Taste – Kris Bryant

Taste - Kris BryantKi Blake is in her final semester at culinary school and determined to win the coveted scholarship. She knows its between her and 2 others and intends to everything she’s got into the final term. When she walks in to her first class, late, she is stopped in her tracks by the gorgeous new instructor, Taryn Ellis.

Taryn has chosen to step back from being one of the top chefs in the city while she brings up her 5-year-old daughter on her own. Her new job at the Kirkwood Culinary Academy is both a way to earn a living, and to pass on the love of food that is central to her world.

Ki and Taryn have an instant attraction and their chemistry sizzles, but both know it’s a very bad idea to cross the line. Ki is leaving on that scholarship, and Taryn cant afford to lose her job for getting involved with a student.

This is an excellent traditional romance, well written, well conceived and well put together. Kris Bryant has given us a lovely warm hearted story about two real human beings with whom we can genuinely engage. There is no melodrama, no over blown angst, just two women with an instant attraction who have to decide first, how to deal with it and second, how much it’s worth.

Ki and Taryn are genuinely nice women, people we would love to meet, let alone have cook for us. Their passion for food matches their lust for each other and Ms Bryant uses the culinary school setting as an superb backdrop for the romance. The sub-plot of the lessons and experiences of the student chefs, the interaction of the characters and the believable angst over winning the scholarship all give a layer of interest and credibility.

Kris BryantA few of the secondary characters stand out, primarily Ki’s main competition, but it is Olivia, Taryn’s 5-year-old, who makes the most impact. Finely drawn and interesting in her own right there is a charming interaction between her and Ki that adds a genuine warmth to the story, and allows Ms Bryant to show the deep bond between Taryn and her daughter.

I really enjoyed this, light, warm, cheerful, entertaining with some delightful romance, hot sex and characters you are really rooting for. Perfect for an evening in front of the fire, preferably with a fine wine and some delicious nibbles.

(publisher review copy received)

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Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (October 18, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LXI13ZS
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Love On Call – Radclyffe

Love On Call - RadcliffeBack to the Rivers family Hospital and ex –army medic physician-assistant Glenn Archer is the permanently on call ER PA who works to atone for the lives she couldn’t save. She is the typical cut-off true romantic who no longer believes she is fit for anything except work. Mariana Mateo arrives in town to join the faculty of the new PA training program, leaving a home and family that has left her battered and bruised from rejection. She is determined to make a new life, but having never been part of a small town community, has no idea what to expect, or how she will fit in.

A very traditional romance, with two women with damaged hearts and souls, seeing work as their only positive, determined to create a life on their own, both with very different but equally valid reasons for being emotionally distant. On the one hand they fit almost seamlessly into the Rivers clan, Glenn as an adopted member of the family, Mari soon finding that she has found a perfect niche, but on the other both are outsiders having either come from or faced far tougher lives than those of the sheltered small town community.

Glenn and Mari are interesting characters. There’s enough angst to give the story impetus without being melodramatic. I always enjoy Radclyffe’s medical dramas and this one definitely kept my interest with it’s medical emergencies and the interplay of the ER team. The classic climax of the plot is well done, and there’s a good mix of romance and sexual exploration.

RadclyffeI enjoyed the read, I enjoyed, as always, revisiting well-liked and known characters and seeing the developing interaction between them. I admit to being an avid series junky, and the Rivers clan are a warm and welcoming bunch. Each novel adds a layer of events and knowledge to our existing characters and I particularly enjoyed seeing a little more of mother Rivers, the rock behind the family.

One has to wonder quite how many lesbians can work in this one fairly small hospital, how many lesbians you can fit into one family, and how many new romances Rad can work into the series. I would definitely vote to revisit, deepen and broaden the existing characters; any more incoming will push the bounds of suspended disbelief.

For me the Rivers Community Romance series is a solid and enjoyable soap, nothing too taxing or difficult, a gentle re-immersion into a familiar space. Not up there with the Provincetown and Honor Series, but still a very pleasant way to spend the evening in front of the fire.

(publisher review copy received)

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (Nov 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MEHWKXB
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Believing in Blue – Maggie Morton

Believing in Blue – Maggie MortonWren is a ‘normal’ 17 year old with a dysfunctional family and a big secret. Not only is she gay, she has developed sky-blue wings. Just before her graduation and 18th birthday she receives a letter from her long departed father and the adventure begins. She is not only not of this world; she is destined to save it and her home-world from the Winged Red.

This is a fast paced and at times confusing fantasy. The world creation is excellent, the world hopping feasible, and the antagonism between two halves of a world divided into red and blue is somehow believable despite being extremely stereotyped and never explained.

However, the plot is overly complex. Wren bounces back and forward between where she is, what she looks like and both who she believes and who she if about to fight for, far too often for credibility. She desperately missed her dad and almost worships him when they are reunited, in an understandable way, only to believe in an instant that everything is a lie and everyone is deceiving her. Similarly she instantly adores Sia, the lovely woman sent to teach her to fly, but completely besotted by the looks of the evil Ember the first time they meet.

I liked the concept, its well written, some of the characters are great and many if the familial relationships are well developed. But it’s just too complex to make sense. Why the red and blue at war seems fundamental to justify the whole plot. We never do find out why Wrens father left. And while trying hard not to give away the ending, a war that has been built up into ‘the end of times’ suddenly stops after we witness painful and brutal deaths, over for no more obvious reason that it started.

It sort of works, and it feels like part of the problem is trying to be a growing up story, a fantasy, an action adventure and a romance all in one. There is just too much angst and too much contradiction to give any sense of a consistent story line. Interestingly it isn’t the fantasy that overwhelms the suspension of disbelief, it is the inconsistency of an 18 year old girl.

And that’s my final observation. This is a YA book, NA at most. It might be YA/Fantasy with a light romance (no fading necessary) but it’s current classification as Lesbian Romance first and Fantasy second is misleading to say the least. The only justification for Wren’s behaviour is her immaturity in the face of overwhelming change, without that her actions make even less sense than they do.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (Sept 12, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M0R1RZ4
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Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

Lone Ranger – VK Powell

Lone Ranger - VK PowellEmma Ferguson is a wannabe reporter in shock from her girlfriend’s heartless infidelity. She is running away to escape the fall out and another failed relationship. Emma accepts an assignment from an elderly lady in a small town to write the family history, but all is not as it seems and we soon have a cold case murder mystery on our hands.

Booked into to stay in a park cabin Emma immediately meets the eccentric Ann, an out lesbian from a time when dealing with small town issues was even harder than now, and her park ranger niece, Carter. Ann and Carter are incredibly close, surviving a series of tragic losses, and forming a strong bond. Unfortunately Emma’s digging is literally going to force all sorts of family history out into the public view.

The who-dunnit is interesting, merging 37-year-old history and characters with modern day threats and aggression intended to hide the truth. The villain becomes obvious fairly early on, but we are never quite sure which of two characters is the real baddy, and there is enough suspense to keep the pages turning. Add in a series of attempts to drive Emma off the trail, and a twisted ‘stalker’ cop and the mystery was well done.

VK Powell BiogEmma is insecure, warm and caring, struggling with the on-going impact of her father’s disappearance, while Carter is emotionally cut off, giving them the classic ying and yang of lesbian relationships. At time Carter’s wavering was a little overpowering, on the one hand she is a king and intuitive woman working with children, on the other she wont listen to her gut responses to her on and off again lover. We know why Carter acts like she does, but it still irked.

Ann is charming, funny, kind and with a great back history. The small town and settings are also well done, with just enough divergence from the stereotype to save the secondary characters, especially the amusing Fanny, the intelligent Sherriff and the lightly drawn Sissy and Clem – and although I did find the ex’s rather too shallow to be credible they did add humour.

Soundly written and healthily paced with VK Powell’s usual attention to detail and well plotted storyline this was an enjoyable read. There were times I wanted to shake the main characters, but the steamy sex scenes more than made up for my short lived annoyance with them. I would definitely put it as a romantic suspense and murder mystery rather than a romance.

NB while the MC’s aren’t over 40 Ann certainly is and I found enough synergy with her struggles to rate this of interest to 40+ readers

(publisher review copy received)

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (Nov 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MA6JTAP
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The Secret Unknown – Dillon Watson

The Secret Unknown – Dillon WatsonAdeena Minor’s world is turned upside down after her mother is killed in a school shooting. Having her face plastered all over the news triggers a series of events connected to her birth, and to the ego and ambition of a family used to getting their own way. Sal is a shady computer expert whose skills and connections are critical in solving the mystery of just who Adeena really is.

Dillon Watson has created a complex and absorbing thriller, with a touch of romance on the side. At times the relationships and who is who are extremely confusing at the beginning, but stick with it, most of it becomes clear as the story unfolds.

Adeena is an excellent MC, witty, sarcastic and intelligent with enough sass to overcome the often-scary situations she is thrust into. Sal is a wonderful creation – a complex back history, a shady past and a very useful but clearly dodgy set of connections. The pair make a formidable team with ideas and emotions bouncing between them.

The plot is extremely intricate, and the flashback at the start takes a lot of resolving, although we do finally get all the pieces in place. It’s a page-turner that drags you through the complexities with enough detail to just about keep you in the picture. The romance is very much second fiddle to the mystery thriller, it adds an element of sexual energy without becoming the focus.

There were places that I felt could have been tightened up, occasions where the repetition of names became aggravating, but overall the force of the plot and characters overcame shortfalls in the editing.

A thoroughly enjoyable and fast paced read, will definitely be looking for more from this author.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (October 16, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MCUVSWP
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Heart Trouble – Jae

Heart Trouble - JaeJae has taken a new tack with her latest novel, Heart Trouble, and branched out into a medical drama. The premise is unusual, gives her a really wide scope to explore emotional connections – and would fit into a paranormal category.

Dr Hope Findlay is an emotionally repressed ER doc who hs devoted her life to her work and cut off almost everything else. Laleh Samadi is a warm loving and highly emotive woman with a rich Persian background, including the meddling family. They meet by accident when Laleh’s heart palpitations land her in Hop’s ER department and a small mistake with the defib machine creates and unusual bond between them.

This is an out and out romance of the sweetest kind. Two opposites who would normally expect to have nothing in common, are brought together by a powerful link and the empathy between them in palpable in Jae’s writing. As always her characters are extremely well drawn, three dimensional, very human. In this book they are even deeper and more rounded than before because the whole premise of the story is about their emotional bond.

Jae - biogThe secondary characters are charming, from bffs to Laleh’s extended family, there is a warmth and love that permeates. Even when the family tension rises, it is love which shines through and wins out.

Heart Trouble is an absolutely lovely story, a sweet natured romance with a hot slow burn attraction. As usual with Jae you definitely get your money’s worth. An unusual plot and Jae’s normal excellent writing style put this way up the list for top notch traditional romances this year.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (October 5, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M0IFKOA
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Renegade – Cheyne Curry

Renegade - Chayne CurryI read Renegade several years before I started reviewing, so when Cheyne Curry was doing a reading at Provincetown this year I decided it was time to reread, and put out a review.

Renegade is an unusual mix of trad romance, historical fiction and Western hero story , with a twist of fantasy fiction and a dollop of Xena. It was originally Xena fan-fiction and published as a novel in 2009 when it was a finalist for The Golden Crown Literary Society’s Best Debut Author.

I love Western lesfic romances, and this was the first I remember reading. It’s the combination of the better cowboy movies I grew up watching with my dad and the personal thrill of seeing how women cope with their double lives, wrapping, cross dressing and presenting as straight couples to survive as themselves with the lives and loves they have chosen.

Like Jae’s brilliant Oregon series Renegade doesn’t pretend the women could have been an ‘out’ couple, it deals with the reality of life for women of the time, bullied, raped, and treated as the chattels of the less pleasant male characters.

Cheyne CurryTrace, Rachel and the other women are very real, their personalities complex and founded on deep back histories. Their actions consistently reinforce the women they have become. At the same time there are a wide range of sympathetic male characters who gradually stand up and support Trace against the baddies including a really well presented relationship with the Native American tribe who have settled the area.

Once the initial sci-fi moment is over, this becomes a classic Wild West story of the strong sheriff saving a down-beaten town from the evil bullies, except of course the sheriff is a woman with rather unusual skills.

Excellent romance, unusual and interesting twist to set up the juxtaposition of 21st century cop in the late 1890’s, and a seriously enjoyable page turner. I never had a doubt Trace would succeed both romantically and saving the town, but that never detracted from the pleasure of finding out how the story would enfold. Definitely one for the re-read pile, and if you haven’t visited Sagebrush yet, suspend your disbelieve and buy this new edition.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • First published 2009
  • Publisher: Bossy Pants Book, LLC (21 Mar. 2016)
  • ASIN: B01DAGRBSY
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Eagle Cove – Darla Baker

Eagle Cove - Darle BakerThis is an unusual read. For a start it’s in the third person and present tense, so we are told everything about our characters. There were times when the descriptions got a little long, but overall I fond it refreshing and quite intriguing.

It’s a romance, in the last twist you could even call it a traditional romance, but it’s also extremely erotic and full of thoughtful relationship exploration. In the end I could only categorise it as a fictional biography, almost the journal of our main character, sex therapist Thalia.

It starts with a lot of relatively shallow erotic scenes that may put some readers off, but actually perfectly set the tone for Thalia’s womanizing lifestyle. Throughout we are introduced to Thalia’s friends, a lively bunch, and her clients, which allows Baker to explore a whole range of relationship situations and issues from internalised homophobia to issues around parenting and of course that fear of being vulnerable, letting somebody back in to hurt us again.

There are some laugh out loud scenes and interactions, an unusual rendition of Dickens and enough twists and turns to make it interesting. Throughout there is a clear sense that the author loves these women. Ultimately it is the interrelationships of Thalia and her family of choice that imbues the novel with affection.

Darla BakerThe setting it interesting and the lake scenes drawn with loving care. We might raise an eyebrow at a rural Kentucky small town being quite so chock-a-bloc with women throwing themselves at our heroine.. but it is a work of fiction. I definitely need to visit to find out for myself.

Overall an enjoyable read. A good first novel and I will certainly be looking for the next one to see where Ms Baker takes this concept and crew.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Stone Soup Community Press
    (June 11, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01EQL8HYY
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Sing Me Home – Shannon O’Brien

Sing Me Home - Shannon O’BrienSing Me Home is a very sweet and charming romance. Two young women, Ellie and Jolene, meet in their final year at University when they work on a class project together and develop a friendship over a mutual love of a cappella. As their feelings develop we watch the slightly shy and tentative steps into a relationship unfold into a serious connection. The only problem is that Jolene has something that she forgot to share and the consequences are dramatic.

Shannon O’Brien’s first book is well written, edited and put together; the story flows and the characters are likeable. As well as our two love birds we have a small but well done clutch of friends and the whole group felt exactly like the cast of a sweet first-love movie – in fact the novel would make an excellent lesbian chick flick. Ms O’Brien has captured the unfolding feelings of new love, and gives us a genuine sense of the real connection that can happen when we meet our soul mate.

My only criticism of the story is that the cause of the angst is a little contrived. We need the angst, and it’s hard to explain without any spoilers, but it didn’t seem realistic for me that the shut out was so absolute and took so long to resolve. I felt that one of the MC’s actions didn’t quite jell with her character.

Criticism aside I really enjoyed this one, excellent feel good romance, extremely enjoyable read and a perfect escape for the beach or an evening in front of the fire. Ms O’Brien has written a very good first novel and I look forward to many more.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (September 19, 2016)
  • ISBN: 9781594935114e
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Just My Luck – Andrea Bramhall

Just My Luck - Andrea BramhallAnybody who has read Andrea Bramhall’s previous books already knows she has a wide ranging and somewhat unusual imagination. From light traditional adventure romances to fairly dark thrillers and murder mystery, her works so far have crossed many lines. Always with a lesbian angle, they have each mixed up several genres and been hard to categorise.

This latest is another example of a trans-genre tale, and even more odd-ball than the others. It’s a lesbian romance, it’s a comedy, and at the same time there is a very British down to earth pathos mixed in.

Genna Colllins has a dead end life, job and relationship. A loving mum and an absentee father. Even her BFF has withdrawn because she doesn’t approve of Genna’s girlfriend. Winning the biggest Euromillions jackpot is about to change all that, in a whole range of ways.

Underlying all of this Genna has been in love with her non-related aunt for years, which introduces Abi and her adorable Down’s daughter Rosie, literally the light of Genna’s life. Unbeknownst to Genna, her love is secretly returned. and so the romantic opportunity is set.

The style is unusual, with both main characters getting first person POV, and talking directly too the reader in very much a “Reader, I married him” style. Bramhall manages this very well, but it does take some getting used to.

Andrea Bramhall biog The plot is a very British comedy; how to spring on your council flat family you have won £156million, including a fatherly lawyer with hidden camera and NDA’s to prevent publicity. There are comic scenes throughout including a ridiculous trip to the ‘fat farm’ and through it all a wicked sense of humour and timing.

The pathos is real as well. The family dynamics are harsh, the history realistic and the hurt palpable. There were laugh out loud moments, and occasions where the past pain bring poignant realism to what is otherwise virtually farcical.

Overall an entertaining and unusual read. I enjoyed it, but it’s not my favourite by Ms Bramhall. I personally thought the ending was rushed, or perhaps forced is a better description, another chapter or two and a little less panic would have left a better feeling. But as usual Andrea Bramhall brings something different to the table and with her excellent writing style and vivid imagination that is always a good thing.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 269 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (September 21, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LONEQAG
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