I love to read historical fiction, so In My Heart by Bette Hawkins caught my eye immediately. The cover also got my attention and let me know the story was probably set in the 1950’s. I was correct in my assumption.
The story is set in 1958 in a small Southern town. The tale is told in first person POV through the eyes of Alice Johnson, a twenty-five year old woman who is still living with her parents. She is an amateur guitarist and songwriter when she is not working as a telephone operator. When she hears a new country artist named Dorothy Long on the radio, she becomes inspired to write songs specifically for her voice. Through a set of circumstances, she gets to meet Dorothy, and everything changes for both of them.
This is my mother’s generation. I was just a baby when this story takes place, and my mother would have been just a few years older than Alice. We also lived in a small town in the deep South, probably not that different from where Alice lives. This is the age where LGBTQ+ folks could not come out publicly. Being out meant you could lose everything from your family to your friends, job, and freedom. On top of this, women had few rights at that time. By Alice’s age, she was supposed to be married and a housewife with children, not working and living with her parents. This is the backdrop of the story and affects how all of the characters in the book act. I liked how the author kept the focus on the romance of the two main characters. The homophobia and misogyny is inferred in the secondary characters and does cause problems for Alice and Dorothy, but never really becomes overt in the novel.
This is a story of survival; of finding happiness in a world that is definitely against LGBTQ+ folks having that. To me it was a positive story, a feel good story in spite of the setting. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bella Books for an honest review.