TB reviews Exception to the Rule by Cindy Rizzo


Robin, a New Yorker, has a rule: don’t fall for a princess. If you do, she’ll break your heart. Tracy, a southern, has her own rules involving having a fake boyfriend and several short affairs with older women. Both Robin and Tracy are terrified of getting hurt, but they’ve convinced themselves that they don’t need love.

Both of them move into the same dorm outside of Boston. In fact, they live on the same floor and when Robin sees the sexy southerner Tracy her head turns. Tracy notices Robin but doesn’t sense that the New Yorker is interested. Against all odds the two of them become best friends. But can they break down their own barriers and learn that loving someone can actually be wonderful.

This romance novel builds slowly. Rizzo takes the time to explore the three main characters, including the best friend Angie. It brought me back to my college days and all the excitement and confusion about living on your own for the first time and living with strangers in a dorm. Also she discusses the subjects the students are studying. Some readers may not like this aspect, but I did. I love learning new things.

What impressed me the most with this novel was the author’s ability to stay true to the characters. Both Robin and Tracy are stubborn young adults who think they know everything. So when they realize they are falling in love, both of them fight it. It would have been much easier for the author to have them collapse in each other’s arms and make this story overly sappy, but it would have destroyed the character development that she patiently built up. I have to admire an author who doesn’t cave to please some impatient readers and stays true to her story and characters.

TB reviews Daite by Hildred Billings


Daite by Hildred Billings has the makings for an entertaining romance. There are sexy women, drama, love, broken hearts, and steamy scenes.

Jun is dedicated to her job and she hopes to run her family’s hotel business someday. When she finally thinks her uncle is about to hand over the reins to her, she discovers that he’s sending her to Nagoya to become the new local general manager. This transfer is crushing since she believes her dreams of inheriting the Nippon Royal Hotel empire is dead.

That’s when she meets Saya, a younger woman, who turns Jun’s life upside down and then disappears just as quickly. Jun throws herself into her work again, but she keeps hoping to meet Saya again. When she does can Jun keep the young woman in her life?

While it took me some time to warm up to this story, I admired the main character right from the start. Too often, romance novels have flat characters with sexy scenes to keep the reader interested. This book has sexy scenes and strong characters.

Even the supporting cast is wonderful. Jun’s coworkers really add to the story. And I found it fascinating to read a lesbian romance novel set in Japan. I’m not too familiar with Japanese customs and beliefs and it was interesting to see how the culture affected Jun not only at work but in her personal life. I love to travel, even traveling in books, and I always learn something.

This is my first novel by Hildred Billings and I’m intrigued enough by her writing and character development to pick up another one of her stories.

TB reviews The Girl With the Treasure Chest by V.A. Fearon


Dani Fenton’s life was on the right course. In her younger years, she strayed and got into trouble. But she was able to right the ship. And she helped inspire those around her to get their lives together. Dani runs a business and she employs many young men that other companies wouldn’t hire. And she helps negotiate deals between rival gangs as a side gig. Dani is smart, confident, charismatic, and in control. She has a loyal group of “soldiers” who will help her no matter what.

But there is one thing that threatens Dani and that is Dani herself. Actually, it’s Dani when Susanna, an old flame, reenters the picture. For some reason, Dani can’t control herself or stop herself when it comes to Susanna. Will she throw everything away to be with Susanna?

This is Veronica Fearon’s debut novel and she doesn’t pull any punches. It takes place in present day London and Fearon shows the gritty side of the city and of love. Right from the start, the reader is thrown into a world that many won’t have first-hand experience with. Gangs in London are frightening. There’s always a sense when reading that something can go very wrong with just one misstep.

Dani is an original character. She’s able to teach and control her soldiers by showing them respect and teaching them respect. Dani really understands the young men she interacts with and she knows how to handle them.

But Dani isn’t a perfect character. Her big flaw is her obsession with Susanna. At first I thought Dani would be able to control her obsession, but I soon learned just how far Dani is willing to go. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

While I love flawed characters, Dani’s actions made me uncomfortable on many occasions. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the story. I did, even though it made me uncomfortable. And it made me think.

This isn’t your typical lesbian romance story. If a reader is looking for a carefree novel about two women who love each other, I wouldn’t suggest this one. But if a reader likes character driven stories about love, including the destructive side of love, this might be perfect for you.

I will warn you, there is some violence that might be upsetting. However, the violence is part of the story and part of Dani’s world. It took me some time to adjust to the slang used in conversations. Once I grew accustomed to it, I stopped noticing it and it became natural.

Overall, this is a powerful debut novel and a great start to the series.

TB reviews DRIVE by J. L. Gaynor


Kate and Susan were best of friends. Then things progressed, yet they tried to keep their relationship a secret from friends and family. And they both promised that they would always be together. Aw, first loves and the hopes we place on them.

When their secret is discovered, things start to unravel, including their relationship.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that every story has two sides. Back in my younger days, I had a hard time seeing that. Everything was black and white. Now, I always (I don’t always succeed) try to step back and see things from both perspectives. Not only is it illuminating, but it can also be terrifying.

That’s the intent of DRIVE.

Every story has two sides, at least. Yet, many novels show everything from one point of view. DRIVE by J. L. Gaynor tells the story from Kate’s and then Susan’s point of views. This could be messy and repetitive, but Gaynor avoids both pitfalls and created an enjoyable, albeit emotional, story. First loves are exciting and can leave permanent scars. This book delves into the importance of relationships, friendships, and forgiveness.

I do wish the author shared more of the story from the beginning instead of diving right in when the unraveling started. I think it would round it out more and make the readers care more about what happened and why it was so devastating to Kate and Susan.

Setting this aside, I enjoyed the story and I look forward to reading more by this author.It’s a wonderful story that sucked me in and made me think.

TB reviews Killing Rosa by Lynn Kear

Former hit man Kell Digby, eager for a distraction after her girlfriend Gretchen dumps her, is hired by ex-boss Rosa to take out a business competitor in Miami. The simple hit turns complicated, and Kell is forced to match wits with a dangerous foe.
Lynn Kear’s latest release, Killing Rosa, is the sequel to Black-Hearted Bitch, a book I enjoyed, and I couldn’t wait for the sequel to released. I was curious to see what would happen next in the series, and Kear didn’t let me down. Kell Digby is a cheeky, intelligent, and stubborn character. She’s flawed and she knows it. I love a fantastically flawed character that’s still lovable. 

The sequel starts off fast, slows down some, and then the action picks up the pace again. What I find intriguing is how Kear sucks me into the lives of her characters. The suspense of what’s going to happen is coupled with character development. At times I became so engrossed in Kell, I forgot about the mystery. 

This is a smart thriller with excellent characters. Now I can’t wait for the next installment. 

TB reviews Everybody Else’s Girl by Sarah Sawyers-Lovett


Everybody Else’s Girl, by Sarah Sawyers-Lovett, is set in Tazewell, Virginia. The town has two sides: quaint storefronts and poverty. The author shares what it was like growing up in extreme poverty and violence. It’s a true story, even though at times it’s hard to believe one person was able to overcome so much as such a young age.

Writing a book is a monumental achievement and I always applaud anyone who is able to accomplish this goal. Writing a memoir about sexual abuse, violence, and addiction can’t be an easy project to work on. Yet it’s important for people to share their stories, not just for themselves but for others who might be going through a similar situation. Maybe someone who reads this book will realize they aren’t alone. No two situations are identical but not feeling alone can encourage people to seek help. To talk to a friend. A therapist or anyone.

I admire Sarah Sawyers-Lovett’s bravery. Her memoir isn’t a light read. And as weird as this sounds, it’s a good book. It’s hard to reconcile liking a book about abuse. Her writing is honest and she takes you there. Right into her past. Some of the events aren’t sugar-coated. That doesn’t mean every word will make the reader cringe. The author takes care not to over-do things. She’s not writing to gain sympathy. Nor is she writing to justify her actions in life. She’s just sharing her story and telling it like it was. In addition, she talks about the things that helped her deal with her past and how she was able to overcome her dysfunctional lifestyle.

Everybody Else’s Girl is a powerful memoir. It couldn’t have been easy, but it’s an important work to share with others.

TB reviews I Can’t Think Straight by Shamim Sarif


Shamim Sarif’s novel, I CAN’T THINK STRAIGHT, focuses on several issues that are close to my heart: love, friendship, and families. Many of us can relate to these topics on some level, even if the main characters come from different backgrounds.

Tala is a Palestinian who lives in London. In the opening pages, she’s preparing for her engagement party. This isn’t the first time she’s been engaged and Tala’s mother and sister fear that she might blow this opportunity again. Tala loves the man she’s engaged to, but feels like something is missing.

Leyla, a British Indian woman, is also involved in a relationship with a man. Again, she likes him, but doesn’t feel the spark.

When Tala and Leyla meet there’s an attraction, but neither can put their finger on it right away.
This is a sweet romance between two women torn between their feelings and family obligations. While their mothers love them, at least I think they do, they also have traditional values. For them, getting married to a man is a fact of life. Both of the mothers care a lot about their traditional values and what others will think. And they want their daughters taken care of. They worry like most mothers.

The daughters are free-spirited. They just have to realize it. And act on it. It’s one thing to admit to yourself the truth. It’s a whole new ballgame to proclaim it to the world.

This novel takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster. There’s happiness, love, pain, and loss. What shines through is the beauty of relationships, whether they are romantic, family, or friendly.

TB reviews The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer


I’ve been seeing The Gravity Between Us, by Kristen Zimmer, quite a bit lately and was impressed by the amount of reviews it had in a short amount of time. I decided it was time to read it to see what the fuss was about.

Payton has been in love with Kendall for a long time. Kendall on the other hand doesn’t suspect that Payton is a lesbian and Kendall never for a second thought that Payton liked her. When Payton comes out to her, Kendall sees her best friend in a different light.

All of a sudden Kendall is awkward around her. Not because Payton is gay. But she’s jealous that Payton will find someone and Kendall doesn’t want to lose her. Then she realizes that she has feelings for Payton beyond friendship, but she struggles with these feelings. Before now, Kendall never thought she was a lesbian. And she’s an up and coming Hollywood star. Coming out of the closet for her is not an easy decision and will be scrutinized by her fans and the general public. Her private life is anything but private. Can she admit that she loves Payton? And can Payton handle all the media if Kendall lets the world know?

Young love is fun, crazy, and confusing. This story felt real to me and reminded me of my first love (minus the Hollywood fame) and how excited and confused I was at the time. Zimmer did a fantastic job of capturing the voices of Payton and Kendall. Even though this love story has a predictable plot, I ended up liking it. It was odd for me reading this book, since I knew where it was heading, but I kept reading and had a hard time putting the book down until I finished. And I was cheering on the young lovers.

It was interesting to read this book now with all the hoopla about Ellen Page and football star Michael Sam. Coming out is a scary aspect that many gays and lesbians have to face. Personally I can’t imagine the pressure and fear that famous people have to deal with. It’s not fair, really. But I have to admire their bravery. Bravo.

TB reviews Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters


Tipping the Velvet, published in 1998, by Sarah Waters is a historical novel set in Victorian England during the 1890s. Waters, a Welsh author, has written several historical fiction books. Tipping the Velvet was her first novel and after reading it, I have to say bravo. Not many writers settle into their craft so easily.
The greatest strength of this novel is the descriptions. When I was reading this novel, I didn’t just read the words; I was immersed into Victorian England. When Nan wandered the streets of London, I was right next to her. Seeing, smelling, and hearing everything. When Nan met people, I felt like I was shaking their hands as well. The descriptions in this novel are comparable to Charles Dickens. I’m a fan of Dickens so this is quite the compliment coming from me. I’ve read many good books in the past couple of years. And I’ve said I’ve found many new writers that I will continue to read. Sarah Waters may top all of the authors I’ve read recently. Not only are her descriptions amazing, but her storytelling abilities astounded me. Nan’s life takes so many twists and turns and I never tired of them. At times I wondered if Waters had story ideas on a dartboard and when she wanted to switch things up she threw a dart and went with the new idea. This isn’t to say that the different subplots didn’t mesh well. They all did and I think Waters has the ability to make the reader believe almost anything. When I read the last page of this novel, I was sad. Not about the ending, but that it was over. I wanted to continue with the story.

TB reviews Tighter, Tighter by Lynn Kear


Today I’m pleased to review Tighter, Tighter by Lynn Kear. This is the second novel I’ve read by the author and I have to say I’m quickly becoming a devoted fan. Before I say more, here’s the synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Kath Branch disappeared from St. James, Illinois in 1975. That same night, local sandwich shop owner Billy Carlson was gunned down and dumped in the St. James River.

This cold case is personal for prosecutor Meredith Carlson. Billy was her husband’s father.

Convinced she’s solved the case, Meredith lures the now legendary rock star back to her hometown for the first time since she left thirty-five years ago.

Meredith has no idea she’s about to unearth shocking secrets about herself, her husband, and her family.

A couple of months ago, I read and reviewed Black-Hearted Bitch and really enjoyed it. I mentioned in that review that Kear hooked me right away. The same can be said for this novel, Tighter, Tighter. From the very beginning I wanted to know more. I won’t try to explain too much since I don’t want to accidentally include any spoilers, which is why I copied the synopsis for this review. I hate finding out too much before I read a book.

The story has a lot going on and there are a few twists and turns. Yet, Kear’s writing simplifies the plot. She has a unique way of throwing a lot of curve balls at the reader without confusing the reader. Sometimes authors are too busy keeping their readers off-balance that they forget that the plot has to make sense. This isn’t the case with this book. Even though Kear kept me on my toes, I never thought I was lost at sea. Each chapter added to the suspense.

The characters are all pretty selfish and I didn’t relate to them personally, but I found myself liking many of them on some level. It’s difficult to create flawed characters and yet still make them somewhat likeable and I have to give kudos to Kear for accomplishing that.

I didn’t intend on reading it in two days, but I did. Simply could not put this book down. I look forward to reading more by her.