Romance

Beowulf for Cretins – Ann McMan

Beowulf for Cretins – Ann McManTake one rather lost and lonely English professor and sit her next to a gorgeous, intellectual and amusing woman on a flight to San Francisco. Bring them back together for a madcap costume party that evening, and make both of them brave enough to step out of their comfort zones and “go there”. That’s the basic plot of Ann McMan’s wonderful short story “Falling from Grace” in her anthology “Sidecar”, which led to the idea of “Beowulf for Cretins”.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read “Sidecar” (although if not why not?) as the slightly amended story is repeated as chapter one of the full-length version. And once Grace and Abbie go their separate ways the morning after the party, with no contact details, not even last names shared, then surely it will take an act of fate, or possibly an act of God, to make their paths cross a second time.

Roll forward and, of course, The Fates intervene; Abbie turns up as the new President of Grace’s college, throwing them together, bringing turmoil, romance, angst and trellis climbing adventure. The conversation gets even more sarcastic and convoluted, the humour more literary, and the passion more overwhelming, as these two amazing women try to find a way forward without threatening Grace’s tenure run, alienating the college board, or making a mockery of Abbie’s professional standing.

Ann McMan has this amazing ability to combine intellectual wordplay with the portrayal of sympathetic characters, charming romances and genuinely wonderful friendships. While our focus must be on the erudite and entertaining main characters and their somewhat tortuous path through the brambles of professional integrity, the ensemble is filled out with absolutely adorable secondary characters and relationships.

There is an extensive cast from the 9 o’clock dog to the challenging but foul-mouthed brain of CK, who compares relationships to quantum physics; Grace’s Neanderthal, but heart of gold brother, Dean; the master of the fates Rizzo and the powerful presence of the judgemental mothers for whom these amazing women have never been good enough. And we can’t forget to mention Sister Merry Larry, scourge of the catholic girl’s sexual education, now literally “fallen from grace” and finding fun without any slapping. Add in more complexity by CK making hay with Dean, Rizzo having studied with Abbie, and the whole intricate situation having been already resolved, and you have a glimpse of how much fun this story really is.

Is hard to know where to stop with the praise. The writing is immaculate, the use of language and references to the arts and literature make for extremely scholarly characters, well apart from Dean and Grendel, although Grendel has some great lines, and any author who can use “floccinaucinihilipilification“ in a sensible sentence deserves genuine genuflection.

“Beowulf for Cretins” is not a laugh out loud comedy, more a comedy of errors; producing a constant deep-belly rumble with occasional eruptions of uncontrollable chuckles. I have already read it twice and will happily read it again and again, finding something new to see, some new witticism to understand, and some new empathy for the characters in this superb work.



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: 320 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (June 26, 2018)
  • ASIN: B079K4BZ89
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Calling Home – Jen Silver

Calling Home - Jen SilverSarah Frost manages the Frost Foundation and several writers retreats around England. Her favourite, The Lodge on the Lake, is set on a small island somewhere in the North and managed by her childhood friend Berry. The women share a dark background, escapees from a hippie commune gone wrong, and as always Sarah was the lucky one who avoided the worst excesses to became grand-daughter of the welcoming and wealthy Frosts, while Berry suffered cruelly and escaped into a hard life of survival while making her own way.

Joined on the retreat staff by a burned out vet, Galen, the friends are happy in their quiet and settled lives; Sarah with a new love interest in the local village and Berry with a decided interest in her new colleague. Neither woman could imagine the upset and upheaval about to be created by the arrival of the weeks residents or the uncovering of 3 long-buried bodies in Northumbria.

Jen Silver’s voice is decidedly English, bringing to life the countryside and people of her native North. More than just the setting and character though there is something delightfully colloquial and decidedly British about her tales, echoes of the quintessential voice of Britain of the 50’s like a Poirot movie or The Famous Five.

The romances are always gentle and sympathetically drawn, not that there aren’t hot scenes, but the emotion is deep and the unfolding realistic. The mysteries are intriguing, unusual and pulled from the past, influencing and affecting the women of today from the grave. The settings are subtly drawn but solidly present as a part of the story.

In “Calling Home” Silver has created another complex plot and enjoyable ensemble piece with eight women collected at the island retreat for a week; the old friends, the heartbroken drunk, the new lovers, the mysterious autobiography writer and the doting but grumpy Gran. The characters are well drawn and their interactions a perfect people watchers composition.

There is a huge twist in the tale, the past really does come out and bite them in the most unexpected way, overturning everything they thought they knew about their lives and themselves, and despite the gentle pace and subtle build Ms Silver keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Thoroughly enjoyable and well done.



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: 276 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Affinity (June 1, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07D3L5SF1
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Alias – Cari Hunter

Alias – Cari HunterCari Hunter writes exceedingly good books and this is the best yet.

It starts with a literal “bang” when a car goes off the road in the Welsh hills leaving one woman dead and the other severely injured and suffering amnesia. Who she is and why she is there elude her, and us. Working with Detective Bronwen Pryce from the local police the survivor must piece together her life, and then survive the what she finds.

The plot is fast and sometimes furious, but as usual with Ms Hunter’s writing has moments of calm which allow us to catch our breath. The crime is multi-layered, the baddies found in unexpected places, and the allies equally unforeseen.

The scenes shift between metropolitan Manchester and rural Wales providing a distinct and well-drawn background. As always in Cari Hunter’s books the setting provides an important part of the plot. Here she uses the Welsh hills to represent increasing security, despite the crash, against the unexplained malice of the Manchester streets.

Our two main characters are well rounded, interesting and well matched. The romance takes second place to the mystery, and the attraction starts almost imperceptibly, building quietly between two complex women who have bigger issues to deal with. Both soften as the story unfolds, one from the consummate professional who conceals her compassion and the other finding who she really is and learning how to be herself again.

“Alias” is written in the first person, not everybody’s favourite, but this is extremely well done and even for those not keen on the mechanism I would urge you to give it a go. The writing is smooth and flows along, the plot is well constructed, the characters revealed slowly as the mystery unfolds, and being written in the first person adds to the mystery as we, the readers, discover the world along with our crash victim.

I have enjoyed all Cari Hunter’s books from the North Cascades to the English Peaks. This is another step up in her writing and it’s wonderful to watch an author grow into her craft. Her depiction of backdrop, the slow reveal, the handling of complex plot and character, and the always hard to manage first person, makes this an exceedingly good read. Highly recommended.



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: 332 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (June 12, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07D7LDF19
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Heart of the Devil By Ali Vali

Heart of the Devil By Ali ValiJump back to the beginning of Cain and Emma’s romance and we have a ‘fill-in’ to the wonderful Cain Casey Series.  A full blown romance that also give us a more detailed view of the Casey family and the build up to extra Special Agent Kyles obsession with Cain.

Well done, with a host of details linked to the rest of the books and a complex early reveal of so many characters we get to know. It’s great to spend more time with Billy, Marie and Therese, although rather heart rending if you know the rest of their stories. The only problem now if which order to read the series in!



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: 269 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (January 16, 2018)
  • ASIN: B078RDKBY4
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In Development – Rachel Spangler

In Development – Rachel SpanglerTake one up and coming Hollywood star who fits the Disney profile, and one rebel rock chick who has run out of ways to shock the public… add together, stir it up and wait for the sparks to fly.

Cobie is the quintessential girl next door, one of the safe lesbians who doesn’t scare the public and has that squeaky clean teen girl image. Now she wants to grow up, and in particular she wants to play the hard, ambiguous and edgy lesbian lead from a NYT bestseller. But despite having the script she will never get cast while she is seen as a rom-com specialist.

Lila has dated every eligible bachelor, and quite a few in-eligible ones, while trying to keep her profile high between albums. She has done everything she can to shock and tease the paparazzi and run out of men and tactics. When Cobie and Lila’s managers suggest a fauxmance to help both their careers Lila jumps at the chance and instantly takes control of the situation. But despite micromanaging everything from their public appearances, behaviour, kissing and wardrobes Lila can’t control her growing attraction to the gorgeous Cobie and all that means is trouble.

It takes a damn good romance with something of a twist to catch my attention these days; too many romances, too many repeats of the same story. So when you get one that grabs your attention you know it’s something special. “In Development” is one of the best books I’ve read this year and May was a pretty good month all round.

It’s a traditional romance in the sense of the story arc but much more in terms of the depth of the main characters and their growth. Cobie and Lila are so real you feel as though you know them. The juxtaposition of their public lives, one withdrawn and quiet, the other brash and demanding, with their private characters, makes for a really interesting character development scenario. Both have faults, both need to change, and Lil, in particular, has some very deep-seated issues. But while Cobie has less baggage to overcome she still needs to develop into the grown up, powerful and strong Hollywood star she is capable of being.

Extremely well written, this is Spangler’s best yet. I rarely want to re-read a romance, but I literally fell for these two and this is definitely on the pile to revisit.



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: 303 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Brisk Press (May 19, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07D6FV5BZ
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Outside the Law – Carsen Taite

Outside the Law - Carsen TaiteTanner Cohen and Sydney Braswell had the perfect college romance, future plans and ideal partnership… except that what Sydney had planned wasn’t precisely what Tanner wanted, and while Syd didn’t listen, Tanner didn’t really make her.

Years later they are forced to work together when Syd is assigned to the task force Tanner and her FBI/DEA/USA team-mates have formed to investigate their seemingly dodgy boss and his mob connections. Can Syd and Tanner work together and find a way to be friends, or will they face up to the thread of connection still between them? In the last of the Lone Star Law Romance’s Peyton, Tanner, Bianca, Dale and Syd will finally find the answers to their questions as a line is drawn and the good and bad are finally revealed.

This has been an excellent series of romance/crime thrillers and “Outside the Law” pulls it all together and ties up the loose ends. In each successive book we have had a team member find romance, so it won’t be a shock that this time its Tanner’s turn, and when the love of her life turns up in the opening scene we know where the romance plot is going, however bumpy the road might be getting there.

At the same time the plot thickens as US Attorney Herschel Gellar seems to be getting more and more involved with unpleasant characters and shady deals. The big reveal puts an interesting twist on the whole story, especially one dominated by powerful women.

I’m a series junky as I freely admit and it was great to read the final instalment, revisit the characters we have come to know and love, see the ongoing relationships and friendships take another step, and finally find out just who was behind everything from the murder of Lindsey Ryan onwards. Thoroughly enjoyable reading, only sad the series is over.



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: Bold Strokes Books (May 15, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07CMCGPFF
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The Locket – Gerri Hill

The Locket - Gerri HillDanielle Stevens is Hollywood’s rising star, with a line of blockbusters behind her and her next big role lined up, whether she wants it or not. Set on showing her acting skills as a homicide detective she selects the antsy Detective Harper Jeremiah of Dallas PD to shadow.

Detective Jeremiah is less than impressed to be told she has some actress tailing her, and even when the gorgeous Danielle turns up, to the envy of the male detectives, Harper resists the pull. But Danielle needs her for more than a role model, and when her stalker starts getting serious Harper cannot resist stepping up to protect the woman she has come to like and admire.

Another great Gerri Hill mystery romance. The characters of Danielle and Harper are interesting and complex, their initial interactions, with Harper angry at the assignment and Danielle unsure of how much she can trust the Detective, sets up a level of challenge as they get to know each other. Both have issues that only time and sharing will overcome, which gives the romance an organic development that didn’t feel forced. Both need to make changes in their lives and in each other they find the perfect foil.
The stalker is a nasty piece of work and plays an excellent game of cat and mouse; his actions are utterly unnerving. As he escalates so does the tension and the critical question of who could possibly be quite that sneaky without leaving a trace. Overall the combination of psychological fear, mystery/thriller and slow build romance works really well.

This became a real page-turner as the tension racked up, I couldn’t put it down. Hill has a knack for combining strong characters, vulnerable and complex, with a situation that allows them to grow, while keeping us on our toes as the mystery unfolds. Definitely one of my favourite Gerri Hill thrillers, highly recommended.


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: 252 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bella Books (April 20, 2018)
  • ASIN: B07BVY3GX9
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Love at Cooper’s Creek – Missouri Vaun

Love at Cooper’s Creek - Missouri VaunShaw Daly left Coopers Creek for the big wide world, studied Art and made it to the top in marketing and sales. She achieved more than she ever thought to, even owning a 19C triplex in San Francisco; but life is empty and she no longer get any sense of achievement from selling things people don’t need. When she goes home to Coopers Creek to have some down time she is lost and empty, with no purpose in life.

Apart from a few brief trips and a semester abroad, Kate Elkins is the exact opposite, small-town girl who loves her job teaching first grade and is firmly and happily part of a social and family network. Taking a year off to care for her ailing mother is a sacrifice, but Kate knows It is something she needs to do.

When Shaw and Kate collide in the local shop memories of her school-girl crush flood Kate and so the dance begins. Attracted and interested but aware it can only be short term, both women want to explore their feelings while resisting anything painful.

A light and enjoyable romance ensues, enough natural angst from the expected timeline, with some nice side-lines, particularly Shaw’s unexpected family history. Shaw has an internal journey to realising what’s important and must grow into her real self. The portrayal of Kate’s mother and her care is well done and sympathetically drawn.

A classic traditional romance, easy reading, good dialogue and loveable characters; saccharine sweet in places, the sub-plots and setting save it. The editing could have been tighter in places early on, but overall an enjoyable summer 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: 232 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (February 13, 2018)
  • ASIN: B0798HQQCZ
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Hiding Hearts – RE Bradshaw

Hiding Hearts – RE BradshawR. E. Bradshaw’s 2x Great Aunt was known as the greatest horsewoman in Wayne County, North Carolina. Wild and untamed, living her life her way, she has inspired Bradshaw to begin a new series which starts at the tail end of the Civil War in Goldsborough, NC. The county is bracing itself for the arrival of Sherman’s troops, the ravages of the bummers and the slow return of the Counties young men, war-weary and damaged in body and mind.

Lottie Bratcher is only 18, but her strong will, fearless nature, and bright mind make her the natural leader of the Bratcher women left to scrabble a survival in their small parcel of land. The men are away fighting a war started by rich men and having little bearing on the poor white families who had never owned slaves and were socially only a step above the free blacks of the area. Scraping a living, guarding their own and protecting the so-called deserters, including her brother Jefferson, Lottie has little time for affairs of the heart and does her best to fight the childhood crush she has for the beautiful heiress Patrice Cole and her twin Patrick. But in times of war allies are frequently thrown together, especially when Patrice is determined that they will be.

This, the first in the Appletree Swamp series, is an intriguing and extremely well-done mix of historical adventure and light-hearted romance, with a delightful twist in the tale for the Bratcher and Cole siblings. The atmosphere created, the action and the setting, are exceptionally well drawn and feel so authentic that you get lost in the lives of the extended family and their neighbours. Full of cameo roles from the illegally literate Medicine Mary, the enchanting ferryman Jacob and even a brief encounter with Sherman himself, Bradshaw has filled the pages with delightful characters who instantly become friends.

The background of the swamp and the detail of the war make this very solidly set in time and place, clearly very familiar territory for Ms Bradshaw who’s eye for detail and love of both family genealogy, Civil War history and the land of her father, shines through in every line. The whole is lightened by the almost comedic attempts of Lottie to avoid the woman who dominates her heart and mind, running like a skittish colt, while Patrice patiently but determinedly chases her down.

Delightful reading, another wonderful example of how an idea can catch the imagination of an excellent writer and a whole world comes to life. From the darkness of the Rainey Bell thrillers through the madcap Decky and Charlie stories and the charming standalone romances such as “Waking up Gray”, R. E. Bradshaw has a real talent for producing deeply felt characters who climb inside our hearts and minds. Her books are always at the top of my reading pile, and the Appletree Swamp series just adds another string to her already full bow.

E-format currently available from R. E. Bradshaw Books



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 2018
  • Publisher: R.E. Bradshaw Books (March 29, 2018)
  • ISBN: 978-0998954967
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Great Bones – Lynn Ames

Great Bones - Lynn AmesWhen Grandma Goldie Horowitz wants to help her granddaughter find a girlfriend she naturally turns to Ida Pinsky, shadchan, lifelong friend and fellow resident at Shady Acres Assisted Living Community. Ida in turn points Goldie toward her own granddaughter, Julia, who runs an online dating service in her spare time.  Rachel, the object of all this scheming, is a die-hard romantic who earns her living writing greeting card sentiments. Her therapist wants her to get out there and stop hiding behind her insecurities, but every date turns into a disaster that reinforces her self-image as a hopeless klutz. Can Julia find her the perfect match? Will Goldie and Ida get caught escaping Shady Acres, or barred from Melvin’s Diner for loitering?  Or will fate take a hand and bring both Rachel and Julia their hearts desire?

Lynn Ames thirteenth book is a departure from her previous romances and thrillers as she takes a step, or rather a shove, into romantic comedy; it’s always dangerous having pushy friends. Needless to say, this romp through the shenanigans of a pair of New York Jewish Grandmothers and their adorable, if damaged, grand-daughters is a huge success.

Rachel and Julia are loveable, complex and moderately tortured souls whose overbearing mothers have twisted into self-depreciating knots with their expectations. With seemingly perfect siblings in finance and medicine, Rachel can never convince her mother that she has a real job and can afford to eat, let alone that she’s at the top of her profession. Julia’s pompous parents care more for their social standing than their relationship with their daughter and quite possibly believe Julia will go to hell for being gay, if they believed in hell.

With the help of her slightly bumbling sidekick Ida, a traditional matchmaker, Goldie pretty much steals the show.  Her adorable plotting that always slightly backfires, her feigned deafness and memory loss to escape her daughter’s house, illicit trips out in her cascade-blue 1972 Buick Electra Deuce-and-a-Quarter to the movies and the diner for chocolate malt; she is the perfect grandma with a naughty streak.

Add into the mix the adorable fluffy golden retriever/Siberian husky mix Freud and we have a classic ensemble piece that will simply make you smile. Yes there’s a little angst with the stressed family relationships and the “will they won’t they” romance, but without some angst what would a Jewish Grandmother have to worry about? Overall the whole is suffused with love, light and affection.

Extremely well executed as always, the writing flows, the reading is effortless and the characters reach right out and touch your heart.  Lynn Ames has hit another home run with this one, it’s taken a while but it’s definitely been worth the wait.

Available in paperback and e-format from LynnAmes.com



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: 274 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Phoenix Rising (March 27, 2018)
  • ISBN: 978-1936429141
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