Sunday, September 25, 2011

Open Water by Pol Robinson

Publisher:     Bella Books

Pol Robinson's debut novel is an exciting and enjoyable story about competition, hard work, dedication and building a friendship before romance.

Cass Flynn thought she had lost her chance to be on the US Rowing Team at the Beijing Olympics.  A terrible accident threatened to take her career completely, but after long months of rehabilitation, Cass finds herself added to the team to replace an injured rower.  As the oldest member and someone who bears scars on her legs, she has to prove to the other rowers that she not only deserves this chance, but that she can win. Team Captain Laura Kelley has serious doubts about Cass's suitability, but her own issues consume her attention more.  Laura blames herself for the suicide of her ex-lover's sister and the guilt is interfering with her own performance.  As the woman train and battle their private demons, they begin to establish a relationship that, in the end, could be more important than any gold medals they might win.

Sometimes it's difficult to put a finger on why a book is so enjoyable.  It's not that any one thing stands out about it, but that everything combines to create an experience that is worth having.  Open Water is that type of book.  Pol Robinson has experience as a rower, so she is able to create the authenticity that captures the experience of training for and competing in rowing so well.  The reader can feel with each character what she is going through as she prepares for her races.  The strain that Cass feels in trying to recover from her injury and prove her worth to the team is very strong.  The anxiety that Laura experiences over how her personal life is affecting the team makes her character extremely well rounded.  These are women that the reader will recognize and identify with.  The reader may know women like them.

Open Water flows off of the pages.  The story passes smoothly and quickly, almost emulating the strokes of the rowers' oars.  The personality of each character contributes to the atmosphere of the book as well as the setting in Beijing.  It's also a very clean book with no mistakes or misprints in it.  That makes the reading even easier.  If this is an example of what can be expected from Pol Robinson in the future, then readers have some good books to look forward to.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Between Two Women - - movie

This is a lesbian movie made for straight people. It doesn't cross any lines that will make them uncomfortable. It's slow paced, like many British movies. A mother comes to be friends with a teacher when the teacher shows an interest in the son's artistic ability. Things start slowly and remain slow. The women come to realize they have feelings for each other and decide what they want to do. As to interaction between the characters, they could have been deciding to be best friends. The movie was OK, but I kept getting distracted by emails and other things. It just didn't hold my attention.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If the Wind Were a Woman by Kelly Sinclair

Publisher:          Blue Feather Books, Ltd.

Kelly Sinclair sets her new novel in Tantona, Texas in the 1970s.  Tantona is a typical small southern town.  Men are in charge, women stay home to take care of the family, and most people go to church on Sunday.  It hardly seems to be a place that is on the cusp of the changes that are gripping the country, but appearances can be deceiving.  Latino/Hispanic/Mexican Americans (they can't decide what to call them) are moving in to change the culture, some of the women are going to work and a scandal breaks over them revealing that there is at least one lesbian in the town.  Oh, if they only knew.

Barbara Wolfe isn't interested in being an advocate for anyone.  The fact that she is a lesbian is the worst kept secret in Tantona, but as long as she's not overt about it, people are willing to pretend they don't know.  Barbara is discreet about her affairs until she meets Darlene Fisher.  One little slip nearly gets Barbara killed, she loses her job and most of the town sees her as a pariah, including her own daughter.  Barbara can handle her own problems, but she's afraid of what might happen to Darlene.  While they try not to antagonize the town, the women find themselves in the midst of a group of family and friends who are determined to help them make their relationship work.  Maybe, just maybe, it's time to test the people of Tantona and find out how many, if any, of them are willing to catch up to what is beginning to happen in the rest of the country.

If the Wind Were a Woman provides a picture that is beginning to disappear in lesbian literature as young women who are growing up in a different time don't know about or remember a time not too long ago when things were very different in the US.  Sinclair reminds the reader that not only was being gay a crime, but it could very easily get you killed and many law enforcement officials simply did not care.  Identifying other members of the gay community to form a support system could be difficult to impossible and being in the closet was a survival tactic, not simply a choice.  Sinclair captures that predicament very well with Barbara and another character named George.  One is forced into the open and the other is terrified that he will be put in the same position.  They also demonstrate how what happens to one person can have a ripple effect on other people and their decisions.

One of the strongest themes in this book is about the power of women even when people do not perceive that they have that power.  The blurb on the back of the book says that Darlene is "an uncontrollable force of nature" who is driving the action in the book.  That is questionable.  There are a number of women who drive different issues and Darlene seems to have the least strength of all of them.  She spends most of the book pretending to be interested in men while Barbara stands in front of the community and takes the blows.  There is also Barbara's best friend Mary who is defiant in the face of the townspeople and will not desert her friend just because she is a lesbian.  Gracie Munoz shows her strength in forcing the town to accept cultural diversity and Barbara's mother exhibits another type of courage when she refuses to let the town shame her daughter.  The book is an homage to the role that women play, when they are at their best, in holding families together, managing the civic conscience and fighting for the underdog.

If the Wind Were a Woman is not a long book, only 172 pages, but it packs a lot of story in it.  An author does not need to write a lot of words if she knows which words to choose.  The book shows how far society has come and, unfortunately, has not come.  It's worth reading.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tilting at Windmills by Geonn Cannon

Publisher:             P.D. Publishing

Claire Lance is a wanted woman, but not in the way she wants to be.  The authorities think that Lance is a rogue cop who killed her lover Elaine.  No one believes what really happened, so she's been moving for over a year trying to avoid being arrested.  FBI Special Agent Faye Mallory is particularly tenacious because she is Elaine's sister and determined to make Lance pay for what happened.  Lance's car breaks down outside of a small Texas town and she is forced to take a job in a local bar to earn the money for the repairs.  Roy Morse isn't a great boss.  He's tied into the local crime community and he abuses his wife Gwen.  In a very short time, Lance is forced to kill two men, including Roy, and finds herself on the run again, this time with Gwen in tow.  As they flee from the police, Roy's gang and Agent Mallory, Lance will find herself forced to confront her past.  Gwen will learn things about herself that will alter her future.

Tilting at Windmills is a fast paced story.  By focusing on Lance's struggle to survive and protect Gwen it allows for a lot of action.  There isn't a great deal of character development, though the flashback sequences of what happened to Lance and Elaine gives greater detail to Claire's character.  The struggle between Lance and Mallory adds another dimension.  It's obvious how much each one is suffering.  The reader will wish they could reach some understanding.

One of the problems with Cannon's books in general is how he writes about lesbians.  It sometimes seems as if he sees them as men in women's skin.  Lance and Mallory could easily be portrayed as male characters.  All Cannon has done is change the gender of the pronouns.  He misses on the emotional bonds that exist between women as part of a relationship.  They may appear to be acting like men, but they aren't thinking or feeling that way.  A point that seems to escape Cannon.

Where Cannon's book is unique is in how he ends the story.  Romances generally follow a formula.  Cannon departs slightly from that formula, which gives the book a refreshing and realistic ending.  It also leaves the characters open for a sequel if he should choose to revisit them.

In all Tilting at Windmills is a quick read that may appeal to action or suspense fans.  There are also enough intimate scenes included to please romance fans.  It's an average book, but fine for a few hours of reading.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Like Lovers Do by Lori Lake

Publisher:           Regal Crest Enterprises

It's been a while since Lori Lake had a new book, but she's returned with a very well written romance.  Lake is an experienced writer and she shows that in Like Lovers Do.

There is more to Kennie McClain than meets the eye.  The casual observer would see a woman who works security in an apartment building and does a little maintenance work in exchange for a small apartment.  What the tenants don't know is that Kennie owns the building.  Although she is friendly, she prefers to keep to herself as she mourns the death of her partner three years before.  Lily Gordon and Max Wallington change all of that.  Lily is a beautiful and famous painter who brings out feelings in Kennie that she wishes she did not have.  Kennie doesn't want to hurt anymore and Lily has a lover who is a real problem, especially because she is a police officer.  Max is a homeless teenager that Kennie saves from a beating in back of her building one day and then allows to move in with her.  For her good Samaritan deed, Kennie finds herself hosting a group of abandoned teenagers and in danger.  All of these new friends are going to open Kennie up to possibilities she had never considered.

Like Lovers Do on the surface is a routine romance.  Two women meet and struggle to have a relationship.  What raises this book above the crowd however is how the book is developed.  Lake is able to reveal a lot about her characters with a few words, so she has more room for a richer story.  Sometimes it's easy to read a book and feel that the characters are flat.  That does not happen here.  Kennie is a particularly appealing person.  Her motivations are easy to understand and her emotions totally realistic.  Her sadness over her partner's death and her sense of betrayal by Lily's behavior radiate off of the pages.  Max is vibrant, vulnerable and the kind of friend Kennie needs.  She opens Kennie up to introspection and a deeper understanding of what she can do for other people.  Lily is exasperating because she won't admit what is wrong with her girlfriend and their relationship, but the reader can relate to that because Lily knows just how hurtful her behavior is for Kennie, yet cannot seem to change it.  Many will recognize similar experiences.  The only character that remains a puzzle is Lily's girl friend PJ.  Even then she remains realistic because she alternates between someone the reader can dislike and admire.

There is another story in this book.  Many gay people find themselves building families of "choice."  In a sometimes hostile world where rejection by family and society is common, they choose who to be close to, share confidences with, join with at holidays and where to place their trust.  These groups may be only gay or a mixture of gay and straight, but their importance is that they supply the support and nurturing that do not come from blood relations.  Kennie creates her family from the people at the Allen Arms.  Lake shows how this dynamic works by contrasting those people with the behavior of Kennie's sister and brother.  The message comes out very clearly that love comes in many forms and not always from the places that most people would expect.

Like Lovers Do is an enjoyable book to read, with intriguing characters and an interesting story.  It's good to see Lori Lake return with such a well written book.