Kidding about the fanfic. Luckily for us eager readers, books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo are quite plentiful. Seven Husbands is my personal favorite of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. I simply cannot wait for the Netflix adaptation. It’s also one of those books I wish I could read for the first time again. I was positively enraptured by the dishy storytelling, the Hollywood glamor, and the truly compelling, sometimes heartbreaking secrets under all the glitz. I realized I needed to go beyond Reid’s backlist to experience that gossipy brand of magic again. If I say a book is gossipy, it’s just about my highest form of praise. And that’s an honor I’ll certainly bestow on many of these books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
In short, the book is about the titular character, an aging star who selects reporter Monique Grant for a tell-all. As Evelyn recounts each of those husbands (a nod to Elizabeth Taylor) and discloses her ethnic background (a wink at Rita Hayworth), Monique discovers how her own life story intersects with Evelyn’s. In selecting books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I definitely looked for Old Hollywood. I also looked for compelling frame stories, a storytelling conceit I appreciate in everything from Gothic novels to historical fiction to beloved movies like Fried Green Tomatoes. I tried to find books that feel so real you’re compelled to search Wikipedia and IMDB just to double check. And of course, I’m looking to tear your heart out and put it together again.
The Best Books Like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
In the Face of the Sun by Denny S. Bryce
Hollywood scandal lovers, this one’s for you. This road trip novel bounces between two timelines, one in 1968 and one in 1928. In 1968, Frankie is fleeing an abusive husband and is rescued by her Aunt Daisy, a woman known for profanity and chain smoking. Aunt Daisy takes Frankie from Chicago to L.A., where she was a journalist chronicling both Hollywood scandals and activism in the 1920s. In 1968, she’s out for revenge, and Frankie’s along for the ride.
The Work Wife by Alison B. Hart
This is a contemporary Hollywood story, but like many The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo read-alikes, this one is juicy, as it brings the life of a queer woman into focus and is an absolute page-turner. Plus, if you love books that happen over the span of one day, enjoy! Tackling Hollywood in the #MeToo era, this story jumps between three women in the orbit of Ted Stabler, Hollywood mogul. We meet his wife Holly, his ex-wife Phoebe, and as the title implies, his “work wife” Zanne. They all have their part to play in Ted’s success. As the three women’s stories intertwine over the day of a charity gala, they have to reckon with the moral cost of that success.
Blind Ambition by Lutishia Lovely
If you love the story behind the writing of a tell-all book, here you go. Chantel’s older sister Jett is a superstar. In the wake of their mom’s death, Chantel attempts to bond with Jett. Her efforts are rebuffed. Chantel responds in the best (read: pettiest) possible way. She’ll write the exposé that will knock Jett off that pedestal. But would she rather have that sweet, sweet revenge or strong family ties?
The Starlet and the Spy by Ji-min Lee
Like Seven Husbands, this book features unexpected connections between two women, one of whom is an icon. Inspired by true events, the story chronicles Alice, a Korean woman chosen to translate for Marilyn Monroe on her 4-day USO tour of Korea in 1954. Alice is suffering from the effects the Korean War had on her life. Her unlikely friendship with notoriously troubled Marilyn Monroe is emotional and touching.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Another book framed by a storied person looking back at their past, City of Girls shines a light on the 1940s New York City theater scene. Vivian, freshly kicked out of Vassar, goes to live with her Aunt Peg in Manhattan. Aunt Peg owns a slightly rundown but exciting midtown theater. Through a much older Vivan’s recollections, you’ll get to meet that theater’s cast of characters and relive Vivian’s exploits. It’s a bubbly book starring a woman whose sexual appetites do not lead to her downfall.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Among books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, this one captures a fierce woman of living on her own terms in the unforgiving world of Old Hollywood. Also, if you’re looking for wlw books, you’ll absolutely need to read this one. Siren Queen incorporates fantasy elements in the story of Luli Wei. She’s a Chinese American woman who knows the movie studios run on blood magic but wants to be a part of that life anyway. It’s haunting, dark, and thrilling.
Black Bottom Saints by Alice Randall
The watchword is “gossipy!” Instead of focusing on Hollywood, Black Bottom Saints looks to Detroit, a city with legendary sports, jazz, and politics. Ziggy Johnson, nearing the end of his life, reflects on his days as a gossip columnist for Detroit’s Black newspaper. Inspired by books of Catholic saints, he creates his own book of the 52 saints of Black Bottom, the neighborhood where Detroit’s greatest artists of the day rubbed elbows.
Sister Stardust by Jane Green
While Evelyn Hugo is a fictional character, the star of Sister Stardust is Talitha Getty, the real-life actress/model who married oil money heir John Paul Getty Jr. Her story is told through Claire, a country mouse who moved to London in the Swinging Sixties. Their paths cross, a friendship ensues, and the dark side of a glamorous life is revealed. The story depicts the dreaminess of being young and a little chaotic. It also shows the grave danger that can be just on the other side of fun.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Because this book is about a 1970s rock duo, one might think it’s a read-alike for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six. Sure, it is, but it’s also about a journalist digging into decades-old secrets, so it’s perfect for fans of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo as well. When Afro-punk Opal considers reuniting with British singer/songwriter Neville after many years, journalist Sunny creates an oral history of the duo. What Sunny discovers in her work is illuminating, thought-provoking, potentially cataclysmic, and so much more.
Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe
Berlin, 1928: Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt catches three women within one frame. First is Marlene Dietrich, a German actress whose star is on the rise. Next is Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American movie star. Leni Riefenstahl rounds out the photo. She’s a woman whose work as a film director helped make Hitler so appealing to the masses. This novel imagines the lives that went into this photograph as well as those that spun out of it. It’s heavier than The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. But if you want a complex exploration of womanhood, queerness, fame, ambition, and more, this is the book for you.
Oh! You Pretty Things by Shanna Mahin
If you like books that reflect on the price of fame, I recommend Oh! You Pretty Things. Jess Dunne is a third generation Hollywood resident. She has a very strained relationship with her mother, whose own acting career never took off. When Jess finally gets a foot in the door as a cook sought after by a rising actress, she thinks she’s living the dream. Spoiler alert: she’s not. This is a book for people who like messy characters and who hold Hollywood with both fascination and disgust.
Glamor, gossip, drama, talent, ferocity: this list has it all. If there’s another facet of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo that isn’t sparkling among this list, fear not. The dedicated bibliologists at Tailored Book Recommendations are sure to find the exact gem you’re looking for.