Monthly Archives: December 2016

Just Juliet – Charlotte Reagan

Just Juliet - Charlotte ReaganCharlotte Reagan’s debut novel is a cracker. It tells the tale of the classic American girl next door, with a cheerleader best friend and a football player boyfriend, who finds herself instantly drawn to the new girl in class. That new girl is stunning, fascinating, and gay. As the two spend more and more time together we are drawn into the unusual family dynamics of a gay teenage household and the dawning love between these two interesting young women.

The story is slightly chaotic, not in a bad way, but it reflects the madness of late teenage years; moods, friendships, ebbs and flows, ups and downs. It feels genuinely like watching teenage life and the growing pains both physical and emotional we all go through.

The writing is sparky and alive. At the start it feels a little immature, but like the characters it grows as the book progresses, and we can almost see this young debut author finding her voice as the story unfolds.

The characters are well done, Lena and Juliette, as well as BFF Lacey, are well-developed and interesting individuals, each with their own quirks and identities, each with a path to follow. Lakyn and Scott, Juliet’s gay cousin and his boyfriend, add a really interesting layer of friendship and multiply the coming out story and teenage angst of new relationships and social interaction.

This is a classic YA/NA coming out story, well told, well written and a great debut novel. Definitely one I would recommend for any teenager or YA/NA exploring their sexuality or learning about diversity.

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: 224 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Inkitt (September 17, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LXVPW3M
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Lost In The Starlight – Kiki Archer

Lost In The Starlight - Kiki ArcherSomewhere between a classic Trad romance and a comedy of errors this is a very British RomCom and you definitely need to suspend disbelief.. but then why not.

Take an A-list superstar from a power celebrity family, molded and manipulated by her Orwellian mother, a lovely woman who doesn’t know who or what she is because life has never been real. Balance her with the ugly duckling who is a good journalist overwhelmingly frustrated by not being able to tell the real truth, and whose outlet for that is a hard hitting truth-telling celebrity-watch site. Add naïve use of beards, long term crushes and a whole ensemble of variously mad supporting characters and you have Lost in the Starlight.

It flows with gay abandon, the writing is stylish and well crafted. Ms Archer shows a delicious and wicked sense of humour and comic timing. The bringing low of the superstars PA/controller is a particularly amusing sub-plot, and nobody will feel quite comfortable going for a massage with a trainee masseuse again.

Despite all the silliness the main characters are real, with faults and fears and a learning curve that lifts them beyond the pure caricature into likable and sympathetic young women that you cant help but route for. The rest of the cast defies description to be honest, there’s barely a sane one between them.

Highly entertaining, amusing and fun, with a serious subtext about being ourselves and fighting to stand up to those who would force us into their mold, this is a far more layered book than it might first appear.

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: 301 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: K.A Books (September 6, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LWDYI4O
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The Review – Annette Mori

The Review – Annette MoriWhen a successful lesbian romance writer sets up a competition to meet her greatest fan, all manner of people can feel slighted and upset. Silver Lining, the author, knows who will win, as only one person has read the book pre-release, but she doesn’t expect the winners ex to get involved, or jealous stalkers to take a hand.

This is a fun read, complex and thoughtful but with a lot of humour. It deals with two difficult subjects – the guilt of moving on from losing your wife and mental illness. It also highlights how easy stalking is in the internet age where ‘fans’ can not only find everything they need on line, but hide behind intricate tech walls to protect themselves from discovery. And ultimately it’s a sweet romance, one in which two women need to emerge from difficult pasts and have the courage to take a step into the future.

The characters are well done and varied, their emotional issues, whether sympathetic or not, are carefully constructed and believable. While the main focus is on 6 women, the appearance of a classic gay bff, Preston, lightens the drama and creates a real sense of amusement.

Annette Mori BioThe tension is real. Annette Mori cleverly builds up a classic stalker profile in our minds, and then spins us around when we are completely confident we know what is happening. There’s a point of high drama, and a kind resolution, overall a well done story arc and a pleasing flow.

Ms Mori takes interesting subjects and writes good books. I did think there were a few places at the beginning that could have been tightened up with sharper editing, but once past those the story sweeps you away. I always enjoy reading this author and this is no exception.

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: 210 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Affinity (September 30, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LXE57N4
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Swelter – D Jackson Leigh

Swelter – D Jackson LeighSwelter finds ex-congressional aide Teal Giovanni, escaping from the paparazzi, thrown into the path of August Reese, in hiding from the drug lord she has exposed to the law. The attraction is instant, although they both keep their secrets. Over time, however they can’t keep their hands off each other, their bodies collide and their hearts aren’t far behind.

D Jackson Leigh writes great romances, and this one is no exception. The characters are gorgeous, strong, powerful women, more than capable of handling themselves. They are all high achievers in one way or another, and live out the dream finding their happy ever after.

The plotline is exciting, a decent page turner – we always know its going to turn out ok, but what our heroines have to suffer first keeps the interest and the juices flowing. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the ranch and wilderness, the story makes excellent use of the land and the heritage imbued in it’s history and culture.

D Jackson Leigh BiogAs always D Jackson Leigh’s heroines and sex scenes are hot and steamy, this time the landscape adds to the heat. She writes extremely good erotic action as well as well done action and adventure.

Traditional romance at its steamy best – definitely no fade to black found here!

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: 254 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (December 13, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MTPIBE1
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The Portal: The Chronicles of Caymin Book 2 – Caren Werlinger

The Portal – Caren WerlingerBook 2 of the The Chronicles of Caymin: The Dragonmage Saga, this book stands alone – so if you haven’t read Book 1 (and why not, its excellent) this is still a complete story with a well built ARC. And unlike “Book 1; Rising From the Ashes” which set the scene and was almost YA, this does have lesbian characters, and a definite teaser for more to come.

Caymin and Péist return to ancient Eire from their self imposed isolation and must seek allies, find friends and somehow help end a war… or possibly two. Between the old magic, the power of the dragons and the strength of the land they must find a way for one small girl and a young dragon to achieve what a whole array of Mage and Dragons have failed to do.

This is classic fantasy at its best. The world building is excellent, the incorporation of enough reality in the depiction of the lands and creatures grounds it in a history we can recognize, while sprinkling it with dragons, talking animals and portals to dream-worlds and time travel make it imaginary and unreal. Like many fantasy writers and fans the old days of Celtic and Druid has a built in attraction, calling to something in ourselves from a time both simpler and more complex.

The characters become friends; their trials and tribulations are emotional connections to us, the reader. They draw us in and stay in our minds, becoming a reality in the way of the great storytellers. Ash’s continual growth and the development of her bond with Péist may form the core, but other characters, particularly other young Mage on their own journey, have lessons to learn and trials and tribulations to survive. Among them we can see the beginnings of a powerful group, the future protectors of the forest and the old ways from the battles ahead.

Caren Werlinger BiogCaren Werlinger is one of our best bards and with a writing style to match. Her words flow effortlessly from page to imagination in the way of the great fantasy writers. So many ‘Game of Throne’ fans out there and yet so few declare themselves fantasy readers… if you love fantasy this series is up there with Robin Hobb, Stephen R. Lawhead and Raymond E. Feist. If you havn’t tried it yet, then a great series written by one of our own, and with just a hit of a lesbian storyline in the minor plots, is an excellent place to start.

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 2016
  • Publisher: Corgyn (December 1, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01N1H19NQ
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When Butches Cry – Genta Sebastian

When Butches Cry - Genta SebastianTraf is the archetypal tomboy, the first girl to play football with the boys, competing with her brother in everything, ringleader and troublemaker. As she grows from a child to a feisty teen she realizes she is more different than just her hatred of the confinements of skirts and ladylike behavior. In the extremely regimented and catholic word of the Portuguese Azores in the early 1960’s she must fight to be herself and carve a life in a tiny community where there is nowhere to hide.

This is an interesting read. We have stories of British and American lesbian life in the ‘50s and 60’s, but this is the first I have come across set in another country, and the differences are intriguing. The old-world Island of Terceira is tiny and the populations small: the group of ‘maria rapaz’ (tomboys) stands out and draws attention. The island is extremely conservative in many ways, girls not even allowed to dance with boys until they are formally courting, and their courting done with a chaperone present at all times. Women have a very clearly defined role and are forcibly not allowed to step out of them.

Vitoria (Traf) was never cut out to fit in the world of parental and patriarchal control and rebels in every conceivable way. As she grows she draws a group of like-minded women around her, and over time they form into a butch and femme group; friends, lovers, community and club. While their struggles to find themselves and establish a lifestyle is similar to tales from elsewhere, the level of violence they suffer for being visibly gay is shocking and at times heart rendering.

Life on the island is fascinating, showing us a different world in both terms of the rural lifestyle and the old fashioned ways. Ms Sebastian uses it to great effect as both a backdrop and as a way to place these women in a different world. The landscape is very much part of the story and the land a strong presence in the women’s lives.

The group of lesbians are a colourful mix, themselves set into rigidly defined roles of butch and femme that constrain their lives. Even there Traf rebels, constrained by the perceived role of a butch but frustrated by the rules which expect her to act like a husband and yet denies her sexual release.

Everything about this book feels very slightly alien. It’s a glimpse into a life where generations of customs and religious beliefs have regimented every aspect of women’s lives, with a European twist and a Portuguese flavour.

There’s a twist in the tale that suggests this will become a series, and I will want to read what happens next, whether Traf escapes the confines of her life through her career in the US Air Force, or convinces herself to stay loyal to a home and girlfriend that seem wholly too small for her.

(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: 277 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Sapphire (December 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M0G13HC
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Rainbow Gap – Lee Lynch

Rainbow Gap - Lee LynchSometimes it is hard to write a review because you can’t find the words, in this case it’s hard to find words big enough to describe such an epic tale. Set in Florida in the 50’s and 60’s Lee Lynch has constructed a story that creates a movie style landscape in your mind.

It opens with the portrayal of two young school friends, one the circus freak with too much testosterone, the other the pretty girl who choses her friend above popularity. The plot is 15 years of simple day-to-day living, with their small personal dramas, but set in the midst of complex times that frequently touch their lives. A brother away in Vietnam, the first battles of women’s lib, the early stirrings of gay rights, the communist threat, and the on-going racial segregation all form a backdrop to the changing world around them.

Jaudon and Berry form an instant bond that in small town America in the 1950’s literally had no name. They forge a life together based on nothing more than their absolute belief that they belong. With no role models, no community and very little support they just ‘are’. Each step, from the first tentative kiss to finding their own place in the world, individually and as a couple, is an exploration of how to be.

The Florida swamp plays a powerful role in the novel, from how the girls grow up in the most basic of shacks to the ever-present voice of frogs and the bite of mosquitos. More than just setting the scene the landscape is a living being with a character and a sub-plot of its own, almost a will of its own, taking action in the lives of the families who carve out a life in the encroaching greenery and the overwhelming heat.

We meet a broad range of characters from the distant overachieving mother to the warm and loving gran, the gay boys who struggle to be themselves and a bunch of recognisable 1960’s feminists beginning to fight for women’s rights. For anyone old enough to have lived through those heady days of the women’s groups and early gay community it rings so many bells. The strident activists, the surreptitious gatherings, the support and the angst of women learning the hard way how to fight for change.

Lee Lynch bioThis is both a coming out and growing up story, but also a timeless work of literary fiction, with classic writing that draws you into it’s world. The plot may be simple but the characters, interactions and subplots are the history of lives lived at a time when literally everything they did was unknowingly revolutionary.

Rainbow Gap will win awards across the board, and deservedly so. It is simple in plot, but complex in emotion. It is a genuine classic telling of nothing more or less than real life. More than anything it’s a story of the birth of our community and the fight to be openly who we are.

 

(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: 348 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (December 13, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MSO1NY5
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Along Came the Rain – Alison R. Solomon

Along Came the Rain - Alison R. SolomonAlong Came the Rain is an unusual book from page one. It is not an easy read, it’s not an easy story, yet it pulls you along with some inexorable force and keeps you tied to the chair until you finish.

Wynn is a middle-aged jewellery maker with a flaky memory and a ditzy personality who forgets to walk the dogs and put the diner on. Barker is her long suffering social work partner, frustrated by her forgetfulness and concerned with the growing signs of memory loss. When two of Barker’s 15 year-old foster care clients go missing their relationship comes under scrutiny – how will their personal histories impact solving the mystery of why the girls have gone missing and who is responsible?

Written in the first person point of view and with a step by step – backwards – narrative, this is a challenging read until you get far enough in to it to have a handle on the story. That is not a criticism of the writing, I cannot imagine how else Ms Solomon could have done it without loosing the essence of the novel, but until we, the reader, catch up with who and when, the plot is hard to follow. It is so unusual we just aren’t used to it.

When you do come to terms with the retroactive storyline it makes perfect sense and leaves you with a feeling of having unwrapped a very complex three-dimensional onion. The layers of fact and emotion are the very core of this tale, and as it unfolds we are drawn into a deep psychological whodunit where almost nobody is innocent of some wrongdoing, however naively they got involved.

The characters are complex, to say the least. Their back-histories and personalities are, essentially, the story. As the plot develops and we begin to see the clues as to who, the ‘why’ is left hanging because there are so many possibilities.

The writing is excellent, the words flow, the dialogue and narrative are well done, there is a lot of internal monologue, but it’s an integral and essential part of the story. In some ways it is the story.

Ms Solomon takes us to the brink in many different ways, she makes us uncomfortable then pulls back before we tumble over the edge. That is particularly true of what happens to the girls, where she builds the suspense, gives us an expectation of something much worse than it actually is. Clever writing and excellent technical skills in a debut novel.

Fascinating read. Without giving spoilers it is hard to explain, but the author puts the reader into the mind of a women with serious mental issues and it is both intriguing and disconcerting to be taken on the journey with her. This isn’t a book you will forget in a hurry.

(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: 199 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Sapphire Books (April 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01CQ0ODHC
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Night Fires in the Distance – Sarah Goodwin

Night Fires in the Distance - Sarah GoodwinLaura and William have traveled from England to the prairie, making a home and trying to build a life in the as yet unclaimed Indian Territory. With no neighbors closer than the ramshackle town half a day away, no transport but the ox-puled cart, and nothing but backbreaking work, their lives are harsh by any standard. The relentless stresses and strains of surviving begin to show in the cracks that form between them, and Will’s increasing anger at a life with no respite.

When a new settler, James, arrives it is clear that the young man knows nothing about the life he has chosen. He hopes for help and advice from William, but it is Laura who reaches out in kindness to help the young man build his sod house and get set up. James had no idea that life would be this harsh, and even less idea what it would take to survive his first winter. But he has reasons of his own for hiding from the world, and soon his growing friendship with Laura keeps him tied to the spot.

As James and Laura’s attraction grows, William’s jealousy flares and his bullying and brutish nature comes to the fore. As secrets are revealed and emotions deepen Laura and James have to find a way to endure their situation.

This is a page turning historical romance that grabs your emotional attention and doesn’t let go. Laura is a woman who is literally working her fingers to the bone to try and keep her family together. Clearly from a slightly more refined background in England she is nevertheless doing everything she can to make life as good as she can for her husband and surviving children. James has come from a wealthy background, running from cruelty and heartbreak into a world that he will be lucky to survive. Both are struggling to make life bearable both physically and emotionally, and their bond is both instant and the basis of a tragedy waiting to happen.

The setting, the harshness and the natural disaster that brings the climax to the story are of biblical proportions, revealing a harrowing life not shown in the movies and TV shows. The energy sapping slog just to endure is almost overwhelming and becomes the only thing left as literally everything is stripped away.

Totally engrossing. Well written, deeply touching, well-drawn characters, and an evocative landscape that dominates the whole. This is my first Sarah Goodwin and will definitely not be my last. My only complaint is the feeling that there must be more… I want to know what happens next and am hoping she will give us a sequel to tie up all those loose ends.

(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: 278 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Independent (October 12, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M9AU0AC
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Christmas at Winterbourne – Jen Silver

Christmas at Winterbourne – Jen SilverWil and Gabby own a lesbian retreat, Winterbourne House, previous home of a famous lesbian author. This Christmas they have a full house of guests, friends and relations, as well as a baby due any day. While their extended family are there to enjoy the season and support Wil and Gabby, not all the guests have such innocent motives.

A nosy writer, a long lost lover and a disappearing girlfriend all make this an interesting tale of the interaction of a group of people over the festive season. It is a Christmas story, but not overly so, more an observational drama that happens to be set in the Christmas season.

All of the characters are well drawn and fleshed out. Although some take centre stage more than others, this is definitely not a tale about one couple; in fact the life of the author is as dominant as the current inhabitants. We have the tension of a woman who thinks she is being cheated on, the regrets of a lover who should have followed her heart, and the anguish of a partner abandoned. It is not all doom and gloom however, as we also have happily married and partnered couples whose gentle interactions show the give and take of long-term marriages. Oh and snowball flights and skinny-dipping to lighten the mood.

Jen Silver BioJen Silver uses the house and the weather to great effect, making them an important part of the story. The feeling of warmth and cosy hospitality, despite the various stresses of supporting and providing for a large group, are central to the feel of the book, and this is decidedly a feel-good tale of good will and good intentions.

There are moments of romance, comedy, anguish and love. The group, predominantly women and lesbian, provides an interesting mix. And despite the number of characters, rooms and scenes Ms Silver does an excellent job of keeping it all clear in our minds without ever falling into the trap of the constant repetition of names; even the flashbacks are clear and well defined.

Thoroughly enjoyable read, excellent Christmas present and delightful English situation drama.

(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: 170 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Affinity (October 31, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01M8PUZDV
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