Review of ‘The Other Women’ by Erin Zak
I’m not normally a fan of angst-ridden, full of lesbian drama books. If you add a love triangle and infidelity to that, it gets closer to my worst lesfic nightmare. This book has all of the above and somehow I really liked it.
Chicago businesswoman Cecily Yates has a husband, a successful career, and a four-year-long affair with a woman. Until that woman, Willow Carmichael, moves to Las Vegas in search of a better job opportunity and leaves Cecily heartbroken. Francesca Lopez is a bartender in a high-end hotel in Las Vegas who starts a love affair with Willow but is dumped soon after and also left heartbroken. When Cecily goes to Las Vegas on a business trip, she meets Francesca and starts a passionate affair, but will their connection resist the one woman that they have in common?
I envision that this book isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s common knowledge that infidelity and love triangles aren’t favourite themes for romance readers who tend to avoid them like the plague. Myself included. However, in my opinion, Ms. Zak was able to write a book with these elements and pull it off beautifully. Maybe it’s because the characters are relatable in their strengths but also in their shortcomings. Or perhaps is the strong chemistry between them. But somehow the story worked and captured my attention.
There is also the matter of insta-love between Cecily and Francesca, the intensity of their connection in just a few hours after their meeting. Even though I normally give out to insta-love stories, again, Ms. Zak makes it work in this context. In some way it makes absolute sense and, instead of being an artificial element in the plot, it plays an important part in describing the characters’ turmoil of emotions.
‘The Other Women’ is written in first person alternating the point of view of both main characters. The reader is submerged in their internal monologue, a bit like a stream of consciousness, where the psychic distance is very close and the reader witnesses their raw feelings, the intensity of their struggles, their guilt, their weaknesses, and ultimately, their humanity. I think that’s why this book worked for me, the psychic distance is so close that it’s impossible not to empathise with the characters, the identification with them leaves not enough separation to judge them. They are characters in deep turmoil and the readers are front-row witnesses.
I’m not sure if the crisis between them is absolutely justifiable or a bit contrived to make the plot advance. I wasn’t completely convinced but it’s hard to judge because the characters are in a weak position to make any type of adult decisions. But despite this, I’ve enjoyed the book a lot and I’m happy that I’ve read it even though it’s not normally my type of read. 4.5 stars.