Saturday, July 28, 2012

Return of the Raven by Jamie Scarratt

Publisher:         Blue Feather Books

Return of the Raven is the second volume in the Wolf’s Tales mysteries.  Red Wolverton and Evadne Davenport have formed a private investigation firm despite the vast differences in their lives and backgrounds.  Red is still recovering from their last adventure and trying to adapt to the lifestyle to which Evadne has introduced her, but isn’t having a lot of success.  She’s also having trouble determining exactly what her personal relationship with Evadne should be.

In this book the women are asked by a friend of Evadne’s to investigate the strange occurrences at his manor house.  They find themselves dealing with phantoms, ancient prophecies and secret societies.  Their relationship is also tested by misunderstandings and outside forces, including two women who seem intent on drawing the partners apart.  Red and Evadne have to find a way to regain their trust for each other because, according to the prophecy, they are the key to the next battle between good and evil.

This was an excellent book to read.  It was well edited with no mistakes.  The story unfolded at exactly the right pace and the characters were extremely well developed.  Scarratt struck the perfect balance for a book in a series.  She only included enough from the previous story to keep the reader informed about what was happening and what previous events might have influenced the current ones, but she didn’t bog down the book with extraneous information.  If anything, what is revealed in this book makes the first one more plausible. 

One of Scarratt’s real strengths is her ability to use the paranormal aspects of her story in a way that makes them seem normal and possible.  Not much reality has to be suspended for the reader to completely buy into what is happening.  Scarratt also does a good job of keeping the mystery in the mystery.  Even when the reader realizes what is happening, it’s not enough to give away the next steps in the progression.  This is partly because Scarratt isn’t afraid to take her characters into bad places, behaviors that make them look bad or cause them pain.  The reader can’t be sure what is going to happen next.

Return of the Raven is a true paranormal mystery.  Fans of both genres can enjoy this book.  It’s one of the ones that is hard to put down once it’s started.  Those who like romances may be frustrated that Red and Evadne are taking so long to find each other, but there is hope.  Scarratt dangles enough at the end to indicate that there might be a third book and the reader will want to have it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Poem For What's Her Name by Dani O'Connor

Publisher:      Spinster's Ink

What happens when you give up on love?  Doc is a professor and the head of the English Department at the college where she works.  She tries to find love, even to the point of enrolling herself in Internet dating.  What follows is a hilarious series of the worse dates ever endured by anyone and Doc is convinced the kind of woman she is looking for just doesn’t exist.  Just as she adjusts to the idea that she will spend her life alone, Doc meets a young woman who changes her mind.  Not only do they form a relationship, but they end up making a life-long commitment.

This is a romance and a comedy.  Some of the dates Doc finds herself on will have the reader howling with laughter.  There’s nothing complicated about the story or that requires any deep thinking.  It’s just to be enjoyed.

If someone is looking for a book with which to have a good time, A Poem For What’s Her Name is that book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Runaway by Anne Laughlin

Publisher:         Bold Strokes Books

Jan Roberts and Maddy Harrington have something in common.  They’re both runaways.  The difference is that Jan escaped years ago from her father’s survival camp in Idaho so that she could have a more normal life.  Now she’s a private investigator in Chicago who is hired to find a naïve, wealthy girl who ran away from parents and a life she hated to create what she thought was going to be a utopia.  Just as Jan begins the case, the company she works for is sold to a British security firm and she gets a new boss.  Catherine Engstrom is a former British government agent with some secrets of her own and there is a powerful attraction between them. 

Jan has to deal with two dilemmas.  She’s not used to trusting other people and she doesn’t want to trust Catherine, but she can’t help herself, even when she finds out that Catherine is forbidden fruit.  At the same time, the hunt for Maddy is taking the women into Idaho among the militia groups and survivalists that Jan wants desperately to avoid.  Both situations pose great danger for Jan.

Runaway starts as a very strong book, then dies at the end.  The prologue has a real hook to draw the reader into the story as Jan struggles to escape from her father’s control.  That edge continues into the rest of the book as Laughlin alternates between scenes of Jan and Catherine looking for Maddy and those of what Maddy is experiencing.  It becomes clear quickly that Maddy has involved herself in something entirely different from what she was expecting and the reader is allowed to feel her disillusionment as it mounts.  Likewise, Jan’s confusion about her feelings for Catherine and her concerns about possibly confronting her father again come through very strongly and add tension to what is going on.   The fact that there are some passionate scenes between Jan and Catherine doesn’t hurt the book.

In the last forty pages though, the book goes flat.  It’s like a balloon that someone has suddenly let the air out of.  The tension is mounting and things are headed for a climax and then everything becomes totally unbelievable and even trite.  Everything suddenly ends, everyone goes home and that’s it.  Anne Laughlin is a better writer than this.  The reader might almost think that she was running out of time for a deadline, so decided just to cut the book off.  It’s unfortunate because, up to that point, she had an interesting book.

Runaway is fine for entertaining reading……except for the end.  It isn’t a waste of the reader’s time, but once you see what the book could have been, the conclusion is that much more disappointing.  Read this one with caution.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blue Skies by Ali Vali

Publisher:        Bold Strokes Books

Books that are based on current events are terrific and worrisome.  The terrific part is that they seem extremely believable and may teach people about situations they’ve ignored in the evening news.  The worrisome aspect is that, because the story is so realistic, everything in the book takes on a feeling of being factual when in fact it isn’t.

Berkley Levine is a Top Gun instructor for the Navy in Fallon, Nevada.  She’s excels at what she does and is one of the best instructors available.  Berkley doesn’t miss the action of serving in a combat position because she is nursing a broken heart caused by Aidan Sullivan.  Aidan put her career before everything when she was offered the opportunity to be the first female captain of an aircraft carrier, the USS Jefferson.  Tensions rise between the US and North Korea and the Jefferson is given secret orders to destroy a nuclear facility in North Korea.  Aidan uses all of her influence to get the pilot she knows she needs to lead her air wing and the attack on the plant.  Bringing them together on the same ship reignites the relationship they once had, but their positions are more than a complication.  What the women don’t know is that they are part of a bigger plot within the government to compromise a new president and possibly bring down the system in a military and political coup d’etat.

The reader will need to completely disregard the improbability of the relationship between Berkley and Aidan.  The military has strict protocols against affairs between people of different ranks, not to mention that, when this book was originally written, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still very much in effect.  Once the reader gets past that barrier, however, she can enjoy an extremely well-crafted story.

Blue Skies could come off of the front of today’s newspapers with the concern over North Korea’s nuclear program and the instability that country threatens to inject into world affairs.  Knowledge of that situation enhances the power of what Vali writes about.  It’s a fast paced action story that will hold the reader’s attention with a high level of tension, especially once the mission begins.  It’s populated by interesting and well-rounded characters.  Berkley has the swagger of a military pilot and could easily be seen taking over Tom Cruise’s role in “Top Gun” or posing as one of the original astronauts.  She has that laid back, never get ruffled attitude down pat.  Aidan is a classic example of the Naval Academy graduate who is determined to make a name for herself in what has been a man’s world.  She’s as tough and professional as any of them.  It’s almost playing against type for them to be attracted to each other, but in this case it works.  Vali manages to take a North Korean pilot and make her an appealing and commanding character in the story, not an easy task.

Blue Skies is an exciting book with good characters and an interesting story line.  The fact that it may not be totally based on reality doesn’t detract from enjoying it at all.  This is one that it’s easy to recommend to people.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Remember Tomorrow by Gabrielle Goldsby

Publisher:        Bold Strokes Books

Cees (Case) Bannigan is the star of a successful home improvement TV show and having a satisfactory affair with the producer when she is contacted from someone out of her past.  Her ex-lover Arieanna Simons has been in an accident and has total amnesia.  She has no one to take care of her and Cees still has her power of attorney.  Cees was deeply hurt when Arie left her for no apparent reason before, but someone has to help her.  Cees infuriates her friends when she takes Arie in and then finds that she still has feelings for her.  Arie is hiding a medical secret from before the accident, which is what caused her to walk away, and that hasn’t disappeared.  Sometimes the best way to show you love someone is to give her up, but Arie isn’t sure she has the strength or will to do it again.

Gabrielle Goldsby does a good job in this book.  Her characters seem realistic and the story moves at a good pace.  What’s nice is that she deals with a difficult subject in a different way.  There is no villain, although it certainly looks at first as if Arie is one.  What Goldsby presents is a picture of two women who love each other so much that they nearly destroy each other.  Arie flees from the relationship because she wants to spare Cees the pain of witnessing what Arie thinks is going to happen to her health.  The problem is that Arie’s not happy and neither is Cees.  They both lead shallow lives.  The nice twist to the story is that, even though they reunite, the potential problem hasn’t disappeared, so they still face the same situation.

Another tweak to the plot is that Arie doesn’t remember what she did originally.  She thinks she and Cees are still a couple.  Two of the best characters in the book are Cees’ friends Lilly and Momma who are furious with Arie for what she did to Cees, but it’s difficult to articulate that to a woman who is sick and doesn’t remember what she did.  Their anger is equally directed at Cees for setting herself up to be hurt again.  These are flesh and blood characters that react exactly as you would expect them to.

Anyone looking for a good book to read, with strong characters and an interesting romance, should find what she’s looking for in Remember Tomorrow.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jukebox by Gina Noelle Daggett

Publisher:          Bella Books

Grace Dunlop and Harper Alessi meet as young girls and become best friends.  They take tennis lessons together, attend the same school, come out as debutantes and enroll in the same college.  As the years pass they become closer, take trips together and become intimate, but neither is willing to admit she’s a lesbian.  When Harper is ready to reveal her feelings to Grace, things do not go well and the girls are separated for twelve years.  The second part of the book deals with the women after those years, how they have developed and how they resolve their situation.  For them to be together, it will require a great sacrifice on Grace’s part.  Harper has already put herself on the line and been hurt.  The question is whether or not Grace is willing to make her decision and have the courage to go to Harper because it will totally rearrange Grace’s very comfortable world.

Jukebox takes its name from the fact that each chapter is titled after a popular song that relates to the theme of that chapter.  The book is unusual in that it begins as a coming out novel about two young girls; then skips a significant amount of time to become a book about the relationship between two women.  That means there is a large portion of the women’s development missing.  What happens during the years they are separated to set them up for the second part of the book isn’t there and that information might have been helpful for the story development.

Daggett had the courage to write a book that is sometimes difficult to read.  Most romance fans want the story to progress in a certain way and Daggett doesn’t conform to that formula.  She rips her lovers apart with no certainty of reunification.  She also reveals a significant amount about the emotions people go through as they discover they are gay, try to reorient themselves to what that means and deal with the stresses that come from family and community.  The fact that the book starts in the 1980s shows that, contrary to some opinions, that is still very much an ongoing struggle.

Readers looking for a traditional romance won’t find it here.  It is a well written book though and the story is good enough to hold the reader’s interest.  It may also trigger some memories, both happy and painful.  The ending is a bit of a cliché, but that doesn’t mean the reader won’t be entertained.

The Sea Captain and the Lady by Vada Foster

Publisher:          Intaglio Publications

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, being a privateer, which is basically a legal pirate, is a respectable occupation.  Colleen Edwards learns the family’s business by serving on her father’s ship and they sail the Caribbean Sea with permits from the king of England raiding the ships from other countries.  Abby Hume is the daughter of the English governor of the Bahamas  and has already met Colleen when she is kidnapped by pirate captain Jack Rackham.  When Rackham demands a ransom, Colleen and her father decide to rescue Abby.  When Colleen’s father is wounded, she takes over command of her father’s ship and the crew follows her because she has lived disguised as a man.  Her objectives are to save Abby and create a life together for them.

It’s never a good sign when an author starts out saying that she has taken “liberties” with the facts, so lovers of history will probably find reading this book to be a struggle.  There is just too much that is wrong to enjoy it much.  Since neither one of them is a prostitute, the characters know too much about sex and indulge in it too freely to be living in the 18th century.  The dialogue isn’t true to the period either.  There was obviously very little research into the period to make the story believable.  Throwing in the names of real pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read does not make up for the other inconsistencies.  The number of editing errors would almost seem to indicate that the rough draft was printed instead of the finished version.

Things happen too quickly in the story also.  There is very little development as it jumps from scene to scene and the relationship between Colleen and Abby shows practically no thought.  Lesbian readers will probably be unhappy with the fact that Colleen lives her life as a man throughout the book, although that is the one realistic touch.  It’s the only way the women would have had a chance of staying together.

There are a number of very good and accurate historical romances in lesbian literature.  The reader should look for those and leave this one alone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

GCLS goes to Provincetown

The Golden Crown Literary Society
Presents Our First Annual Event
Provincetown, MA
Women’s Week 2012
The sage Inn 336 Commercial St in the Heart of Provincetown
  Friday October 12th 11am-3pm
Authors in attendance: Lynn Ames, Karen Badger, Marianne Banks, Nat Burn, Sacchi Green (2012 Goldie Winner), Karen Kallmaker, Renee MacKenzie, Bev Prescott, Laurie Salzler and Joan Timberlake

The authors will be available for a meet and greet, panel discussion with Q&A and book signings
Refreshments will be served.
We will have a special appearance from our friends at By Water Books in the afternoon: Georgia Beers, Sally Bellerose, Fay Jacobs, 2012 Trailblazer Award Winner Marianne K. Martin and 2012 Goldie Winner, Mari SanGiovanni.
Book signings will also be held at Women’s Craft on Thursday October 12th and Sat October 13th Details to follow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caring for Kara - Lesfic Community Responds

Kara Leonardo has been a supporter of the lesbian fiction community for many years.  She has supported the authors and the readers in their pursuit of strengthening the literature and she belongs to many Yahoo groups and individual pages for authors, bloggers and the like.

On February 11, 2012, Kara and her partner Stephanie Marvel were involved in a car accident, which Stephanie unfortunately did not survive.   
Kara suffered numerous injuries and has been in a rehabilitation hospital for many months, but she will be leaving there soon and needs help to rebuild her life.

The lesbian fiction community has come together to try and help Kara do this.  Numerous authors have donated items, including autographed books and the chance to be a character in a book, that are being given away in an auction.  Roselle Graskey and Sharon Baughman have organized this campaign and set up a page at where you can see what is available.  If you don't want to bid on anything, there is also a place where you can make a contribution.

These are difficult economic times for many people, but at least most of us are able to stand on our feet and take care of ourselves.  Now is when we need to remember those who can't.  100% of the funds that are raised will go to Kara.  If you can help, it will be greatly appreciated.

Fragmentary Blue by Erica Abbott

Publisher:           Bella Books

Fragmentary Blue is the story of two police officers.  C.J. St. Clair has just been hired to head the Internal Affairs Division in Colfax, Colorado, and one of the first people she meets is Capt. Alex Ryan, the head of the detective unit.  There is the requisite immediate attraction that occurs between the women and then the complication arrives.  Alex is accused first of helping a criminal to escape and then murder.  C.J. is suddenly faced with having to investigate the woman she would like to be involved with.  Alex is looking at the end of her career and possibly prison at the hands of the woman she thought could change her life.  In order to prove Alex is innocent of the charges, they may have to forfeit having any relationship at all.

This is a typical cop loves cop story.  The women make an effective team and then are brought into conflict.  The characters are likable and the reader will hope they work things out.  The mystery behind what is happening begins to collapse about half way through the book and it’s fairly easy to predict who is manipulating everything.  There is a shocking incident thrown in to raise the tension in the story, but even then the reader knows what the resolution will be.

There are two annoying points.  C.J. sounds like a refugee from Gone With The Wind.  Abbott takes a young woman in her thirties, which means she grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, and treats her as if she were raised in a much earlier time.  Her behavior and speech don’t always match with someone her age.  The biggest mistake in the book however is more serious.  Abbott presents her characters as honorable, straight shooters when it comes to their careers.  When Alex gets in trouble however, C.J. breaks every ethical rule she can to continue on the investigation.  When this is discovered at the end of the book, she then receives a less than minimal punishment for what she does.  Anyone with any sense knows that C.J.’s behavior would not have been tolerated by a real police department and would have resulted in her being fired.  Having things work out as they do might be pleasing for some readers, but it’s jarring for those who prefer that stories be more realistic.

Fragmentary Blue demonstrates that Erica Abbott has promise as a writer.  It is her debut novel and acceptable as such.  The sense is that she can be a better writer and the hope is that this will prove to be true in later books.  For now, it’s an entertaining story for a light read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ill Will by J.M. Redmann

Publisher:          Bold Strokes Books

Ill Will is the seventh installment in the Micky Knight mystery series.  It’s set in a New Orleans that is still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and this time Micky is dealing with the shysters and scam artists who have moved into the city.  One case has her representing the victims of builders who have taken their money and then disappeared.  Another case has her trying to track down the source of herbal supplements that are being sold to desperately sick people as an alternative to standard medications.  With so few doctors in the city, people will try anything to cure their illnesses.

Micky and her partner Cordelia are struggling as much as the city.  Their relationship has suffered some severe strains and they are gingerly trying to regain the trust and support they once shared.  They will rediscover their feelings when a life threatening illness appears in their lives.  Each woman will be called on to demonstrate strength neither knew that she had.  In the process they will have to reassess what is truly important.

Like the previous two books in the series, Ill Will has a more serious tone than the earlier books.  This can only be expected in stories that are so strongly rooted in New Orleans.  The question is, is Redmann trying to describe what has happened to the city or exorcise demons from the experience of the aftermath of the hurricane?  Probably it’s some of both.  New Orleans had lived by the slogan “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll) and the city is still trying in these books to return to those good times.  Redmann captures how difficult that is as she has Micky describe the destruction and barrenness that grip the area.  The reader can feel the horror of the event whenever Micky describes the impact that being stranded in a hospital had on Cordelia.  It doesn’t take much to evoke the famous images of bodies lying in the streets and houses.  This is a city occupied by ghosts, living and dead.  The posttraumatic stress of the citizens is almost another character. 

Mickey offers a bit of wisdom about the relationship between Cordelia and her:  More important, we agreed that we had to find more ways to…capture the small moments and be together…. But how you spend time can be more important than saving time.  It’s not much of a stretch however to see how this same philosophy, with a twist, applies to the city and the people who survive there.  New Orleans has moved on.  It’s a different city with a new demographic that remembers the past, but is facing the future.  How they live now is more important than how they lived.  Perhaps Redmann will use her next book to show Micky and her friends moving forward with the city instead of being so rooted in their memories.

The major weakness in the story is one that reappears in every Micky Knight book, so it’s really a habit of Redmann’s.  Micky always starts off with two cases that have nothing to do with each other and by the end of the book, they end up being the same case.  In a city with a reduced population this might be more possible than in the past, but New Orleans is still a major city.  To believe that unrelated events always come together as parts of the same whole is more than improbable.

Redmann’s mysteries are never as much about who did it as they are about how Micky is going to prove it.  Certain aspects of the puzzle become evident very quickly.  The intrigue comes as Micky tries to fit the pieces together and bring the culprits to justice without getting herself or anyone else killed.  For that experience alone, it’s always interesting to read a Micky Knight mystery.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

On the Air by Geonn Cannon

Publisher:       P. D. Publishing

Nadine Butler is a popular radio disc jockey called “the Pixie” at a small station on Squire’s Isle in Washington.  She and her girlfriend Amy, who is a reporter for the local newspaper, are deeply in the closet until Nadine unintentionally outs herself at a town meeting.  Amy then reports on the incident and turns it into front page news.  When Nadine learns her job is threatened, she seizes control of the radio station and tries to start a gay revolution on the island.

There are a number of problems with this book.  The entire premise is silly and improbable.  When Nadine seizes the radio station, the police not only don’t try to stop her, but end up helping her.  The reader is supposed to believe that Nadine is closeted because of the community, but gay people erupt out of everywhere once she comes forward.  The love scenes are flat and most damning of all, the characters just aren’t interesting.  The whole story is superficial and rushed.  The quality of the book as a product isn’t good.  The laminated cover refuses to hold its shape and curls away from the book.

Anyone looking for a few hours of mindless reading may find On the Air suitable.  Unfortunately, this is a book that will be remembered more for its mistakes than its plot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Agape by Maytee Aspuro y Gonzalez

Publisher:         Hillside Press

Agape is the second book in a trilogy about Episcopal priest Beth Kelly and her partner Nicole Thera, who sees herself as a spiritual person, but not a believer in religion as Beth practices it.  Beth has taken a sabbatical from her position with a church to work as a chaplain in a hospital.  She is struggling to regain the closeness she once felt to her god.  Nikki is trying to rebuild her business after it was destroyed by a fire.  The main issue in the book is whether two people who have such different views can find a way to communicate and co-exist.

This book is unique because it deals with the tensions that exist in a relationship when the partners have such different visions of religion.  It could be said that Aspuro y Gonzalez makes the story more complicated by having the couple be lesbians, except that their lesbianism never really plays a part in the discussion.  These are not women who are battling a church.  They are trying to find a way to bring their ideas together as much as possible to make their lives work.  Beth’s beliefs shape every part of her life and it is a struggle for her that Nikki will not share her feelings.  Nikki isn’t an atheist.  Quite the contrary since she is an avid student of all theological texts.  She takes a more universal view of religion and god though and cannot share Beth’s total surrender to her own vision.  Nikki doesn’t want to share Beth with God, but she realizes she has no choice if wants to live with a woman she truly loves.

The interesting aspect of this book is that it doesn’t follow the traditional formula of romances, but deals with a very real issue that confronts many couples.  There’s never any doubt that Beth and Nikki love each other, but their lives are founded on basic and fundamental differences.  Any relationship requires compromises in order for it to work, but some compromises are bigger than others.  These women have to struggle to find a faith in each other that can provide a foundation strong enough to support their differences.  This is a battle that often doesn’t end successfully for the people involved.

Religion, or the lack of it, is a very personal and emotional topic for most people.  It takes great confidence for an author to tackle it as honestly as Aspuro y Gonzalez does.  She takes the reader on a journey with her characters.  Beth and Nikki don’t preach at each other.  Each of them has questions about her own beliefs, but she stands by her basic position.  This is not a story where once partner suddenly renounces what she has said and accepts the other’s values.   By open and honest discussion they search for the common ideas that bind them together.  Where they end up may not be what the reader expects.

Agape is a thoughtful book, but the story is told basically as a romance.  A reader doesn’t have to be concerned about being bogged down in theological discussions, but she may find herself weighing her own beliefs while she enjoys the story.  It’s an easy book to read, but not for someone who is looking for the simple romances that are so popular.

Wind and Bones by Kristin Marra

Publisher:       Bold Strokes Books

Jill O’Hara returns reluctantly to her hometown in Montana to oversee her father’s funeral and settle his estate.  This is meant to be a quick trip, but she is caught up in a land battle with local survivalists that drags out her stay.  She also becomes involved with two different women.  One is Annie Doyle, her first love, who betrayed her many years before, but seems intent on reeling Jill back in.  This is especially complicated since Annie is married to one of the leaders of the extremists.  The other woman is the local sheriff, Rae Terabian, who has a fondness for riding around on a motorcycle in her black leathers.  Each woman represents her own type of danger.  Jill has to decide which woman is more appealing while maneuvering through the frightening political situation in the area.

Wind and Bones is Kristin Marra’s debut book.  The characters are fairly well drawn and the story moves along at a good pace.  One of the most interesting characters is the treacherous Annie.  Trying to figure out exactly what her game is makes up a good part of the book.  The suspense plays out well and some good love scenes are included.  The descriptions of Montana are important components of the story.  Anyone who has visited that state will recognize the environment and the wildness of the area contributes to the plot.   

Marra has written an entertaining book.  While it’s not unique for the genre and not a sophisticated or demanding book to read, it is fine for a few hours of escapism.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Appointment with a Smile by Kieran York

Publisher:          Blue Feather Books

Appointment with a Smile is the story of two weeks in the life of artist Danielle O’Hara.  For thirty years she has lived in Colorado, devoted to her painting and still in love with the woman who deserted her, Molly.  Danielle comes to London for a major showing of her work and by chance sees Molly again.  She also meets a beautiful woman named Bethany who is interested in a future with Danielle.  Danielle finds herself caught up in a swirl of emotions as the professional recognition she has always sought suddenly comes crashing down on her, the feelings she’s never given up for Molly come back with full force and she finds herself attracted to someone who tells her that her life doesn’t have to be as lonely as she has made it.  Danielle is forced to examine herself and her life and not everything she discovers is pleasant.

Kieran York has performed quite a feat.  She’s created a thoughtful, interesting story with a main character that is sometimes aggravating beyond belief.  Danielle is one of those women the reader might want to grab and shake until her head rattles.  If she were someone you actually knew, you’d want to yell at her, “What’s wrong with you?”  The fact that her friends in the book frequently do that makes the story more realistic.  One woman keeps saying she doesn’t want Danielle and another one very much does, but Danielle can’t make up her mind which one to pursue.  She’s a very complex character, sometimes admirable and sometimes hopeless.  At times it’s maddening to watch her possibly torpedo a chance for happiness.

York also chose to write about older characters.  That means that these women come with many more conditions and situations than younger characters would have.  Some writers have said that they veer away from older characters for this very reason.  York treats their issues as plot lines.  A woman has to have some age to have been hopelessly in love with a person she hasn’t seen in three decades.  Danielle also faces a very real concern when she wonders if she can make room in her life for a lover after the age of 60.  She’s used to living her life a certain way and she’s not sure she wants to change at this point or ask someone to move into her sphere.  Many older readers will be able to identify with that internal battle between finding someone to love and altering the comfortable patterns they’ve settled into.

The encouraging part of the story comes from Danielle’s friends.  Though they are the same approximate ages, they very much live their lives in the moment and with complete joy.  They provide the Greek chorus chanting in reply to Danielle’s pessimism that life isn’t over until it’s over and that she should grasp every opportunity to experience it to the fullest.  York uses Danielle’s friend Esther, an astrophysicist, in a sotto voce position.  Her comments about the universe, the expanse of time and the possibility of discoveries is in direct contrast to Danielle’s short vision.  Esther and the other women definitely believe that age is nothing but a number and is not the primary factor in what you decide to do.

There is a lot in this book.  It’s easy to forget that it only covers two weeks in time because so many issues are addressed.  It was refreshing to read about older characters dealing with what life throws at them.  Most lesbian fiction tends to feature characters between twenty-five and forty-five, but the population is aging.  There are many things in this book that an older woman can relate to.  There is also a message of hope in that love (and sex) does exist for older women, just at a different pace.

Appointment with a Smile is not just for older readers.  There are points here that can appeal to many ages.  However, it was nice to read about life from a different perspective.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Scapegoat by Amy Dawson Robertson

Publisher:        Bella Books

Scapegoat is volume two in the Rennie Vogel intrigue series.  Someone has to pay for the mistakes made in a previous government mission in Tajkistan and Rennie is that someone.  Her career is over and she’s been ordered not to have any contact with Hannah Marcus, the woman she rescued during the mission.  Rennie is ripe to be plucked when she is approached by the Foundation, a private organization formed by a wealthy businessman to deal with threats to the country that the US government may not be able to be involved with.  Rennie agrees with the Foundation in principle, but she’s not sure of its tactics.  Her first assignment brings her in contact with a murderer, white supremacists, survivalists and Hannah Marcus.  It’s questionable which is more difficult, bringing down a terrorist threat to the US or establishing a relationship with Hannah.

This is an excellent follow-up to Robertson’s first book Miles to Go.  There is an atmosphere of tension through the whole book and a dark tone that seems to surround Rennie.  The suspense follows a pattern of building; then there is a release before it builds the suspense again.  Each time the peak goes higher than before leading to a crescendo in the final confrontation.  The characters are complicated and very well drawn.  Vogel is a study in the complexity of a person who is trying to reestablish herself after she thinks her life has been destroyed and Hannah clearly shows the torn emotions of a woman who is dedicated to her work, but wants to make room in her life for someone else.  Supporting characters are just as complex, perhaps more so.

One of the book’s strengths is that Robertson has the courage to let things happen that other authors fail to carry through with because they’re not very nice.  She doesn’t mind taking a risk with her plot.  Scapegoat is realistic in showing that, sometimes, the bad guy does win a confrontation.  Added to that is enough about current situations to make the reader feel like she is reading an account of actual events instead of fiction.

Amy Dawson Robertson has earned herself a position among the best action suspense writers today.  Both of her books have delivered on everything that the category promises.  She is quickly entering that group of authors whose books will be bought automatically because they are known for the quality they provide.  The fact that she tells an excellent story is certainly part of that.