Kristi reviews Turn for Home by Lara Zielinsky

Turn For Home is the sequel to Turning Point (which was reviewed last month). The book begins after the holiday break for Time Trails, the sci-fi series that both Cassidy and Brenna star on. Trying to find time to continue building their relationship is full of pitfalls: not only do Brenna’s sons give her the cold-shoulder, but as well-known actresses, trying to hide from the reporters and photographers on their tails is all but impossible.  When Cassidy’s abusive ex-husband, Mitch arrives on the scene, the doors are thrown wide-open, leaving the women to face the challenge of surviving under the microscope of Hollywood.

Compared to its prequel, Turning PointTurn for Home moves at a much faster clip. This is an action-and-reaction based storyline, as opposed to the relationship discovery of the first book. When their relationship becomes public, Brenna and Cassidy must both face shocked and angry people in their lives. When Brenna is forced to give a statement to the press by the show’s producers, she experiences first-hand the animosity that some have toward gays and lesbians. For Cassidy it hits even closer to home as she once again must deal with her conservative, self-righteous father and passive mother. Zielinsky demonstrates that with the bad comes the good, as support comes at the hands of not only cast and crew on the show, but in smaller figures as a patient rights advocate. Brenna’s relationship with her sons and their activities is another focus of this book. While it becomes a nice plot device to bring Cassidy back into the boys’ good graces by having her act as the go-between for Brenna and her younger son, James, I found the sequence of events seemed more to tie the characters together neatly towards the end than any other reason. The active storylines overshadow most of the romance and emotion that was evident in Turning Point, but I believe still presents a relationship that is building itself in the face of adversity and self-recognition for both Cassidy and Brenna.

Turn for Home is an fast but engaging read. While not as romantic as its predecessor, it is one that will pack a punch for those who pick it up. It is a book of a new relationship that has to survive many obstacles, and many will recognize the love – or the pain – to connect to from their own experiences.

Kristi reviews Turning Point by Lara Zielinsky

Hollywood has its stars: as one begins to fall, another is there to shine. Cassidy Hyland has gotten the cold shoulder from her co-star on the hit sci-fi show Time Trails, Brenna Lanigan, for long enough. Hoping that her son’s birthday party will find a way to spark a connection between them, Cassidy has no idea that she will find herself longing for much more than a friendship with Brenna. From the warmth of an surprise hug to the heat on a sunlit mountain top, learning about each other brings Brenna and Cassidy closer to a truth – and a love – they never expected to find.

In Turning Point, Lara Zielinsky highlights two women who find themselves on opposite sides of the acting divide: Brenna is approaching the “over-the-hill” status that actresses over 40 find themselves facing; Cassidy is the younger, gorgeous woman brought in to bring a fresh face and look to the series. After a period of time of aloofness, Cassidy uses her son’s birthday party to show Brenna that she is a good person, sparking more than a truce in their dealings with each other.

The friendship that grows between the two women is born of work and motherhood, but the attraction is there from the beginning, more so for Cassidy. As she tries to figure out what draws her to Brenna, she works on disentangling herself from both her issues with her abusive ex-husband and her relationship with show writer Cameron, which puts her in more and more uncomfortable positions on set. Brenna’s second marriage to upcoming politician Kevin Shea was a fast decision and one that does not provide Brenna the stability she expected it to bring. The emotional connection between the two is tenuous at best, living and working long-distance. Brenna’s sons still refer to him as “Mr. Shea” even after a year.

At first I was concerned about how slow the story seemed to be progressing. Hollywood is full of “in bed in fifteen minutes” storylines, as are lesbian romances. After finishing the book, I realized that I knew so much about these two women and how they deal with their changing feelings. While the story take a long time to build, readers get to see not only the development of Brenna and Cassidy’s relationship, but glimpses into their lives as actresses and mothers. The plot uses some devices that seem a little far-fetched: both women travel to the same store in all of Los Angeles to shop for their fateful camping trip, Cameron catches the two in a kiss and immediately wonders if “Cassidy will let him watch”. Even with those trite moments, the growing love between the two, and the self-reflection that it causes them both, is sure to touch a memory in many readers’ minds. It certainly did mine.

Turning Point is a slow but steady heart-felt story of two women discovering their feelings for each other. Decorated in the glitter of stardom, it is the people behind the television characters that have to strip away the artifice to find the love they really want.

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.