Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review- Criminal Gold by Ann Aptaker

Criminal Gold
By Ann Aptaker
Nov 2014
Mystery/Era historical 1940’s/ Lesbian/ Crime/ Noir
264 pgs
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Kindle Edition

Midnight, New York Harbor, 1949. Cantor Gold, dapper dyke-about-town, smuggler of fine art, waits in her boat under the Brooklyn Bridge for racketeer Gregory Ortine. In the shadow of the bridge, he’ll toss Cantor a satchel of cash, and she’ll toss him a pouch containing a priceless jewel. But the plan, and the jewel, sink when a woman in a red sequined dress drops from the bridge and slams onto Cantor’s boat. She is Opal Shaw, Society Page darling and fiancée of murder-for-hire kingpin Sig Loreale. Through a night of danger, desire, and double-cross, Cantor must satisfy Loreale’s vengeance, stay ahead of an angry Ortine, and untangle the knots of murder tightening around Opal’s best friend and keeper of her dirty secrets, Celeste Copley, a seductress who excites Cantor’s passion but snares her in a labyrinth of lies. The lies explode in a collision of love, loyalty, lust…and death.

I became aware of this book before it came out and it’s one of those rare books with an unknown author to me that I know I want to read before it comes out. So I was quite excited to read it and it definitely hit the spot for me.

Basically the blurb gives a great idea of what this story is about and the all the main characters involved, so I’ll go more into what I enjoyed about it.

Mostly what I loved about this book was Cantor Gold as a character. She’s not that typical female protagonist/ heroine who does bad things for the greater good. No. She really is a badass, tough woman who makes no excuses for how she lives, what she’s done, and that she lives on the wrong side of the law. I liked this. I’m always fond of characters who don’t fit society’s expectations of what their role should be. Particularly I enjoy female characters that buck the Donna Reed ideal for women of this time period.

She’s also an out lesbian, which for the time period was very dangerous. And as the first scene in the book shows, could get you hurt, badly. But I loved that she dresses like a man and walks through her criminal world unabashedly lesbian and butch. While she is accepted as such in that world in the surface, of course, when push comes to shove she’s once again shown that she will never be accepted in any world due to that. And while it hurts her at times, she ultimately doesn’t care; it’s more important for her to be who she is.

She’s also ruled by her passions. Damn but I loved the scenes with her and Celeste. Even though Celeste is no one to be trusted---she’s definitely a femme fatale type with no loyalty to anyone--- Cantor finds herself fantasizing about all the delicious things she’d do with her. Cantor struggles internally with wanting to save Celeste, mainly because she feels attracted to her, but knowing what ultimately might/probably will happen.

But what’s also appealing about Cantor is that while she’s tough and is mostly out for herself and is portrayed as a player, she does find in the course of events she’s been thrust into that she cares more for Rosie, her current friend with benefits, than she thought. And there’s also a hint that she loved someone once very deeply, showing a more vulnerable side of her.

The language author Ann Aptaker uses is very colorful and evocative throughout, which added a lot to my enjoyment of this book. Particularly, even though not a romance or descriptive in terms of common erotic language, I found the dance between Cantor and Celeste to be somewhat erotic and, well, very entertaining:

“I hope you like Chivas,” I say, handing her a glass. “What’s not to like?” There’s nothing not to like. The whiskey is smooth, the woman sharing it with me is gorgeous, and the way the light from the desk lamp slides along her leg is picturesque. I wouldn’t mind taking my own ride along Celeste’s shapely calves.
…after I take the scenic route along her leg and continue up the rest of her, I finally arrive at her face, where on the other side of that hat veil her eyes accuse me of doing exactly what I am doing: undressing her mentally and having my way with her.”

Outside of some of the focus being on what’s going on through Cantor’s head about Celeste, this is a fast paced crime drama. As Cantor tries to figure how who actually killed Opal, while thinking it’s Celeste and trying to save her life, she falls into all kinds of situations that both luck and smarts get her out of. This story if rife with constant alliance shifts and betrayals in this underworld of criminals and I never really knew how it all might pan out. All of the characters are well-rounded, interesting and solid in who they are.

Almost as important as the language, characters, story, pacing, etc, Criminal Gold definitely had the feel of the time period. I could really imagine being in 1949 in NYC with those characters. The ambiance of it was perfect. Loved it.

Will definitely pick up the next book by this author.

Heat level: 0 – no sex, but a lot of linguistic foreplay.

Grade: 5 Stars

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Movie Reviews: An Unexpected Love and Tru Love

An Unexpected Love
March 2003
Lesbian/ bi?

An unhappily married housewife and mother of two children (Leslie Hope) separates from her husband and gets a new job where she develops a mutual attraction to her female boss (Wendy Crewson)

Whole movie is on youtube if you don’t mind Danish subtitles.
This movie apparently was produced and written for Lifetime TV. I don’t know if it ever showed on TV but if so, kudos to them. I don’t think I’ve seen a made for TV movie that specifically dealt with a lesbian relationship.

So… I really liked this story. Both actresses did a great job and it felt believable. Yes, it is the cliché of the unhappily married woman who unexpectedly finds herself attracted to a woman for the first time, but it was well written.

What I liked about it was that all the characters involved act how one would expect they’d act in this situation. Kate and her husband are mutually OK with splitting up, although her husband would be fine keeping the status quo. Kate has always wanted to be a wife and mother and that’s what she went for. They have a nice upper middle class existence, but Kate is just not happy and decides that she wants a more fulfilling life.

She ends up working for Mac at Mac’s real-estate agency. Mac is an out lesbian. Both women get closer as they work together and Kate finds herself attracted as more than a friend to Mac. Mac is very leery when Kate professes that attraction because, um, Kate is straight and Mac doesn’t want to be some straight woman’s experiment and she doesn’t want to be a straight women’s secret lover. Mac has lost the love of her life and is also reluctant to find someone knew.

While they dance around each other trying to work out both an attraction and mixed feelings about that attraction, Kate gets the guts up to tell her husband, children and best friend about her attraction to Mac, which goes over…not well…at first.

This movie is a kind of a sweet romance, but it also deals realistically with all the issues around homophobia, possible “gay for you” as Kate can’t really say she’s now a lesbian, and fear for glbt person being used as a fling. It also addresses certain stereotypes of what straight people think about gay relationships. I liked that it wasn’t cheesy, nor was this movie melodramatic. In fact, all the characters act rather maturely for this kind of situation, considering.

The only negative thing I will say is that it did come across as too insta love for me at first on Kate’s side. There is a nice build-up of a friendship between Kate and Mac, but those special things that would occur between two characters falling in love seemed missing. They are just normal, good friends one min and suddenly Kate is kissing Mac out of nowhere. I would have loved to see more sexual/ romantic nuance between the women before that first kiss. However, it is an HEA and still an enjoyable movie.

Heat level: 2-- semi naked, sweet sex scene
Grade: 4 stars


Tru Love (Canadian)
May/ Dec- lesbian/straight

A widow, recovering from the death of her husband, comes to the big city to spend time with her busy professional daughter. Instead, she forges an unlikely relationship with a commitment-phobic lesbian who has a past with her daughter.

I had watched A Perfect Ending, which I loved, about an older / younger women relationship. So I was attracted to Tru Love, hoping it would be as good for me as the other because it’s also is about an May/ Dec female relationship. Tru Love, while compared often to A Perfect Ending, is a very different film though, and can’t be compared really. Well not in story. I will compare it when it comes to personal feelings about May/ Dec love representations.

Maybe it was just my mood, but for most of it I felt a bit uncomfortable watching this. And while I just said Tru Love should not be compared to A Perfect Ending, what made that less uncomfortable for me was the fact that that relationship started out and is based on a business deal, so the lines are clear at the beginning and age difference wouldn’t be a factor in it. In this movie, it’s really about a love that develops between a 60 something woman with a late 30’s something woman.

For some reason, I felt a kind of dread throughout  most of the film mainly because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see these two characters actually fall in love and be intimate. And I’ll be honest in that probably my discomfort is that I’m an older woman myself and would feel weird being with a much younger woman like the one in this film. Although, actually, if I would put myself in the position of a younger woman attracted to an older one, that wouldn’t have made me feel uneasy at all.

Tru is a lesbian who seems to be fairly callous in her relationships with other women. She won’t commit to anyone and seems to have one night stands and brief relationships one after another, not even bothering to remember their names. Suzanne, one of those past women, asks Tru, who still has the key to that Suzanne’s house (side bar- I wonder how real it is that lesbians having brief affairs give each other keys to their houses after a few nights, which seemed to be the case in this movie), to let her visiting mom in. Suzanne is a lawyer and a workaholic.

Due to Suzanne never being home, Tru sort of entertains Alice, Suzanne’s mom. They like each other right away and start getting very close to the discomfort of Suzanne. On the one hand Suzanne is feeling a bit jealous of time her mom is spending with Tru, but on the other she won’t stop working. When she sees that Tru and her mom are getting a little too close she tries to thwart their relationship, which upsets both Tru and Alice, who think the other is avoiding.

As for Alice, her husband has died and for the first time she feels free to let go and enjoy life. The ghost of her husband is there and talks to her when she’s musing, so we get some background on what Alice’s life has been about.

Alice’s zest for life and enjoyment of Tru, and maybe also because she is an older woman who Tru relates differently to than women her own age, makes it easier for Tru to open up about her painful past. So we get to see why Tru is a commitment-phobe.

This story is just as much about a mother/ daughter relationship as an f/f relationship as tensions rise up between Alice and Suzanne about Tru. It also makes Suzanne confront her avoidance of any kind of a life outside of work. She’s very uptight and this cracks her shell.

So the crux of my discomfort is that I felt Tru and Alice connecting as two people might with that kind of age difference, but couldn’t see it entering into a more intimate thing, which it did. On the other hand, truly, I think I ended up liking this film because it does show that love and relationships between people can go beyond what society might deem appropriate or not. (between consenting adults) And I appreciate stories like this that go outside the box.

I’d definitely recommend this story if you’d be open to a May/Dec story with a much older woman.

Heat Level: 0 implied sex, no nudity

Grade: 4 Stars

Movie Reviews: Desert Hearts and Purple Sea

Desert Hearts
Lesbian/ bi?/ May-Dec

It is 1950s Nevada, and Professor Vivian Bell arrives to get a divorce. She's unsatisfied with her marriage, and feels out of place at the ranch she stays on, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Cay Rivers, an open and self-assured lesbian, and the ranch owner's daughter. The emotions released by their developing intimacy, and Vivian's insecurities about her feelings towards Cay, are played out against a backdrop of rocky landscapes and country and western songs. 

- Written by Neil Lewis

This is a very sweet and touching love story and I loved this film. It’s also totally offbeat and not the usual kind of story outside of it being a lesbian story. For the time period it’s set in, it’s rather incredible that it was made as is. It doesn’t shy away from or act like being a lesbian is anything out of the norm, which I loved. I also thought it interesting to have an out lesbian in a story set in the 50’s. I guess if there was any place in the US that a woman could be somewhat open about being a lesbian in the 50’s, it could be Reno.

Vivien ends up on a ranch in Nevada, staying there until she can get a quickie divorce. It seems her lawyer has a package deal and this is why she’s there vs. a hotel in town. She’s a professor at Columbia University and doesn’t quite click with people at the ranch. She’s older, prim, quiet, rather uptight, thoughtful, and doesn’t really engage too much with the others. I didn’t blame her, they get on her case for putting on airs as it were.

She explains to her lawyer that while her marriage to another professor is OK and they get along, she feels something is missing and wants more out of life. She has no children and states he would not contest the divorce. It seems contradictory to her character as normally it’s a more passionate personality that would go to such huge lengths for a change. So she’s in a transition in her life although not really looking for any kind of excitement.

Cay is a young woman living on the ranch that her father’s long-time lover owns. She’s an out lesbian and is very outgoing. She works in a casino and is just living life, having brief affairs until “the one” shows up. She and Vivien start talking here and there and slowly they form a friendship. Vivien, while a bit embarrassed when she finds out Cay is a lesbian, surprisingly, doesn’t really judge her. And she’s curious about Cay and her life.

Other stuff going on is that the owner of the ranch, Frances, is a tough woman who feels threatened by Vivien and Cay’s relationship. Even though Cay is not her biological daughter, she thinks of her as such and as she sees Cay falling for Vivien, she gets jealous and causes problems. She sees Vivien as an interloper who’s trying to break up her only family.

What’s so lovely about this story is how actress Helen Shaver’s played Vivien. Cay, being young and brash, openly hits on Vivien. She’s attracted to Vivien in a way she’s not been with the others and feels Vivien could be “the one.” Vivien is a bit freaked out by it and keeps Cay at arm’s length even as she starts feeling something for her. Helen Shaver’s portrayal of a woman falling in love with another woman for the first time is amazing. She shows a deeply nuanced vulnerability and shyness when her character finally allows herself to be intimate with Cay. Both actresses made this story so believable and I felt they fell in love in a very natural, deep, and honest way.

One really good thing about this film is that it’s left off with a definite HFN. So often these lesbian movies leave off with some tragedy and sometimes you just want that the couple you rooted for to get together does and you’re left feeling good. And I liked that Vivien is the one who earnestly wants to keep exploring what they have together. So this is not a straight woman briefly falls for a lesbian then goes back to her life.

Definite recommend.

Heat level- 3-4 nude sex scene, beautifully done.

Grade: 5 Stars


"Viola di mare" Purple Sea (Italian)
Lesbian/ historical

Set in 19th century Sicily, Angela and Sara have been friends all their lives. But Angela isn't like other girls, she's fearless, and when she develops feeling for Sara she won't hide them. To maintain the forbidden relationship that blossoms between the two women, Angela disguise herself as a man. The two women challenge the rules of society in order to be together in this lush period romance.

Based on a true story

This was an amazing film. Loved it! It’s just gorgeous all around, with the setting and the women and how their love story develops.

I can’t speak for the truth in historical value, but it seemed spot on. The film starts out with the main characters as children, growing up on a small island in which the only industry is rock mining. Angela’s father is the foreman for all the workers on the Island and he’s a cruel, hard man who rules everyone, including his family, with an iron fist. Her father was pissed off that she was born a girl and has never forgiven her mother or her for that.

Sara is the daughter of a maid for the Baron who owns most of what’s on the island. They grow up playing with each other and the other kids of the quarry workers. Sara and Angela are best friends, always together, but Sara has to go to the mainland with her mother with the Baroness. Angela is shown waiting faithfully for Sara to come back.

Fast forward many years and both women are in their early 20’s. Sara comes back and they start their friendship up again. Only this time, Angela makes it clear pretty quickly that she’s in love with Sara and tells her she will marry her. At first Sara is a bit shocked, but quickly warms to that idea and falls in love with Angela as well.

I have to say that I really felt these two were in love. They have so much passion for each other, particularly Angela, who never wavers for a second.

Unfortunately, these two women are living in a place and time when their love is absolutely unacceptable. When Angela’s father tells her she will be married soon, she confesses she loves Sara and is locked up.

What happens after that is such a twist and I’m not sure it could have actually happened as it did, but the idea that it could and they could get away with it is interesting to think about.

Angela’s mother comes up with the idea to call in a favor from the priest and have Angela’s name changed on her birth certificate to say she’s a male. This allows her and Sara to marry. Although her father goes along with it and makes her now the foreman in his place because she is now a man, of course, many in the village don’t accept it and problems do arise, but they manage.

This is such a passionate story of love between two women. And even though not traditionally having an HEA, it’s still a beautiful, satisfying love story.

Heat level: 4- full on naked sex scenes – not done salaciously though

Rating: 5 Stars

Movie Reviews: Stud Life, Blue is the Warmest Color, Cloudburst

Stud Life (British)
Lesbian Stud-Femme/ Gay

JJ is a hot black British 'Stud' Lesbian. Together with her best friend Seb, a white gay pretty boy, they work as wedding photographers and run around the urban London LGBT scene. When JJ falls in love with a beautiful and mysterious woman, JJ and Seb's friendship is tested. JJ is forced to choose between her hot new lover and her best friend.

This was a really good film. I think it’s not easy to find a lesbian film with black characters, but even more so, harder to find a film about a sub group within the lesbian community. I enjoyed it on every level and thought it an interesting mash up of types of characters.

So the blurb for this film is pretty much what the movie is about. It’s basically about these characters going through life as GLBT persons and trying to find love.

JJ and Seb make and interesting friendship. Both get on great and I felt the writers, filmmakers, and actors did an amazing job of making me believe that these two unlikely friends really do love each other and have each other’s backs.

Both JJ and Seb are having short, non-serious flings with others but no one is really sticking for either of them. And for Seb, a dorky, sensitive drug dealer, Smack Jack, keeps hitting on him, but Seb can’t stand him. Since they all hang out in the same circles they keep coming across each other and Seb finds there’s more to him than he first judged. In the meantime, Seb is sexting through the internet with other gay guys. He is rather a romantic though and wants to find a keeper.

JJ is a stud lesbian who finds herself attracted to a femme lesbian she met at that bar they all hang out in. What I loved here is that she is a stone butch/ stud and the movie really shows the relationship/sexual dynamics of a stone butch/femme relationship. Her girlfriend Elle wants to have sex and touch JJ but JJ really does keep in control. I liked that contrary to the “stud” reputation of being tough, she shows vulnerability when expressing to Elle that she will not allow sexual touching. She’s worried that Elle will not accept that. They do hug and cuddle a lot, which showed how they feel for each other. They both accept the conditions just to be close to each other. However, Elle has a secret that derails their relationship for a while. And it’s something that I felt made Elle a lot more human and vulnerable.

As the story progresses, the average day in these characters’ lives is expressed in all facets, including homophobic attacks on them, back biting within the GLBT community and the use of GLBT by straight people for kicks. And it also shows JJ and Seb just being friends going through issues with each other as lovers enter the picture.

It also has an assortment of entertaining, colorful side characters as JJ and Seb are shown photographing all kinds of events with all kinds of straight/ GLBT people.

Finally, there is a happy ending for both JJ and Seb and it’s a really sweet, satisfying, romantic movie. It’s definitely a movie for anyone who wants to watch something a bit different in GLBT. All the actors in this film make it worthwhile to watch.

Heat Level 2: some sex scenes, some nudity, but nothing graphic.

Grade: 4 ½ Stars


La vie d'Adèle (French)
Blue is the Warmest Color

Lesbian/ bi/ YA

Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.

This movie was hyped up the wazoo as you all know. I usually head the other direction of anything this hyped and talked about, and luckily I did, because I could watch it without everyone’s opinions in my head about it.

So right to the point, it didn’t do as much for me as I’ve read it did for others. Maybe it’s more due to my age. This is really a YA story and it’s mainly about the passion and pain of a first love. On that level it’s quite good and I can see how this film would hit all the spots for a young person. I probably would have loved this in my 20’s.

I almost didn’t finish it as well. This is a 3 hour movie and I had the feeling the director or camera person must be in love with the lead actress who played Adele because it seemed the camera was on her all. the. time, in every scene and with non-stop shots of her just staring blankly or expressing with her face. To be fair, I think the actress who played Adele did a great job. But I felt about maybe an hour of the film could have been cut because endless scenes of her crying or looking blank seemed too much.

Also, one of the reasons this film was so talked about is that it has one of the longest sex scenes ever in a regular (non porn) movie. For me, it was way too much because it wasn’t the only sex scene. Compared to other sex scenes I saw between women in the few lesbian films I watched before this one, I felt these were just one step below porn, which isn’t bad per se, if you want to watch porn. And while the sex scenes expressed the passion and intensity of the physical attraction between these two women, it didn’t express any of what might have been true love between them.

The other negative; I get tired of “lesbians fuck around and can’t commit for a long time” kind of thing I see and read so often. Emma is living with someone when she meets and has sex with Adele. Emma then starts hanging out with an old girlfriend while living with Adele. Adele cheats on Emma with a guy. I mean seriously, can’t anyone stay together?

On to what I loved. I loved that at least before the women get physical, there is a relationship build-up. They don’t just meet and suddenly they’re in-love, like some of the other films I watched. And the film did make an interesting statement about the difference between passion and love. What Adele and Emma have is a sexually passionate relationship. In the end it makes a statement that sexual passion doesn’t always equal long term love or that it’s enough to sustain a long term relationship.

It’s also a movie that shows the growth of Adele as she goes through all this pain of a first love and then moving beyond, learning and growing up. So this was a positive. 

Even though this movie didn’t float my boat as much as other people, I would still definitely recommend it. It is intense and show sexual passion in all it’s facets.

Heat level: 5+ -numerous, fairly graphic sex scenes with full nudity.

Grade: 3 1/2  Stars



The best geriatric lesbian road movie you have ever seen. Thelma and Louise eat your heart out.

I watched about the first 20 or so mins of this film and stopped. DNF. I had high hopes for this film. I love Olympia Dukakis and thought this would be a great lesbian film about older lesbians trying to stick together as they age.

Unfortunately, I felt it was off. Dukakis’ character Stella is rather crass from the get-go. I could see where she was coming from, but it was a bit over the top and off-putting. She’s gruff, but not in that older woman give a shit, cute and amusing way, no, she fights and argues with most everyone with lots of over the top cursing, and needlessly I felt. She pretty much alienates everyone except of course, those that accept her as she is.

It starts out with Dot, Stella’s partner for over 30’s years, breaking a bone after a fall and needing full care for a few weeks. She’s also almost totally blind. Dot’s granddaughter, who unbelievably is totally clueless that her grandmother is a lesbian and who has no real idea about what her grandmother is about, insists it’s time for her to go into an assisted living facility. This enrages Stella who feels she can still take care of her. And also it will mean they cannot be together. The granddaughter also tells Stella she may stay in their house for a little while, until she finds another place (the house was Dot’s mother’s house and so legally, hers), which of course pisses Stella off because it’s THEIR house. 

Where I stopped watching was when the granddaughter tricked Dot into signing some papers giving up her house and getting into the assisted living facility under the guise of keeping Stella from getting charged with any negligence in Dot’s fall. Dot is smiling as she gets into the car with her granddaughter, while Stella is bangs on the car window screaming.

The level of cluelessness all around is also what bugged me. Dot has been with Stella for 30 years and yet she trusts her granddaughter over Stella and doesn’t even try to stop the granddaughter from driving away, wondering why Stella is screaming.

Then, again, Stella’s personality is off-putting to me. As the granddaughter is driving away, she’s calling her a bitch and a fucking cunt, etc. No. Seriously, I have the mouth of a sailor, I drop the f word all the time. But there’s constant cursing with antagonistic personality type and then there’s just cursing here and there.

Maybe if I would have kept watching I might have loved it, but I just couldn’t. I think it probably told the story of many older lesbians who have no legal rights with each other and also who have no place to be together like assisted living, or nursing homes or such, which I think is an important story to tell. I just wish it was told a bit differently or that the beginning didn’t put me off too much to finish it.

Grade: DNF

Movie reviews: A Perfect Ending, I Can't Think Straight, Kiss Me

A Perfect Ending
F/f-/ May-Dec/ Interracial

Rebecca has a very unusual secret, one that not even her best friends know about. The last person on earth she expects to reveal it to is a high priced escort named Paris. What starts as a comedy of errors ends up a uniquely erotic journey. Rebecca's unconventional efforts to find herself are raw, evocative, and often times humorous, but always very real, very human. Sometimes a perfect ending is not what you expect it to be. 

- Written by Soul Kiss Films

You know how you read a book or watch a movie and the story stays with you for days and days and you realize it affected you on a really deep level, this is what A Perfect Ending was for me. It’s gorgeous story both on a human level and on an aesthetic level in how it’s expressed.

There are a crap ton of reviews for this movie, so what I’m going to say about it is how and why it affected me so deeply. The main thing about this movie for me was how beautifully and lovingly it shows human vulnerability and the growth that can happen from a relationship, even a relationship with a complete stranger, and also almost strictly a sexual relationship, in which two people feel totally safe to let themselves open up and heal from personal wounds. It’s also about how we come to terms with what’s important when faced with mortality.

On more practical levels, I love that it featured a middle aged women and a sex worker who is empowered by her choice to be a call girl.

Just for edification, this is not a romance. Nor is it really a lesbian story. Neither of the main characters are lesbians. It’s not about sexual passion either. I do feel this is a love story though and definitely it’s a story about connecting deeply on a human level. But also a warning, ending might disappoint. For me it was more about the ride, the here and now vs forever in what I felt this story was meant to portray.

Rebecca is wealthy middle aged woman who on the surface seems to have it all. And she does-- on the surface. She’s not that unhappy or miserable in general, she just seems to accept the status quo and doesn’t think about her needs or wants too much. There is though, a family secret that has caused her a lot of pain and she cannot get passed it at times.

While out with her best friends, a lesbian couple, she confesses that she’s never felt passion. Nor has she never had an orgasm. This of course shocks her friends who cannot believe it. She further confesses that her marriage is not that great and she rarely has sex. Her friends suggest that maybe she needs a woman to show her what she and her body can feel. They know a madam who runs an agency for call girls and think maybe it would be easier for her if she hired one of those girls to help her with that. She decides to go for it but under the condition that the woman be her own age.

Paris is a young woman who is grieving the loss of her fiancé. She is a call girl by night but an artist by day and she’s definitely not in it for the money only, she’s working out her grief by being a call girl. Maybe it’s her way feel some control about her life during this process. When her older colleague, the one who was supposed to go to Rebecca, asks her to meet Rebecca because she has an emergency, she agrees. When she gets there though, Rebecca is shocked that she ended up with a younger woman, freaks out, and decides not to go through with it. But Paris is very intense and open and accepting and seems to know exactly what Rebecca is about. And Rebecca picks that up. 

Rebecca tries a few more times- getting the older woman second time, whom she decides is so not for her, then asks for Paris again. In 3rd meeting, Paris again tries to seduce her but puts no pressure on Rebecca. Finally, Rebecca decides to go for it and it’s amazing for her.

Here I want to interject that actress Barbara Niven did an amazing job of expressing all those fears of not being appealing or desirable being an older woman with older women body flaws. And kudos to her as an actress, who is a very nice looking woman and has an image to maintain, that she showed her actual physical flaws in this movie. I think that took a lot of courage and added to her actual vulnerability as a character.

The first sex scene is really about Rebecca letting go and trusting. Paris being a much younger, very gorgeous woman has the power in this, but she’s portrayed as sort of an experienced, wise, old soul who really is accepting and understanding. She does feel a connection with Rebecca that is beyond their “business” arrangement, so it’s more for her as well. This connection she feels, maybe because Rebecca is also in a very vulnerable space, helps Paris also let go of her grief in a very intimate way.

In case anyone is wondering—although you can see most of the sex scenes are on youtube—the sex between the women is very loving, soft and even though both are naked- it’s not salacious in any way. In fact, there were moments I felt I didn’t want to watch because it felt like I was intruding on some deeply intimate moments. Not the intimacy of sex alone, but the intimacy of being emotionally raw and open during sex. So if you’d watch for some hot girl on girl sex, this is not the movie.

Other than this, I love how this film was filmed. It has almost a Zen-like feel to it. There are lots of fade in and out scenes with action but no words. Since the two women only meet in the hotel room and don’t talk about their lives with each other, the back story of both women, where they are coming from, is told through most of those silent or brief snippets in between them meeting.

The other characters also added a lot to this film. It’s much more than two women connecting, it’s also about life and love and family from and what that all means for a woman.

All in all this movie grabbed me and I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re about two people connecting beyond a sexual orientation or if you’re an older woman who would love a story about having courage to experience new things.

Bonus for this movie is that the actress who played Paris is an out lesbian. Something you don’t see hardly ever in lesbian movies. Mostly it’s straight women playing lesbians. So kudos for getting an actual GLBT person to play that role.

Heat level: 3-4- full nudity and sex scenes, very beautifully and aesthetically filmed. Not salacious in any way.

Grade: 5 Stars


I Can’t Think Straight (British)
Lesbian/ Multicultural

Adaptation of book by Shamim Sarif
A 2008 romance film adapted from a same name novel about a London-based Jordanian of Palestinian descent, Tala, who is preparing for an elaborate wedding. A turn of events causes her to have an affair and subsequently fall in love with another woman, Leyla, a British Indian. 

- Written by Shamim Sarif

I have another book written by this author of the book this story is based off of that I’ve yet to read, so I decided to watch this film instead of that one.

What I loved about this film is that this is a love story that happens between two people from very different backgrounds that happens despite familial, cultural, political and generational conflicts.

Both Tala and Leyla are young women caught between two worlds. They are both living in England, although Tala goes back and forth between Jordan and England. They’ve been brought up exposed to western culture, but both have homes and parents that try to keep their own traditional homeland culture alive. This is one of the main conflicts for both of them and also maybe what helps them understand each other even though of different cultural backgrounds.

They meet just by chance as Leyla’s boyfriend is a friend of Tala. Tala is on her 4th wedding planning, having walked out on the first 3 fiancés just before the wedding. Tala is rather rebellious and being from a wealthy family, her whims and flightiness are somewhat tolerated.

Leyla is a lot more deep and serious about life. She’s a Muslim in her heart, mind and belief, but she doesn’t always go to prayer with her family. She’s also struggling with the contradictions of being a woman growing up in a western culture while dealing with her mother who is very strong in trying to keep their Indian culture alive. This especially becomes an issue when she comes out to her family.

Both women clash at first as Tala, who grew up as a Palestinian Christian Arab, argues that religion and belief are bogus, which kind of pisses Leyla off. But slowly they come together and become good friends and find themselves attracted to each other both romantically and sexually.

Of course, as with many romances between women when one is currently with a man, the main problem between them becomes that Tala is getting married. In this case, I was rather surprised that Tala, who seems to be the more open as one who bucks the system in many ways, feels very strongly about not coming out and won’t defy her family’s culture. She argues with Leyla that Leyla doesn’t get how hard it would be to do that with her family and in Jordan, where the man she’s to marry is from.

On the other hand, this affair pushes Leyla internally to decide that she can’t or won’t hide who she is to her family and friends anymore. So until Tala is willing to accept who she is, Leyla will not see her.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t feeling the romance so much between these two women even though it’s shown they have had attractions to women in the past. Somehow it felt a bit too insta-love for me, which is maybe why this film didn’t affect me other than I love stories that include characters of other cultures and in which those cultures are part of the story. I think maybe it’s also because I wasn’t feeling Tala as a character. She was a little too superficial and a bit cocky for me for most of the film and I felt her not really that serious about Leyla.

But I did feel that Leyla is really in love with Tala and she, as a character, made the film for me.

Other than that, I felt the film didn’t shy away from the truths or realities of cultural and political clashes. I feel some people might be offended by some of what is expressed, however, I took all at face value and as a true portrayal of what is real for people of those cultures.

I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for something a bit different culturally. But as a romance goes, it was just OK.

Heat level:
2 – some sex, no nudity

Grade: 3 ½ Stars


Kyss Mig -Kiss Me (Swedish)
Lesbian/ bi?

Young woman engaged to be married finds herself in an affair with her stepmother's lesbian daughter.

This was one of the better lesbian movies I saw during my marathon. And I guess from others in the lesbian community they think it’s one of the better ones as well.

Elizabeth and Lassa are an older couple who are about to be married. Both have older, independent children. Lasse had a contentious divorce and his daughter Mia still feels angry with him about what happened. Consequently, she hasn’t visited often. Elizabeth has a grown daughter who is an out lesbian and in a relationship and lives nearby.

At the pre-wedding party, all of them meet for the first time and family drama ensues.

Mia (played by Ruth Vega Fernandez) is sulky and cranky because her father isn’t spending the time with her that she wants. He’s always busy with some job thing. She also shows a pissed/sad face whenever she sees Frida, Elizabeth’s daughter. Frida is light and fun and both Mia’s brother and fiancé are enjoying with Frida. I will say that actress Ruth Vega Fernandez has the perfect sad/pissed off look that worked here.

Anyway, as the days go on, Mia, who is an architect with her fiancé, is to design and extension on a lake house that Lasse and Elizabeth have bought. Lasse was supposed to meet them, but leaves Mia alone with both Elizabeth and Frida, which pisses her off and freaks her out. All of her interactions with Frida show she’s not too happy with this.

However, one night at the cabin, she follows Frida who is out walking in the woods. They barely talk, but then she suddenly kisses Frida. She acts freaked that she did that, but at the same time both women get sexual fairly quickly after that. Of course, as the days go on and they start really falling in love, Frida basically states she will not be a fling for Mia and cuts it off. This forces Mia to confront what she really feels and how far she’s willing to go to be with Frida.

Of course, this new development messes with Mia’s plans for marriage and a lot of pain for all characters in this story happens due to this new love between these women. I felt it was dealt with in a realistic way. I guess there is no easy way to follow your heart when it’s going against everyone you love and the convenience of life at times. But this was one of the better parts of the film.

The only negative thing I will say is that like so many of the lesbian movies I watched these last few weeks, insta-love seemed to be a thing here. I wish there was more of a build-up to why Mia would be attracted to Frida and why Frida would fall so madly in love with Mia that she leaves her long-time girlfriend. There really wasn’t much between them that did show that.

However, what saves this movie is that in the end, I really believed these women want each other badly. Enough that both risk so much to go for it.

For those wondering, this is not really a straight girl falls for a girl and discovers she’s a lesbian. Mia did have a love affair with a woman in the past but felt it freaked her out. So it’s more like lesbian in the closet finally having the guts to be true to herself.

Anyway… this is a definite recommend to watch. I can’t really believe this is the first Swedish lesbian film. Seems like the stereotype that Europeans are more open about stuff like this is not always true.

Heat level: 3-4 Nude sex scene, done showing lots of passion.

Grade: 4 ½ Stars

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blog Name Change

As you can see, if you've been following my blog for a while, I've changed the name. 

I been wanting to change the name for some time now as what I read and review has changed over the years and I wanted a name that more accurately reflects that. 

When we first started this blog, we more wanted to give a voice to bi and curious women, which is where we were at that time. So what we reviewed or talked about was geared more towards what we wanted to read and that type of reader. 

Author Kirsten Saell with whom I started the blog, has moved on to other pastures and it's been mainly me reviewing and keeping the blog going, even if only posting here and there. 

Over the years, my tastes, opinions, feelings, and how I identify have changed and I'm now, and have been for a long time, reading more lesbian romance with a smattering of f/f/m or bi oriented stories.

I still wanted to keep the title inclusive of bi readers as I still enjoy reading a f/f/m, but felt Loving Venus Loving Mars was more indicative of strictly bi oriented content, which this blog is not right now.

I haven't changed the web address, even though I hate bicurious...blogspot.. at this point, because I know there are many links to this blog and some reviews as well as all the links I did to my sister review index blog, which is an index of all the books so people could get to reviews quicker. (sorry it's currently not up to date, but I'll get to it.) So that will stay the same. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gay Romance Meet Up in Seattle 2014- Recap

So, last weekend I attended the Gay Romance NW meet up in Seattle. I know they had this event last year for the first time, but to be honest, “Gay” romance suggested to me that it was more for authors and readers of m/m, which I no longer read. So I basically ignored it even though I’ve really enjoyed the books of some of the authors of m/m that live in the area and attended last year. Since I pretty much only read f/f/m and lesbian, I didn’t see the point to go last year.

This year I saw that Len Barot/ Radclyffe/ L.L. Raand, president of Bold Strokes Books and an author herself, was attending and I felt that that might be a good sign that there would be more authors and readers of lesbian attending, making it more interesting to me.

I really didn’t know what to expect, but I had a good time and felt that all the authors, publishers and coordinators of this event did an amazing job and offered a lot of interesting panels and discussion. I resonated with a lot of the issues brought up.

Anything I say below is paraphrasing what I heard people say, not necessarily what they actually said or meant. Also not including everything they talked about but more or less what I found interesting, or more to the point, remembered.

Also, just for edification, I was tweeting during the event and my phone went dead a few times so I charged in my car between panels and missed some parts of them. So if I don’t mention something, I probably wasn’t there for that part.

1st up was Tracy Timmons-Gray –the event coordinator.

She talked about the event and how it came about and what they are doing in the community. She also spoke about the hardship of finding LGBT romance books on Amazon and her experience with Amazon’s algorithm of suggesting material based on 1 purchase. For instance, she had bought many LGBT books but the one time she bought a m/f, Amazon suggested tons of m/f without remembering all the LGBT books.

She actually wrote to Jeff Bezos and her asking about it did change things. Still a work in progress, she said that readers and writers can make a difference by asking for what they want. Asking in libraries and non-profits as well can keep exposure and ease of getting LGBT books in mainstream markets. I found her talk passionate, informative and she was very amusing.

Next was Key Note: Write with Pride-

This was interesting because the authors on this panel wrote a letter from past to current or future self and many were very touching and beautiful. Many included their struggles to come to this point of being who they are now. I thought it an interesting thing to do.

Next up was Writing the Rainbow-Exploring Queer Romance Writing

I appreciate that there were 2 authors of lesbian on that panel and not all m/m.

Several topics came up that were very interesting. They talked about addressing, or not, homophobia in their books. Author Jove Belle mentioned something interesting that she doesn’t often include it because it’s not her personal experience. Others stated they do include it but don’t like to make it the main conflict or focus too much on it.

They were asked the hardest part of writing romance and sex. Many agreed or stated that trying to remember all those amazing, tingling feelings one has when falling in love are hard to bring up when most of them have been in long term relationships and love at that point is all about the day to day stuff.

After a discussion about what was hardest for each to write, talk segued into reviews.  Each gave an interesting and sometimes wrenching story of writing a book just after or during a trying time like death or long illness of a loved one and how reading a review that doesn’t fit their experience of writing the book can be hard.

On the whole, the authors on the panel were very amusing and joked a lot and spoke honestly and from the heart and it was a good panel for me to attend.

Next: Printed Love: A Discussion with  LGBTQ Publishers: 

Represented was: Len Barot (Bold Strokes Books), Laura Baumbach (MLR Press), Megan Derr (Less than Three Press), Tina Haveman (eXtasy Books) and Anne Regan (Dreamspinner Press/Harmony Ink Press)

Most of them talked about marketing, submitting, what they publish, etc. Everyone resounded, “if you want to read it, write it, and then buy it.” While they do want to publish a variety of genres and such, they are a business and have to accept submissions of stories that will sell.

Outside of Len Barot, all said they were not getting very many submissions in other genres than m/m.

I’m going to side eye that, but keep that long and tiring discussion for another time.

I admire that Len Barot just came out and said that she didn’t think straight women liked to read lesbian, but that straight women were the main audience for m/m, which has been a contentious discussion over the years.

Then they talked about how authors should or could better market themselves. I thought it interesting that one or two said skip the blogs and go straight to social media. Blogs are quickly becoming the past, whereas Twitter and FB are it right now. But also don’t be an ass, you will alienate readers, so beware when using social media.


There was also mention that each publisher should have a website where people can buy books direct from them, giving more money to authors.

I would say to that, that I recently went through my blog and culled links to a crap ton of small publishers that are now gone, some of which I bought books directly from. Also, having to set up accounts and give personal info to smaller publishers that have had bad reputations in the past of screwing authors and or being unethical, don’t make buyers like me feel comfortable doing so. Maybe if they all offered a Paypal option?

Next up: The Evolving LGBTQ Romance Genre.

I liked that this panel, much about diversity in romance, was diverse in authors on it. I probably would have sat through the whole panel, phone be damned, if I knew this would be the topic.

At any rate, what I did get out of it was that authors on the panel wanted there to be more diversity. The topic if white authors writing characters of color came up and that it’s understood that many white authors fear doing it wrong, but they stated that doing some good research and asking many persons of color their experience is fine and so it shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Alex Powell stated that her publisher had a diversity team whom authors could run things by to make sure they are getting it right, which I thought was interesting.

I loved that author Pearl Love stated that the word diversity was a problem in itself in that it makes it not the norm.

They all agreed and stated that it would be nice to make their stories more inclusive of all kinds of people.

Loud applause broke out when one audience member stated she wanted to kill forever the disabled as not norm trope as well as the miraculous healing trope.

The authors also talked about labels, some saying they are good and some saying that it could be a deterrent to people discovering new things they might like. Pearl Love stated that she hates that AA is put in its own section. Again, I think she’s right. Lori L. Lake told a story that an author friend got slammed on Amazon in reviews because there was a lesbian in the story, not the main character, and people were pissed off to read that. 

Then Dave Matthew-Barns told that one of his stories had lesbians in it but because he’s a male, his book was marketed is m/m. So he felt he might have missed out on some readership due to this. (Yes, Dave you are correct. I have read a m/m that had a lesbian couple prominently placed in the story and I loved it. Had it not been mentioned in a review, I would have missed.)

After this was the meet and greet book signing at the Hotel Monoco across from Seattle library. 


Now, I skipped the Friday night reading at the University Book store because I really do get hives in social settings. Especially if they are more intimate, unlike the huge auditorium at the library where I could hide in the back. And I almost went home at that point when I saw how small and intimate the signing room was at the hotel.

But I pushed myself. To be honest, I went to support the 7 authors of lesbian that attended. Yes, I actually printed out the list of attending authors and Googled each one. I even bought one book of each author of lesbian before the event, hoping to read one or two. So I marked who the authors of lesbian were and went to talk to them during the signing/meet greet.

I’m so not the fan girl type. And the fact that I almost went home not caring about meeting the authors says something, but the highlight of the day for me was having a brief chat with Radclyffe. I’ve read a few of her books and really enjoyed them. But I know of her more for her work in promoting and giving a voice to lesbian fiction through Bold Strokes Books. I found her to be a very down to earth, open and intelligent woman on the panels so while I did stress a bit, I managed to get the guts to talk to her.

I mentioned her comment about straight women not being the audience for lesbian books. I told her that there was a contingent of us (well, I wouldn’t call myself straight at this point, but still) that loved to read lesbian. That we’ve been trying to promote it within the straight romance reading community and that while many of my straight romance reading friends don’t glom onto lesbian, they do read it and support it here and there. She mentioned that they were always trying to find ways to market to straight women. She was very gracious even though I probably babbled a lot. Heh, I’m sure authors that attend signings are used to crazy ass babbling readers.

Next, I spoke with author Kate McLachlan. It was very easy speaking with her as I kept sitting way up in the back and she and her wife were in the back also, just in front of me. We had chatted briefly and I thought them very open and friendly. I didn’t know she was an author and was surprised to see her sitting there with her books.

Then I spoke briefly with Lori L. Lake. I’m currently reading one of her books and like it very much. She also was very open.

I couldn’t find the others or they didn’t show up, but I felt very satisfied. And I bought a few lesbian books to donate to the LGBT library. 

Finally, yes this has been a long post and if you’ve made it this far, you need a drink I’m sure, I just wanted to say that I’m happy I went to this event. I was worried. Being in the romance community for a long time now, and reading lesbian, I have been a bit pissed off and  jaded that since the explosion of m/m, the term LGBT romance has equaled m/m, with f/f, lesbian, trans*, bi, queer not being promoted or having as much exposure or representation.

But I felt that this event was inclusive and will be more and more inclusive of the whole LGBTQ spectrum in the future.

Will be back in 2015!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review--The Rules by S. Renee Bess

The Rules
By S. Renee Bess
April 7, 2014
Lesbian fiction/ Mature/ African American/ Contemporary
172 pgs
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
Kindle Edition

Blackmail, murder, missing persons, and concealed identities link lives that otherwise, would have remained unconnected.

London Phillips searches for affirmation and for Milagros Farrow, a revered lesbian author who seems to have vanished.

Lenah Miller arms herself against memories of her past as well as those who dismiss her because their backgrounds differ.

Rand Carson seeks to replace one lost interracial relationship with a second one.

Candace Dickerson executes a plot to enrich herself with other peoples' earnings.
The threads entwined around London's desire for connection with a kindred spirit, Lenah's wary skepticism, Rand's misguided ardor, and Candace's greed come undone when three fall victim to blackmail, one reappears from the ethers of the past, and another succumbs to murder.

I loved, loved this book. I wrote part of this review and posted it on Goodreads not really ready to fully express what I felt about this book. It's so deep and nuanced and maybe too hard for me to articulate everything I felt about it. It left me feeling like I had made a new friend who intimately shared an interesting life with me.

The Rules touches on so many different issues. Most particularly issues around being an African American and a lesbian and dealing with the expectations of both the white and black community both culturally and on a personal level. The way the characters experience their lives is expressed with a lot of insight into those issues. It's also about the importance of shared experiences in making relationships work and also the comfort involved in that even if a relationship doesn't flourish.

That this story is about mature women was another huge plus. It's fairly rare to read about women who are at a stage in their lives when experience has taught them that they don't have to rush into anything and can make decisions on who they are vs what’s expected in furthering their careers and in relating.

Author S. Renee Bess excels at in-depth characterizations and weaving a good story. Each of the characters in this story have distinct personalities and we get to see how each change slightly depending on who they are relating to. They are all connected even if they are unaware of how. And I particularly respect that all of the characters have flaws. Just when I'd think, oh I like this character and hope it works out for them, they do something kind of crappy and then I’d think, oh this is an interesting twist. However, their vulnerabilities were shown as well so it was easy to see their point of view even with negative traits at times.

London is sort of the main character and whenever she’s on screen, the story is written in first person. The other characters get a lot of page time as well so each reader might relate to any of them. Due to starting the book at the point of London’s childhood and upbringing, we get to see some of the experiences that helped shape who she is now in time. She’s an older woman who is at a point in her life when she wants to advance her career and maybe find love, but is in many ways accepting of where she’s at as well. There’s a certain assuredness and quietness about her, which seems to come from age and experience. She’s a very likable character and it’s through her we see the issues she and others face as an African Americans, women, and lesbians. We get to see her come to terms with her decisions about her life that are at times in conflict with the expectations of her community and how she’s been brought up.

Lenah, one of the other main characters, is portrayed as having both positive and negative qualities, as are most of the characters What I found intriguing about her is that the demise of her last relationship is about her not being ambitious enough for her partner, but when she meets London, she gets on her case about her career choices. Her role in this story is more about the shared experiences I mentioned up stream. She and London have a rocky start in their relationship, but in the end, it’s their shared commonality of being African American and lesbians and having similar cultural experiences even though they come from different social statuses. What I liked about her is that once a huge weight is lifted from her shoulders she becomes more open and honest with London, when she had been more critical of her initially. She changes and grows and I liked that.

It’s through both of these women that we also get to experience the everyday racism they experience in the form of “good intentions” from white people who think they are allies. This leads me to another thing I loved about this book; this is the first story really in which I’ve read a racist, appropriator white character who isn’t the overt, easy to hate racists.

Rand is an interesting character in that she thinks she’s standing up for, fighting for and supporting African Americans, but is really a fetishizer of black women and an appropriator of black culture. She is the typical white person who thinks they are progressive and open minded, but who are so totally clueless in how racist they really are. Renee Bess did an amazing job of showing vs telling, making the impact of that dichotomy more potent.

Candace is an easily dislikable character and maybe the only one who the author really didn’t go into what makes her tick. However, she’s kind of the catalyst for events that affect all the characters in both good and bad ways so maybe her being less explained was good.

I’d also like to point out that Renee Bess offers incredible insight into how we make judgments based on race and how our social upbringing affects our choices. Normally I’m not really for reading stories that are not clearly romance or suspense like this story is, however, Renee Bess totally sucked me in with her writing and her ability to articulate these issues and made me think about a lot about my own attitudes and what are the everyday experiences of African Americans and lesbians.

I think this author's writing is getting better and better. Will definitely pick up another of her books.

Heat level: 0

Grade: 5 Stars

Friday, July 4, 2014

Review- Backwards to Oregon by Jae

Backwards to Oregon
By Jae
April 6, 2013
Era Historical 1850’s/ Lesbian /Bisexual
542 pgs
Publisher: Ylva Verlag; 2 edition

"Luke" Hamilton has always been sure that she'd never marry. She accepted that she would spend her life alone when she chose to live her life disguised as a man.

After working in a brothel for three years, Nora Macauley has lost all illusions about love. She no longer hopes for a man who will sweep her off her feet and take her away to begin a new, respectable life.

But now they find themselves married and on the way to Oregon in a covered wagon, with two thousand miles ahead of them.

Backwards to Oregon is one of those stories that shined in both the detail of the time period it’s set in and the slow burn of a romance build up. Clearly it’s a long book, but author Jae managed to write about every day minutia and issues the characters dealt with as they made their way from Missouri to Oregon in the mid 1800’s in a way that kept my interest. I actually read this book fairly quickly due to it.

Backwards to Oregon also featured two tropes that are a favorite of mine: a female passing as a male, and marriage of convenience.

So let’s talk about Luke. Since the author uses the pronoun she when talking about Luke, I will stick with that as well. Luke is, to everyone she has contact with, a stand up, conscientious, and courageous man. She been in the army and fought bravely as a leader in the Mexican-American War and has returned to Missouri to head west to start a farm raising horses in Oregon. She’s worked hard to keep her identity as a woman a secret all this time and for the most part manages it.

Really, there is nary a hint of anyone questioning her gender throughout the whole book, which did make me wonder. But I’ve known and read about women passing as men and living as men during and long after a war, so suspension of disbelief was possible here.

Luke decides that to keep her identity and keep people from wondering about her while on her way to Oregon that she should find a wife. She chooses Nora, a prostitute in the local brothel. Nora, already having a child and no prospects other than being a prostitute, readily agrees, hoping to start a new life.

As they move their way across the land, Nora questions why Luke doesn’t want her sexually as this is what she expects he’d want as part of the arrangement. She thinks it’s really weird that he keeps his distance and often feels he doesn’t like her. For at least ¾ of the book Nora goes in and out of respecting how Luke is taking care of her and her daughter and how honorable he is, and wondering what’s wrong with him or her that he doesn’t desire her sexually. It does cause a lot of tension at times, both for her and Luke.

Throughout most of the trip, Luke feels inwardly, and even expresses outwardly, that Nora should find another husband when they get to Oregon. She knows that if Nora finds out she’s a woman, she will want to leave. This perplexes and freaks Nora out. Nora inwardly worries that Luke, not wanting her, will dump her as soon as they get there and then she might get stuck with a man like one on the trail who beats his wife constantly. Or even worse, that she will find no one and not be able to take care of herself and daughter.

What’s kind of interesting about this relationship is that due to the fact that Luke is hiding her identity, it really is a marriage of convenience. Luke steps up and takes full care of Nora and Nora learns to be a good wife, working hard to play her part and help Luke. This is where having to work together as a team to get to Oregon works in their favor. They both have to ignore their personal fears about their possible future without each other and in doing so learn to appreciate and respect, and…slowly come to love each other.

While neither Nora nor Luke talk about each other’s past, I liked that the author did eventually give some insight into how each character ended up where they were. They both come from vastly different worlds.

Outside of that slow dance that they do, the author went into incredible detail of life on the trail. I kind of actually felt like I was on that journey, with clear and intricate descriptions of the landscape, clothing, accoutrements used, and issues faced by pioneers sucking me in. It did feel like the author did extensive research. And since the book is long, the long journey between Missouri and Oregon, the ups and downs made me feel by the end that I was as tired as the characters were and couldn’t wait for them to get there. The main reason that I kept reading though was to find out what would happen once Nora would find out that Luke was a woman.


For me, to some degree, the story became a bit more interesting once she did find out. This is because until that point, Luke is like this perfect, can do no wrong, highly respected person in EVERYONE’S eyes. Once Nora and one other finds out, suddenly Luke doesn’t seem so honorable and her imperfections start coming through. I felt she became a more vulnerable and human person at that point. She also has to confront the “female” part of her that she’s denied due to acting and living like a man.

Nora is confronted by mixed feelings as well. One is that she’s lived an immoral life in the eyes of society and yet she has her own moral judgments about Luke and that Luke is living a sin by going against nature. This made her character a bit more interesting as well because she’s also fallen in love with Luke and tries to come to terms with those conflicting feelings. 

End spoiler**************************************************************

There are a bunch of other clearly defined characters involved as well that also add a lot of drama.  Bernice, a “respectable” woman, befriends Nora and helps her out, teaching her what is expected of her as a good wife and woman in society. I liked that she didn’t judge Nora when she finds out about her past, but she’s also a mixed bag of morality, having her own lines because she finds out about Luke. And then there were a few bad guys who added some tension to what was mainly a drama free drama.

As an historical set in the west, Backwards to Oregon is an excellent read. While not a gripping story as in full of tension, I still recommend as an entertaining one. Also, there is an extension to the story after the end, which I felt added a lot as well; an extension on their life after settling in Oregon.

Heat level: 1-2- some sex, but nothing graphically written or extensive.

Grade: 4 ½ Stars

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review- Bailey's Run by Ali Spooner

Bailey’s Run
By Ali Spooner
Jan 2, 2014
Contemporary/ Lesbian/ Mystery/ Paranormal
358 pgs
Publisher: Affinity Ebook Press NZ LTD
Kindle Edition

Bailey Chambers mourns the loss of her lover, Nessa, in an unsolved carjacking. When Tommy, Bailey’s brother becomes a victim of a gay bashing, Bailey assumes his case will be handled the same way as her lover’s—lackadaisically.

Desi Dexter assigned to Tommy’s case, feels Bailey’s disdain toward her and her partner. Through tenacious police work, Desi, is able to uncover the reason for Bailey’s attitude, and convinces her that she is sincere in solving the case.

Mutual attraction sparks, and before they can move forward with their fledging romance, Desi, and her partner Braxton, uncover the presence of a serial killer.
What will happen to Bailey, when, Desi, becomes engrossed in another case, can their relationship survive?

This is one of those stories that was quick to read and was entertaining with a lot of fun characters, but which didn’t really excel in one area. It’s both a romance and a mystery of sorts, however, the romance developed fairly quickly without too much ado and the mystery didn’t have enough tension or mystery actually. Bailey’s Run is carried mainly by a gaggle of characters interacting and several random events happening, which was fine as is.

The two main characters, Bailey and Desi, are very likable characters. Bailey is a truck driver during the week, but works in her Aunt’s bar on the weekends. Many women have been trying to catch Bailey’s eye, but since the murder of her partner, she’s not been interested in dating. For her, her partner was perfect and she has no desire to find a replacement. She’s also still grieving as there was no closure in that her partner’s killer was never found.

Desi is a detective who’s just trying to do the right thing in life. She’s a tough but warm woman and has a good working relationship with her partner who is supportive and doesn’t have judgments that she’s a lesbian. She meets Bailey when she’s called on the case of Bailey’s brother Tommy being severely beaten outside her aunt’s bar. Although Bailey is very cold and snippy with her, she feels a spark between them. Something about Bailey attracts her.

For Bailey it’s the same, but her anger over the police not doing anything about her partner’s death has left a bad taste in her mouth and she blows Desi off. On her own, Desi checks out what happened to Bailey’s partner and totally gets Bailey’s anger since the investigation was shoddy to non-existent. Between working on Bailey’s brother’s case and deciding to work behind the scenes to reopen her partner’s murder case, she manages to become closer to Bailey. Bailey slowly opens up to Desi, feeling attracted to someone for the first time since her partner’s death, and feeling also that Desi is on the up and up with her.

They are very cute and sweet together and the romance develops easily, quickly and nicely without too much conflict once Bailey is on board. While there’s a pretense of staying apart for ethical reasons, they don’t pay too much attention to that on a personal level.

Outside of the romance, there are several plot lines. Desi and her partner Dexter, besides going after the men who jumped and beat up Tommy, get reassigned to cold case after they solve who killed Bailey’s partner. Desi discovers a pattern of killings and they realize that they might have a serial killer on the loose. They also figure that the killings happen around the same date every year and that date is coming up soon.

The author goes back and forth between them and the serial killer, giving us insight into who the killer is and their investigative process. I felt this part was not really that well developed as there was no tension built up in finally finding the killer really. I kept expecting more tension or maybe more danger for certain characters, but that never happened. This part of the story felt more like a reason to bring in more characters and keep the story going.  


Also, and this is something that bugged me, an FBI profiler is brought in. Her father was FBI and she’s allegedly some kind of serial killer expert. She works with a partner, also her life partner outside of the job, who is a psychic. Unfortunately, this part of the story was off to me. Basically, all the FBI profiler does is have her partner do her thing while she does zero investigating. They felt rather like unnecessary and extraneous characters thrown in there to add more character interaction even though as characters go they are likable. And about the psychic thing, well, I think I would have been on board with that if the psychic didn’t come up with all the answers right away versus having an actual investigation, which included some psychic help. Due to that it went into hokeyville for me at times. 

End Spoiler*************************************************

What does work in this story is the connection between all the characters. The characters get together a lot for fun, food, home cooking and entertainment while they deal with what seems like non-stop issues. They have a great camaraderie and all support each other. I loved that Fubar, Bailey’s aunt’s bar, is one of the central places they meet up and that it features drag queen shows. Most of the characters are either gay or supportive of the gay community and that was rather nice to read as well.

And, well, this is stupid and most people won’t care, but there was a rescued kitten. Desi finds it in an alley and brings it home. The kitten actually gets a fair amount of detail and attention and I found myself worrying about it when both Desi and Bailey can’t get home and loving that it was part of the story.

So, while there were some issues for me in this book, overall it’s a good read.

Heat Level: 2 – sex mostly implied not graphically written

Grade: 4 Stars

Monday, May 26, 2014

Review- Cream by Christiana Harrell

By Christiana Harrell
Aug 31, 2013
Contemporary/Lesbian/Stud/Romance/Erotica/African American
230 Pgs
Kindle Edition

Cream, an androgynous beauty, knows what it’s like to be abandoned, broke, and used. Left to the state by her parents and taken under the wing of her selfish foster mother, Cream sets her focus on one thing: money. She dives head first into the exotic lifestyle of stripping. Starting out in gentlemen clubs, drama seems to follow her wherever she goes. Instead of facing the turmoil, she moves on to the next city, causing more chaos than what she left behind.

She thinks she has life all figured out until she crosses paths with Payton, a daddy’s girl with lots of cash and a lust for women. Payton makes her learn things about herself that she never saw possible and with her new discovery comes a big change in her look and personality.

Cream is at the top of her game, surrounded by money and beautiful women. Then, one wild night forces her to discover yet another truth about herself and face the reality of her lifestyle. Will she continue to dwell in her unstable comfort zone? Or, will she finally open her eyes?

If I could ever call a book a reader whisperer, this would be it for me. Cream spoke to me in so many awesome and amazing ways. It’s such a raw and powerfully positive story of growth and acceptance. Cream as a character is also one of the most intense, real and dynamic female leads I’ve read in a long time.

What I loved so much about Cream is that she’s written as someone having a nice combination of savvy, rough street smarts and innocence. It’s that underlying innocent part of her, the part she’s managed to keep even with all the negative obstacles she’s had to deal with that helps her change and grow once she allows that part of her to emerge. That’s not to say she doesn’t have a lot of flaws and isn’t a nasty shit at times. But this is what makes her an interesting, complex character.

I also got off on how the author wrote this book. The way this story is written: language (colloquial), pacing, character development, were all spot on for me. The growth of Cream is slowly done and we get to see her change as she learns from her relationships and experiences. It’s a natural progression and I liked that it wasn’t rushed or that she suddenly had an epiphany that wasn’t natural to her character.

That the author wrote a character who works in the sex industry but isn’t being controlled, or doing it for “good” reasons, was a huge plus for me. Cream chooses it after that first night. She did have a crappy childhood. And she ends up stripping because she was pimped out by someone who should have protected her. But she embraces it, becomes the best stripper, and uses it to her advantage. She also enjoys it and makes no excuses, nor does she blame the world for it. And shockingly, she stays unaffected by the sexual nature of it, never having any attractions or sexual encounters.

One of Cream’s worst characteristics is being unable to get close to people and running all the time. She seemed to be missing the empathy chip for a good part of this book and I wondered if she’s actually just out of touch with her feelings, or if she really feels as emotionally cold towards others as she acts. But it’s clear after a while it’s a survival technique. It’s also what throws her into meeting new people and having experiences that push her out of that. 

Of course, both good and unsavory characters enter her life. And I will say that what was appealing to me was that there were no stereotypical characters. People who you’d think would try and take advantage of Cream don’t and those who you’d think would normally be nice, aren’t. I loved that.

This story is about Cream, but several other characters are very compelling as well. Payton is an interesting character in that she starts Cream on the road to growth, albeit, unknowingly. She’s the impetus for Cream to see that she has a lot of talent and helps her career flourish.  She’s also the one who turns Cream on to women, suggesting she’s not just a lesbian, but a stud. At first it felt like Payton would be a very positive influence on Cream in all aspects, not just her career, but things didn’t go as I thought.

Then there is Tasia. Tasia is the antithesis of pretty much everyone Cream has met. Tasia, like Cream, has been abused on several levels, but has kept her heart, hope and humanity. Even when she’s so clearly treated like shit from her fiancé and by her best friend, she still manages to keep hope that one day she will find love. This is not to say she’s a doormat. Like Cream though, she’s managed to keep some innocence locked away but it’s more on the surface for her.

Tasia and Cream meet mainly due to a betrayal, but more so because Tasia looks very much like the only “friend” Cream had ever had and probably the only person she had any feelings of love towards. Although Cream tries her usual shtick with Tasia, keeping things at a distance, something about Tasia’s vulnerability and positivity worms its way into Cream’s psyche and slowly breaks down her hard core emotional wall. Tasia also has an easy going, loving, but non-threatening or needy way about her that sparks something in Cream wherein for the first time in her life she finds herself opening up to another person and caring about their well-being.

I know there are some negative aspects to this book. There were some editing issues and well, I know intellectually it’s not subject matter for everyone; it represents a fairly specific world. Also, some (lesbians) might not like that Tasia’s sexual orientation is not really clear and it’s written more as she loves Cream vs being attracted to women. And also for my taste, even Cream, while clearly into women and not ever having an attraction to men, won’t commit to stating she’s a lesbian. However, I got so sucked into the story and the characters, I didn’t notice those things or they didn’t bother me. 

I would love to read another book by this author.

Heat level: 4-5- some graphic sexual situations, but more tell than show. But graphic language used.

Grade: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review- The View from 16 Podwale Street by Paul Alan Fahey

The View from 16 Podwale Street
By Paul Alan Fahey
July 8th 2012
Era Historical 1930’s/ Lesbian
48 pages
Publisher: JMS Books LLC
Kindle Edition

April 1939. Warsaw, Poland. To the casual observer, the houses on Podwale Street look very much alike. Yet at 16 Podwale, nothing is as it seems. Within, the walls hold many secrets that could destroy the lives of its inhabitants as they witness the city’s ever-mounting tide of Nazism.

Wealthy recluse Elwira Malinowska is more an observer than participant in life. In her seclusion at 16 Podwale, she watches the world pass her by. Then Raz Zielinsky comes to work as a housemaid for her father, and Elwira’s life is suddenly divisible by two -- the time before Raz and the time after.

Years pass, and the women become lovers. They depend on each other. Elwira is Raz’s protector, and Raz is Elwira’s conduit to the outside world, where people speak of nothing but the continual threat of war with Germany.

Elwira, a steadfast Catholic, believes Pope Pius XII will intervene to save Poland from the rumblings of a maniac and an imminent invasion. But when the Pope fails to mediate peace and the political situation worsens, Elwira and Raz plan their escape to freedom.

Will their plan succeed? Or is it already too late?

This was a very unique and different story for me. I loved the writing, the flow of it, the descriptions of WWII Poland---pre-German invasion, and the characters. It’s not the usual fare. And although not overtly expressed, I enjoyed the subtle way both characters were shown to have a lesbian relationship. It actually fit the characters, who they are, and the time period.

The blurb pretty much expresses what the story is about so I’ll go from there. I thought Elwira and Raz have an interesting relationship. On the surface, and to some degree in their day to day life, they don’t have equal standing in the relationship. Raz often reminds Elwira that her status is that of house servant even though in private they are lovers. Although Elwira disputes it all the time, she’s still a very proper woman of her station and still treats Raz as a servant, at least on the surface. Part of it is appearances for when she has callers, but mainly it’s because she’s totally dependent on Raz for various reasons, including having a disability that keeps her from going outside during the day.

This is an interesting dynamic to me because emotionally, physically, and probably even financially, Raz could survive without being dependent on Elwira for a roof over her head and a job. However, she feels loyalty towards her and will not leave even though Elwira’s not wanting to face reality might ultimately cause her great harm. They’ve just established a working relationship in which they have a loving, supportive relationship but within those parameters.

While I felt the relationship was a good part of the story, much of it is also about the time period and how Elwira and Raz try to keep functioning in a politically turbulent and quite dangerous time. One of the strong themes is Elwira’s total belief in the Pope and that he will save Poland from an invasion by Hitler and the Germans. She’s very innocent and somewhat naïve as she disputes warnings from outside callers and Raz that the Pope really has no ability to affect the political scene. Her Catholic faith is strong and very important to her and she feels her belief will save them.

Raz is not as believing as she goes out daily for shopping and other errands and hears the constant gossip and chatter of impending war. She’s also well aware that she and Elwira, but particularly Elwira due to her “disability,” will be subject to a particularly bad fate if Poland falls to the Germans and Hitler. People like them, who love the way they do will not be spared. Much of the story is Raz trying to convince Elwira that maybe they should think about leaving before any invasion, while Elwira stalls, holding on to her tradition, family home, and religious belief. It did create a great tension and impetus to keep reading to see the outcome.

Then there are the two regular gentleman callers who don’t exactly try to woo Elwira, but visit with her and talk in a “gentile” way about the current events. One of them has told Elwira that he is very concerned and has a contact who he can pay to get him and his pregnant wife out. They gain her confidence and she starts believing in their concerns for her welfare. What happens ultimately is not what one would expect.

The only thing about this story that I felt was not explained was how the two gentlemen even knew Elwira and why she would allow them to visit when she clearly was in love with Raz and felt she could not live a normal life. Other than that…

This is well worth the read. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for an ambient period historical from an interesting time and place.

Heat level: 0

Grade: 4 ½ Stars