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The Companion

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New York, 1949

After years of trying to break into New York City's literary scene, Madeline Slaughter is emotionally and physically exhausted. When a friend offers her a safe haven as the live-in companion to reclusive, bestselling novelist Victor Hallowell she jumps at the chance to escape the city.

Madeline expects to find rest and quiet in the forests of Upstate New York. Instead, she finds Victor, handsome and intensely passionate, and Audrey Coffin, Victor's mysterious and beautiful neighbor.

When Victor offers her a kiss and the promise of more Madeline allows herself to become entangled even as Audrey is also claiming her heart. The only problem is that Audrey and Victor are ex-lovers with plenty of baggage between them. As Madeline finds herself opening up and falling in love with both she starts to wonder, can there be a future for all three?

168 pages, ebook

First published April 16, 2021

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About the author

E.E. Ottoman

28 books264 followers
writes romance novels, wears pretty clothes, does history stuff.


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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 213 reviews
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,647 followers
April 18, 2021
This is a remarkable romance between two trans women, one trans man, and a place of safety.

That's the part that hits hardest. All three have fled to the country after New York's art scene proved too hostile and unwelcoming, its people exploitative and predatory. Madeline is hurting, afraid, and unable to write when she decides to become Victor's companion in his isolated home. The tiny society of love, sex, friendship, and real acceptance they build together and with Audrey next door allows her to start living and creating, and it's glorious.

This is very much a book about healing, which can't happen till people stop stabbing you. It's faintly melancholy in the recognition that the outer world is brutally hostile, but the power of the world they build for themselves is also palpable.

The romance isn't conflict driven--we have three very hurt people here. (Victor says, "I am good at being hurt and bad at being loved." Ooof.) Instead this is very much a story of repair and regrowth, and learning to believe you can have happiness, in whatever shape fits you. And if that's not the essence of romance, I don't know what is.
Profile Image for Joanna Loves Reading.
559 reviews214 followers
September 11, 2021
This was a really lovely read. I couldn't believe how quiet and heartfelt it was. I loved how it created a safe place for the queer characters to love each other in their own way. It was a secluded country setting.

Madeline and Victor are authors. Victor is a successful one, who never leaves his home. Madeline is an aspiring one, who couldn't quite make it in NYC and needed to get away from the scene there. She managed, but in order to succeed, she knew she would need to make herself available to be used, something she was not willing to do. She moves away from NYC to live with Viktor as his companion, an arrangement made through a friend. Victor had done the NYC literary scene as well, along with his former lover and neighbor, Audrey. This is a polyamorous story. Madeline is the connecting glue and focus of the story.

This book is carefully written and very considerate to the characters. Rather than showing the objectification/judgement of society, it was just touched on or hinted at, through insecurities or mentions of the past in passing. The focus was that they had found a safe place to be who they were and with who they wanted. To me that felt triumphant, these characters deserved that.

I wish this had been longer. Sometimes a bit more transition was needed particularly to convey the passage of time better, and I definitely needed an epilogue. I felt like it ended abruptly and there were some scenes that progressed quicker than I expected. However, overall it was a really good read. I definitely recommend, and I plan to read more by Ottoman.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
639 reviews3,084 followers
August 20, 2022
“He was silent for a moment, then said more quietly. 'But I know what you are talking about. I've felt like that before too. To be intimate with someone and feel not right afterward, too vulnerable and too seen.' He took a draw on his cigarette. 'I spend so much of my time not being seen. Explaining and quantifying myself.'

'Making myself small and unseen,' Madeline said. 'Unthreatening and unremarkable.'

'In everything,' Victor agreed. 'So, to not have to do that to be accepted without a fight, it can be almost painful. Getting what you want and not knowing what to do with it. I am good at being hurt and bad at being loved.'"

thank you for this, good sir, but i will need more 🧎‍♂️

this was surprisingly cute and wholesome given the amount of trigger warnings that were presented to me at the beginning. i love trans people being happy. more of that.
Profile Image for b.andherbooks.
2,053 reviews873 followers
August 7, 2021
The Companion by EE Ottoman is a cozy, warm embrace of a queer historical polyamorous romance, set in 1949 and featuring a trans woman finding her place, and love, after taking on a companion job with a writer in secluded upstate NY.

All three characters are healing from trauma and past hurt, and it was so lovely to see them all find peace in each other, in a safe place they created.

The prose is absolutely stunning, setting you immediately in the place and time; you can hear the quiet of the house, the skritch of Madeline's pen as she did finds space and time to write, and canning and simple food preparation.

Cottagecore meets delicious romance. Such a great read.

CWs include transphobia, internalized and period external (off page - feared), smoking, rape culture mentioned
Profile Image for Tia.
429 reviews
July 7, 2021
This book almost bored me to tears.
The entire "plot" was: Madeline waking up > cooking > writing > having sex > repeat.
Every. Fucking. Chapter.
Shit gets boring real fast, especially the repetitive as hell sex scenes.

The characters were so one dimensional I couldn’t really tell you much about them, like, at all. The relationship by the end of the book wasn’t believable, there was still a lot of work to be done I felt like.

The synopsis had me super interested but the execution was so, so disappointing.
The writing wasn't bad per se, there was just nothing going on and, shockingly, when I read a book I want some semblance of a plot.

If this had been any longer than 160 pages I would have for sure DNF'ed.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,661 reviews46 followers
April 17, 2021
I received an advance copy from the author for review purposes. This in no way influences my review; all words, thoughts, and opinions are my own.

Content notes available in front matter of book.

From the moment I heard about this book, I knew I needed to read it, and I’m so glad I was able to read it early! Madeline has been trying to make it in the writing scene in New York but when a friend tells her about Victor needing a companion, she moves in with him. While there she meets Audrey who works the land while Madeline was exploring the woods and Audrey was mushrooming. All three embark on a sweet polyamorous romance full of warmth and history.

Audrey and Victor have a history where they used to be together, but Victor’s anxieties and the strain of being in the city eventually put pressures on their relationship that resulted in them splitting up. With the arrival of Madeline, and her interest in both Audrey and Victor, they redevelop their relationship in a new way that works better for where they are now.

I really loved how sweet and soft this romance is. So much of it felt like walking through a sun-dappled forest path and I love the details. I also really love and appreciate how all three are trans, and while there’s mention of societal transmisia and queermisia, where they are they are able to be themselves safely and be together. In so many ways it felt like a warm hug, and all around I really enjoyed this book.
Profile Image for Grapie Deltaco.
506 reviews1,087 followers
December 25, 2021
First and foremost, I am not a member of the trans community and cannot speak to any discussions surrounding the trans experience.

Second of all, this was simply lovely. In a polyamorous love story involving a second chance romance and sexual exploration, we see feelings of safety and community be prioritized above all else in our all trans cast of characters.

With a slow start in order to ease our way into the story with character intros, we follow Madeline's perspective as she goes off to be a live in companion to fellow (and more accomplished) writer, Victor, whose neighbor is his ex-lover, the statuesque Audrey.

I, too, want a pretty red-headed lady to take me into the woods to find mushrooms while I come home to the handsome horror writer.

The prose in this book can't be described as anything other than romantic.

I'm excited to get into more work from this author.

CW: explicit sexual content, discussions of internalized transphobia + sexual shame, references to transphobia + general threat of harm, references to fetishization and predatory behavior toward trans women, reference to medical gaslighting, chronic migraines depicted, recreational drug use
Profile Image for Ashley.
151 reviews3 followers
April 17, 2022

"He paused, then said, 'And make her walk away safe at the end, all right?'
'Audrey said almost the same thing,' Madeline said. 'She said to make sure she was happy at the end.'
'Happy might be a bit more than you can expect from a horror novel,' Victor pointed out practically. 'But survives. We all deserve that much.'
'Yes. We do.'"

This was a lovely story of two transgender women and a transgender man finding a life of love together. It's a story about self-discovery and finding yourself, about the joy of finding people who love you for *you* and for loving yourself in return.
Profile Image for Reader of Books.
Author 2 books47 followers
February 3, 2023
This was so beautifully written but I have mixed feelings about this book. 🤷 I'm giving this 3.5 ⭐ rounded up. I'm going to reread it at a later date and try to figure out how I feel about this one. 🤔 It was very good, emotional, and well written. It was a bit slower paced than I'd like but it was more about people and relationships and how dangerous it was being LGBT at all in NYC during 1948 just after a war. There's plenty in here that I liked. All the writing scenes, gardening, mushroom hunting and discussing publishing and books. The romance and smut were good too. I'm definitely going to require a reread after I let this settle.
Profile Image for Chels.
276 reviews326 followers
July 18, 2022
I loved this so much! I spend the entire time reading it with my face in between my palms, sighing.

Set in the 1940s post-war, Madeline decides to escape the NYC literary scene she so desperately wanted to be a part of. A friend introduces her to Victor, a somber writer with a house upstate. Madeline moves in with Victor to be his companion, but he makes it clear he has no expectations of her. She can come and go as she pleases.

On a walk, Madeline meets Audrey, and she's quickly infatuated with her. Audrey is warm and engaging, but there's a slight bit of awkwardness there. Audrey and Victor have a history, and Madeline isn't sure how to bridge that gap.

Unused to having people care about her without expectations, Madeline decides that she wants both of their affection, their understanding, and their care. It's what she deserves.

I haven't mentioned yet that all the major characters in this are trans, and that's an important piece! This novella is about finding people who understand you; People you feel safe with.

Profile Image for Anna.
1,227 reviews215 followers
April 12, 2022
I loved this. It's so soft and sweet. It's the story of two trans women and a trans man all loving together and finding a way to be happy. It's set in 1948 and Madeline is an author, or she wants to be. When she strikes out in the literary scene, she end up going to live with Victor out in the country where she has all the freedom in the world to write and explore. When wandering through the forest one day, she stumbles across Audrey, Victors neighbor and past love.

I adored the exploration of Madeline's sexuality and her desire to find a way for all three of them to live and love happily together. Please give me more poly trans books 😍

CW: explicit sex, hinting at struggles trans people would have faced in the 1940s but no on page transphobia.
Profile Image for Isabel.
666 reviews114 followers
April 25, 2021
TW: Brief references to rape culture, sexual exploitation of trans women, attempted sexual coercion of trans women. Brief references to trans people feeling unsafe being in certain spaces or walking alone and trans people warning each other of unsafe spaces. Discussions of internalized transphobia, sexual shame, and issues of self-worth. It depicts sexually open relationships and multiple explicit consensual sex scenes. It includes a scene where the characters smoke weed. Finally, it includes period typical transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and very brief period typical language for gendered body parts.

A big shout-out to the author for including trigger warnings in his book!

RTC but please know I absolutely adored this!
Profile Image for Teleseparatist.
976 reviews116 followers
May 10, 2021
A kind, affirming trans historical romance. I liked its genuine emotion and the focus on community (as small as that community is). I think I would have liked it to be longer and more sprawling - to connect the dots between events and emotional breakthroughs with more detail, and to give us more insight into all three characters - but that's a personal preference. The atmosphere and the nuance of setting were lovely, and I liked the characters - the information we do get about them often paints a vivid picture even with few words.
Profile Image for Dawn Betts-Green.
568 reviews30 followers
April 23, 2021
First, I want to say that I am not a member of the trans community and cannot speak to whether this is accurate to the trans experience. However, it felt authentic and lovely to me, so I hope it is accurate. I would hate to like something so much that isn’t a good representation.

Second, just absolutely lovely...and pretty damn high on the spice meter.
Profile Image for Britt.
572 reviews7 followers
March 16, 2022
A polyam t4t romance about two trans women and a trans man finding belonging, healing, companionship, and a lot of sex together in a gorgeous cottagecore setting. Character-driven in a way that readers who prefer more dramatic romances will find frustrating, but ideal for those seeking a soothing read. It spoke directly to the part of me that wants to run away and live on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Profile Image for Paranormer Book Corner.
86 reviews12 followers
July 21, 2022
This book was a very easy read! It was very different from the genres I usually read, but I was captivated by the cover and synopsis that I felt like I had to try it. This book is an easy one to snuggle up with for a few hours to read. I loved how low stakes it was. It was really quick and had a lot of nuance with characters pasts and personalities that it was enough for the length of the book. I really enjoyed the interworkings of character motivations between the three of these characters and the fact that they are all trans trying to build a safe community that they can see themselves thrive in. There is indeed spice in this book on multiple occasions. And there are depictions of a polyamory relationship that I think seemed healthy and very communicative. I thought that this book was done really well and if you are looking for an easy read, this book might be for you! There are some content warnings so please make sure to look for those before going into this one!

I would recommend this to anyone that likes a quick cozy read with plenty of spice featuring trans characters in a historical setting.
Profile Image for Joharis.
992 reviews93 followers
March 26, 2021
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Thank you so much to the author for providing a review copy in exchange of an honest review.


A polyamourous romance with 3 transgender characters?! This story was just lovely and delightful, it was compelling in such a quiet way that I had reached the end before I knew it.

We follow a writer that moves in with another writer in the countryside and starts to develop feelings for him, while also falling for said writer's ex girlfriend. It's a story about finding yourself and rekindling that love for your art, it follows the protagonist as they explore the woods and just enjoy their surroundings. The atmosphere of this book was brilliant and I could visualize everything so perfectly.
The romance is very low conflict and very steamy, I loved it! The scenes were amazing and they were so sweet with each other.

Highly recommend it!!!
Profile Image for Emmalita.
492 reviews33 followers
April 8, 2021
I joke sometimes that I wish I could turn into my great grandmother with her big kitchen table at which she turned produce into preserves with such competence. EE Ottoman’s The Companion is really tapping into that desire. It’s also reminding me that Granny canned fruits and vegetables so that her family would have enough to eat, not because she thought it was fun.

Set in 1949, Madeline Slaughter is on her way to a small town in up-state New York, exhausted and demoralized from trying to make a career as a writer in New York City. A friend has arranged for her to be a companion to a reclusive mystery writer, Victor. It sounds a little bit like a set up for a gothic romance, but it is not. Victor is kind and gives Madeline space and time to recover. Out walking in the woods, Madeline meets Audrey, a woman like her. Madeline builds relationships with Victor and Audrey and as she grows more secure in her safety, the urge to write returns.

The process of going from an unsafe place to a safe place is it’s own kind of pain, and Ottoman allows Madeline to move through that pain with compassion. Victor and Audrey have both experienced it as well and give Madeline the grace she needs to go through it.

“I am good at being hurt and bad at being loved.”

The Companion is a gentle story. Madeline, Victor, and Audrey build a life where they are safe to be themselves. The world of the story is small, three characters, two houses and the field and forest next to them. The smallness is a bubble of safety for the three characters – all trans. Their lives though are vast and rich in imagination – all are artists. The details of the food that Madeline prepares and that she and Audrey preserve, the details of the texture of their clothing, the light, and the scents around them give a sense of sanctuary rather than restriction. As lyrical as The Companion is, Ottoman does not neglect the moments of humor.

I don’t usually comment on the cover of a book, but in this case, I have to say, the interior is as beautiful as the exterior.

I received this as an advance reader copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Leila.
138 reviews3 followers
June 23, 2022
The setting came through very clearly for me, secluded and safe and beautiful. The tone of the book is tranquil in a way that contrasts with the lives the characters have lived. And there is such a wholesome kind of home atmosphere--I mean, there is a fair amount of sex, but still. Also, I like interpreting things for myself, and I appreciate that the author let me do that.

The emotions that characters felt came off a little flat, but then again, this book has an overall tranquil feel, so that is consistent with everything else.

I always appreciate when the world itself is romantic, and the woods very much are. I loved this passage:

"The forest was quiet, filled with secret beautiful things—animals, birds, wild mushrooms, spiders’ webs, and leaves. She'd brought her books to read and written her first stories there. She'd been the tiny witch of those woods; she could be the witch of these woods now. That made her smile. "I am the witch," she said softly into the breeze that rustled the leaves above her. "And this is my forest now.""

A sweet book with characters who support one another and find their way forward.
Profile Image for Jordan Lombard.
Author 2 books51 followers
September 13, 2021
This book felt like coming home to a cup of tea in front of a fire after a cold rainy day with a warm blanket and a good book. Here we have three adults who talk about their problems and work together to solve issues that come up. There’s plenty of respect for each of the three characters. Soft and sweet... and yet, whooo, the sex scenes are many and hot! Wow, wasn’t expecting that.

I could have done with fewer sex scenes, or not rushing into them as we did, but that’s personal preference. One of the characters even mentions she should have waited to get to know the other better first, so it’s covered.

I think the passage of time didn’t work for me as I was unaware of it, so a lot of it did feel a bit rushed. But it’s a minor thing. The author did a fabulous job writing a story with only three characters!

The scenes of walking through the woods, harvesting produce, or canning food were really nice. I’m not sure how else to put it, but I liked them. They made the characters very down to earth. Lol.

There is brief mentions of transphobia and rape culture, but nothing explicit.
Profile Image for Jess.
681 reviews146 followers
August 25, 2021
This was a delightful little book, though surprisingly more sexy than I expected (don't ask me why!) and full of little feelings nuggets that made me go all gooey. There isn't much romance set in the 1940s, so it was nice to read a little post-war coziness.

Also, can I just mention that the three people exclusively involved in this story have the last names Slaughter, Coffin, and Hollowell? Like, I love it, even if it means nothing to the atmosphere of the story, which isn't quite as dark as that might indicate. There is a bit of an element of the wildness of the woods, but nothing spooky.

Bonus: content notes are in the front of the book.
Profile Image for Marlee.
298 reviews
May 31, 2021
I don’t even have coherent words right now. This book is so beautiful. It’s the gentle, peaceful queer love story I needed so desperately. The writing is so lyrical and serene, I wanted to crawl into the pages and live there forever. The spice is SO spicy and well done. The representation, I... the rep in this book made me feel so, so seen. No, it made me feel valuable. This book is a masterpiece and a treasure.
Profile Image for Jen (mrs-machino).
442 reviews41 followers
December 29, 2021
This was a very tender and sweet novella - a little more steam than plot, but the love scenes felt important to Madeline discovering herself as well as the three characters working out their relationship dynamics.
Profile Image for Melissa ~ Missy (FrayedBooks).
608 reviews58 followers
February 19, 2022
read this and more reviews on Frayed Books:

I’ll start off by saying I am not a member of the trans community so I cannot speak to that, but I am glad this book exists for those who need a safe space, for this is a safe book. The outside world isn’t always accepting of Madeline, Audrey, or Victor, but within their homes, they accept each other for who they are. The setting is 1949 in upstate New York, just a few hours outside of New York City.

This book is the peak meaning of cottagecore. The majority of this book is daily mundane tasks of taking care of Audrey’s farm or Victor and Madeline writing their respective pieces. There is walking in the fields and woods. And cooking. There is a lot of cooking that happens in this book – every single meal of every day is described in full detail; this book made me hungry! And sex. There is also a lot of sex that happens.

That’s about it. That’s the entire story. Meal. Writing. Walking in the fields. Farm work. Sex. Repeat. If you’re looking for a real plot, please keep looking – there is none here. The Companion focuses on the relationships between these three characters. Audrey and Victor had been lovers in the past, but no longer. With Madeline entering their lives and loving them both, she tries to bring the three of them together as friends and romantic partners.

I personally found this story to be boring overall because as mentioned, nothing actually happens. But as I also said, I am not trans and I cannot comment on how this might feel for someone who does identify outside of cisgender. While this story didn’t work for me, don’t let that deter you from giving it a try yourself if you might find comfort in three trans people trying to live their lives to the fullest. It’s the softest most gentle book I’ve read in a long time.

Audiobook Thoughts
I have not seen this as an audiobook on any platform besides Scribd – please someone correct me if I’m wrong. I didn’t even know an audiobook existed until on a whim I decided to check Scribd. The narrator, Kdin Jenzen, is a trans woman herself (based on what I found on Twitter, please correct me if I’m wrong!) and I always appreciate when a member of the community the book is about narrates it. I enjoyed their narration and would recommend listening to this, but since the audiobook isn’t that easy to find, I’ll say you aren’t missing too much if you only read the e-book/print version.

I’m only giving this 2.5 stars, rounding down to 2 on Goodreads as I found this rather boring. I finished it because it was a very short book and I was curious to see how it would end. While it didn’t personally work for me, if you’re looking for a poly trans relationship between two trans women and a trans man, I would still say to give this one a try. Major cottagecore vibes.

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Profile Image for Érica  "Howl" Rodrigues .
38 reviews3 followers
April 19, 2022
This book went far beyond my expectations! I've never felt as attached to three characters in just one book as I felt in this particular one. I am so happy for having read it, for having enjoyed and delighted with the author's beautiful writing, the incredible representation of trans people and polyamorous relationships, good friendships and good wishes and undoubtedly a lot of healthy and pleasurable sexfor having read it, for having enjoyed and delighted with the author's beautiful writing, the incredible representation of trans people and polyamorous relationships, good friendships and good wishes and undoubtedly a lot of healthy and pleasurable sex.
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