The Devil’s Due – Ali Vali

Devil's Due - Ali ValiThis is the sixth book of the Devil Series, following the ongoing mafioso saga of Cain and Emma’s family and business life in the now Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. The threat of Juan Luis and his mother are gone but rogue FBI agent Anthony Curtis has disappeared. While trying to juggle friends, allies and family, a new baby on the way, new threats, and old family secrets, Cain must be all things to all men: wife, mother, leader, schemer and ruthless killer, loyal friend and honourable adversary.

This is an enthralling, nail biting and ultra fast moving addition to the Devil series. Casey now has so many irons in the fire it’s a case of smack one down and another pops up. The Casey alliance with the Jatibon and Carlotti families is strong but old and new enemies appear at every turn. Bizarrely some of her closest allies are cops and FBI agents who should be trying to take her down, but with whom she has a bond built over time. Detective Sept Savoie makes an appearance so check out “Calling The Dead” for her and Keegan’s story line.

Minor characters take centre stage while others take a backseat. In this episode the FBI takes a lesser role while rogue cops and angry in-laws take the lead in the non mafia life, and old enemies regroup in the underworld. Talking of minor previously minor characters, add “Girls With Guns” to the series if you want Finley and Abigail’s back story

Ali Vali BiogDevil’s Due is so fast paced you seriously have to concentrate, but once again Ali Vali has produced a brilliant story arc, sold character development, incomparable bad-ass women in traditionally male roles, leading both the goodies, baddies and cross-breeds. This episode closes off some of the loose ends, but sets us up for even more drama in the stories to come.

This is a stand-alone, but I would seriously recommend starting this series at the beginning. The overarching story arc is so good, the interrelationships so complex, that while it might make a good read, you will simply be missing too much backhistory and nuance of personal interplay to get the most from it.

Roll on the next in the series.. I mean really. Why can’t people write faster???


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(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (January 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N9IULCC
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Life In Death – M Ullrich

Life After Death - M UllrichThis is a powerful and moving book about two difficult subjects written in an unusual and clever style. Mary and Suzanne Dempsey are happily married, settled and solid. Then their adorable daughter Abigail is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly their almost perfect world is torn apart and rather than pull together the cracks deepen, almost unimaginably ending in divorce. But Abigail’s death, while devastating, also brings Marty something she has given up on, the glimmer of hope.

We are told up front the calamitous tragedy of the novel in a surprisingly revealing blurb that removes the suspense. But this book is all about the ‘how’, and while the blurb removes the factual anticipation, it in no way diminishes the emotional impact of those events. In addition the loss of a child is such a trigger the author and publisher no doubt felt it critical to pre-warn ‘romance’ readers of the content. And yet this is, truly, a romance.

Life In Death is an intriguing read. A serious psychological exploration of how a tragedy can impact the lives of a couple; how they react is the core of the plot. At first we aren’t engaged, Abigail’s illness understandably dominates and her Moms seem almost like cyphers with whom we have little empathy. But as the ‘plot’ develops Mary and Suzanne are filled in, each woman’s coping mechanisms drawn out and analysed through the impact their actions have on the family catastrophe.

Core to the break up is the interesting concept of who is to blame. The obvious culprit who fails into a moment of needy infidelity, or the guilt ridden wife whose own self doubt destroys the connection between a loving couple. And once seemingly destroyed, can that connection ever be reforged.

Add into this an unusual writing style where the then and now are literally woven together, with a flashback and a current scene in every chapter and this is simply a fascinating read. Despite the complex timeline we never lose where we are, the point of view is clear at all times and the plot flows effortlessly back and forward. I might have put the infidelity before the reconciliation to push the emotional tension higher, but this plot never loses its sense of anticipation. A genuine page turner that pulls you in, twists you up and makes you desperate for the happy ever after on offer.

My first book from this author and it certainly wont be my last; one of the best books of 2016 without a doubt. Such a joy to discover a ‘different’ romance with more mature women going through a real life scenario and an author who gets her teeth into gritty and difficult subjects with style and grace. Absolutely excellent reading.

BTW – I have tagged this 40+ because of the maturity, the exact age of the MC’s is irrelevant – VL


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.

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Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (October 18, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M0R6716
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Catalyst – Fletcher DeLancey

Catalyst - Fletcher DeLancey Following immediately on from Without A Front – The Warrior’s Challenge, Catalyst brings all our major players together for the Lancer’s bonding break. Set on a holiday resort island with gorgeous beaches and honeymoon cabins, Tal and Salomen are joined by their closest friends and family, including Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr Lhyn Rivers. A happy vacation for all involved, celebrating the divine tyree bond, becomes a time for sharing recent experiences and the baring of souls.

In the two years since they defeated the Voloth everyone has changed to some degree, made tough choices, learned hard lessons. Dr Rivers, in particular, has faced tough challenges; her support of the Alseans has made her a target for right wing extremists stirring up fear of the ‘mind control’ that the telepathic Alseans could unleash on the Protectorate. As their personal stories are revealed the friends are pulled even closer by their emotional bonds.

Once again Fletcher DeLancey has produced a stunningly intricate and detailed story to add to the ongoing saga of political and actual battles, emotional growth and complex relationships between strong, intelligent characters. In some ways this is a side story, in terms of Alsea nothing happens to move the larger story arc forward. Instead we are given a lesson in the unpleasant politics of the Protectorate, the lengths individuals will go to further their own agenda, and the price others have to pay. Ultimately it all adds to the world view and will undoubtedly add to our understanding of future events, but despite being set on Alsea this is an off-world backstory.

Fletcher DeLancey bioDeLancy has achieved something not easy to accomplish in making this almost completely about the emotional growth of her major characters, yet combined it with action, adventure and horrible personal experiences. We explore the events of Serrado and Lhyn’s last two years, but all from the viewpoint of explaining the challenges they have faced internally. While Serrado has been off fighting the baddies, she has serious lessons to learn about forgiveness, and for Lhyn the preceding months have literally been both physical and mental torture, from which she must learn to move forward.

As well as our existing cast we meet two new major players who seem destined to take a major role in future tales, the feisty Dr Wells, another wonderful addition to the ‘strong women’ who take almost every major part in the epic to date, and the Machiavellian Director Sholokhov. In Sholokhov DeLancy has give us an almost perfect villainous figure to dislike and despise, and yet he appears to be on the ‘right’ side. Again two more well drawn, intriguing characters whose psyches we explore while following a thrilling plot.

Altogether a brilliant read and one that I found hard to put down. All the books in the series portray the major players with deep, complex and detailed personalities, but this one takes us to another layer of psychological exploration, while we are actually reading scenes of action adventure and a dark thriller. DeLancy once again proves herself to be an expert story-teller and a wonderful writer who has a gift for the creation of extraordinarily detailed worlds and sophisticated multidimensional characters. I want nothing more than to sit in a corner and read the whole series again – I literally cannot wait for the next instalment.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 427 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva (December 21, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MTXOTQC
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The Liberators of Willow Run – Marianne K. Martin

The Liberators of Willow Run By Marianne K. MartinSome books are just important. Important to read, to feel, to remember. Some books remind us where we came from and how much we have gained. Some books can lift us up in a time of darkness and remind us how strong we are to have gotten where we are. “The Liberators of Willow Run” By Marianne K. Martin is one of those books, and reading it right now reminds us of the giant strides all women have made to take control of their lives, that lesbians have made in fighting to be open and equal.

Set in the Second World War we have two threads, a ‘Rosie The Riveter’ working at the B-24 Bomber plant in Detroit along with her mixed team of men, women, and the wonderfully self possessed Nona, an African American woman determined to make her way in the world despite her skin colour and her gender. Our “Rosie” is Audrey, heartbroken, hidden and determined to keep her independence.

The second thread brings us Ruth, entombed in a home for pregnant girls with a bullying matron and daily doses of moral education meant to teach the girls a lesson and set them on the ‘right’ road to marriage and social acceptability. Ruth is all too aware of the mistakes she has made, but they aren’t quite the ones Matron is bashing them all for.

Audrey feels she will never have the chance of love and settles in with work to fill her life, and friendship with Nona to fill her social time. Ruth escapes the home and family determined to set up on her own. Both have a huge amount of pain to deal with in  a harsh world, where their crimes are simply being who they are. And both have something to prove – that they are strong enough to not only fight their own demons, but help others along the “Willow Run”.

The characters are deep and rounded, the relationships and friendships realistic and well drawn. The story flows, the drama is real and the history detailed and yet not overwhelming with facts and figures but integrated skillfully into these women’s lives

We ache for the pain of the girls in the home, we fight along with Audrey and Nona for their team to not only top the production line figures every day, but to stand up for each other across gender and racial boundaries. And most of all we want Ruth and Audrey to find peace from the pain of their pasts. And yet all along we somehow wait for the other shoe to drop, hoping against hope that nothing will tear their worlds apart.

An enthralling read, a genuine glimpse into life in the 40’s, a world of secrecy, fear and a constant fight for basic self determination. This should be compulsory reading for every lesbian in the US struggling to hold on to hope in the face of a fascist administration. We fought then and we will fight to hold on to those gains. No matter what ‘executive orders’ are signed, we will not be put back into those boxes.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (October 17, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01IMJQNT2
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Scissor Link – Georgette Kaplan

Scissor Link - Georgette KaplanThis is a genuinely unusual book. It is very well written, clever and entertaining, but I cant actually decide if I liked it.

The story brings Wendy, a 26-year-old intern, to the attention of Janet, the Assistant Vice President of Production at Savin Aerospace. Wendy is an engineering geek with a dry sense of humour, a crummy flat and a loud motorcycle. Janet the wound up, extremely controlled and controlling career woman, whose wife has just left her for a younger, more flexible model.

Wendy’s crush is huge, her drooling amusing and her dreams decidedly wet. When her boss accidentally finds said dream written out in a work email, she decides to see if the slightly kinky play is as fun as it sounds. And so ensues a sexual romp of that starts with telephone sex, explicit pictures and progresses from there. But it’s more than a sexual encounter for both women, whether they admit it or not.

Wendy is instantly likeable, her interactions with others, particularly her sister, are amusing and highly entertaining. Janet, who appears the big bad wolf, turns out to be a caring person who supports her staff; it’s not her heart that is suspect, just her manner. Her completely out of character friendship with her PA is extremely amusing, but she isn’t an easy person to like.

And there’s the rub. While it is extremely clever, witty, and a decidedly interesting story on many levels, from aerospace intrigue to mild bondage, the emotion is thin on the ground. Both are deep and complex women, and we are told the love is there, but it doesn’t ooze off the page, neither of the characters are the type to ooze, although both manage to gush on occasion.

I think the best way I can define it is as an intellectual romance with good sex and a wicked sense of humour. I certainly wouldn’t define it as a romcom, because that for me implies a light and easy read, and there is nothing about Janet that is either light or easy. I was entertained, amused and intrigued, so in the end I guess I liked it, even if I cant quite define why.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva (December 21, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01NCIZDXK
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Close to Home – Rachel Spangler

Close to Home - Rachel SpanglerThis is the third book in the Darlington Romances series, it stands alone, although it’s nice knowing the back history, especially of the inter-relationships.

Kelly is a CPA who has grown up working with her father in their small town all-service accountancy firm. When her father is taken to hospital at the start of tax season she is left facing a mountain of returns to complete alone, while trying to visit her father and deal with her worry and stress.

Elliot needs a CPA internship to get her qualification, then she will be off to follow her dream of fighting for the unprivileged who suffer from the complexity of tax laws. When Elliot gets placed with Kelly the sparks are bound to fly. Kelly is extremely closeted and determined to stay under the radar, including keeping her distance from the young brash intern, while Elliot is determined to give everything to her work, including exploring her snappy boss’s character.

All three of the Darlington Romances are well done and different, despite the commonality of place and the growing cast of characters they share. The Long Way Home saw the black sheep returning to the small town she hated, Timeless is an unusual story of a coma induced flashback, while Close To Home is the more traditional ‘overcome the odds’ romance.

All three are well written, plotted and edited, but Close To Home feels like a step up, a more sophisticated writing style and a deeper engagement with the characters’ emotional journey. Whether due to a natural growth for Ms Spangler or a change of publisher, this story is more mature. Nothing really happens other than the day to day data entry and processing of tax files, yet we watch both women embark on a voyage of development. Kelly, a fairly unlikeable character in the earlier novel and the start of this one, has a huge course to travel and while Elliot’s growth is less pronounced, she has her own learning to do.

Rachel Spangler bioThe small town setting, the close-nit community, knowing each other’s business, reminds us of the challenges we face to be ourselves and the courage it takes to come out. We see how the support of friends is critical, and yet those very friends can hold us trapped inside the person we have become by doubting our ability to change. For an author it is far easier to take two likeable characters and put a surmountable obstacle in their way than to take a distinctly unlikeable character and convince the reader that they want them to change, take that step, become the better person.

Overall this was my favorite of the three, and probably my favourite from Ms Spangler to date. I felt more engaged, despite the simplicity of the plot and traditional format, somehow i was convinced to care more deeply about a character I didn’t even like, and had distinctly disliked in the earlier story. I am looking forward to seeing where Ms Spangler’s more mature style takes her next.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bywater (January 9, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N6OW45G
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Dare To Stay – Georgia Beers

Dare to Stay - Georgia BeersBook Three in the Junebug Farms series and we finally see Jessica find love. Running the animal shelter is more than a full time job, it’s a full time life, leaving little room for anything else. Add in the stress of the annual fundraising telethon and Jessica is at capacity. What she really doesn’t need is a change to the TV anchor coming in with new ideas and new pressures.

Sydney doesn’t want to be running the Telethon any more than Jessica wants her. This isn’t where she wants to be or what she wants to be doing, but it’s another stepping stone on her way to wherever she’s going. Sure the Jessica is gorgeous, but there is no way she is getting attached.. or involved.

As always the characters are interesting, there’s enough angst to create a storyline, and a whole host of both new and familiar faces. Sydney is a bit more edgy than others we have seen, a definite incomer with an attitude. Jessica the typically overworked shelter momma with the world on her shoulders. Their journey isn’t straightforward and they both have things to learn, ways to grow.

Georgia Beers BioGeorgia Beers writes excellent stories and this Junebug series has been an enjoyable read. This is perhaps my favourite, slightly more angst and a little more raunchy adds a deeper sense of growth and a piquant of having to fight to get there. But in the spirit of the series this is another gentle and light romance, nothing too stressful and never a serious doubt Ms Beers would resolve the storyline into a “happy ever after” in the end. Charming way to spend some downtime with familiar characters and a favourite author.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Brisk Press (January 3, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N7G87C4
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A Quiet Death – Cari Hunter

A Quiet Death – Cari HunterThis is the third book in Cari Hunters “Dark Peak” series, it stands alone, but the back-history is nice to have and all three are absolutely excellent thrillers with a side order of gentle romance.

Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding have been friends forever; supporting each other as they fought to escape the dead-end estate they grew up on. After years of an on and off casual fling they have finally realized that they are far better together than apart and their lives are settling down into cosy coupledom.

Sanne works for the local Special Ops Police force. When hikers find the body of a young Pakistani girl out on the moors, Sanne and her team are called in, under intense scrutiny not to inflame the simmering tension between police and local Asian communities. At the same time Meg, a Doctor in the local ER department, has a case that screams domestic abuse, and suddenly there is something very bad going on right under their noses. Once again Sanne gets caught in the crossfire, and it will take all her strength to survive.

The love and friendship between Sanne and Meg is tangible, their characters solid, dependable and very real. Their family and work colleagues are everyday people, recognizable, genuine and authentic; all drawn with a keen eye for observation, a wonderful balance of narrative, frequently humorous dialogue and a gentle sense of affection.

Cari HunterCari Hunter is a master of writing credible suspense laden crime detective stories that feel realistic. Sanne and Meg are extremely ordinary, two women trying to live quiet lives on their beloved Peaks, caught up in a dreadful ring of crime and, as always, doing their ordinary best to help those who need them.

It would be shocking if our heroine didn’t survive, and we are left with the most unassuming happy every after at the end of each dramatic chapter in Sanne and Meg’s lives, but despite knowing all of that Ms Hunter manages to create a sense of apprehension about just how badly damaged and scarred they will be. Creating a page-turner out of the ordinary is far more difficult than writing melodrama.

Once again I cannot recommend this series enough. If you like crime, thriller, and suspense with a cast of real life everyday folk and unassuming hero’s, written with excellent if unpretentious style, you really cannot do any better than this.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes  (January 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N0RTFEY
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Buried Heart – Laydin Michaels

Buried Heart – Laydin MichaelsWe first meat Drew aged 11 running down a street as if she has been transported there from outer space, with no memory of who she is or where she came from. Unusually her amnesia doesn’t fade, although the nightmares do after years of therapy.

Jump to Drew aged 26, working as a Ranger and bopping at the local festival, when she meats the gorgeous Cicely and they form an instant bond. The romance seems set to develop despite Cicely’s’ rather one sided obsession about truth and honesty.

But Drew has started to receive anonymous text messages, and the nightmares flare up again, putting stress on their budding relationship. When a strange man speaks to Drew’s younger sister a warning flares, but her stalker will get much closer before her memories return and uncover the horror of her childhood.

The suspense and terror in ‘Buried Heart’ are very real, the horror of a sadistic man’s behaviour had me turning the pages to get through it, hoping for a happy ever after ending, but dreading a fateful twist in the plot. Ms Michaels can certainly create a crescendo of angst that builds and builds until it is almost unbearable and then crashes like a tidal wave against the shore with the release of pent up energy.

Drew is a likeable and interesting character, Cicely less so, and although her background explains her demanding nature, she is certainly never warm and fuzzy. Drew’s family, particularly her mother, along with her friend Preston and Cicely’s closest friend Kallie, provide the warmth and care, the gentler and loving side.

The dialogue was, at times, a little heavy and the editing could have been tighter, but the author certainly has a gift for thrilling the reader and holding you in thrall. After all they went through I was not convinced by their happy ever after protestations, but I am certain that I wanted, needed, them to survive and escape the horror, however damaged they might be. Ms Michaels should definitely be writing more page turning thrillers.


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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (January 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N7J7LAU
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Courageous Love – KC Richardson

Courageous Love - KC RichardsonTake one happy and well centered ER nurse add one handsome Cop and the scene is set for a happy ever after. But throw in a life threatening disease and KC Richardson ramps up the angst.

Alex has a loving family, great friends, a godson she dotes on and a job she loves as an ER nurse. When a gorgeous sergeant pulls her over for speeding and texting, she gets all kinds of angry, but it sparks an attraction for both of them.
Several months later when Alex is diagnosed with the same disease that killed the most important women in Franki’s world and the stage is set for a traumatic time for all of them.

This is a great storyline and felt very well done. While there is a heavy dose of angst, it’s justified and well handled. There is a lot of medical information, but again it felt appropriate, and used to accentuate the overwhelming decisions and emotions of somebody faced with life defining choices.

Alex and Frank are well drawn and along with their closest friends and Alex’s family, become familiar characters we would be happy to meet and get to know. I haven’t read ‘New Beginnings” which sets up Jordan and Kirsten, but their relationship is delightful as is their son Aiden, Alex’s God-son,.

The impact of the disease on the friendly and easygoing Alex is extreme, making her an almost Jekyll and Hyde personality in the two halves of the story. But while extreme Ms Richardson amply justifies the feelings of a young woman whose surgery, in her mind, destroys her femininity.

I personally would have preferred Francesca to be Franki rather than Frank, she felt soft butch despite her uniform, and the fully masculine form seemed harsh, but that is purely personal.

My only real criticism of the book was that it needed a much heavier red pen to take out both word and explanatory repetition, rapidly becoming my biggest bugbear in the works of our newer authors, but then again that is hardly the author’s fault if they aren’t being told.

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.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (December 13, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MQL2744
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