Monthly Archives: June 2018

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
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.

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
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.

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
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.

Wake Me When It’s Over – Cheryl A Head

Wake Me When It's Over - Cheryl HeadCharlie Mack and the gang are back in a second whodunnit. This time set in Detroit at the international car show, the team have a week to find a murderer and foil a terrorist plot. Full of multiple layers of conspiracy, from pipe bombs to industrial spying, Chinese plots and twisted European madmen, this starts with a bang and never lets go.

Fast-paced, complex and intriguing, it will literally keep you glued to your seat as the layers and leaves unfold. Just who are the baddies? Will another twist uncover more traitors inside? Will Charlie and the gang put all the post-it notes together in time?

Cheryl Head’s Charlie Mack Motown Mysteryseries is an excellent read. Extremely well written, the story flows along at a reckless pace without ever feeling forced. The characters are well drawn with foibles and flaws, friendships and mock enmities that make them a real team. The plot is complex; the detail and threads convoluted and elaborate, and while they weave together, fading in and out, at no point do you feel that they wont resolve into a comprehensive whole.

Very well done and 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: 310 pages
  • First published 2018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books (May 22, 2018)
  • ASIN: B079K6SSS3
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.

The Velvet Anthology

The Velvet Anthology - JacketWe are delighted to announce that The Velvet Anthology is now available to pre-order from the Stone Soup website!

This will be available as an ebook and paperback from Amazon, and we will have plenty of copies at the GCLS Conference in Vegas – so if you are coming you can buy your copy there and collect author signatures!

There will also be a special silent auction next week for TEN copies signed by all the authors.

Stone Soup logoBut if you aren’t going to Con and would like to pre-order please do it through Stone Soup, and remember folks, all proceeds from the anthology go to charity, so please give generously!



to order yours visit Stone Soup Community Press

The Authors

No words, just an image

I am truly honoured to say that the wonderful Ann McMan agreed to do the jacket for the new anthology. No words. How stunning is this? Got to be worth the price just for the jacket.

And for those who are impatient with my slow reveal… pre-orders for the paperback direct from Stone Soup will be released TOMORROW, full release July 4th at GCLS Con in Vegas, ebook on amazon the same day.. and there may well be an audio as well if I get round to it

The Velvet Anthology - Jacket

and then there were authors…

Chicago, IL, GCLS Con, 2017. If you haven’t been keeping up where have you been??? There’s me, all full of it because Karin Kallmaker used me (in double drag) in her short story, Erica Abbott saying we need a ‘velvet anthology’ (still not sure if there was more to that) and Darla Baker asking me to be ED of her new non-profit, Stone Soup Community Press. Something seemed to be telling me to add it all up.

And there I am wandering around the GCLS Conference with 250 authors. Mmmm.

So I started asking.

And they said yes. All of them. Can’t believe the generosity and support I have had.

By the end of Con I had 9 amazing authors who had agreed to write a short for the anthology, all donated for the cause, all proceeds to the GCLS Readers Scholarship fund.

So who? You interested?

Well first had to be Karin and Erica for obvious reasons.

Next was a session at the bar with a bunch of crazy women… so I collared Ann McMan, Stefani Deoul and Cheryl Head and two amazing editors in Elizabeth Anderson and Fay Jacobs.

Over a few whiskeys I rather bravely asked MJ Williamz (anyone who knows her genre will understand why that was brave).

I was so excited I told my buddy Donna K. Ford who opted in as well.

Over cocktails I asked Cheyne Curry.

Annette Mori said yes to the tux.

And then I plucked up courage and asked Lee Lynch – who also said yes.

While I was at it I picked up a brilliant jacket designer (guess who?)

I can only say a huge thank you to all the authors, the editors and that designer for participating, and also to Salem West and Katherine V. Forrest for help and advice behind the scenes and Brenda Barton for allowing me to use her images of Frank’n’Furter

I do hope you are going to buy this book!


GCLS Con 2017 – Thursday

Stone Soup logoGCLS Con 2017, momentous year for me.

Thursday was sitting talking to Darla Baker who had set up a 501©3 publisher called Stone Soup Community Press. I knew it was in the works, but like most of us Darla is many things, GCLS Board, Lambda Board, author and very full time worker – as well as wife, mother and fur baby mom, so these things take time.

Darla started to outline her vision; set up the non-profit, or charity as we say in the UK, publish both full length books and anthologies including works by new authors, set up a writers in residence scheme and use all the profits to support four LGBT non-profits; GCLS, Lambda Literary, It Gets Better Project and The Trevor Project.

She then rather shockingly asked me to be Executive Director… shocking as I have zero knowledge of the mechanics of publishing – or writing for that matter. Reader and reviewer here, no ambition to write at all and therefore no need to know how to publish. I’ve worked in the not-for-profit sector for many years and back before the flood I was a bookseller for a while, but publishing?

Needless to say I said yes. And of course, then there’s that idea of Erica’s.

So, bringing the two together, guess what we did next??

The Stone Soup Community Press is in its infancy but if you would like to read the vision and mission have a look at

#Watchthisspace #whathappenednext? #TheVelvetAnthology

“We need more, we need a Velvet Anthology”

FranknFurterOn this day.. well actually 11 months ago on the first day of GCLS Con, DC 2017, I walked into an almost empty vendor room, noticed Karin Kallmaker leaning on the wall and politely said “Hello” as I wandered past. I only expected a polite “Hi” in return, but instead got “Oh.. hi… um…”, which got my interest as you can imagine, “um.. have you seen the new anthology?” To which I replied that I hadn’t, was meaning to pick it up at some point. Karin then rather bashfully told me that “maybe you should, um, go read my story…”

So of course I went straight to the Bella table and picked up their fundraising anthology “Conference Call”, turned to Karins’ story and found myself – well the me in the frank’n’furter costume of the year before. Fame at last – mentioned in a Karin Kallmaker story. Just by walking across the hotel lobby in that outfit I had changed one young woman’s life forever – well in Karin’s short at least. I later found some odd resemblance to a tall, hazel eyed English woman with a cocky grin called Silky in Catherine Maiorisi’s “All’s Well That Ends Well”. Seriously.. fame.

Of course this became my story of the week, oft-told and laughed over. Until later that day I was repeating my tale to the wonderfully humorous Erica Abbott who promptly said.. “you need more, we need more… we need a Velvet Anthology”

And so the idea was born.

#Watchthisspace #whathappenednext? #TheVelvetAnthology

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
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.