July 29, 2014

‘All In’ by Nell Stark

Posted on July 29, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

A twenty-something named Annie Jump Navarro, known to fellow online poker players as “Nova,” is about to experience a life-changing event as All In begins. It seems as if everything is going Nova’s way.  She’s just won big in on-line gaming and is about to use her winnings to buy a house, enabling Nova and her roommates to live at peace and away from a crazy, homophobic neighbor. However, the stars are not exactly aligned for Nova and her friends, and things start to fall apart quickly. (more…)

‘And a Time to Dance’ by Chris Paynter

Posted on July 17, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

As And a Time to Dance opens, Corey Banner and Judy Wagner meet at a softball tournament for the first time. Without hesitation, the two women begin a romantic dance punctuated by everyday life. The relationship lasts for six years, and Corey and Judy are still in love, although Corey is somewhat frustrated at the long hours Judy’s job demands. When tragedy strikes unexpectedly, Corey is devastated and set adrift on a tumultuous sea of loss and uncertainty. Even an attempt to return to normalcy by engaging in a new relationship two years later ends in disaster, when Corey is accused of living in the shadows of her past. The end of a relationship Corey was never sure she wanted in the first place leaves her jittery and forces her to take a long look at where her life is headed.

In an impulsive move, Corey decides to head off from her Michigan home to explore the Rocky Mountains, something she and Judy had talked about doing together when it seemed that life, and their relationship, would go on forever. She strikes out for a stay in Grand Lake, Colorado, hoping to find work as well as healing. At her destination, she meets Erin Flannery and her Aunt Tess, co-owners of the Rainbow Lodge, Corey’s initial destination. Tess quickly takes Corey’s measure and offers her a position at the lodge as head of the maintenance department using her expertise honed working for her dad’s construction business. Erin, however, is not as quick as her aunt to trust Corey’s abilities—or her friendship.

Erin has had her own hard knocks. Abandoned years before by someone she thought she’d be with for the rest of her life Erin now runs from any kind of commitment, playing the field in order to avoid heartbreak. She beds one short term resident at the Lodge after another and tries to think it’s enough.  Her aunt is concerned. Her mother is appalled. Erin thinks she’s happy; but denial is a poor cover for the sadness and loss she feels.

As the two women are thrown together in their work and in their personal lives, walls start to crumble. But crumbling walls are difficult to clear away and the rubble makes joining in a romantic dance difficult. Miscommunications come across as unfeeling, even uncaring, as Corey and Erin battle their way toward making tentative advances trying to find a dance steps they are willing to take together. If they can’t find their way, they may be destined to dance alone—or not at all.

In And a Time to Dance, Paynter portrays the beauty of the Rocky Mountain scenery without taking us out of the story. She has given us a heart-wrenching story of love and loss and the journey of two women who long to find their way to the healing and romantic possibilities of their lives  Corey and Erin are likeable and the story has a background melody that makes us long for them to reach out to one another before it’s too late. In a plot tinted with melancholy and longing, these two women try to over and over again to trust their hearts and reach out to one another toward wholeness, life, and the promise of love. However, they will only get there if they’re willing to take a risk, and sometimes even the promise doesn’t seem like it’s enough, especially when Erin’s so-called relationships keep getting in their way, trying to cut in on Corey and Erin’s dance. In the end, it is confronting and overcoming fear that may finally these two open their hearts and allow them to stop running. And a Time to Dance tells a story of two women working to get beyond confusion and tumult. It’s an achingly beautiful story set in the splendor of the Colorado Mountains. Who could ask for more?

 

 

And a Time to Dance
By Chris Paynter
Blue Feather Press
Paperback, 9781935627647, 202 pp.
June 2013

‘Positive Lightning’ by Laurie Salzler

Posted on July 9, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

Positive Lightning (Blue Feather Books) tells the story of the intersection of two lives—both a little lost, both trying to find a way back to wholeness. Faith Hutchins is blind as a result of a recent tragic accident. The once independent, athletic woman has been reduced to activities tinged with a tentativeness that she hates. Twice before, she has signed up for the guide dog program to help her become more mobile, but both attempts failed, leaving her with only her white cane and a too-clingy ex-lover to help her get around. (more…)

‘Nightingale’ by Andrea Bramhall

Posted on July 2, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

Charlie Porter is an out and proud young woman who’s delayed starting college to recuperate from losing her first love to tragedy. While auditioning for a place in a prestigious music program, Charlie has a chance encounter with Hazar Alim, a pianist and the accompanist for the program auditions. The title of this story, Nightingale, as Hazar reveals, comes from the translation of her name and is a symbol that will prove significant as the story unfolds. (more…)

‘Seneca Falls’ by Jesse J. Thoma

Posted on May 22, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

Seneca King has a past and a limp. That’s our introduction to her as she enters Sophia College, an all-women’s school located in New England. When asked by her new dorm roommate about her leg, Seneca tells her simply she “was shot.” That seems to shut the roommate up and we don’t hear from the roomy again until we learn that she’s pleaded with the powers-that-be at the college to reassign her to another room—not because she can’t put up with the aloof, reclusive Seneca, not because she’s afraid of her mysterious past, but because she can’t stand the nightmares—and, especially, the screams that accompany them. It proves to be problem, for no one wants to get close to Seneca, and all she can hope for is to be relegated to a single dorm room, even though those are reserved for upper class women. Seneca finally gets a new roommate in Britt, whom she met her first day on campus. Britt has a calming influence on Seneca as well as a supportive demeanor that she manages to project without getting too close. Her presence even tempers Seneca’s night terrors. However, it is senior, Dylan Walker, that turns Seneca’s very controlled, protected world up-side-down. (more…)

‘Daughter of Mystery: A Novel of Alpennia’ by Heather Rose Jones

Posted on April 13, 2014 by in Romance, Speculative

Daughter of Mystery: A Novel of Alpennia, is a wonderful book of intrigue and romance. Margerit Sovitre is an orphan who lives with her overbearing uncle, his wife, her sister, and their son. She is the god-daughter of Baron Saveze, a man who has ancestral lands and great wealth.  (more…)

‘Finding the Grain’ by Wynn Malone

Posted on March 26, 2014 by in Reviews, Romance

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to stop struggling against the grain.The title, Finding the Grain, suggests searching for something that’s right, even if it involves floundering off course as part of the search, rather than the negative “against the grain.” So when Augusta “Blue” Riley’s life takes what seems like one wrong turn after another, following the tragic death of her parents in a tornado, she begins a journey that takes her on paths that seem to lead her astray again and again. But she might not be off course at all; she might just be looking for the grain of her life. If she finds it, she might be able to slip into the flow of it and ride along effortlessly; however, in Blue’s case, finding that grain may take a while. (more…)

‘Family Issue’ by Nat Burns

Posted on March 6, 2014 by in Mystery, Romance

Family Issue (Bella Books) is set in southern Louisiana, near the Gulf of Mexico. Denni Hope, who grew up near Fortune Farm, has been asked by her ex-girlfriend, Patty Price, to investigate a rash of violence and vandalism which is plaguing the farm. Denni is a trained insurance investigator, and is quite willing to use her skills to help Patty. She is not sure, however, how she’ll feel about seeing Patty with Yolanda Elliott, the woman Patty left her for. (more…)

Transitions

Posted on February 13, 2014 by in Opinion, Romance

Janus is the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions; he looks to the past and to the future. Janus is usually depicted with two faces. I’d like to re-appropriate this ancient archetype as the god of transitioning genders for the first book I will review by L.A. Witt that was just reissued in January. Then I will use this same archetype to discuss authorial collaboration–two heads are better than one–in the romance genre in a new release from L.A. Witt and Cat Grant. Finally, I will look at a recent release by Cat Grant that masterfully uses parallelism to illustrate the choices that the characters must make between self-hate and love. (more…)

‘Love Burns Bright: A Lifetime of Lesbian Romance’ edited by Radclyffe

Posted on February 11, 2014 by in Anthology, Romance

Many of us grew up with stories which ended with the words, “and they lived happily ever after.” We never knew the rest of the story… how  they managed to live happily ever after. Love Burns Bright is a compilation of short stories which tell the rest of the story. These are mature couples who show, in the words of singer Judy Fjell, “love that goes the distance.” In the story “Sepia Showers,” author Andrea Dale writes, as one of her characters copes with her mother’s dementia, and wonders how she and her partner will age, “Someday, down the line, we might forget the person… but we can never forget the love.” In “Forever Yours, Eileen,” Rebekah Weatherspoon writes about two African-American women who are finally together again after nearly fifty years. Through all those years, they faithfully wrote to each other, staying in touch, but not able to touch each other.

Some of the stories are quite erotic, while others, such as Radclyffe’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” are sexily sweet. Some of the women are living the American dream with a house, jobs, and kids, and yet still working to find ways to keep their love and passion alive. In “Waiting For the Harvest,” Sommer Marsden’s characters successfully explore their passion for each other by using very creative and erotic tools.Chris Paynter’s “Full Circle” begins with two women meeting  at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 and then returning to that special place in 2009, to celebrate forty years together.

Each of these eighteen authors is very skilled at creating characters who are fully developed, and have a compelling story to tell. Many times their situations are very real, as in Dena Hankin’s “Cooling Down and Heating Up.” Her two characters live in a lovely 180-year-old farmhouse  in North Carolina. They are restoring what they can, and going without what they can’t afford, including air conditioning. As the story begins, it’s summer, and one of the characters groans, “I love you sweetheart.  Don’t touch me.”  How they solve their sweaty situations is creatively funny. Catherine Paulssen’s “The Way to a Woman’s Heart” has her characters, Matilda and Olivia, finding some alone time by sending the kids to Matilda’s mother for a vacation.  How the two women handle their alone time is both creative and sexy! English writer Rachel Randall, in her story “Ravens,” gives readers a sex scene in the Tower of London! It happens  in the cell where Sir Walter Raleigh was housed. Randall plays with fantasies as well as a curious raven.

Author Derek Shannon’s two characters include one who is in the Army and deployed. Counting the days and hours until she returns, the couple keeps in touch via telephone calls, some of which are quite sexy! Again and again, the different authors show loving relationships which are held together by creative passion and caring. These are not couples in trouble, but couples who have stayed the distance and made their unions work. They are about women who are growing older together, and experiencing the physical changes that come with aging. In these well-written stories, readers are treated to mature couples who have made their unions work. As more and more states  recognize gay marriages, books that support and celebrate successful relationships are important to couples who are together for the long haul.

 

Love Burns Bright: A Lifetime of Lesbian Romance
Edited by Radclyffe
Cleis Press
Paperback, 9781627780001, 242 pp.
December 2013