Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. BOOKENDS is the third book in her University Square series and features a widow with an autistic child fighting against her attraction to a sweet and submissive plumber. I really enjoyed ON THE SQUARE and LOCKSET and we get a glimpse at some of those characters in this story, too.
The life of university librarian, Amari Foster, life is neatly cataloged. Work, home, and securing a future for her daughter are her focus. Hard-edged and handsome, she manages her private life with ruthless precision, cutting ties, and maintaining distance to protect her battered heart.
Plumber Thalia Makris has given up her dream of long-term love after a series of bad relationships. Desperate to have her own business, Thalia fills her days working overtime and her nights with fantasy novels.
After a chance encounter leaves both women wanting more than a one-night stand, they find themselves on the precipice of love. Will they take the plunge?
How about a little taste?
“Mama, why do you wear this?” Brianna perched on the end of the bed and turned the scratched dull gold wedding band in her hands.
Amari adjusted her tie, tugging the knot in her bow tie into shape in the mirror. “Because it reminds me of your mommy.” She watched her daughter’s expression in the glass.
“It makes you sad.” Brianna held the ring up between her fingers and looked through it.
Amari turned to her daughter and held out her hand. “Sometimes.”
Brianna deposited the ring in her mother’s palm. “You should flush it.”
“What?” Amari pushed the ring over her knuckle before she slid her vest on.
“That’s what we did in my class when the fish died. I wasn’t as sad when I couldn’t see it anymore.” Her gaze settled on Amari. “If you didn’t see it, maybe you wouldn’t be so sad.”
Amari buttoned her vest from the bottom and held her daughter’s gaze. “I’m not sad.”
Brianna frowned. “You said to always tell the truth.”
“I am. And yes, sometimes it makes me sad. But other times it reminds me that your mommy and I were very much in love.” Amari lifted her suit coat from its hanger and folded it over her arm. She tilted her head at her daughter.
“I don’t remember her.” Brianna drew her hand over the comforter, tracing the pattern of the design with her fingers.
Amari swallowed on the dry ache in her throat and shifted her gaze to her shoes. “We need to go soon. We don’t want to come in after the bride.”
Brianna slid off the bed and spun in a slow circle. “Does my dress sparkle? Like Poppy in Trolls World Tour?”
Amari held the door open and nodded toward the hall. “It does.”
Brianna walked ahead of Amari. “Do you think they’ll have the spring rolls Ms. Mai makes?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure there’ll be something you want to eat at the reception.” Amari followed her daughter down the stairs to the living room.
“Don’t you look sharp. And, Brianna, you look so pretty in your new dress. Come here, let me fix your hair.” Cora Foster’s voice, filled with love, washed over Amari and pushed back her melancholy.
Brianna took a half step toward her grandmother and stopped. “I like it this way.” She squatted and rubbed her hand over their dog’s back. Lucy, their ever-patient Newfoundland, lifted her head and snuffled Brianna’s hand.
Amari lifted her chin at her mother. “Mom, please, let her be. She’s settled and we don’t have time for a meltdown.”
Cora pressed her mouth together in a thin line. “Fine.”
Amari plucked her keys from the hook by the door. “We won’t be late.”
Cora patted her lap. Lucy ambled over and rested her head on Cora’s knee. “We’ll be here.” She picked up the remote. “I’ve got a date with a Witcher.” She waggled her eyebrows.
Amari snort-laughed. “All right, Mom.”
Brianna crossed the floor, stopped short of her grandmother. She bent from the waist and leaned forward. “Hug?”
Cora scooted forward and pressed her forehead to Brianna’s brow. “Have fun. Bring Grandma a spring roll if they have them.”
“Okay.” Brianna straightened and walked to the door.
Cora’s gaze settled on Amari’s face. “You going to be okay?”
Amari looked away from her mother’s eyes. Her gaze settled on the faded photo of her wedding day on the wall behind the television. “Aren’t I always?”
Cora pursed her lips. “If you say so.”
Brianna shifted from one foot to the other by the door as she pulled her sweater on. “Mama, come on. The spring rolls will be gone.”
Amari Foster is a librarian at Langston University in Ohio. She’s an out lesbian Black woman who’s raising her daughter alone since her wife died eight years ago. Brianna, her daughter, is on the autism spectrum, and that’s caused grief at school and at home. One of Amari’s ex-girlfriends took out her frustration with Brianna’s quirks physically, causing a lasting scar. So, Amari doesn’t date anymore–just hooks up for anonymous trysts. That’s how she meets Thalia for the first time.
Thalia Makris is a plumber with plans. She’s longed to open a used bookshop, and has tons of books ready to go, but the money is a little tight. If only she hadn’t given so much to her last girlfriend. And, well, it’s hard to leaver the family business, too, especially so because her dad is pretty self-righteous and doesn’t want to accept that Thalia is a lesbian. Thalia is also a sub, and her one afternoon with Amari dominating her was ah-MAZE-ing. If only they could reconnect. Until they do at the wedding of mutual friends. And, it’s not quite amazing. Amari is flustered, and she’s got a mini-crisis going with Brianna, and dammit! That’s why she goes to Cleveland for hook-ups, so she won’t run into them back near home.
Thalia is peeved, but forgiving, until their next encounter when Amari shows her whole ass–saved by her mother who didn’t raise her daughter to behave so rudely. Thalia’s about the write Amari off for good, but her sympathy and empathy are both engaged, knowing about Amari’s bad track record in love, and well, they both have a book fetish to match their Dom/sub kink. Still, stepping into a ready-made family is a challenge, even if the kids are neurotypical, and Thalia’s got some struggles to overcome there. And Amari has some forgiving to do–of herself. Plus, being way less judgmental regarding Thalia and her motives.
I liked this one, especially because Thalia is determined not to let anyone run her down, not even her dad. And not a new lover, no matter how fantastic the sex is. Amari’s love for her deceased wife, and her daughter, are so palpable on the page. It was definitely bittersweet, especially as she struggled with the idea of replacing her deceased wife. It was so tough for her to trust again, and Thalia weathered the storm as best she could. I loved Amari’s mom, and their relationship was super special.
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.
I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list.