Mystery/Thriller/Crime

Under Parr – Andrea Bramhall

Under Parr - Andrea BramhallWhen a skeleton is found in a previously sealed up WWII bunker Detective Sergeant Kate Brannon is faced with a cold case which some intriguing twists. Scraps of women’s clothes on a man’s bones, different names on the labels, different sized shoes on the wrong feet. Kate isn’t sure they will ever find out who he was, let alone how he died and ended up in a bunker that has been sealed since the storm floods of 2013, but she is determined to do her best find out.

As the investigation unfolds the twists and turns become more of a puzzle, unusual activity at the golf course, above average deaths at the local care-home, and a series of clues that just make the detective’s radar ping.

Book 2 of the Norfolk Coast Investigation Stories series and the events of book 1, Collide-O-Scope, are still being felt in the fishing village of Brandale. Gina has recovered physically but emotionally the scars are deep. Sammy is having nightmares and being bullied at school by kids whose fathers are either waiting for trial or out of a job. The impact on Kate and Gina isn’t good either, Gina has withdrawn, and Kate doesn’t know how to get through to her.

As always Andrea Bramhall’s story arc are excellently thought through and executed. This is a solid detective story, occasional leaps of intuition and faith, but essentially the local “Plod”* following a series of interrelated clues and gradually uncovering how the events we see in the prologue came about.

The characters are becoming old friends, deepening as we get to know them, filling out details, colouring in history; their friendships and relationships growing over time. The police team has a new member who doesn’t quite fit and is definitely causing friction, but Kate and Stella’s friendship provides wonderful light relief and flashes of laugh out loud humour.

Sammy is particularly well drawn and the combination of childhood simplicity and trauma induced maturity is intriguing to read. Bramhall always manages to introduce a serious theme in her novels and here we have several; Sammy’s bullying, Gina’s emotional struggles and care-home abuse. However this is not a heavy book, these serious threads add to the reality without detracting from the gentle romance. The flashes of humour and the reasonably fast paced unfolding make it a genuinely pleasurable read.

Andrea Bramhall biogUnder Parr is set a few weeks after the events in Collide-O-Scope and while it stands alone as a story arc there is no doubt it is firmly part of a series; indeed we are left with a tantalising thread to carry over into book 3. I would definitely recommend reading them as a series, if you like romance/crime and excellent writing, this is one you don’t want to miss.

Set on the east coast of England these stories have a decidedly English feel, and are a delight to read. The characters are solid, the events fit the time and place, even the weather has a very English role to play. The angst is there but underplayed, the emotions and relationships are realistic and the whole is grounded in a very English setting. Midsomer Murders with a lesbian twist.

*Plod is English slang for the local police, affectionate although implying slow thinking and moving, comes from the old-fashioned Bobbies walking the streets with their slow heavy pace.


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: 289 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Ylva (May 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B072HMT2DB
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Sawmill Springs – Gerri Hill

Sawmill Springs - Gerri HillWhen two new cops join the local force in Sawmill Springs nobody had any idea the small town would need their big city skills. Homicide detective Murphy has escaped from the drug wars of Houston to a quieter life, while ex FBI agent Kayla is returning home to join her Police Chief father’s force after a career turned sour.

Within hours of Kayla joining the squad the murders start, and before long the bigwigs of the town all seem to be in danger. While Murphy and Kayla have the skills, they are the newbies on the force, the only women, and the locals are not used to dealing with high powered women cops.

As the investigation gets more and more murky, touching on the lives of Kayla’s family and friends, the attraction between Kayla and Murphy grows, but despite her best efforts at flirting Murphy seems immune to Kayla’s obvious charms.

This is classic Gerri Hill; crime, cops, romance. Well written and executed with a great story line, Hill pulls you in from the start and immerses you in the life, death and loves of the small town characters. The pace is excellent, no thriller chases, but a strong ‘move-along’ plot that keeps you interested and waiting for more.

Gerry Hill biogThe main characters are great, strong independent and powerful women who have made it elsewhere and taken a step back to slow down and re-group. Both likeable and amusing, they bounce of each other from the start and their happy ever after is guaranteed, however long they take to get there.

The small town characters are amusing, interesting and drawn in with loving detail, the gossips and busybodies highlighting all the issues of living in a fish bowl. At times the clumsiness of the local cops did seem a little over the top, surely even they watch CSI, and I did expect our two heroines to kick off about the total lack of procedure, but maybe I misunderstand the politics of a small town police force and the authority of the Chief.

Gerri Hill fans will love it, and if you haven’t read any Gerri Hill where have you been? Always entertaining, she has a knack of quickly setting up a situation and giving a full story arc, while subtly developing her characters and building their connects through the action. Highly recommended – another great crime/romance from one of the masters of her trade – here’s hoping this is the first of a new series as I would definitely like more.



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Product info:

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bella Books (May 16, 2017)
  • ISBN: 978-1594935503
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A Woman of Strong Purpose – SM Harding

A Woman of Strong Purpose - SM HardingBook two of the Kirkland & Pitt series set in McCrumb County, Indiana, finds ‘retired’ Marine CIS Colonel Win Kirkland and her new wife, Sheriff Sarah Pitt, trying to resolve battles on a whole host of fronts. Publicly they are deeply closeted because Sarah fears the backlash of the red county and losing her cherished job. Privately they have had nothing but support from those who know, and consequently Win, having suffered from the US Army’s policies all her adult life, chafes against the need to hide.

At the same time they have two major cases to solve. Sarah leads on finding a serial killer who clearly hates women. Win tries to help a colleague trace her son, only to be led into a high level game of spies, arms dealing, terrorism and torture. The cases are completely separate, but linked by the common theme of men abusing, using and killing women for their own twisted sense of pain or pleasure.

This contains some graphic scenes – we don’t get to witness the actual events, but the aftermath. And like the first book – a lot of sex. So if either aren’t your cup of tea then buyer beware.

The man characters are great, well rounded, complex and on deep personal journeys. The supporting cast is solid, growing in depth and breadth as we get to know them from both actions and words. The author has also portrayed a series of women with compassion and understanding, from the sex charged Pan the desperate Noor and the powerhouse Kemat, who makes such a brief appearance yet manages to dominate the book.

The story is well done, the arc and the balance between the three main story lines works well, as does the alternating point of view and voice from Win to Sarah, and thankfully the author avoids the pitfall of repeating a scene or explanation from both points of view. We occasionally get told both sides, but only from the emotional standpoint and only when both need a voice.

It’s fast paced and action packed, the local sheriffs department not only gains a SWAT team, the whole crew, including their retired army service dog Des, have all become action heros, swinging – literally – into action, rescuing damsels in distress and taking out the badies with barely a scratch.

And thats my only issue with the book, with the series. The action is great fun, but it does take a serious suspension of disbelief that these events all occur in one small town, targeted by a seemingly unending supply of serious criminals, terrorists and gun running middle eastern mafia, as well as a constant flow of top level MCIS and law enforcement agents. On top of all that the ‘bumbling’ local cops keep having to clear up, literally, for the MCIS. It feels almost as far fetched as a Clive Custler.

While it does stand alone it clearly makes more sense as part of the series as intended, the back-history of Win and Sarah can only be understood from having read both. It’s a great fun, breathtaking rollercoaster adventure with a serious undercurrent of the impact these adventures have on those involved, both physically and emotionally. Looking forward to reading book three.



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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Trial By Fury – KG MacGregor

Trial By Fury - KG MacGreogorTrail By Fury takes the ‘old boy’ attitude of Universities and exposes it for the outrage it is. Picking up on the ‘locker room’ mentality of Trump, MacGregor has written a fine piece of fiction to highlight the reality.

Performance Studies Professor Celia Perone is horrified when one of her pupils is viciously raped, humiliated by social media photos and then ignored by the campus authorities. When Celia tries to take up her cause she is threatened by the University. Hoping for a chair, but infuriated by the callous response of the administration, she is determined to take it further.

Theo Constantine is a high profile women’s rights attorney regularly contacted by the rich and famous for celebrity divorces, a champion of sexual abuse cases and the heroine of class action suits for inequality. When Celia turns up with her tale of an institutionalised rape culture Theo knows this is a fight she needs to take on, but recognises that there is slim chance of creating a civil case under the current Georgia statues.

Forging ahead with what is always going to be a controversial battle, Theo and Celia are determined to not just get justice for Celia’s student, but bring down the administration that has created such a monstrous system of sweeping rape under the carpet to protect its reputation.

KG MacGregorKG MacGregor has taken a difficult subject and made it into an extremely readable courtroom drama with a side order of romance. The stories of the women are horrible, the actions of the authorities are callous and uncaring, and yet Theo and her team care so much, and fight so hard, that we are left with a sense of fortitude and strength rather than depressed by the harsh reality.

The characters are solid, complex and passionate. The plot is full of fact and detail, well researched and unfortunately undeniably credible. The story arcs beautifully from celebration to celebration, yet keeps us on the edge of our seat with the angst of the battle, the facts of the situation, and the personal cost of taking up the fight.

The romance is definitely secondary, but adds a subtle lightness to what could be an overwhelmingly stressful story. Initially reluctant to engage for ethical reasons Theo cannot resit Celia’s passion for justice that so clearly matches her own. Yet it is ultimately that passion that will strain their relationship.

Excellent reading, highly recommended. Not an easy read in terms of the subject, but with iKG MacGregor’s first-rate writing style, fast paced action and a sweet romance this is definitely one of the books of the year.



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: 240 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Bella Books (May 31, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01GAM5T3O
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On a LARP – Stefani Deoul

31944915Take one super bright, smartarse teen geek, add in a bunch of high school friends with super fast brains and even faster fingers, and we have the super-sleuth crazy gang of the techno age.

Sidonie Rubin is a teenager with a conscience and life threatening observation skills. When she makes a passing comment about a recent murder while on a school trip to the local precinct, she, and her friends, suddenly become the local law enforcement experts on LARPS (Live Action Role Play).  Partly from pique at not being invited, partly from ego to prove herself right, Sid is determined to show that the murdered woman was dressed for an evening out when she was found, and therefore part of that modern phenomena, steam-punk cosplay.

Sid and her diverse group of friends – the quick brained best friend Jimmy, the gorgeous UN brat Imani, sex goddess Ari and Vikram the surprise package – spend their waking hours digging through the murdered woman’s online life in search of the illusive link to her death. And of course, being headstrong teenagers, once found they cannot leave it alone, which leads directly to the flashback that encompasses the story, Sid flying off the balcony in the New York Public Library in a gravity defying attempt to catch the murderer.

This is a hilarious, action packed, fast paced story that may be about a bunch of YA’s but is adult in humour and intellect. The plot is slightly insane, given the local cops call in the teenagers to start with, and the majority of the crime solving is via cyber space, while the resolution is very much in the real world and the whole is actually a momentary “life before the eye’s” flash back while Sid falls through the air.

Both the writing and the characters are extremely witty. None are quite what their image would suggest. Jimmy, the star Quarterback who wants to be a Supreme Court Judge, has chosen as his best friend the school geek, and manages keep up with her in all her glorious geekdom. Ari, large girl, large personality, buxom blonde (well blue and pink this week) isn’t just the life and soul, she’s a caregiver, nurturer and ‘tough love’ kinda girl. Vikram the loser is actually the one who cracks the case and revels hidden skills, and Imani, gorgeous, cosmopolitan linguist, cant add up well enough to pass her SATs. Their interplay and banter is, quite frankly, joyful. It fills up the page, the mind, and warms the heart, while exercising the ‘belly-laugh’ muscles on a regular basis.

Sid is, literally, a laugh a minute. While written as a first person stream of consciousness, in breathtaking inner monologue style, she manages to fall, trip, embarrass and laugh at herself throughout. From her clumsy slapstick to her embarrassing crush Stefani Deoul has created an adorable over confident, self conscious and over enthusiastic teenager who you cannot help but love.

The subtitle “A Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventure” suggests a series and I, for one, feel like chaining the author to her own cyber space to ensure the next adventure is well under way. Absolutely loved this, it stays in the mind, resonates in the heart and makes you smile at the memory. If this doesn’t win awards I will eat my top hat.



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: 200 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bywater (April 11, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06X6L1RKY
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Captivated – Annette Mori

Captivated - Annette MoriWhen you open an Annette Mori novel you literally never know quite what you are going to get. Her stories are all very different, quirky, with unusual characters and served with a huge dollup of humour.

In ‘Captivated’ we meet Juliet who almost defies description. Beautiful, but completely unaware of it, she has suffered from a bizarrely strict upbringing and developed into somebody with decided idiosyncrasies.. she’s OCD and fanatical about hygiene and germs, but she is also the town snoop who just cannot keep her nose out of everyone else’s business. She isn’t a gossip, which redeems her, but the amateur sleuth just has to know what every one is up to.

The local law enforcement is hard nosed loner Tanner Sullivan, scarred from the loss of her partner and set on revenge. When Juliet see’s her take out the local drug dealer, apparently in cold blood, Tanner has no choice but to stash her in an out of the way, and extremely dirty, cabin. Juliet knows she is in deep trouble, that her obsession has caught up with her. She also knows her best chance for survival is bonding with the handsome cop.

The characters are extremely unusual for a lesfic romance/crime novel, but they grow on you, inexorably digging into your heart with their nutty moral code and eccentricities. Most of all they both know themselves enough to understand how unusual it is to find anyone who will accept them, and out of this comes a huge sense of tolerance for the oddities of others.

Annette Mori BioThere is a large cast of townsfolk who flit through the scenes and gradually take shape. From the cheating estate agent to the dirty pharmacist Mori has created a strong background of complex characters who are drawn with great detail despite their minor roles. She has an amazing ability to create a sense of being there, knowing these people, as though you could walk into town and recognise every players.

The story is a combination of madcap coincidences and solid murder mystery, with a side order of undercover agent and a strong thread of keystone cop. It’s about serious crimes, but while the actions are deadly, the scenes are almost comedic at times, particularly Juliet’s total inability to do what she’s told.

It took me a little while to get into this one, the characters need time to grow on you, but it is worth every second; funny, serious, entertaining, amusing and sweet. This could definitely become a series, and I would love to know what they get up to 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: 206 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Affinity (March 30, 2017)
  • ASIN: B06XYF5FVJ
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1140 Rue Royale – Karen Badger

1140 Rue Royale - Karen BadgerThis is an interesting and unusual book, based on a horrible period of history, brought to life by the impact on two likeable and loveable modern women.

Two scientists, together over twenty years, living in NYC, and like many long term relationships they have stopped paying attention, work has taken over, the relationship is drifting. Confronted with a stark choice to sort herself out, Elliot vows to put her wife first, and when Lia is offered a dream jon in New Orleans, they decide to take a leap and start afresh.

House hunting very quickly leads them to 1140 Rue Royale, a fully furnished 10,000 square foot French Quarter Mansion with an affordable price tag. Lia and Eliot soon start to find out why the house has changed hands so many times, why the locals wont go near it, and why it is considered the most haunted house in New Orleans.

I don’t usually read ghost stories, but this one grabbed me and pulled me right in. The historical facts are gruesome and the impact on the modern residents hair-raising at times. The book is not particularly fast paced but it pulls you along with an inexorable cadence towards the climax.

Cleverly juxtaposing the family ties of Lia with the slightly butch/alpha dominance of Eliot gives a balance to the narrative of then and now, both unknowingly involved and threatened by evil. As the story progresses the past characters and present situation gradually slot into place, weaving an extremely clever pattern of connection.

The characters of Lia and Eliot are excellently drawn, likeable and loveable in their own ways, certainly we cannot help but root for them to survive this ordeal. Aided and abetted by their best friends Marissa and Julie and a couple of locals, the close nit group need to listen to an irritating but adorable cat to solve the primary mystery and we, the readers, can see that Miss Thing is far more important than the humans realise.

I have to admit I didn’t think the suspense element of the funeral was needed, this book oozes suspense throughout without contriving it, but that didn’t detract from what was an excellent and intriguing story, well told, cleverly brought to life, and ultimately a story of hope and redemption from the past.

Definitely one for the re-read pile and a highly recommended – which is high praise from somebody who doesn’t do ‘the paranormal’ and has little cultural connection to the slave history of New Orleans.


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: 377 pages
  • First published 2016
  • Publisher: Badger Bliss Books
    (September 27, 2016)
  • ASIN: B01LXOBXO3
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Amounting To Nothing – Karis Walsh

Amounting to Nothing - Karis WalshBook three in the Tacoma Mounted Police series, although this will definitely stand alone if you haven’t read the previous stories. This is a sweet and gentle romance with a frisson of crime drama.

Billie Mitchell is a vet with PTSD who has found a place in the Tacoma Mounted Police. Despite considering herself a nomad after a disruptive childhood and years in the army, she is settled in Tacoma and has made friends in the neighbourhood and on the force.

Merissa Karr comes from a very privileged background and although she lives on her grandfather’s estate and runs a polo team, she is determined to make her own way as a project manager and designer in urban renewal. When her boss is shot the suspect list is small, and the motive hard to believe, but she needs both Billie’s protection and understanding in the aftermath of murder, and she is determined to find out why her boss and friend were killed.

Karis Walsh biogAs always with Karis Walsh’s books the characters are well drawn and the inter-relationships well developed. The friendships grow as the books unfold, and these are people we can genuinely care about and want to succeed. Ms Walsh has a subtle and enjoyable way of developing her characters and portraying their interactions, with an excellent narrative balance and a writing style that makes the plot flow.

There isn’t a huge amount of tension, and the crime is solved quite easily, but the crime is a vehicle for the romance, and I always enjoy Karis’ gentle and sweet stories. Well written and edited, this is an easy read, but definitely a great way to send the evening in front of the fire.


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: 214 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (February 14, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N6SVDY7
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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???


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: 288 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (January 17, 2017)
  • ASIN: B01N9IULCC
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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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