Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars

Narrators: Robin Miles, Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan
Length: 12 hours, 10 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Evelyn Hugo is the most well-known movie star in the world. Rising up from a poor childhood in NY, where her beloved mother died at a young age and where Evelyn didn’t trust her father to keep her safe, Evelyn made her way to Hollywood. There, she changed her name, dyed her hair, and forged a career that changed everything about her life.

Now at the age of 79, Evelyn is reclusive and hasn’t given an interview in years. She’s never told her story to anyone. The public doesn’t know the stories behind her seven husbands and they don’t know who Evelyn’s true love really was. When Evelyn chooses to share her story with Monique Grant, no one is more surprised than Monique. Although Monique works for a well-known magazine, Monique herself is not the most well-known writer. Yet, Monique finds herself spending days in Evelyn’s upscale apartment learning the most intimate details of Evelyn’s life.

Monique is given a front row seat to the life of Evelyn Hugo, starting in the 1950s. Evelyn was ruthless, ambitious, and wildly beautiful. Her life intersected a time when women were supposed to act a certain way and be a certain way, but Evelyn forged her own path. And in doing so, she created long lasting friendships and her own found family, and lived out her desires in a forbidden love story. Monique is captivated from one story to the next, but as the recounting of Evelyn’s tumultuous life comes to a close, Monique will come to realize that her life intersects Evelyn’s in a tragic way that will change Monique for all time.

Challenge Month 2021I chose The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for TBR Pile Week in our Reading Challenge Month as it was released in 2017, but this book could have easily fit into any of the challenges for me and I think that would have greatly pleased Evelyn. The idea of this book appealed to me from the start, with a decades-long story of a strong female character making her way in 1950s Hollywood. That appeal turned into a book that was truly captivating from start to finish.

One of the most important things this book had to excel at was creating a lead character that you couldn’t look away from and the author created that with Evelyn in every facet and stage of her life. Evelyn is flawed, all of the characters are flawed and complex, and they become real beyond the pages and that holds incredible appeal for me. Due to the era of Evelyn’s life and circumstances, many of the characters are forced to make decisions that shape their lives and cause ripples for all around them.

We meet all seven husbands and learn the stories behind each one. They all served a purpose for Evelyn and, while she did love some of them, her one great true love becomes the heart and the center of the story. All of the side characters serve a purpose as well, and they all have their own stories and any one of them could carry their own book. Evelyn’s lifelong and dearest friend is Harry, who also works in the movie industry, and it is through Evelyn and through Harry that the tone of being gay in Hollywood throughout the decades plays out. The scenes are flashbacks and while there is a great sense of being in the room with Evelyn as she tells her story, there are no other points of view, which makes all of the turmoil rest firmly on Evelyn’s shoulders.

Running parallel to Evelyn’s tale is the story of Monique. We learn early on that while Evelyn is the keeper of many secrets, there is one that connects Monique and Evelyn together in tragic and remarkable ways. Knowing the secret out of context will have no impact and it works best to learn the many private details of Evelyn’s life directly from her, which is why I would suggest you meet Evelyn and add her story to the top of your TBR.

The audio version of this book is perhaps the best way to enjoy it. It takes over 12 hours for Evelyn to tell her tale and, even after all that time, I wasn’t ready to let go of the story. The ending is complete and perfect, but still, I could have listened even longer. With three narrators, Alma Cuervo, Robin Miles, and Julia Whelan, weaving this tale, the life of Evelyn Hugo plays out just like one of the movies that Evelyn is so famous for. The voice of Evelyn in the past has a strong voice reflective of the time, and Evelyn in the present, as well as Monique’s voice, adds a rich tone. My only hesitation was that there were times when we were in the past where it was difficult to tell whether we were supposed to be in the story or being told the story. The main part of the story is in Evelyn’s voice and not many of the characters had their own, which made it feel like we were being told the story. Yet, one of Evelyn’s husbands was French and had a French accent, which then made it seem like we were in the story, and I would have preferred clearer lines drawn on that aspect. It’s always fabulous to choose a great book and I get especially pleased with myself when I choose a great challenge book and this story, and this audio, are highly recommended.

This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of two fabulous audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio (you can see the details on the bundles in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand {rize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on TBR Pile Week here