JJ Taylor reviews Split City Waltz (Morgan Investigations #1) by Ada Redmond

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Split-City Waltz takes places in a futuristic London where society has become sharply divided, philosophically and physically. Above-ground in the shiny Metropolis live everyone embracing technology that tracks and reports everything about their lives. Below, in the old underground network, live the network of people rejecting constant, invasive monitoring.

Allyn Morgan lives topside, working as a PI after being fired from her position as security chief because of a mysterious event that left her with major cybernetic reconstructive surgery. Allyn is a plucky and smart heroine, though just foolish enough to do a favor for an ex who she already suspects is working her. She ends up in deep trouble, and the only one who can help is the hacker, Terminal, a resident of the underground. This isn’t a romance so much as a How We Met story, with Terminal remaining mysterious throughout. Though she earns Allyn’s trust through their adventure. The penny waiting to drop is whether or not they’ll ever see each other again after they resolve their mutual problem.

Split City Waltz has excellent world-building, crafting a believable cultural shift that split the city into two groups – those who are tracked and those who forcibly removed their trackers in an event seared into the collective memory. It’s is a fast-paced, tech-filled run of break-ins and general sneaking around.

The only problem is that it was 15,000 words long and I was expecting a novel. Shame on me, honestly, for not checking the word count, but this isn’t the first time I’ve been fooled by this shape of a story in this genre. Can we give it a name? The short prequel? A novellatroduction? It’s too big a world for a short story, because it’s meant to be introducing a larger universe, and in this case, a series. But it’s too small to be a stand-alone. You’re left wanting by design.

I was three-quarters of the way into it when I realized it was almost done! Credit to Ada Redmond for keeping me on the wild ride, but it brought me up short when I realized we weren’t getting anything more than the set-up for a romance.

Sequel-delayed gratification makes sense, since Allyn is still working through her issues with her ex. The majority of scenes were action, so there was little time for Terminal and Allyn to even be in a room together, nevermind flirt. Terminal does hack directly into Allyn’s ear, so that was badass and a great opportunity for uncomfortable intimacy, but Allyn’s mission to find out Who Burned Michael Weston who set her up kept us moving forward. All romance had to wait. For the next book.

Read Split City Waltz if you love cyber-enhancements, hackers, the brains and the muscle pairing set-ups (Definitely recommended for fans of Person of Interest’s Shaw/Root!), and world-building of a future society that seems pretty plausible. But beware that it’s fast and short, and you’ll have to be patient for the next installment of Allyn and Terminal’s story.

Shira Glassman reviews Date with Destiny by Mason Dixon

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Date with Destiny is a Black lesbian thriller–written by a Black woman, prolific author Yolanda Wallace writing under the name Mason Dixon–set in the banking industry of Savannah, Georgia. Rashida, the lead, is a driven, frugal Black bank executive who has risen to the top of the bank her grandmother once cleaned as a janitor. Her work-oriented but lonely life is headed for a collision course with the unemployed, blue-collar Destiny, who she meets at a coffeeshop one morning. Is finding Destiny a job at her bank a worthy act of kindness or a dangerous temptation? After all, the bank has strict policies against workplace dating–but Destiny’s sexuality is practically a force of nature.

There’s a lot more going on here than I can even describe without spoiling the plot, so this is a good bet for you if you like twists, suspense, and intrigue. I’d even say it’s reminiscent of movies like Memento and The Usual Suspects, including the way Dixon employs the device of showing the same scene through different character’s eyes. (Some readers may find some of the repetition tedious, so feel free to skim through it looking for the new information.)
As a beautiful old city, Savannah makes a wonderful backdrop for the story’s dramatics. This obviously won’t apply to readers outside the coastal South but it’s fun getting to read an adventure and recognize all the places from real life instead of from other works of fiction–Richmond Hill? I can picture the highway exit. I know what I-16 is.
I found the prose well-paced and easy to breeze through; I read the book pretty rapidly over a weekend and never got bogged down or bored. There’s some negative messaging about closeted vs. non-closeted queer people that I didn’t agree with — we still live in a world that sometimes necessitates closets, sadly — but it wasn’t a loud enough message to significantly tarnish my reading experience. There’s representation of lesbians who have endured family rejection and moved on, recognizing the event without wallowing in it as tragedy porn.
I’m not sure how I feel about the ultimate ending of the book; I do want the ending the author gave us, but I would have preferred being more convinced about it. That scene in particular I think would have been more effective on film. However, I do like the fact that Rashida was finally enjoying herself after a lifetime of workworkwork and having to overachieve to overcome misogynoir. She deserves it after working so hard and what the plot put her through.

Date with Destiny is full of sensuality between women and eventually love but it’s not entirely a romance; it’s a thriller that will be more fun for the reader if they go in expecting a wild ride.

Mfred reviews This is Devin Jones by Kristen Conrad

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Oh, hey. Were you looking for a book about a lesbian badass MacGuyver-ing herself out of tight situations while taking out the bad guys and saving the world? Then you should read This is Devin Jones by Kristen Conrad.

Former model and actress turned Beverly Hills Police Detective Devin Jones is on the blind date from hell. Hoping to escape the emotional aftermath of a newly ended relationship, she agrees to a date to the Hollywood Screen Awards. While the date goes badly, it’s a good thing Jones is at the show. A madman interrupts the broadcast, taking a group of famous actors hostage. He starts killing them off one by one in front of the cameras while demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom money from the horrified public. The only person left who can take him on? Devin Jones.

So, it turns out Devin Jones is the greatest cop that the LAPD has ever seen.

When the door opened — everything happened in a flash. As one guy came in, Devin grabbed his arm, bent it backwards, dislocating his shoulder and as he went down palmed his gun, flipped it into her hand and used it to shoot the other guy in the heart as he aimed his gun at her, his finger milliseconds from pulling the trigger. (Loc 1545)

Not only can she take on a whole league of bad guys all on her own, she can turn a disposable camera into a taser, even hot wire a car, all while wearing a Prada dress and Dolce & Gabbana heels. Also, if you haven’t figured it out yet, she is incredibly attractive. I’m not entirely sure what kind of cop school Devin went to, but she learned some incredible fighting and sleuthing skills.

The best part of this book is how enjoyable it is, especially given how far-fetched the plot gets. Conrad writes cinematically, the action leaping off the page. The situation is urgent, the death count growing, and Devin is without weapons or backup. But she is smart and savvy and uses everything around her to her advantage. The book is a lot of fun and it is particularly enjoyable to watch a woman competently and confidently kick ass and take names. There is even time amidst all the chaos for a little romance!

The characters don’t have a lot of depth, it’s true.  And while the story is thrilling, it is never very suspenseful. The mystery unravels pretty quickly. But this isn’t meant to be a particularly complex or deep story; it’s entertaining, exciting and delightfully over the top.

Korri reviews Petticoats and Promises by Penelope Friday

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I love historical romance novels, especially those featuring women who love women (see Pembroke Park). The high stakes of that love when women could not earn a living and had to secure their livelihoods and social position through strategic marriages automatically creates tension and drama. Petticoats and Promises, a Regency romance by Penelope Friday, is a mostly entertaining read in that genre.

A few weeks before their joint coming out ball, Serena Coleridge is astonished to realize that she is in love for her best friend, Clara Battersley, and that the feeling is mutual. As the young women discuss the fact that their debut is an announcement of availability on the marriage market, Serena confesses that she cannot imagine loving someone as much as she does Clara. Their tête-à-tête is interrupted that afternoon but their feelings do not remain unspoken for long; soon the girls share passionate kisses and sensual encounters. On the eve of their coming out ball, Serena’s father’s stocks plummet, leaving no money for a season. Serena does not mind the loss of the social whirl – she is more concerned about losing access to her beloved. An invitation to visit the Coleridges in London is the perfect excuse for Clara and Serena to be together – until they are caught by Clara’s mother, who sends Serena home in disgrace. The rest of the novel follows the aftermath as Serena is cut off from Clara, who quickly marries; deals with her parents’ sorrow and mortification; and navigates the turbulent waters of society. She is sponsored in town by her Aunt Hester and becomes friends with the awkward but kind Mr. Feverley and Miss Kate Smith, another “invert,” which helps her to heal.

Penelope Friday doesn’t try to imitate Jane Austen (or Georgette Heyer imitating Jane Austen) – she allows Serena Coleridge’s first person narration to render acute observations about social interactions and give readers a glimpse of what life was like in the Regency period. Friday is good at depicting the constraints of the era – never being alone or having time to oneself without servants or parents around, the need to abide by rules and strictures of good breeding. The problem with such insularity, of course, is that the novel focuses solely on Serena’s internal emotional life and yearning for Clara, without the cutting wit and sense of irony that makes Jane Austen’s writing so beloved. Since Clara and Serena share so much history then spend most of the novel apart, it can be difficult to feel invested in them as a couple. The endless misunderstandings between Serena and Clara are another issue with the novel; if only they spoke openly and thoroughly, their happily ever after could have come much sooner. But there is a happily ever after indeed!

 

Susan reviews “i love this part” by Tillie Walden

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i love this part is a graphic novel by Tillie Walden, which effectively serves as snapshots of the romance and relationship between two American schoolgirls. It was described to me as a sweet queer romance… Which is half right.

For the most part, it’s simple and straightforward. The two girls are in love, and spend their days doing homework together or listening to music and playing on their computers and talking about their families and hopes for the future! There are some really interesting style choices here though. For example, the girls aren’t actually named for most of the book; I’ve been calling them Elizabeth and Rae based off a panel showing Elizabeth’s email inbox towards the end, but that might not actually be right. The spelling and capitalisation sometimes becomes text-speak during dialogue in a way that I think is deliberate but can’t be sure of. But the format of the story is what’s really novel; it’s not structured as a traditional comic! It’s a collection of one-page illustrations that tell a story individually and sequentially, and by necessity it’s done slowly and in pieces.

On the topic of the art; it’s pretty good! It’s predominantly monochromatic, with purple or grey washes for colour. The application of colour feels thematic to me — the flashbacks to how Elizabeth and Rae met and grew close are in grey, with more purple creeping in the closer they get to each other. The backgrounds are really well done; whether it’s nature or buildings, the backgrounds are really detailed and well put together. The art does some really cool things with scale as well — when Elizabeth and Rae are happy and together, they’re drawn like giants, doing their homework against the rooftops of buildings and leaning against mountains to listen to music. It read to me as a good visual way of representing how much bigger their emotions make them feel, or possibly how everything that isn’t them seem smaller and less important. (I have to admit, I really enjoy how, despite there being no other people visible when the girls are together — there are people before they get together, but after that they’re a world of two — the art still makes them feel like they’re part of the world; this change of scale and positioning contributes to that.) The way that both girls seem to shrink or the world gets bigger as the story goes on is such a good continuation of this theme. And the use of empty or silent panels (landscapes with no people, or panels of the girls not talking) works well to show time passing and contrast the spaces Elizabeth and Rae filled with each other.

Where the Much of the characterisation is handled in the same way — we learn that Elizabeth is Jewish, for example, and Rae has a stepmother she doesn’t get on with, that both of the girls play music and love instruments — but that information is parcelled out in dribs and drabs. They’re both believable teenage girls! And their love for music is really clear, even though we’re not told what music they listen to; it’s not like The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal where the songs they’re listening to are as important as what’s going on in the page, but music is part of how Elizabeth and Rae bond and relate to each other and show their feelings, and it’s really cute.

But I need to explain that “half right”, don’t I. There will be spoilers from here-on out, I’m afraid, so for anyone who wants to go into the book mostly unspoiled: I have some mixed feelings about this book, based on the second half of it, but everyone lives. Most of it is the very sweet, peaceful story with a cute romance that I was promised! I just don’t think that the last third of it lives up to that.

See, about a third of the way through, cracks start showing in Elizabeth and Rae’s relationship. There are panels where neither of them appear (the time passing that I mentioned earlier), or where they fight about boundaries. There’s a panel where they ask each other “Do you think we’ll ever be able to tell anyone?” and conclude “Probably not,” There are panels of Elizabeth waiting for Rae, asking if she’ll be there soon — and Rae never replying. All of which culminates in Rae breaking up with Elizabeth.

Points to Tillie Walden; the way that she handled the relationship and its ending is wrenching. The panels of them arguing, and the panels of them after the break-up are genuinely affecting and thoughtful. Tillie Walden makes good choices with how she handles it; both girls are clearly broken-hearted, even Rae, and the choice she made to have the pages of them at their happiest while they were together facing the panels where they’re sobbing after they’re broken up is really effective. (Yes, guess where the titlular panel falls.) Plus, everything about it — including Rae sending a mixtape! — rings as plausible to me. But for however well it’s handled, I have two major problems with this. The first is that I am really ready for people to stop trying to sell me on queer romances where the main couple don’t make it to the end for whatever reason. We did our time on that trope, I am ready for it to be laid to rest! The second is why they break up.

See, Rae instigates the break-up because “I’m not… Like you. This — this is wrong.” And even if it’s later clarified a little more (I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you. but im just not ready for this rn” [sic]. And for some reason — perhaps the space of format of the book was a limit — that’s just… Left there. There’s no rebuttal, there’s no exploration, there is just a teenage girl whose internalised homophobia is cutting her heart to ribbons, and the story leaves her there. No matter how well i love this part handles everything else, that is disappointing.

I honestly have difficulty summing up how I feel about this one. On a technical and emotional level, I can’t fault it. The art and the way it handles its characters emotions are pretty good, and I really enjoyed the way it presented the story it was telling! However, the story that it was telling was one that is really familiar to me in its beats and structure, and no matter how well done it is, I’m not sure I need that story again.

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-nominated media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Julie Thompson reviews You’re The Most Beautiful Thing That Happened by Arisa White

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Arisa White’s newest poetry collection, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, plumbs the depths of what it means to exist in the world as queer, female, a person of color, and beyond. She undresses a multitude of topics, including race, family, and relationships. The collection offers tender, tumultuous, and light moments.

In the introduction, White shares how a Wikipedia page full of translated terms for gay provided the initial inspiration for this work. She discovered “how sexist the language was, the fear of the feminine, how domestic, how patriarchal, how imaginative, and the beauty [she] discovered when [she] paused to wonder about the humanity inside these words and phrases” (Introduction, 9). Notes on the origins for poems titled with derogatory terms and cultural references are located at the end of the collection.

The collection draws its title from the poem “When They Say” (WTS), a poem filled with strong, intense imagery and challenging questions. “Gun(n) for Sakia Gunn” speaks to the 2003 murder of Sakia Gunn, a lesbian teenager from Newark, New Jersey. “Kokobar”, one of my favorites because of how White draws out the inherent beauty in everyday transactions and interactions, is the name of “the first cybercafé owned and operated by African American women” in Brooklyn, New York. Bullets, obsession, and mangled love, create a new constellation (“Hold Your Part of a Deal”). Infidelity becomes a rotten orchard (“Dirty Fruit”).

I could wax poetic about how much I love explorations of existence and identity through words-sounds-syllables. How culture, age, and history flavor the words that leave our lips. How fluid and malleable words and their meanings are and how translations can’t and don’t necessarily bridge the gap between multiple words. Before starting this review, I read and re-read the poems, both silently and aloud. You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is a collection that will stay with you for a long time.

You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened is available October 11, 2016 from Small Press Distribution.

Jess van Netten reviews Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton

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Poppy Jenkins is a refreshing lesbian romance with authentic characters and a wonderful sense of humour. Prior to reading this, I was at our local public library with my wife, whinging about how I wanted a whimsical Euro-romance in the style of Maeve Binchy or the more modern Cecilia Ahern. To my delight, I got all of the Welsh whimsy I could ever want in my reading of Poppy Jenkins.

Clare Ashton writes delightful, detailed characters throughout Poppy Jenkins. Both the protagonist, Poppy, and her childhood crush, Roslyn, are fleshed out (quite literally!) with strengths, weaknesses and character development and feel both realistic and romanticised. In fact, the physical descriptions craft a vivid, living mental image of moving body parts, the Welsh country side and small town communities. I felt all at once a spectator and part of the community as I laughed along with the local side stories that are littered throughout the novel. Poppy’s family, including her quirky mother, quick grandma and youthful little sister, interact naturally throughout the plot, adding depth and colour instead of just being placeholders.

I won’t speak much about the plot itself; girl meets childhood crush again later in life – will they spark up again? There is underlying current of chemistry between Poppy, the out lesbian, and Roslyn, the seemingly straight friend, that moves the story along at varying speeds. At times, it reaches fever pitch, with sexual innuendoes providing very funny conversations between the leads. I laughed out loud many a time, explaining little plot points to my wife as though talking about my friends.

I loved the lighthearted yet genuine plot and i devoured this book. It has been some time since I have read such a well written lesbian romance, that treats its characters as more then stereotypes or cliches. I have already sought out Clare Ashton’s other books and look forward to delving deep into her other worlds. Thank you Clare for your wonderful novel; for treating the lesbian leads as real characters and making the love scenes genuine. You have set a new standard for me to compare all other lesbian books to!

Lauren reviews The Beast at the Door by Althea Blue

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Confession: I’m new to steampunk-themed fiction. Therefore, I was excited to fall into The Beast at the Door— tagged as a steampunk fairy tale.

Immediately, the author (Althea Blue) hits readers with a big dose of pathos, which is delivered by the teenage protagonist, Patience.

Patience lives in a cage. A cage constructed of rigid decorum, never-ending pretense, and swift punishment. She’s prodded by rules and subdued by her family’s wealth. Despite the lavish lifestyle she’s afforded, Patience is drowning in a world that stifles her voice and potential.

When Patience’s parents surprise her with an arranged marriage, she finds the courage to set herself free. She flees from home and embarks on a rough journey with a dash of danger until she stumbles upon a garden and the lure of sanctuary. Out of desperation and survival, Patience resorts to behaviors short of her moral code.

Blue sprinkles tiny nuggets of foreshadowing, but they come later in the plot—mainly due to the story’s very slow pacing. Nearly halfway into the book, Blue drops a golden nugget before her reader’s eyes. The enticing hint comes during a low moment of Patience’s journey and propels the heart of The Beast at the Door into a coming-of age-story.

Saving plot spoilers, romance lands at Patience’s feet when she least expects it, which grants her refuge in the form of emotional freedom. This feeds my favorite aspect of the story. Patience’s vulnerability is authentic and bubbles over into the thrills of young adulthood, budding love, and friendship.

The newfound freedom works to Patience’s advantage by making her a relatable character; however, this book lightly treads on steampunk. The most tangible steampunk element hinges upon a single character, Ada. Other subgenre-related characteristics (i.e., the setting and time period) are captured in the story, but they are secondary to Ada’s role and don’t necessitate Patience’s development. The fairy tale element was steeped in the main characters’ overall cheerful dispositions and the essence of oral storytelling (which is mimicked in the writing style), but stunted by the story’s realism.

Granted, I’m .5 of an ounce biased. Maybe I was in the mood for a sprinkle of fantasy where I’m transported to a slightly alternate world. Or, maybe I was in the mood for a gritty European subculture. But hey, isn’t that the beauty of fiction? Readers indulge, digest, and then regurgitate all sorts of thoughts and feelings from a single story.

With that said, if you’re in search of weighty speculative fiction, The Beast at the Door may not satiate your curiosities. You’ll need a meatier portion of steampunk. However, this novella will be a delightful read for those who seek dashes of lesbian and steampunk flavors.

Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, “The Dawn of Nia.” Outside of reading and writing, she volunteers as a child advocate and enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.

 

Mfred reviews Slow Burn in Tuscany by Giselle Fox

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What a sweet and emotional book! Slow Burn in Tuscany by Giselle Fox is light on plot but heavy on love and romance.

Recently divorced, Brianna decides to take a tour of Italy with her best friend. Amazingly, her high school nemesis, Madison Blake, shows up on the same tour. Brianna discovers some shocking truths about the past and it turns out Madison isn’t quite the bad person she remembers. Instead, a growing attraction blossoms between them and they find themselves falling in love. As Brianna gets to know Madison better, she is forced to make a difficult decision about how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

Fox is a good writer with a strong command of language. She writes lyrically about both the growing love between Madison and Brianna and the beautiful Italian scenery. As someone who has traveled to Italy, I felt very immersed in the setting Fox created.   

We reached for the door handle at the same time and our hands brushed in mid-air. They settled against the handle together, hers on top of mine. I held my breath as I heard the softest moan escape her lips. She picked up my hands and held it a moment. Then, pressed it to her chest. I could feel her heart pounding, fast and hard against my palm.

“That’s just from looking at you,” she whispered. (Loc 1338)

Brianna and Madison are both fleshed out characters with their own motivations, wants, and desires. As the love grows between the two women, their seemingly implausible relationship (high school enemies reunited after 18 years!) grows naturally under Fox’s steady hand. Although the transition from enemy to friend to lover happens rather quickly, it never felt rushed or false.

The only criticism I have is that there isn’t much of a plot. The story is focused intensely on the emotional journey of each woman, both apart and together. The romance is sweet and the sex is plentiful and hot, like a good romance novel should be. But not much actually happens. They travel, they eat, they fall in love, they eat some more (it is Italy after all), they break up and come back together. If you are in the mood for an emotional exploration of a relationship between two women set in beautiful Italy, then this is the book for you.

Aoife reviews two Puppy Love romances by Georgia Beers

rescued heart georgia beers cover   Georgia Beers Run To You

Georgia Beers’ new Puppy Love series centres around Junebug Farm, a no-kill animal shelter in upstate New York, and the people that work there. While the series features a recurring cast of characters, each book focuses on a single couple – though Beers chose to diversify the POVs in the second book, which was I choice I found I didn’t mind, as it adds to the rather cinematic feel. It’s something I’d watch on TV or on Netflix if I wanted something fluffy and romantic. Rescued Heart, book one, follows the relationship of Lisa, the shelter intake and adoptions officer, and Ashley, a baker who volunteers at the farm; Run to You, book two, looks at Catherine, the shelter accountant, and Emily, a donor and volunteer. It’s also a little Christmassy.

Overall, I liked both, and I’d be happy to read another, but I wouldn’t be devastated if I didn’t. The setting was a big draw for me – puppies and romances? Yes. And Beers doesn’t disappoint on that front – there are lots of adorable dogs and cats, and I liked that there was a little dig into how a shelter like that might manage to run. It’s pretty obviously written by an animal lover, and I’m into that. Personally, out of all the animals, I fell in love the most with a dog that didn’t get much page time (Dave) because I’m a sucker for pit bulls. While they’re part of the same series, they’re written differently, each with its merits. I’d say best overall was probably Run to You, but I can see how others might choose otherwise.

Rescued Heart starts slow, with a professional relationship that turns sweet, each person bringing out new sides in the other. A big theme in these books is trust, and Lisa doesn’t have a lot of it. She’s holding tightly to some family issues, which have made her closed off and a bit controlling in both her professional and personal lives. Ashley, on the other hand, is bubbly, but passive, stuck in a semi-relationship with a sweet girl because she can’t bring herself to do anything about it. Lisa unknowingly brings her out of her shell a bit, and the interplay between Lisa’s need for control and Ashley’s increasing dominance is interesting. Beers doesn’t act like Lisa and Ashley are the only people in each’s respective life, which I liked. Friends and family pop in and out, and the tone of their interactions is deliciously gossipy.

Probably the most important thing about Rescued Heart is that it doesn’t follow the typical romance structure of building up to a crisis point so there can be satisfying resolution – and if it does, it does so half-heartedly. This could be because I was a little bored by the book, but I actually kind of liked it – I’m an anxious person, and high stakes make me tense. I do wonder if I might have liked it better had I known that going in. That’s not to say that there’s no drama, it just doesn’t build up to something huge.

It’s not super tightly written, Lisa and Ashley felt a little flat to me, and some people might not be into its structure, but it’s a nice book. As I mentioned, though, I did get a little bored with it, and I’m pretty sure that’s mostly down to the sex. It was fine and everything, it just wasn’t great. I didn’t tap into their chemistry the whole time, and like – you’re both in your thirties. Is this really oh my god the best sex you’ve ever had, you’ve never felt anything like this before, no one’s touch has done this to you, etc.? Really? It’s fine, it was just a little too clichéd for me. This is something I felt with both books, although probably a little more with the first. Again, this is probably mostly a personal preference thing, and I’m sure most people would have no objections.

Run to You is more tightly written, and much more of a slow burn. Emily is the representative of a family company that donates the bulk of the shelter income, and Catherine is the accountant. It’s inappropriate, definitely not professional, and very obviously something that they’re going to enter into – bonus point for a classic ‘we shouldn’t’ while kissing. This book was less on the normal-life friendship, but more on the workplace friendship (I’m saying now that I think the third book will focus of Jessica, the head of Junebug) (there are an improbable amount of wlw working at this shelter, but I like it). As I mentioned earlier, there’s more diversity in perspective here; RH had only two POVs, but RtY has maybe five? I’ll say five. This one is probably better paced, with a more dramatic arc (hello, crisis point), with well-strung tension. While Ashley is probably the most endearing character of the four – she smells like cupcakes – Emily’s my second favourite. Both Lisa and Catherine are more emotionally closed off, and while that makes for interesting romantic dynamics, it’s just not a hugely appealing quality. Also Emily is the one with the pit bull and leather jacket, so she’s ticking a lot of my boxes. One issue I did have is that RtY is not super well edited – ‘ascent’ used instead of ‘assent’, etc. Nothing major, but it did pull me out of the story at moments.

As I said, I enjoyed both, and while they’re maybe not the most gripping of reads, they’re light and fun and sweet, with a decent dose of adorable animals, and a guaranteed happy ending. If you like your fluffy reads, you’ll probably enjoy the series. It’s a little white, and there’s not much in the way of representation for anyone other than the L in LGBTQIA, but if that’s not going to bother you, I’d go ahead! They’re better than the covers make them look, I promise.

There aren’t any huge trigger warnings for these two, though there’s a bit of sexual harassment which had the potential to turn into assault in Rescued Heart. I wouldn’t read the series if you’re trying not to drink? There’s a lot of wine.

This and other reviews by Aoife can also be found at https://concessioncard.wordpress.com/.