The Work Wife
By: Alison B. Hart
Genres: LGBTQ Contemporary Literary Fiction
Publication Date: July 19, 2022
Format: E-ARC via NetGalley
Synopsis from NetGalley
Three fierce women connected to a billionaire film mogul collide at a Hollywood party in this richly observed novel about female ambition, complicity, and privilege.
Zanne Klein never planned to be a personal assistant to Hollywood royalty Ted and Holly Stabler. But a decade in at thirty-eight, that’s exactly how she spends her days, earning six figures to make sure the movie mogul and his family have everything they could ever dream of and more.
However, today is no ordinary day at the Stabler estate. Tonight, everyone who’s anyone will be there for the Hollywood event of the season, and if the party’s a success, that chief of staff job Zanne’s been chasing may soon be hers. Which means she can buy a house, give her girlfriend the life she deserves, pay off her student loans.
Nothing’s going to get in Zanne’s way—not disgruntled staff, not a nosy reporter, not even a runaway hostess. But when Ted’s former business partner, Phoebe Lee, unexpectedly shows up right before go time, Zanne suddenly has a catastrophe unfolding before her—one with explosive consequences. As the truth comes out and Zanne realizes how deeply entangled she’s become in the Stablers’ world, she must decide if the sacrifices she’s made for the job are worth the moral price she has to pay.
The Work Wife is a queer contemporary lit fic told from three POVs from three different women each connected to an eccentric film maker, Ted Stabler. This book’s main event takes place in one day, at Ted’s party, with plenty of reminiscing and flashbacks with each woman’s POV.
This book did take me a while to get into, but once I did, I was hooked. Keep in mind I read an advanced reader copy (ARC) so it’s possible what I read is not the final published piece. I say this as there are a lot of sections I would have cut entirely or shortened.
At times, a lot of the event planning details got overwhelming and I just skimmed through those. And my biggest “meh” factor was the Hollywood name droppings of celebrities. I know, I know, this is set in Hollywood, but I kind of wish it was a Hollywood adjacent world because my eyes started to glaze over with all the directors and writers and producers that I don’t know. (If you are a Hollywood buff and know the culture and names, you will probably love those bits!)
Now onto the POVs.
Zanne, our sapphic queer, is a almost forty year old who is in line for a promotion. Her POV is very go-go-go, checklists, wonderings, and always thoughts for moving in and moving up with her much younger girlfriend. She begins to find her loyalty tested once Ted’s past comes face to face with her in a random meeting.
Holly, our rags to riches hostess, is a bucket of anxiety and host of insecurity that she tries desperately to mask, which really ramps up as her POV continues once many thing are revealed about her husband Ted’s past.
Phoebe, our sidelined director/writer, is dealing with a lot. Her POV is probably my favorite even if it’s the most difficult to read. The racism and sexism as a Korean woman in Hollywood, her creative loss she expulsion, her secret marriage and divorce from Ted, her trying to move on and then finally tell her story. It’s a lot.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am glad I read it. While the first half of it was slow going for me and easy to put down, once I hit about the 60% mark I read through the rest of it in one night. The tension, the confronting the past, and putting yourself back into the world amid much Hollywood politics was so captivating to read.
If you like queer contemporary fiction with a heavy dose of Hollywood being horrible and watching it through the lens of three different women, I do recommend getting your hands on The Work Wife.