Nick Russo works at the city desk of a New York City newspaper. He comes from a big Italian family in Brooklyn and has worked hard to make it out of his neighborhood. Nick largely keeps to himself at work; being a gay man in the late 1950s isn’t easy and Nick knows if anyone finds out, it could mean big trouble for him. So he keeps his sexuality on the down low and tries not to draw too much attention.
All of that changes, however, when Nick meets Andy Fleming. Andy’s father owns the newspaper and he is working the city desk to learn the ropes. However, poor Andy is a mess. The first day they meet, Andy has managed to get his tie stuck in a drawer and can’t get out. It is quickly clear that Andy needs a lot of looking after, and Nick can’t help but befriend him. The two men are total opposites. Andy is rich and grew up in an elite world. He is sweet as can be, but definitely can’t take care of himself. Nick is independent by necessity, growing up with no one to really rely on but himself. Nick and Andy become best friends and are practically inseparable.
When the guys end up becoming temporary roommates, things take a turn in their relationship. While Andy has always liked women, there is a part of him that knows he is attracted to men as well. It has always been easier just to ignore that part of himself; he wants to get married and settle down and the only way to do that is with a woman. But living with Nick forces Andy to face his feelings, as his attraction to Nick flares. For his part, Nick has been in love with Andy from practically the first minute, but he never thought Andy was someone he could have. As the men open up about their feelings, they settle into a happy domesticity. But there is only so long that people will believe they are just friends living together, especially as Nick finds himself on the police radar for some stories he is writing for the paper. Eventually, Andy will need to move out or people will suspect the truth. But Andy and Nick have fallen hard for each other and both dream of the life they could have together, if only they can take the chance.
We Could Be So Good is a lovely, deeply character-driven historical and I just found myself really swept up in the story. Nick and Andy make such a fun, opposites attract couple. There is a definite grumpy/sunshine vibe here, as Nick has let his need for self reliance and secrecy keep him separated from most people, and Andy is sort of this sweet, golden retriever of a guy (if golden retrievers kept losing their keys). Nick is from a poorer, immigrant neighborhood and he fought to make it out and get his job at the paper. He is scrappy and strong and knows how to get things done. When Nick meets Andy, he can’t help but take care of him, almost despite himself, because Andy is a mess. He is wealthy and never had to really be responsible for things. He is also sort of flighty and oblivious and I found him adorable. Somehow, these men form an unlikely friendship and this incredibly intense bond. For the first part of the book, we are following them as friends, even as we see that Nick has secret feelings for Andy. Then, as Andy begins to realize his own attraction, we see a relationship bloom between them. As I said, this is an intensely character-driven story and things focus directly on the developing relationship between these two men. The style really hones in on Nick and Andy and I found it really interesting and rewarding to feel so immersed in these characters.
While the men move fairly easily from friends to lovers, the anvil hanging over them all the time is the fear of discovery. The book takes place in the late 1950s, a time when being gay was illegal and could get you thrown in jail, or worse. Nick has learned to keep his hookups quick and discreet, but he lives in constant fear of being found out for being gay. It is something Andy has not really had to force himself to think about; since he is also attracted to women, he has been able to just pass himself off as straight. When Andy starts considering his feelings for Nick, suddenly he also has to confront the fact that he can no longer be open about his feelings publicly. There are some really intense moments where this all hits home, like when someone comes to their apartment and they have to quickly hide all signs that they share a bedroom. What I really loved here is seeing these guys first come to terms with their feelings and what it means for them, and then start taking some small steps toward defiance, toward wanting to be themselves without fear. This is still a time when being out is dangerous, but the men manage to live a little more on their own terms. As always with her historical stories, Sebastian gives this book a great sense of time and place. I loved the little details that flesh out the story and Sebastian builds life in the 1950s so nicely into the book.
Overall, I found this one just so enjoyable to read. I loved Andy and Nick together and I really liked the way the writing just made me feel so immersed in their story. The way the focus builds on these characters left me feeling like I really had a window into their lives and who they are as people. I just loved the book and can highly recommend it.