Cat Sebastian’s We Could Be So Good is a sweet workplace romance that follows two men who work at a newspaper in late 1950s New York City. It reads like a love letter to the queer pulp novels of the era, but with an infusion of hope not often seen in literature about the time period.
Nick Russo is a gruff, working-class journalist from Brooklyn who has worked his way up the ladder to become a lead journalist for The Chronicle. Charmingly naive Andy Fleming is the begrudging heir to his family media empire and Nick’s future boss. Nick is prepared to hate Andy, who he sees as a pretty boy who has had everything handed to him, but that’s easier said than done. During their first encounter, Nick finds Andy literally stuck—his tie jammed in a filing cabinet. Andy’s lovable mess charms the grumpy journalist, and soon Nick is helping Andy with small, everyday tasks like keeping track of keys as well as bigger issues like navigating the politics of the paper. Nick, who has long known he is gay, is content to merely pine for his hapless friend. But then Andy begins to question his own feelings for Nick and whether they could be more than platonic.
We Could Be So Good takes place in the oft-romanticized late 1950s, which are a particularly fascinating and high-stakes backdrop for a queer historical romance. It would be easy to fill both men with shame and self-loathing, given the threats to their safety. And yet this book is filled with so much hope. The queer scene was beginning to blossom in this era, with pulp novels acting like a road map for the LGBTQ+ community. Nick and Andy read these books, and Sebastian incorporates plot devices and tropes from them into her work. However, instead of the shame and violence that often accompanied contemporary 1950s narratives, Sebastian gives Nick and Andy a safe space to explore their sexuality. They even experience some (albeit minor) degree of acceptance from their families. These refreshing choices prevent the story from being bogged down by the toxicity of the time period, allowing the reader to experience queer optimism if not outright joy.
With We Could Be So Good, Sebastian adds a tender, heartening stunner of a love story to her already-impressive body of work.