In turn of the century San Francisco, two young women fight for love in a world where women are often invisible and passion is the privilege of the powerful.
Kerry O’Shea always handled what life threw at her. Growing up on San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, schooled in the streets by her con-man father, she fights to make a place for herself as a cook in the Palace Hotel. Escaping her roots made her plenty tough, but when she meets Beth Hammond, none of her street smarts matters. It's love at first sight, but how can such a love ever be possible?
Beth Hammond is every bit as strong as Kerry and proves it when she talks her domineering father into allowing her to study nursing. Drawn to Kerry in ways she doesn't understand, Beth fears the terrible secret she hides could destroy their relationship before it can even begin.
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Leisurely f/f coming of age story
Two young women in turn-of-the-century San Francisco come of age, struggle to find their feet, and find each other. Kerry had a rough beginning, often on the far side of the law, and more comfortable taken for a boy in trousers than playing the girl. Only a chance alliance between her father and an up-and-coming doctor gave her a chance at a way out of the rough Barbary Coast neighborhood. Beth’s strict middle-class upbringing gave her a surer future, but one where she struggled to make her own choices even as a brilliant nursing student. Both are drawn to each other, but only Kerry knows the truth of the desire they both feel.
Although Awake Unto Me is marketed as a romance, it feels much more like a bildungsroman in structure--a coming of age story that only happens to include romantic and erotic encounters as part of the two women’s exploration of the world. It may sound odd to say so, I but I would have found the story equally satisfying if those encounters had not been structured as the culmination of the plot, but had simply been an integral part of Kerry and Beth’s growing understanding of their identities and desires.
The writing style is spare and straightforward. The historic background was solidly researched if occasionally explained in more detail than necessary. I did wince a few times at historically-accurate but unchallenged bigotry expressed by secondary characters with regard to ethnicity and religion and the secondary characters tended to function primarily as setting.
Awake Until me does a good job at providing a window into a variety of women’s lives in historic San Francisco, for those interested in exploring history through women-centered lives.