retellings

Review: Just Like That by Karin Kallmaker

You may have heard “Tsundoku“, the practice of buying books and letting them languish unread, floating around the interwebs lately. When a former co-worker sent me an “I thought of you” article, knowing my book buying disposition, I decided it was time to rummage through my plastic totes full of unread novels. I wouldn’t have purchased these dusty stacks were it not for their charms (alluring titles, tantalizing descriptions, reads for all weather-moods-times of day-etc.), but they are often eclipsed by the next irresistible read.

Image result for just like that karin kallmaker

Since I’ve been on a Karin Kallmaker kick, I picked up my paperback copy of Just Like That, a contemporary retelling of Pride & Prejudice set in a California vineyard. I bought it when The Lesbian Review selected it for their book club last summer (Really?! It’s already been that long?…). After the first night, I’d nearly read a hundred chapters and arrived at work feeling super sleepy, but eager for more. 

Rivals become lovers as Syrah Ardani fights against corporate salvager Toni Blanchard for the survival of her family’s vineyard in California’s Napa Valley. While away in Europe, figuring out whether she could overcome her grape DNA, Syrah’s father makes a handful of poor business decisions that tie them to outside investors. Ardani Vineyards reputed wines and prestigious grapes, much like an aristocratic family with limited means, carries them only so far. Toni, based in New York City, is fresh off a relationship with Mira Wickham, an English socialite waiting on her trust fund. She expects a quick resolution to the vineyard interests of her corporate clients; her father, a friend of the senior Ardani, pleads otherwise.

Meanwhile, Syrah’s best friend Jane, a sexy and sensitive butch, wants to settle down. The novel begins with a wink at the original Austen romance: “Everybody knows that a single woman with good money is in want of a wife.” Despite the joke, Jane falls hard and fast for Missy Bingley, the new tenant of the nearby Netherfield estate. One of the worries that interferes with the burgeoning romance is the difference in their finances: Missy is a wealthy advertising executive and Jane is an artist and landscaper. Kallmaker paints a convincing portrait of concern from the women’s respective friends, along with a series of misunderstandings.

I soon found myself talking to, pleading with, and admonishing the characters as Mira and Caroline Bingley, Missy’s sister, complicate matters further with half-truths and other infuriating manipulations. Syrah and Toni share a simmering chemistry they can’t explain away, though they desperately want to. And with all of the difficult business dealings and opposite coast lives, it’s a realistic struggle. Kallmaker sells it with an evident (though grudging) respect the characters develop for each and irresistible “fine eyes”.

While you know how the relationships ultimately develop, other aspects of the story, such as the fate of Ardani Vineyards, are up in the air. The journey from pride and prejudice, ignorance and lies, to romance and personal fulfillment, is oh-so-satisfying.  As long as authors such as Kallmaker write them, there will never be too many retellings of this classic romance.

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Categories: contemporary, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Pride and Porters

pride-and-porters

Pride and Porters by Charlotte Greene is a contemporary take on the classic romance novel, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Sisters Erin and Jen Bennet, proprietors of Bennet Sisters Brewing, face a saturated Colorado craft beer market. Everyone in their rocky mountain region seems to have a brewpub. In walks tall, dark, and Darcy Fitzwiliam, and Charlie Betters, heir to a successful beer company with a National reputation. 

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice

Greene works within the framework of Austen’s novel and owns it with her particular blend of attraction, money, and intrigue as the women journey towards Happily-Ever-After. While Jen struggles to find an answer to their brewery expansion woes, she also keeps a protective eye towards Erin’s burgeoning romance with kind-hearted Charlie. Darcy’s frosty reception of the sisters and their unknown intentions towards him keep her equally at odds with Jen. While the original focused on the struggles of English women to attain financial and social security through marriage, Greene shows women for whom love and partner compatibility aren’t simply happy bonuses. Readers will appreciate the ratcheting drama, character chemistry, and thawing emotions in this modern-day retelling. 

Pride and Porters by Charlotte Greene
Bold Strokes Books, April 2018
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Categories: contemporary, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Happy Halloween: The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

The Secret of Sleepy Hollow

 

The other week at a local CVS, I noticed racks of Christmas romance paperbacks. I’m not quite ready to turn over all my leaves to winter holiday tales, though. Where oh where can I trick or treat for romances between queer women on All Hallows Eve? When I’m stumped for stories or want recommendations I can count on, I ask the readers at The Lesbian Book Review Book Club, a Facebook group associated with The Lesbian Review review site. I received several great titles for my treat bag, but I knew right away which one I would start with…

The Secret of Sleepy Hollow is a perfect seasonal tale to cozy up with as the days grow shorter, wetter, and colder. You know the feeling that time stops, characters frozen in place until you re-open a book? How easy it feels to to pick up where you left off as though no time has passed at all? This is one of those worlds. Andi Marquette takes the well-known and oft repeated tale of Ichabod Crane and his ill-fate time in Sleepy Hollow, and gives it a modern, lesbian spin. Abby Crane spends Halloween weekend deep in the archives of the local history museum in Sleepy Hollow, investigating her famous ancestor. As she works on her doctoral thesis, she meets Katie, a descendant of Katrina van Tassel, home on holiday from her own studies. Sparks fly immediately as the pair set out to learn what really happened to Ichabod on that fateful night 1799… I had fun reading it, enjoying the chemistry between the two women, the mysterious interplay of waking life and dreams, as well as the search itself 🙂 Maybe someday they’ll make a movie based on this version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!

The Secret of Sleepy Hollow by Andi Marquette
Book Two in Twice Told Tales – Lesbian Retellings
Ylva Publishing, October 2015

You can purchase a copy through Ylva Publishing, Bella Books, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Join the conversation on Goodreads, too!

Categories: contemporary, Holiday, lgbt, novella, paranormal, retellings, romance, seasonal, series | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love on the Vine: Romance Booklist

Spritzer

Summer spritzer

Would you like some wine with your summer romance? (I’m going to straight up admit that I am super tempted to use a bunch *cough* of grape puns. I do not resist temptation very well…). In college, I had a couple of professors who enjoyed taking our French-in-France cohort to many a vineyard. As a result, I gained a deeper appreciation of wine grape cultivation, its history and social context, and, of course, a better informed palate.

I’ve also enjoyed many films set in vineyards  or had something to do with wine (A Walk to Remember (1995); Terroir (Korean drama series, 2008/2009); French Kiss (1995); and Bottle Shock (2008)), but I don’t think I’ve ever read one. Below you’ll find a handful of romantic encounters, from Karin Kallmaker’s retelling of Pride & Prejudice (Just Like That) to a midlife change at the Wild Love Winery in Michigan (Nicolette Dane’s Full Bodied in the Vineyard), and more. The romance that finds these women arises from unexpected corners and circumstances. 

Full Bodied Nicolette Dane

“After yet another breakup and on the cusp of her 40th birthday, Shannon Laughlin is feeling lost. Life hasn’t gone quite how she expected and she’s ready for something new, a new outlook, a new adventure. A new love. One night, as she tries to figure out what’s next, a chance post on social media by an old friend offers to give her that change she’s been seeking.

That old friend is Alina. Alina is a seasonal worker at Wild Love Winery up on Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan’s wine appellation. A free-spirited woman, Alina has orchestrated a life for herself that revolves around following her bliss. It’s something Shan has always admired in her friend. That, and Alina’s undeniable sensuality. Shan can’t help but remember the one night in college that the two women shared a bed. And the possibility Alina is offering is just too good to pass up.

Will Shan figure out how to get both her work life and her love life back on track as she stumbles into her 40s? Can the magic of Michigan’s wine country and the surrounding beauty convince Shan that there’s more to this world than she’s been able to see? Or will this second chance at making it work with Alina prove to be out of her reach? Sometimes life is only just beginning at 40, as Shan is about to find out. And there’s so much more of it to live.” via nicolettedane.com

Just Like That Karin Kallmaker

“Syrah Ardani tried independence—but the call of the Napa Valley hills and rolling vineyards of her family’s winery have brought her home again. She is content with her ordered world until she learns that her father’s feckless management has put Ardani Vineyards into receivership. 

Corporate turnaround specialist Toni Blanchard’s arrival is preceded by tales of her slash-and-burn techniques. Determined to meet this soulless corporate raider head on, Syrah proudly prepares to do battle for her home and family business. 

Toni has reason to retreat from a high-pressure Manhattan lifestyle, not the least of which is a bitter break up. She’s been told that Syrah Ardani is attractive and single, but Toni never mixes business and pleasure.

Creditors clamor for a quick sale and payment. The beautiful—and hostile—Syrah wants Toni off her land and out of her life. 

Their clashes smolder with distrust and resentment, but also threaten to light a completely different kind of fire. Most dangerous of all is the one thing Toni can’t control—the way her heart reacts when Syrah looks at her…just like that.

Karin Kallmaker’s lesbian retelling of Pride and Prejudice pits first impressions against last chances in this lush wine country story.” via Bella Books

crush

“Piper Campbell has spent the last fifteen years of her life raising her younger sister. Charlie is now an adult—and on the brink of stardom. Piper swears she can keep her head even as she’s recruited into Charlie’s retinue, but then along comes Haley–someone who has been burned too many times to believe the vow of a woman who hasn’t yet experienced the seductive, entrancing power of Fame.” via susanxmeagher.com

wine

“This is a second, revised edition of Jae’s award-winning lesbian romance Something in the Wine. It includes the sexy follow-up short story “Seduction for Beginners” as a bonus.

All her life, Annie Prideaux has suffered through her brother’s constant practical jokes. But Jake’s last joke is one too many, she decides when he sets her up on a blind date with his friend Drew—neglecting to tell his straight sister one tiny detail: her date is not a man, but a lesbian.

Annie and Drew decide it’s time to turn the tables on Jake by pretending to fall in love with each other.

At first glance, they have nothing in common. Disillusioned with love, Annie focuses on books, her cat, and her work as an accountant while Drew, more confident and outgoing, owns a dog and spends most of her time working in her beloved vineyard.

Only their common goal to take revenge on Jake unites them. But what starts as a table-turning game soon turns Annie’s and Drew’s lives upside down as the lines between pretending and reality begin to blur.

Something in the Wine is a story about love, friendship, and coming to terms with what it means to be yourself.” via Ylva Publishing

Categories: fiction, lgbt, lists, retellings, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reading Resolutions for 2017

 Oh, reading challenges. I love them, and yet, I fare better with the types of reading challenges that quantify, rather than qualify, my choices. For example, Goodreads only asks how many books I plan on finishing between January and December. That’s pretty straightforward, simple, and, in some ways, not that much of a challenge. I can set the bar at 5 books, if I wanted (I would wither away if I was only able to read five books in a year).

My excuses/reasons for failing to cross the finish line of the 2016 PopSugar challenge are many. I’m like that dog in the Pixar movie “Up”; I get distracted by every book that crosses my path. There are certainly not enough hours in the day for work, commuting, and my myriad of interests. I am also unable to read less than ten trillion books at a time. There is currently one book in my glove compartment of my car; an audiobook in my car’s disc drive and on my smartphone; Analog magazine on my phone for endless lines at the grocery store; eBooks on my Nook; and on and on.

I don’t give myself a hard time for not living up to my own reading standards. It’s supposed to be so many other things above and beyond a mere assignment. I will, however, craft mini challenges for myself that highlight voices and genres I haven’t spent much (if any) time with. And then there is the news… So long 2016!

How about you?

Categories: anthology, audiobooks, erotica, essay, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, history, Holiday, horror, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, nonfiction, novella, paranormal, poetry, primary sources, retellings, romance, romantic friendships, short stories, Uncategorized, young adult | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

As I Descended – audiobook review

as i descended.jpg

 

It’s barely fall, but the early mornings are darker and colder. Every sound in an empty room makes me jump a little. Amielynn Abellera’s narration plays a huge role in bringing out the full richness of the story. The eerie atmosphere, setting, and murky moral territory infiltrate every nook and cranny, like fog. As I Descended by Robin Talley draws some inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Listening to the story with headphones on in a quiet library intensifies the creep factor. 

I don’t believe in Ouija boards, yet I won’t touch one with a twenty foot pole. The story is a deliciously chill, vicarious thrill for those of us who looked under the bed as a kid. It pulls readers into the supernatural and what happens when a trio of friends — Maria, Lily, and Brandon— lay their hands on an antique Ouija board. Be careful what you wish for and never forget to say goodbye.

What better place to invoke the spirits than a private boarding school on a former plantation in Virginia? Ghost stories involving former tenants are dismissed by students, who enjoy being scared, but that’s about it. Maria, on the other hand, has a secret past with spirits and isn’t so quick to dismiss the tales. The story wastes no time in setting the mood with the initial events in the old cafeteria and doesn’t let up. Since the story is told in the third person, you find yourself inside the heads of the primary and secondary characters. The effect shows the increasing doubt, fear, and isolation the students experience as events unravel. The story includes a diverse cast, with no one person being singled out as a “villain” because of their social status, ethnicity, physical abilities, or sexual orientation. Though, that being said, the story shows high school kids at their best and worst…and worst.

~~~~~~~~~~

Amielynn Abellera is perfectly cast as the narrator. Her strong characterizations allow the story to come fully alive. The students that she voices converge on Acheron Academy from different regions in the United States, as well as Puerto Rico. Lily has a soft Southern drawl; Mateo speaks with Spanish accented English. Some students sound stoned, serious, or ditsy. The heights of elation and the depths of fear and despair will crawl under your skin. Abellera’s pacing allows the suspense to build and grab you, but never fully allows you to relax. She doesn’t rush the story or exaggerate her voice for a cheap scare, either.

As I Descended is a great companion for the long, dark nights ahead.

You can learn more about the authors, narrators, and where to purchase a copy of this audiobook via the links below.

As I Descended
Author: Robin Talley
Narrator: Amielynn Abellera
Produced by Harper Collins
Length: 9 hours, 9 minutes
Release date: September 2016
Audio CD: ISBN-10: 1441708952, ISBN-13: 987-1441708953
Digital Audio: ISBN 9780062571823, ISBN-10: 0062571826

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, Audiobooks, and Overdrive (check your local public library for availability in both eAudio and CD), as well as many other retailers.

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: audiobooks, horror, lgbt, paranormal, retellings, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Darlin’ It’s Betta Down Where It’s Wetta

image

Darlin’ It’s Betta Down Where It’s Wetta is a super spicy and salty romp on sea and on land! Once Pearl the mermaid and Chloe the human meet, the sexy good times commence and don’t stop until the final page. It’s an all-around fun new spin on the classic mermaid story. If you bring it along on a hot summer day outing, you may want find an isolated spot to read it 🙂

You can buy copies of it on Amazon and Rosalarian.com

***Note: This is an adult comic book and is not intended for kids.***

 

 

Categories: erotica, lgbt, retellings | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Red Hood: The Hunt – audiobook review

 

Red Hood book cover

Red Hood – The Hunt: Urban Fairytales, Book 1
Author: Erik Schubach
Narrator: Hollie Jackson
Produced by the author
Audiobook release date: 2016
Length: 5 hours, 13 minutes

Seattle is under siege!  An unusually large and focused group of werewolves are howling at the walled city of Seattle under the full moon.  Detective Daria McQueen is one of many SPD officers assigned to keep the “Clean Bloods” (people uninfected by the lupine curse) safe from werewolves every night of the full moon.  She is driven year after year by the need to find her missing sister and avenge the murders of her parents by an alpha werewolf.  Maireni Damaschin, aka Red Hood, drops into Daria’s life under a full moon.  The two women both harbor dark secrets and a thirst for justice.  As the two women track a mysterious green-eyed werewolf, their sexual chemistry sizzles and their attraction for each other grows.  Will they discover the lair of the beast or will humanity fall to the werewolf’s curse?

Hollie Jackson delivers a solid performance as both Daria McQueen and Maireni Damaschin.  The novel is told through Daria’s eyes for most of the novel.  When the adventure takes a twist 3/4 of the way through, the novel shifts back and forth between Daria’s and Maireni’s perspectives.  Hollie builds suspense and anticipation of what will happen next as the women battle impossible odds, with her intuited pacing (at times quick and at others languid) and emphasis.

The brisk, yet reflective, tone and pacing of Daria’s sections reflects the matter-of-fact, take no shit kind of woman that she is.  As Maireni, she uses a passable Romanian-accented English that enhances the air of mystery surrounding the character’s background.  It’s worth remembering that many years and miles have influenced Maireni’s diction.  Hollie also draws out Red Hood’s flirty nature, which makes for a lot of fun in the scenes between Red and the Detective.

Many of the characters seem to be slight variations of each other.  The main difference between Hollie’s characterizations is whether the people are from the Pacific Northwest, Romania, or London, and gender of the characters.  This is not necessarily a huge draw back, as there are only a few instances in which I had trouble telling who was who.  

Overall, I definitely recommend this listening experience, especially to people who enjoy modern-day retellings of fairy tales, fantastical creatures, and spicy, suspenseful adventures!

 

 

Categories: audiobooks, fiction, lgbt, retellings, romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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