June 04, 2024

A Bluestocking’s Guide to Decadence

By Jess Everlee
Review by
Jess Everlee’s sweet and gentle A Bluestocking’s Guide to Decadence is perfect for fans of Cat Sebastian and Olivia Waite.
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Author Jess Everlee returns to her Lucky Lovers of London series with A Bluestocking’s Guide to Decadence, an opposites-attract romance between an unconventional bookshop owner and a respectable country doctor. It’s a comforting, remarkably low-stakes love story, despite the seemingly large obstacles that face its main couple. 

Jo Smith is a bookshop owner and printer in a lavender marriage, a union of convenience designed to hide Jo’s sexuality. She’s married to her best friend and business partner, Paul, who carries on a relationship on the side with an actress named Vanessa. But when Vanessa gets pregnant, Jo begins to panic that her marital deception will be exposed. As she doesn’t trust the doctors in London to keep Vanessa’s pregnancy a secret, Jo’s only recourse is to write to her friend’s sister, physician Emily Clarke, for help. The two don’t make the greatest impression on each other during their first meeting, but over the course of several letters, a friendship and flirtation begin to bloom. 

That epistolary element is delightful and very sweet, and in fact, “sweet” is the best descriptor for A Bluestocking’s Guide to Decadence. There’s a methodical slowness to Jo and Emily’s courtship. Emily is used to a bucolic countryside life with little scandal and gossip except for small, neighborly slights. And while Jo’s sapphic societies and secret clubs in London are, as the title suggests, full of decadence, the book never feels as salacious and scandalous as its title and setup imply. Rather, a story that begins with a woman fearing her secret life is about to be exposed morphs into a gentle romance, during which Jo realizes, with Emily’s help, that she doesn’t have to concede anything to live her life the way she wants.

While this is the third book in a series, readers new to Lucky Lovers of London can jump right in. However, couples from previous books do make an appearance, and those more familiar with Everlee’s work will find the familiar faces to be a fun, enjoyable detail. These characters contribute to the book’s sense of found family, a safe and welcoming community for queer people no matter the time period. If fans of Cat Sebastian and Olivia Waite are wondering what to pick up next, this book (and series) should be at the top of their reading list.

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