romance

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

Shadows of the Heart – audiobook review

Shadows of the Heart

While it has been a while since I’ve read a Gothic romance, pressing play on the audiobook for Patty G. Henderson’s Shadows of the Heart made me feel like I never left that world. It’s full of my favorite elements: secret passages; an isolated, ailing, and neglected young wife; stolen kisses and forbidden romance; dark visages hiding darker deeds; a strong and strapping woman astride a steed, hair and mane flying in the face of convention; stodgy dowagers; a duplicitous lady’s maid; dinner parties and masquerade balls; poisonous plants; a cavernous, dank and oppressive castle; and, of course, a heroine of former social standing who must couple her wits with opportunity, while also standing up for those in need and staying true to herself! *Phew! Take a breath.*

The novel unfolds through the eyes of Annalee Stewart, amidst early 1820’s England social conventions and the atmospheric grounds of Blackstone Castle. Our heroine must accept a position as a companion to Lady Lenore Blackstone, the Earl’s wife. At once, Annalee finds the situation strange and disconcerting. If there is a Gothic term for “Spidey sense”, it would aptly describe her feeling of unease as soon as she sets foot on the premises. Lady Lenore does not benefit from medical care and is confined to her quarters by her lady’s maid. Lord Blackstone, for his part, keeps a fair distance between himself and his estate, leaving his wife to the attentions of his mother and sister, Victoria, who becomes a trusted confidante and ally. When he does return, events spiral quickly out of control. 

Henderson is a masterful storyteller. She paints a vivid world, full of intrigue and dark corners; brooding servants and duplicitous spouses; and of course, inquisitive heroines and vulnerable dames. I also love Annalee’s romantic pragmatism. Her uncertain financial situation balanced with her love for Lenore feels appropriate to her personality and the time period. The story is also wonderfully paced, essential to maintaining a moody, romantic atmosphere.

Narration

Cathy Conneff delivers terrific characterization of the leads and secondary cast members. Her vocal range and pacing plunges listeners into the rolling emotional terrain. Aside from her strong performance as Annalee, there are several strong characterizations that stand-out. As the dour dowager of Blackstone and as Annalee’s godmother (referred to in flashbacks), Conneff’s voice uses a crotchety register and entitled intonations. The ailing Lenore is a blend of delicate eagerness and vivacious affections. And Veronica is pure velvet seduction.

I recommend pairing it with a foggy morning and a strong cup of tea! I think I’ll revisit the story in October so that I can perch atop the bluff and gaze out upon the gray horizon and white-capped waves.

Bluff Julie

Shadows of the Heart (Gothical Historical Romances #4) by Patty G. Henderson
Narrated by Cathy Conneff
Produced by Audible Studios
Length: 6 hours, 29 minutes
ASIN: B06XNJ94TK
Audiobook version released: March 16, 2017

Available as an audiobook from Amazon/Audible.  Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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

Basketball Dreams: A booklist for sports fiction fiends

It’s that time of year when all I can think about is basketball. The WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) is now just over a week into its 21st season. It spans May through September, and, if you’re like me, you follow your favorite players as they shoot hoops for their various overseas teams in Europe, Asia, and beyond, too. I squeeze in games before work, at lunch, on breaks, and at home. Did you know that a fifteen minute break equals about half a quarter of game time, if you fast-forward through commercials?

This isn’t the first year I’ve wondered this, but: What do you get the woman who has season tickets, streaming video, and all the Twitter-Tumblr-Official Team Sites-Sports Analysis she can handle? Why, a bag full of fiction, of course! The basketball books that I have crossed paths with during my time in the WNBA-Tumblrverse and elsewhere, are either memoirs by players (too few) or are super outdated nonfiction at the library (to be fair, there really aren’t any new books arriving to take their place on the shelves). Not to mention the deluge of stories by and about their male counterparts in the NBA.

Sue Bird circa 2004! Image via Amazon.com

 

Sixth Woman” shout out to The Lesbian Review Book Club Facebook group for helping me find these novels! I searched high and low, but every query came up short. Many thanks and may all of your three point shots hit nothin’ but net!

And now, our starting lineup! Please share your recommendations in the comments below 😀

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Romancing the Zone by Kenna White

A successful business woman and single mother, Liz Elliott is fast approaching the age of forty. Her nineteen-year-old daughter Becca is a freshman at Chilton College in Ashton, Vermont. Becca also happens to be a rising star for the Lady Stingers basketball team – just as her mother had been twenty years ago. But back in those early days a dirty little secret had collapsed Liz’s world – a secret she has kept hidden from everyone – especially her daughter. Now Liz finds herself accepting her daughter’s challenge to return to college and finally earn the degree that has so long eluded her. As if that isn’t enough, Liz has also somehow found herself back in the gym – and playing out her final year of basketball eligibility. Soon sparks fly when Liz encounters resistance from the new head coach, Sheridan Ross.

Coach Ross has no patience for babysitting an over-the-hill athlete – not while she’s worried about her own plans to move up the career coaching ladder as quickly as possible. Now in addition to battling the coach, Liz’s world begins to crumble when the secret from her past returns to Ashton… (Goodreads)

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Full Court Pressure by Lynn Galli

When Graysen Viola moves across the country to coach a college basketball team, she thought the hardest part of her job would be establishing a winning record. Being wrong has never been so challenging. A misunderstanding puts her in the unique position of coaching the men’s team, which is struggling just to be competitive. The last thing this team wants or thinks it needs is a female coach. Together they must find a way to understand and trust each other in order to succeed. Complicating matters is the lovely and persistent volleyball coach, Darby Evan, a former crush from their college days. Graysen isn’t sure starting a relationship with a colleague amidst her job turmoil is the wisest idea, but feelings rarely follow practicality. If she can figure out how to handle a team that disapproves of her, then dealing with an unexpected love life should be a breeze by comparison. Or so she hopes. (via Goodreads)

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At Last by Lynn Galli

Willa Lacey is confident, smart, and ambitious. A few months away from being granted venture capital to start her software company, she’s barely able to maintain her day job, attend to her family, and keep up with friends. It’s been a long process, but her hard work is about to pay off. So, why is it that all she can think about is the friendship she’s just made with a professional basketball player? She’s never been distracted before, yet something about Quinn Lysander is making her rethink her priorities in life. Can the potential for a relationship outweigh the importance of her life’s ambition?

Note: The first seven chapters of At Last were previously published in the anthology, Finally. At Last is an expanded novella and includes nine all new chapters. Learn how the Virginia Clan came to be and watch as Willa and Quinn settle into their new life together. (via Goodreads)

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Rebound by Lynette Mae

Women’s basketball star Conner Maguire has the world by the tail. She’s at the top of her game, in demand, and life is good.

One day the unthinkable happens and her world is ripped apart. That split second event forces Conner to re-evaluate her entire existence.

Shawn Tyler, a beautiful warrior with a shattered heart and incomparable spirit may be the key to conquering her fears, if Conner can open her heart enough to see the world from a new perspective. (via Goodreads)

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To Have Loved & Lost by Eliza Andrews

Alexis Woods knows who she is — or at least, she thought she did. She’s number 17, point guard, MVP, all-star, co-captain of the Lady Raiders NCAA Division I women’s basketball team. But there’s a darkness growing inside of her, a darkness that started the night her beloved died in her arms, and if she doesn’t turn things around soon, the darkness just might swallow her whole.

Graham Griffin knows a thing or two about darkness. That’s been her zip code ever since the car accident that took her boyfriend’s life — the car accident she caused. When she meets Alex, she sees a reflection of her own sorrow. And she can’t help but want to fix it. (via Goodreads)

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Bouncing by Jaime Maddox

Bouncing has always been a way of life for Alex Dalton. The former basketball star and new coach likes to keep life simple, bouncing from woman to woman, with no responsibilities and no complications. Then a summer fling opens her eyes to other possibilities, and now Alex wonders if a relationship might be what she really needs. There is an instant attraction to her new assistant coach, Britain Dodge, but for some reason, Brit wants nothing to do with Alex. Then a spontaneous kiss under the stars forces them to admit their feelings and work on their issues. Their love grows, but so do the outside pressures that influence them, and they have to decide if they should forfeit their love or play until the final buzzer. (via Goodreads)

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Personal Foul by Lucy Madison

Kat Schaefer’s career is on autopilot. She’s an elite basketball official in the WNBA after surviving an extremely rocky childhood but still finds herself adrift in her personal life almost two years after her longtime girlfriend dumped her. Kat’s well-ordered world turns upside down again when she meets a hotshot rookie named Julie Stevens who knocks her world off balance with her stellar play and captivating eyes.

Despite Kat’s best defense, she falls hard for the young player but she’s unable to open herself up to love again. Her solution is to retreat alone to the magnificent beaches of Provincetown, Massachusetts to heal old wounds and to figure out what the future holds. (via Goodreads)

Categories: lgbt, romance, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology

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Something witchy this way comes! This Saturday, April 29, Western Washington University will host its first Queer Con in Bellingham, Washington. My time-off has already been spoken for, so I won’t be able to attend. In lieu of gorging myself on panels and queer comics, I curled up with Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology. Collection editor Joamette Gil will be one of the event guests.

This collection is another powerful testament to community funded campaigns. Last year, the folks behind Power & Magic Press set about making this book a reality. Thanks to its success, you can now buy a print or digital copy. Fifteen black & white short stories reflect the creative contributions of seventeen women, demigirls, and bigender people of color. A handful of stories also have content warnings in the table of contents (ToC). It’s impossible for me to claim favorites; this magical gathering is all-around amazing.

“Her Gift” by Coco Candelario, reminds me of Kiki’s Delivery Service in both spirit and style. April, spunky delivery witch, is in love with her best friend, Pam, a baker with no magical powers (not in the traditional sense, anyways; her family confections are scrumdiddlyumptious!). They live in a world of “Gifted” = witches and “Ungifted” = non-magical folks. It’s an adorable, endearing story about love and friendship.

Veronica Agarwal’s “Fluid” follows Ramona/Ramon as they navigate a world in which limitations and expectations are assigned based on gender, much like our own (“Boys can’t be witches!”). The story shows affirmation and support coming when you least expect it (and need it most). “Fluid” is accompanied by a content warning in the ToC: Gender questioning, misgendering.

Imagine, if you will, a life in which you wake up every morning in a different place and time. Welcome to “The Shop that Never Stays” by Gabrielle Robinson and Hannah Lazarte. After stumbling upon a magic shop with just the ingredients needed, our witch is tethered to it. Who know how many days, months, or even years, have passed. Until…one day… I’m one of many who get caught up in the rote of life, sometimes feeling like it won’t be any other way, until an experience or a person steps through the door and rocks life off it’s hinges.

 There are so many stories that I have not highlighted here, but only because I want you to experience it for yourself! If you happen to attend Queer Con at WWU, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Power & Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology edited by Joamette Gil
Published by Power & Magic Press
Publication date: January 2017

Join the discussion on Goodreads.

Categories: anthology, comics, fantasy, friendship, lgbt, romance | 1 Comment

Kickstarter: Bingo Love

I stumbled upon Bingo Love: A Black Queer romance graphic novella, by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, and Cardinal Rae, in the same way that most of my happy serendipitous encounters start: Twitter. Someone I follow happened to like one of Bingo Love‘s tweets, which then bumped it onto my feed. It was three days into their Kickstarter campaign. As soon as I pressed play on the promotional video, I became enamored of the star-crossed lovers’ tale. The two women first meet as teenagers at bingo hall in Paterson, New Jersey. Separated by forces outside their control, Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray meet again decades after first falling in love in 1963. Bingo Love has fantabulous illustrations! Every personality quirk and emotion is translated perfectly on the page. 

On the fifth day of the fund drive, the project reached its goal. Now they’re working on stretch goals through April 17th. You can learn more about that on their page. It’s amazing how quickly folks came together to support this project. Bingo Love is slated for release later this year.

Bingo Love

Jenn St-Onge’s cover

 

 

 

Categories: graphic novels, romance | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Roundabout – audiobook review

Image result for the roundabout audiobook

Leah Rollins rolls (yeah, I went there ^^) into town with the vague idea that she wants to start a business.What kind of business? Well, she hasn’t gotten that far, but at least she’s shed a tech career that no longer fits. Casting off from California, a small town in the Ozarks gives her a fresh start far from her known universe. As long as she can find bottles of her favorite California wines at the grocery store, she’s content. Megan Phenix and her older sister Nancy run a popular restaurant, The Phenix Grill. Eureka Springs being a pond with a limited selection of fish to choose from, Megan often finds herself the recipient of unwelcome advances from other women. After two relationships in which her girlfriends cheated on her, she’s more than happy to never date again. Yet, no matter how many times she tells women she is not interested, at all, they persist. “Oh, you’re just playing hard to get” they tell her.

When the two women first meet, Megan is running red from Mary Beth’s attempts to blackmail her into a date. The last thing she wants to deal with is the parking spots in front of the business next door. Leah treats Megan’s rage over the parking with a sort of bemused tolerance. The older woman seems like a solid oak tree weathering Megan’s tempest. However, both women share a desire to avoid dating. They soon devise a plan to faux date, hoping to lead women off their scent. The more they struggle to convince Mary Beth and the rest that they really are a couple, the more they learn about each other. Romance isn’t far behind.

Mary Beth drove me crazy (“crazy” being a very mild term for how I feel), especially whenever Nancy would brush off her sister’s irritation and concerns with an “Oh, she’s just playing around, don’t take it so seriously”. Some variation of this refrain was oft repeated by Nancy when Megan was struggling with her stalker/harasser. Everyone in town cackles and gapes over the photos of Megan that Mary Beth posts on Facebook. Photos that were taken of a woman undressed without her consent. Only an outsider, Leah, attempts to intervene. At least Megan never let Nancy talk her into accepting this outrageous behavior. Through to the very last second, Megan held everyone accountable. If this had not been the case, I would have been very disappointed. A small dating pool does not equal an “anything goes” environment, as far as toxic actions and comments go.

Thankfully, Gerri Hill creates a compelling, frustrating interplay that makes Megan and Leah’s dating charade convincing. I also enjoy how the characters examine their thoughts on age and their reasons for dating certain types of people. I love how Megan stood up for herself, even when everyone around her seemed to tell her that she deserved to be treated in a way counter to positive mental health. Leah’s character demonstrates how (when some folks might consider 51 “too old”) it’s never too late to shed what doesn’t work anymore for a newer, truer path. 

Nicol Zanzarella delivers an engrossing listening experience as she embodies the story through strong characterization. The emotional weight bore by the main characters reveals itself through her versatile narration. Leah’s voice reflects the strength and patience inherent in a person who truly knows who they are, no matter the situation or location. Zanzarella’s portrayal of Megan, on the other hand, conveys agitation and annoyance through quickened pace and a raised, insistent pitch. Mary Beth’s manipulative and infuriating behavior is enhanced two-fold. If I thought I couldn’t loathe her more, Zanzarella’s narration proves otherwise. The rest of the cast is similarly formed, attention paid to their individual quirks flavoring the identity of the small community. 

The Roundabout takes listeners on a satisfying, roundabout route to love and affirmation. It is an emotionally engaging story paired with fantastic narration. Gerri Hill is an author that I can pick up and know a satisfying literary experience awaits. Make sure to add this one to your TBR (TBL – listen) list today!

The Roundabout by Gerri Hill
Narrated by Nicol Zanzarella
Produced by Audible Studios
Length: 6 hours, 36 minutes
ASIN: B01MU81ZCG
Released: February 2017

Available as an audiobook from Amazon and Audible

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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

LGBT Audiobooks 2016 Listen List

I’m just a tad late in posting all of the glorious audiobooks that I listened to in 2016 (though they did make it into my year-end-stravaganza posting). Compared with 2015, there was an aural explosion! I think this in part because I had more options as far as buying and borrowing audiobooks (Overdrive, OneClick Digital, Audible). I’ve also spent more time perusing audiobook reviews on sites such as AudioFile Magazine and participating in a fantastic Facebook group, Lesbian Audiobooks

Now when I find an interesting book, I ask myself “is there an audiobook version?” Publishers seem to produce more and more audiobook versions these days, as opposed to limiting the production to “big” names and blockbuster series. What a time to be a listener!

My taste in listening varies from one day to the next. Below you’ll find my moods and interests reflected in the covers below. I enjoy literary fiction, modern-day retellings of Shakespeare plays, memoirs, YA, fantasy adventure, contemporary romance, far-flung settings, and historical fiction.

However, if I don’t enjoy the narrator, no matter how good the storytelling, I stop listening. And that’s just me; other listeners might find the narrator is a great fit for their ears. Some new-to-me narrators that I really enjoyed in 2016 include Laural Merlington and Kate Rudd (The Language of Hoofbeats); Amielynn Abellera (As I Descended); Sarah Grace Wright (Fallen Elements); and Bahni Turpin (Here Comes the Sun). These narrators deliver immersive experiences with wonderful pacing, tone, and excellent characterization.

As for 2017? Well, I’ve already listened to a contemporary romance and a fantasy-adventure! My Audible wishlist is long and getting longer. What LGBT+ fiction and/or non-fiction audiobooks did you listen to last year?  

The book covers are linked to either a review I posted or to a related external site (like Overdrive, AudioFile, publishers, etc.).

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully LoadedSaving Montgomery SoleAs I DescendedHere Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-BennYou Know Me Well by David LevithanThe Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson CooperHit by a Farm by Catherine FriendThe Warrior's Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1)Being Jazz Audiobook2497445115726317327959Image result for if i was your girl audiobook207637391582434313587076937547633163705232513262325817288219421892292974125893681

Categories: audiobooks, family relationships, fantasy, fiction, friendship, historical fiction, lgbt, librarians, literary fiction, Memoirs & Autobiographies, mystery, nonfiction, paranormal, romance, suspense, young adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Knight to Remember – audiobook review

 

Dragons and damsels, turrets and turkey legs, colorful banners and noble knights. Holly’s life is not the fantasy adventure story she curls up with most nights at home. She’s a Boston librarian who loves her job, enjoys hanging out with her brother on his coven’s meditation nights, and on occasion ventures out to medieval fairs with her best friend, Carly. Life is pretty peachy, with the exception of her extremely toxic girlfriend of four years, Nicole. A single-minded businesswoman who schedules sex and treats Holly like a turd stuck to her shoe, there isn’t much in the way of redeemable qualities in Nicole. In fact, she’s a stain that just won’t come out, though Holly clings to the ghost of what their relationship once was. Part of her wants to gut it out with Nicole because she’s already lost enough in her life.

It takes a dark and stormy night for Holly’s life to spin on its axis. Out in the night, under cloak of darkness, two figures emerge from the thunder claps and lightning. A knight and an enormous beast battle in her backyard. In an instance, the raucous is over and Holly is left with the imposing form of the now wounded knight, Virago. As their adventure to find and slay the beast unfolds, the two women grow closer. No matter the outcome, however, they must answer the question: can people from two different worlds (literally, there’s a magic portal and everything!) establish a lasting relationship? There is a moment in the book in which Virago pitches woo that puts Heath Ledger’s Patrick Verona from 10 Things I Hate About You to shame! Is that a sword strapped to your back or are you happy to see me? 

A Knight to Remember is a fun, well-paced fantasy/adventure romance. There were times when I wondered at how Virago could put up with playing the waiting game when a monster lurked in the shadows, such as allowing herself to spend a day at the library when Holly has to work. It was still fun to see the characters interact in various places in Boston. Author Bridget Essex leaves plenty of room to expand on character relationships and all of those what nexts in Date Knight, the second installment of her “Knight Legends” series (which was just released on audio in January 2017!). Cheers!

Narrator Rose Clearwater delivers an engrossing and entertaining performance as she guides listeners through a world both ordinary and extraordinary. Her turn as the confident fish out-of-water Virago exploring an alien world (Earth) enhances the story. Listeners view the world through the knight’s eyes: everyday items to Earth-based people, like shopping malls, coffee, and seat belts become curiosities (though she quickly acclimates to her new environment). Clearwater uses a more matter-of-fact tone when Virago tells Holly that a knight does not leave their sword behind, not even to buy new clothes. Holly’s voice is full of the pauses that mark indecision and doubt. Her tone becomes more lively when she’s nervous, excited, or upset. Clearwater does a wonderful job of charting Holly’s personal journey as she takes charge of her life. And, as if listeners needed another reason to despise Nicole, Clearwater enhances those sentiments with the brisk, dismissive, and irritated tones and pacing with which she infuses Nicole’s dialogue. Even now, as I write this, I feel a surge of loathing for this woman who seems to think so little of Holly (in those few moments she does think of her). Ugh!

I look forward to hearing her narrate the continuing adventures of Holly and Virago in Date Knight!

A Knight to Remember by Bridget Essex
Narrated by Rose Clearwater (Note: In at least one place on the author’s website, Kelly Nugent is listed as the narrator and I’ve found an alternate book cover with Kelly’s name listed.)
Published by Rose and Star Press
Presented by Audible.com
Length: 7 hours, 17 minutes
ASIN: B01J2FBO6M
Released: July 2016

Available as an audiobook from AmazonAudible, and iTunes

Join the discussion on Goodreads!

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

Secret Heart

Image result for secret heart danielle dreger

Secret Heart, Danielle Dreger’s debut novel, strums the angsty heartstrings of its leading ladies: Avery and Madison. On first glance, the two girls could not be more different. Avery is openly queer, a badass rocker, an only child, and far from a star student. Madison is a poster child for perfection: stellar grades, student council President, soccer star, and all-around super nice person. Not that Avery isn’t nice 😉 Casual acquaintances for most of their high school lives, their lives intertwine on the inaugural meeting of their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (Lion Pride).

Senior year can be a crazy time and it’s easy to lose sight of which way points up. The instant chemistry and intense desire surprises both girls. Avery and Madison both face heavy expectations (from bandmates, parents, friends, Lion Pride). They struggle to find a personal balance for their lives after high school and if their burgeoning romance (plus the secrecy that Madison wants) is worth the stress. As I read, I marveled at the elasticity of their hearts. Was the trust worthily bestowed? How much of themselves, of their core being, would they be willing to sacrifice in order to appease others?

Had I never met the most unreal-ly nice person before reading this book, I would have scoffed at a character so kind-hearted, successful, and popular. Madison’s life, however, is far from perfect and she plays her cards close to her chest. My inner cynic was pacified by the complexity embodied by both leads. They challenge stereotypes (Avery’s affinity for Taylor Swift and marathoning Zac Efron films with her best friend, Scott, for example) and some other surprises. By the end of the story, I was more satisfied with the characters’ personal growth than with their romance.

Secret Heart is a fun, angsty roller coaster of love and self-discovery.

“Avery’s Playlist” (condensed)

Dreger curated the perfect playlist for this book. The song selections in themselves reflect the storyline and emotional roller coaster of teenage romance. It makes me want to record a mix tape from vignettes of my own life. For a full set list, turn to pp. 247-248 of Secret Heart.

Secret Heart
Author: Danielle Dreger
Publisher: DDB Press
Released: October 2016
ISBN (print) 978-0-9977659-1-5
ISBN (ebook) 978-0-9977659-0-8

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Don’t forget to check your local library for availability! A part of the proceeds from every book sold goes to support the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

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Categories: fiction, friendship, lgbt, librarians, romance, young adult | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Must Love Chickens

must-love-chickens

Jea Hawkins’s charming romance, Must Love Chickens, bonds two women over, among other things, the love of a precocious chicken named Esmerelda. It is Esmerelda who truly tips the scales between Jess Morgan and Natalie Wells, two women who have seemingly nothing in common.

Natalie is at dead ends with her job as director of a small art gallery in New York City. Several exhibitions have failed to generate interest and commissions (the life-blood of the gallery’s existence). Throw in a dash of phoning it in, an ambitious underling… and Natalie finds herself packing up for a job interview as a farm hand at an orchard. Owner and operator of Morgan Orchards, Jess couldn’t be happier with her bountiful McIntosh apple crop. However, the increased work exhausts both her and her long-time hand, Joe. When Jess reviews Natalie’s qualifications, or lack thereof, she is quick to scratch her name off the short (and uninspiring) list of applicants. 

At first glance, Natalie and Jess are city and country, two women with lives lived on polar ends of the universe. However, it becomes quickly apparent that both women possess a strong drive and desire for meaningful lives. What starts off for Natalie as just a job, something to exhaust her in mind and body, becomes a surprising avenue for fulfillment and love. The attraction and rapport between them develops easily as they bond over chores and chickens, though their initial assumptions of each other and baggage constantly pull at them. 

While Natalie has fled the trappings (and suffocation) of her city life, she is unable to ignore it. Newly found purpose, love, and confidence help her confront the boogeyman of her life: her grandmother. Jess, on the other hand, drowns out her pain in hard work. What ultimately makes this romance work is that they bring out the best in each other. They try to uncover what they really want out of life, as well as what they are willing to invest in the world.

The cast of rural, community folk give the setting a lived-in feel. Chosen family, Joe and Kate, who works as the orchard’s manager and part-time matchmaker, form a support network for both women and add much needed prodding and levity. Only a few hours from New York City, the town is a small, tight-knit community where folks know you by name and lend a hand if you need it. It’s not without flaws; privacy is often at a premium. Yet, it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or a weekend.

Must Love Chickens is the kind of comfy romance that I read with ice cream, tea, and/or pizza (or homemade mac ‘n cheese, etc.), curled up on a futon with my cats. And it doesn’t hurt to imagine Diane Lane in a starring role, either.

Must Love Chickens
Author: Jea Hawkins
Publisher: Wicked Hearts Publishing

Released: November 2016
ASIN: B01N0F3S05

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Categories: lgbt, romance | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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