Islay reviews Turning Point by Lara Zielinsky

Turning Point is a sexy, sweet bit of fluff, with surprisingly believable characters and some twists and turns in the plot that are just about enough to keep you reading for something other than the inevitable sex scenes. The real strength of the novel is definitely in Zielinsky’s characterisation. All of her characters feel like substantial individuals in their own right, which is rare for a romance novel, where typically all of the energy spent on the romantic leads leaves little room for anyone else to be developed.

The characterisation is further strengthened by smooth, well-written dialogue and the interaction between our two heroines – Cassidy and Brenna – in particular is compelling. Zielinsky certainly knows how to write characters with chemistry.

The novel is let down somewhat by its pacing. The plot takes around 140 pages to truly start to thicken, and if I hadn’t known that this was a lesbian romance I would have spent most of those 140 pages wondering what the hell the story was about. There was nothing set up at the beginning to suggest that anything about these characters’ lives is worth sticking around to read about. It seems that Cassidy, the younger lead, is having vague issues with an ex-husband and may or may not be feeling left out by her colleagues at work, but there is no initial concrete crisis or dilemma with which the reader can engage. Zielinsky gives us no reason to keep reading beyond our expectations of smut – and if all I wanted was smut, I’d be on the internet looking up porn, not reading a book.

My feeling is that the author is over-reliant on the conventions of the romance genre to do the work of keeping the reader engaged for her. If I wasn’t already primed to look for the two female leads and then spend the entire novel anticipating their get-together, I wouldn’t have known that this was a story about Brenna and Cassidy falling in love until almost a third of the way through. Obviously, this is problematic.

The plot does eventually manage to gather pace in the chapters following an incident in which Cassidy’s son temporarily disappears from a store and the chemistry between Cassidy and her counterpart Brenna starts to tell. However, even after that, the build-up to the get-together is scattered and hesitant – I felt like it lacked a certain coherency and thus real believability was lost. It’s sad that, because of the pacing issues, the narrative fails to create real romantic tension between Brenna and Cassidy until only a chapter or so before they act on their desires, because the characters themselves are compelling. The get-together was also very pretty – Zielinksy knows how to write her sex scenes.

The bottom line is that Zielinsky can clearly write. What she struggles with in this novel is actually telling the story. There’s nothing wrong with her technical ability, but this novel just needed a stronger overarching narrative and a hook at the beginning to pull the reader in.