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.

Mary Springer reviews In Development by Rachel Spangler

In Development by Rachel Spangler cover

Cobie has been in nice, safe romance films for too long. She wants to challenge herself with by acting in the lead role of Vale, but studios won’t take her because she lacks an edgy public persona that will sell the character to audiences. Lila is a pop star who is taking the world by storm and building an empire, but she has run out of new things to excite and shock the public. They join together in a fauxmance to help both their careers. However, things get complicated when they grow close and old demons of the past rise up.

This was a fantastic read! It has two of my favorite tropes in romance, which is the fake relationship and the Hollywood setting. Both are done well and the author clearly had fun using them to their full extent.

The story is told from both Cobie’s and Lila’s point of views, which really helped add to the romance and also helped me understand where both of them were coming from in disagreements. One of my pet peeves in romance is when there’s a big misunderstanding that seems to come out of nowhere with no established character flaw to motivate it. Both Cobie and Lila are flawed and have wounds from the past that are established early on and contribute to problems in their relationship. Every time they had a fight, I felt I understood where each of them was coming from, which helped keep me engaged.

The other characters were just as fun and interesting. Lila has two close friends that also work for her, Felipe and Malik, who are in a relationship. Cobie has her sister Emma and best friend Talia. There are also Lila’s and Cobie’s managers, Mimi and Stan, who get them together for the fauxmance in the first place. All of them really helped flesh out the book beyond Cobie and Lila, but didn’t distract from the romance.

Speaking of which, the romance was done really well. Cobie and Lila feel the heat between them but deny it because they need this fauxmance to work for their careers, and also because of past experiences that they haven’t dealt with yet. I could fully believe these two were attracted to each other and falling for one another. The sex scenes were also pretty great. Throughout the whole story, I was always engaged and excited to see what was coming next.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the believability of their careers and how those careers were interwoven with the plot. The story really shows you how important acting and singing are to Cobie and Lila respectively and how those parts of their lives affect them and this romance.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a great romance between two women.

Mary Springer reviews Snow White and Her Queen by Anna Ferrara

Snow White and Her Queen by Anna Ferrara cover

Trigger Warning: the book contains scenes of suicide, rape, and assault and this review will discuss them.

This review contains spoilers.

Katherine was married to the King of the Northern Kingdom when she was thirteen. Seventeen years later, she plans to kill herself, but she is saved by a beautiful young woman. Soon she finds out this beautiful woman, only seven years younger than her, is her stepdaughter, Eirwen, also known as Snow White. What follows is a tumultuous love story and retelling of a classic fairy tale with a unique twist.

I have had a difficult time gathering my thoughts on this book. To be clear, I did enjoy reading this. However, there are several elements that I’m having a hard time reconciling with my enjoyment. Katherine married King Ferdinand when she was thirteen, a mere child. When we first are introduced to her as an adult it is through a graphic scene in which she has painful sex with Ferdinand. He is angry with her for not getting him a child after so many years of marriage. Katherine, believing him to be a good man and her to be a bad wife for not getting pregnant, then decides to kill herself in the garden. This is where she meets Eirwen. Later on, Ferdinand tells her to get a hobby, specifically hunting, and there she meets Phillip. Phillip decides he is in love with her and won’t take no for an answer. Eventually, this leads to him sexually assaulting her.

Another hard part about reading this is how the two men were supported and even enabled by those around them, men and women. Ferdinand blames Katherine for all his misdeeds, which is what causes her to be known as the Evil Queen. He has effectively isolated her from any support, including her own ladies-in-waiting who gossip about her behind her back. This is what leads to Phillips being so able to hurt Katherine, because she has no friends, no support system. This did feel believable and realistically explained the fairy tale aspect of Katherine being known as evil.

One of my biggest feelings of unease going into the book (before the assault scenes) is that this is a love story between a stepmother and stepdaughter. However, this book reassures the reader in that regard. Katherine and Eirwen are only seven years apart in age and Katherine only sees Eirwen once, on her wedding day to Ferdinand, before the beginning of the book. They are technically family by law, but do not grow up together and they do not act and are not treated as a mother and daughter. For the majority of the story, Katherine is thirty and Eirwen is twenty-two or twenty-three.

The romance felt real. From the moment Katherine meets Eirwen she is captivated by her and struggles with understanding how she, a woman, could be attracted to another woman. Eirwen has the same inner conflict. Not only did both characters feel complex but their romance developed in a believable manner.

The world building was well done. It wasn’t too complex because it didn’t need to be and I enjoyed being able to simply immerse myself in the characters. In this version, the dwarves are miners who have become hunched over or “dwarfed” from working in the mines. They are not good people in this edition, but it follows the book’s theme of patriarchy and misogyny, so I was fine with this change.

There were some choices the characters that felt too sudden. There were moments when characters would reveal motivations that I felt were not previously set up. For example, without giving too much away, Eirwen thinks about part of her plan for revenge against Ferdinand and how Katherine is involved. Her logic felt out of place because it seemed like it hadn’t been set up or foreshadowed. Later in the novel, Katherine tells Eirwen one of the things that attracted her to her in response to Eirwen’s plan for revenge. This reason for attraction felt odd because it seemed like it had been mentioned before at all.

The ending felt somewhat unsatisfying. There was so much violence perpetuated against Katherine and Eirwen that I was disappointed to see how those injustices were dealt with. However, considering the world and characters the author has built, the ending does make sense. Like I said, I’m not sure how to reconcile many elements of this book. However, I wasn’t totally disappointed in the ending and I am happy with where the characters end up.

Having said all of this and voiced many gripes I have with this story, I would recommend reading it. This book was engaging, interesting, and in many ways enjoyable. The story of Snow White is originally so intent on pitting women against each other over conventional standards of beauty and it was great to see a version in which both women get to have more character and agency. If you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings with a twist that the women actually love each other, I recommend picking up Snow White and Her Queen by Anna Ferrara.

Mary reviews The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin

Fantasy was the genre that got me to love books, but I fell out of love with it as I couldn’t find any books with characters that weren’t straight or cisgender. I was browsing through recent LGBT releases and found The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin, which has turned out to be everything I was looking for.

Princess Esofi has traveled far from home to the foreign land of Ieflaria to wed the crown prince, but upon arriving finds he has died in a sudden accident. Their marriage had been planned since they were babies in order to bring magic into the land and fend off the dragon attacks. The King and Queen offer for Esofi to marry the next in line, Princess Adale. Esofi accepts, but quickly finds that Adale does not want to rule or be in an arranged marriage. However, just as Adale and Esofi begin to feel something spark between them, Adale’s heartless twin cousins arrive to try and win Esofi’s hand as way to the crown.

Esofi and Adale have a realistic relationship and their story easily pulls you in as they slowly develop feelings for each other. I loved that they didn’t immediately fall in love or lust for each other, and at the same time they didn’t immediately hate each other. There are complex characters of very different backgrounds and this results in some disagreements that only served to strengthen the character development and plot.

The LGBT representation was amazing. Esofi describes herself as not having a preference for the gender of her future spouse. She says this is how most people experience attraction in this world. The idea of two women marrying each other is not looked down upon by those around them, except for doubt as whether they will be able to perform the magical spell to produce heirs to the throne.

There is a large pantheon of gods, one of which is Inthi, a deity that is referred to as neutroi. Anyone who is a part of Inthi’s temple is neutroi, a gender that exists outside the binary. There are a few side characters mentioned that are neutroi and go by they/them pronouns.

The side characters are just as interesting and complex as the main ones. Esofi has three ladies in waiting, Mireille, Lexandrie, and Lisette. Mireille is a sweetheart who wants everyone to be happy. Lexandrie is more concerned with what’s expected and considered the right thing to do. Lisette is not really a noble lady, but a bodyguard who is ready to protect Esofi with a variety of weapons. Each of them had distinct personalities and seeing Esofi talk with them was enjoyable. Adale has several scenes with her parents, and I liked that they didn’t make her parents perfectly good or horrendously evil. They are monarchs of a country, but also her mother and father. You can see that they are struggling to find the right path for both.

The world building was really well done and one of my favorite parts. Effie Calvin has created a complex world that is easy to understand as it interweaves with the plot. One of the main deities focused on is Talcia, the goddess of the moon, magic, and creator beasts. She is also the creator of dragons that plague Ieflaria.

Along with the world building, the politics was interesting. I’m the type of person that tends to be impatient to get the plot back to the love story, but in this case I was just as intrigued by the political situation surrounding who will rule Ieflaria, the threat her twin cousins pose, and the looming threat of dragon attacks.

The dragons were interesting and covered in mystery for the first part of the book. The reader learns more about them as the story continues. Admittedly I was a bit disappointed by the resolution to the dragons. However, the ending to the story as a whole was great and satisfying.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves the fantasy genre and wants to find some LGBT representation in it.