Book Review

Keeper Shelf: The Carlisle Series (Truth and Measure & Above All Things) by Roslyn Sinclair

Tara: When this duology was announced two years ago, I was not okay. I’ve been equal parts terrified and thrilled since then, because my favourite fanfic of all time was being turned into original fiction. Could it hold up? Truth and Measure is THE definitive Mirandy (Devil Wears Prada [DWP]) fic in a still-thriving fandom. I’ve probably read it a dozen times in the last 5 years and I’ve often referenced it as one of my favourite books, because at 300,000ish words, that counts (to me, anyway).

I was thrilled and delighted to learn that Susan is an equally huge fan of DWP fanfic and of Truth and Measure. I was even more thrilled when she agreed to review these books with me. One word of caution before we begin: neither of these books stand alone and they must be read together.

Susan: And I’m overjoyed that Tara invited me, because I need to squee about these books. I’ve been a huge fan of Roslyn Sinclair’s fiction since I was new to fandom altogether, so seeing my favourite of her works getting a new form is fantastic.

Tara: When Truth and Measure opens, Jules Moretti has been Vivian Carlisle’s executive assistant for around a year. She knows all of her boss’s tastes and moods, the ins and outs of how Vivian runs Du Jour magazine, and is the absolute boss of Vivian’s schedule. But when Vivan learns she’s unexpectedly pregnant thanks to one last hurrah with her soon-to-be-ex husband, Jules’s involvement in Vivian’s life goes to a whole other level. Being pulled even further into each other’s orbit means they can’t help but fall in love — even if it’s the worst possible timing.

In Above All Things, Jules is no longer working for Vivian. They’re navigating a romantic relationship, with regular challenges thrown their way like Jules’s new job, Vivian’s workaholism, and that small matter of a baby arriving soon. While their chemistry and care for each other is abundant, they have to figure out how to prioritize each other if they’re going to get their HEA.

So, let’s get one thing out of the way immediately, because I know some of you are wondering: yes, Jules is still working for Vivian when they first get together. I know this can be an immediate turn-off for some readers, so if that’s on your never-read theme list, this series may not be for you. However, I found the characters were very sensitive to both the optics and the actuality of their situation, especially Vivian. She doesn’t want to be the predatory boss and knows how bad it can be for some women in the fashion industry. However, and this is major for making it not feel gross to me, Jules maintains agency the whole way through both books. I especially loved seeing how she worked with the bizarre, hilarious compromise that Vivian proposes so they can be together while toeing the line (I won’t detail the compromise here, because it’s truly one to be experienced and not have spoiled, but it’s one of my favourite scenes I’ve ever come across in romance).

Susan: I absolutely cackled when I got to that part, so I’m with Tara on this. On the employee/employer front, for me it also helps that Jules has seen Vivian at her worst; not just her persona as a heartless goddess of fashion, but also the Situation with the soon-to-be-ex husband. There aren’t any illusions about what they’re both getting into! It does get into the wealth disparity as well, so if that’s one of your squicks it might be okay.

Tara: Those are some excellent points. If anyone knows Vivian, it’s Jules.

Jules and Vivian are my all-time top couple in romance. The whole story is told from Jules’s perspective, so we’re able to see the way she changes over time as her perception of Vivian changes from mere boss, to boss Jules would desperately like to bang, to the only person for Jules. Her pining for Vivian is delicious, especially when she doesn’t believe Vivian feels the same about her.

Susan: It has the single best use of “Oh. <em>Oh.</em>” I have ever seen. That entire section is delicious and painful, I love it.

Tara: It really is the best when Jules figures out that Vivian feels the same, isn’t it?

Vivian’s used to being an ice queen, cold and demanding to those who work for her, and doing whatever is needed to ensure the magazine’s success, and therefore her own. And yet, when it comes to Jules, Vivian thaws over time. I found myself slowing my reading every time we see Vivian soften a little, because she only ever does it for Jules. The very first page even includes a clue that Vivian already perceives Jules as more worthy of her respect and attention than most.

To me, they work so well because their power balance shifts as the story goes along. Although they begin with a boss/employee relationship, Vivian grows to need Jules on a soul-deep level, in a way that she’s never needed anyone else, ex-husbands included. So, Vivian gives up much of the power she’s typically held with Jules and makes space for Jules to be an equal partner. And because Jules also understands that she has value and deserves a significant place in Vivian’s life, Jules pushes back when Vivian’s busy schedule threatens their relationship.

Susan: The negotiations Jules and Vivian do around their relationship are delicious. Jules and Vivian want to do everything for each other! Vivian wants to wield her power *on Jules’ behalf* to get her publishing opportunities, whereas Jules wants to prove herself by building her own career without Vivian smoothing the way; Jules enjoys being involved in every aspect of Vivian’s life as her employee and girlfriend, where Vivian is uncertain about it… I’ve joked that the relationship hinges on their mutual obsession, but is it a joke if it’s true? My point is that they both do so much work on the page to negotiate and renegotiate, to show love without overstepping, and it’s *incredibly* satisfying to read.

Tara: The mutual obsession is what kept me coming back to the fic again and again, so I’m relieved that it’s still there!

Something else that really sets The Carlisle Series apart for me is that, by the end, I had no doubts about the future of their relationship. Telling Jules and Vivian’s story over two books means we see them get together, weather some pretty major early challenges (like Vivian’s boss trying to push her out of the magazine), and choose each other every single time. As much as I could have happily read more pages about them, I was completely satisfied by the time I was finished.

Susan: Despite the painful wait between getting hold of Truth and Measure and Above All Things being available?

Above All Things
A | BN | K | AB
Tara: Well, that was horrible. Luckily that won’t be a problem for anyone else, since both books are available now!

I have zero complaints about The Carlisle Series. However, because they don’t stand alone, reading this will require a significant financial investment. F/f romances from small publishers already cost notably more than other romances and I don’t take it lightly that I’m suggesting spending $20 for one story — and that’s just for the ebooks. Between the characters and truly seeing them through to an established HEA, however, I believe it’s worth it. If that’s more than your book budget can bear, I recommend either asking your local library to stock them or to subscribe to the publisher’s newsletter, since they have regular sales.

Susan: My only concern is that I have no idea how this would read going in cold, because Tara and I have both read the fic version so many times. I think everything is done well enough that it shouldn’t matter, but I would love to hear from people in the comments who’ve only read The Carlisle Series and not the DWP fic.

For me, the balance of old and new material is seamless, and Jules and Vivian are perfectly drawn characters. I love getting to see Jules get to be competent and invested in queerness in the fashion industry! I love getting to see Vivian adoring Jules and working to equalise them! But most of all I love that The Carlisle Series did the impossible and let me read one of my favourite stories for the first time again.

Tara: I’m so relieved that my worries were for nothing. In fact, the books immediately became my favourite story. Hands down, no question, direct to #1 position on my Keeper Shelf. All of the elements and moments I loved about the fanfic are there, all the stuff I didn’t care about was cut, and all of the new content positively delighted me. I’ve already read this twice and can safely say, I’ll never read the fanfic again. The Carlisle Series is wonderful and gives me that special something that I’m excited to re-experience again and again.

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Truth and Measure by Roslyn Sinclair

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  1. Ms. M says:

    I’m fascinated by the phenomenon of these fanfic-inspired novels that take a couple of character types from a movie and make them into an original novel. The Fifty Shades series is the most well-known but I can think of at least three novels/series clearly inspired by Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy and there are definitely more of this type out there. And these books, as this review shows, can be quite good too! I’d love there to be a Rec League devoted to this concept.

  2. Jill Q. says:

    I generally feel a bit squeamish about boss/employee romances esp if there’s a bit of age/life experience gap on top of that, but I’m definitely intrigued by this. I may have to give it a go. Good job squeeing, everybody!

  3. Genia says:

    I’ve never read the fanfic, but absolutely love these books! I’m sure I will read them over and over again.

  4. Lisa F says:

    I had no idea the Devil Wears Prada fandom was so big; I hang out in other haunts! The book series sounds intriguing.

  5. HeatherS says:

    I don’t mind a well-done workplace boss/employee trope (looking at you, Something To Talk About!). The Nope Trope for me is the pregnancy trope. I nope right out of pretty much every book that involves pregnancy or babies.

  6. RoseRead says:

    Wonderful review — thank you.

    I am about half-way through Truth & Measure, having bought it for my 19-year-old daughter a month or so ago. She’s an avid reader and was looking for some f/f romance. (It’s a head-scratcher to me why there is so much more easily accessible quality m/m. Anyway, I am really enjoying it, but the real reason I wanted to post is because of how much my daughter LOVED it!!

    She read it and handed it off to me telling I had to read it immediately and that I had to order the sequel (we got both in hard copy). And then she took T&M back from me and proceeded to re-read it several times until Above All Things arrived. And she devoured that one and it made her so very happy. I can’t stress enough how much she loved the series. And, the kicker is that she’s never seen the Devil Wears Prada and didn’t realize that the series was related to a movie until I told her. Highly recommend.

  7. Y Perrt says:

    I usually stay clear of age gap tropes but I was initially intrigued by the cover of the book. I imagine the pic is of Vivian. I ventured to read the first book and was in no way disappointed. I have read the first book three times and second twice. I even went so far as to purchase them on audible and read by Abby Craden was even more delicious. To everyone involved in the creation of this series author, arist Abby reader at audible…kudos well done

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