Historical

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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The Lavender List – Meg Harrington

The lavender list - Meg Harrington1950’s thriller romance which finds an ex mobster, Amelia, working in a diner and doing auditions. Her crush is the swarve and sexy Laura who lives in the room next door at their boarding hotel. When Laura turns up at the diner with a bad cut and bruises Amelia starts to wonder quite where she goes all dolled up in the evenings, and her investigations lead her into a world of car chases, gun battles and the ongoing war between the USA and communist Russia.

I enjoyed the plot although it didn’t quite go where the blub suggested, i.e. back into Amelia’s mobster world. It was an interesting idea to explore what happened to the brave women who risked everything to work with the European resistance against the Nazis after the war – the expectation for them to go home and settle into 1950’s normalcy of home and children.

This story is certainly full of suspense. Both the romance and the thrill of the chase, with spies and mobsters and even the ‘good guys’ taking a hand. The first half sets the real characters, the second shows what they have become, far from the women they are perceived to be.

The characters of Amelia and Laura are likable, although I never really felt connected to them, but then that is also an element of those 1950’s stories, cool and slightly distant however much the hearts may be fluttering underneath.

The style worked really well for this plot and period, short, catchy writing, lots of sarcasm, definitely imitation the noir of 1950’s detective stories. At times the POV in the second half was a little difficult to follow, it certainly jumps around a great deal. But my only real issue was some of the language used was decidedly not 1950’s NYC, one phrase threw me out completely, the setting and props all seemed perfect for the era, but the language felt decidedly modern.

Overall I enjoyed it and it was a fun and entertaining read.

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: 266 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva (November 30, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01MQIYTI0
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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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Alaskan Bride – D Jordan Redhawk

Alaskan Bride - D Jordan RedhawkSet in the years after the American Civil War when finding a husband wasn’t easy, Alaskan Bride is an excellent historical lesfic romance.

Old maid Clara is an educated 22 year-old from a wealthy Bostonian family. Fed up with being pursued by businessmen her father’s age, she answers an advert for a mail order bride and heads off to the Alaskan Territory.

Unbeknown to Clara, the man she is set to marry dies in an accident, and his sister, Callie, writes to stop his bride setting off. The letter crosses with Clara on her journey, and the two women find themselves in an unusual situation. Callie insists Clara goes home, Clara is determined to stay and live her adventurous dream.

Clara and Callie are strong, independent women with distinctive voices and very strong wills. They both have a secret they have never revealed, and both have a determination to ‘make it’ in a man’s world, whatever the cost. Their characters clash, yet they are both intrigued and infuriated by the other. As they adjust and compromise, we watch a very slow burn romance unfold, beautifully crafted and befitting the era of the novel.

D Jordan Redhawk has created an interesting set of characters between the more refined Bostonian family and the roughneck frontier folk. She has used the vocabulary of the era to give authenticity to the dialogue and cleverly makes the voices very distinct with tone and language.

The setting of the gold rush era in an Alaskan town is well drawn, with new businesses appearing weekly, and a wide set of society on display. The beauty of the landscape and the harshness of the lifestyle play an important part in the background of the story as we witness Clara’s transformation from Boston debutant to gun-toting frontier homesteader.

I really enjoyed this story and hope there is a sequel, as we can certainly have more of Callie and Clara’s lives together. Excellent writing, unusual setting, passionate characters and very well done realistic storyline. While the attraction is obvious, it is drawn with enough twists to make it interesting and enough humour to entertain, while at the same time the women literally fight to survive in a world where an unscrupulous man can take whatever he wants.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (August 30, 2016)
  • ISBN: 1594935017
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Shaken to the Core – Jae

Shaken to the Core - JaeReturning to US history after a break from her ‘Oregon’ series Shaken to the Core is a romance set around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. From introducing our heroines before disaster hits, through the horror of the earthquake and subsequent fires, and on to the immediate aftermath, Jae leads us through the events that unfolded with her usual brilliant eye for detail and excellent storytelling skills.

Giuliana is a Sicilian fisherman’s daughter who came to ‘Merica with her brother in order to earn a living and send money home. When fate strikes her brother down she is left with few skills and few options other than domestic service to survive on her own.

Kate is the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate who is determined to make her own way in the modern world. Despite her mothers best efforts to make her conform to the expectations of high society, Kate knows in her soul she needs an independent life if she is ever to fulfil her own dreams.

Two strong women from opposite ends of the social scale, drawn together by a mutual attraction, find themselves fighting to survive the events of April 18th. They, along with the indomitable Dr Lucy Hamilton Sharpe, create an intriguing story of how women step up when disaster strikes. Resourceful, capable and determined, they fight their way through whatever is thrown at them, growing stronger as they overcome, finding their place from the opportunity catastrophe brings resourceful survivors.

Jae - biogAs always Jae’s characters are powerful women with a will of their own. Rounded and well drawn they form the core of an intriguing retelling of history from a woman’s point of view. As with the Oregon Series we learn the intimate history of a famous and well-known saga from the inside.

With subtle but commanding attention to detail Jae fills in the background; the unfolding events, the backdrop of turn of the century San Francisco, the people and the sense of emotion that a major disaster cause. She shows us the world as she envisions it, like a film set being slowly revealed, filling in and colouring as she goes.

Jae writes exceptionally good books and this is another excellent example of her skills. Charming romance, strong, admirable women, an unusual setting, great historical storytelling and, as always, with a style which makes the tale unfold with consummate ease.
(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing (June 15, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01GEWY5XA
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Bright Lights of Summer – Lynn Ames

Bright Lights of SummerBright Lights of Summer is a delightful and nostalgic tale that brings together the love of softball and a sweetheart romance set against the backdrop of the Second World War.

Lynn Ames is the queen of story telling. She takes a setting and brings it alive for the reader. She recreates the mood, the feel – the texture of life in a bygone era for us to relive.

Dix and Frannie are young women in Phoenix, Arizona. We join them in 1940’s when their biggest concern it getting to be softball players for the Phoenix Ramblers alongside their heroes like Dot Wilkinson. When America is thrust into the war by the attack on Pearl Harbor their lives begin to change and we watch the impact of war on families, softball and the women themselves.

Lynn Ames BooksAs always, Lynn Ames has done her homework. There is a wide range of historical background as well as the detail of the softball teams, leagues and games. Every detail fits and there is a core veracity which give the sense of docu-drama rather than fiction.

Throughout it all the growing love story of our heroines carries us along. As Diz unfolds their history from her reminiscences, we re-live their day-to-day dramas tenderly retold and tearfully evoked more than 60 years later. Both the main characters and the wide-ranging cast of family and teammates are beautifully evoked and penned with loving detail.

This would, without a doubt, make an excellent movie to bring into focus the real story of women’s softball history and the difficulties of being ‘queer’ in the 1940’s, while showcasing the love story of two amazing women. A lovely read and undoubtedly another great success to add to the Lynn Ames collection.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • First published: 2014
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press (November 12, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1936429101
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Daughter of Mystery – Heather Rose Jones

Daughter of MysteryDaughter of Mystery: surprisingly traditional.

In Daughter of Mystery Heather Rose Jones captures the essence of the sweeping epic often pervasive in speculative fictional works with the largess of language and intricacy of tale.  Like other authors in this genre following in the wake of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Jones encountered the difficulty of creating a world that is at once attentive to historical mythos and unique.  In a way, finding a topic that can hold up to Bradley’s standard and transcend it becomes an arduous task.

Jones sets the story in a believable, although fictional, European realm (Alpinna) and era (18th century) and is quite attentive to the sensibilities of the nobility with respect to speech, manners, and familial dynamics.  Assuredly, Jones created a well-written work, although steeped in traditional historical romance genre, rather than speculative fiction. That attentiveness to the particular type of writing, with the family dynamics, social class, etc., created a world that seemed all too traditional; the only real twist seemed to be the superimposition of female characters in place of male ones. That is to say, I found the work to be rather heterosexual in disposition, despite the fact that the major characters, and the romance, centered on Margerit and Barbara.

Regardless of the inclusion of the “Mysteries of the Saints,” a locus of divine power (female goddess in pseudo-Christian guise), the text still appeared a bit too closely wrapt in traditionalism and not quite speculative enough, which is fine for a romance novel, not for a work of speculative fiction.   Further, this Jones book could easily cross over to a more mainstream venue, as it seems quite in alignment with an epic period romance, replete with aristocratic titles, intrigue, inheritance, and the need for a the damsel to have one sworn to save her.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (February 18, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00INAL256
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Civil War Women in Love – Rachel Windsor

civil war women in loveThird installment of the Lesbian Lovers through Time series. 1860. In the antebellum South life is tough for women and tougher for lesbians. In this short Kenda is a house slave, Jane is the plantation owners daughter.

When Kenda is transferred to the fields not only her health is threatened. Having grown up spending all day together their sudden separation brings their feelings to a head. But how can two such powerless women find a future together when faced with the almost insurmountable barriers between them?

———-

Another interesting plot concept. House slave who has been sheltered by her mother and her friendship with the owners daughter. Rich white girl, used to getting what she wants, but also excruciatingly aware of her place in the family and the behavior expected of a lady. Having grown up together and only just realizing the depth of their feelings Kenda’s removal to the fields and the abuse of the overseer brings things to a head.

The characters are charming and Ms Windsor succinctly portrays the way their different situations and upbringing has created different expectations and choices. For Kenda there is fear and anger, recognition of what she needs to do to survive. For Jane there is frustration at being powerless and confined by etiquette, but no fear for the future. The relative position of their mothers is also interesting – one a powerless slave, the other a privileged wife who still has little power except persuasion.

Rachel Windsor biogThe girls decisions are brave and their actions courageous. However in this novella, more than the others in the series, you might have to suspend disbelief. Hands up – I am a historian by education and nature, so I struggled a little with the ease of their escape from a slave owner and father’s retribution.

Enjoyable characters and a sweet tale, I would have preferred more tension and a more realistic depiction of the chase. This one should be re-done into a novel – it’s a great story and well written characters – it would make a wonderful suspense thriller.

(review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Amazon Digital (Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00J49ZR2OC
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Dames with Dames – Rachel Windsor

Dames with DamesNew York City, 1940. Dixie is the archetypal buxom blonde receptionist at a dead-beat detective agency. With no work and no income Jack Nixon may look the part of a tough detective, but if something doesn’t turn up soon he isn’t going to make the rent, let alone the wages.

When Shirley, a tough butch with pants and an attitude, walks in needing to hire some muscle to reclaim her ‘lost’ property, all three lives are set to change.

———

This is the second novella in a series entitled Lesbian Lovers Throughout Time. In each story Rachel Windsor explores the era and a classic genre of the time. In this tale we are in 1940’s New York and the classic tough and dirty detective agency. However, this being LesFic it’s the girl who gets the broad.

Dixie is the sweet pin up girl with the wasp waste and a cleavage to die for. Not quite as innocent as she appears but with enough nouse to “nock-em-dead”. Her boss is the traditional hard drinking ‘Dick’ with a grotty office and a soft spot for Dixie, who he treats like a kid sister to be protected and looked after. Shirley is the alpha female with an eye for the ladies and a swagger to match.

Three great characters, well drawn and engaging – I could happily read a series of stories about the adventures they could have together. The plot is simple but keeps the pages turning. The tone is perfect for the genre and the twist an enjoyable variant.

Rachel Windsor biogWithout getting heavily into the history or overplaying the descriptions Ms Windsor gives us just enough pointers to trigger all our memories of the era from the books and movies we have grown up with. Great fun, well written and hugely entertaining. Looking forward to the more in this series.

(review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 42 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Amazon Digital (Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IBHTT9C
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Prairie Women in Love – Rachel Windsor

Prairie Women In LoveThis is the first installment of a new LesFic romance series, Lesbian Lovers Throughout Time.

This novella is set in 1870 in Almond, Wisconsin. Rebecca Wallis is about to start a new life as a schoolteacher. It’s her first time away from her family and friends, so everything is new and slightly intimidating, from the family she is boarding with to the outgoing teacher, Sarah Barton, who is handing over the reigns.

Sarah is different – strong, independent, unmarried and wearing trousers – virtually unheard of at the time. As Rebecca starts to explore her new world she quickly realizes that she wants Sarah to be a part of it, but can they find their way to romance as well as a career in the male-centric world of the 1800’s?

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This is a lovely, simple, romantic short. Despite being only just under 10,000 words we get a full story of two women meeting and falling in love. By paring down to the basics ,which gives us a sparing glance at time and place, Ms Windsor crams a whole lot into the tale.

Sarah and Rebecca are well drawn, charming and evocative of all those explorations of first love. The plot is simple but makes this more than just a way to put their romance in a context. We can all empathize with their almost childish glee at finding each other while we sympathise with their fears when they face the threat of loosing their chance for happiness because of the restrictions of the day.

Rachel Windsor biogThe resolution is simple but charming, and we are left hoping that other women found a way to live their lives together.

A lovely read, well worth a quiet hour and I look forward to reading more in the series.

(review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 42 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Amazon Digital (Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HZLQ9EI
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