The Brutal Truth by Lee Winter

The Brutal Truth
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Lee Winter is a brilliant writer. Her books provide some of the things I love most: witty banter, icy queens who need an adorable woman to thaw them and hilarious supporting characters. The Brutal Truth has all of these things and is one of my absolute favorite books.

Elena Bartell isn’t prepared for Maddie Grey when she buys the failing Hudson Metro News. Maddie is the overnight girl who writes obits and crime stories. Maddie isn’t at all intimidated by Elena’s outward terrifying demeanor. Over late night conversations they begin to know each other and Elena is fascinated and exasperated with Maddie. She is just uniquely herself. She doesn’t want anything from Elena, she just seems to genuinely like her company. Elena is surrounded by people who wants something from her and Maddie is refreshing. It doesn’t take long for Elena to deduce that Maddie is the author of a blog called “Aliens of New York” that Elena has been reading for years. The blog details Maddie’s loneliness in New York City and how she longs to return to Sydney. Elena and Maddie see in each other what others overlook. Elena see Maddie’s loneliness as it mirrors her own and Maddie sees the humanity that Elena tries so hard to keep  hidden. It doesn’t take long for Maddie to develop feelings for her hot, intense boss until she fires her and tells her she isn’t a journalist.

A few days later Elena offers Maddie a job as her personal assistant and asks her to go with her to Sydney where she has to return to work on her Style Sydney magazine. Elena is giving Maddie a way to return to the city she loves but without the humiliation of coming back a failure in her career. They go to Sydney but their late night talks and teasing banter are gone. Maddie misses their interactions. She is consumed with thoughts of Elena. “She wanted to see her throw her back her head in laughter. Or in ecstasy. That thought thrilled her. It was a fantasy that sent shivers through Maddie. God, how she wanted her in every way imaginable”.

Elena is consumed with getting the elusive designer Veronique Duchamp for an interview. She sends loads of flowers which are rejected. Maddie thinks that was the wrong approach. Thus the truth bet comes about. If Maddie can’t get the attention of Veronique she must give Elena an entire day of honesty and if Maddie succeeds, Elena must be entirely honest for a week. Before the truth bet can get interesting Elena learns some some brutal truths about her husband that she refuses to accept and fires Maddie yet again.

Maddie befriends Veronique’s daughter Natalii and confesses her crush on Elena despite the fact that she is insufferable and keeps firing her.  Natalii finds her refreshing and she is granted access to Veronique for one question. That question will change Maddie’s life forever and may help her succeed in getting the love of one very acerbic tongued media mogul.

This book has some of the best supporting characters. Felicity, who will be getting her own story The Awkward Truth releasing in November, is absolutely hilarious. She can’t understand Elena’s fascination with the grunge t-shirt wearing Aussie and is befuddled when Maddie seems to be unstoppable. “Well, look who it is. The star of the whole damn universe”.  “You’ll look at me all doe-eyed with that aw-shucks Australian innocence and explained it all just happened. If I didn’t somewhat like you I would poke your eyes out with a cheese knife. Well, I would, if cheese knives weren’t so bloody close to the cheese platter.”  Natalii and Veronique Duchamp are two larger than life characters who provide some comic relief as well.

This book is simply riddled with perfect dialogue. “Was it wrong to be jealous of the whole world who owned Madeleine now? They would see her magnificence and never let her go. Sure, she would miss her. Her smile could be quite cheeky. As was the way she looked at Elena, past her title and mask, as though what lay beneath was all that really mattered. She was unaccustomed to anyone caring that much for her.”  “Madeleine I have long admired beauty in all its forms. Your unblemished, creamy skin the way it dips and flows and glows with vitality. What lover of beautiful things could resist looking at it?” “Do you know how rare and beautiful it is for two watchful, lonely souls like us to find each other?”

That is what makes this book so special. It’s a story of two lonely souls who find the person they are meant for in the most unlikely of packages. Elena may have a global empire but is missing someone who sees behind the mask she wears. When Maddie comes along and starts pealing it away Elena realizes how truly lonely she has been. Maddie is the sweet, observant woman we all want to fall in love with. She finds in Elena a kindred spirit who pushes her to be her best.  Both of these characters are so well developed and this book is truly a brilliant piece of writing. Lee Winter is on my Mt Rushmore of lesbian fiction writers. She writes dialogue that is intelligent and filled with humor. There is just no one better at creating memorable characters who are thought provoking and entertaining.  I love this book and I highly recommend reading it or listening to it on Audible.