Lawrence Block isn’t known for his lesbian romances, but the novelty factor of the mystery author’s name showing up on an LGBT-tagged book in my Oyster suggestions was enough to make me give this a try. Block wrote a few lesbian romances under the name Jill Emerson, but these were written way back in the day, and he’s not pursued this line of writing into the present day.
The writing is fine. Where modern readers will disconnect, particularly younger ones, is the basic scene. Warm and Willing’s e-cover is updated, and its publication date refers to e-publication date, but it takes only a few pages for the reader to realize that the story is not taking place in this century. The print book was published in 1964, and the story is set in New York City in the Village. Casual racism and xenophobia haven’t been excised from the text. Although not excessive, these things are certainly present, distancing the reader from a distinct point in time.
Rhoda has just had her two-year marriage annulled and is living on her own. She married too early, and it didn’t work out at all. She’s not sure why things didn’t work, but she’s much happier on her own, with her little apartment and her job selling curios. And then one day Megan comes in looking for a present for a friend. And Rhoda’s catapulted into a world she never anticipated. And her life truly begins.
Block’s stereotyping of the LGBT community seems at times more like a sociology primer; he walks Rhoda through learning about basic social conventions and lesbian rituals, and her response is generally, “Goodness, I have a lot to learn.” I found this an interesting curiosity of a period piece, but it’s not hugely satisfying as a romance. Rhoda searches for self, stumbles, comes to realizations, has renewed sense of purpose. That’s pretty much it. The book is very light on explicit sexuality, but please note trigger warnings for self-harm (not Rhoda, but an acquaintance). I finished the book exceedingly grateful to be in 2015.