Book Review: The Open Window, by Eve Francis

Trigger warning for one page-long case of a casually fatphobic comment that's quickly called out by one of the characters. Genre : F/F fiction, romance

It’s no use fighting against it, I knew I was going to read this book the moment I saw the cat on the cover. Women who love women and cats, what else does my heart need? (More cats?) Well, let me tell you, this cat only appears towards the last chapters of the book, and that’s a SHAME. But if punk-rock music (and, I guess, Dolly Parton) holds a cherished place in your heart, well, I guess it’ll compensate the near-lack of cat.

Morgan O’Brian is a comic artist who’s trying to get her first big proposal published. A comfortable inheritance from her mother’s passing allows her time to concentrate on her art and on reading books, but when she meets Val (that’s short for Valentina) Lyall, a bassist for an electro-punk band called The Asexual Kinks, the coup de foudre is instantaneous, mutual, and liable to mess with her concentration a bit. When Val goes on a five weeks tour with her band just at the beginning of their relationship, they’ll have to ask themselves how a relationship spent with someone who's often on the road might work.

Eve Francis writes colorful characters that feel like people we know (or would know, for those like me who don’t go out much). Val has just left behind a relationship that would never have worked and she wants to take back the lost time with her band and finally be who she wants to be: a pretty cool punk-rock star. Morgan is a comic artist who draws occult and pagan stuff as well as F/F erotica— while listening to Dolly Parton. Speaking of Dolly Parton, this book has a great soundtrack, with absolutely zero songs I recognized because I have no musical culture beyond what little I know about early 90s hip hop (though I did search the songs, and I like them). Next time I’m reading this book, I’ll try to play the songs as they’re quoted.

I really enjoyed two things about our characters that isn’t that common in F/F fiction : Val identifies clearly as bisexual, and Morgan is fat— there’s a lot of fat positivity in this book, and it’s the first I’ve read in a very long time that has an unapologetically fat character. When you're reading an endless litany of thin and buff characters, it’s so refreshing to see one that isn’t like that at all. It adds realism and body (I’m sorry) to the narrative.

Be warned however that the book features quite a few detailed sex scenes, so if erotica isn’t your taste, this is probably not the book for you. Sex doesn’t usually catch my eyes but I have to say this book has some pretty hot sex. It’s dirty, full of f-words, sometimes on the phone, with talks of bottoming, and, you know, stuff.

All in all, there’s one problem I had with the book—and perhaps the only one I had with it—and it’s that I felt it sometimes lacked focus on where it was trying to go. Their romance is settled very early: by the first quarter of the book, it’s already kind of agreed that they’re attracted to each other and almost had sex. But we have to wait until the last third of the book for problems to actually arise, in a surprising way that felt a bit out-of-character to me. I think one particular scene (the one with a psychic—cookies to the author for not using the G slur!) could have been placed earlier in the book, perhaps only with Morgan as a protagonist.

Still, Eve Francis’s tight prose makes for a very pleasant read and her colorful characters have a fun and sweet romance that I definitely enjoyed despite my nitpicking about the plot.

Rachel Vigo is a would-be critical geographer from Paris (the one in France, not the one in Texas). She is an avid devourer of books and plays video-games far too much.