Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review- Windrow Garden by Janet McClellan

Windrow Garden
by Janet McClellan
Contemporary/ Lesbian
45K- $5.95
Ebook version- ArtemisPress

Buy it OmniLit, Fictionwise, Amazon-Kindle/ paperback

As a bitter, January wind whips through Leavenworth County, Kansas, Sally Windrow prepares for another hectic year of farming on the five-acre spread that has been in her family for seventy-five years. Unfortunately, her hired hand and chief mechanic is seriously injured in an accident. Frantic because all the skilled labor in the area has already been hired at neighboring farms, Sally puts an ad in the local paper, hoping a good man will turn up.

To Sally's surprise, her ad is answered quickly... by a woman. Forced out of the Army by an anti-gay witchhunt, Master Sergeant Nicole Jaeger is a trained mechanic and at a crossroads in her life, trying to find a place to start over. New to the area, and with no ties to bind her, Nicole convinces Sally she will be a loyal and hard-working employee. As Sally and Nicole work side-by-side to make the farm and roadside restaurant successful, the women develop a strong and trusted friendship that soon blossoms into romance.

Windrow Garden was an odd book for me. I don’t even know quite how to classify it or even describe it. It had its good points and did appeal to me in some strange way but I think the way it was written and presented might bore people who like a bit more action and character interaction.

The blurb is fairly accurate for this story, so onwards and upwards.

Right out of the gate, this story started out with a few pages of actual gardening techniques. I mean, it literally read like a Gardening for Dummies how to, giving explicit instructions for building a cold frame.

I feel this will be a matter of taste and or what turns you on whether or not this will bother you. Personally, gardening and everything around it is, for me, about as fun as getting a tooth pulled. I hate gardening actually, so I was kind of bored straight away. What kept me reading was the unusualness of starting a book or supposed romance with a step-by-step guide to gardening and wondering how it would proceed from there.

Just for reader edification, the author interwove pages of different gardening instructions and information throughout the book as what I supposed were metaphors or correlations for the actual process of the relationship growth between the two women. Surprisingly, sometimes I found them kind of interesting. Especially the section on pruning trees, since I know next to nothing about pruning and my rhododendrons need some major help. Mostly though, I skipped through them.

The next issue I had, and maybe you’ll all have noticed that I haven’t talked about the characters yet, is that this book is 90% telling. Where’s the dialogue you ask? MIA. I’d say about 1/5 of this whole book included dialogue and didn't happen until about a third of the way in. Ergo, I didn’t get intimate knowledge of either of the two women, what they are feeling inside, what they are thinking, or how their relationship affected them on a visceral level; it's all told.

This is supposedly a romance. Again, when there is no dialogue really, I’m just being told that a character feels this, and the other feels that. The actual romance part, the part that should have been the most important as far as development, got glossed over by telling the reader that they like each other. No action really, nothing except that they meet for private liaisons. For those of you who don’t like explicit sexual scenarios, you might like this book, since only one sexual encounter is expressed and in the vaguest of terms. There was just no real heat between these two women.

Ok, for the characters. What did come across about Nicole is that she’s one of these types of people who just goes along with the program. She likes the comfort, routine, rigidness, no need to think for oneself quality of the military and wanted to spend her whole life in it. However, she’s a lesbian. She knew she was a lesbian when she joined at 18 years of age, so there was never going to be the ability to have a long term romance with a woman.

The trouble with the character of Nicole is that while I really get off on a character like her in general, she spends her whole life having fuck buddies. It seems that she’s never really cared about anyone and came across as almost bragging that she loves them and leaves them. Not really a quality that I can warm up to in a character.

This would be fine if her growth, due to her love of Sally, would have been developed. But it’s not. She just seems to go from being a love’em and leave’em type to suddenly wanting a long-term deal with Sally without much internal reflection about that. Yes she does freak a little bit about the thought of a long-term deal, but I wanted to know how she got from point A to B in her being.

And Sally. I kind of liked Sally as a character, but understood her even less than Nicole. She was married and lost her husband, but there was an incident with a girl when in her teens. She’s a straight up person and good business woman and falls for Nicole. However, she was so easily influenced against Nicole and treats her like she’s never met her after they've fallen in love. What the hell? That was kind of flaky to me. Then without any explanation she’s suddenly coming to Nicole as if she hadn’t ignored her for a while. Missing information? You betcha.

There was also a plot to this story, which stood out more than the romance. Some bad guys trying to ruin Sally and so on. I think it was more interesting than the love story, but didn't have too much depth to it.

For those who dislike the stereotypical portrayal of gay haters, this story does have some of that. Realistic for sure, but I didn’t feel it went into that political area too much, which was a blessing. Still though, it was used as antagonistic foil for the women getting together.

I will admit though, that I get off on a style of writing that is very logical and precise, which is how the writing/ story telling felt in this story. Even with all the telling, there was something very smooth about Janet McClellan’s writing that turned me on. When there was dialogue, it was very nice and clean and real. Her how to’s were very easy to understand and kind of interesting if you like that. It did have the comfortable feeling of being a child while having an adult read to you, which I liked.

I would recommend this book to someone who wants to read something just out of the ordinary in presentation. Or someone who wants to read about lesbian women without the explicit sex or eroticism. Or, if you’re really into gardening.

Sex rating: Dry panties- no real sexual situations.

Grade: C+

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