Reviews for March 2006
Title: Amicus Humani Generis
Author: SB Zarben
Publisher: P.D. Publishing Inc., www.pdpublishing.com
Price: Paperback $19.99 - ebook $8.99
Genre: Lesbian Speculative Fiction/Romance
A finalist for the Golden Crown Literary Society 2006 Goldie Awards in the Sci-fi/Fantasy/Speculative/Horror Category, Amicus Humani Generis opens with a thrilling intergalactic fight that includes aliens, rescue attempts and the formation of an alliance between a friendly group of aliens and humans.
On its face the story may seem like another sci-fi book, but there is nothing typical about Amicus Humani Generis. The humans on the ship Avenger need to escape the Ebokras, creatures who are threatening their very existence with a deadly, rapidly spreading virus that must be contained. They cannot conquer the pervasive threat without the reluctant help of nonhuman allies. This is where Zarben introduces Janus, a character that embodies the true definition of a heroine.
Zarben envisions a world where strength, courage, and goodness are not only human traits. With her character Janus, we witness an energy force that is used to heal people even at the expense of her own well-being. She exhibits kindness, beauty, and nobility that eventually melt even the hardened hearts of the most extreme human supremacists. As the story unfolds, the reader is presented with the prejudice that the humans on the Avenger have for Janus because she is unlike them. Most question her motives, but not Ensign Connie Barker who is attracted to this compelling alien. The connection draws Janus to this brave human, and they both discover feelings that are unfamiliar.
Zarben effectively imagines a world where we can visualize it and the creatures that inhabit it because her descriptions are vibrant. Our hearts beat faster as the war rages between the outside forces trying to destroy the Avenger and its occupants. But the crux of this multi-layered plot is how Zarben exposes the way we treat those who are different from ourselves. Zarben uses the age-old issue of acceptance of one another’s differences to craft a heartwarming and persuasive love story. She tackles the unfairness of preconceptions subtly without moralizing.
Zarben succeeds in dealing with a very difficult subject in a unique way without demeaning the reader, and this is the heart of what makes Amicus Humani Generis a stand-out read.
Reviewed by Kathi Isserman
||Title: Coming Home 2nd Edition
Author: Lois Cloarec Hart
Publisher: P.D. Publishing Inc., www.pdpublishing.com
Price: Paperback $19.99 - ebook $8.99
Genre: Lesbian Fiction/Romance
Coming Home by Lois Cloarec Hart will lift you up and break your heart at the same time. It will make you laugh and cry in the same breath. It is a story that will inspire those that read it.
The author declares in her acknowledgements that Coming Home is a fictional account of the author’s life with her husband who was a quadriplegic suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Rob and Jan Spencer manage his disability until one day they seek out the assistance of their mail carrier, Terry Sanderson, when Rob falls from his wheelchair. From this simple meeting, the three form a bond that carries them through a very emotional and difficult time in all of their lives.
As the story progresses, Jan and Terry fall in love, but their love for Rob keeps them from acting on or even recognizing their feelings. Hart skillfully reveals the ethical dilemma and the hard choices that each character must make. Rob is Jan’s best friend, and she is not only his wife but his caregiver. Rob can see how Terry and Jan come alive when they are together even though they do not admit their true feelings. Still, he cannot let go of Jan because she is his lifeline. Terry has fallen for her best friend, but loves Rob too and will not hurt either of them. It seems to be a no-win situation for all involved.
This is where Hart shines as a storyteller. Rather than writing a novel that is filled only with sadness, she balances it with the lightness of humor. The novel focuses on the deep friendships and the unselfishness of each character. The author redefines the meaning of family as the entire Sanderson and Spencer families rally around each other.
Hart’s telling of Coming Home reaches deep into our core and takes hold of our hearts. We are drawn into the characters’ lives through their extraordinary struggles. We laugh, get angry, and shed tears along with Rob, Jan, and Terry, and we are moved by how they handle the cruelty of the situation with courage.
It is life that we experience when reading Coming Home, and everything that it throws at us. Hart has truly given us a novel that defines the human spirit at its best.
Reviewed by Kathi Isserman
||Title: Course of Action
Author: Gun Brooke
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
Available From: Bold Strokes Books, Bella Distribution, StarCrossed Productions
Genre: Lesbian Romance
Award winning, talented, but over thirty, Carolyn Black will go to any lengths to land the role of a lifetime: portraying Diana Maddox, a lesbian criminal investigator. One woman, Annelie Peterson, appears to be keeping her from getting the part she feels is rightfully hers. Peterson, the owner of Key Line Publishing, is also the producer of the Maddox movie, Dying for Fame.
When sparks fly, Annelie can’t help but wonder how far Carolyn is willing to go to get the part. Annelie values honesty, integrity, and loyalty, and her feelings for Carolyn are clouded by rumors that Carolyn is a ruthless, calculating opportunist. And straight. Annelie, while out to her friends, is cautious, and doesn't make a habit of falling for straight women.
Gun Brooke’s debut novel, Course of Action, brings this unlikely pair together in a somewhat unusual setting, thought to be all glamour and glitz, where ambition and greed reign.
Brooke gets to the core of her characters’ emotions and vulnerabilities and points out their strengths and weaknesses in very human terms. Carolyn, the Diva, is a far cry from Carolyn, the woman. A consummate actress, Carolyn is adept at concealing her true feelings as she retreats behind her persona at a moment's notice. The commitment that drives her ambition leads the reader to perceive her tough exterior as impenetrable, and it’s hard to imagine her letting intimacy in. At the same time, the reader longs for her to take the risk. Living vicariously through Carolyn is easy; her elation is apparent when she impresses her audience, and the reader can’t help but feel the excitement right along with her.
Annelie is equally tough on the outside and a softie on the inside. Despite intense desire, Annelie wants to run and hide from Carolyn. With both women, especially Annelie, trying hard to protect their hearts, the development of any relationship seems out of the question. Wondering how events will affect them, and whether their love will be strong enough to overcome their differences, keeps the reader engrossed.
Gun Brooke’s debut novel has met the standards that define a good romance with flying colors. Brooke is proficient at tapping into every nuance and emotion, making it easy for the reader to be enamored with the characters while getting wrapped up in the action. With romance, hot sex, characters you care about, and important areas still to be explored, Course of Action demands a sequel. Don’t miss what I hope will be the first of many Carolyn Black and Annelie Peterson stories.
Course of Action is a finalist for the Golden Crown Literary Society 2006 Goldie Awards for Debut Author. In addition, Brooke’s second book, Protector of the Realm, is a finalist in the Sci-fi/Fantasy/Speculative/Horror category. This new author has a bright future ahead of her.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
||Title: Faithful to My Heart
Author: Linda Wagner
Publisher: Infinity Publishing
Available from: Infinity Publishing, www.Infinitypublishing.com, www.buybooksontheweb.com, Amazon.com, StarCrossed Productions; Libertas.co.uk
Faithful to My Heart is a complex book to read. On the surface it is the story of women struggling to find a place in a hostile world and with others of their kind who are thrown into a harrowing circumstance. Overshadowing that story however is a great deal of political and philosophical discussion about the role of lesbian women in American society. It almost seems as if Ms Wagner started out writing one book and ended up with another.
Brooke Kent and Renee Calderwood have been best friends longer than either can remember. Renee has seen her friend go through terrible losses and gradually withdraw from the world into a very lonely existence where Brooke seems satisfied to go to her job, and then retreat home to isolate herself from most contact with other people except Renee. The situation has been worsening since the death of Brooke's grandmother almost two years before, but Renee thinks she has found the solution to what is bothering Brooke. She convinces her friend to take an all-lesbian cruise with her, both for a change of scenery and for the chance to perhaps meet "the woman." And the cure seems to be working. They become part of a lively group of women of mixed interests and occupations who begin to open Brooke's eyes to all kinds of possibilities. She finds herself attracted to more than one woman and beginning to establish meaningful relationships within the group...and then explosions rock the cruise ship.
The next time Brook is conscious, she finds herself in a rowboat and listening to the sounds of drowning women and, more horrific, the screams of women being taken by sharks. Unable to process what has happened, Brooke lapses into unconsciousness again and does not recover until weeks later. She awakens to find that she, Renee and a number of other women have been marooned on a deserted island. They find themselves faced with the task of acquiring shelter, food, medical care, and structuring a society for themselves from practically nothing. They have no idea what happened to the ship, who survived or if anyone is still trying to find them. The bulk of the book deals with how these women find a way to survive and coexist. Gradually, the island also begins to reveal mysteries. There is evidence of previous habitation, perhaps of a sinister nature. And some of the women have isolated themselves on a desolate part of the island and refuse to have anything to do with the others. Brooke will play a major role in answering these mysteries, while she falls in love with one woman and finds herself infatuated with another at the same time. Just as she begins to resolve this conflict, she makes a startling discovery that will change everything for everyone on the island.
The characters in this book provide quite a variety of personalities. There is a long term and very devoted lesbian couple, wise women who practice Wicca and healing arts, a golf pro, a Senator from Arizona who is not only a lesbian but a champion of the rights of immigrants at the Mexican border, and numerous others. Most of them are admirable and the ones who are not are provided with explanations as to their poor behavior. The most puzzling character in the book is the main character Brooke. Early in the book she has a long soliloquy about the type of woman she is looking for and she appears to find her in a woman she meets on the boat. Once they have both survived to reach the island however, Brooke risks everything to run off on an impetuous chase after a mysterious stranger. Brooke's character is the most elusive and sometimes difficult to understand as she moves from being extremely mature one moment to completely irrational at others. At the end, a scene that would have contributed greatly to understanding her appears to have been cut out and is only related briefly by another character.
The story alone would have made a nice book telling about the relationships among the women and how they survived under difficult circumstances. Ms Wagner apparently was not satisfied with that however. The book is full of intense discussions, arguments and observations about sexual politics, relationships between gay men and lesbians, the abuses of women in American society, role playing among lesbians, the difficulties for women in the work place, especially lesbians, and a great deal of pontificating about the superiority of lesbians in just about every type of relationship. These discussions often go on for pages as different characters reveal every aspect of every topic. At times it seems that the philosophical discussions are more important than the story itself. The end of the book, while it might be satisfying to lesbians, is truly a flight of fantasy. None of this means that Faithful to My Heart is not a good book to read, but, if you are looking for a simple story to enjoy, there are a lot of things to distract you in this book.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce
Title: Gun Shy, 2nd Edition
Author: Lori L. Lake
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
Available From: StarCrossed Productions, Amazon
Price: $ 18.95
Genre: Romance/Crime Drama
St. Paul police officer, Desiree “Dez” Reilly, is a veteran cop in Lori L. Lake’s police action/drama, Gun Shy. The reticent Amazon beauty with long black hair, smooth ivory skin, electric blue eyes, and a muscular build is an adept daredevil at police work, but she is extremely cautious (gun shy) when it comes to matters of the heart. While Dez is on the job, she meets a “whirling bundle of energy,” Jaylynn “Jay” Savage. The sharp pre-law student could not be more different from Dez in stature, appearance, and personality. Jay is a talkative, vivacious, shorthaired, curvaceous blonde, who wears her heart on her sleeve. Dez is in complete control of her emotions…most of the time. Jaylynn falls in love with her mysterious hero at first sight.
Dez, wary of who she trusts, has serious issues to work through. She's estranged from her mother, her father's deceased, her mentor's avoiding her since he found out she was gay, and she's feeling like a loser at love. In addition, there’s a thick black cloud over her head because her partner and close friend, Ryan Michaelson, was killed while on duty and she wasn’t there to save him. Dez deals with his death the only way she knows how—by shutting down her emotions. Counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder would be beneficial, but the stubborn, taciturn cop feels she can cope on her own. The police department can make her see a shrink, but they can’t make her accept help.
After assisting Dez to apprehend the men who broke into her house, and meeting the woman of her dreams, Jay decides to apply for the Police Academy rather than go to law school as planned. The rookie excels at the academy and lands a rotation with Dez as her Field Training Officer. After a bad experience, Dez has vowed never to date cops, but Jay has other ideas. She has finally found her soul mate even though Dez can be a moody, tough nut to crack. Meanwhile, Dez, scared to death of commitment, pushes the rookie away. Everyone who knows the two—from Dez's nurturing, lovable landlady, Luella Williams, to Jay’s best friend and housemate, Sara—can tell there's electricity in the air when the two women are together. Will Dez open up her heart and let Jay in? The buildup of sexual tension is so thick that turning the pages quickly enough is a delightful problem.
Gun Shy is an exciting look at crime through the eyes of two dynamic police officers. Lake, the consummate storyteller, lays it all out with detail and emotion. The reader has a clear picture about what is happening and what the characters are feeling at every turn. Some might argue that too much detail leaves little to the reader’s imagination, but as an early work of the talented author, I feel it is a crowning achievement. Lake has set a fine precedent with her endearing, witty, action-packed romance that has what it takes for a contemporary version of the classic 1980’s police drama, Cagney and Lacey. Reilly and Savage could be the lesbian version, and it would be about time too.
With heroines who are real, believable, and interesting, Gun Shy captures the reader’s interest and attention while the action moves the plot along. Lake uses familiar contemporary phrases and expressions, and her dialogue rings true. Curling up in bed with a Lori L. Lake novel is like having a slumber party with your best friends. The reader easily falls in love with her characters and wishes for their happiness.
The author contrasts features both physical and emotional to emphasize a point. For example, the dichotomy of Dez: she has white skin and black hair; she is a lion on the outside, and a lamb on the inside; she often comes across as cold hearted on the outside, but she’s a warm toasty marshmallow on the inside. Dez is the epitome of the tough police officer when she informs Jaylynn that cops don’t cry. Jaylynn teaches her that sometimes cops need to cry in order to heal, and that it’s okay. For me, that hidden vulnerability makes me want to protect Dez; I care about her enough to become deeply engrossed in her story.
Gun Shy begins Lake's Gun Series with a bang. Luckily, the sequels, Under the Gun and Have Gun We’ll Travel (a Golden Crown Literary Society 2006 Goldie Awards finalist), are already in print; the reader doesn’t have to wait to continue the adventures of Dez and Jay. I fell in love with Lake’s heroines; I trust you will too. Don’t miss Gun Shy or anything penned by this talented author.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Title: In Too Deep
Author: Ronica Black
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
Available From: Bold Strokes Books, Bella Distribution, StarCrossed Productions
A finalist for the Golden Crown Literary Society 2006 Goldie Awards in both the Debut Author Category and the Mystery/Adventure Category, In Too Deep, is the outstanding first effort of a gifted writer who has a promising career ahead of her. Ronica Black shows extraordinary command in weaving a thoroughly engrossing tale around multi-faceted characters, intricate action and character-driven plots and subplots, sizzling sex that jumps off the page and stimulates libidos effortlessly, amidst brilliant storytelling. A clever mystery writer, Black has the reader guessing until the end.
Called in to investigate a murder, newly appointed homicide detective Erin McKenzie of the Valle Luna, Arizona PD, ends up going undercover as bait to investigate a rash of serial murders. The suspect is none other than the affluent, powerful, sexy, skilled seductress and positively drop-dead gorgeous elite lesbian nightclub owner Elizabeth Adams. It is Erin’s job to lure Liz hoping to get close enough to the woman for a confession. In addition, who better to teach a straight married woman how to be a “lesbian on the prowl” than a lesbian, namely, detective Patricia Henderson. Patricia knew Erin before the assignment but when she notices Erin’s wedding ring is missing she is intrigued. In fact, Patricia can’t help but notice everything about Erin, including her sexy vulnerability and good looks; she becomes more than just smitten--protective seems more like it. She even contemplates that a commitment would be a dream come true.
Patricia wonders if her attraction to Erin is just “…so desperate that a polite ‘how are you feeling?’ could leave her panting and ready to pounce” [p. 36] or is there really more to her feelings? It doesn’t help that the two women have to work very closely on the case, which has Erin questioning her sexuality as new feelings surface. Emotional floodgates threaten to open after Erin meets and falls hopelessly in love or at least lust for Liz Adams, while still having feelings for Patricia. Put together that she is in the throes of divorce from her cheating husband, investigating a high-profile murder, and all the while questioning her “previously unsuspected attraction to her own sex,” [p. 76], and you have the makings of a complicated romance with Erin torn between two desirable women.
Erin searched Patricia’s face, a note of desperation in her voice. “This doesn’t mean I’m gay…does it” [p. 37]. She feels like she “had been given the key to a whole new world. The door had been unlocked and she was seeing what she had never noticed before--the allure of the female body…” [p. 46]. As if the investigation of a potentially dangerous murderer isn’t enough, Erin has to deal with her own confused feelings.
Is Liz Adams really the calculated killer the police have made her out to be or is there a human and very innocent woman just hungering to be let out? Black does a convincing job of leaving plenty of room for doubt. The reader is on a merry-go-round when it comes to whom Erin should stick with, Patricia or Liz, but knowing that Erin’s happiness is the most desired outcome.
Ronica Black uses metaphors like an Olympic swimmer gliding through water snatching up Gold. From the very first absorbing page to the last, there is a richness in the text that resonates in each sentence, bringing the reader that much closer to the character’s actions, emotions, and the vivid setting in which they live. Black makes everything clearer when she describes Erin’s attraction to Liz, “Liz swallowed hard, and Erin noticed. She was noticing everything now. The beauty of the woman before her, the fragility masked by indifference and distance, the delicate pulse that beat just beneath the damp skin on her neck. She was human. And that was something it seemed no one had ever considered before” [p. 163].
Every time the reader has a handle on what’s happening, Black throws in a curve, successfully devising a good mystery. The romance and sex add a special gift to the package rounding out the story for a totally satisfying read.
In Too Deep, by newcomer Ronica Black, is emotional, hot, gripping, raw, and a real turn-on from start to finish, with characters you will fall in love with, root for, and never forget. A truly five star novel, you will not want to miss In Too Deep and will look forward to Black's next novel, Wild Abandon, coming out in 2006.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Title: Our Reunion
Author: Jenah Watson
Publisher: P.D. Publishing, Inc.
Available from: Booksurge; Amazon.com; Amazon.co.uk; Amazon.ca; Barnes and Noble
Jenah Watson says in her acknowledgements that it took her five years to write her book. The quality of the book and its story would say that it was five years well spent.
Our Reunion is about two women who reconnect at a high school reunion. Samantha Whitewell plays in her older sister Lisa's band and they are providing the entertainment for the event because Lisa is a member of the class, which is reuniting after twenty-five years. The news that Christina (Tina) Mellekas will be attending the dance immediately interests Sam who remembers the attractive woman from when Tina was on the track team with her sister. Sam spent many afternoons sitting in the bleachers waiting for Lisa and watching the team practice…specifically watching Tina practice. Tina has become something of a mystery figure for the class since a tragic automobile accident years before when she was injured and her brother was killed. When Sam and Tina are reintroduced, Sam feels herself immediately drawn to the older woman and senses in her a profound sadness. That is enough to convince Sam that what Tina needs is a friend and that she can fill the role perfectly. Tina however feels she has led a dark life and that she isn't the proper type of person to be forming a friendship or anything else with a kind and charming woman like Sam. As the story unfolds the two women struggle to find a foundation for this friendship and then to deal with emotions that draw them into a much deeper relationship. Sam at times trusts too much and Tina has difficulty trusting at all. This is not a quick, easy description of two women who immediately fall in love and go off to live happily ever after. It is an unfolding of how real relationships develop and the stresses and triumphs that are usually experienced in that process.
Many books seem to rush through the story to get to an end. You may enjoy the trip, but you miss a lot because everything is happening so quickly. Our Reunion takes the time to develop the characters and to explore why they behave as they do. The reader is allowed to develop an empathy for Tina's fears and an appreciation for Sam's frustration. By the end of the book you feel as if you really know these women. This is not a slow-paced book however. The reading progresses very quickly, but the length of the story gives you the time to appreciate what is happening. This is one of those books that you almost hate to see end.
As a final plus, this book is put together well. Having read a book just before this one that was less than half as long, but full of typographical and grammatical errors, it was a pleasure to read a book that was well edited and devoid of mistakes. The cover is attractive and the book is sturdy. Based on the story and the book construction, if this is the type of product that P.D. Publishing is going to be associated with, the company should do very well. This book feels worth the price that is paid for it.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce
||Title: Passion Bay
Author: Jennifer Fulton
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises
Available From: Bella Books, StarCrossed Productions
Genre: Lesbian Romance
Passion Bay, a finely crafted romance by respected author Jennifer Fulton, takes place in a paradise modeled after the “unspoiled beauty of the South Pacific.” Book One in the Moon Island Series is a lovely romance about two women brought together by fate. Heiress Annabel Worth leaves her job as a securities trader in Boston after she inherits an island from her favorite aunt, Annie. Uncovering the secrets of her past is just one journey Annabel takes on when she relocates to the island; following her heart is another.
New Zealander, Cody Stanton has lost her job, her girlfriend, and possibly even her mind. Desperate to get away, Cody rents a house on Moon Island where she and Annabel fall for each other. Both Annabel and Cody harbor secrets that just might destroy any chance they have of maintaining a lasting relationship…but the attraction is far more than purely physical.
Before meeting and falling for Cody, Annabel had a tumultuous relationship and painful breakup with her girlfriend, Clare. “They had talked around their differences for three years until what was unsaid became louder than words” [p. 43]. This is one of many instances where Fulton says it all in one sentence. The author succinctly defines the relationship with clarity and depth. Annabel vowed never to let love in again; however, “There was an unconscious sensuality about Cody that Annabel found profoundly alluring. She seemed very straightforward and natural, devoid of the weary cynicism Annabel encountered in most women she met” [p. 42-3]. There’s heat between the sheets, but will Annabel be able to maintain just a simple lustful encounter with Cody, or will love win out?
Annabel always had a tenuous relationship with her mother, who never embraced and fully accepted Annabel's sexuality, preferring to believe she had come to her senses when she broke up with Clare. Her family and friends reacted much differently and were more supportive when she left her husband then when she and Clare parted ways. “Annabel had experienced deeply the distress of her invalidation by society at large. She had felt like two people, one the hard-working, successful banker everyone accepted, the other a secretive misfit” [p. 50]. These two sentences speak volumes about what Annabel is thinking and feeling. Fulton successfully writes two stories in one. Secrets of Annabel’s past are revealed as she discovers the truth through letters from her late aunt. Sharing the journey with Annabel is as compelling as the love story between the two complex women. Subplots keep the story moving along at lightning speed.
From the very first page, Fulton’s distinctive humor is evident: “The trolleybus was late, of course. It would have caused needless shock and distress were it to arrive on time” [p. 1]. Especially funny, Fulton describes Cody’s best friend, Janet: “Janet was the kind of friend everyone hoped for. She was loyal, fun, and always there. Lovers could come and go, but Janet still made the best guacamole in town” [p. 15]. How profoundly true about what’s important in friendship! There are books that you read with a smile on your face and there are books that have you laughing out loud. Passion Bay had me doing both. Fulton’s style and humor works well with the inner turmoil of the characters, the seriousness of what is going on with their budding relationship, and all the pitfalls of not being totally honest with each other from the very beginning. I am completely in awe of the skill of this author. One of my favorite quotes is the best pickup line I’ve heard in a while: “This is a once-only opportunity. We can lie here all night wondering what it would be like and worrying about whether we'll see tomorrow, or we can have some truly excellent sex. Your choice, honey” [p. 145].
Cody has a tough time dealing with her conscience. When she falls in love with Annabel, she knows in her heart that she must make things right in her own life before she can love another woman completely. Cody suffered a devastating breakup with her cheating girlfriend, which left her leery of ever falling in love again. Can she trust Annabel? Can she fix her past mistakes? Both women have many hurdles to get over, including some way beyond their control, like Hurricane Mary, before they can commit to one another. The journey is as compelling as it is memorable. You will think about Annabel and Cody long after you finish reading the book. Fulton has a wonderful way with words, tapping into the emotions that drive her characters' actions and reactions. Fulton is known for her insight, competent characterization, and compelling storytelling.
Passion Bay has everything a reader could want and more. Delightful characters, inviting tropical scenery, intrigue and suspense, sizzling sex scenes, sharp realistic dialogue, a clever plot, and a few surprises thrown in for good measure. It is sexy, witty, engrossing, extremely well-written and meticulously edited. I give Passion Bay five stars and my highest praise. With seven reprints of the first edition, and now a second, revised and expanded “author's cut” edition, Passion Bay remains a favorite to be enjoyed over and over again. Don’t miss it or anything penned by the highly acclaimed author, Jennifer Fulton.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Title: Relationships Can Be Murder
Author: Jane DiLucchio
Publisher: New Victoria Publishers
Available from: New Victoria; Amazon.com
How many times have you read a mystery only to figure out before you are half way through the book who did it? That will not be a problem with Relationships Can Be Murder. Jane DiLucchio keeps you completely in the dark until the last minute as to the identity of the murderer and in the process tells a story that is often humorous. You have to like Dee DelVale. She really cannot help it that she has no idea what she is doing as she tries to be a detective.
Dee DelVale is not really looking for trouble. She finds her life as a teacher generally fulfilling and she has a large circle of friends to keep her busy with various activities. True, she is trying to recover from a bout of lunacy when she had a torrid affair with Sheila Shelbourne, the anchor of the local evening news, and destroyed the relationship with her partner Evie, the true love of her life. And she is humiliated by the fact that Sheila only used her as one of her many quickly passing fancies and then dumped her. And that becomes part of the problem because someone decides to bash Sheila's head in.
Despite having a long list of suspects, the police make it clear early on that they are convinced that Dee is the murderer, though she cannot understand why. Well, there is the fact that she was at Sheila's apartment around the time she was killed. And, of course, Dee lied about it….and got caught in the lie by the police. Dee finds herself suspended from her job, with the police determined to arrest her for the crime and no apparent way to stop the process; however, Dee has friends who believe in her. There is her best friend Tully, who is the equivalent of a lesbian "lady killer," has never met a woman who could resist her charms and immediately develops a huge crush on the lead detective Quinn, a woman who makes Sgt. Joe Friday from the old Dragnet series seem jovial. While Tully tries to make a move on Quinn, she convinces Dee that they are going to have to solve the murder themselves before the police have her convicted. Felicia is the makeup woman who kept Sheila looking beautiful and knows all of the dirty secrets and failed affairs at the TV station. She is in love with Jenny, who appears not to notice her and is concealing a secret of her own. Well, actually two. Tully decides to play Sherlock Holmes to her three Dr. Watsons, though sometimes they come closer to resembling the four Stooges. Attempts on Dee's life remind them however that they are dealing with a deadly opponent.
Jane DiLucchio proves to be an accomplished storyteller. She moves between humor and seriousness at just the right tempo. The reader is not allowed to forget that there is a deadly person involved in this story while enjoying some of the situations that Dee and her friends find themselves in. DiLucchio also provides a rather long list of people who could have done the killing, keeping them all viable suspects right up until the end, and the true killer actually turns out to be a surprise. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and the pages pass before you realize it.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce
Title: The Devil Inside
Author: Ali Vali
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, www.boldstrokesbooks.com
Genre: Lesbian Intrigue/Romance
The Devil Inside by Ali Vali is an unusual, unpredictable, and thought-provoking love story that will have the reader questioning the definition of right and wrong long after she finishes the book.
While on the surface the story is about Cain Casey, a reputed crime boss, and her attempts to elude the FBI, Vali gives us so much more as the book evolves. She tosses challenging questions at the reader as the plot progresses, drawing out the suspense of this intricate and intense tale. We want to know why her lover of eight years, Emma Verde, leaves her and their son and then after no word in four years comes back. We are puzzled by why the FBI is hunting Cain with a vengeance, and what part Emma’s parents have in the pursuit. First time novelist Vali, as an experienced author may do, does not leave the reader hanging for too long, but spins a complex plot of love, conspiracy, and loss. As the book ends, we see hope for a new future for the Casey family.
The Devil Inside is rich in character portrayal. Vali has cultivated a believable Cain Casey who is full of contradictions. While she may be ruthless and unforgiving on the surface, the reader finds a loyal, caring, and deeply hurt woman underneath who will go to any length to protect her family, including Emma. The depth of Cain’s unpredictability draws the reader in. We are fascinated by Cain’s vulnerability, and we can’t help but like this charming and genuine woman despite her seemingly corrupt activities. It becomes easy to root for Cain as the story unfolds and we learn who the bad guys really are.
As the story proceeds, Vali uncovers Emma’s and Cain’s past, and we slowly learn the truth behind their break-up. The author fills in the gaps easily while advancing the plot smoothly. We are given enough clues to keep us guessing as to what comes next, but the ending leaves us wanting more of the Casey family. Vali has purposely left the story unresolved and has done so without frustrating the reader. Far from leaving the reader up in the air, we are totally wrapped up in the future of this enigmatic family. From a first time author, this is a quite a coup.
Most romance authors neatly tie up all of the pieces as the story moves forward. We know that the girl will get the girl in the end. The Devil Inside’s strength is that it is unlike most romance novels. Nothing about the story and its characters is conventional. We do not know what the future holds for Emma and Cain, but Vali tempts us with every word so we want to find out. I am very much looking forward to the sequel, The Devil Unleashed.
Reviewed by Kathi Isserman
Title: The Seasons of A Heart
Author: Constance O. Irvin
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Available from: iUniverse; Amazon.com
Sometimes less is more. That has double meaning for this book. The Seasons of A Heart is a compact look at a specific period in two women's lives and an exploration about how they learn to value the basic things in life.
Diana Forrester is the flight attendant on a commuter plane that crashes off-course in the wilderness of Wisconsin. Only two passengers have survived and one of those shortly wanders off convinced that he can find help. Diana finds herself in a blizzard trying to take care of herself and the other passenger Casey Morgan. Casey is a complete city girl from Chicago and can only focus on the fact that she is missing out on closing the biggest deal in her career. It quickly becomes clear to both women that, if they are to survive, they are going to have to find a way to live in the wilderness until help can arrive. The book alternates between showing the two women coping with their predicament and scenes of Diana's father who keeps trying to rally a rescue team long after everyone else gives up hope of the women being alive. Some of the truly interesting passages are about what can be used to survive in the wild. For instance, how many of us know that a very nourishing tea can be made from pine needles?
This book is a little gem; the type of book that might be overlooked because it is not being produced by one of the better known lesbian publishing companies. That is unfortunate because it is an excellent read. The book is almost more of a vignette than a novel. Very little is revealed about the lives of the women before this incident, but what is shown is just enough. The words are very spare, but each one is packed with meaning. Each scene is condensed down to the bare minimum that is necessary to move the story forward; yet, the reader feels like she knows both women completely. Normally, a book this short leaves gaps, unanswered questions, about the characters. That is not the case here. When you reach the end you get a very satisfied feeling that you have experienced something special. If you are looking for unnecessary scenes full of dialogue or description or long drawn out conversations about what motivates the characters, you will not appreciate this book. The love scenes are spare, but intense with their impact.
The Seasons of A Heart is Constance Irvin's first book. If it is any indication of future work from her, she is a writer you are going to want to get to know.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce
Title: Threads of Destiny, 2nd edition
Author: J.P. Mercer
Publisher: P.D. Publishing, Inc.; www.pdpublishing.com
Available From: (Inside the US) Amazon.com; Barnes & Noble; Ingram Book Group; Baker & Taylor; R.R. Bowker's Books In Print; Booksurge Direct; local book stores. (Outside the US) Amazon.ca; Amazon.co.uk; Booksurge Direct; R.R. Bowker's Global Books In Print; Whitaker; Centraal Boekhuis; Thorpe-Bowker
Price: $16.99 Pages: 154
The idea of reading the second edition of a book I was already familiar with never made much sense in the past. If you already know the story, what is the point? However, word was that there were significant changes in this new edition, both through new words and a thorough editing, so I decided I should read it and I learned a valuable lesson. When an author revisits her work and teams up with a talented editor, a good book can be made even better and show more depth than before.
Threads of Destiny is the story of Cara Cipriano, a lawyer and vintner in Santa Barbara, and Jake Biscayne, a leading FBI forensic pathologist and profiler. Mercer and Nancy Hill first introduced their story in Incommunicado; however, through a skillful use of flashbacks and inventive dialogue, Mercer provides enough of the original story in this volume that it is not necessary to have read the first book to follow the action. The women fell in love while they were working together to solve a string of brutal murders along the Mexican border, only to have their relationship ripped apart by a tragedy that Cara could not cope with and Jake knew nothing about. Threads of Destiny reunites them a year later when Cara returns to take over as padrone of the family vineyard and discovers that someone is using the business to smuggle drugs across the border. When she asks the government for help, she and Jake are brought together in an uncomfortable situation while they try to solve the crime. Two stories then unfold in the book. One is a mystery and adventure story about the drug running that eventually includes kidnapping and a dramatic conclusion. Simultaneously, Cara and Jake struggle to deal with their emotions and whether or not they can rebuild the relationship they once had. Not until the very last page is that question answered and the reader cannot be certain of the answer until then.
There are a number of things to like about Mercer's writing. Even though it is fiction, the characters ring true as actual people. Women usually don't fall in love immediately in life and they sometimes hurt each other. Jake can't forgive Cara immediately for deserting her even after she learns the reason for Cara's actions, and she shouldn't. You almost find yourself hoping that Jake will fall for a new interest, McKenzie, even though you know the pain that Cara suffers because of her actions. The frustration of Jake, the despair of Cara, and the pure evil of Sandro the drug runner/murderer come off of the pages powerfully. Mercer is very deft at keeping you on the edge of just not being sure how these stories will resolve themselves until they are finished. The dialogue from other languages, with no translations, shows the respect that Mercer has for her reader being able to infer the meaning from the story. The knowledge of the wine making process, forensic details, and the inside dealing of the cocaine trade indicate a book that was thoroughly researched.
Mercer's writing is very tight. No wasted scenes or words distract the reader from the action and emotion that drive the stories. Secondary characters add color and dimension to the book, like Cara's childhood friend and would be lover, Maggie; Matt Peyson, the Federal agent who loves Jake, but knows he has to look elsewhere for happiness; McKenzie, the alluring woman who has feelings for both Cara and Jake; and Sandro, evil incarnate, the childhood friend of Jake and Matt who has betrayed their love for him and who is the killer determined to make Cara pay for interfering in his business. They combine to create a world that feels all too real. Mercer has created one of those books that is hard to put down once you have started it.
The original version of Threads of Destiny had a very short life in the bookstores, so P.D. Publishing has done readers a service in bringing it back in an improved form. Now readers will have the chance to discover a book that deserves their notice.
Reviewed by Lynne Pierce
Back to JAW.
Bios of Authors
Sandra Barret grew up in New England, where she spent
more years than she cares to mention as a software
programmer. She lives with her partner, two children,
and a menagerie of pets. Sandra has been an avid
reader of fantasy, horror, and lesbian romance. This
interest has led her to pen her own creations in novel
and short story format.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Reviewer for Just About Write; Author of The Heart’s Desire – Book One of The
Briarcrest Chronicles, a 2005 GCLS “Goldie” Award Finalist.
Anna's Web site: http://www.annafurtado.com
Contact her at email@example.com.
For many years a teacher of English
and Creative Writing, Arlene Germain lives
with her partner in Massachusetts. She is a
book reviewer for The Midwest Book Review, The
Gay Writer, the Just About Write
Newsletter/E-zine, The Crown—the Golden Crown Literary Society newsletter, and The OutlookPress.com.
Arlene is also a fiction editor. Contact her at
Kathi lives with her partner and two very spoiled cats outside Washington, D.C. When not reading all kinds of books, she can be found on the golf course attempting to hit that little white ball. Her reviews can also be read at Amazon.com, libertas.com, and The Independent Gay Writer. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lori L. Lake
Minnesotan Lori L. Lake is the author of the “Gun” series, Different Dress, Ricochet in Time, and a book of short stories called Stepping Out. She also edited the 2005 Lammy finalist The Milk of Human Kindness: Lesbian Authors Write About Mothers and Daughters. Lori is currently at work on her sixth novel, Snow Moon Rising, which comes out in February. She teaches fiction writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and often reviews books for various print and online journals.
Although she has traveled some, Lynne Pierce is a life-long resident of Virginia and has never felt a need to go far from home for very long. The last thirty-two years have been spent trying to convince high school students that history is relevant to their lives and leading them through the process of learning to think for themselves about issues. Two dogs and three cats allow her to share their space as long as she behaves herself and promises not to bring any more of them home from the shelter….for now. Her main hobby since the age of five has been reading and she has spent the last ten years consuming every work of lesbian fiction that she can get her hands on. Lynne's reviews can be read on the Canadian Lesbian Fiction Addicts site and Amazon.com. She welcomes comments from people who want to comment on her reviews as long as you do it in a genteel manner. You can reach Lynne at Sage320@aol.com.
Cheri Rosenberg is a Registered Dietitian who in her spare time writes reviews for Independent Gay Writer, Midwest Book Review, and Just About Write. She is currently working on her upcoming novel A Closet in Syosset and assorted short stories. Cheri lives with her husband and three children in a suburb of New York. You can contact her at email@example.com.
Born in North Carolina, Ronica Black now lives in the desert southwest where she spends her time creating the images in her mind. Whether it be painting, drawing, or writing, she simply cannot keep her hands still. A lover of true crime books, she spends any remaining time engrossed in the tales of unsolved crimes and forensic files where she gets many of her ideas for her own stories.
Story telling since she was thirteen, she first typed up her lesbian themed romance in 2001, a short story entitled A Chance Encounter. Since then, she has graduated from short stories to novels. In Too Deep is her first novel but certainly not her last! Romance, passion, and creativity are her great fortunes and she shares them all with the woman she loves.
Gun Brooke resides in the countryside in Sweden with her very patient family. A retired neonatal intensive care nurse, she now writes full time, only rarely taking a break to create web sites for herself or others and to do computer graphics. Gun writes both romances and sci-fi.
Jane DiLucchio, formerly an elementary school teacher, is now a professor at a community college. She enjoys reading, card games, food, friends and laughter. Jane and her partner reside in southern California and share their home with two furry four-legged children.
New Zealand born, author Jennifer Fulton lives in the Midwest where she writes screenplays, lesbian romances and mysteries, and
historical fiction. After writing a bunch of best-sellers for Naiad, she took a hiatus from lesbian fiction in the late 1990s but missed writing her favorite escapist fiction and recently returned, contracting
several titles to both Regal Crest Enterprises and Bold Strokes Books. Jennifer has published eight lesbian novels, short stories in various anthologies, and will be releasing six new novels over the next year or so, including a brand new mystery series set in Colorado.
Lois Cloarec Hart
A northerner by birth and inclination, Lois Cloarec Hart has spent the past four years braving the heat and humidity of the Deep South in the pursuit of love. She plans to continue her annual commute between Calgary and Atlanta until she can lure her lady away from the magnolia and dogwood, to the frozen tundra of her home and native land. Greater love hath no woman than that she give up juleps for jumper cables!
Lois is the author of Assorted Flavours: A Collection of Lesbian Short Stories and Coming Home.
Constance O. Irvin
Constance O. Irvin has had a varied career, but one in which writing has always played an important part. Upon graduation from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo MI, she taught high school English and theatre appreciation at the college level.
Although teaching was a passion, one other life long hobby—photography—prodded Connie to take another direction in her life pursuits. For over ten years, she worked as a freelance television news correspondent for a CBS affiliate in Michigan. During that time she photographed and wrote over 1,500 news items that covered arson to murder, villains to zebras. As a freelancer, her by-line appeared for photo and written articles in regional and national magazines as well as the Detroit News.
From childhood on, she developed a love for the environment. Her special fondness for wolves and their place in the environment played a big part in the setting of her first novel, The Seasons of a Heart. “The wolf represents the basic level of what is our primal self. If we lose sight of that part of ourselves, we deny our place in the scheme of life. And then without thinking, we deny all sorts of animals, birds, plant life and reptilians, their rightful place in the scheme of our environment.”
Lori L. Lake
Lori L. Lake and her partner of 24+ years are based in the snowy Minnesota Twin Cities area where she writes full time, edits anthologies, and teaches at The Loft Literary Center. She has completed her sixth novel, Snow Moon Rising (which is scheduled for publication in June). She is currently working on a mystery and planning for her fourth "'Gun"' book. In addition, she and Jennifer Fulton are laying plans to collaborate on a series of books about writing. Lori also presents seminars and workshops on writing topics such as dialogue, plot, the writing process, the writing life, mystery structure, and form and structure in the modern novel. When she's not working at her computer, you can find her either at the local movie house or curled up in a chair reading.
Web site: www.LoriLLake.com
J.P. Mercer, a native of Big Sky Country, now lives in the Sonoran desert in southwestern Arizona. J.P. traded in her skis and snow chains for eternal sunny days and the Valley of The Sun. "The first living thing that graced my doorstep when I arrived in Arizona was a Gecko and it has been my good luck charm ever since." J. P.'s interests are as diverse as the ever-changing landscape of the beautiful Sonoran desert. "I believe in friendship, the kind that nurtures and transcends all other frail human emotions. I believe in living each day to the fullest and opening one's heart and mind to the incredible goodness and beauty of all people regardless.
"My first book, Incommunicado, was penned because of the outrage I felt and still feel over the unsolved and ongoing Juarez Femicide; the brutal murders of the women and girls of Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua Mexico." She has also contributed a short story, "Black Out," in Infinite Pleasures: An Anthology of Lesbian Erotica.
Linda Wagner lives in Eugene, Oregon with her partner and young daughter. They find the Willamette Valley the ideal place to live and raise their child. When they are not catering to their daughter's busy social schedule, they enjoy time with friends, attending women's dances and, for Linda, working on her writing. That work has been influenced by traveling in many "social circles" and finding more similarities among women than differences.
Jenah Watson was born and raised in New England. After attending college, she moved to Florida for what she thought would be a short stay to attend graduate school. Twenty years later, she's still in Florida, living, working, and enjoying the outdoors. Throughout high school and college, Jenah was very involved in both sports and music. Today, she can occasionally be found shooting hoops or playing the drums. Her love of music, sports, and Florida are integral parts of her first novel, Our Reunion.
Originally from Cuba, Ali Vali has retained much of her family’s traditions and language and uses them frequently in her stories. Having her father read her stories and poetry before bed every night as a child infused her with a love of reading, which carries till today. In 2000, Ali decided to embark on a new path and started writing.
She has discovered that living in Louisiana and running a non-profit provides plenty of material to draw from in creating her novels and short stories. Mixing imagination with different life experiences, she creates characters that are engaging to the reader on many levels. Ali states that "The feedback from readers encourages me to continue to hone my skills as a writer."
SB Zarben is a University student, born and raised in Alberta, Canada. She lives with her family and a handful of pets and can often be found in front of her computer. In her spare time, SB enjoys writing, video and computer games, and is a proud fan of the TV show Farscape.