ARC Review: Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

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“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda. The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

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I think it was a few months ago that I first saw the cover for this book, which while it looked interesting with an equally intriguing title – it was the blurb talking about “queer librarian spies on horseback in future American Southwest” that sealed the deal that I had to read this one. I never expected to get the ARC but I did request on a whim, so imagine my surprise when I got approved for it. And I just had the urge to read it immediately and it was so much fun.

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It’s kinda difficult to describe much about the book without giving a lot away because it’s less than 200 pages. It has a very Wild West feel to it, with lots of traveling on horseback in the deserts of Arizona but I actually haven’t read any westerns, so I mostly got the vibe based on whatever movies I’ve watched. The world building is also kept very vague and we mostly get to know nothing about why this America seems to be divided, just that there seems to be a lot of dissemination of propaganda and conservatism on one side. Nevertheless, the plot is extremely fast paced and it was an adventure ride that didn’t let up for even a moment. It was hella fun with a lot of banter and cheeky dialogue, a couple of great action sequences and lots of female bonding.

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The characters are definitely the X factor in this book. Esther is a little naive, who wants to become a librarian because she thinks she doesn’t deserve a good life as she is queer and just wants to do some good things in life before gets her bad ending. But she is extremely resourceful and observant and brave, and it was nice to see her discover through the course of the story that there are others like her and she is allowed to find happiness and purpose. Bet and Leda are a badass power couple and though we get few interactions with them, they were awesome. Cle is a great companion and right from the beginning, watching their developing dynamic with Esther was delightful and I thought the author captured the attraction between them very well. Amity was a total mystery for the most part but she also gave Esther some much needed advice, so I really couldn’t fault her slightly devious machinations.

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To conclude, all I want to say is I had fun reading this book. If you like reading adventurous westerns and some lovely queer representation, then this charming little novella is perfect for you. It’ll delight you and make you think and also fill you with hope, just like it’s very hopeful ending (or beginning), full of promise of more adventures to come.

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PS: Thank you to Tor.com and Netgalley for providing me with this advance review copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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