Tierney reviews Oath of Honor by Radclyffe

oath of honor by radclyffe
Oath of Honor recounts the reluctant romance between Wes, newly hired head of the White House Medical Unit, and Evyn, dedicated Secret Service agent: though their attraction is immediate (as it so often is in romance novels), the two suppress their feelings in favor of their professions’ singular goal – protect the president. But as a plot to assassinate the president unfolds, so does their romance.

If that combination of plot points sounds a little odd to you, you’re not alone: Wes and Evyn certainly have a steamy and engaging romance, but the romantic plot-line is muddled by the presidential assassination scheme. Radclyffe alternates viewpoints, throwing in scenes from the points of view of other characters, including the would-be assassin, a rival of the president’s who wants to pave the way for his own rise to power. It makes sense for a romance novel to have some suspense and drama, but this slightly disjointed assassination plot-line takes it too far, detracting from the romance that is theoretically the heart of the novel, especially since this plot-line is left hanging at the end of the novel (perhaps leaving room for a sequel).

Despite this significant flaw, Oath of Honor is still a fun read. Wes and Evyn are well fleshed-out characters, they have great chemistry together, and the first responders premise is certainly an interesting one. If you’re looking for a romance novel whose plot reads like a soap opera’s, and don’t mind the occasional foray into fragmented political machinations, give Oath of Honor a try.

Note: Oath of Honor is the third title in Radclyffe’s First Responders series of medical drama romance novels: each novel stands alone in terms of its characters and plot, but centers around characters who are first responders. Oath of Honor features snippets from the points of view of Blair Powell and Cameron Roberts, stars of Radclyffe’s Honor series.

Elinor reviews Best Lesbian Romance of the Year: Volume One edited by Radclyffe

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I am so happy I read this anthology. The introduction starts with an Audre Lorde quote, which is the right way to kick off a book. The stories ran the gamut from meeting cute to the culmination of decades of longing. Every story ended happily, those happy endings felt genuine and deserved, and drama and angst never overwhelmed any of the love stories. Romance can be hard to condense into a short story, but editor Radclyffe curated a solid collection of 18 tales. This book includes stories from established writers like Sacchi Green, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Giselle Renarde, among many others.

There’s plenty of sex in this anthology, a lot of which rivals some erotica anthologies in terms of heat. I was delighted by this. The sex scenes seemed largely organic to the relationships in these stories and were an extension of the romance. Not every story included sex, and some of my favorite stories involved little more than kissing, a testament to the great writing in this book.

I was glad that this collection had so many stories of long-term couples. This included a couple of more than a decade trying to beat the heat by getting out of their old and AC-less house (and having hot sex) in “Cooling Down, Heating Up.” In “Little Bit of Ivory,” a couple reconnects after one woman has been traveling for work. “A Royal Engagement” offered up a lesbian member of the British royalty and gave her a charming engagement story, while “Going to the Chapel” features a couple bringing out the best in each other, even in absurd circumstances, on the way to their own wedding. “Gargoyle Lovers” rounds out the wedding theme with a sexy Parisian honeymoon. “Wiggle-Wiggle-Womp” comes with a cute twist. “Beautiful” features a kinky narrator and her partner returning to their local BDSM scene after a battle with cancer has transformed the narrator’s body. I loved the way “Beautiful” showcased the tenderness and freedom submission can bring, all while rejecting normative ideals about bodies and beauty. My absolute favorite story in this collection was Rebekah Weatherspoon’s “Forever Yours, Eileen,” about Eileen and June, lifelong friends over the age of sixty who are finally exploring the relationship they’ve both wanted, and waited for, for years. June and Eileen were friends as children in the South, separated when June’s family moved north in fear of 1950s racial violence. Their love bloomed in letters and brief visits even as they married men, raised children, and built typical-looking lives. Now both single, Eileen is meeting June in New York. This one made me cry in a good way.

There were also plenty of couples starting new relationships, too. Radclyffe’s lovely story “Bad Girls and Sweet Kisses” reminded me of being eighteen and in love for the first time. A stuck light bulb sparks new feelings about a helpful friend in “Light.” Camping sounds a lot more fun in “Waterfall” (even though there’s a concussion in this story). You get to indulge your barista-crush in “Red Velvet Cake.” An out-of-character nude modeling gig leads to self-discovery and romance in “Some Nudity Required.” Grumpy teenagers find love with some help from a hippie in “Love Dance.” An ex shows growth in “Dance Fever,” and an assistant gets to see a softer side of her sexy, ice queen boss in “Unexpected Bliss.” “Long Drive” is unique and charming because it focuses on a couple who have been conducting their relationship via phones and Internet after meeting online, and are meeting in person for the first time. Though a few of these new couple love stories seemed to progress their relationships quite fast, it didn’t seem all that unrealistic.

The only story I didn’t really like was “Like a Breath of Ocean Blue,” about a woman crushing on her coworker by the sea. It was just too overwritten for me and the love interest didn’t read like an authentic person. One lackluster story in a collection of eighteen is not bad though.

I was very happy that there was some diversity in gender presentation in this book, and people of different sizes and ages. I wanted more racial diversity, though. With a few exceptions, like “Going to the Chapel” and “Forever Yours, Eileen,” there were a lot of white people in this book. This might just be me, but I also wished Best Lesbian Romance of the Year: Volume One had included a story about lesbians raising kids or on the road to parenthood.

Quibbles aside, this is an excellent anthology of lesbian romance. If you’re at all interested in the genre, you should read this. Highly recommended.

Rachel reviews Innocent Hearts by Radclyffe

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Radclyffe, who established Bold Strokes Books, has written a beautiful, old-west lesbian romance, Innocent Hearts.

It is early 1865, and the Beecher family: Martin, Martha and their eighteen year old daughter Kate, have moved from Boston all the way to New Hope, Montana Territory, giving up the comforts of the east to experience adventure in the west. Kate, just now the right age to marry, has enjoyed more freedom than many other young women, such as her father letting her pursue photography. She is sweet with an inquisitive streak, gladly wanting to explore her new world. Kate meets Jessie Forbes, a young female rancher who owns her own land, wears pants and carries her own gun like the men. She is the definition of independent, and is respected in her town. When Jessie meets Kate, the two women begin to develop strong, tender feelings for each other. Soon, they are deeply in love and want to spend their lives together.

Innocent Hearts does an excellent job capturing the love between Jessie and Kate, from their warm words to their tender lovemaking. Both women are good and honest with each other and their love feels genuine and completely right.

There are many obstacles throughout the book that Kate and Jessie must overcome, such as bandits, an epidemic, and the narrow-mindedness of Kate’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Beecher have high hopes for their daughter to find a good man to marry, so they are confused when Kate refuses to take the handsome men that court her as husbands. Having never been around openly gay people, Kate’s parents are completely shocked when Kate tells them the truth. They try to prevent the women from seeing each other again, and must reconcile to their daughter’s happiness. The reactions of Mr. and Mrs. Beecher is, in my opinion, accurate for how two parents used to the old ways would respond to their gay or lesbian child coming out to them in the 1800s. And their feelings of shock, discomfort, denial and sadness mirror the reactions of many present-day parents as well as past ones.

All the characters have their own quirks and flaws, and their emotions are weaved into the storyline in a way that adds to it, such as Mae, the prostitute who has feelings of her own for Jessie. She is an interesting addition to Innocent Hearts with her wanting her friend to be happy, but at the same time wanting Jessie to be hers. Mae’s conflicted feelings can relate to a lot of people suffering from the same unrequited love.

Innocent Hearts tells its audience how rough and difficult ranch life was in the old west through Kate and Jessie’s experiences. It paints a picture of danger and hardship, but also shows the good side of humanity through the love between Kate and Jessie, and the camaraderie of the citizens of New Hope. Loyalty and friendship runs deep in the book, and gives a perfect sense of hope for things working out.

For anyone looking for a lesbian romance in the west, this is a great place to start. The story is like a beautifully done painting, with every part of it adding up to make the story more real and giving a great quality. Innocent Hearts should be among the classics!

Anna M. reviews Homestead by Radclyffe

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Radclyffe’s Homestead is a departure from the romances featuring doctors and first responders and so on that usually characterize her books. It’s a sequel of sorts to 2007’s When Dreams Tremble (which I don’t think I’ve read–sometimes it’s hard to tell them all apart), exploring the same upstate New York setting and featuring that couple in a minor role.

Tess Rogers has always wanted to be an organic farmer, and she finally has the chance to put her plans in motion when she inherits the family farm from her uncle. It’s not easy operating a small farm, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field, but Tess is determined and has laid her plans very carefully. However, things get complicated when a powerful oil company rolls into town with R. Clayton “Clay” Sutter as their representative. There’s precious, precious oil under the farmland in Tess’s town, and the easiest way to pump it out involves access to the farm that Tess is trying to get certified as organic.

It has been many years since Tess and Clay had their summer tryst at Lake George, but neither ever fully recovered from the end of the relationship. Clay, who was vacationing incognito before beginning college, never told Tess that she was the presumptive heir to a global energy business worth millions. When Clay’s father threatened to interfere, she left abruptly and hasn’t spoken a word to Tess since. For her part, Tess has tried to move on but never found anyone who made her feel quite the way that Clay did. Now that big oil has driven them together, the stage is set for a reawakening of their love!

So here you have a romance that involves multiple conversations about fracking and a lot of hurt feelings about the way things ended however many years ago. Throw in Clay’s attractive assistant/bodyguard, town resentment that results in an attempt on Clay’s life and sabotage on the drilling site, a betrayal courtesy of Tess’s dead uncle, and a check-in or two with the protagonists of When Dreams Tremble, and you have a romance with a lot of parts that don’t always flow smoothly together.

Despite all this, I ended up believing that Clay and Tess could make it work. My major complaint is that Clay’s father, portrayed as a distant and controlling businessman whose interference ruined the young lovers’ chance at happiness, is consistently set up as the villain. However, there is no scene where Clay is given the opportunity to confront her father and truly become independent of him. It felt like a lot of buildup and no payoff, at least as far as that aspect of the plot was concerned.

Beyond that, it seemed like Clay could have gotten in touch with Tess at any point in the intervening years of her own volition before being forced to do so as part of her job. Coming into Tess’s town as an antagonist and trying not to still have feelings for her might have been an excellent dramatic decision–there would hardly be much of a story otherwise–but it makes Clay’s character seem particularly ineffectual and/or insensitive. It’s a little hard to root for someone to reunite with their lost love when Clay could have reunited with Tess at just about any point–or at least allowed her to make her own decisions.

I might go out and read When Dreams Tremble to see how it ties in with Homestead, but I probably wouldn’t re-read this one. I was glad to have the opportunity to read an advance copy through Netgalley, but it wasn’t my favorite Radclyffe effort by a long shot.

Kristi reviews Best Lesbian Romance 2012 edited by Radclyffe

Best Lesbian Romance 2012
edited by Radclyffe

I was excited to be able to get hold of a copy of this through The Lesbrary, as I have not picked up the last couple of years’ worth of editions. Radclyffe does well once again with seventeen stories meant to warm the heart – and libido.

A theme of self-discovery runs throughout the stories, as women turn to best friends ( Geneva King’s Note To Self) and strangers (Rachel Kramer Bussel’s French Fried) looking for love and romance. None of these women are questioning their sexuality, but their abilities to love, to be loved, and to take that last step into a relationship. Whether a story covers a few hours or a few months, the passionate, playful, heartfelt connections tie together each plot and create women that you can connect to every time. I really enjoyed every story that made it into this collection, but personal favorites were the first and last. Anna Meadows’ Vanilla, Sugar, Butter, Salt evoked my passion for baking, but I also appreciated the underlying theme of changing your perspective of the world to accept another’s into it. In Evan Mora’s A Love Story, sharing the tale, tall or true, of that first meeting unwraps the emotional memories of falling in love from the blankets of time.

A wonderful collection of hot, sexy, and sweet love stories, there is sure to be at least one in Best Lesbian Romance 2012 to please every reader.

Mfred Reviews Passion’s Bright Fury by Radclyffe

Trauma surgeon Saxon Sinclair does not want Jude Castle filming a documentary in her top-rated NYC trauma center.  Jude Castle does not want Bossy McBossersons Sinclair telling her a damn thing, ever. Both have emotional baggage and dark secrets to hide.  

Radclyffe gets so many things right, I find her romance books  a joy to read.  Each character, for all the dark emotional turmoil, felt relatable in basic and fundamental ways.  The dialogue was natural, the humor sincere, and most importantly, the romance felt hot.  

 

One thing that bothered me:  narrative-interrupting inner voice.  Occasionally, the third person narration would veer into a character’s internal, first person voice for a sentence or two.  It wasn’t always super clear when this was happening, so there were a few passages I had to re-read in order to understand who the hell was talking and why.  

A second issue I had was with the near tragic ending.  A book that is about the relationships between two people, their emotional struggles, etc. etc. does not need an explosive but OMG! saved-in-the-nick of time climax to get to that happy ending.  In fact, having characters realize the depth of their love simply because their beloved almost died?  I found it really obvious.  

I really like how Radclyffe creates intelligent, emotional women— and that neither of these attributes takes anything away from the other. I also like they way she writes lesbian relationships.  Her books are realistic about being gay and out, while also telling a love story.  Passion’s Bright Fury showcases these talents.

Kristi reviews Firestorm by Radclyffe

Mallory James is a cool-headed firefighter paramedic (aptly nicknamed Ice) who leads a band of smokejumpers six months out of the year in Montana. Training rookies in thirty days takes all her time and attention, but when Jac Russo shows up unexpectedly to fill a slot, Mallory finds herself fighting an attraction she hasn’t felt in a long time, which makes Jac trouble with a capital T. Jac has the skills to be on the team and is running from both the tabloids and her conservative father, who is on the campaign trail and courting followers. Mallory does her best to put Jac in her place, but Jac isn’t afraid to pursue the woman, or the work, she wants. The relationship heats up as a subtle cat and mouse game between the two women culminates in passion that cannot be denied. However, when Jac is called back to family duty, will Mallory let her go or fight for the one who finally melted Ice?

I liked this story. I do think it took a long time for the characters to come together, even with the obvious attraction between the two. Not that it wasn’t completely unbelieveable: workplace relationships, especially between supervisor and rookie, can be frowned upon. The emotional angst of the two were palpable: Jac has her conservative father and his Presidental run, Mallory has her loss of two smoke jumpers the summer before to increase her concerns about leading the group. The self-doubt would be enough for anyone to question their feelings about everything else in their lives. The whole twist of how Jac ended up in Montana was a bit convoluted, even for those involved in politics, but made the dramatic tension palpable through the end. Radclyffe has a way with words. Her scenes are vivid, both in their visual set up of scenes and the sensual and emotional tension between Jac and Mallory. Having the taunting instigator named Hooker made me chuckle through most of the book, but the secondary characters are solid, especially Sarah.

Radclyffe bring another hot lesbian romance for her readers in Firestorm.

Note: This electronic galley was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.