The Fifth Gospel

The Fifth Gospel - Michelle Grubb The Catholic Church is rocked by rumors of what may turn out to be the biggest scandal to hit it in modern times. A scandal so serious it may shake the thousand-year-old institution to its foundations. But the Vatican is keeping mum...not admitting or denying anything. Enterprising (or opportunistic, for some) investigative journalist Felicity 'Flic' Bastone, capitalizing on an overheard conversation, writes a fictional novel that seems to be uncannily accurate. Our fictional Dan Brown finds herself an overnight celebrity author courtesy of the scandal and embarks on an adventure of a lifetime. But one doesn't tear down an institution without ruffling a few feathers. From book readings and promo tours to dodging bullets and bombs, has she bitten off more than she can chew? Helping Flic navigate her newfound fame and infamy is her publisher's best marketer, Anne. Flic is instantly smitten, but not only is Anne 'not' gay, she just happens to be the most devout Catholic around.

I love these kinds of plots that are sadly all too rare in lesfic. I don't mean the religious themes per se but the bold, engrossing, headline-grabbling yet completely plausible storylines. Of course, my main reason for reading this (the fact that it's a lesbian genre romance) also pretty much guarantees the plot's ultimate outcome and consequently it's predictability. But no matter. As every romance lover knows, it's the journey that counts. ;)

The progession of Flic and Anna's relationship--from reluctant and somewhat antagonistic colleagues to friends to something more, is very well done. I quite enjoyed Anna's personal journey from strict religious conformity to a more open and accepting worldview, to eventual enlightenment. Of course, viewed from the other side, it can also be described as her 'corruption and descent into sin and eternal damnation', lol. The book strikes a good balance between exploring the character's internal conflicts in-depth and moving the plot along. Thankfully there are no endless philosophical or theological musings or debates. I also liked how the book doesn't demean or belittle Anna's faith.

I would have liked to get into Flic's head more with regards to her seemingly unrequited crush on Anna. What is it exactly about Anna that attracts her so? Was it all physical? Was it her eyes? hair? Was it Anna's take-charge personality? Or was it the fact that Anna is the most unattainable woman to her? Being that physically close to someone who is essentially her 'forbidden fruit' must be excruciating. A good part of the book has Flic attempting to tear down Anna's great wall of unshakeable Catholic faith, and Anna's steadfast defense of it. Flic and Anna spend a great deal of alone time together and I just thought...maybe if the author gave us more angst (lol, you know me...) on the part of Flic... wouldn't it just be heavenly? But I did love the after-sex talk. Flic's bit about cheating is gold.

The book contains some thriller elements but it never really approaches the level of a true thriller. Flic's first brush with danger, including its aftermath, was very well written. But the subsequent incidents felt almost like 'another day, another assassination attempt' as if Flic herself was resigned to their inevitability. There was also never any mystery as to who the perpetrators were and we never really knew why they did it. If this were perpetrated by a lone wolf, it would be easy to explain away but why would an entire organization want to kill a fiction writer when the real author of the entire 'scandal' sits right there in the Vatican?

ARC from netgalley.

4.45 stars (mostly for the audacious premise)

P.S. The spoilers are minor and may be clicked if you can't decide on the book.