Tierney reviews Turbulence by E. J. Noyes

Isabelle has smoking hot sex with a one-night stand she thinks she’ll never see again – and then promptly sees her again the next day, flying her private jet: it turns out Audrey is her new company pilot. The two continue their sexual relationship, claiming they want to keep things casual – but amidst all the ups and downs of her busy life, Isabelle starts to see Audrey as a steady constant, and begins to realize her feelings about Audrey are anything but casual…

I wanted to like Turbulence: though the plot felt somewhat predictable (once you get past the mega-rich stockbroker/private pilot pairing, it’s a pretty standard trajectory of casual lovers falling for one another), the writing is decent (for the most part), and the sex scenes are well-written (for the most part). But I just could not get past how annoyingly spoiled and self-absorbed Isabelle is.

She makes lots of snotty comments that center on how rich she is, like droning on about how much her therapist costs, or saying Audrey would make her crack “like a shitty set of gel nails from a two-dollar manicure place.” She also acts entitled to others’ time: she decides on a whim, without consulting with Audrey, to take a trip in her private jet to her hometown, and thus making Audrey come too, to pilot the plane – all because she wants to the two of them to spend time together. In the arc of the novel it becomes a chance for Audrey to bond with Isabelle’s mom, and to cement how right their eventual love will be – but from my perspective it just felt like a totally odd thing to do.

I thought at first that there would be some kind of redemption arc around it: Isabelle would be brought down to earth as she got to know Audrey, and would become less of a brat, and they would live in love happily ever after – the end. But that wasn’t the case – I still can’t tell if she was supposed to be this egotistical and the story arc just wasn’t resolved, or if her brattiness was somehow accidental on the author’s part. Isabelle’s actions seem all the more strange in conjunction with how the author plays up her humble, down-homey upbringing and her many large donations to charity – her character feels very disjointed.

Unfortunately, Isabelle’s personality made Turbulence unpalatable for me – I prefer my romances with more emotional depth, and a more realistic emotional journey.

Whitney D.R. reviews The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

Victoria “Vix” Vincent is an alt-country rocker girl and Sawyer Bell is a sweet, innocent violinist running away from Juilliard to join in Vix’s band. Vix is an out bisexual and Sawyer is figuring out whether or not she’s a lesbian (spoiler: she is). I feel like this might be a basis for an Avril Lavigne-type song. Now I have “Sk8r Boi” stuck in my head.

I’ve always wanted to be in a band and go out on the open road with my friends and play music. The Love Song of Sawyer Bell didn’t candy coat how hard it would be to live that kind of life when you don’t have financial backing of a major label. Touring is grueling and often gross, but at least you’d be doing it with your band-family instead of completely alone. And you’d get to live the dream of being a performing musician. It’s not glamourous, but the book still made it seem fun, and I felt like I was there with the band.

The relationship between Vix and Sawyer was just so…normal. I don’t mean that in a bad way. These two women would have fights, sulk about it for a day or two then talk it out and make up. Just like most normal couples do, but with a little flair to kick up the story. I did think Sawyer, perhaps because she was newly out and insecure about her place in the world outside of being a fiddler, was quick to push Vix away. While Vix was afraid of telling Sawyer how she really felt. Both are perfectly relatable for ~us millennials~ who are still figuring our lives out while entering into a new relationship.

Sawyer’s unhappiness at Juilliard and her bit about feeling betrayed that something she wanted she got, but ended up hating it really resonated with me. It’s hard when you work hard towards something, think you made it, and then it turns out worse than you expected.

I did find Vix to be a bit preachy about bisexuality, but with so much erasure and misunderstandings in all forms of media, I couldn’t really be mad at it.

Completely unnecessary for this review, but can I say that my fancasts for this book are totally Melanie Scrofano for Vix and Dominque Provost-Chalkley for Sawyer? I know they play sisters on tv and the opposite in height, but it’s who I pictured the entire time I was reading.

I liked The Love Song of Sawyer Bell. I’ll definitely read the next book in the series and I hope Victoria Vincent gets the success they deserve.


Megan G reviews Mail Order Bride: A Romantic Comedy with a Lesbian Twist by Rachel Windsor

Liz Coleman likes to think of her life as a romantic comedy. She has her two best friends, Ann and Elle, a decent job, and quirky neighbours. All that’s really missing from her romantic comedy is, well, a love interest. A moment of impulsivity causes her to sign up for a mail order bride program, in hopes that this will finally be her happy ending. The only problem? The first thing her mail order bride says to her when they meet is “You are not a man.”

Are you looking for a light and easy romance? Do you love romantic comedies, but find yourself asking “why can’t this story be about lesbians?” when you watch them? Do you want to just curl up an lose yourself in a book for a couple of hours? Well, look no further, because this is the story for you!

Mail Order Bride is just on the right side of corny. The story is a bit cliched, but it works within the confines of the genre. Reading this book really felt like watching a romantic comedy play out before me. Although the writing is a bit simplistic at times, and a lot of moments feel rushed, Rachel Windsor really has a way of putting you right in the moment. I could literally see the story as if I were watching a movie (which, by the way, I would love to see this made into a movie).

My only real frustration comes in the form of the love story. While there’s definitely build-up to it, I never really felt like these two characters had much romantic chemistry, and when they finally get together it feels almost random. It’s too fast, honestly, and comes after an unnecessary amount of ups-and-downs (the kind that work really well in movies, but in books leave you scratching your head and wondering how things got resolved and then messed up again so quickly).

There is a bit of racism sprinkled throughout the text, in the form of Liz’s neighbor and landlord, who is also believed to have gotten a mail order bride. His, of course, is an Asian woman (whose country of origin is never specified) who is twenty years younger than him. It is pretty frustrating, especially since Liz’s mail order bride comes from the Ukraine, and therefore it’s clear that the author is aware that she didn’t have to include a racist stereotype in order to move that particular aspect of the plot forward. It’s also frustrating considering Ming Ling is the only explicitly non-white character in the story.

All of that aside, this book is sweet and sincere, with just the right amount of cheese. The friendships make me yearn for a close group of queer women friends, and the way that Liz’s mail order bride slowly fits herself into the group is so fun to read. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read about an adorable lesbian just looking for The One and getting into a few romantic-comedy-style mishaps along the way.

Susan reviews Bearly A Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw is the romantic (mis)adventures of Zelda McCartney, a fat bisexual fashionista woman of colour who works for Vogue’s London office… Who also happens to be a werebear with a vampire flatmate, a date with the hot werewolf next door, a fae prince to babysit, and a crush on her coworker, Janine, that she is desperately trying to ignore.

She’s got a busy week, okay.

I was expecting something like The Devil Wears Prada with werebears, which isn’t quite right (there is a lot of fashion, but not as much about running a magazine as I dreamed, woe), but Bearly A Lady is absolutely funny and witty, with Zelda creating as many problems for herself as she finds foisted upon her.

I think that the only real problem I had with it was that I never understood what the problem was with Janine – all of the potential love interests I liked her best, but I never quite understood what had happened to make this relationship unviable in Zelda’s mind? The closest we get is “Oh, I didn’t realise you were seeing someone,” which is apparently resolved by the time Bearly a Lady starts. Plus the book spends much more time dwelling on the two male love interests than it does on Janine, I guess because Janine is established as lovely and having a friendship in her own right with Zelda from the outset and the other two love interests are… Well, they sure are people that I could believe I’ve met and loathed.

(A thing I did appreciate is that Zelda’s sexual feelings for Janine are presented in the same way as her feelings for Benedict and Jake; I have read a surprising about of fiction with bisexual women in that treats attraction for women as a pure, chaste thing even when the attraction for men is written as sexual.)

The secondary characters are really well-drawn and Zelda’s relationships with them are different and great. In particular, the friendship between Zelda and her roommate, Zora, felt believable and fun; they bicker and bring out the best and worst in each other as best friends do. And the world building squeezed into the space of this novella is interesting – especially things like the enmity between vampires and fae, and the restrictions for shapeshifters.

The story is quite short – it’s novella length – and moves along very quickly, so if you’re looking for something fun to pass the time and you’re in the mood for supernatural romantic drama, Bearly A Lady is for you!

Caution warning: magical coercion.

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found writing for Hugo-winning media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.


Danika reviews Sugar Town by Hazel Newlevant

I knew I would like Sugar Town from the cover alone, and from the first page, it didn’t disappoint.

This is a queer, polyamorous, BDSM fluffy love story. Hazel is in an open relationship with her boyfriend, and she bumps into Argent, a confident and kind domme, at a party. They click instantly, and Argent helps Hazel learn more about negotiating polyamorous relationships. All of the relationships are so caring and gentle.

My favourite scene was probably the BDSM scene (which is pretty tame and mostly off-panel, if it concerns you). Argent is using a whip on Hazel when Hazel says “Hang on,” and Argent immediately stops, checks in, and finds out that Hazel pulled something in her back, though she was thoroughly enjoying the scene. They cuddle and watch cooking shows instead. It’s BDSM as a completely consensual, mutual, and even kind activity for partners to enjoy together. That’s something I very rarely see.

Do I keep using the word “kind”? I can’t help it. Sugar Town is a sweet, soft story. Everyone in it treats each other with respect and caring. They check in. They talk about their feelings. Hazel is still figuring out jealousy and other aspects of polyamory, but that’s okay. They’re not simmering underneath, they’re freely discussed. They’re not perfect–Argent mentions experiencing suicidal thoughts, Hazel is self-conscious and doubts herself–but they  are supportive of each other and the rest of the people in their lives, whether they’re friends or partners.

I also loved the art style, which reinforces that warm and welcoming feel. I want to crawl inside the pages and curl up there. This is definitely one of my rare 5 star ratings: I loved every panel, and I know I will return to it when I need something hopeful to dive into for a little while. What a treat.

Elinor reviews A Fairytale of Possibilities by Kiki Archer

British wedding planner Lauren is in the business of making dreams come true for other people. But in her own life she’s been pining over her straight best friend Rachel since they were teenaged university students together. In their eleven years of friendship, Lauren has drifted from girlfriend to girlfriend every several months while nursing her secret crush. Rachel, meanwhile, married the boyfriend she met at university, had a son and became a stay at home mom, and was widowed. It’s been two years since her husband died and Rachel decides she’s ready to get back out there–possibly with women. After so many years of fantasizing, though, making Lauren’s dreams real isn’t as easy as the fairytale she’s had in mind.

Lauren and Rachel’s friendship is full of banter and flirtation from the first pages of the novel and has the shared language of long-time friends. The pair’s conversations hooked me and are just plain fun to read. It made sense to me that Lauren didn’t want to risk a friendship that fulfilled her in so many ways by making advances she thought would be rejected. It also made sense that Rachel had more complicated feelings for her friend than she’d previously explored.

The characters shine in this book. I really appreciated that Rachel’s son Parker behaved like an actual kid. Writing children can be tough and I’ve read a few romance novels featuring single moms in which the kids are placeholders. Not so here. Parker is his own character. Plus Lauren has her own loving relationship with Parker, another thing she doesn’t want to risk. Rachel is a devoted mom doing the right things: taking her son to a grief support group, keeping him connected to her in-laws, trying to determine what’s best for him as she considers what she wants. Other highlights include Lauren’s ridiculous, but ultimately helpful, assistant Trudy, and Lauren’s absurd clients, whose relationships offer some unexpected lessons in love. Though Rachel’s pestering brother-in-law is a cartoonish antagonist and could be much more nuanced, he keeps the story moving along.

The obstacles in the way of the relationship develop, and are resolved, organically. Lauren’s competitiveness and Rachel’s conflict avoidance pop up throughout, so when these cause problems, it makes sense.  I appreciated that Rachel doesn’t have an identity crisis about her interest in women and that it’s Lauren’s idealizing that throws many a wrench in things. I also liked that Rachel’s late husband isn’t an afterthought, and he and his accidental death have an impact throughout the novel. Near the end this involves a pretty intense conversation that neither main character handles well. I thought this made sense and that a romance involving a relatively recent widow is going to have some painful moments. Also, a friendship as intertwined as Lauren and Rachel’s will have clashing perspectives and hidden fears about shared grief. It might be heavier than some readers want, though, especially because the rest of the book is quite light and at times pretty silly. I liked the angst near the end but if you don’t want that, skim this conversation and skip ahead a bit.

Overall, Archer combines great dialogue, occasional low-brow humor, and hot sex for a fun read.  This is a great easy read for lesbian romance fans.

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


Rebecca reviews Echo Point by Virginia Hale

Virginia Hale’s debut novel Echo Point is a quick and well-written read which packs substance and heat and has a sweet slow-build romance.

Our protagonist is Bron who, after many years away, has returned to Australia after her sister Libby’s death. Bron has spent the last three months trying to come to terms with her grief and her new role as the legal guardian to Libby’s young daughter, Annie. However, Libby’s best friend, Ally Shepherd, is soon released from jail and moves in with Bron and her family. At first, Bron does not trust Ally and does not understand the dedication that Ally inspires from Bron’s stepmother, Jackie and half-brother, Daniel. Ally and Bron seem like polar opposites but they soon grow to admire and depend upon each other as they take care of Annie and start forming a relationship with each other. This novel is quiet and isn’t heavily plot-driven at all but I think that really works here because the focus is on the well-developed characters and the familial and romantic relationships.

The romance between Bron and Ally is a comfortable slow-burn. They have known each other since they were young and Ally even has a longstanding crush on Bron. I really like that these women learn to appreciate each other as both people and lovers. I am also very appreciative of the fact that Bron and Ally act like adults and although there is ample tension and heat between them, the novel avoids unnecessary drama or angst. Most importantly, I like that their relationship encourages them both to grow as characters. I also admire the fact that Hale features a romance between older women (Bron is 40 and Ally is 33) because so many books tend to focus on younger characters.

This novel is much more than just a romance. Echo Point also sensitively and realistically explores family relationships, forgiveness and healing, and learning to cope with loss. Bron’s family is trying to live with Libby’s death while also supporting young Annie who deals with the loss of her mother and the changes in her life in a way that seem realistic for her age and situation. Meanwhile, Ally has many issues to deal with and she is attempting to readjust to life in society after her time in prison. I love the found family trope and I particularly like the positive and realistic way that Hale presents this concept through Bron’s family’s loving acceptance of Ally as well the actual dynamics of Bron’s family.

The characters in this book are memorable and well-developed. However, I think that perhaps Daniel and his girlfriend could have been trimmed for cohesiveness. I know that seemingly brash Ally who is actually very loyal and has a heart-of-gold will quickly become the favorite for many readers. But, I love quiet and conservative Bron because she is relatable as she attempts to manage the changes in her life as best as she can. Her struggles with balancing her ambitions and taking care of Annie are really well-done. Surprisingly, I also really like how Hale writes Bron’s six-year-old niece, Annie. I think that children are often written too maturely for their ages or overstay their welcome. But, I am pleasantly surprised at how sweet and realistic Annie is and her relationships with both Bron and Ally are heartwarming.

Echo Point is a great debut from Virginia Hale and I would definitely read it again. If you like well-written romances and realistic characters, add Echo Point to your to-read list!

Rebecca Cave is a Creative Writing student and freelance proofreader. Come say hi to her on her brand new blog: https://rebeccareviews.tumblr.com/  


Tierney reviews Perfect Rhythm by Jae

[Trigger warning for the death of a parent.]

When pop star Jenna Blake gets a call from her mom saying her dad has had a stroke, she returns home to her small hometown of Fair Oaks, Missouri for the first time in five years, and goes back to being Leontyne Blake once more. As she works on rebuilding her relationship with her parents, she begins to evaluate what exactly she wants from life–all while getting closer and closer to Holly, her former high school classmate and her dad’s stay-at-home nurse (small-town life, y’all). On her end, Holly goes from thinking Leo is a self-absorbed jerk, to counting her as a friend, then maybe more–but first she wants to make sure Leo knows that while she is romantically attracted to women, she is asexual.

It took me a while to get into Perfect Rhythm, but once I did, I was hooked. In part, it takes the novel a while to find its own perfect rhythm: some aspects of the plot and description seem clumsy, especially towards the beginning. Leo’s attraction towards Holly (and her body) seems over-the-top and heavy-handed: there are many descriptions of Leo noticing Holly’s “feminine curves” or doing things like accidentally resting a hand on Holly’s “nicely curved hips,” coupled with Leo spending an inordinate amount of time noticing the fact that Holly is not noticing her (or her body). I’m assuming this is supposed to be tied in with Holly’s asexuality, to contrast how they feel about each other, but it often doesn’t feel authentic (and, at times, Leo’s attitude towards Holly’s body even feels a little gross). The plot in general can also feel a little trite, with regards to how it follows the age-old rom-com story of a big star falling for a small-town girl’s down-to-earth attitude towards fame.

But ultimately I totally fell for the characters, and ended up falling for the plot too, after a bit of a rocky start: that rom-com trope is rejuvenated with a homoromantic asexual woman as half of the (queer!) pairing. The novel does an excellent job showcasing what intimacy and sensuality can look like without being attached to sex, while also depicting what sex can look like for an asexual person and an allosexual person (this particular chapter has a warning for readers who might want to skip a graphic sex scene). And the characters are excellent at modeling how partners with different expectations and needs can make a relationship work–regularly talking things out, stating what they need, being explicit about their boundaries (and accepting of their partner’s boundaries).

One of my romance novel pet peeves is characters who just can’t seem to talk to each other, but still somehow fall for one another and ride off into the sunset: once Holly and Leo stop operating off of their assumptions and spend time talking and listening to one another, they have a beautiful relationship that feels so very real to me. The story centers itself for the most part on Leo’s perspective, so Holly’s character is not quite as fleshed out, but Leo’s journey is absolutely moving and satisfying.

The plot of Perfect Rhythm is also pleasantly multifaceted: the main focus is on Leo’s growing relationship with Holly, and the associated obstacles along the way, but Jae depicts other facets of Leo’s life: her relationship with her family and small-town Fair Oaks, her unhappiness with her life of stardom, her father’s infirmity (and eventual death). It’s also a story of a queer woman coming back to her small hometown and finding more acceptance and happiness there that she could have thought possible, rewriting a common narrative that so often depicts the opposite, much like Rachel Spangler’s The Long Way Home (another excellent romance novel).

Perfect Rhythm is a sweet romance novel that, despite a perhaps shaky beginning, ultimately captivates the reader and showcases the blooming of a delightful relationship. It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you’re into romances that showcase not only a beautiful romance and lead-up to a relationship, but also the thoughtful communication that keeps relationships going. Swoon!

Elinor Zimmerman reviews A Little Bit of Spice by Georgia Beers

Kendall works at a microbrewery her brothers started and still lives on the property where she grew up in upstate New York. Part of her job marketing the family beer involves building relationships with clients and the line between her personal and professional lives is more than a little porous. She’s good at her job and she’s gearing up to get Old Red Barn Brewcrafters represented on the shelves of a regional supermarket chain, Hagan’s.

Andrea grew up in the same town and has worked hard since she was a teenager toward a single goal: managing her own Hagan’s store, ideally far away from New York winters. She’s posed to achieve her dream, but first she has to manage the beer division. The only problem is that she loathes beer and knows nothing about it.

Andrea and Kendall have run into each other socially and clashed on the volleyball court before she spots Kendall among the microbrewers vying for her attention. Even though the women have a history of nothing but mutual irritation, she gets Kendall to teach her about beer. When they start spending time together though, they find that underneath that annoyance is attraction. Yet each is a professional and neither wants to mess up her career with the conflict of interest a romance would entail. As they try to resist one another, their feelings only grow. Not long after Hagan’s has made its decision about beer and Andrea and Kendall are free to act on those feelings, Andrea’s offered her choice of stores to run–all of them out of state.

This was a pleasant romance and I really appreciated how, for the most part, Andrea and Kendall both acted like adults. They mostly made reasonable decisions and were responsible people. I loved that they both cared about their careers and work was an integral part of the story and significant for their characters. I liked both the main characters and their priorities made sense to me. Also, I learned some things about beer! I don’t like beer and see no future in which that changes, but if you like it or are interested in microbrewing that might be a highlight for you.

The biggest strength in this novel was the creation of meaningful, realistic obstacles to the character’s relationship. Andrea and Kendall respect each other’s values and ambitions, which pull them in different directions. Kendall’s work and all her meaningful relationships root her in place, while Andrea longs to move and her career benefits most if she does. This is a fantastic problem for a romance because it’s nuanced and doesn’t have an easy answer. Unfortunately, Beers didn’t explore this near the end as well as she set it up.

VAGUE SPOILERS! Despite the truly excellent groundwork for the final conflict in the story, it falls a bit flat near the end when one half of this couple isn’t honest about her feelings and self-sacrifices to do what she thinks is best for the other woman. Instead of a complex examination of how two people might balance their conflicting visions for their lives, we get a break up based on the all-too-common romance trope of lying in a misguided attempt to be noble. Then, of course, they are miserable apart and get back together and the real difficulties they face are resolved quite easily and without much emotional impact. I wish that both characters had said how they felt and the story had dived deeper into the clash between Andrea’s career and Kendall’s, between Andrea’s desire to move and Kendall’s deep ties to the area, and the difficulty of making big decisions about conflicts like this early in a relationship. END SPOILERS

Though the ending could have been richer, on the whole it was a solid romance and a fun read. If you like romance, this a good one for your reading list.

Elinor Zimmerman is the author of Certain Requirements, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books in Spring 2018. Her website is ElinorZimmerman.com

Susan reviews Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman cover. It shows an illustration of two women kissing and a cat playing with yarn.

Shira Glassman’s Knit One, Girl Two is a story about a yarn dyer who meets a local artist while searching for inspiration, and they fall in love over fandom, cats, and crafting—and it’s extremely cute!

Clara (the yarn dyer) and Danielle (the artist) are both really well drawn characters that I was immensely fond of almost immediately from their intros, and they felt very realistic! I really appreciated seeing a relationship that found its footing through fandom, where they exchange links to fanfic in the middle of the night and Danielle draws fanart, because not only did it feel immensely true to my experience, but it was super charming. (Plus, it contained references to knitting drama that I remember, and Archive Of Our Own, which delighted me.) And Clara at least was part of a local queer community! Fitting characters into a world that has other queer characters is the surest way to my heart.

Another thing that I liked was that the problems were all small-scale, plausible problems for a contemporary setting–a business expanding too fast, crafting accidents involving cats… I appreciate the way that the conflict of the story (such as it is) is resolved, and that Clara considered Danielle’s feelings first, before she took any actions; I was honestly bracing for the worst so two characters using their words to resolve a problem was so nice and refreshing.

(Especially refreshing: Danielle is fat, and this isn’t treated like a problem, or a thing that needs to be discussed at length–she just gets to be stylish and an artist!)

My only complaints about Knit One, Girl Two is that the reveal of Danielle’s problem seemed a little sudden, and there are some places where the tone didn’t flow well. But those are very minor niggles for the amount of enjoyment I got out of it. Like Humanity For Beginners, it is a generally cheerful story that reads quickly and brightened my day.

If you want a cute, heart-warming story about two artists falling in love and talking about fandom, or if you want to read about crafters and artists struggling to work, I definitely recommend Knit One, Girl Two.

This review is based off a copy provided by The Lesbrary.

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found writing for Hugo-winning media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.