Thursday, August 18, 2011

Penetrate by Kathleen Kelly

Publisher:    1st ed - Cavalier Press; 2nd ed - P.D. Publishing

Penetrate features two characters who couldn't be more different in their personalities and histories. Kali is a ruthless modern-day pirate in the Amazon region, world weary and able to kill as effortlessly as most people breathe. Her loyalty and efficiency can be bought and her personal relationships are limited to what is necessary. Maddie is an academic, a sheltered PhD who has come to the rainforest to study the environment and effects of global warming. She hasn't seen much of the world and knows even less about people. Their worlds literally collide when their ships run into each other on the Amazon River. Kali is on an assassination mission and Maddie becomes her unfortunate captive. Despite what her logic tells her, Kali doesn't immediately kill Maddie and finds herself dealing with her conflicting feelings about that, while she flees from the wrath of the cartel for her failed mission. As they race for their lives through the Brazilian rainforest, Maddie finds herself drawn to the strange woman while facing the fact that she can never be sure that Kali isn't going to kill her the next minute. 

The most interesting character in the book is Kali. She is tough on the outside and tough on the inside. Yet, her story is revealed in a way to almost, but not quite, make her a sympathetic figure. She isn't a redeemed character, but she is brash, intelligent and daring. Maddie's character is less well drawn or perhaps less admirable, in an odd sort of way. Her naivete` is almost irritating, but she develops a loyalty to Kali that strengthens her and she is able to understand Kali for who she truly is.

Kelly has produced an excellent adventure story. It's full of drama and suspense that keeps the pages turning and the fact that her characters are lesbians is incidental to the story. The story would be just as interesting if the women were not drawn to each other in a sexual context. By the end of the book it is clear that they do love each other, but it is refreshing in that it shows that love doesn't always have a "happy" ending.  

Penetrate stands out as a good example of fiction writing. The lesbian characters are simply a bonus for the reader. This book has been out of print for a while, but it is worth the hunt to find a copy.

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