When it Raynes – CD Cain

http://amzn.to/1TlJeUwYou know sometimes when you read a new book by a new author and just get swept away? CD Cain’s first book, and the beginning of a four part series, is a classic in the making. I literally can’t wait for book two.

Set in the south with the delightful backdrop of the Louisiana bayou and a real southern belle family setting, “When it Raynes” brings its location to life. The mannerisms, speech and habits of the family we meet create a deep and solid canvas for the authors exploration of relationships.

The main characters, Rayne and Memaw, are wonderful creations. Between them, Sam and the other ladies of the house, we have a wide array of powerful women characters who literally warm the heart. The few men we spend any time with seem like cyphers in comparison. CD Cain has a gift for expressing the feelings of her cast through both language and physical reaction. Without ever feeling she is telling you a tale the characters themselves speak from the page.

This really is a classic, slow and generous with its time like the waters flowing past Raynes hideaway, don’t expect to be rushed anywhere. Feelings, hopes, dreams and actions take their time to develop and the author deepens and explores the relationships between her cast as the plot slowly unfolds. The writing is almost poetic at times, and simply flows.

Be warned though – it has a major cliffhanger which has clearly annoyed a number of readers – as they point out the arc of the story is presumably across the series. For me that didn’t detract from excellent writing, a wonderfully evocative setting, an interesting ‘will she wont she’ romance and characters I would love to meet.

When the next one comes out in May I may just have to find the time to re-read this to savour the pleasure all over again. Excellent first novel and seriously one to watch.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (June 21, 2015)
  • ASIN: B0106TCQPQ
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Locked Inside – Annette Mori

Locked Inside - Annette MoriThis is an unusual tale and definitely caught my attention. Belinda has been in a comatose state for 6 years when a doctors daughter, Carly, notices the slightest of reactions to her voice. Carly devotes her volunteer time and persistent energy into not only helping Belinda begin the long road to recovery, but to ensuring her carers and family recognise that she is awake inside the paralysed shell of her body. As Belinda and Carly work together their bond grows along with their love for each other. The only questions are how far can Belinda go, and what form that love will take.

The concept of this story is intriguing and extremely thought provoking. Watching Belinda fight to regain her life, seeing the world through the retrospective viewpoint of a paralysed teenager is a tale that I suspect many authors would find daunting. Annette Mori has handled it extremely well. Without the viewpoint of a person who has suffered a disabling illness it is hard to speak for that section of society, but it felt extremely sympathetic and positively portrayed.

Carly and Belinda are well rounded, interesting individuals, and they are well supported both literally and figuratively by a cast of friends and family we would all love to have behind us. The romance has enough twists and turns to make it interesting as a sweet exploration of coming out and first love, but for me the story of Belinda’s rebirth was far more compelling.

This is my first Annette Mori read and I can’t therefore tell if the writing style of this book is her normal tone, but here she certainly pulled off the voice of a teenager coming to terms with a ginormous personal challenge on top of the normal teenage growing pains of finding out who we are and how love works.

Entertaining and absorbing, definitely one I found hard to put down.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Affinity Press NZ (November 29, 2015)
  • ASIN: B018RGA8YQ
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Reasonable Doubt – Carsen Taite

Reasonable Doubt – Carsen TaiteTwo women, both determined to step away from fast paced lives and all consuming careers, dragged back into the fray by a terrorist bomb and the ensuing investigation. This is a good crime thriller concept with interesting twists and turns mixed in with a hard to resist romance.

As always Carsen Taite’s knowledge of the law makes for intriguing plots and she is extremely good at creating readable stories out of what could too easily become heavy-handed legal situations. There is enough drama and conspiracy away from the purely judicial to make for a fun ride.

The main protagonists are engaging and their supporting cast of friends and colleagues broad and varied. The range of characters adds a layer of interest and engagement to the overall experience. Ms Taite plays with the fact that deception can damage and destroy relationships we thought as solid, while casual friends can be the most reliable.

I did feel that the stereotyping was a little obvious, there are teenage psychopaths in every race and religion, but a gang of young Muslim terrorists, with white blonde girlfriends being used as suicide bombers, plays too easily on typecasting. Combined with some unfortunate homophone mistakes and untidy loose ends it left me with a sense of something unfinished.

I have genuinely loved all Ms Taite’s crime thrillers to date, so was rather disappointed to be left with a feeling this was oversimplified and, quite frankly, ended too quickly to tidy up all the story lines. I loved the concept of the plot, and the pull of the attraction, but was left, ultimately, unsatisfied.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (September 14, 2015)
  • ASIN: B014CEFWCA
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Pelican’s Landing – Gerri Hill

Pelican's Landing - Gerri HillThis is a gem of a romance. Absolutely traditional and classic, lesbian/straight girl, falling in love but obstacles in the way.. and of course a happy ending. I read it on a beach and it was just the light and sunny escapism I love.

Gerri Hill writes excellent books. All her traditional romances are different enough to engage, the plot twists are unusual.. this is certainly one we wouldn’t have expected, and the “will she wont she” angst just strong enough to make us pause, even though we have no doubt they will eventually work it out.

The characters, both main and supporting cast, are well drawn, familiar and whole, their foibles and concerns recognisable and believable. Ms Hill subtly uses the interactions of the wider groups to draw out the personalities of the major players without ever having to heavy-handedly tell us what she can more sensitively portray.

Gerry Hill biogAs always the settings are well drawn and used to add a flavour to the books. Ms Hill uses the landscape and local traditions, from foods to holidays, to add a depth to the placement of her stories. Fat Larry may be one of the more unusual landmarks in a lesbian romance, but he represents a strong grounding in the books location.

I get to read a great many novels by debut or relatively new authors and there are so many lessons they could learn about subtlety from Gerri Hill. Another good read, wholly light and pleasant, thoroughly enjoyable.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Bella Books (August 18, 2015)
  • ASIN: B0145M386Q
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Final Cut – Lynn Ames

Final Cut - Lynn AmesBook 4 of the Kate and Jay series, with a very strong tie-in to All That Lies Within and a nod to Mission: Classified, Final Cut is the perfect combination of action, thriller and political drama with a side order of on-going romance, all wrapped up in Lynn Ames excellent writing style.

Nearly 30 years after the original conspiracy evil rears its ugly head and threatens the lives, and livelihood, of Kate and Jay. With their trusty team of spies and cybergeeks they set out to uncover the story behind the story. At the same time a chance encounter with Dara and Rebecca from All That Lies Within changes the options for Jays’ fictional rendition of the Hyland affair, and for once Hollywood stands up for freedom of speech.

The plot is well done, bringing back a range of personalities and events, but without being repetitive. The characters are all old friends, well rounded and part of the family, each successive episode integrating us further into their lives. This story will stand alone – but why limit yourself to one chapter when you can have the whole experience?

Lynn Ames BooksAs always Lynn Ames’ writing is delightful, a light touch – it flows off the page, with effortless dialogue and description, perfect continuity and an admirable attention to detail across all these years.

I literally couldn’t put it down. One of those series where you just want the author to keep them coming.

I asked Lynn the perfect order to read them all – if you haven’t – why not? Indulge yourself with a glorious series:

1.) The Price of Fame
2.) The Cost of Commitment
3.) The Value of Valor
4.) Beyond Instinct
5.) Above Reproach
6.) All That Lies Within
7.) Final Cut

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press (April 10, 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 1936429128
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Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge – Fletcher DeLancey

Without a Front: The Warrior's Challenge – Fletcher DeLanceyStraight into book 3 without a pause. If you just read book 2 of the series you literally wont be able to wait to start the next chapter. Its hard not to give any spoilers when the two books are now available, but suffice it to say the resolution of the dramatic end is worth the wait.

Now Lancer Tal is faced with a huge political challenge, can she work out who is trying to destroy her and keep one step ahead of the intrigue or is the stage set for her failure? Who can she trust, who will support her and where will the next challenge come from?

As with the previous two books in the series this is extremely well written, plotted and planned. The attention to detail is exquisite and makes the plot come alive. Alsea is a place an attentive reader could visit, describe and visualise.

The characters are wide-ranging and three-dimensional. Now we have exposed baddies as well as our well-developed main players, and as the cast expands so does Ms DeLancy’s repertoire of talented character development. One of the joys of these books is that sexuality is not an issue, I cant remember it being mentioned. Couples just are what they are with no comment or question, normalising in a way we can only dream of.

Fletcher DeLancey bioAgain the drama and suspense are enthralling, keeping us engaged and definitely making this a classic ‘page turner’. If the threats to Tal aren’t enough, then the possible loss of a huge personality and the unveiling of family secrets will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Book 2 and 3 of the Chronicles of Alsea have both been nominated for the Goldie awards this year. Good SciFi/Fantasy is a joy to read and for delivering an excellent trilogy which covers alternate worlds, credible science fiction, socio/political drama and romance.. with strong lesbian characters dominating the cast list they deserve every accolade they get. Genuinely loved these books and look forward to reading them again and again.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing; 1 edition (8 Dec. 2015)
  • ASIN: B018PLPX9I
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Without a Front: The Producer’s Challenge – Fletcher DeLancey

Without a Front: The Producer's Challenge - Fletcher DeLanceyBook 2 of the Chronicles of Alsea follows on from Fletcher DeLancey’s excellent SciFi action novel, The Caphenon. Lancer Tal finds herself beset for the decisions she has made, decisions she knows were critical to the survival of her world and her people, but which, in retrospect, have laid her open to a wide range of criticism.

One of those criticisms is about her decision to introduce alien technology, and when. As part of her efforts to include and educate the population about the impact of that technology she forms working parties and one will change her personal life forever. She never believed she would bond, let alone find her tyree, but love comes from the most unexpected of places.

Ms DeLancey takes the characters and story of book 1 and moves into a delightful socio-political drama. It is still Science Fiction/Fantasy, simply because it is set on an alternate world, but the story is about people, politics and growth. Her characters are on a journey, some good, others not, but it is their journey which enthrals and makes this very hard to put down.

Fletcher DeLancey bioI loved the whole, rounded and extremely well crafted characters she has portrayed, I invested in their stories and the outcome. The world creation is top drawer, with a vision and clarity that make it seem completely real and natural. Even Ms DeLancey’s alternate names for objects, times and relationships are seamlessly woven into the story enabling us to learn without instruction.

The cliffhanger ending will drive you straight to book 3 – Without a Front: The Warrior’s Challenge – and again we have an excellent build of tension and expectation. Extremely well done.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 461 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (October 23, 2015)
  • ASIN: B016MX4KA4
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The Right Time – Susan Meagher

The Right Time - Susan X. MeagherA love story full of angst, heartbreak and missed opportunities, this is a romance that stretches out over 10 years. A story very much in 2 halves. In the first a self destructive and self-abusive rich kid and a girl from the wrong side of the wrong side of the tracks find a bond that forms a lifetime connection. In the second 2 women with complex lives and relationships reconnect over and over again, but never seem to both be in the right time and place.

Susan Meagher is a great storyteller, she creates meaningful plots, strong characters and deep emotions. She deals with complex situations and real life issues with care and attention.

The first half of this book was not an easy read for me. I appreciated the intent, and the way in which the author deals with such a difficult subject, but it was too long, too drawn out, too much angst. The goody is just too good and her denial too prolonged, I couldn’t bring myself to like her. The point of the first section, as well as defining the characters and history, dealing with the impact alcoholism on the individual and their children, is to set the scene for the deep-seated love these women share.

This leads us to a more traditional romance, where we see both women long for something they think they’ve lost the chance of, and as each one reaches for it the other seems to have just moved away. The denouement is everything we expect… except the author fades to black, ending the novel without giving us the expected thrill, an unusual move from an author who is not normally shy of explicit sex scenes.

Susan X Meagher - biogFor me the second half of the novel was just intriguing enough to overcome my frustration of the scene setting, but only just. I struggled to get through that first section without giving up, and that is the first time I have ever had to force myself to read on in one of Susan Meagher’s books.

This story will speak to many women out there who have struggled with their own addictions, or those of their loved ones, especially a parent or child. It is extremely well done, and like a great tragedy from a classic author, it takes work from the reader. Not a light read or a gentle romance, but worth the effort.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Brisk Press (September 25, 2015)
  • ASIN: B015UIINOQ
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Wild Shores – Radclyffe

Wild Shores - RadclyffeJust finished Radclyffe’s newest novel in the “First Responder” series: a great read. This time the main characters get it on, hot and spicy, before the shocking dénouement and we are left wondering whether they can overcome their differences. Can the untold secrets be forgiven, or will the truth be too much to bear?

Set in the face of an increasingly fierce storm and with and oil rig and a bird sanctuary at stake, our “First Responders” appear to have little in common, except their instant chemistry shows that attraction has no respect for political divides.

Rad keeps the action moving along. The first part of the novel is a journey in the literal sense, but the emotional expedition takes place in the stillness and confines of a car. The second half is lashed by the incoming storm, reflecting the conflicting desires of our protagonists.

RadclyffeHot, steamy and exciting, this is a fast passed read. Combining romance and action adventure as all this series do, Rad has produced two interesting women who hold your attention and engage our empathy.

I have to admit I love this series with its strong, independent and capable women taking lead roles in dangerous and critical situations. Definitely space for a follow up story between the hot coast guard and the sophisticated meteorologist.. I look forward to whatever heroines Radclyffe conjures next.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (March 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01B36VI5K
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A Little Bit of Spice – Georgia Beers

A Littel Bit of Spice - Georgia BeersI read A Little Bit of Spice when it came out last summer but wasn’t reviewing at the time. I remember enjoying the story so have just re-read it, prompted by it making the GCLS Ann Bannon Popular Choice finalists. I wasn’t disappointed.

Georgia Beers writes charming straightforward traditional romances and this is one of her best. Set around the backdrop of the craft beer trade we meet two hard working young women who both want to succeed in their chosen professions. The only obstacles to the inevitable romance are their historical dislike of each other, and their long time ambitions.

What I particularly liked was that these obstacles are not overblown or unrealistic. They feel like real-life choices rather than artificial and exaggerated impediments created to make the romance more difficult.

The main characters are genuine, three dimensional and plausible, with a supporting cast of family and BFFs, (including Gretchen and Kylie from Too Close To Touch) that grounds them in reality. Kendall’s close nit family are the perfect foil to Andrea’s dysfunctional parents and add a layer of genuine interest to the storyline.

Georgia Beers BioThe passion isn’t slow burn, although their acting on it is. With a mixture of full reveal and fade to grey Ms Beers manages to have quite a lot of hot scenes without being repetitive or over the top. These two women are not shrinking violets, they are strong, independent and experienced – they know what they want and are more than capable of taking it.

As always with Ms Beers novels this is well written and edited, well paced and flowing. Definitely one for the re-read pile… in fact one of my favourites from this author.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2015
  • Publisher: Brisk Press (July 8, 2015)
  • ASIN: B011ANIT08
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