Love in the Shadows is such a gripping and wonderful story of forbidden love. It follows the life of Meg Mitchell from the age of eighteen and through life, as she comes to turns with her sexuality and learns to accept herself and fight for her right to love freely. It’s also a wonderful story of friendship and bravery, and has some of the most amazing parents I’ve ever met in any book.
Growing up in a small Catholic village in rural Ireland in the 1970s when homosexuality was still a crime and repressed by both church and society, Meg has heard whispers about “lesbians” and freaks, but never thought those words would be about herself. But when she gets a new young English teacher in her final year of secondary school, she feels herself inexplicably drawn to the elegant Harriet Stewart. Her attempt to show her affection ends in disaster though, and going away to college, Meg does everything she can to put her first crush behind her. She even tries to convince herself to try and be straight and date a man to get an easier life for herself and her parents.
“Does it matter who I truly am? Okay, so his kisses don’t transport me into a different world, but they’re pleasant and enjoyable. Who needs waves of desire, a thumping heart, or a quickening pulse?” But even as she tried to convince herself of this, she had to fight to keep Harriet’s image from her mind.
The characters in this book were amazing and so relatable. I immediately rooted for both Meg and Harriet and their struggles. Meg was so incredibly brave and I just kept wishing for her happy ending all the way through the book. Given the fact that homosexuality was a crime and heavily condemned by the church, all angst and mixed feelings of love and excitement with anxiety and tension was all too understandable, and the bravery it took to choose the path Meg did despite the almost insurmountable difficulties, is admirable beyond words. I also loved so many of the secondary characters, especially Meg’s amazing and supportive parents, and Aisling and Liz, who were so wonderful, strong, courageous and fun friends that always stood by Meg no matter what.
Some parts of the book felt a bit rushed, especially the first part leading up to Meg’s graduation, and the writing was a little bit too much telling us about Meg’s feelings rather than letting us understand and feel for ourselves. I’d also loved some more background when it came to Harriet and some more information about her friends and family and past experiences to better understand why she reacted the way she did. But overall, this was truly a wonderful debut by Maggie Doolin!
This book was such an important eye-opener as to how lesbian love was forbidden as late as in the 1970s and 1980s, and the injustice in how society treated homosexuals. But most of all, it was a swooning, sweet and emotional rollercoaster for a love story, that I recommend with all my heart.
Thank you NetGalley and NineStar Press for the opportunity to read this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review!
4.5 shining new stars rounding up to 5
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