hi, hello, yes its been a while, no i haven't completed my reviews of the last two bridgerton books i read like i said i would, whatever whatever whatever. i want to complain. and this is my website and absolutely nobody can stop me except for my own adhd. anyways.

so i read plain bad heroines by emily m danforth recently, right? and i have a lot of things to say about it because for the first 540 or so pages (the book is a good 600 pages. i read three hundred pages each time i went to the park, which is now on mondays, because that's the only real free day i have to go to the park now that school has started) i really loved it and then in the last few chapters everything went to shit. so i'm going to complain about it and i guess you're going to read it and maybe i'll figure something out about it on the way. like my hope here is through analysis i will find literally anything, because i did love the rest of this book and i want to be able to love the ending too.


so plain bad heroines has two plotlines. (forgive me if i forget the fine details of any of this. also, SPOILERS! ! !)

the first one, chronologically and the first one to appear in the book, is the 1900s plotline, following the events at brookhants school for girls after two girls are found in an orchard after being stung to death by wasps, with a copy of mary maclane's the story of mary maclane next to them. (side note: i thought for the whole book that mary maclane was made up for the story. nope she's a real person and she was openly bisexual in the 1900s. good for u girl.)

a black and white picture of mary maclane, taken in 1918. she is wearing a black dress with a high collar, and her hair is done in a frizzy updo (similar to gibson girls). her eyes are closed, and she appears at a 3/4 angle towards the viewer. with one hand she is touching her chest, and with the other she appears to be in the motion of dropping a ring. there is text at the top that reads 'mary maclane' and what appears to be the numbers '4515-6' in white.

here's a picture of mary maclane. i just learned how to insert images, can you tell? now if only i could get the formatting to work too.

the two girls, clara and flo, were in love with each other, and created the Plain Bad Heroines Society. after they died, three more people would die at brookhants, eventually leading to it shutting down. the first of these death is eleanor faderman, who was the one who took flo and clara's copy of the story of mary maclane. when flo and clara would have dates in the greenhouse, she was usually there in secret, as she was the main person working in there. she experienced a noted change in personality afterwards, suddenly chanting to herself, neglecting her previous duties at the greenhouse (called the orangerie by the way, which is pretentious but beautiful) in order to read the book, and eventually killing herself by eating angel's trumpet flowers. but this storyline isn't about any of these girls.

the storyline is actually about lizzie brookhants and alex trills, headmistress and teacher at brookhants. lizzie and alex were college sweethearts- lizzie came from a well off family, and married harold brookhants, the founder of the school, and a much older man who died not long after they were married. her and alex are in love, but are dealing with relationship issues: their relationship is a lot more open than alex would like it to be, but lizzie doesn't think it's all that big of a deal if other women flirt with her. slowly, alex is driven mad while lizzie tries desperately to hold her life together.

the modern plotline focuses on three women. audrey wells is a former child star, and daughter of caroline wells, famous for starring in house mother 2, a horror series, and for having a breakdown where while drunk, she drove into a house's fence and was attacked by a dog, leaving her with permanent scars on her face. audrey has a strained relationship with her mother- they care about each other, but they come into conflict a lot. harper harper (quirky, yes, yes, i know, but we are forgiving) is a newly famous it girl and, i swear this is the book's word, not mine, "celesbian" who, after rapidly shooting to fame from obscurity, is struggling to adjust to fame and the new circles she runs in. merrit emmons is the author of a book called The Happenings At Brookhants, which details flo and clara's story. she's dealing with her own imposter syndrome and trying desperately to write another book, as she feels the first one was a fluke. audrey and harper have been cast to play parts in the movie adaption. audrey is at first cast to play a minor role, but is quickly moved to play clara alongisde harper as flo. this doesn't go over well with merrit, who doesn't think she has what it takes. the director of the movie, meanwhile, enlists audrey to help him pretend that the production is actually haunted, because he wants to do something meta with the movie. audrey reluctantly agrees. however. strange and suspicious things begin actually happening on set, and it becomes harder and harder to tell what is real.

both sets of protagonists are haunted, both by the events at brookhants, the ground that it is built on, and by the yellow jackets that seem to follow them whereever they go.

a color picture of emily m danforth, taken from her website and credited to chris mongeau. she is a white woman with short white hair and dark eyes who is smiling at the viewer. she is wearing a grey turtleneck, and is rubbing the back of her head, as if bashful.

a picture of emily m danforth, author of plain bad heroines. credit to chris mongeau.


in the interest of not being a total hater, let's start with the things i did like!

i liked the voice of the narrator! its that thing, fucking uhhh....first person omniscient? is that a thing? anyways, the narrator directly addresses the reader and makes jokes and shit. it's nice! i thought it was a fun way of doing things.

i also really liked all of the characters, which was surprising considering how large the cast was. even when characters were dicks i could still sympathize with them. they were all unique too, without being unbearably quirky (i know what i said about harper harper earlier, but you get used to it after a few hundred pages). each character had understandable reasons and motivations for doing what they did, (with maybe one exception, but that's mainly part of my ??? at the ending). audrey, harper, and merritt were all really interesting characters who played off of each other really well, even if i wanted to smack merritt at times. (a moment i really liked was merritt feeling like she was haunting her own life, taking walks around town and seeing people's lives going on, but not feeling a part of anything. bitch, me too.) they felt messy and they felt real. and the way they fall in love is also nice. they bite and snap and fight at each other for a good deal of the book, but by the time the apple orchard hits, it feels right.

(alright, sidebar. through the whole book i tried fancasting these three as various actresses. the only person i could think of for harper was maya hawke, for some reason. i'm gonna be honest, i've only just finished season two of stranger things, and the only thing i know about maya hawke is that she's uma thurman and ethan hawke's kid (wow, i actually know these celebrities this time! granted, ive only seen ethan hawke in moon knight, and i only know uma thurman from the fall out boy song. that's not much but it counts) which, uh, would make her a nepotism baby. and given harper's background it's not very fitting, lmao. but the only thing i could see was maya hawke! audrey gets described as "normcore anna kendrick" which...is now a good time to admit i don't know what normcore means? i thought anna kendrick was already normcore. and i will also be honest, anna kendrick is a generic white woman to me. i cannot think of a woman who is more generic white woman than anna kendrick. so audrey doesn't have a fancast, sorry. and i have the clearest picture in my head of merrit's face, but i cannot think fo any actress who fits it. in my head her face is very round, and her eyebrows are thick and sort of pinch together, she's got big thick round glasses and frizzy hair, and she's got a mouth that's perpetually grumpy. like nancy from the craft. anyways those are my thoughts on fancasting.)

(side sidebar. i just looked through the fancast tag on tumblr to see if i could find anything. 1.) how are people still into harry potter in this, two thousand and twenty two. get a life! read another book! stop supporting racist, fascist terfs! jkr uses the support she gets from harry potter to influence legislature against trans youth in england STOP FUCKING POSTING ABOUT IT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD 2.) WOW everyone here is super white. when will fandom learn that people of color exist? dark skinned people of color even!)

i also really liked that the 1900s storyline focused on lizzie and alex rather than flo, clara, and eleanor. we don't get a lot of stories about middle aged lesbians, y'know? it was nice to see. we know from the beginning what happens to these characters- it tells you in the synopsis. three deaths follow flo and clara's. the horror is, then, in finding out how they die, and what lead to it. the mounting terror you feel for alex and lizzie, the slow creeping horror of their backstory, the time you spend getting to know how they fell in love slowly becoming sinister as their relationship falls apart, the pain after alex dies and lizzie is left in the house alone- wow.

the atmosphere and tone were also great. it REALLY captured the feeling of gothic horror well. i loved the language that was used. it's so...i don't know how to describe it. it felt like black ink on white paper and also like the colors in spencer (2021). i think i'd eat the imagery if i could.


alright, now i can be a hater. i've mainly got one big complaint other than the endings, and it's that the book is very white. i think there are three total explicit characters of color (unless i missed any), which is super disappointing since pretty much every major character is queer. it felt like- and i mean this in the kindest way possible- that the author wasn't willing to deal with the complexities of being a poc and how that intersects with being queer the same way she was willing to do so with other issues like class. (except for in one notable instance, where an ancedote about bo (the director) is recounted by one of the main characters, i don't remember who, where he dunks on a reporter for confusing him with m night shalaman- he says something to the effect of "yeah, there are two indian-american guys making horror, can you believe it? i'm the gay one, by the way" which...i remember this because when i read it, i just thought "that would have ended his career". listen, i say this as a desi person myself. i don't remember what year he was supposed to have said that in, but when i was reading i thought it was the 2000s, which- that would have ended his career. i just kept remembering the story of that musician (i don't remember who) who impulsively kissed a man on live tv and then was blacklisted from the industry for several years. and he was white! there's only so much you can get away with when you're a poc, even now. which, HEY, THAT'S SOMETHING I WOULD HAVE LOVED FOR THIS BOOK TO TALK ABOUT!) which is- understandable, i guess? when you're writing about something sensitive and you don't have personal experience with it, it can be pretty scary. and if i'm being honest, i don't tend to have much faith in white authors handling race. but also, like. i don't know. i guess i at least wanted this book to try.


HELLO SPOILERS FOR THE END OBVIOUSLY ok so the ending. i guess my main problem was that it just didn't feel satisfying enough for me. like, maybe i'm the asshole here. maybe i'm an idiot and i just don't get the ending. maybe the themes i was getting out of it weren't the themes that the author was going for. i don't know. it's not like i'm a professonial analyzer slash reviewer. i just say things to make my friends laugh online. but i felt like it was just...like it just was suddenly cut short without warning. and i know this book takes inspiration from picnic at hanging rock, and that also has an ambiguous ending, but i don't feel like there's enough of anything for it to be intentional. maybe if i analyze it here i can find something. anything. i want to love this book so badly. i did love this book! like i said before i want to love the ending too.

like, ok, i thought part of it was how abusive directors exploit actresses. there's definitely a parallel between harold and bo and how they both exploit lizzie-alex and audrey-harper-merritt. which i guess would fit with the modern protagonists making the choice to not give bo what he wants and have a big climactic fight. which would make the theme make sense! but then the movie just gets made anyways, and bo gets what he wants, which is to make a meta movie and it's successful and they're at cannes. great? i guess?

and i also thought it was about the erasure of queer women from history. which fits because of simone and her mothers being erased from history by the brothers out of spite and jealousy, and lizzie being floated out to sea with nobody, not even her own daughter, caring. which does fit with the 1900s ending!

maybe its that we are still erasing the history of queer women today, since the movie also erases the story of flo and clara by making it about bo exploiting them?

i also thought it was about how it's easier to be queer when you're white and rich, which certainly fits with the 1900s protagonists- as wealthy (in lizzie's case), affluent white women, they have the priviledge to be able to openly be queer. and harper talks about how her grandparents accepted her more after she was rich, and how she feels like annie, her girlfriend who is a trust fund artist (and is also incidentally the third poc in this book), is the only one who doesn't treat her like she's dumb for not knowing artists or architects, but she still has problems with her. but then there's just...nothing done with that. there's no real conclusion to it at all. it feels like it was dropped by the end of the book. (and again, would really have loved to see it at least attempt to tackle how race intersects with this, but we can't have everything).

i thought it was also at least a little about true crime exploitation and celebrity, which fits with them being attacked by fans, but again, it feels like that just fizzles out by the end. i also was really excited for the mystery of the 1900s bit, but it just felt. bad for adelaide to just exposition dump about things and then kill lizzie. and why was the ava chapter there at all?


i would love to love this book. i did love it for most of it. but the ending...i don't know. maybe i'm the idiot who can't get what the book is about. maybe i'm the asshole. but it just feels rushed and incomplete, and a complete departure from the slow, careful build up of the first 500 pagees. it all falls very flat.