Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review- Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary by Monica Nolan

Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary
by Monica Nolan
Aug 2007
Lesbian/humor/ pulp-1950’s
256 pgs.- Kensington

Buy it Amazon, B&N

Wild Women! Lurid Adventures! Shocking Desires! And A Lot Of Filing.

The story your mother never told you--printed here for your own good.

Lois Lenz was like any other wholesome former cheerleader with a knack for office skills--until she took a job at Sather & Sterling in bustling Bay City. Spending her days in the cut-throat typing pool and her nights at the all-women's residence of Magdalena Arms, Lois had no idea she was entering a world of working girls whose passionate desires--and fabulous fashion sense--could lead any innocent lamb astray...

Netta--serious and smart, she's unlike any woman Lois has known...

Maxie--The height of society fashion, and girls are so very in style...

Pamela--Lois's old high school Pep Squad pal certainly has changed...

Miss Gill--the office manager has secrets and plenty of file cabinets to keep them in...

Dolly--an actress whose martini shaker is as busy as her love life...

Mrs. Pierson--"The hyena," Lois's boss, her office is a place of hard work and private dictation...
And many more!

Lois Lenz--she was a good girl a long way from home about to discover that not everything is what it seems, navy is a bad suit choice, and love can bloom in the strangest of places...

I’ve been so bored lately with the books I’ve started reading, tired of the usual erotica, or common lesbian story lines and have wanted to read something completely different. When I saw the title and cover of this book, I knew I had to read it. I was hoping it’d be campy, retro, and humorous and it didn’t disappoint at all. It was a blast reading this book. It’s light, slightly irreverent and honors lesbian pulp of the 50’s.

From the book cover: Her soul was pure, Her desires were sinful, Her typing was impeccable. Buwahaha! I’m sorry, but this totally grabbed me.

Have any of you seen the spoof movie The Brady Bunch Movie? The movie pulls the Brady family out of the 70’s and places them into the 90’s. The family still act as if they are living in the 70’s and their cluelessness and naiveté about how things are in the 90’s makes for funny moments. This is how Lois Lenz comes across in this book. Like she’s from the 50’s but was dropped into later times, although the story and other characters are in the 50’s. Written in 2007, this story is both a spoofy take on 50’s pulp fiction, as well as the popular beliefs at that time.

It’s 1957 and Lois and her best friend Faye, the most popular girl in school, are graduating from high school. From a small town called Walnut Grove, they are fairly naïve about the ways of the world. Both girls have been practicing kissing with each other so they can be better experienced with the boys. But Lois rather enjoys these little sessions, even though she doesn’t understand why, and wishes she could practice more often with Faye. In fact, she’s a bit frustrated and would like to practice some 2nd and 3rd base techniques as well.

Lois and Faye are inherently different though. Faye is all about becoming the perfect---kept in a style which she’s being brought up in--- woman, while Lois has ambitions to realize her talent for filing and organization. Lois’ guidance counselor suggests that she go to the big city and work since she’s so talented at typing and such. Going against Faye’s magnetic hold on her, Lois decides to go to Bay City and work for the summer and convinces her mother that she will not be taken by white slave traders, nor will she be seduced by those commies and marijuana users since she will be staying at a “very safe” boarding house for women.

Since a job at the most famous advertising agency has been lined up for her already, she moves into the 5th floor of the Magdalena Arms boarding house. The women are all nice and friendly, but right away, Lois notices something very “queer” (snort) about the women and there’s definitely something they're all hiding. But what could it be, she wonders? heh

Lois starts working for the queen byotch (The Hyena), the most influential female advertising executive and she is berated every day by her. But she stays “gay” and all in her attitude and tries to fit in.

Slowly she realizes that no one is who they seem and finds herself embroiled in all kinds of sexual (although she stays pretty clueless about her attractions to women) antics, work intrigues and boarding house secrets. Things come to a head and she tries to fit all the mysterious pieces together.

Normally, I get pissed off at Mary Sue characters. Let’s face it, Lois is a goody-two-shoes who always does the right thing and points out when others are doing less than legal or good things. But in this case, she’s so delightfully clueless that it’s entertaining.

I mean she takes things so literally; like when the girls ask her if she likes girls and she replies that, of course, her best friend is a girl--- then wonders why would anyone ask such a thing. And she has no idea that she might be one of those “career girl lesbians!” She sees all the signs: she's sexually seduced by her boss, which had an interesting twist, and a co-worker, she walks in on a girl that used to be a crush of hers on the cheerleader squad with one of the girls at her boarding house half naked and rubbing up against each other, and yet, she still doesn’t get it. It’s almost hilarious how out of touch she is. In fact, everyone around her can’t believe that she’s so clueless and there are a few Being There moments in which some think she’s uber brilliant in acting so dumb!

Ms Nolan kept Lois walking a line that didn’t make her pathetic or a someone who'd be the brunt of ridicule. The juxtaposition of everyone else being savvy to what’s going on, while Lois is clueless made this story more interesting. I rather liked Lois. Once she figures things out (it takes a long while), she’s very accepting and goes with the flow. Even to the point of again, being out of touch with how society will perceive her. But that made her charming and endearing.

Other than that, there are a gaggle of other characters, all lesbian and all colorfully different and clearly characterized. Outside of the obvious lesbian angle, it was fun that the author included all those typically feared things and ideals of the 50’s: the threat of commies, getting hooked on drugs and losing control (heh, Lois tells about watching a movie about it in high school. Reefer Madness anyone?), women having careers vs. aspiring to being the perfect wife and mother, and so on.

The writing is easy flowing with lots of double entendres to today’s usage of words (queer, gay) and period slang. There really isn’t much of a love story, although the author tried to tie things up in that area. That part didn’t work for me since I couldn’t see Lois feeling like she did with that particular girl. Not enough sexual or romantic tension there. And Lois does muse that she’s becoming one of those sex crazed women she’s read about in the popular rag mag since she has a sexual attraction to almost everyone at some point.

All in all, I highly recommend this book just for the fun of it. The retro vibe and characterizations are realistic, a bit funny, and it’s written quite well.

Heat level- 1- there are references to sex and some sexual scenarios, but they are not graphically written.

Grade: B+


Cathy in AK said...

This sounds like a hoot : ) I may have to get myself an early-ish b-day present.

LVLM(Leah) said...

Cathy- it's not laugh-out-loud funny. But there's humor in how it cleverly looks like a retro written story but spoofs it on some level as well. I really enjoyed it.

If it weren't a library book, I'd send it to you!

I am thinking of buying her latest book, Bobby Blanchard Lesbian Gym Teacher just because I like Monica Nolan's style. Just might have to drive a ways to get it. Ugh. I hate that book stores don't have a huge gay/lesbian section.

Cathy in AK said...

I hate that book stores don't have a huge gay/lesbian section.

Try finding some in a very conservative small town : ) I was shocked when I found Emma Donaghue's Landing in the library.

LVLM(Leah) said...

Cathy- this is one thing I really love about where I live. Seattle and King county has the most amazing library system and you can get pretty much anything if I can't get it in a book store.

I just ordered Bobby Blanchard Lesbian Gym Teacher from Amazon and got it for only $6.86. Woot!