Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review- Love Relived by Monique Thomas

Love Relived
By Monique Thomas
Feb 4, 2013
198 pgs
Kindle version

Photographer Mahogany Williams has beauty, brains and success in San Francisco. California. Knowing the right people had launched her career into the limelight and she was enjoying the benefits of it all. When her Nana beomes confined to a wheel chair, Mahogany goes back home (New York) to care for her . While doing so she also tries to undo the pain that caused her to leave so many years ago. Cheryl James is a quiet sensible and known to be "too serious" woman. She enjoys her job working as a head educator at the famed Museum of Natural history. It is the theme of history, however that caused old feelings to resurface when she finds out that Mahogany is coming back into town. Will she be able to handle it after the bitter way things were left between them? Can forgiveness be enough? Can love be revisited?

I wanted to love this book. I had a good feeling going in to it that I would love it. I like the idea that two people who’ve shared a lot between them, but who for various reasons could not be together, get a second chance to explore what’s between them. So I was hoping this would be a warm, loving story about two people that meet up after years apart and fall in love all over again. Unfortunately there were several issues with this story that made it a less than positive reading experience for me.

I’ll start with the most glaring thing about this book that agitated me. This is just a badly edited book. I think I’m more forgiving of bad editing with self-published books than many readers. But by midway into this book I found myself focusing more on the mistakes than the story, which tells me this was worse than the usual. Or maybe I’ve just read too many crappily edited self-pubbed books these days and this was the needle that broke the camel’s back. Whatever the reason, it had a HUGELY negative impact on how I felt about this book because my bad mood about it amplified other issues that might not have bothered me as much if I wasn’t irritated by technical issues.

Just a few Examples. (I bolded or added missing words or punctuation in brackets to show mistakes:

Periods in speech quotes:

“She is fine baby, just fine.” Mamma Hanna interjected.

“I wasn’t being sarcastic. I have been hun gry for a long time and I am starving.” Cheryl replied nonchalantly.

I wanted to tell you one more time so you could understand.” Mahogany admitted.

“Just tell her that you don’t like it that way Mama Hanna. She is there to help you.” Cheryl pleaded

Comma issues:

Mahogany turned around, to see that her Nanna had come into the dining room. “ Nana did you need something?”

When they did [,]she realized that there hadn’t been wearing much underneath her clothes.

Missing words, wrong words, other missing punctuation:

“The last time we were in this parking lot I told you that I love [you] and left it up to you what we should do.

“What do we do know?

“I want you to.”

Thinking about her was the reason that she could not concentrated on her job.

Mahogany tried to shut her brain of but she found it difficult.

Cheryl opened it [. , or and] she stepped to the side so that Mahogany could enter first. A light came on in automatically in the small hallway.

“Where are you going?” Cheryl asked. “I was just trying to give you some room.” Mahogany managed to stammer out. “Don’t you think that you have put enough space between us?” “I’m sorry Cheryl. I never meant to…” “Shhh,[”] Cheryl silenced her, “We will talk but right now that is not what I want to do.”

“Is the water to hot?” Cheryl asked.

Funky sentences, writing or wording:

She let her hands explore Mahogany’s back and they found their way to the ass that was being sculpted by the fabric of the skirt.

She brushed her teeth and entered the shower in the homemade sauna, she let the water run over her head.

Next up, and this is rather unfortunate and a matter of personal taste that maybe won’t affect many readers, this story features a push-pull relationship. Push-pull relationships drive me insane and I don’t find them entertaining IRL or in reading. I also don’t believe in the long term viability of them unless both parties make a drastic change because I feel they are more about obsession than true love. I guess it can happen, but I find the interim so annoying. This is pretty much most of the book.

Cheryl has wanted Mahogany since they were teens. They got together when they were very young before they each had a chance to know who they were as individuals and how they each felt about their own sexuality. It’s understandable that both had a lot to learn. The main issue is that Cheryl has understood that she’s a lesbian, whereas Mahogany is not that clear and is unwilling to really look it for various reasons.

Most of the rest of the story, including flashbacks, is about Cheryl being hurt and angry that Mahogany can’t or won’t be what she needs and getting on her case about it every time they have some communication, and Mahogany making excuses or ignoring or telling Cheryl to leave it be.

That they finally work it out is great. After all that they went through, to finally reach that point where they’re both on the same page should be very satisfying. However, for me, the author didn’t quite make me believe these two will manage long term. And this is mainly because there was no real explanation as to why Mahogany finally came around to really getting that she loves Cheryl as more than just a friend.

Having sex when you’ve been close friends doesn’t exactly turn a relationship into a love story. Mahogany has a great career and is content in that, but no one has really sparked her interest romantically. And she’s going home out of familial duty. None of those are reasons to come to understand finally, after years, that you’re in love someone vs just loving them from having a shared history. She didn’t even go back to specifically work it out with Cheryl, when, if really she loved her, that should have been one of the main reasons. Even after figuring out she loves Cheryl, she’s rather reticent, giving up easily when Cheryl rebukes her. So I wasn’t feeling her in a strong way where Cheryl was concerned. Away from Cheryl though, she’s a likable, dynamic character.

And I was bothered a bit by Cheryl seemingly coming from a place of “you owe me for all that pain and I deserve to control how this relationship is going to work now” feeling. I get that, I really do. After years of being put off she doesn’t like that she’s expected to just let Mahogany walk back into her life without some kind of proof that Mahogany is not just coming around because it’s convenient. But it doesn’t exactly inspire the warm, fuzzy feelings of falling in love all over again.

Mama Hanna is really the best part of this book. She’s that wise family matriarch that that understands that life isn’t always perfect but that love is worth fighting for. Really, if it wasn’t for her, Cheryl and Mahogany would probably still be going back and forth or avoiding.

So bottom line, I think I could have looked at this story in a more positive light had there not been so many grammatical and writing errors, which set me off right away. Also, if the author somehow would have focused more on what was positive between the characters vs the constant negative drama I think I might have had a better feeling overall.

Heat level: 3 some graphically written sexual scenarios

Grade: 2 ½  Stars

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review- The Artist's Muse by Alyssa Linn Palmer

The Artist’s Muse
By Alyssa Linn Palmer
Oct 13, 2013
Lesbian/ Romance
57 pgs
Pub: Bold Stroke Books
Kindle version

Broke and desperate after her girlfriend leaves her for a man, Colette finds a job as an artist’s model. When she arrives for an interview, she’s surprised to meet a striking young woman, Lise Beauclerc. Her relief at not having to pose for a man turns to infatuation as she observes Lise during their sessions, creating fantasies in her mind during the hours she poses.

Colette has no idea if Lise would return her affections, and when she finally gets up the courage to ask her out, their connection is more than she’d ever hoped for. However, a few days later, Lise introduces her to Marcel, her former fiancĂ©. They seem intimately involved, and Colette is devastated. Will her dreams of Lise be unrequited?

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to decide to buy this book. The blurb attracted me but the only other book I read from this author also had a triangle that was hard for me to understand and frankly didn’t work out that great. Then there’s the price, it’s almost $5 for 57 pages. That in itself was a huge deterrent. I think that price point for that amount of words is insanely ridiculous.  But I justified it in my mind with it being published by Bold Strokes Books, which has a good reputation and who charge more because they’re a niche publisher. I accept that. That’s still a lot of money for such a short book, but… I bought it.

I say all that because in the end I’m glad I didn’t go with my hesitations. This turned out to be a really good story even with some issues. I was left feeling good and that I had read yummy, erotic beginning to a love story.

The blurb pretty much expresses what the story is actually about so I’ll go from there.

Who made this story for me was Lise. Since we don’t get her POV, we have to see her through Colette’s lens and any response through action and dialogue from her. Lise seems to be in her own little world while drawing as Colette poses. She doesn’t act like Colette is any more interesting to her than as a prop and inspiration for her art work. I liked that because it was a nice contrast to Colette’s constant inner sexual fantasy musings about Lise, which seemed to go on and on and got a little boring. The mystery of Lise and her indifferent demeanor was what grabbed my attention.

At first I thought the first person present POV from Collette was not going to be interesting because I didn’t find her to be a character that appealing. As the story progresses though, we do get to see more about what Lise is like from her interactions. Unlike Colette, she has a quiet outer reservedness that belies her passionate and maybe slightly kinky personality. She seems much more mature than Collette in how she acts, but is maybe younger? 

This is one thing I kept trying to figure out. Both have graduated college already but Lise mentions that she chose Colette to model because she’s older. However, the vibe around Lise is that she’s the older one. She’s very grounded and self-assured about her work. She also has the money to pay for a model, something I wouldn’t expect of a young, struggling artist. I pictured her at first to be in her 40’s, which as I read on, was not the case.

She also quietly takes the lead in an interesting and fairly erotic way after she accepts an invitation from Colette. It’s something that says a lot about who Lise is, maybe the most telling thing about her and it was nothing she said.

Then there’s Colette. Compared to Lise, she seems to be somewhat immature even though maybe older. She’s instantly smitten by Lise and falls in love with her in like a day. This is something that bothered me about this story. Colette has only posed for Lise maybe 3 times. They spend one night together and Colette talks and acts like they’ve known each other for months and has an expectation of Lise and of a romantic relationship that seemed out of step with the actual amount of time they’ve known each other. It fits her personality as this is how she’s described, that she falls quickly and easily, but for me her attraction was mostly from her own inner fantasies vs any real connection at that point in time.

However, what I did like about her is that she does act on her attraction and gets the guts up to ask Lise out even though Lise has not shown any particular interest and Colette has no idea if she’s into girls. I also liked that she was willing to risk stepping out again after a major heartbreak.

It’s a short novella so there’s not too much depth to this story, however, it was left on a positive note for me. And it was a fairly sensuous story.

The other thing that I enjoyed and which also added to my final positive feeling for the book was the setting. I felt the author really captured the feel of the women living in Paris. At times I wasn’t even sure what time period this is set in. It could be any time since there was no mention of modern technology like cell phones or such. But the women wearing chignons and going to old movies did give it somewhat retro, European feel. Also the world in which they live of artists and theater people also added to the non- contemporary ambiance of this book.

I do kind of wish the That Artist’s Muse was more drawn out and or we could have gotten Lise’s POV as I think it would have added a lot more depth to this story. However, in and of itself it is a good read. I’d recommend it.

Heat level: 2-3- not too racy but not too bland either

Grade: Really liked

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review- The Messenger by KC Blake, Lavinia Marksman

The Messenger (A Lesbian Romance)
KC Blake, Lavinia Marksman
Jan 5, 2014
F-f/ erotica/Contemporary/Romance/Interracial/ May-Dec
54 Pgs
Kindle Edition

A refreshingly new take on modern lesbian romance!
Lucy Murphy is a corporate shark. She’s a master of the deal and a force not to be reckoned with. For all her power and expertise, however, she lives in a self-imposed bubble. When her work life isn’t as satisfying as it once was, she begins to doubt her powers and wonders if there could be something more.

One day, a tough young messenger comes into the office, who entrances Lucy with her shockingly white hair and her “don’t mess with me” attitude. One gaze from this young woman divides Lucy’s life into before and after. Could this be the beginning of something wonderful, or just another sign that Lucy’s losing it?

Romantic and deeply moving, "The Messenger" is an unconventional love story that will stay with you long after the final page.

This was an amazing, lucky find for me. I was buying another book and Amazon had this on that page as a--you may like this one too. I liked the cover and the blurb grabbed me so I took the chance. And it was well worth it.

As the blurb says, Lucy is a corporate shark. Characters like this can rub me the wrong way depending on how they’re written. You know they can be too hard-nosed with no conscience, cruel and hard to sympathize with. Lucy walked that fine line but was very appealing because while she does have those characteristics, she’s extremely self-aware. And that was the main appeal of this story for me because it’s told from her POV.

Self-aware characters are my favorite. I love a character who is flawed, is maybe not very nice at times, but who becomes aware of it and is very perceptive about how people around them experience that. Maybe they don’t make excuses for their behavior or they even use it to their advantage, like Lucy does for her job. But they have the ability to learn, grow and change from having that innate understanding of themselves and others and that spurs character growth.

Lucy is also willing to let go of what’s she’s been and has felt who she is to break out of a mold she’s starting to feel trapped in. And damn, but I love the idea of saying screw it to all one’s responsibilities and doing something so crazy and off the wall, damn the consequences. It’s a nice fantasy and fun to read since it’s often a dream of many of us.

So, “Rabbit” as she calls herself, is the cause for Lucy’s sudden self-reflection.  Rabbit demands that Lucy come out and sign for a package she’s delivering. Lucy doesn’t have to sign herself, but Rabbit forces her by acting as if she gives a crap about the consequences to her job if she walks away with the package without delivering it. The gall of that piques Lucy; she doesn’t do the bidding of others, they do it for her. But being the first and really only person to ever stand up to Lucy grabs Lucy’s attention.

Lucy finds herself obsessed with finding Rabbit. She can’t stop thinking about her and goes looking for her. She finds her but she’s got a lot of judgments that she unconsciously expresses that she needs look at in order to get Rabbit’s respect. 

Rabbit is just as turned on by Lucy and while being just as proud and resolute, she doesn’t resist when Lucy finds her and they hook up. Like Lucy, Rabbit is written is such a way that she has a lot of pride, and although she wants to have something with Lucy she will not let Lucy get away with disparaging remarks about her and puts Lucy in her place.

The sex is no holds barred hot. While it’s Lucy’s first time with a woman, and she muses that she’s never been attracted to a woman before, she also muses that men and sex in general haven’t been an issue at all, not until she met Rabbit.

Just an FYI, Rabbit is probably almost half Lucy’s age. So there is a bit of the May/Dec thing going on. However, that didn’t seem to be an issue with either and it didn’t come across as squicky in any way. To me at least.

Although a short novella and technically not really a “lesbian romance” as part of the title suggests, it is a provocative and juicy story that hints at a future for these two characters. I would scoop up any other lesbian story this author writes in a heartbeat. I loved the straightforwardness of the characters and the writing.

Heat level: 3-4- one semi graphically written sex scene

Grade: Loved it

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review- Imperial Hotel by Diane Marina

Imperial Hotel
By Diane Marina
Jan 1, 2014
Lesbian/Era Historical 1940’s/Romance
32 pgs
Kindle Edition

In a posh hotel in New York City in 1948, two young socialites are introduced by their mothers. As their friendship grows, so does love. Will Lily and Joan's love prevail? Are they brave enough to stand up against the social standards of the time, or will their love simply become part of the history of the Imperial Hotel?

I saw that the author posted this book on Goodreads and I bought it mainly due to the mention of the time period and that it’s set in NYC. Ultimately, I liked this story. It’s short but expresses enough to get hooked into the characters. And while not erotically written in language, what the two young women experience together is erotic and deeply passionate.

At first I thought there was too much tell and was fearful that the whole story would be told in such a way. It’s told from Joan’s POV and she gives the background on how she first met Lily and what she felt. They’ve met through their mothers’ introduction. Lily is engaged to be married, but this doesn’t sit well with Joan as both women start to get close. And while Joan doesn’t really get why she feels this way, she doesn’t question it too much either.

At the point that both women understand that they have special feelings for each other, there is a nice shift in the story in that there’s enough dialogue to start getting a good feel for where both women are coming from. Their first sexual interaction is sweet and shows the intensity of their feelings. This is probably what turned me on most about this book.

What was missing for me is that this book didn’t have a strong feeling of being in the 1940’s. Maybe it was because both women are from upper class families and the way they speak didn’t include much slang or colloquial speech of that era. Outside of having to hide what they feel due to an unaccepting society, there really was nothing that made this story stand out as a retro story. Would have been nice if there were some cultural references to the era in the form of clothing style or music, etc.

The ending was also wrapped up a little too perfectly for me. But overall this is a sweet,  feel good love story and I would highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure I will read another of Diane Marina’s books. She does have a pleasing writing style.

Heat level: 2- one sex scene, not graphically written. More suggestive.

- Really liked it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review- Castle of Dark Shadows by Patty G. Henderson

Castle of Dark Shadows

By Patty G. Henderson

July 1, 2012


164 pgs

Publisher: Blanca Rosa Publishing

Kindle edition

Olivia Hampton's lifelong love of dark literature led her to accept a job as a cataloger for Julian Dunraven's extensive but extremely disorderly library. The only problem is that the position requires her to work at Dunraven Castle, the remote and mysterious home of the Dunraven family. In Victorian America, a young lady had to either earn her keep or be married off to the best man for her hand. Olivia accepted the position at Dunraven Castle.
Olivia could not have guessed the dangers that awaited her in the exotic but darkly menacing castle. When there is an accident on the road to Dunraven, she wonders: Are the broken carriage wheels mere random misfortune or a sign foretelling doom? Olivia's fears soon turn to mortal terror after a subsequent encounter with a terrifying faceless phantom disabuses her of the 'random misfortune' theory. Frightened but undaunted, she decides to put the nightmare behind her and throw herself into cataloging the enormous Dunraven library.

What Olivia could not have foreseen was the devastatingly beautiful Marion Dunraven's effect on her heart. But the madness that seemed to curse the rest of the Dunraven family makes Olivia realize she must find a way to escape Dunraven Castle with her life and the woman she loves before they both become victims

I read Passion For Vengeance by this author and totally loved it. I like gothics so it was a no brainer to buy some more of this author’s books. What I enjoyed about this book is how quirky it is even as a mystery and an historical.

Right from the beginning, on her way to her new position as a library cataloger for a private residence, Olivia experiences what she feels is an evil being in her coach driver. It’s nighttime and they are pushing through to get to Dunraven Castle. It scares her but she chalks it up to her overactive imagination.

Marion Dunraven has hired Olivia to catalog her father’s extensive, but disorganized, library. Marion is warm and friendly to Olivia but keeps things formal between them, not really trying to interact outside of what they need to discuss. Olivia is immediately attracted to Marion and can’t stop thinking about her. Unfortunately her job in the house as well as her status more as part of the staff offers her little contact with Marion.

As the days go by, in brief meetings, Marion expresses her romantic interest in Olivia. However, it never leaves Olivia feeling confident about what Marion actually feels. This plus the odd things going on all have Olivia feeling somewhat out of place even if she’s in awe that she’s temporarily living in such a beautiful place.

While this story does have a romantic element, this is more about the mystery of what’s going on in the house. Strange things keep happening to Olivia specifically and she and she’s reluctant to discuss them with others.  She has been introduced to Cora, Marion’s sister, who is off. Meaning, everyone quietly suggests she’s mentally unstable even if they don’t contradict her and actually let her do her thing. Cora seems to vacillate between being very friendly and nice and at other times cross and caustic to Olivia. Olivia can’t figure her out but is leery of her.

Then there is Marion’s father, Julian. She meets him totally by accident and he chastises her for interrupting him. His manner is in direct opposition to what he’s really like. He seems to be in control of the house and yet he’s very elusive and almost a recluse.  In fact, most of the characters are not what they seem at first except for Olivia. But the story is told through her voice. Then there is this book in the library that everyone is focused on, a book written by Julian’s long ago ancestor that might be worth a lot of money for the information it contains.

So here’s the thing, while this is a quick and easy read that does capture the essence of a gothic mystery, it didn’t really stand out as a huge wow for me. It’s a decent mystery, although the author did give away too much in the beginning, taking away from what I though was supposed to be a big reveal in the end? Not sure. But the ending is not that surprising.

Then there’s the romantic angle, which was also written in a reserved way. Olivia pines over Marion. Marion does come to Olivia and they get together. But there wasn’t much focus on it; it was more a side bar, which is not a bad thing. But combined with the mystery that didn’t really have depth to it, I felt nothing stood out particularly. Also, the epilogue wrapped things up in a way that didn’t fit with the on page development of the relationship between the two ladies. Meaning, the epilogue focused more on their relationship than the rest of the story did. Or so it seemed to me.

What did totally float my boat in this, and what saved this story for me, is how totally quirky it is. Reading this was rather like hanging out in a carnival combination fun/horror/mirror house in which you feel a bit disoriented, but in a good way. The women speak of love to each other in over the top flowery and dramatic ways that don’t match how they act, which I kind of liked because it seems so unexpected. The characters are all a bit askew in how they act on the surface but not on a one on one basis. And it does have the traditional gothic setting; a quirkily built castle (a la Winchester Mansion), but one that stands out of place to the rest of its environment.

So while individual aspects of this book were lacking, overall, it’s a good, entertaining read. I’d recommend it if you like gothics and or if you’re in the mood for something offbeat.

Heat level: 1-2

Grade: Liked it

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review- Silver Wings by H.P. Munro

Silver Wings
By H. P. Munro
Oct 15, 2013
Lesbian/Era Historical 1940’s/Romance/Multicultural
251 Pgs
Pub: self?
Kindle Edition

When in 1943, twenty-five-year-old Lily Rivera is widowed, she finally feels able to step out of the shadows of an unhappy marriage. Her love of flying leads her to join the Womens Airforce Service Pilots, determined to regain her passion and spread her wings, not suspecting that she would experience more than just flying.
Helen Richmond, a Hollywood stunt pilot, has never experienced a love that lifted her as high as the aircraft she flew…until she meets Lily.

Both women join the W.A.S.P. program to serve their country and instead find that they are on a collision course towards each other, but can it last?

This book was a lucky find for me. In fact, I don’t remember how or where I heard about it, but I’m glad I bought it. It’s one of those stories that crept up on me and left me feeling a bittersweet sadness. Not that this is a sad book, not in the least. It’s an upbeat and beautiful love story as well as an accurate depiction of the time period and history of the W.A.S.Ps.

Lily has lost her husband in the war, and being a pilot, decides to join the W.A.S.P program to help out her country. Coming out of her interview she passes Helen, a beautiful blond woman who somehow attracts her attention.

Helen notices Lily right away and feels the same immediate attraction. She is a lesbian however, so it’s not a strange feeling for her.  Luckily for them, they end up being assigned the same living quarters at the training camp.

The two women become fast friends during their training and slowly little glances and innocent touches start happening between them. They both feel an energy between each other, but circumstances don’t allow them to explore or acknowledge it. It’s especially uncomfortable for Lily because she’s aware of an attraction but doesn’t completely understand the nature of it.

Even though the 40’s was not a time period where same sex couples could be open, and especially it was illegal in many places and particularly the military, it wasn’t that odd if women cuddled or slept in the same bed or comforted each other. This is exactly the situation that Lily and Helen end up in and living and working together in a close atmosphere gives them a chance to get closer and have little touches without attracting suspicion. At the same time, it created more sexual tension between them until they were able to finally express their true feelings. What’s nice about how their romance developed was the fact that their relationship as friends had time to grow as well. So it’s totally believable that they would invest in a future relationship.

While the romance is in the foreground, there are a lot of other aspects to this story that made it a fun and gratifying read to me. First are the other characters who stand out in their own right. The women assigned to bay four are an eclectic mix of women who all have distinct personalities and all come from completely different backgrounds. As the women slowly get to know each other secrets that some are hiding come out. Secrets that could potentially be harmful. But they all accept and stick up for each other and I liked this. It’s actually kind of refreshing to read a story with a bunch of female characters in which at some point it doesn’t turn into a catty bitch fest.

Also on characters, the author doesn’t go for the default, which was also refreshing. Lily is Hispanic and shares an apartment in NYC with an African American woman, both working in night clubs as a musician and singer. Lily, besides being a great pilot, is also a concert violinist in the NY Philharmonic. One of the other women is married to a black man, who is a lawyer but serving in war. She hides that she’s married because her marriage is illegal in Texas but not in her state of MA. So I loved that the author didn’t go with stereotypes, which actually made it more realistic and appealing due to that.

Other issues of the time were addressed as well. A local Texas dept. store wouldn’t serve Lily because they “don’t serve Mexicans.” Racism and sexism of the time are realistically shown but are tempered by the women themselves standing up against it.

The other interesting part is the actual history of what the W.A.S.P.s did. While they didn’t fight in the war and weren’t part of the military, their contribution was great. The author really got the historical facts correct and the small, intricate details accentuated and created an authentic feel that this was set in 1943 and that the women were pilots.  

Ultimately though, it’s about two women who fall in love and try to navigate how to be together during this time period and being separated due to their service and social mores of the time. I liked that the author did both a prologue and an epilogue from current time. It gave a strong feeling of a life- long interesting history of a woman, her love, and other women who had guts and lived what they wanted to.

Heat level: 3- not very graphic written, but several sex scenes. Also, first time to read very erotic foreplay and sex in terms of how one starts and preps a plane for take- off.

Grade: Really liked it