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A Touch of Temptation

A Touch of Temptation

Kate Dawson’s life is mapped out from cradle to grave. Her mother strategizes the best possible husband, career, connections, and friends, for her only child. On the morning of her bar exam, the last step before taking on a leadership role in her family’s prestigious law firm, Kate passes out from a sudden illness and lands in the hospital. After several weeks recuperating at home, with evenings spent watching classic movies with her gran (Katherine), the family matriarch, Kate is ready to go crazy from her inability to run a mile without getting winded or stay awake long enough to study for the next bar exam. Despite her love of Cary Grant’s and Katherine Hepburn’s onscreen shenanigans, Kate feels lost without the finely ordered path she has followed up to this point.

Gran pushes Kate out the door, insisting the woman recuperate at her mountain cabin, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It starts out a mixture of the life Kate leaves behind in the city and the solitude of a well-worn refuge. Cue Chris, the woman Kate later (playfully) refers to as the “Lesbian Casanova”. It’s lust at first sight for Chris and confusion for Kate (as she has never felt attraction for a woman before).

Chris Brent is the studly butch-next-door. She oozes a sexy combination of confidence and competence. When she’s not riding her motorcycle with her dad and friends, she is hard at work building up her small landscape architecture business. Weekends often find her mingling with lovely ladies at sex parties thrown by her friend, the sexually vibrant and insightful Georgia, in San Francisco. Chris doesn’t want any of the complications relationships may bring. Still, when she meets Kate (a serial monogamist), it’s becomes harder to insist on no-strings attached sex.

At the heart of the two women’s journey is their struggle with what they thought they wanted versus what they’re starting to realize they actually need. Sexuality plays a substantial role in the story. Kate isn’t the only character who embarks on journey of self-discovery in this arena.

When the outside world seeps into their semi-secluded retreat, Kate and Chris face even more barriers. Nicole, Kate’s best friend from college, plays tag team with Kate’s mother in their attempts to derail the burgeoning romance. Support comes from at least one unexpected corner, which I found pleasantly surprising.

One of my favorite aspects of Julie Blair’s storytelling is her ability to make me feel like I’m there.  The family mansion and its palatial grounds and the cozy tucked away amongst the trees, with more trees than neighbors, are distinct. The spheres in which the women live and work are clear, emphasizing the seeming chasm between the two. Even now, a few weeks after reading the final word, I can close my eyes and instantly imagine myself at the cabin, in one of the luxurious gardens, or standing in front of the painted ladies of San Francisco. I also appreciate how the author does not use the characters to insist on one type of relationship as the ideal (i.e. monogamy).  

It’s fun and flirty, with a delicious mix of family secrets, double lives, and “world turned upside down” life events. I highly recommend this story for anyone who enjoys a healthy dose of sensuality and erotica with their romance *fans self vigorously*

A Touch of Temptation
Author: Julie Blair
Published by Bold Strokes Books
Publication date: May 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-62639-489-6

Available from Bold Strokes Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

Categories: erotica, fiction, netgalley, romance | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Necromantia

necromantia

Circe can see the dead and Zelda, her K-9 search & rescue partner, can smell them.

As a child, Circe Latham learned to hide her ability to see the spirits of the dead.  As an adult, she harnesses her hidden skill into bringing peace to the deceased and their families by volunteering as a Search & Rescue team in Spokane, Washington. However, she is reluctant to share her unique sight with anyone, aside from her best friend. Most of the credit for missing persons discoveries goes to Zelda’s keen sense of smell.  For Circe, seeeing dead people was:

“… just plain a pain in the ass.  At least until she stumbled on a way to make it less disruptive in her life.  These days it was a lot more manageable and often fascinating.  And the sanity that came along with it was life altering in a way she could never explain.”

Circe and Zelda are the go-to duo when it comes to human remains detection in Spokane.  When a search with the Sheriff’s Office turns up three bodies within a city park, local detectives Diana Erni and Paul Garland are called in to assist with the investigation.  As the case continues to bring the two women together, a magnetic attraction ignites.  Diana and Circe, however, pursue a cautious courtship.  Their chemistry opens up avenues of possibility, both personally and professionally.  On the other side of the desk, Paul attempts to fend off unwanted attention from his ex-girlfriend, Brenda, without anyone finding out.  Secondary and supporting characters, in the form of friends, family, and colleagues, provide additional depth to relationships and to the plot. 

The narrative juggles the distorted ambitions of the murderer and his demonic tome; the close knit, dynamic duo of Diana and Paul as they race to bring the killer to justice; and Circe’s attempts to share more of herself with the people in her life.  Suspense builds at a deliciously measured pace as the various threads weave together.  Readers will thrill as the  story reaches resolution.  It was an ending I had not anticipated, but found very satisfying and clever.

Necromantia weaves the paranormal into daily life, transforming the quotidian and offering hope in dark places.  Sheri Lewis Wohl has created strong, authentic, and complex, female characters in her leads, Circe and Diana.  Wohl’s knowledge of and experience with search and rescue operations shines through her expert descriptions.  Paul’s struggle to reconcile his identity as a capable law enforcement agent with his soured romantic relationship with Brenda, provides him with a satisfying character arc. The Pacific Northwest is always an incredible backdrop for any story and does not disappoint here.

I highly recommend it!

Necromantia
Author: Sheri Lewis Wohl
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
ISBN-10: 1626396116
ISBN-13: 978-1-62639-612-8

Available April 1st from Bold Strokes Books and April 12th from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, netgalley, paranormal, suspense | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stowe Away

Stowe Away by Blythe Rippon
Ylva Publishing
January 2016
Available from Ylva, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and your local library via Overdrive.
Join the conversation on Goodreads.com.

Love isn’t always where you expect to find it or with whom you think it should happen.  Stowe Away grapples with expectations versus reality and attempts to figure out a way to reconcile the two.  Samantha “Sam” Latham, a young woman bound for prestige as a medical researcher attempts to stow away her feelings and ambitions when life doesn’t fit into her plans.  She eventually discovers through hard won lessons that she can Stowe Away along a more fortuitous path.   

Stowe, Vermont, for Sam Latham, is a dead-end, and high school graduation can’t come soon enough.  It’s easy when you’re a kid to view life in a small town as suffocating and dull and family drama as the sum total of the world.   Sam views College as the Promised Land, where smart, worldly people gather and life begins.  She declares herself as the town’s “only lesbian”, another reason she longed for a realm where her people (brainy, gay, driven, etc.) congregated and thrived.  Her propensity to focus intensely on a course of action allows her to achieve great success, but also limits her ability to pick up on the signals and sensibilities of the people around her. 

Seeing herself as a party of one sets her up for a hard fall when she meets Natalie at a dormitory meeting their Freshman year at Yale.  They begin a close and complicated relationship over their four years of undergraduate study.  Their friendship is at times nurturing and toxic.

Sam is intensely focused on her studies and has a route mapped out for her career trajectory.  Natalie is almost an exact opposite of Sam, both in temperament (very sociable) and focus (vacillates between majors).  The two women muddy the emotional waters to the breaking point at the end of their senior year at Yale.  For many relationships, that could very well spell the end of things.  Sam immerses herself in her PhD medical studies at Stanford University.  Natalie moves in with her new girlfriend in San Francisco while pursuing a masters degree in Public Policy.   

After life away in New Haven, Connecticut, and San Francisco, California, pursuing her studies and the romantic affections of her unavailable best friend, Natalie, she returns to Stowe.  Sam learns that there was more than met the eye when it comes to the people and general way of life in Stowe. As she assists with her mother’s rehabilitation from a brain aneurysm, she struggles through a long, dark night, and ends up learning that her hometown is full of surprises.

Maria Sanchez, proprietress of the cafe “Stowe Away”, is one such surprise.  Though the two women attended Stowe High School together, Sam doesn’t know much about Maria or the fact that her mother Eva and Maria have become close friends in Sam’s absence.  After a tragic loss in high school, Maria rebuilt her life.  Without Maria’s presence in the story, Sam would have struggled to recover her way and found healing for her relationships.  She is a strong, resourceful, and intelligent woman who gives no footing to Sam’s self-pity or other destructive behaviors.  Maria, her brother Pauly, and the surrounding community, make Sam’s transformation possible.

When I first read Stowe Away, I thought Natalie was taking advantage of Sam’s obvious crush (touching, gifts, asking her to comment on outfits she tries on at the store).  It seemed cruel to string Sam along.  Natalie doesn’t rebuff Sam directly, even when it’s painfully obvious to everyone that Sam carrives a torch for her.  It takes a strong bond to save a friendship from sinking under the weight of a one-sided obsession.  When the two women cross a huge line late in their time at Yale, it’s hard to imagine that there is a way back from that.  There is enough doubt woven into the story (whether on purpose or inadvertently) to cast a shadow over Natalie’s intentions.  A lot of what goes on between Sam and Natalie can be chalked up to hormones, college, and the general shenanigans of your early twenties.

It’s easy to empathize with Sam.  She loves her mother, but it’s an emotionally  draining relationship.  It’s an uncomfortable position to be in and the answer is not always straightforward or easy.  However, at the same time, she doesn’t give the people in her life enough credit for leading rich lives.  Her metric for interesting and fulfilling creates a distance between her and people in her life.  She also puts strain on her friendship with Natalie by ignoring all of the signs that “she’s just not that into you”.  If this novel had taken place in 2016, Sam would have used her smart phone to stalk Natalie online, dogging her every virtual step, agonizing over every Instagram post and Facebook relationship status.  How Sam and Natalie ever managed to salvage their friendship and establish it on honest footing is one of the marvels of the story.  It was a stretch for me, but that doesn’t mean that the continuation of their friendship couldn’t happen in real life.

Stowe Away romances the reader with the possibilities of Love with a capital L and love.  I recommend this story to anyone who enjoys reading about small town life, collegiate settings, and empathizes with losing sleep over unrequited love (and the messiness that ensues).  

Thank you, Ylva Publishing, for the opportunity to review this title.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, netgalley, romance | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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