Marthese reviews The Housing Crisis by Kate McLay

the housing crisis kate mclay cover

“She transformed from sullen hipster to beautiful girl”

I don’t tend to read many contemporaries but the plot in this novella sounded interesting. The Housing Crisis is set in Chicago and follows Alyssa, who’s suddenly one roommate short and Hannah, who needs to find alternative lodging soon after a break-up. Hannah is sure of her sexuality and queerness, Alyssa never questioned her sexuality.

From the very first time they meet, they click and soon move in together and thus the housing crisis for both is resolved. What isn’t resolved is the growing tension between the two. Hannah has a crush on Alyssa and this is made clear from the beginning, however, Alyssa’s feelings aren’t to be discarded.

Alyssa comes from a very conservative background. Despite this, even before meeting Hannah, Alyssa made her own choices and formed her own believes which were not always in line with her family’s. I think that this independent thinking that does not arise from co-dependency is great. I was pleasantly surprised with Alyssa’s character and behavior. She isn’t the catholic-girl-from-a-small-town that you would expect her to be. She has guts, is spunky and although she is afraid, she fights for what she wants.

Hannah has had a bad experience with being in a relationship with a ‘straight’ girl but although she thinks she should knows better, her feelings for Alyssa cannot be ignored. She is honest about her past relationship from the beginning, in fact in this novella there wasn’t drama based on misunderstandings that is often used to create tension.

In the story, there is also a trans character. This character was not there simply for tokenism but plays a key part in a plot twist that is a bit far-fetched but not unrealistic.

The only thing that I did not like in the story was the implications on sexuality. Granted, this is something that most people think but as someone that identifies on the ace spectrum, it irked me that when it was clear that Alyssa had a lack of experience in sexual history, there was the implication that she is missing out on a lot and that everyone wants sex.

Alyssa’s and Hannah’s interactions are honest, emotional and mature but still gleeful. They do not beat around the bush and although there is some tension, there is no drama.

The story was not just about their relationship but also on their work careers, they are both having break through and want success while supporting each other.

All these elements make this short story very refreshing. It’s a quick read and their relationship progress was cute and not boring.

I would recommend this to people that enjoy contemporary and romance books or wish to read a drama free (or less dramatic) story about two people in love.

Megan Casey Reviews In the Game by Nikki Baker

 

in the game nikki baker cover

Virginia Kelly is black. This is significant because it makes her the first African-American sleuth in lesbian fiction. Likewise, Nikki Baker is the first African-American author of lesbian mysteries. This makes In the Game an important literary event. At a mere 171 pages, this is one of Naiad’s shortest books, and it is also one of their sweetest.

Living in Chicago, where she got her MBA, Virginia Kelly has a well-paying job, an intelligent lover, and two good friends in Bev and Naomi. She certainly seems to have a good life going, but when Bev’s lover Kelsey is murdered near a lesbian bar, a pall is cast over them all. Naomi is worried about being outed if it becomes known that she associated with lesbian Kelsey. Ginny is worried that Bev will be charged with the murder and hires a lawyer to defend her. I guess that’s enough plot, because, although it is a good one, that’s not what makes this book outstanding.

Nikki Baker is one of the few authors who can outwrite her editor Katherine V. Forrest (Kate Allen is another). There is little poetic language or ethereal descriptions here; rather it is Ginny’s internal thought processes that put Baker in a class by herself. She waxes almost philosophical in almost everything she thinks about—from the presence of black women in high finance to love. And add chaos to that list: “Maybe craziness and order chase each other through our lives like seasons.” Ginny’s girlfriend Emily, like Gianna Maglione in Penny Mickelbury’s fine series of novels, is a white woman, so In the Game has another important racial element to it as well. In fact, black woman/white woman couplings seem to be a motif in Baker’s fiction. Another motif is that Ginny works in finance, an unusual profession for a black woman in the early 1990s—and don’t think that Ginny doesn’t obsess about that choice and about how she actually fits into a white, straight, world.

It is interesting that Ginny’s friend Naomi Wolf has the same name as the feminist author of The Beauty Myth, which came out in the same year as this book. Coincidence?

The only nitpick I can find in this book is that Ginny’s actions sometimes don’t live up to her thoughts. Not only does Ginny’s friend Naomi guess who the murderer is way before Ginny, but most readers will probably guess as well. A slight fault, and the only one this nitpicker can come up with.

Truthfully, it is hard to find a rating high enough for this book. Certainly it is as good as anything Naiad put out. And for it to be one of the first 50 or so lesbian mystery novels ever to be published speaks highly of the author and her editors.

For 200 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/ or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries