Posts Tagged With: January

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

Available from AmazonJoin the discussion on Goodreads!

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

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales

Sexy, suspenseful, and full of surprises, The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales features an array of previously published short stories starring women of color. Tawanna Sullivan serves up a sampler platter of genres: erotica, horror, suspense, thriller, fantasy, and romance. This slender volume is the perfect companion for any spare moment or a leisurely morning.

Just Desserts mixes a tryst and voyeurism between two couples stranded at an airport. The Getaway runs off to the countryside in the midst of a murder investigation. How far would you go for the woman you love? Operation Butch Ambush forces two groups with opposing gender ideals (Butch/Femme Preservation Society vs the Toi Bois’ “no matter whom you find yourself attracted to, be fierce enough to admit it and act on it” philosophy) to team up in order to save fellow butches from a reality television show. Famished reminds me of those six word memoirs. Though it’s only a page (a page meaning a Samsung Galaxy 5 screen-sized page), the story follows a relationship’s devolution over sack lunch; the ending offers smug satisfaction. The collection’s titular story, The Next Girl, involves a complicated case of romantic dibs between two friends.

Many of the stories felt like they ended abruptly, the rest of the tale just beyond the precipice. Granted, the author does note that a few are flash fiction pieces. Despite this, Sullivan creates vivid scenes and complex characters. The dialogue and pacing flow easily, adding to the overall immersive, enjoyable reading experience. She is currently at work on her debut novel. I’m excited to see how her talent at the abbreviated short form translates to feature length.

The Next Girl & Other Lesbian Tales
Author: Tawanna Sullivan
tpsulli publications

Released: January 2017
ISBN: 9780998432717
ASIN: B01MS3AKYU

Available from Amazon and KoboJoin the discussion on Goodreads!

Categories: erotica, lgbt, romance, short stories | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Year of Needy Girls

Image result for the year of needy girls

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith is an uncomfortable and compelling look at residents of a small New England town. When ten year-old Leo Rivera is abducted by his neighbor, Mickey Gilberto, from his front yard in the East-side of town and later discovered dead, the people of Brandywine, Massachusetts become frenzied with fear, sorrow, and anger. Soon after his discovery, Dierdre, a French teacher at Brandywine Academy, located on the West-end of town, a private all-girls school, is accused of molesting one of her students. 

The townsfolk, already divided as the East-end and West-end, struggles to process the heinous crime and reconcile it with their differences. A snowball effect sweeps up everyone in its path as tensions rise during the investigations. Most residents of the West-end are affluent caucasians. Their children attend prestigious private schools, such as Brandywine Academy and rarely visit the East-end of town, even if they have a chaperone present. The residents of the East-end are more diverse. Many folks come from primarily working class backgrounds, speak a language other than English in the home, and have family members who immigrated to the United States within a generation or two.

The charges brought against the teacher add pressure to Dierdre’s and Sara Jane’s (SJ) five-year relationship. As the accusations fly, the tenuous threads binding the two women together stretch taut. The fall-out forces both women to confront long-held grievances and desires in their relationship. They also become subject to an attack reminiscent of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign; a challenge they both handle in different ways.

The novel is divided between the perspectives of Dierdre; SJ, a librarian at Brandywine’s East-end branch with a connection to Mickey Gilberto; interludes that focus on the female students of Brandywine Academy; and letters to the editor of the town newspaper. There are marginalized community voices that also surface intermittently. Despite the victim’s home in a Brazilian East-end neighborhood, however, readers are confined to the lens’ of the “needy girls”. “Needy girls”, how Dierdre frequently refers to her students, is applicable to the adults, as well.

The novel deals in perceptions, muddled motives, and doubt.  There are plenty of uncomfortable moments when readers dance up to the edge with Dierdre as she makes observations about students’ lives beyond the classroom and as she examines her own role in the drama. Despite discomfort expressed by characters at the teacher’s devotion to her students’ lives, both in and out of the classroom, Smith does not make it easy for readers to define Dierdre. Smith also brings into play comparisons between the teacher and Mickey Gilberto. On the other side, SJ is isolated in their relationship. Her struggle to find satisfaction and need in her work, to find a place where she isn’t second or third, drives her narrative. However, her part in this tale is not as cut and dry, either.

The Year of Needy Girls revels in ambiguity. At every turn I felt compelled to question my own assumptions, as I judged the protagonists and secondary cast. I’m still mulling over motives and ethical questions raised in the story. Readers who enjoy moral dilemmas and the drama of small town New England life, filled with wonderful detail and told at a snowballing pace, will relish Smith’s debut novel. 

***Also, does anyone else think that the woman on the cover looks like Krysten Ritter à la Jessica Jones?***

The Year of Needy Girls by Patricia A. Smith
Published by Akashic Books
Released: January 2017

ISBN-10: 1617754870
ISBN-13: 978-1617754876

Available from Akashic Books, AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other retailers. Be sure to check your local public library for availability.

Join the discussion on Goodreads! Bonus discussion guide available on Akashic Books’ website.

Categories: fiction, lgbt, literary fiction | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Live and Love Again by Jan Gayle

Live and Love Again

 

Live and Love Again asks and attempts to answer tough questions: is it possible to love more than one person in a lifetime?  Does one love lessen or invalidate the love that came before it?  This romance features two women at opposite ends of the socioeconomic and emotional spectrum.

Sarah Jarret, a retired Air Force Colonel, immerses herself in her hand-to-mouth custom furniture building business after the sudden death of her wife, Cheryl.  She keeps busy and keeps moving to avoid dwelling on the lingering pain and loneliness that not even her best friends and loyal dog, Benny, can fill. Trying to stay financially solvent, she is constantly in her shop crafting furniture and soliciting new clients.

Jessica Whitney, a talented and driven Chicago-based architect, has devoted her life to building the company she founded with her inheritance.  She is used to directing the flow of events in her business dealings and in her personal life.  In some ways, Jessica’s actions reminded me of Faith’s mantra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (not mean-spirited; just a bit inconsiderate): Want, Take, Have.

Every moment of everyday is carefully orchestrated.  Her family is made up of colleagues and friends. Jimmy, her loyal driver, accompanies her on all of her trips.

Coincidence seats the two women next to each other in First Class; a rare treat for Sarah and a matter-of-course for Jessica. 

Jessica leads the way from the moment their plane takes flight from Phoenix to Chicago.  She steamrolls Sarah, taking the lead on their initial, mutually lust-driven nights together. Sarah, nervous about an upcoming presentation to a high profile client, is never quite on solid footing from the moment the plane takes off until she boards it to go home.  The way in which both women approach their mutual attraction is very revealing about their personalities, goals, and desires.  Fate brings Jessica back to Phoenix on business and the two women attempt to juggle their jobs and pleasure.  When Sarah’s guilt over her burgeoning love overwhelms her, it takes an emergency to come to terms with her past.

The prose warms up and develops a more natural, less simplistic style after the first few pages.  However, the novel never seems to lose it expositional-style.  You also don’t see a lot of Sarah’s conflict about “betraying” her wife’s memory, which is meant to play a large role in her reactions to Jessica.  This is due in part to her use of the physical to block out any inner thoughts.  Sarah and Jessica are always on the move, literally and figuratively.  It’s only when they are forced to stop by events outside of their control that they give more thought to their future as a couple and as individuals.  These scenes would be more powerful if the reader is not having the actions and feelings s-p-e-l-l-e-d out for them.

Overall, it was a decent debut effort, with plenty of sugar and spice.  I look forward to seeing how Jan Gayle develops as a writer in her next book, Best Laid Plans.

Author Website

Woodworking – http://www.froggybuilder.com/
Author page on BSB – https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/authors/jan-gayle-85

Author Interview

Read Bold Stroke Books’ interview with Jan Gayle

Available as a paperback and as an ebook via online vendors, including:

Bold Stroke Books
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

January 2016

Thank you, Bold Strokes Books, for the opportunity to review this title.

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

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