plenty of talk about Hollywood and expectations and contracts and TV shows, none of it intrudes in that way some stories about the wealthy and famous can. There are concerns about being out and gay in Hollywood, but it’s not really a conflict, more a stumbling block in the beginning.
Now, let me tell you about the actual miracle of this book. Two closeted lesbians are never outed. Is there a rumor that they are dating when they aren’t? Yes. Do they have to pretend to be dating so Elizabeth can get a movie role? Yes (Summer gets one too). But even when there are the hints of “we can’t seem too close in public,” it isn’t done in a homophobic way, but all in a very business-focused way because, guess what, the world is far too queerphobic.
There is also a really solid depiction of a toxic friendship, which had me groaning because I’ve been there unable to see the truth and it’s hard. Elizabeth is in love with her straight friend/mentor (Grace) and is hung up on the idea of the woman she met decades ago. And while I would have liked Grace to move out of the picture earlier so there was more relationship time for Elizabeth and Summer, the way the toxic friendship between Elizabeth and Grace is handled is spot on. Grace feeds on the adoration. And only after Elizabeth gets to know Summer, who is genuine and kind, can she process that Grace has only ever used her and tried to demean her.
So, yeah, this book hit me in all the right ways. It’s proof that in the right hands, some tropes can be great. (Also, Angela Dawe is a great narrator.)
* By slow burn, I mean that the couple does not get together until almost the end. They decide to be together before they sleep together, but they agree to wait until they aren’t coworkers.
Content warnings: closeted characters, toxic friendship, fear of being outed, some discussion of dieting and exercising to maintain a look
Margrethe listened to the audiobook through Hoopla.