Sponsored Review: Danika reviews Wet Paint by Sera Breen


Wet Paint is a fun, light romance novella, which would be perfect for a beach read (too bad that’s a bit out of season now). It plays into typical romance tropes, describing characters’ appearances in detail (who are all breathtakingly beautiful, of course), and sets up the free spirit artist who has just gotten out of a bad relationship with the “bad girl” soccer star who leaves a trail of broken hearts in her wake. But of course, our heroine makes her question her womanizing ways. Sure, it’s not unheard of, but it’s fun, especially in that it’s a lesbian romance novel that follows typical romance novel tropes, not getting bogged down in coming out stories or dealing with homophobia. It’s the same slightly contrived reasons for staying apart that drives straight romance novels, that is pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in a fluffy weekend read.

One thing I appreciated in Wet Paint was that both the main characters, Savannah and Dulce, have lesbian best friends. Lesbians being friends! Lesbian community! Hooray! They also seemed like whole characters, with hobbies and passions and backstories and family. As much as they may fall into tropes, they also seemed realistic.

I did have a couple of issues. For one, a couple of times Dulce is referred to as “the Latina” or “the Hispanic” in a way that seemed exoticizing and making her race seem like her most important identifier. I’m not saying that the narrative shouldn’t state that she is Latina, just that calling her a “flaming hot Hispanic distraction” seems weird. Also, as much as I was swooning for the bad girl soccer star, Dulce can get a little over-the-top sometimes, seeming possessive and dominating. It’s made worse by Savannah having another even more over-the-top admirer in Jillian, perhaps to make Dulce seem better by comparison, but instead made me feel nervous for Savannah. And yes, they also fall into overpowering lust at first sight, but that is also pretty typical of the genre. The thing that disappointed me in Wet Paint, however, was the ending. It felt inconclusive. Even if there is a follow-up, the ending to this one seems unsatisfying [spoilers, highlight to read] they don’t even kiss! [end spoilers]

I know that I listed off quite a few faults I found with the book, but I actually really enjoyed reading it. It was fun and light, the writing was good and the characters were engaging. I would recommend this one.

This has been a sponsored review. For more information, check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.

Sponsored Review: Danika reviews Charity by Paulette Callen


Charity is a novel that mixes several genres. It is definitely historical fiction, set in the late 19th century in a small town in America, and it is also sort of a lesbian romance novel, but there’s definitely the element of a mystery as well. At the same time, it’s an exploration of the town of Charity, but one family in particular. It has two protagonists, Lena, a woman married to a drunk with a large and unlikeable family, and Gustie, a schoolteacher with a tragic past that keeps her constantly travelling back and forth between Charity and the nearby Red Sands reservation.

Charity was first published by Simon and Shuster in 1997, and has been republished by Ylva, with the sequel (Fervent Charity) being published by them soon. The writing is easy to read and even occasionally poetic, the characters are strong and believable, and the different plot strands are compelling. I found the cast of characters a little overwhelming at first, especially in that Will, Lena’s husband, has his whole family described, and keeping them straight is pretty important to understanding the plot. The romance was sweet, though I still wanted to know more about her love interest. I thought the mystery was very well done. I had no idea who the culprit was through the majority of the book, but when it was slowly revealed, I realized that the clues had been there the whole time. It’s a proper mystery, in that a shrewd reader could have figured it all out beforehand (I did have the vast majority pieced together before the end, but only about ten pages before the final reveal), but will still be a surprise for most people.

What was most intriguing and what I was most worried about, however, was the depiction of the Native characters in Charity. There is a tendency for romance novels (straight or queer) to fall into the habit of making Native characters mysterious, spiritual, ephemeral beings–the “noble savage” stereotype. There is also a tendency to posit Native people as being people from the past, ignoring that Native cultures and people are just as much part of the present. Setting a story (partially) about Native people in the past could play into this, I worried, though it is also an opportunity to tell some of the horrific stories of colonization that are glossed over in white Western accounts. So a big part of my critical thinking around this book was centered on the representation of Native people. I’ll have to go into a few spoilers to discuss it, but nothing too major. Oh, also, speaking of spoilers but necessary thing to discuss, trigger warnings for cutting as well as suicide in this book. Especially cutting, which is depicted positively.

Charity does tell the story of some of the horrors of colonization, including death from disease, some of the suffering in residential schools, white officials cheating Native people out of their allotments, and of course the casual racism of most of the people in Charity, including Lena. Gustie is disgusted by this treatment, but it doesn’t completely change Lena’s mind by the end of the novel–she softens, but still refuses to let a Native woman stay in her house. At some point, a group of Native men play into the “bloodthirsty” stereotypes in order to scare a white guy off, and then laugh at his ignorance for thinking that they were serious. Overall, I thought this was a decent representation, since it is realistic to present Lena that way, and I don’t believe we’re supposed to agree with her. I was more concerned about Gustie, actually. When the reservation is cheated out of their allotments, she is outraged and vows to fix it, but that sort of plays into the white savior idea: that she, as a white person, can save these Native people who of course aren’t able to save themselves. At the same time, it’s true that as a white person, Gustie did have more options available to her to help. Another part that made me uncomfortable was that she is called two-spirited by a Native character, which is a term that–at least now–is only for Native people. She also has the Deer Spirit appear to her. One character says she is trying to “play Indian.” She sadly says, “I am the wasichu [white person] for whom you will not dance” to Jordis, apparently trying to guilt her for not wanting to make her traditional dance entertainment for white people. It is the Native characters that are putting this onto Gustie, “adopting” her, but it’s also (as far as I can tell) a white author writing this. So that made me a bit uneasy, but most likely it will play out one way or another in the sequel.

Despite a few issues, I enjoyed Charity, especially the mystery plot and the characters of Gustie and Lena, and I would recommend this one if it sounds interesting to you!

This has been a sponsored review. For more information, check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.

Sponsored Review: Danika reviews Walking the Labyrinth by Lois Cloarec Hart


Walking the Labyrinth is definitely not the typical formula for a lesbian romance novel. It begins one year after Lee’s wife dies. Lee is deeply in mourning, and has grown listless and depressed. Her family and friends stage an intervention, as her late wife requested before she died. Lee receives a letter her wife wrote at this time, and this provides the impetus for her to try to find a new purpose.

As you can guess from that synopsis, Walking the Labyrinth has a lot to do with mourning. But I appreciated that it started so far into the mourning process. Many books would have started with the immediate shock of death, but this actually provides a much better beginning. It is the turning point, where Lee is ready to change. This is mostly a slow-moving book, which works with the subject matter. I found it really easy to read, partly because it is a scenario that I haven’t read a lot about. Lee is lost after her wife’s death, and is unsure about her career and what she wants to do with her life. She goes on a journey to try to figure herself out. The inevitable romance is again introduced slowly. It seemed organic for the most part.

Another interesting thing about this book is the spirituality that pervades it. Maybe I should have guessed that a book concerned about mourning would also ruminate about the soul and afterlife, but I wasn’t expecting that. I’m not entirely sure how I personally felt about it. Lee is skeptical, but intrigued. I am not a particularly spiritual person, so I wasn’t as interested in this aspect, but I think it was presented well. If any talk about “soul journeys”, reincarnation, and so on puts you off, I wouldn’t recommend this one. But if you’re open to the discussion, you’ll probably find it at the very least an interesting viewpoint. I also appreciated reading a romance novel that focuses on women in their sixties instead of mid-twenties.

Overall, I appreciated the natural progression of this novel. It is short, and it didn’t take me very long to read, but it’s sort of a thoughtful meditation of a book. I did have a few complaints, however. One is that Lee sometimes seems to speak her thoughts out loud to herself in a way that seems much more for the reader’s benefit than a natural habit. Another is an exchange near the beginning of the book where a character states “Middle Eastern men can be pretty controlling with the women in their family.” This is not critiqued at all. In fact, Lee agrees. It’s a bizarre bit of casual racism (I mean, so can American men. And European men. And… anyone.), especially considering that there are two characters that are African (from Guinea) and the subplot around activism in Northwestern Africa seemed respectfully handled. My only other quibble is that the traditional “girl loses girl” bit seemed a tad forced, though I can understand the character’s motivation. I did enjoy this book, with those caveats in place, and I appreciate this branching out from the typical lesbian romance novel conventions.

This has been a sponsored review. For more information, check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.

Sponsored review: Danika reviews Carapace by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro


I am not the one who cums. It’s her mouth. Alexia’s mouth cums inside me. Shortly before, just by a few seconds, her fingers have ejaculated within me. The electricity has traversed my skins. I have several skins. She has discovered them all and has placed them over me.

Those are the opening lines of Carapace, and from the beginning I was intrigued and disoriented. This is not a straightforward lesbian romance book. It is an abstract, poetic work. At its best, it reminded me of Jeanette Winterson’s surreal, metaphorical language. I have to assume that the book reads differently in the original language, because some of the lines are clunky in a way that suggests an awkward, literal translation of a poetic turn of phrase. (For example: “The mint green place that is our mistress room lacks her physiognomy.”) There is also the occasional typo, and these factors combined can make this a difficult novel to read at times.

Still, after getting used to the style, it began to have a sort of soothing, dreamlike feel to it. Carapace reads almost as if each chapter is a journal entry: each is semi-disconnected, and some chapters are only a paragraph long. Time is not entirely linear. Sometimes it goes off on a tangent about ecoterrorism, or turtles, or newly discovered planets (all recurring topics). There are moments that veer towards magical realism, such as the “shadow” that occupies Nessa and Alexia’s home that only Alexia can see.

Though not exactly a romance, Carapace is focused on Nessa and Alexia’s relationship. It is passionate, engrossing, and definitely dysfunctional. Alexia is married to a man, and splits her time between Nessa and their child, her husband and their child, and travelling the world as she covers stories about environmentalism activism. The story is about Nessa and how she deals with Alexia and her absence. The emotion was poignant, and the poetic language helped to highlight the push-and-pull of Nessa desire and anger for Alexia. Overall, I really thought this was a beautiful book. Despite some of the issues with the translation, and that the plot circles back on itself more than it advances, I enjoyed Carapace. If you enjoy literary, poetic books that focus on emotion and language more than a strict plot, than I would recommend Carapace. I would love to hear a comparison between the original Spanish version and the English translation, because I’m sure I would have liked it even better if I could read the original. (Carapace is the “first lesbian book published in Puerto Rico.” Technically, it was written in Puerto Rico and published in Spain, but either way, I love reading lesbian books that aren’t written/set in the West, and I hope that the translation of Carapace is a sign of more to come!)

This has been a sponsored review. For more information on sponsored reviews, please check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.

Sponsored Review: Danika reviews Hot Line by Alison Grey


Before reading Hot Line, I hadn’t looked into the premise of the book. I just knew it was an erotic novella. From the first page, I could guess that the premise would be different from most romance novels/erotica stories I’ve read. (Which is great, because the thing I like least about romance/erotica novels is the repetition.) It begins with Christina (alias Chantal) answering calls at her job at a sex hot line. She gets a call from a woman, Lydia, who just wants to talk. Then, excuse the cliche, Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

For an erotica story, Hot Line is very much in the characters’ heads. We get a lot of insight into what both of them are thinking, including the awkwardness, hesitation, and double-guessing. Sometimes this could seem like over-explaining, and occasionally they seemed put off by pretty normal things, considering the circumstances. But for the most part, it gave much more characterization and honesty to what I’m used to from an erotic story. There were occasional awkward phrasings, but that could be the translation. (That’s another thing: it’s nice to read a lesfic story not set in the US. Hot Line is based in Germany.) Though, there is a bit of the old romance novel trope of needless angst. Both Christina and Lydia try to convince themselves that they don’t like each other, or that the other person doesn’t feel the same way, when there’s pretty ample evidence for what they feel.

What I was most impressed by in Hot Line is the progression of the relationship. Considering the premise and the length of the story, not to mention the genre, I found their relationship to be much better developed than I was expecting. [Mild/vague spoilers, highlight to read] Weeks pass. They get to know each other. [end spoilers] This is partly because of the novella’s tendency to dwell in their thoughts. It made their relationship more believable and oddly organic (again, considering the premise). The ending is a bit abrupt, but it really gives you all you need. I would recommend Hot Line if you’re intrigued by the premise or are looking for a lesfic novella.

This has been a sponsored review. You can see more about sponsored reviews at our Review Policy.