The Gossip is the second novella in Jenny Holiday’s ‘80s themed New Adult series, the New Wave Newsroom. It focuses on the staff working at a college newspaper and with a modern historical setting of the 1980s, will bring a wave of nostalgia to readers of a certain age (like myself) with its references to the pop culture and music of the day (and big hair, and blue eyeshadow – those yearbook photos speak for themselves). Our heroine is Dawn, a young woman struggling to find her place and choosing the newspaper as a way to gain some recognition. But she soon finds out that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in a story that takes some emotional twists and turns before settling us with a happy ending.
Dawn’s first run in with twenty-eight year old campus Cop Arturo Perez comes when he catches her in the act of procuring vodka for a frat party, part of her sorority pledge duties. She’s eighteen, and desperate to get in with the popular crowd but no match for Arturo’s ability to spot trouble a mile away. When her pledge bid fails, she takes a new route, joining the campus newspaper as the gossip columnist, a sure fire way to get invited to all the best parties and find out all the behind the scenes juicy tidbits. But sure enough, Arturo always seems to find her in the thick of things (especially the somewhat illegal adventures) and they develop a real friendship. Some of Dawn’s stories have real consequences though, and when a sexual harassment complaint against a professor leads to a tragedy, it’s Arturo who is there to help her through them. If anyone sees the real woman behind the makeup, it’s him. When her college years are over, will it be the end of their time together too?
The story takes place over the span of Dawn’s school enrollment from 1980 to 1984. In the beginning she seems a little shallow with her desire to be a ‘queen bee’, high up on the popularity list. She believes that with her average looks and intelligence, the only way to get some attention is to be a social butterfly, and taking the gossip section of the paper ensures that she’ll always be noticed. But her reasons for wanting that attention stem from the lack of it at home, in particular because her father has always been more interested in her achievements than in her as a person. Over the course of the story, she matures and becomes less self-centered, especially when the reality of the effects of her reporting hit home. But she’s also funny and sweet and bubbly and really a genuinely nice person. It’s these things that attract Arturo to her, even as his position of authority keeps him at arm’s length, at least until she’s in her last year of school.
Arturo is the good guy hero. Tall, well-built and handsome, he catches many a female eye on campus. His family hails from Boston, where his father is a cop, as is his sister; and Arturo has followed in their footsteps – except for one small detail. He likes working on the college campus. He’s not interested in joining the Boston police force, despite his family constantly nagging him to do so. Every semester he puts them off, feeling a responsibility to the students at the college and knowing that he’s providing a valuable service. And after he meets Dawn, he wants to make sure that she’s safe and protected especially with the antics that she seems to always get involved in. And when she needs a friend and a shoulder to cry on, he’s there for her in a heartbeat.
This is a slow burn romance, not unexpectedly, given their age difference and the time Dawn and Arturo need to really get to know each other. But they do eventually end up in some intimate scenes together that are well written and show the depth of feeling that has developed between them. It is a coming of age story for Dawn, who learns a lot about herself and what she really wants for her future. Arturo’s compassionate nature and strength are the grounding Dawn needs to find her way, and I really like the way the story plays out from beginning to end. There are some teary parts, some laugh out loud parts and some swoonworthy parts, too. In the end, it’s a lovely romance with a satisfying happy ending, and I look forward to reading more of the series.