Romance

Secrets Well Kept – Lynn Ames

Secrets Well Kept - Lynn AmesOne of the wonderful developments which has been made possible by the spread of the “information age” is our access to the hidden histories of women, particularly in the 20th century when their work was recorded and noted, but not publicized. With our ever increasing access to the cinematic and TV reels, the notes and minutes of a dramatic century we are coming to recognize the contribution of so many women to the huge endeavours that have changed the world: Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first algorithm intended to be executed by a computer, Grace Hopper was the first person to design a compiler for a programming language, Hedy Lamarr who developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes which was later incorporated into Bluetooth technology and used in legacy versions of Wi-Fi, Katherine Johnson, the mathematician we met and loved in “Hidden Figures” who took them to the moon and brought them home again.

Lynn Ames latest novel is exactly on point with a fictional historical romance based on the lives of the women who extracted the uranium used for the first atomic bombs. Unrecognized, either for praise or blame, women worked the dials, extracting the uranium the US needed to win the arms race and ultimately to force Japan to its knees. The majority of these women had no idea what they were doing, just did their best to support the war effort. But one woman did know, did understand the enormity of what they were doing, even if she couldn’t have imagined the destruction and human cost of the bombs that were dropped.

In Ames’ first book in the series “Chain Reactions” we meet the elderly Nora Lindstrom and learn of her immense contribution to the US war effort, not least her silence, and her subsequent grief and guilt for the impact of those dropped bombs. In Secrets Well Kept we jump back to 1943, to the reality of being the only woman with top level clearance at Oak Ridge, the site built for uranium extraction in Tennessee, part of the wider Manhattan Project. Alongside the sole woman physicist we meet the girls given training to turn the dials, balance the voodoo science that extracts the uranium.. “girls” who proved more competent at the task than the male PhD’s who always wanted to know why.

But like all Lynn Ames’ excellent stories there is a romance, illicit in many senses; 2 women goes without saying, but compounded by boss/worker and the explicit need for secrecy in terms of sexuality, relationship and war effort, doubled for Nora who knows what they are doing and the likely impact of their work. The romance is sweet and poignant, set in monumental times, which, literally, changed the world.

The history is compelling, given what we now know of the devastation caused to so many millions, and while we can recognize the Allies desperation to end the war with Japan, we will always question the annihilation of a whole city of souls, and then another, to make the point. The emotional impact of that later understanding on the people who made those bombs cannot be imagined, and the girls who worked the dials were purposefully kept in the dark, adding to the shock of discovering what they had been doing.

Overall an impactful book, made human, as always, by Lynn Ames’ excellent writing, her attention to detail and her emotive and sympathetic characters. But for me personally the real impact is that of a bunch of high school graduate level women, with no scientific training, being the instruments – and they were literally the tools – of the war machine that was determined to win the nuclear race and use that victory to end the war.


(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising Press (15 July 2019)
  • ASIN: B07TBT2212
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Incognito – VK Powell

Incognito – VK PowellJust finished VK’s latest crime romance and it’s a cracker. Set in the US and Australia, a team of US Marshalls and a semi-feral DEA agent hunt for a crime boss and his sidekicks as they flee from arrest. It’s fast paced, action packed and keeps you glued to the page. The whole team are engaging characters and would definitely work as an ongoing series (pretty please VK?). It’s a classic “will they won’t they” romance as the MC’s have a ton of baggage each, some ancient but inescapable, some very recent and raw. Great reading as always with VK Powell’s cop based romances.

https://amzn.to/2XlwJ4k

Chain Reactions – Lynn Ames

Chain Reaction“Chain Reactions” finds elderly scientist Nora Lindstrom forced, in the face her own mortality, into contacting her long-estranged family. Her great-niece, Diana, convinced her aunt has been dead for twenty years, nevertheless responds to the plea from Nora’s lawyer and visits her beloved aunt, Diana’s inspiration for becoming a scientist and so much more. Shocked into the reality that her parents have lied to her for 35 years, Diana must quickly adapt to both the reappearance and frailty of her aunt as they begin to explore their new relationship.

The 100-year-old Nora needs live-in care Diana can’t provide but her scheming doctor introduces them to Brooke, a burnt-out paediatric nurse who has taken refuge nearby to heal her pain from losing too many cancer patients. Between them, Brooke and Diana care for the wilful old lady, supporting her fading strength and indomitable spirit, and in so doing both become fascinated by the history Nora has been part of, and the unspoken sacrifice of an inspirational woman.

Lynn Ames’ multi-layered romance presents us with a modern-day pathos, an ancient mystery, a slice of untaught history, and a poignant parallel between the generations. Nora is a classic representation of her era; stoic, realist and patriot, who stepped up when called by her country, proud to have served her part, yet plagued by the responsibility for her actions and ultimately sacrificing her own personal happiness as a consequence. Modern-day Diana has taken a similar route, putting medical research above a private life, and Brooke, the more empathic of the three, has made a comparable sacrifice, giving her energy to the care of others.

As the two younger women discover Nora’s personality and uncover her history, they inevitably form a bond, and despite the strain of the situation, lay the foundation for a tense friendship. As the strain of Nora’s final days grows, Diana and Brooke are drawn together, and Nora’s final wishes will push them both into a new reality.

These are three powerful women, exquisitely drawn, each with strength and sadness, each having chosen a path that has put their career first at the cost of personal happiness. Ames cleverly reveals them through the medium of their interaction and their exploration of each other, showing us their hidden pain as they are laid bare on the page. Nora, atoning for her self-imposed guilt, a huge figure in the fight against leukaemia, Diana, battling to find a cure for epilepsy and Brooke, caring for frequently terminal leukaemia patients, each has given their individual strength to the battle they have chosen.

Love suffuses the pages of this romance, love for family however distant, love that hasn’t faded despite the years, and love that grows even through the tension of caring for a dying relative. Nora’s love of her great-niece is a powerful force that neither Diana nor Brooke can ultimately withstand.

Emotional, poignant and touching, “Chain Reactions” will pull your heart strings every which way, leaving you bereft by Nora’s loss, awed by her history, yet buoyed by the overwhelming sense of hope that Diana and Brooke might not repeat her mistakes. Lynn Ames has the ability to pull a historical thread and bring it alive through her characters, women we cannot help but fall in love with. I guarantee you won’t put it down, and I cannot wait for the prequel.

Thorn – Anna Burke

Thorn - Anna Burke“Thorn” is a lesbian feminist fairy-tale with a vengeance, highlighting the power and vulnerability of women, the expectations of society and the literal battles, both emotional and physical, that women fight to be themselves.

In true fairy-tale style, the evil ice queen rides a bear, leads a pack of wolves and exacts an awful revenge on anyone who dares enter her lands to take what is hers. Yet under the frightful cold exterior is a woman trapped by her own arrogant narcissism into one too many acts of cruelty which has been punished by the local witch. To escape she must lose everything she holds dear, and that which she cannot bear to lose.

Our Cinderella is the wealthy merchant’s daughter fallen on hard times, reduced from the high life of the city to a small cottage and meagre living, sold off to the local lord for his sons betrothed to cement her father’s mercantile ambitions. Mourning the loss of her beloved mother, her father’s act of kindness on her birthday enslaves her to the evil Queen and life in the barren castle at the heart of winter.

Full of passion, love and loss, one woman must lose everything to regain herself, the other must risk everything to become the woman society has repressed.

Anna Burke’s second novel is so far from the first as to be incredible. From “Compass Rose”, Sci-Fi fantasy in a future drowned world, to a twist on a classic Ice Queen fairy-tale set in a medieval landscape. And yet the world-building, character development, complex interpersonal relationships and deeply entwined use of nature as both a proactive setting and physical presence are so strong in both that when you recover your wits and think about both books you can see the powerful similarities.

The writing is exquisite. The imagination behind both books is awe inspiring. And even more when you reach the end and realise that without ever making a “thing” about it Burke has subverted the whole but having women take all the major characters; the men are ineffectual wanna-be’s in secondary roles.

An epic romance, a dramatic adventure, an exploration of what women are capable of, both good, bad and ugly. And all wrapped up in a story worthy of a blockbuster Netflix fantasy. Just brilliant – Ms Burke is one to watch.



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: 215 pages
  • First published 2019
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (January 29, 2019)
  • ASIN: B07MHY8NVV
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Calendar Girl – Georgia Beers

Calendar Girl – Georgia BeersAddison Fairchild has spent her whole life trying to impress her powerful mother, creator of the extremely successful Fairchild empire. Now her mother has announced her retirement Addison has given up all semblance of a real life and is working herself into the ground to show she deserves to step into the top job. When her health collapses under the strain Addison is forced to accept an assistant, but determined to use her in the most basic ways, collecting her dry cleaning and picking up her groceries.

Katie Cooper accepts a part-time second job at Fairchild Enterprises because, quite frankly,  her family need the money. Her father’s dementia is deteriorating and they need full time care, but the bills are mounting along with her mother’s worries. Having given up her business degree to move home and help her mum, Katie will put up with almost anything to hold on to the well paid PA job, however difficult her new boss is to work for.

This is a classic office “ice queen” romance and an excellent example of opposites attract. The main characters are likeable and well developed, Katie’s backstory is particularly poignant and Beers explores the impact of dementia on a family with subtle but keen observation. Addison’s relationship with her Mother and sibling rivalry are the building blocks of her character and her intensity has made her blinkered to the fact they are, first and foremost, a family that love and care about her. And thus the stage is set for Katie to find room for her own life while also helping her family and Addison to find that her family desperately want her to have a life.

Both families are important to the story and again reinforce the “opposites” theme, the Fairchild’s as high powered business people who can barely meet once a month at a restaurant for dinner and whose absentee father never appears; the Coopers, warm, domestic, welcoming and close-knit where caring for each other comes first. I also really liked our main characters BFFs and there is definitely room for a follow up to allow Sophie and Samantha’s stories to develop.

Georgia Beers writes some damn fine romances, we all know where this is going and how it will end, but there as some fun moments along the way. The cast are loveable and the main characters have genuine journeys they need to take. I thoroughly enjoyed it, excellent ‘happy place’ reading.



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: 233 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: BSB (November 13, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07JHG5YY3
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Love All – Rachel Spangler

Love All – Rachel SpanglerAs one of the senior tennis players on the women’s tennis tour, former star Jay Pierce has lived through the ups and downs of life on the court, as well as surviving vicious personal slander and the worst of the paparazzi. Making a final comeback with her signature sarcastic wit and humour, she battles her demons and keeps her self shut-down in self-defence.

At the opposite end of the spectrum up and coming Destiny Larson breaks into the senior tour at 17, expecting to be a star and finding the competition much tougher in the bigger pond. Supporting her in every way is tennis mom Sadie Larsen, a woman who chose to be a single mother from the start, rejected settling for anything, and who will fight like a Grizzly for her daughter.

When Destiny’s coach throws them together to help both their tennis and their finances, sparks fly on and off the court between all three women; the bitter older player, the precocious and sometimes bratty teenager and the Mom trying to keep the peace, bring up a well-rounded human under the pressures of the tour and the woman who has never allowed herself to have a life.

This is Rachel Spangler’s best book yet. She continues to grow as a writer, to refine her craft, deepen her emotional pull and combine wit, humour, pathos and tension into a wonderful story about the growth of three women all wrapped into Spangler’s well-researched sports settings.

Jay is damaged goods but so easy to love as a character, she simply resonates as a deeply traumatised and hurt woman. Her tennis, her personal life, her mental health and her professional standing have never recovered from a spiteful incident that rocked the tennis world and essentially destroyed her career along with her self-belief. She fights on a daily basis to maintain some level of decorum in the face of unending attacks from the press and the drain that has on her emotionally and physically.

Destiny is a teenager thrust into the big stage; hating the limelight, impacted by the pressure, her game falters. A typical teen she must learn to play the ‘professional’ game, make nice in the post-match interviews, smile for the cameras, and realise that sponsorship and her professional standing depends on more than just her ability on court. She must also learn that a spiteful comment can have severe consequences and that, as a grown up, she must take responsibility for her childish actions.

Sadie is the rock, the mum we wish we had, but also an adorable woman inside and out. She is the foundation upon which her daughter’s life, character and career is built; she becomes the strength that supports their doubles partnership. But she must learn to let Destiny become a woman and, after 17 years of putting her daughter first, that she has a right to her own life, a life that includes standing up for, and with, the woman she loves.

The tension in this story is palpable. On the court, back stage, in private – between each of these women locked into a triangle of mutual need, want and pressure. To call a sports-based romance a page-turner might seem extreme, but the emotional anxiety makes it very hard to put this book down. Spangler has created a wonderful trio of characters, ably supported by a few key secondaries who also have lessons to learn, and she literally pulls you into their world. It is so real you feel like you are eavesdropping on the tour, not reading fiction. And the crescendo is nerve-wracking; having become so emotionally invested in the characters, the cliffhanger of who will hold up, who will do the right thing, who will step up… breath taking.

It is wonderful to see a romance writer hone her craft, work to grow and improve, and follow along on the coat-tails. This story showcases Spangler’s ability to develop the emotional intelligence of her characters, tackle multiple complex women and their individual needs, and merge the whole into a spell-binding story of personal achievement and growth. I literally couldn’t put it down.



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: 299 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (October 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H8NQ427
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Isle of Broken Years – Jane Fletcher

Isle of Broken Years – Jane FletcherCatalina de Valasco, daughter of a powerful Spanish Count, is on her way to the America’s to marry a man she has never met; just part of the life of a seventeenth century noblewoman. Life changes dramatically when the ship she is on gets taken by pirates, and she is suddenly at the mercy of a bunch of cutthroat men who haven’t seen a woman in months.

In an effort to protect her the Captain puts her ashore with the cabin boy and a couple of sailors more interested in each other than her, while they wait for the ransom to be paid by her husband to be. Unfortunately for the Captain and his crew the island they found was in what we now call the Bermuda Triangle and here the real adventure begins.

This is an unusual story which definitely falls into 2 sections, the adventure at sea and the mystery on the island. The first is a more typical build up and sets the scene for both the role and actions of several characters in the later part of the story. The island takes us to a setting that is sci-fi/fantasy in nature but feels almost paranormal with the ongoing influence of the ancients shaping the lives of the islanders. Add in ongoing action adventure, murder mystery and romance and you begin to see why it’s hard to describe.

The group trapped on the island form an interesting mix, and their backgrounds and personalities form the core of a well-drawn ensemble piece. Each takes a role and plays a part, from stoic hero to warrior philosopher, lover to murderer. The characters are lightly drawn but stay in the mind as we root for them to succeed in their quest. The romance is definitely a secondary plotline, it adds an empathy to the main character but takes a back seat to Catalina’s ‘coming out’ as a scholar and adventurer. Her journey from reserved, stuck-up and self-important Condesa to Greek translating computer expert is well done.

An interesting story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Curious mix, intriguing concept, it captured my interest and kept me hooked. The descriptions are vivid and the island literally came to life in the in the imagination. Love it or hate it you can’t help but want to know what happens 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: 301 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (October 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07H9DZ4XL
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Cypher – Barbra Winkes

Cypher – Barbra WinkesSet some unknown time in the future a city state has become a virtual dictatorship due to the power wielded by the head of the IdA, a murky quasi police force that has the power to take away your identity if you cross it.

51308 was convinced to give up her baby and become a cypher as a temporary solution. But 8 years later and she is no closer to escaping the drudgery of her black and white life or the virtual slavery of her job. When she is accused of stealing an IdA officer takes her into custody, and suddenly everything is about to change, ut whether for the better or worse depends wholly on the humanity of the IdA Inspector.

This is a cleverly worked and interesting tale. The concept of a socialist style ‘jobs for all’ where those who cant support themselves for various reasons are given a basic place to live, bai food and a menial job is not unusual, but here the powers of the IdA have allowed that to be twisted. Anyone who crosses the head of the IdA can be put into the cypher program, with no hope of getting back out, and their identity sold on after 3 years.

Enter inspector Katlena Cervantes, a rising star who has played the game I order to position herself as the next Chief. Underneath the ambition there is a heart, and a desire to improve the system, clean out the corruption and end the excesses of the Cypher system. Her attraction for 51308 leads her to unusual steps, and from there a whole world of deception is uncovered.

The plot is complex and skilfully worked. The characters are well drawn with depth and complexity, and the overall concept of power gone bad is ingeniously twisted. 51308 and Katlena are sympathetic and likeable characters, both have made mistakes and both have flaws, but both are essentially good people doing the best they can. The twists and turns do take some keeping up with and the level of suspense is high, it’s a long time until we really know who is really on the side of good and evil as every player seems to have multiple agendas which only resolve at the end.

Personally I did struggle a little with the start of the 51308 and Katlena’s relationship. There was no buildup, they went from arrest to hug to relationship faster than you can order a U-Haul and I found it a little hard to swallow, but the rest of the storyline was excellent. Unusual, intriguing and an interesting 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: 291 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Independent (October 2, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07HDCH1WZ
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Shadowboxer – Jessica L Webb

Shadowboxer - Jessica L WebbGrowing up with an alcoholic mother and fending for herself on the tough streets of Halifax led Jordan McAddie into boxing. After a short career she retrains as a social worker to help kids on the streets and uses her winnings to buy and run a boxing club. When the tension at the club starts to rise and a protest group begins to target her kids, Jordan knows she needs to step up to protect them. At the same time her first and only real love reappears, throwing Jordan into an emotional tailspin just when she needs to focus.

This is an excellent tension filled suspense novel with a strong romantic thread that adds to the overall sense of anticipation.  The combination of the kids unease, the emotional withdrawal of one of Jordan’s key team and the building expectation of some violent act, mixed in with a classic “will they-wont they rekindle their old love” romance gives this a wonderful atmosphere and is excellently written and paced.

The characters are sympathetically drawn, down to earth and solid. The inter-relationships between both the gang of street kids and the kids and the support workers is extremely well done and shows a real attention to how teens and young adults want the love and support of grown-ups but fight against needing it. The dialogue is spot on as they fluctuate between angry teens, overly mature young adults and needy children.

Jessica L Webb shows an excellent eye for observation and her descriptions add to the emotions of the book; the interactions, the behaviours and the setting all playing a part in an extremely well-drawn backdrop for the action and suspense of the parallel plots.

This was my first book from this author and I instantly went back to her earlier works, which I am currently devouring. Really absorbing page-turners… what a great talent. Highly recommended, and I love the jacket.



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: 245 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes (September 11, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07GGTSTYN
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In Fashion – Jody Klaire

In Fashion – Jody KlaireCross Trinny and Susannah with Mary Portas and you have the concept of “In Fashion”. Super model and super bitch Darcy McGregor is the TV makeover queen with a complicated past. When her daughter and producer decide to shake her up by picking a gorgeous lesbian security guard for her next patient, everybody but Darcy can see she has met her match. Down to earth Kate dislikes fashion, thinks Darcy is shallow and is uninterested in becoming the latest victim of her attention.

This is a very comical romp with some serious messages. It’s laugh out loud funny, with wonderful characters, amusing dialogue and a literal clash of wills that challenges both women’s assumptions. Underneath the fun we find a sensitive handling of mental disability, a fight against bullying and watch how the media and social media can destroy a person’s life.

Th characters make the book, genuine and very real, warts and all. Darcy’s a woman locked in her own heard headed self-loathing, but a wonderful mother with a brilliant relationship with her typically teenage daughter. Kate’s a totally adorable soul who doesn’t realise how amazing she is. The family and friends form a great ensemble piece, but it will be Mickey, Kate’s wonderful brother, who will steal your heart.

Well written, genuinely witty, empathetic and full of clever human observation this is an excellent read, I literally couldn’t put it down



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: 222 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Ylva (October 3, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07HGFCKDW
Amazon.com
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