Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review- The Garden House by Mia Cherish and Jacqueline Quaid

The Garden House
by Mia Cherish and Jacqueline Quaid
2006
Paranormal/ F/F
Extended Novella- 31K
Ebook

Buy it Amber Allure

Clancy Rosabel had no intention of following her sorority president’s order to steal flowers from Léonor Griffin’s exquisite courtyard in the Garden District. Everyone knew Léonor was the legendary Belle Madame, a vampiress as well-known for her seductive effect as her intolerance of “bad elements.” No indeed. Clancy would march right up to Lea’s courtyard and ask for the flowers instead!

The price of the flowers is a vampire’s kiss.

Lea Griffin found the innocent underdressed woman tugging at her garden gates appealing but she never imagined initiating Clancy into feminine sensuality and vampire love would leave her body and her fangs eager for so much more. Her feelings grow possessive as she seduces Clancy further into her own world. But she must be careful not to take more from Clancy than she can reasonably expect such a young mortal to provide.

Is Léonor ready to embrace Clancy fully and look forward to lasting love, or will she keep the girl as a pretty pet in her garden house?

I’m in awe. The Garden House is one of the most erotic and deeply passionate love stories I’ve read in a while. I didn’t want to let it go.

Clancy is a young, innocent college student who is pledging to a sorority and is told by the nasty bitch sorority leader who hates her, to steal flowers from Belle Madame’s garden. Having no fear, even though Belle Madame is a known vampire and a local legend, Clancy goes straight to her and asks directly if she may have some flowers.

Leonor (Belle Madame) finds Clancy’s manner intriguing and decides to help her but Clancy must offer something in return. Clancy, kind of curious, agrees to let Leonor kiss bite her. Leonor does so after sexually seducing Clancy though, giving Clancy a very erotic first time experience.

While this was supposed to be a one time deal, both Leonor and Clancy can’t stop thinking about each other, and after seeing each other for a while, Leonor invites Clancy to move into her garden house. There are problems though. Can they have a real, long term relationship though as Leonor is a vampire and Clancy is human? And then there’s that pesky age difference issue, which does come up for Leonor.

Oh what a sweet, delicious story this was. Right from the beginning I was seduced by the budding relationship between Leonor and Clancy. I’ll be honest; I do have a soft spot for the The Lover type stories in which an older, experienced person introduces a younger, innocent person into the world of erotic delights, especially between women.

This one was a cross between that and Lady Chatterley’s Lover in its essence and the way these two women relate to each other. They are so sensual together. And the vampire paranormal aspect mixed with old world, exotic New Orleans culture gave this story an almost ethereal, timeless feel to it.

Clancy has a very interesting mix of characteristics. She’s forthright and strong, maybe by the fact that she comes from old money and family and was orphaned at a young age, having to fend for herself emotionally. At the same time though, she’s sexually innocent, almost naive, and still a virgin although in college. She’s had a boyfriend and crushed on men but has never been with a woman. She finds herself totally enthralled by Leonor after their sexual encounter and can’t stay away, although she tries. And I liked her attitude towards sex with Leonor. All she knows is that it feels good to be sexual with Leonor and doesn’t really judge it nor is she shy about admitting that she likes it. I found that very refreshing.

Leonor is a very delicious character as well. She’s a centuries old vampire, but she only takes blood (killing them) from nasty people, keeping the streets of New Orleans free of criminals and such. She’s lost her husband and still grieves over his death many years later as she was deeply in love with him. Although she’s had some female paramours before, she’s never loved a woman until she meets Clancy. There’s just something different about Clancy that attracts Leonor to the point that she finds it curious that it’s a woman who makes her feel what she does, but she goes with it.

What I loved about the relationship between these two is that neither of them really question if their attraction is right or wrong. For both it’s a new experience to love a woman as intensely as they do and they don’t fight it, but relish in it. I also got off on that feeling that these two are in their own special little world that they’ve created. Their love had a cozy feeling of it being something unique only for them against the world.

They also express much tenderness. Much of their time together is spent cuddling, cooing, touching, exploring and being nurturing outside of their all consuming sexual passion for each other, which was very sweet. And there is that vulnerability that comes out as both women tentatively navigate what they mean to each other and how they will proceed in their relationship. It’s very soft and real.

This story is not without tension though, the kind of tension needed to compel the characters to interact outside of sex. I liked how the power dynamics changed while they get to know each other. Both characters do some growing, but they never morph into something they weren’t to begin with.

Leonor, although the seducer and the dominant one at first, starts to worry that Clancy will one day want a younger lover and leave her. She even suggests to Clancy to go out and be with others although it would pain her for that to happen. And Clancy, while being the innocent at first, starts pushing her boundaries to see what power she can exert in life. But ultimately they just love each other and are willing to do whatever to be together.

And I can’t give enough praise to the authors for not having these two be “fated” or pull the “mine” card that is so often the case in vampire paranormals and which annoys me to no end at this point. Clancy chooses to be with Leonor of her own free will and not because she’s been thralled by some vampiric voodoo.

There was only one minor niggling thing that was off for me in this story. In this vampire world, apparently, unless Leonor claims Clancy as family and turns her into a vampire, Clancy is open game for other members of Leonor’s vampire family to be used as a sexual pet. So Leonor wishes to make Clancy her daughter. That was a bit on the weird side due to the fact that Leonor is much older and there is that adult/child dynamic at times. I glossed over it by her being a vampire and that in that world, that’s the terminology used and not the actual relationship type. I guess when those vampires turn someone they become a son or daughter, but that wasn’t really explained, hence my feeling it weird.

That aside, The Garden House was one of my best reads in a while. I felt that Leonor and Clancy will have a long, beautiful, loving relationship together and that their love is profound and eternal. Many authors can write good, steamy, sexual romances. But I’ve found that very few can convey real, intense passion; that feeling when you just ache and burn for someone and would die without them. Mia Cherish and Jacqueline Quaid did just that for me. The Garden House is a whole hearted recommend. I think if I were to fall in love with a woman, this is how I’d imagine I’d want it to be.

Sex rating: Orgasmic- very graphic and steamy vanilla f/f. 69 and light anal.

Grade: B+ for basic writing and story, A+ for how this story made me feel.

4 comments:

M. A. said...

Dear Leah,

Thank you from my heart for your thoughtful and constructive review of “The Garden House.”

In the niche market of f/f e-fiction it’s nothing short of exciting to hear that 1) someone really read the novella; 2) someone really “got” the novella; and 3) someone put considerable time into analyzing the novella and providing professional quality constructive critique. Your comments represent the greatest most open review I’ve ever had for any of my books and I sincerely appreciate the time and effort you invested to that end.

Your insights into “The Garden House” delighted me in some ways and surprised me in others. I learned something about my work through your perspective, something every good writer aspires to do when their work is reviewed. Jackie and I deliberately avoided any kind of homophobic elements or doubts in Clancy and Leonor’s developing romance; we preferred to focus more upon the characters’ acceptance of themselves and each other without those worries. We wanted this love story to be simple and honest, not the result of magical compulsions. It’s very much a human love story despite its paranormal elements.

Regarding your comments concerning the vampire “parent/child” relationship…That’s where I really learned something from you. I did not consider the potential squick factor in that issue or that it might not be outlined clearly enough in the prose. Again, we were attempting to keep the vampire elements subtle so as not to overpower the romance. In this case it may have been “too little of a good thing.” Definitely thought-provoking and something to keep in mind for future projects.

The love affair between Clancy and Leonor is a very passionate and beautiful story and the New Orleans Garden District is a central character in the novella that makes its presence felt. I think for passion to translate as “honest” and “real” in a story the writer almost has to fall a little in love with their subject matter and I’ve always been a little in love with my hometown. While Jacqueline is not a New Orleans native she is certainly a kindred spirit with strong ties to the city as well. Thank you again for your excellent review and critique, Leah.

Best always, Mia

LVLM- Book Review Index said...

Wow Mia, I must say, that's one of the nicest comments I've gotten from an author.

We wanted this love story to be simple and honest, not the result of magical compulsions.

I really appreciated that and obviously noticed it. Sometimes with paranormals I feel that many authors use that crutch of the "fated" by animal nature or magic, to create a love story without developing the love story. I like the idea of choice because it becomes more meaningful. And it's a refreshing take in the paranormal.

I did not consider the potential squick factor in that issue or that it might not be outlined clearly enough in the prose. Again, we were attempting to keep the vampire elements subtle so as not to overpower the romance. In this case it may have been “too little of a good thing.”

I think in this case had that world been a little bit explained I wouldn't have picked that up. I wasn't really squicked as much as that it was just something that I took note of and questioned.

Leonor kept talking about her sons and since there was no explanation that they had been turned by her, I really thought they were her biological sons. I only got that her reference of "daughter" was only a term and not something that Clancy would actually become after Leonor says that she turned her sons for the reason of saving them as she wanted to do with Clancy. But this was all later on that I understood, so that's why it was a bit weird to me. I didn't quite know if Clancy would then be relegated to being a real daughter or if she would stay Leonor's lover/partner.

In the same light I was also confused about Caspaar for a while as well. Leonor kept referring to him as her brother and I thought biological until she mentioned that he wanted her.

Those were the only things that were confusing to me, so it was mainly the vampire family relations and what that meant really in this world.

As you say though, the vampire world was something that gave more atmosphere rather than defined the story itself, so it wasn't something bothered me really in the grand scheme of the whole story.

Ebs said...

Leah,

Just wanted to thank you for reading and reviewing "The Garden House." I second Mia's comments since I could never word my thoughts better than she has.

Jacqueline Quaid

MB (Leah) said...

Jacqueline- I really enjoyed this book. I hope you and Mia both write another f/f oriented book.