Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Review - Can’t We Be Friends

Title:   Can't We Be Friends
Author:  Denny S. Bryce & Eliza Knight
Publisher:  William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre:   Historical Fiction
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   384
Date of Publication:   March 5, 2024
My Rating:   5 Stars


Award-winning author Denny S. Bryce and USA Today bestselling author Eliza Knight collaborate on a brilliant novel that uncovers the boundary-breaking, genuine friendship between Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Jazz, and iconic movie star Marilyn Monroe.  

One woman was recognized as the premiere singer of her era with perfect pitch and tireless ambition. 

One woman was the most glamorous star in Hollywood, a sex symbol who took the world by storm.

And their friendship was fast and firm… 

1952: Ella Fitzgerald is a renowned jazz singer whose only roadblock to longevity is society’s attitude toward women and race. Marilyn Monroe’s star is rising despite ongoing battles with movie studio bigwigs and boyfriends. When she needs help with her singing, she wants only the best—and the best is the brilliant Ella Fitzgerald. But Ella isn’t a singing teacher and declines—then the two women meet, and to everyone’s surprise but their own, they become fast friends. 

On the surface, what could they have in common? Yet each was underestimated by the men in their lives—husbands, managers, hangers-on. And both were determined to gain. Each fought for professional independence and personal agency in a time when women were expected to surrender control to those same men. 

This novel reveals and celebrates their surprising bond over a decade and serves as a poignant reminder of how true friendship can cross differences to bolster and sustain us through haunting heartbreak and wild success.

Two women going in different directions in life, and both famous. Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Jazz, and Marilyn Monroe, a movie star. When Marilyn Monroe has an upcoming part in a movie where she will be singing, she appeals to Ella Fitzgerald in a series of letters to be her mentor. Marilyn Monroe has long idolized Ella Fitzgerald, and she is certain that she can learn much from her.

At first, Ella's cousin and assistant answers Marilyn's letters, as Ella is no teacher, and she has a lot on her plate. She experiences both bigotry and sexism, and this is despite her incredible talent. She is also judged for being a full-figured woman. However, her talent is second to none and she works hard at her career, all while her personal life goes through many changes.

Not only does Ella have her battles, Marilyn does as well. Her relationships are filled with trouble and with more than one marriage and divorce, Marilyn continues to reach for happiness. With regard to her career, she is thriving...if only she could feel confident in her singing.

After a bevy of letters from Marilyn, Ella eventually responds personally. This is the beginning of an incredible friendship. While the women are literally as different as night and day, the time they spend together grows more special each time they meet. As they lived in a time where women were not treated as fairly as men, and this included the salaries paid to them compared to their male counterparts, each woman fought for her career. Their friendship continued to thrive, but tragically, Marilyn died young, at the age of 36 years of age, as she lost her battle with drugs.

Although this book is written as historical fiction, with more than a bit of literary license, it proved to be an excellent read. It was like looking into a window during the 1950s when the two women were friends. This book proved the intense research the authors must have done as they penned this marvelous book. Not only was this a stellar read, the authors' notes at the end provide even more insight. I thank both Ms. Bryce and Ms. Knight for writing this incredible book. 

Many thanks to William Morrow Paperbacks and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.


Denny S. Bryce is the bestselling, award-winning author of three novels: THE OTHER PRINCESS, A FACE IN THE SUN, and WILD WOMEN AND THE BLUES. She is also an NPR book critic, an adjunct professor at Drexel University, and a freelance writer who has written for Harper’s Bazaar and USA Today. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Tall Poppy Writers. She is represented by Wendy Sherman at Wendy Sherman Associates Literary Management.

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Eliza Knight is an award-winning and USA Today bestselling author.

Her love of history began as a young girl when she traipsed the halls of Versailles and ran through the fields in Southern France. She can still remember standing before the great golden palace, and imagining what life must have been like. Join Eliza (sometimes as E.) on riveting historical journeys that cross landscapes around the world.

While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends.

She is the creator of the popular historical blog, History Undressed and a co-host on the History, Books and Wine podcast.

She lives atop a small mountain with her own knight in shining armor, three princesses, two very naughty Newfies, and a turtle named Fish.

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