Classics

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
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

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
Amazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
Amazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

Poppy Jenkins – Clare Ashton

Poppy Jenkins - Clare AshtonYou know when you are in trouble when you feel as though you need a thesaurus before you even start a review, but that’s how I felt when I put down Poppy Jenkins and reached for my Mac. How many superlatives can I find?

At the simplest level it is a mild, slow moving romance. Schoolgirls – best friends – torn apart, meeting years later and exploring the anger and misunderstandings old assumptions can cause. One the darling of the village, all gentle smiles and forgiving nature, the other the odd girl out who rebelled against the place and the people, escaping to what she deemed a better future, but paying a hefty price along the way.

The characters are rounded and wholesome, drawn with glorious attention to detail and loving humour. Grumpy gran, hippy-dippy mother, misdirected lesbian lovers, burley rugby lads and a scheming baddy, Ms Ashton fills the village with a wide ranging cast who provide a brilliant and entertaining counterpoint to our star crossed lovers.

The pastoral setting is coloured with the lightest of touches but a depth that brings it alive. From the valleys to the village square, Poppy’s bedroom to the café – every facet of the surroundings adds to the picture drawn and the sense of place. The Welshness of the people and the land provides a vivid backdrop that adds veracity and quaintness in equal measure.

Clare Ashton bioAs always in Ms Ashton’s novels she finds a place for some sizzling scenes, without them ever feeling gratuitous or misplaced. She somehow takes a mild mannered romance and segues into something steamy so seamlessly that you barely notice these nice girls are being decidedly naughty until the heat washes over you.

But beyond all of that this is a most exquisite piece of writing. The language is fulsome, rounded and glorious. The sentences flow across the page and into your heart and mind with genuine elegance. The story is a sophisticated, multi-layered odyssey. I have loved all her books to date, but this, without a doubt, reaches a new high in terms of the Austenesque literary accomplishment. It is, genuinely, a modest and tender romance, but suffused with a tone of voice and love of language which makes it feel like so much more.

Add in a huge dose of humour, which infuses the whole with the author’s affection for a subject both well known and precious, and you will find it hard not to fall in love with Poppy, her family and the modest village life. This is, simply, British writing at its best; witty, clever, beguiling and brilliant.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Breezy Tree Press (June 19, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01HC65VIK
USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

It Pours – CD Cain

it Pours- cd CainBook 2 of Chambers of the Heart series begins exactly where When It Raynes left off. For those of you who expressed frustration about the lack of a complete arc in book 1, it is clearly a giant 4 part work, the size of War and Peace, rather then a 4 part series.

This section focuses on Rayne, an interior monologue that follows her struggle to come to terms with her choices. Trained, expected and bullied into being the perfect southern belle, she accepts the life-plan her domineering mother and ‘take for granted’ boyfriend expect of her.  But as the story unfolds we watch Rayne grow, challenge and even rebel against those expectations as she fights to be herself – despite what her choices will do to her dreams of going home.

Rayne is a powerful character. Frequently self absorbed and somewhat isolated, she never the less resonates as a woman of strength and power. It Pours has new characters for us to meet and Mo is a particularly unusual heroine with her looks, lifestyle and passion creating a fascinating allure.

CD Cain’s writing brings the characters to life. We feel the stress and tension building in Rayne, her inner turmoil contrasting her apparent outward serenity.  Sam is ever present in her mind, an anchor and a guilt. This becomes almost a psychological thriller as we wait for Rayne to chose, to grow into the woman we all want her to be.

CD Cain biogCD Cain’s descriptive passages are superb. She brings to life the south, the bayou and the forest. From the dust of a motorcycle journey to the peace of a hammock, every scene is firmly anchored in a sense of place that gives an added dimension to the intensity of the storytelling.

I have to be honest and say I thought the prose was a little less tight than the first book. Maybe a little less edited and occasionally repetitive. But that did not detract from the essence of the story, the power and substance of the writing, and the pure joy of immersing yourself so wholly into a world exquisitely drawn.

Cannot wait for books 3 and 4 to see where they take Rayne and Sam. There is no doubt their story isn’t over.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bedazzled Ink (May 27, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01F7T7Q1Y
USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

 

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
USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy from Amazon.com – click here.
UK FlagAmazon.co.uk
To buy from Amazon.co.uk – click here.

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.

————————————-

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
      USA FlagAmazon.com
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.
      UK FlagAmazon.co .uk
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.