Mary Springer reviews And Playing the Role of Herself by K.E. Lane

And Playing the Role of Herself by K. E. Lane cover

Caid has landed a lead role on the hit TV show, 9th Precinct, which is a spinoff of another show that stars Robyn Ward. Caid sometimes costars with Robyn and shares her trailer, but is often tongue-tied around the gorgeous woman. However, when changes to the script mean they have to spend more time together, sparks fly and Caid realizes Robyn isn’t as uninterested in her as she seems. But, past demons linger around every corner.

I have had a hard time coming to an opinion about this book. My biggest problem is that I could not understand why Caid wanted to be in a relationship with Robyn. As I was reading, I was often reminded of how incredibly attractive Robyn is. Wanting to be in a relationship with someone who is so sexy and beautiful is completely understandable, but only if it’s understood as a superficial infatuation. I’m not sure what more there was to Robyn’s character that attracted Caid besides that she was dedicated to her career, enjoyed running, and liked to cook for her.

What might be really holding me back from a positive takeaway is Robyn’s emotional immaturity. Again and again, Robyn reacts to situations by running away, projecting onto Caid, and then lashing out Caid. This cycle grew tiresome and I failed to understand why Caid was so forgiving. I think this could have been solved if we could have seen some chapters from Robyn’s point of view. We are only really told about her problems from dialogue and it would have helped to understand her and given her the benefit of the doubt if we could see some of her thoughts or internal experiences.

Another problem I had was that the problems Caid and Robyn had in their relationship were often solved by random plot events. Caid and Robyn would have a problem, they refuse to solve it, so something bad is randomly thrown in with no foreshadowing or build up. This forces Caid and Robyn to get together, Robyn apologizes, and Caid forgives her again.

This is why I have a hard time believing Caid wanted to be in a relationship with Robyn. The woman would not have made the choice to be a mature adult and communicate if random plot events had been thrown at them. Communication is big issue the two have and only kind of gets resolved at the very end. Caid admits they aren’t good at communicating, but neither of them makes a move to try and work through it. Caid is literally afraid to talk to Robyn about important relationship issues because she is so afraid that Robyn will react as she has done in the past. When Robyn finally hears this she is shocked, when she really should not be. At all.

At the end I just felt confused and doubtful about their relationship. It seemed like it would only take a couple months before Robyn decided something scared her and she ran away again. Maybe Caid would give her a bouquet of flowers and Robyn would say, “I’m not used to someone treating me this way! You’re pressuring me into something aren’t you? I’m leaving!”

My point is that Robyn never really seems to grow up, which she desperately needs to do. That’s not say Caid is a perfect angel. She admits to being possessive and jealous of Robyn and her relationship with her best friend Josh.

The story kept me engaged and invested throughout, and the writing itself was excellent. Lane does a great job of sucking the reader into the story.

The most important part of a romance novel is the romance, and at first I loved it. However, by the end I was just reading to see what happened out of a sense of obligation to these characters. Also, the sex scenes. Those were great.

Elinor Zimmerman reviews Set the Stage by Karis Walsh

When I picked up this book, I wasn’t sure if a romance set in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival would really be my thing because I’m not a theater person. But Walsh’s vivid descriptions of Ashland, Oregon, of the festival, and of her lead’s clashing career paths were so charming that I was transported. If you want a nice little romance to escape into, this might be the novel for you.

Emilie is an actor with more than a few career regrets who sees her season with the festival as a chance to finally get back on track professionally. She suffers from stage fright and once abandoned her theater dreams and initial acclaim for her work in order to follow her girlfriend, a fellow actor, on tour. She’s determined not to let anything stand in the way of her ambition again.

Arden is a lifelong Ashland resident, daughter of an actor and a director who left her to be raised by her grandparents while they pursued theater careers all over the world. She works in the local park, just like her late grandfather did. She dates actress who come for the festival and regularly gets her heart broken in the process.

Arden and Emilie are drawn to each other from the moment they meet in the park but agree that they should just be friends. Emilie doesn’t want a distraction and Arden doesn’t need another relationship with an expiration date. Over many months of rehearsals and performances, the two grow closer and closer, cheering each other on in their careers even as those ambitions threaten their bond.

The romance in this burns slow but I appreciated that. A lot of the focus is on their connection as dear friends, Emilie’s struggles to perform when her confidence is low, and Arden reconsidering the life she planned for herself and what her professional aims actually are. It’s engaging and fun.

The only thing I didn’t really like was Emilie’s roommate, a graduate student in psychology, who wants to use Emilie for her studies. While I’d buy an undergrad new to the field blurring personal and professional boundaries, by grad school a psych student should know better than to pressure a new roommate into quasi-therapy sessions for her research. Maybe this sort of thing would happen but it sounded unethical. It also seemed to be a way to reveal some of Emilie’s backstory and have her come to realizations. Luckily this roommate basically disappears from the book once she’s served that purpose.

Overall, it’s a fun romance. It made me want to go this festival, which I’d never had any interest in before. Set the Stage is worth a read for fans of romance or theater.

Elinor Zimmerman is the author of Certain Requirements, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books in Spring 2018 and is a contributor to the anthology Unspeakably Erotic, edited by D.L. King, and out now. Her website is ElinorZimmerman.com

Kristi reviews On A Silver Platter by Linda Morganstein

I have never written a review about a DNF “Did Not Finish,” but after two months of trying to get through this particular title, I thought I would reflect on why I couldn’t make it.

Alexis “Call me Alex” Pope is acting as a stunt woman on the set of On A Silver Platter, the “tale of alien invasion based roughly on the beheading of St. John the Baptist” (12). On a sound set plagued by an overreaching script, a pompous director and no-nonsense producer, plus a stalker, the only thing that could make things more complicated would be a murder. Add to this a flirtation with a committed woman and a blind date with another, plus sudden stardom as Wonder Woman in a kinky lingerie fashion show, and Alex has more than enough on her platter.

All of this action occurs within the first hundred pages. Unfortunately, I could not get any farther than that. This book seems to go off on so many different tangents, I was not sure if I was reading a murder mystery, a lesbian romance, or some sort of fanfic for Lynda Carter (not that I don’t love the woman myself). The scenes are descriptive and decently written, but the story is so overwrought with multiple characters who have little relation to the main plot, assuming that would be the murder of one of the movie’s stars. I lost interest in what Alex might do, either in her short stunt career or as the ameteur sleuth, extremely quickly.

The set up of the book’s style is similar to Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless books: a list of the “cast of characters” in the beginning of the book, a woman pulled into a mystery by a secondary involvement, who was introspective in terms of her self and surroundings. So, I was hoping for a similar nuanced style from Morganstein, but I feel like I know little about Alex or the reasons behind her actions. Nor could I really manage enough feelings for the book, beyond confusion, to really care. On A Silver Platter is the third book of this series, so maybe I will hop back to Ordinary Furies and see where Alex started.

Kristi reviews Turning Point by Lara Zielinsky

Hollywood has its stars: as one begins to fall, another is there to shine. Cassidy Hyland has gotten the cold shoulder from her co-star on the hit sci-fi show Time Trails, Brenna Lanigan, for long enough. Hoping that her son’s birthday party will find a way to spark a connection between them, Cassidy has no idea that she will find herself longing for much more than a friendship with Brenna. From the warmth of an surprise hug to the heat on a sunlit mountain top, learning about each other brings Brenna and Cassidy closer to a truth – and a love – they never expected to find.

In Turning Point, Lara Zielinsky highlights two women who find themselves on opposite sides of the acting divide: Brenna is approaching the “over-the-hill” status that actresses over 40 find themselves facing; Cassidy is the younger, gorgeous woman brought in to bring a fresh face and look to the series. After a period of time of aloofness, Cassidy uses her son’s birthday party to show Brenna that she is a good person, sparking more than a truce in their dealings with each other.

The friendship that grows between the two women is born of work and motherhood, but the attraction is there from the beginning, more so for Cassidy. As she tries to figure out what draws her to Brenna, she works on disentangling herself from both her issues with her abusive ex-husband and her relationship with show writer Cameron, which puts her in more and more uncomfortable positions on set. Brenna’s second marriage to upcoming politician Kevin Shea was a fast decision and one that does not provide Brenna the stability she expected it to bring. The emotional connection between the two is tenuous at best, living and working long-distance. Brenna’s sons still refer to him as “Mr. Shea” even after a year.

At first I was concerned about how slow the story seemed to be progressing. Hollywood is full of “in bed in fifteen minutes” storylines, as are lesbian romances. After finishing the book, I realized that I knew so much about these two women and how they deal with their changing feelings. While the story take a long time to build, readers get to see not only the development of Brenna and Cassidy’s relationship, but glimpses into their lives as actresses and mothers. The plot uses some devices that seem a little far-fetched: both women travel to the same store in all of Los Angeles to shop for their fateful camping trip, Cameron catches the two in a kiss and immediately wonders if “Cassidy will let him watch”. Even with those trite moments, the growing love between the two, and the self-reflection that it causes them both, is sure to touch a memory in many readers’ minds. It certainly did mine.

Turning Point is a slow but steady heart-felt story of two women discovering their feelings for each other. Decorated in the glitter of stardom, it is the people behind the television characters that have to strip away the artifice to find the love they really want.