Wrapped Up in IRON & VELVET–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently re-released contemporary F/F paranormal mystery/romance from Alexis Hall. IRON & VELVET is the first book in the Kate Kane Paranormal Investigator series, and I was really intrigued. I’ve only read M/M romance from this author before, including FOR REAL, LOOKING FOR GROUP, and WAITING FOR THE FLOOD and PANSIES. This mostly-girl showdown is smart, sassy and little bit sexy.

About the book:
I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.

Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.

Last year I broke all of them.

The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.

I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.

My Review:
Kate Kane is a take-no-shit PI who totally drinks whisky for breakfast. Her specialty is in paranormal cases, and she’s particularly suited to this being half-Fae. Her mum is the Queen of the Wild Hunt and Kate can draw on her mother’s strength and power when necessary. She’s had a bad year, what with her ex-girlfriend murdering her investigation partner and then getting locked up for it. She’s desperate for a little cash, though, which is why she agrees to investigate the suspiscious death of a young werewolf at the Velvet, a vampire-owned hedonism bar.

Julian St. Germain is one of the four vampire princes–despite being female. She was once a nun on a mission to kill paranormal creatures, but a lot happens in 800 years. While Julian is strong, ancient and powerful, she also doesn’t want to risk a war breaking out all over London between the vampires and werewolf clans, and Kate seems like a sexy morsel who could solve the mystery and satisfy Julian’s…appetites. While Kate normally stays away from bedding vampires–and clients–there’s an undeniable pull between them. Also, Kate is definitely a master at bad decisions.

This is a fun and engaging read with a lush paranormal subculture set into London’s urbanity. I loved the class between the contemporary and the historical physical spaces here, which plays a counterpoint to Kate and Julian’s deepening attraction. There are so many intriguing characters, from the female werewolf alpha, who is a lingerie model who wouldn’t kick Kate out of bed for eating chips, to a genderqueer vamp ready to wreak havoc in stiletto heels, or a female golem who just wants to be useful, but not in a sexual way. Plus, the intricate politics of the different paranormal entities is vast and shrouded in arcane traditions only immortal beings could remember.

A second murder and a direct attack on Julian leads Kate, plus an unlikely collection of vamps, werewolves, and mages, into the bowels of London. They also probe Julian’s ancient history to find what could be stalking her. Wow, was the culprit not pretty. The pacing was brisk and Kate’s deadpan narration was spare and self-deprecating. I think I nearly wet myself coming across one of Kate’s million epitaphs–she mentally composes one each time she’s in deep crap with little chance of survival–so, like 7 a day while on the case. They are almost like tiny refrains, bringing humor in at the darkest moments.

The resolution brings some tragedy, but Kate survives to fight again, and she’ll need Julian’s protection if she’s going to make it any longer in this world. After all, Kate’s a “Beloved daughter,” and doesn’t particularly care to be “Sorely missed.” There’s a dash of sexytimes here and there, while Kate and Julian learn about one another, and try to figure out who could be hunting Julian. It felt like enough, and I didn’t want the romance to slow down the investigation, so I’m glad it didn’t.

Interested? You can find IRON & VELVET on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

Catch up with him on his website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Christmas in A TOWN CALLED NOELLE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary F/F Christmas romance from M. K. Hardy. A TOWN CALLED NOELLE is set in a Michigan small-town and features a driven baker dispelling a lifetime of disillusionment for a grieving woman.

About the book:
Just a few days before Christmas, high-flying city exec Brooke Hawkins is forced to return to her small home town due to the death of her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to since she left for college over a decade before. The town, Noelle, is as full of the Christmas spirit as its name suggests. Brooke is more of the “Bah, Humbug” persuasion. She has a funeral to attend, property to sell, and she wants to do it and leave—preferably before December 25th. Unfortunately, the weather and the pace of small-town life both conspire to keep her right where she is.

Small-town baker Holly Jackson gets a nasty shock when she receives the news, just days before Christmas, that her little shop is about to be sold from under her by her late landlady’s estranged daughter. In the years since her husband died in a tragic accident, she and her daughter Maya have been getting by, healing and rebuilding. Holly was beginning to really enjoy life again. She doesn’t plan to let some woman she hasn’t seen since high school come in and ruin everything.

When Holly and Brooke cross paths, sparks fly—and not in a good way. Brooke is determined to sell up and get out of town—and outrun her bad memories in the process. Holly is determined to make her business work. When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, can the spirit of Noelle change minds… and melt hearts?

My Review:
Brooke Hawkins believes that everyone in her hometown of Noelle will hate her–that’s what she’s been told by her estranged mother all her life, after all. Brooke left for college and hasn’t returned until her mother’s death–and the need to settle the estate. For Brooke, this means selling all her mother’s property and returning to her regularly-scheduled, if lonely, life.

Holly Jackson grew up with Brooke, and looked to her mother as a mentor. She admired Brooke somewhat in school, but they were never close. Holly’s a widow now, raising a young daughter and working hard to make her quirky bakery one of the must-stop places for tourists to Noelle. She’s not happy when her realtor calls to tell her that her lease is being broken–because Brooke is selling the property to a developer and Holly can’t even make a bid.

In such a small town, it’s inevitable that they will meet, and Holly let’s Brooke have it, confirming Brooke’s suspicions of being the odd-woman out. It seems her mother was highly respected by the community, and no one really knows how emotionally abusive she was to Brooke growing up. Brooke wants to sign all the paperwork and leave, but ice storms and a blizzard cut her quick escape off. Force to endure an extended stay in Noelle gives Holly the chance to apologize for her fiery temper–and maybe kindle a tiny spark of desire and connection that each woman needs.

This is a short read, with two rather interesting main characters. I liked them both, but I didn’t really get a good sense of their connection. Brooke was enchanted to be included in Holly’s plans–including the holiday festivities–once she could get over her ingrained shyness. There aren’t many tender moments on the page, which made it hard for me to really understand what changed for Holly, in terms of her attraction to Brooke. I get that she was emotionally connected to the decisions Brooke made that ultimately played in her favor, but Holly’s sudden interest in a physical relationship with Brooke–who could jet out as soon as the weather clears–didn’t have a firm grounding, to me. It’s a decent story, but my disbelief at the situation and the plot couldn’t stay suspended long enough to reach the happy ending.

Interested? You can find A TOWN CALLED NOELLE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
MK Hardy is the pen name for two geeky women living and writing together in Scotland. They’ve been writing partners for eleven years and life partners for nine. When they’re not typing frantically at one another they like to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats, drink cocktails and play boardgames.

Catch up with MK Hardy on their website, Facebook, and twitter.

Bringing the Heat–CITYWIDE A Review

Hi there! This week I’m going to feature some SMOKING HOT books mostly featuring menage stories…because I live outside Chicago and I like some heat (and sexy distractions!) in my holidays.  Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released novella collection from Santino Hassell. CITYWIDE is a new book in the Five Boroughs series and features a bunch of folks from Ray’s Queens squad finding love…and super hot sex. There’s a little bit for everyone, including M/M/M, F/F and M/F lovin’. I’ve loved Hassell’s contemporary romances, SUNSET PARK, FIRST AND FIRST, INTERBOROUGH, and CONCOURSE, so I couldn’t wait to jump into this new book.

About the book:
A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

My Review:
The stories link many of the single, and not-so-single, characters that have appeared in several of the previous books. CITYWIDE opens with a citywide heatwave that’s causing periodic black outs across the five boroughs of New York City. This is particularly troublesome because the servers for QFindr, a LGBTQ dating app created in FIRST AND FIRST, don’t like being without power or AC for long periods of time. Chris Mendez, is one of Ray Rodrigues’ Queens crew–and he’s had a lot of contact with the sexy QFindr folks, because their crews mingle through Ray. He recruited them to be models for QFindr’s launch, and they all went on a queer-friendly mixer cruise. Through this connection, and Caleb, Ray’s boyfriend’s ex, calls Chris to help with tech support during the heatwave–the company’s tech officer is on vacation.

Chris is not excited about turning up. He’s been avoiding Caleb’s business partner and half-brother, Aiden, and his husband Jace, for a couple of months now. Because Chris’s really attracted to them. And they want him to be a third in their sexytimes. And he wants that super bad, but he’s not down for an open relationship. He’d be their third in a hot second (and even hotter third!) but he’s not willing to share them outside of their triad. And, they’ve been poly for…ever. Trapped in the QFindr offices during a city-wide blackout that lasts three days. Three hot and sweaty, mainly naked, and hawt days. Also, Chris comes to terms t=with his self-esteem issues, and Aiden and Jace consider his needs seriously. They also uncover some big dirt that leads to the firing of an employee who looks for retribution in Gridlocked. Expect heart-to-heart-to-hearts and some seriously filthy frolicking. These guys fill each others’ holes…metaphorically and physically. Happy endings abound.

In the GRIDLOCKED Tonya Maldonado, another pal of Ray’s, reconnects with Meredith, Caleb’s sister. They’d had some fun times before, but Tonya’s not down with being some sort of conquest and that’s how she felt after their tryst. Not that they don’t have mad chemistry. Meredith is a rich heiress, and Tonya’s working as private security now that she’s out of the Marines. While at an event, Tonya helps Mere escape some homophobic stalkers. Tonya keeps her safe, and that prompts Mere’s estranged father to step in with an offer Tonya really doesn’t want to refuse. Mere’s livid that she’d even consider it, though. I’ll be honest, I’ve long loved Hassell’s M/M interludes, but wow! He blew my mind with these F/F scenes. O.O I loved how tough Tonya is, and how she stands her ground. She knows she’s got a great opportunity, but she’s also sympathetic to Mere’s domestic issues. Tonya’s a professional, and she pulls comrades along with her. There’s happiness to spare in this one, and I liked seeing Mere, Caleb and Aiden’s father become more human than his previous introductions.

In DERAILED, the final two members of Ray’s squad, Angel and Steph, acknowledge a deep connection to each other. Steph is pansexual, and though Angel is totally gone for her, he’s not really down for an open relationship. Steph has worked as a paralegal for a law firm for a good while, and wants a raise, but can’t seem to get one, despite her hard work and evident qualifications. She thinks this may be because she’s not settled with a partner, and maybe because she’s female. To keep people out of her business she “invents” a fiance, Angel, her long-time friend and on-and-off sexual partner. Angel, well, he’s interested in playing that game, because it’ll put him and Steph together for a whole weekend on a staff retreat, and won’t a change of scenery be nice? Maybe Steph will see how good they could be together, and want to make it permanent. All their pals are in committed relationships, and Angel wants one so bad he’s stepping outside of his comfort zone for Steph.

It actually works pretty nicely, for a while. That said, it’s not all smoking hot sex. Okay, besides the sex there’s some barbecue, and some Angel being a fab partner, and some Steph standing up for herself and being plain about her needs as a professional and a woman. And some realization that Angel’s been the love of her life for more than a decade. Having grown up with bad parents and unfair responsibilities, it’s tough for Steph to recalibrate her personal goals, but loving Angel isn’t difficult, and she’s finally willing to take the chance. Expect really hot nights and love under the stars.

Having read all six books in this series, I can tell you right now, I’d read six more. Matter of fact, Steph’s brother’s looking a little lonely… Write more, Mr. Hassell. I’ll be waiting.

Interested? You can find CITYWIDE on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

You can find Santino online on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

TBR Thursday! AS LA VISTA TURNS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a F/F romance from Kris Ripper. It felt good to finally get back to this series, and what an awesome resolution. AS LA VISTA TURNS is the final book in the Queers of La Vista series, and brings closure to the loose-knit community who’d been terrorized by a serial killer in the first four books, GAYS OF OUR LIVES, THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL, THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS and ONE LIFE TO LOSE. It features a spunky lesbian lead who’s desperate to get pregnant, and help her friends heal and grieve those who had been killed.

About the book:
Zane Jaffe has almost lost track of what conception cycle she’s in. (That’s a lie: this is cycle thirteen.) She’s fake-dating her pal Mildred to get her best friend off her back, but judging by how hot it was when they accidentally kissed, her feelings might be somewhat less platonic than she’d thought.

And she’s decided that healing the fractured local queer community can only be accomplished through a party. Or maybe it’s actually a wake. Whatever it is, it’ll take place at Club Fred’s, and there will be alcohol.

Trying to conceive is an unholy rollercoaster of emotions, and Mildred won’t let them kiss again until Zane figures out how she feels. Between the wake (exhausting as hell, and that’s just the fun stuff), the constant up-down cycle of trying to get pregnant, and saving the world in the meantime, Zane has no idea. Fall in love with Mildred isn’t on her list, but maybe it’s time to let go of that rigid future she’s been working toward, and instead embrace the accidents that can lead to something better.

My Review:
Zane Jaffe is a realtor who’s got a list for her life. Right now, the top priority is to get pregnant, though she’s a single lesbian woman. She’s been “fake dating” her friend “Dred” (short for Mildred) a cantankerous black pan-sexual woman who is raising an infant son with the help of her cousin Obie and his boyfriend Everett–who live in a big farmhouse on the edge of La Vista. (Obie and Everett are the couple from Gays of our Lives). Thing is, Zane’s sorta/kinda wanting more than a fake relationship with Dred. Maybe. It’s not on her list though…

After twelve failed cycles of inseminations, Zane’s really down on the prospect of pregnancy. She wants it so badly she’s willing to try some unconventional work–like accepting the donation of a dear friend’s…specimen. And, while all this is coming, literally, to a head, Zane’s determined to create a venue for all her friends to gather and mourn the loss of so many in their community. She’s working hand-in-hand with Keith, Josh and Cam, our menage from ONE LIFE TO LOSE, to be sure this “wake” is tasteful and positive. Add to all this the drama building between Zane and Dred, and well, it’s definitely a soap opera.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story. I knew there would a romance, but I didn’t expect to be so viscerally engaged in the pregnancy battle. It was such a whirlwind being inside Zane’s head, and connecting with her deep sense of loss when she hadn’t conceived. Hand to God, I think I got sympathetic menstrual cramps as a result. I did get frustrated with Zane’s inability to think about life beyond her lists. It was clear that Dred was reaching out, and Zane’s so keyed into her own headspace that she messed that right up. But, she did make it right, let her iron focus slip, and saw the good of it. Saw the beauty of living unscripted, and finding unexpected love.

This book was a fantastic resolution to the stories in the series. We see all the players as they assist Zane’s efforts with the “wake” and her pregnancy woes. They aren’t features, but their vignettes cap off the stories we’ve experienced with them, and the sense of wholeness is further developed when the wake happens. All these people were touched by tragedy and love, and their lives are all the richer than when we began. I’ve really enjoyed the spectrum of persons in the books, and recommend them to any reader who likes sexually diverse fiction. I hadn’t realized I’d needed catharsis from the first four books, but I’m all the better for it, too. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find AS LA VISTA TURNS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Through the STORM SEASON–Review and Giveaway!

storm-season_fbHi there! I’m so excited to welcome Pene Henson over to chat about her new book, a lesbian romance, set in Australia’s wild mountains and bustling Sydney. STORM SEASON features a trendy culture blogger finding a soul connection with a ranger with a colorful past. I really liked INTO THE BLUE, so I thought I’d give this one a try.

Check out the author interview, and be sure to scroll down and get in on the $25 GC + books giveaway.

storm-season-900px-front-tumblrAbout the book:
The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars belie a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Storm Season.
Hi Pene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

I’m Australian, extroverted and hard to ruffle. Also I’m pretty tall, mostly lacking in sporting prowess, and way less funny than I’d like to be. I live with my wife and our two divinely awesome kids in Sydney, along with a ferociously loving cat.

I grew up dreaming of being an astronaut or an experimental physicist. I love sciences and mechanics but I’d do a dreadful job of either of those things so fortunately I surprised myself by developing a career in law and writing.

I’ve always written poetry and short fiction. I never really dreamed of a novel until I was writing one. It was delightful to build a whole world, the first in Hawaii and on the ocean, and fall in love with my own characters.

Storm Season is my second novel. It’s set on the Australian East Coast, in land and in cities that I know well. Like my previous novel, it’s essentially a happy queer story. It’s a romance between a bubbly and adorable fashion blogger and a capable park ranger living alone in a remote cabin. As you’d imagine, these women have vastly different experiences. They think they have vastly different priorities. Trapped together by a storm, however, they uncover not just a deep attraction to one another but also all the ways they fit together. And then, of course, the storm breaks and they have to work out what will happen when they return to their ordinary lives.

Is there a character in your books that you can’t stand? (Antagonist for example) And what makes them someone you don’t like?

My books don’t tend to have antagonists. Because I’m writing pretty low-angst romance, the characters just don’t come out that way the same way my life might have irritations but not antagonists.

In this book, Claudie’s ex girlfriend Dani is pretty hard to like. She hurt Claudie; she is self-centred and thoughtless and controlling and still doesn’t recognize the wrong she did. But she is also charismatic and generous in her way. She believes she’s helping queer women reach for something; she thinks fame matters and she wants to see people achieve their best. She’s not someone I’d want to be in a relationship with but she is parts of people I have known and those people have their redeeming qualities.

Are there misconceptions people have about your genre?

I don’t think it’s a misconception to believe that romance can be formulaic, that the power balance between women and men can be wrong, that sometimes you can anticipate plot points and misunderstandings and that characterization can be weak.

But the same can be said for action books, mysteries, high fantasy, literary fiction. I have two answers to that.

  1. Sometimes formulae are enjoyable. Sometimes you want to read something where you know the ending the first time you see the characters names on the page. Whether it’s a mystery or a spy novel or a romance.
  2. The best of any kind of book brings you something new. Perhaps it reaches deeper into characterization, is careful with how it handles humanity. Perhaps it surprises you. Perhaps you see something in its ethics or its leads or the way they describe the scenery. Romance has plenty of talented authors and plenty of strong books. Find the ones that work for you.

Is there message in your novel that you hope readers grasp?

There are a couple of messages *blush*. Both of them are things I’ve come back to in both novels, and will come back to again.

  1. Love is wonderful. It’s life changing. It can be many things. But it’s not everything.

In both of my books it was critical to me that the protagonists had something else going on. I wanted them to have big goals and friends and family. I wanted them to be strong without a partner, but delighted by love.

In Storm Season, Lien has an extraordinary life with a queer family she loves. She has influence in her fashion and music blogging. She has excellent taste. She spends time in the novel developing some deeper opinion pieces, learning to take risks with her writing. With or without Claudie, and some of it is inspired by Claudie, she comes through as someone learning to be the best they can be.

Similarly, while Lien makes it easier for Claudie to use her talents and rebuild her indie rock career, Claudie would be okay by herself. She’s still who she is, she’s happy with her life. Lien’s a bit of a catalyst for change, but she’s not the change herself.

No one can be everything to everyone.

  1. Being in a new place that’s out of your comfort zone can change you in ways you did not anticipate. Whether that’s lost in the bush without Internet access or connecting with a stranger in the cabin you wanted to live in alone, big changes force you to recognize what’s really important to you. And also sometimes give you an openness to falling in love.
  1. Don’t be afraid of Australia. We might have spiders, snakes and bats but we also have striking wilderness rangers who know their way around.

Here’s a little nibble of the book…

“Come out here,” calls Claudie from the deck.

Claudie’s leaning on the railing looking over the vast expanse of nothing. “Come and stand at the edge here,” she says. “It’s like the edge of the universe.”

It’s dark; there’s nothing out there. The world smells rich and wet. Lien holds herself still and looks out with the cabin lights behind her.

“Wait a sec,” says Claudie.

She steps back toward the house and reaches inside the cabin door. Everything goes dark.

“Hey—” Lien can’t see a thing. They haven’t had lights in days, and now Claudie’s turning them off. The blackness seems complete.

“You’re okay,” says Claudie. “It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust. I figured—It’s been raining so much. You haven’t had a clear night up here. I wanted to show you.” She moves beside Lien against the railing.

And as Lien’s eyes accustom themselves to the dark, the sky opens up above them. The Milky Way sweeps a path of light across the great black bowl. Around that the night extends from one clear horizon to the other, lit by a thousand layers of stars on stars, dazzling bright in the dark.

The universe goes on forever. It’s huge, and Lien’s tiny and breathless in front of it.

In that moment nothing is worth thinking about beyond that sky, nothing but the huge universe and Claudie’s hand, steady and close beside Lien’s on the railing, Claudie’s warm body so near. Lien twines her pinkie around Claudie’s. They stand under the stars, still and silent.

When Lien turns, Claudie’s cheekbones are traced in blue-white and her eyes reflect a thousand pinprick lights. She’s beautiful. She’s from a whole other world.

My Review:
Lien is a fashion and entertainment blogger in Sydney off on a camping adventure with her collection of friends before they his a week-long music festival. She’s not a camping gal, actually–this trip was the idea of her best friend and housemate, Beau, a transman who fancies Lien’s other great friend, Annie. Lien’s been casually dating Nic, but it’s not serious on Lien’s side. She’s just not sure about settling down.

Camping is meant to be rough, but Lien and her friends have no idea what’s about to hit them. The forecast is for rain, but it’s nearly a monsoon. Lien is out hiking and takes a fall, just before the rain starts. It’s dark, and the only person who finds her is the park ranger, Claudie, who lives in the park in a cozy shack. Lien’s knee is too injured to allow her to hike back to camp, so Claudie brings Lien to her own cabin–and it’s a situation of stranded together. THe rain is so fierce over the next several days that Lien’s friends are forced to leave the park and take refuge in a nearby town, meanwhile Lien’s still to hobbled to make herself useful. Plus, Claudie’s grown accustomed to the solitary life, now that she’d given up on her soured rock-n-roll dreams. The more time Lien and Claudie spend, the closer they grow–sharing secrets, stories and eventually Claudie’s double bed. It’s all platonic at first, but, yeah, they start to fall for one another.

Thing is, Claudie’s been burned by a woman before, Dani–her first love–and that’s a lot of why she’s pulled herself out of society and taken a ranger position. Connecting with Lien isn’t her plan–and it’s hard for her when that happens because Lien’s only supposed to be there for a week. Whiling away the hours with no exit and no power, Claudie plays guitar to entertain Lien. The rapport they build is hard for Lien to leave behind, too. So much so that when she must go, she seeks out a way to bring Claudie with her–hunting out her early recordings and sending it to Claudie with encouraging notes about her music and how she might fashion herself a new career.

This is a sweet and quiet romance, and I liked the slow build. The isolation was an interesting part of the book–with it being a shelter, at first for both Claudie and Lien, but then becoming less so–as they find themselves feeling the pain of separation. And, the love of a good woman will drive many to make life-changing decisions. Including Claudie. Including Lien.

Interested? You can find STORM SEASON on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and IndieBound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press Gift Card or one of FIVE first prizes of an e-copy of ‘Storm Season’ by Pene Henson.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Storm Season is her second novel.

You can find Pene on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Surviving and Hoping with THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a transgender mystery romance from Kris Ripper. THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS is the third book in the author’s Queers of La Vista series, and brings the murder mystery discussed in GAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL onto the main stage. The featured couple is a trans-man, Ed, who falls for an adventurous lesbian woman.

qatrAbout the book:
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.

Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.

As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and probably best enjoyed when read in sequence, but it’s not mandatory.

Ed Masiello is a trans-man who lives in La Vista, CA, and works for the local newspaper as a low-level reporter. He really wants to write bigger pieces, but he’s young and new, and he’s stuck with fluff. It’s super frustrating because there seems to be a killer stalking the queer community in La Vista, and Ed thinks no one’s really making enough fuss. The best info is from an anonymous blogger named Togg, and that person’s really making the Queers of La Vista nervous.

While out blowing off steam at Club Fred’s, a known queer establishment, Ed bumps into a long-time acquaintance, Alisha. Alisha is fun and flirty and Ed doesn’t know how to take it. He’s always dated women, but he’s been transitioning for a year now, and his parts are changing due to the hormonal supplementation. Is he a novelty to Alisha, who he knows is lesbian? Or, is Alisha attracted to Ed as a man?

Short answer: she likes Ed.

They begin dating and it’s cool. Ed feels like this is great. A beautiful woman likes him, and they have satisfying sexytimes. Thing is, Alisha wants her life to be a grand adventure. Ed’s afraid to request time off from his job to travel. Plus, he’s getting super caught up in the investigation surrounding the La Vista killer–Ed’s the one who connects a seemingly-unrelated murder to the string–and verifies that all the victims were guests at Club Fred’s theme night parties. The whole queer community is in an uproar, and Ed’s obsession is having a toll on his budding romance.

I really like this series. It shifts the focus to different members of the queer community that may not have lots of fictional representation. I’ve read a few transitioning characters before, and Ed’s a good one. He’s struggling for acceptance on many fronts. His family is hostile to his transition, meanwhile he’s “passing” as male to people at work and his roommates–even if they pretty-much think he’s gay. Which is a conundrum for Ed. I had a few chuckles with the dude-bro roomies scenes, and their “advice” about dating women. There were some interesting sexytimes and I can only trust they are rather realistic, as I’ve not given a lot of scrutiny to TG persons and their bodies in transition. The author identifies as a trans-man, so that’s good enough cred for me.

This book brings the murder-mystery storyline of the series into the forefront. Previous to this we’d only heard of one murder, but the timeline fits as all these stories are not entirely sequential. There are many characters from the previous books brought back into the mix here, as a lot of the story occurs within Ed’s social sphere. He’s friendly with Jaq and Hannah from Book Two and also Dred from Book One. As killings continue, there’s an arrest, but that divides people even more. The accused is a fixture, and someone seemingly trusted by all. I will say, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to find the true culprit. Good thing that Ed figures out the way to happiness is not through chasing smoke trails in the sky, but finding a partner who’s there for you, and loves you not only as you are, but also as you will be.

Interested? You can find THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Learning to Love (Again) THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary F/F romance from Kris Ripper. THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL is the second book in Kris’ Queers of La Vista series and centers on a butch lesbian high school teacher whose fear of abandonment has stunted her ability to find a long-term gal. I really liked GAYS OF OUR LIVES, so I decided to read on in the series.

butch-beautyAbout the book:
Jaq Cummings is a high school teacher who really wants a committed relationship—as long as it doesn’t keep her out late on school nights or interrupt Sunday mass with her dad. She is absolutely not about to fall for the hot-mess divorcée she hooks up with even if said hot mess pushes all her buttons. Jaq’s white knight days are over.

But one hookup with Hannah becomes two, then coffee, then more incredibly hot sex. And unlike most of Jaq’s exes, Hannah’s not looking for someone to come on strong. In fact, Hannah comes on plenty strong enough for both of them. But she’s just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s in the process of moving across the state, and Jaq can’t take a chance on yet another relationship where she defaults to being a caregiver instead of a partner.

Just when Jaq decides her relationship with Hannah is far too precarious, a crisis with a student reminds her of her priorities and makes it clear that sometimes, you have to take big risks to get what you really want.

My Review:
Jaq is a butch lesbian in search of Ms. Right, perhaps. She’s never had a long-term relationship, and her loving father and close friends all believe it’s because Jaq is afraid to really love someone, with the possibility of losing them–like her mother who died of cancer when Jaq was a child.

This is the second book in a series, and I think it reads fine as a standalone, but two threads carry over from the previous book: the unsolved murder of a transvestite entertainer, and the (nearly incestuous) interconnectedness of the queer community in La Vista, a small Frisco-Bay-area suburban town. Prime example? Jaq and Hannah meet because they are both exes of brides at a wedding. Hannah’s a sexy attorney going through a bitter divorce, and not averse to a hot time with Jaq. Their one night stand becomes more when Hannah reveals she’s moving to La Vista, to escape the LA scene, where her ex is a clebrity chef, and shacking up with one of her employees.

Jaq likes Hannah, but their mutual friends, and Hannah herself, warn Jaq that Hannah’s a bit crazy. Thing is, Jaq soon recognizes that she likes Hannah’s crazy, because it’s a wild and aggressive sexy streak. Jaq swoons for her, but questions if this is the right thing to do: build hopes and dreams on Hannah. Hannah’s still battling with her ex over the sale of their house; she can’t possibly want anything serious.

The book is a low-conflict read, with Jaq being a bit of a jerk when Hannah flakes, once, on their plans. She’s always looking for a reason to dump a gal, which is pointed out with brutal honesty, and then Jaq needs to make amends. There also some nice subplots regarding Jaq’s position as a high school teacher, and how she supports the school GSA, and the kids who she knows are falling through the cracks. Her relationship with her father is so lovely, and her baby-wanting bestie is a tough love champ. The characters all read like I’m watching them in real life, and that’s the sign of a good book, for me. There’s lots and lots of sexy moments, and it’s all very steamy. And sticky, because vegan whipping cream is apparently just as fantastic as a sexytimes aid as the bovine-made stuff. Yum.

I liked that Jaq made things right between her and Hannah, and that Hannah was willing to listen. She’s a very human character, willing to share her sordid past, and work to build something special. Their compatibility was palpable, and I liked that the whole “crazy” notion was really more “eccentric and excitable” than serious-meds-are-required. Not that I’m opposed to characters who are disturbed, just that Jaq didn’t seem able to begin a relationship with a partner who had a mental illness. We got some more insights into the La Vista queers, and I’m sure interested to find out more about this world.

Interested? You can find THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I read a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!