Monthly Archives: September 2013

Waiting for Harper Lee – Lea Daley

GCLS clean logoWaiting for Harper LeeIt’s 1980. Lynn Westfall escapes a broken heart by moving to a quiet town to set up her pottery workshop and start a new life. The town is dying through old fashioned values and stagnation, where the men still control how their wives vote and refuse to babysit as “women’s work”. Lynn joins the local women’s group, hoping to make some change, but before these woman can change anything in their community they need to change themselves.

In walks the vibrant Alix Dunnevan, ex-concert pianist, mother of two, married to a local bigwig and controlled all her life by her megalomaniac father and then her ‘chip off the old block’ husband. Lynn and Alix soon become friends and allies within the women’s group. Lynn quickly realizes the dangers of the ‘straight woman trap’ and repeatedly tries to cool their growing friendship – and herself – down. But each time she pulls back something happens to break through her barriers, and she realizes she is falling in love.

As Alix reveals more of herself, and the unhappiness in her marriage, Lynn’s hopes and feelings grow. In a final attempt to step away Lynn admits she has fallen for Alix, who immediately declares her love. But without any real understanding of the consequences will Alex have the strength to leave a controlling husband and risk losing her daughters or leave Lynn broken hearted and foolish for having fallen for a “happily married woman’?

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This is a nice, sweet tale of women in the early’ 80’s, before the ERA, before bra burning had spread to the south – if indeed it ever has.  Calling it nice isn’t necessarily a criticism. It is just that, a sweet tale of a typical brokenhearted lesbian moving to escape the betrayal and hurt after a seven-year relationship ends.   She meets the most interesting and beautiful woman around, they fall in love despite both trying to resist, and the rest of the novel explores their growing relationship, interacting with Lynn’s lesbian friends, and the stress and strain they individually and jointly suffer from the pressure, threats and taunts of Alix’s husband, father and school friends.

There is nothing shocking, nothing overly dramatic, nothing too sexplicit. The emotions, while seemingly troubled and painful, don’t really engage at a deep and meaningful level. While we are told of Alix’s anguish and her husband’s threats they never seem too harsh or too real.

Lee DaleyPerhaps it is the perspective of time, making it hard now to imagine a wealthy white woman in America feeling so threatened by the antics of her husband and father who try to bully her into abandoning her children and wealth, and when that fails try to get her to give up her new lover. But while I liked the characters and thought they were well written and rounded, and while the plot flowed through the ups and downs of a woman coming out, not least to herself, and the changes that entailed, it didn’t really touch me.

Gentle, charming, a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2013
  • Publisher: Bella Books (17 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594933421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594933424
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Curious Wine – Katherine V. Forrest

curious wine
“Nothing interesting can possibly happen in a cabin full of women.” So ends the first chapter of Curious Wine, Katherine V. Forrest’s classic novel of the early 80’s in which 6 women bring their personal issues to a beautiful Tahoe cabin for a weeks skiing. This was an era when encounter groups were in, padded shoulders were the norm and lesbian romance was definitely still in the closet.

Diane is depressed about breaking up with her boyfriend. As she meets the group she instantly bonds with the gorgeous but cool Lane, high powered lawyer with a trail of downtrodden men. The remaining four women are led by Liz, the angry and bullish “first wife”, Chris her uptight and narrow-minded spinster sister, Millie the aging hippy and Madge, who’s too scared of the truth to find out if she is being betrayed.  Add into the mix a large quantity of alcohol and some grass; a meltdown is bound to happen.

Needless to say the encounter games don’t go to well, feelings of pain and anger get out of hand and rather than bonding the group ends up hurting each other with truths they don’t want to know. Out of which the sensitive Diane reaches out to Lane for comfort. One thing leads to another and suddenly they are on the verge of a sexual encounter.

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Let me start by saying I LOVE THIS BOOK. Yes its short and obvious and so unrealistic.. but i love the characters, the story is so sweet, and I can fogive the dated games, clothes and behaviour because of what it represents.

Curious Wine was Katherine V. Forrest’s first novel, published in 1983 and is without a doubt a classic. It is one of the groundbreaking novels of its generation, it moved away from the pulp fiction into romance, was solidly about women and was written by a lesbian for lesbians.

Today many reviews criticize it for the soppy and cheesy sex, the paucity of terminology and the unlikelihood of two ‘straight’ women having sex, falling in love and deciding to live ‘happily ever after’ in 3 days. People – normally women who probably weren’t born in 1983 – complain about the ridiculous encounter games, the dated fashions and the shallow plot and characterisation.

Katherine V ForrestBut to do so is to take the book out of context. This is a first novel written in a virtual vacuum of lesbian romance. In 1983 women did try to bond in stupid games, they were this nasty to each other – they thought they were ‘helping’ when in retrospect they were destroying each other. At that time there was practically no current lesbian fiction – the pulp fiction of the 50’s and 60’s was often homophobic and frequently written for a sleezy male audience. And the sexual norm of the day was either Deep Throat style porn or uptight bosom heaving Mills and Boon.

If you want to read an novel full of deep characters agonizing over coming out, or compare this to modern sexplicit girl on girl action you will be disappointed. But it is a great novel. It is well worth the read – at 160 pages it wont even take too long. And it deserves the title classic for its groundbreaking exploration of a woman’s reaction to her first lesbian encounter.

This book started my journey into Lesbian Romance and all the wonderful stories I have read since. But far more importantly – this book, along with a scarce few such as Ann Bannon, Isabel Miller, Jane Rule and Rita Mae Brown, – this book started the genre of Lesbian Romance that we all spend so much time reading, reviewing and living.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • First published 1983
  • Publisher: SILVERMOON BOOKS (1 Oct 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1872642020
  • ISBN-13: 978-1872642024
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Oath of Honor – Radclyffe

Oath of honourNavy Captain Wes Masters, newly posted to head the White House Medical Unit, is a physician with only one patient, but her job is twenty-four/seven. Her charge is simple—protect and preserve the well-being of the most powerful man in the world—the president of the United States.

As the First Physician, Wes must travel by President Andrew Powell’s side, in the hot zone, with everything she needs to save his life if he is injured or falls ill. Her job gets even harder when she has to prove she is up to the task to Secret Service Agent Evyn Daniels, a member of the elite Presidential Protection Detail, and a woman who challenges Wes on more than just the professional front.

Evyn isn’t happy about inserting Wes into PPD, especially when Wes gets the post Evyn believes should go to her good friend Dr. Peter Chang. The stakes get even higher for all involved when Homeland Security Deputy Director Cameron Roberts is brought in to investigate a possible security breach, and everyone, including Evyn, is a suspect.

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This is a cross over between Radclyffe’s First Responders and Honor Series. The main characters Wes and Evyn are the focal point, but interact with Cam and Blair – indeed the focus of the plot is on Cam investigating the Presidential detail, so Wes is under intense scrutiny while Evyn frets about her friends in the medical team. For Cam and Blair fans, we get to see them living the beginnings of married life together and get lots more building up their relationship.

Full of action and romance and political intrigue this story brings in the threat of biological warfare by internal US militia in their attempt to destroy the liberal Presidency of Andrew Powell. We get to see the inner workings of the White House medical unit and the First physician while under threat from internal investigations and external attack.

RadclyffeAs always Radclyffe’s books are well written and put together. The characters are strong, independent women who do difficult and dangerous jobs but struggle to find equally strong relationships, at least in part due to their strength and self-reliance. I always enjoy series where we get the chance to see a group of characters develop and this is no exception.

It stands alone, but is better as part of the series. Radclyffe has knocked out another good story and all her Honor series fans will enjoy it.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: old Strokes Books (August 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0094BDBUC
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