Shira Glassman reviews Date with Destiny by Mason Dixon

date with destiny mason dixon

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

this is devin jones

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.

Marthese reviews The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh


This book was my first thriller in a while if not ever and this affected how I saw this book. I had some reservations when I started reading this, due to the mixed reviews. I have to say that overall I enjoyed it.

This book is about Jane, who is pregnant and lived with her partner Petra in Germany. Jane starts having suspicions and investigates the neighbours daughter who she thinks is being abused. The fact that they are a same-sex couple is not the focus of the book though, and I quite liked that- the background was there but it was not that part of Jane’s identity that was explored.

The book is convincing and you almost start thinking that Jane is paranoid, until the last twists which I thought were executed quite well. Almost none of the characters are likeable, especially Petra and Tielo but also Jane, however, towards the end you start understanding them more and feeling sympathetic towards them.

The ending is a mix of tragedy and happiness. At points it is also heartbreaking and frustrating that a girl is being abused, and no one believes Jane. This thriller also makes you aware of the plight that dependent people face. In a way, it is quite real.

Another good touch were the words in German and the descriptions of places which gave more background and more layers to the story. The words were as if someone was trying to learn or re-learn German, by labelling some things in the language to practice. As someone that knows basic German, this reminded me of what I do.

I read this in a day for a reading challenge and was quite easy to go through. The short chapters did wonders for my short attention span, so if like me, you find long chapters to be difficult, this book should be for you (especially if you like thrillers and chills). Will definitely try the other books by Louise Welsh that have a queer touch.

Danika reviews The Disciple of Las Vegas: An Ava Lee Novel by Ian Hamilton


I was recommended this book (and subsequently offered it by the publisher) while putting together a list of Asian lesbian books. Ava Lee is a Chinese-Canadian lesbian forensic accountant (she tracks down millions of dollars) and a certified bad-ass. I actually just realized when looking this book up to link it that this is the second book in the series. (The first is the Water Rat of Wanchai.) Oops. But you can definitely start here, because I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. She starts out with an injury from a previous job, but that’s about all to indicate that you might have missed something. I think what I most want to say about this book is that if you’re looking for a mainstream thriller that just happens to have a lesbian protagonist, this is it. She exchanges some flirty emails with a woman throughout the book, and that’s about as significant as that subplot gets. It isn’t revealed that she’s gay until 50 pages in (though maybe you’d already know if you read the previous book…) I worry that this sounds negative, but I actually felt the opposite! This is a book of the future! When people’s race or sexuality are layers to their character, not the center plot of the novel.

Again, this book reads like what you’d expect from a mainstream mystery/thriller: the writing is not especially remarkable, but not distracting (though there is a lot of brand name dropping, which I think is pretty typical of the genre). There is a lot of description of things like scenery and outfits, so if you aren’t a visual reader, that might be a little distracting. For the plot itself, Ava is trying to track down millions of dollars that have been cheated out of a very wealthy CEO of a company in the Philippines. Ava communicates with her partner (an older businessman with never-ending connections) in Hong Kong as she travels around the world following leads. And I mean travel. The book hops from location to location extremely quickly. Ava often spends less than a day in a country before booking a flight for the next one. (But it was cool to see her visit my city!) Characters pile up as she follows the money, gaining new enemies and allies on the way. Occasionally this got a little dry, because it is a financial mystery, and there are discussions of paper trails and bank transfers. Still, because Ava starts the book with bruises from her last job, you know that her line of work can get ugly, and there is some graphic violence at the end.

If you like the thriller/mystery genre, and especially if you’re looking for more mainstream books with lesbian or PoC (or Canadian, or PoC lesbian!) characters, definitely check out the Ava Lee series. If you’re not really into thrillers/mysteries, there isn’t a significant enough lesbian romance to overcome that, so don’t go in expecting a romance novel. I really am impressed with this novel for having a PoC and queer main character when it isn’t dictated by the plot and is professionally published (I shouldn’t have to be impressed by that, but I am), but I did have a minor quibble: at one point Ava is asked out by a guy and she says that she’s a lesbian and then says something like “from my first sexual impulse” (also she then kisses his hand?). That didn’t ring true for me. Would someone really say “From my first sexual impulse” to an acquaintance while outing themselves? Also, it assumes that being a lesbian is based in sexual “impulses”, when it’s just as much (if not more) a description of romantic attraction. Still, pretty minor.

Maryam reviews The Door at the Top of the Stairs by Alison Naomi Holt

While I’m not sure that Alison Naomi Holt would welcome me comparing her writing style to that of a young adult novel, writing in that style does have its advantages. Everything is done at a slightly faster pace than an average novel, and it helps keep the reader engaged. There are no dull parts to wait through, no chapter-long descriptions of the characters’ surroundings: characters are introduced, the plot takes off running, and from there it is the reader’s job to keep up.

The Door at the Top of the Stairs is the story of Jesse Shaunessy, a twenty-six-year-old retired police officer who comes to work at the farm of Morgan Davis and her partner, Dr. Ryland Caldwell. Morgan runs the farm and rides as Master of the Myrina Foxhunting Club; Ryland is a retired psychotherapist. Jesse has a temper more foul than Morgan, and the two clash as employee and boss, but Ryland insists that Morgan keep Jesse on. Jesse, though antisocial, rude, and foul-mouthed, is a natural with the horses, and Morgan has a reputation for going through employees quickly.

One morning, Jesse panics at the sight of Morgan’s hunting whip as the club prepares for cubbing. Ryland and Morgan attempt to comfort her, but Jesse passes out; it is then that Ryland notices that Jesse’s back is covered with burn marks and scars. What follows is the story and struggles of Jesse, Morgan, and Ryland, as Ryland tries to help Jesse work through her traumatizing past, with Morgan enlisted as an anchoring element throughout Jesse’s therapy. Jesse’s ordeal is horrifying – the author is also a retired police officer, and one can only hope that none of the situations in this novel were pulled from reality.

All in all, this book was a quick, enjoyable read, with its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments as well as suspense. It was refreshing to read a book with three lesbian main characters and no love triangle! Jesse’s dalliances are always light and funny – a great escape from the heavier themes of the novel. The characters are engaging, and although there are some dark themes, they don’t weigh the rest of the book down. The Door at the Top of the Stairs is probably not light enough for the beach, but it should do just fine on a dark summer night.