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.

Julie Thompson presents A Mother’s Day Booklist Bonanza!

Happy Mother’s Day! In the United States, Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May. I’m lucky in that I was able to share a whirlwind of a Saturday with my mom recently. We shed the hustle and bustle of city life behind, shopped the outlet mall, and had fun watching Dwayne Johnson save the world alongside his gorilla pal, George, in Rampage. Let’s celebrate the wonderful, complex mothers in all of our lives with a bouquet of books! Mother’s Day has many meanings for all of us and I hope that this arbitrary date is just one of many for you and yours. I’ve assembled a mixture of families that I hope speaks to your experiences and brings you joy whenever you think of your family. This list is drawn from some of my recent favorites. What stories have warmed your heart recently? Let me know in the comments below!

In Our Mothers' HouseIn Our Mothers’ House is an amazing picture book written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. Told from the point-of-view of the eldest daughter after they’ve all grown up and flown the nest, she remembers fondly the loving and supportive home that she and her adopted siblings experienced in their mothers’ house. Despite a frosty treatment by a homophobic neighbor, the family shares imaginative holidays (see their homemade Halloween costumes!), summer block parties, and a warmth that radiates through all they do. The mothers and children share the deepest sense of family.

All the Little Moments
All the Little Moments by G. Benson – Contemporary romance set in Australia.

Anna, an anaesthetist, steps in to raise her niece and nephew after their parents are killed in a car crash. While she loves them, author G. Benson presents Anna as a complex character who feels conflicted by her distaste for Melbourne, leaving her child-free life behind, misses her best friend/brother, and wonders if dating is at all compatible with her new life.

 

Bingo LoveBingo Love by Tee Franklin, illustrated by Jenn St.-Onge, Joy San – Graphic Novel. Historical fiction/Contemporary romance. Second chances.

This adorable and moving story follows Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray. The women first meet as teenagers at a church bingo game in 1963, but are wrenched apart when their love is discovered. Decades later after marriage to men and children, the two meet again at, you guessed it, a church bingo game. The path to second chance romance isn’t easy, but that just makes it all the more wonderful. Keep a box of tissues close.

Collide-O-Scope
Collide-O-Scope by Andrea Bramhall – British crime series.

I always imagine Detective Sergeant Kate Brannon as Heather Peace’s DS Sam Murray from the television series Lip Service. Gina Temple, single mom with a dead beat mistake of a father for her daughter, manages a campground in a tiny fishing village in Norfolk, England. The two meet in book one of the series. Despite corpses and high stakes, sparks fly.

 

Alice & Jean
Alice and Jean by Lily Hammond – Historical Fiction, 1946 New Zealand.

Alice Holden keeps the home fires burning while her husband is off fighting during World War II. Two small children keep her hands busy, but she can’t stop the fluttering of her heart every time Jean delivers milk to her door. She really does bring all women to the yard. As the women fall in love, small town complications and Alice’s emotionally battle scarred husband complicate matters. Obligation, loss, new love and new beginnings weave a rich tapestry. How many women forged lives anew like Alice and Jean tried to do?

The Fall
The Fall by Robin Alexander, read by Lisa Cordileone – Contemporary romance.

I just had my six month dental check-up. Instead of plopping down and finding romance with the local dentist, and single mom, Sunny Chase, I came away with a clean bill of health for my chompers. Noel Savino has no such problems, though she plays it casual because it’s safer that way, yeah? However, casual nighttime shenanigans are anything but casual where Noel’s large Italian-American family are concerned. Narrator Lisa Cordileone delivers a vibrant performance that enhances the humor and personalities present.

Heart of the Game by Rachel Spangler. Contemporary romance.

Sports journalist Sarah Duke is living her dream: covering the St. Louis Cardinals. On opening day she meets a precocious young fan and his hard-working, newly out single mother, Molly Grettano. FYI: baseball puns abound. If you’re a cornball like me, you’ll love ‘em!

 

 

Additional books featuring mumsy:

Julie Thompson reviews Heart of the Game by Rachel Spangler

Sports journalist Sarah Duke lives for the crack of a bat and a deep hit caught at the wall. After years busting her chops reporting college baseball games on up, dealing with sexist locker rooms, fans, and colleagues, Duke finally scores her dream job: covering the St. Louis Cardinals. At the season opener, she meets a young fan with as much passion for the game as she. Duke also becomes smitten with the boy’s mother, Molly Grettano. The single mother juggles career, family, and the expectations that she deals with from others and herself. While she dances with the idea of dating as a newly out lesbian, Molly’s long hours balancing managerial aspirations at her restaurant job with her two young sons come first.

Throughout the story, the fierce loves that Duke and Molly live and breathe conflict with how they want their romantic dreams to play out. Both women have worked their asses off to get where they are and compromise doesn’t come easy. Duke exudes easy charm and her enthusiasm for baseball is infectious. She breaks down all of life’s ups and downs into baseball terms, which might wear thin for some readers, but comes across as natural for Duke. Molly worries her kids, especially precocious baseball super fan Joe, might get too attached to Duke. The kids are an integral part of the story, not a tacked on afterthought. One of my sister’s recently started dating again and she can attest that it isn’t easy, especially with kids.

Towards the end of the story I wondered if an Happy Ever After was really in the cards. And then, because of Spangler’s skillful storytelling and respect for her characters, I realized that any way it ended would satisfy. As Duke would say, this story reveals more than its box score indicates. Friendship, family bonds, and love resonate in this contemporary romance.

I haven’t followed baseball since the Seattle Mariners’ golden era (1995-2001). Rachel Spangler’s sports romance, Heart of the Game, however, gets me excited for the start of Major League Baseball at the end of March and for local minor league games where every seat is a good one. Fresh cut grass, peanut shells underfoot, and the swell of the crowd, and everyone dancing the latest craze in tandem (the only time I’ve ever seen a thousand people of all ages do the Macarena). What could be better?

For anyone participating in Lesbian Book Bingo, this novel satisfies the Sports Romance square.

Anna M reviews But She Is My Student by Kiki Archer and LoveLife by Rachel Spangler

Putting potential lovers in unequal positions of power and seeing what happens is a commonly used technique in romance novels. Current heterosexual romance novels are littered with boss/secretary and boss/nanny relationships, which . . . ick. So I found it heartening to read two lesbian romances recently, But She Is My Student and LoveLife, which explore similar power dynamics without the “ick” factor. Both of them feature couples who [spoiler] do not give in to temptation when it could be construed as an abuse of power.

But She Is My Student, by Kiki Archer, is a British romance that centers on newly minted teacher Katherine Spicer. The weekend before her first teaching job, Kat makes an instant and deep connection with another woman that she meets at a gay club. She doesn’t know anything about her mystery woman, who disappears suddenly, but her face is all too familiar when it pops up among the students in her senior-level class. Freya Elton was tagging along with her lesbian cousin when she met–and kissed–the woman of her dreams. But when she finds out that her Kat is “Miss Spicer,” she’s at a loss. Despite the fact that she’s only a few years older than Freya, dating a student is a line that Kat absolutely will not cross.

Another girl in the class, Bea, has her sights set on Freya, further complicating the plot as Archer explores the question of what happens when you fall in love at first sight with someone who is off-limits. Archer rounds off the love story with an uneven cast of characters–students, administration, teachers, and Kat’s roommates–whose storylines are intertwined. Although the work could have used a few more passes under the eyes of a careful editor, the central conceit was engaging and it was satisfying that neither Kat nor Freya gave in to temptation while their student-teacher relationship continued. Some of the obstacles between the pair were a bit of an imaginative stretch, but overall But She Is My Student is a sweet story with the title of a Lifetime Movie.

In LoveLife, by Rachel Spangler, working-class Joey has an overwhelming crush on the professional-looking woman who regularly visits the coffee shop where she works. Through her best friend’s machinations, Joey discovers that the woman is a life coach named Elaine, which only deepens her feelings of inadequacy. As a college dropout who has spent the last several years supporting her bereaved father, Joey has trouble believing that she deserves love from anyone, let alone someone like Elaine. For her part, Elaine has just moved back to Buffalo to reconnect with her family, but finds herself falling into old patterns instead. When Joey’s meddling best friend Lisa sets her up for a consultation with Elaine, she finds herself opening up to the life coach about her lack of confidence . . . and her desire for a seemingly perfect woman. As Joey realizes that she could actually benefit from coaching to get her life back on track, she also understand that she’s put Elaine in the awkward position–once she reveals that her dream woman and the life coach are one and the same–of continuing a professional relationship begun under false pretenses.

Joey and Elaine are both very relatable, and Spangler does a good job of carefully nurturing the spark of their attraction as they struggle to keep their client-advisor relationship professional. She throws in Buffalo-specific details for spice, but characters beyond the two women (and Joey’s lifelong friend Lisa) are a bit more roughly sketched. It’s clear from the book that she did her homework when researching life coaching, and the novel fairly glows with its characters’ earnest approach to self-improvement. After an almost agonizingly extended will they/won’t they, Spangler ties up the threads in a satisfactory way.

Danika reviews The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler

I haven’t read a lot of lesbian romance, and I wasn’t sure how much I would like the genre; I’ve never had any interest in the straight romance genre. Well, Rachel Spangler has made me a convert.

My favourite part of The Long Way Home is the premise. I read it while there were a lot of criticisms coming up about Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project. One of the more intriguing ones was discussing how Savage’s original video especially concentrates on this reaction to “small town mentality” and finding acceptance in a big city, and how this anti-rural sentiment not only gives small towns too little credit in their ability to be accepting and progressive, but also encourages queer people to keep draining out of small towns and heading to big cities, which only makes the situation worse. (Cities are more accepting because there are more queer people, but there are more queer people because queer people move to cities, because cities are more accepting…)

The Long Way Home tackles that anti-rural sentiment by telling the story of a woman who “escaped”, who left her small town and made a living talking about her escape story at various colleges around the country (the US), becoming a quasi-famous lesbian because of it.

But once she gets a little older, the calls stop coming for speaking arrangements: people don’t want to hear the same story anymore. Raine, as she’s known now, or Rory, as she was known in her home town, is forced to return to the place she escaped from if she wants to have a paying job. Raine/Rory comes face-to-face with the people she knew, the family she left behind, and the town she grew up in. While there she discovers the escape story she’s been telling for years may not be the only interpretation that should be drawn.

This is a romance, obviously, so Rory/Raine discovers a lot of this through an old school mate, including being introduced to a small-town queer community, something she couldn’t fathom of before. The romance is sweet and interesting, and I liked both of their characters, but it was the underlying message that really drew me in.

The only minor quibble I had with The Long Way Home was the occasional over-explaining, like this:

“Are you out of your fucking mind? I’ve spent my entire life getting away from that place. I’m Raine St. James, the one who survived.” Raine needed to remind herself that she’d made it out alive.

I’d rather the speech stood on its own, but that’s hardly noticeable. Overall, I definitely recommend it.

Have you read The Long Way Home or another of Rachel Spangler’s books? If so, what did you think of it?