Publisher: Bella Books
Grace Dunlop and Harper Alessi meet as young girls and become best friends. They take tennis lessons together, attend the same school, come out as debutantes and enroll in the same college. As the years pass they become closer, take trips together and become intimate, but neither is willing to admit she’s a lesbian. When Harper is ready to reveal her feelings to Grace, things do not go well and the girls are separated for twelve years. The second part of the book deals with the women after those years, how they have developed and how they resolve their situation. For them to be together, it will require a great sacrifice on Grace’s part. Harper has already put herself on the line and been hurt. The question is whether or not Grace is willing to make her decision and have the courage to go to Harper because it will totally rearrange Grace’s very comfortable world.
Jukebox takes its name from the fact that each chapter is titled after a popular song that relates to the theme of that chapter. The book is unusual in that it begins as a coming out novel about two young girls; then skips a significant amount of time to become a book about the relationship between two women. That means there is a large portion of the women’s development missing. What happens during the years they are separated to set them up for the second part of the book isn’t there and that information might have been helpful for the story development.
Daggett had the courage to write a book that is sometimes difficult to read. Most romance fans want the story to progress in a certain way and Daggett doesn’t conform to that formula. She rips her lovers apart with no certainty of reunification. She also reveals a significant amount about the emotions people go through as they discover they are gay, try to reorient themselves to what that means and deal with the stresses that come from family and community. The fact that the book starts in the 1980s shows that, contrary to some opinions, that is still very much an ongoing struggle.
Readers looking for a traditional romance won’t find it here. It is a well written book though and the story is good enough to hold the reader’s interest. It may also trigger some memories, both happy and painful. The ending is a bit of a cliché, but that doesn’t mean the reader won’t be entertained.