Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thin Fire by Nanci Little

Publisher:  Madwoman Press

"Don't ask, don't tell." But suppose you didn't know you had anything to tell.

Elen McNally thought the Army would be the chance for her to escape her miserable childhood hometown, but she makes the mistake of thinking that she can compensate for her past by sleeping her way through the male personnel of Ft. Hood. After a violent confrontation with one man, she finds herself turning to her roommate, Nikki Cole, for solace and her commanding officer, Major Kare Dillinger, as a mentor. This is when she makes the surprising discovery that she would rather form an emotional and physical tie with a woman, an idea that had never occurred to her before.

As time passes, she finds herself drawn more and more to Kare, who is a rising star in the Army, a woman who is slated to wear the stars of a general on her collar, if she's careful. Eventually, Elen and Kare cannot deny their feelings for each other and embark on a difficult and clandestine relationship. Fate intervenes though and their choices send them in different directions, Kare pursuing her stars and Elen returning home to resume her education and plan a career.

Kare's career soars and Elen finds acceptance from her parents and her niche in the academic world, while also experiencing a wrenching tragedy. Thin fire runs through both of the women however and planning their futures without each other may be impossible …or imperative.

Thin Fire is a well-written novel that tells a detailed and full story. The characters are allowed to develop as the tale slowly unfolds, so this isn't one of the books where the characters take one look at each other, instantly know they're in love and everything else is anticlimactic. The plot is intricate as the women realize their feelings, then have to deal with the realistic problems of being in the Army.

The theme for the book comes from a line of poetry by the lesbian poetess Sappho: "My tongue is broken and thin fire runs like a thief through my body." The women can't reveal their feelings for each other to anyone, yet their passion runs deep and can't be ignored. Watching them deal with the conflicting parts of their lives is sometimes painful, but it rings true to life.

Plot twists keep the story from being totally predictable and leave the resolution of the situation unknown until almost the last page. The reader will feel that she knows Elen and Kare, especially Elen, and what they decide is important. At the end of the book, there is a feeling that you've definitely read a complete story, though more details about Kare's life would have added more to the picture of the women.

This novel has been out of print for several years, but searching for a copy of it will be worth the time that is spent looking for it.

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