Posts Tagged With: romance

California Skies

California Skies

Even on vacation, I pack several books into my carry-on. While I never know what I’ll be in the mood for, I know I’ll feel restless enough to switch back and forth between every single story. Last week as I sat piggy in the middle on my flight from New Orleans back home, the windows obscured by bodies and blinds, I rummaged around for something short and entertaining. Postcards from the Edge written and narrated by Carrie Fisher, took me from NOLA to Denver. For the next part of my trip, I returned to a new favorite novelette, California Skies by Kayla Bashe.

California Skies is an exciting adventure featuring revenge, love, a badass bounty hunter, a woman on a mission, and a wild west posse. The curtains open on a battered, but not broken Maggie leaving the hospital. Bandits murdered her brother and leave her and her sister for dead, as they ravage the family’s land in search of its reputed treasure. To hell with everyone’s warnings, Maggie doesn’t give a damn about bounty hunter California Talbot’s reputation. All she knows is that Talbot was a wonderful childhood friend of both her and her brother. Vengeance has nothing to do with Maggie being a “nice girl”.

Author Kayla Bashe conjures up rough and tumble, adventure fun. Bashe creates a rich, full story in less than 12,000 words. With her precise pacing, she never lingers overlong on any one part of the tale. The titular character, California Talbot, defies those who would say that they are a “no good” bounty hunter. Despite appearances, Talbot is a complex character. They would give up their best pale blue calico garment if it meant helping orphans and widows. Maggie, for her part, is stronger than her imaginative nature might convey. She doesn’t so much need Talbot to act as a savior so much as she needs a partner. The two pair up to round-up and dispose of the vicious Chelson gang. Along the way, Maggie and Talbot discover they have a deeper connection.

I highly recommend California Talbot for anyone longing for a satisfiying, bite-sized ride in the old west featuring strong characters.

California Skies by Kayla Bashe
Published by Less Than Three Press
Publication date: January 2016
ISBN: 9781620046944  

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

Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

What an awesome opportunity!  Maybe I’ll feel inspired to write a short submission for the contemporary romance collection ^^

Best Lesbian Erotica 2017 Edited by D. L. King To be published by Cleis Press Deadline: May 1, 2016 Payment: $100 and 2 copies of the anthology D.L. King is looking for your absolute best lesbian erotica. First, let me apologize for the extremely short window in getting your submission in. The publisher would like […]

via Calls for Submissions! — Women and Words

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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

Times of Our Lives

 

Times of Our Lives

Julie Thompson reviews Times of Our Lives by Jane Waterton

Welcome to OWLs, a veritable paradise in Australia. OWLs has its genesis in the facility’s owner and manger Louise’s determination to create a safe haven for mature lesbians. Louise worked in a nursing home in the late 1980s. During her tenure, she worked with elderly lesbians who had been separated from their partners by their families. Together, with the assistance of her partner, Caro, her vision for OWLs became a thriving reality. The retirement complex welcomes its 10th anniversary and it is at this time that the reader observes the singular, yet deeply connected lives of the women who call OWLs home.

Within this microcosm, the reader becomes privy to the stories of eight women. Retirement for many of these women doesn’t mean checking out of life. They find community, friendship, and love as the new chapter of their lives unfolds. The main underlying theme is that it is never too late to live your life. Waterton uses the seasons to frame the changes that develop in the lives of her protagonists over the course of a year. Their fears and desires seem to both hinder and help them, resulting in humorous situations and heart wrenching consequences.

A couple points drew me to this story. For starters, the women are all over the age of 60, with the exception of the OWL’s owners and a couple other minor characters. Waterton illuminates the third age in the lives of these women as a time to fully engage in and explore themselves and the world around them. Gone are the senior citizens who are shunted off to “old folks’ homes”, where the men and women await death and sit forgotten by society. As Sparrow, one of OWL’s residents, remarks,

“When my grandmother was my age, although she kept fairly active, it was if she had lived her life and was just waiting to die.” (ebook p. 75)

Secondly, the setting: Australia! Ever since childhood, I’ve been enamoured by the “Land Down Under”. I couldn’t resist trying to read all of the dialogue with an Australian accent (not aloud, though!).

Waterton weaves individual, couples, and group story lines together. Each pair of women reflects relationships at different stages. There are a pair of women partnered for nearly fifty years; best friends who would rather stay friends than risk losing that bond by professing their love; a new couple excited, yet wary; and two women partnered in love and business.

Pat and Bella, partners for over 45 years, have made their home at OWLs for the past several years. Although they have strong bonds, Bella’s fight with cancer has both women struggling to define their personal boundaries. It’s in the moments when they turn to their friends for comfort and advice that we witness the depths of their guilt, discomfort, and love. Their storyline culminates (or rather, begins anew) with a celebration of their love and a renewal of their commitment to each other through better or worse. Waterton presents Pat’s and Bella’s (and Pat and Bella’s) emotional journey through illness and aging with sensitivity and humor.

Meg Sullivan and Allie Richards have been best friends for over 40 years. They may not always agree – Meg is impulsive and sporty, while Allie errs on the side of caution and loves to cook, but it’s those differences that enrich and balance their friendship. From close friends to casual acquaintances, everyone picks up on the unspoken love between the two women. Their fear over losing the person they care about most by saying “I love you” is a feeling to which many people can relate. Even when after a health crisis, the two women still cannot own or put a name to their feelings. However, their friends rally around them. This support network is one of the most important elements in this book and really shines in the scenes in which the women struggle.

Daphne Williams and Sparrow Hopkins are the community’s new couple. They start off slowly, going on a few dates, before they fall headlong into a passionate romance. And then just like that, Daphne withdraws from the relationship. Sparrow, however, is not as delicate as her name may suggest; she instead shows a kind of tough love as she waits for Daphne’s head to catch up with her heart. Just as the novel shows how one can make new choices and alter their routines, it also shows through Daphne and Sparrow’s relationship that there are certain things that may not be worth compromising on.

Caro and Louise provide the indefatigable, unwavering foundation of OWLs. While Times of Our Lives directs most of its attention to the dramas surrounding the residents, it does give insights into the women who make this retirement community possible. The inter-generational chemistry between the middle-aged owners and the Older (sometimes) Wiser tenants is wonderful to read.

Some of the stand-out group scenes include a Tupperware presentation that turns the representative into an unwitting accomplice in the re-purposing of kitchen tools and an after-hours pool party where the women throw more than just caution to the wind. These events add levity and allow new friends, like Sparrow, with opportunities to integrate into the group dynamic.

Waterton has delivered a wonderful debut novel. Times of Our Lives is a jubilant celebration of life that leaves you reconsidering what it means to grow older.

Jane Waterton – http://www.janewaterton.com.au/
Ylva Publishing – http://ylva-publishing.co.uk/
Publication date: November 1, 2015

 

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

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

Sweet & Steamy Valentines, Part 1

Once-in-a-Lifetime

Curious Wine valentine

Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest

I love this book so much, I have all three covers shown above in my personal collection.  The first copy I acquired was via a forum on AfterEllen.com.  Someone was trying to interest people in free lesbian fiction and, surprisingly, there were no takers.  Free + Lesbian + Books, arguably one of the most tantalizing equations ever constructed, and I was the only one to snatch them up.  (I concede that sharing your home address with a stranger is not always the smartest idea.)  This past week I learned that an audiobook version exists.  It’s waiting for me to finish my current audio dalliance.

Curious Wine is love at first read.  I try not to measure other romance novels against it because that wouldn’t be fair.  It’s in a class all its own.  The more I love a book, the more trouble I have articulating why it’s so wonderful.  Every year I curl up with the two lovers, Diana Holland and Lane Christianson, and watch the slow snowfall of their love unfold. 

I love Katherine V. Forrest’s use of language.  She paints a vivid, textured world with her descriptions of the setting, choice of words, and rich, fluid dialogue.  It’s beautiful and genuine.

The story takes place in the late 1970s and was originally published in 1983 by Naiad Press.  Diana and Lane find themselves at a cabin in Lake Tahoe, as part of a small gathering of women, most of them either strangers to or acquaintances of the two protagonists.  It’s a veritable winter wonderland, secluded from the outside world.  The sprawl of glittering casinos hasn’t completely overtaken the cabin.  Diana resigns herself to a weekend away at the insistence of her friend Vivian.  Lane is similarly drawn away from her law practice to enjoy a weekend on the slopes. 

The story is full of subtlety – a look, a touch, an observation made in the moment…  Diana and Lane bond over “their poet”, Emily Dickinson,  Peggy Lee’s Pretty Eyes, and shared humor.  While Diana feels immediately drawn to and protective of Lane (whom the other women deride as aloof and snobby), Lane is hesitant to remove self-imposed emotional barriers.  Diana’s past relationships with men, most recently her break with her long-term partner Jack, have never consisted of two equals.  For her, she never gave any thought to having a romantic relationship with women.  Lane, however, has been running from her desires for women; she doesn’t want risk loss and disappointment.  The anticipated reactions from family and friends also play a role in their steps forward.

Towards the end, when it seems like Yes!  They’ve made it!, we encounter the last bridge they must cross in order to build a lasting future together.  When Lane asks Diana to wait a month with no contact whatsoever between them, the wait nearly does Diana in.  We never hear the detailed agony on Lane’s half of the wait, though we get clued in on it after the pair reunites.

“It’s fast, Diana, so fast for us to know…We’ll have problems, Diana, being together.”

“Yes, I know.  But we’ll be together.  You asked me when we first made love how I knew how to touch you and I told you I just knew.  I just know about this, too.”  Diana quoted,

“The Soul selects her own Society —
Then
Then — shuts the Door…”
“I love you,” Lane said.

Diana said, trying out the words, tasting them.  “My dearest…” (very last page)

A trigger warning for the following scene: rape

There are more than a few charged scenes that are difficult to read.  One evening at Harrah’s Casino, Diana, hurt and confused by her uncertain relationship with Lane, follows a former pro football player up to his hotel room.  When she decides that there is nothing and no one who can replace Diana, she tries to leave.  The man isn’t willing to take no for an answer.  She escapes, but doesn’t call the police.  It’s devastating and heart wrenching and terrible.  After she runs a skin-scalding bath, she drives back to the cabin and back into Lane’s warm embrace.

/// 

On the second night, the women congregated at the cabin play a series of “encounter” games.  The women are encouraged to trust each other with their intimate selves as the games progress.  As the night wears on, the women become increasingly drunk and stoned.  Liz Taylor, the host, is especially mean-spirited.  Some of the women break under the toxic environment, but by morning, the mood has shifted again.  Everyone is too burdened with their own baggage to notice what is developing between Diana and Lane.

///

I’ll close with the Emily Dickinson excerpt that precedes the first chapter.

Emily Dickinson

 ***Golden Crown Literary Society names Curious Wine as the 2016 recipient of the Lee Lynch Classic Award.***

Categories: lgbt, romance | 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

Savory Sweet Holiday Anthology

all in the seasoning

Image via http://www.bywaterbooks.com/shop/all-in-the-seasoning/

All in the Seasoning, edited by Katherine V. Forrest

Consider the belated posting of a sampling of seasonal stories to be delayed pleasure (like eating the rest of that pumpkin pie ^^).  Bon appetit!

An inclusive, holiday-themed collection of 15 new and previously published short stories by literary luminaries such as Katherine V. Forrest, Jane Rule, and Val McDermid, as well as lesser known authors. The pages are brimming with hope and heart, hearth and home. The stories challenge what it means to be family and how we share and/or create traditions during the dark winter months. From Hanukkah at a bar with friends to an impromptu blind date at Thanksgiving, this curated volume contains something for (almost) everyone.

I love short story collections for a number of reasons: they lure us in to sampling writers that we’ve never heard of before or curling up to spend a half hour with an old favorite; and fit in easily with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

A Few Story Highlights

The titular tale, All in the Seasoning by R. Gay, merges long-standing family traditions with new ones. Lillian ventures home with her girlfriend, Sabrina, in search of full participation in the important annual preparation of the family’s “La Soupe Traditionelle”.

In Kathy Porter’s The Illegals, Arizona border patrol agent, Mary Pat, discovers a mother and her children hiding near the trailer she shares with her girlfriend Fran. The agent struggles with more than just enforcing border regulations, finding the border between her private and public selves much more tenuous terrain.

A romantic evening with festive stories and no Katherine V. Forrest would be like Autumn without pumpkin pie. The Gift places the hopes and fears of parents Marge and Karla on tenterhooks as they place their daughter Julie’s health in the hands of the Mirilians, an advanced alien species.

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher: Bywater Books

ISBN: 1932859330

Categories: fiction, Holiday, lgbt, romance, short stories, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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