Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review- Innocent Hearts by Radclyffe

Innocent Hearts
by Radclyffe
Oct 2005
Historical/ Lesbian
200 pgs (61K words)
Bold Strokes Books

Buy it BSB (ebook, paper), Amazon (paper), ARe (ebook)

By Guest Reviewer- Jill Sorenson

In 1860's Montana Territory, Kate Beecher, a young woman from Boston, faces the hardships and hard choices of life on the frontier. Just eighteen and quietly struggling against the social constraints of the era, Kate meets a woman who fires first her imagination, and then her dreams. Jessie Forbes, a fiercely independent rancher, finds in Kate the passion she never knew she had been missing.

This is the story of their struggle to love in a land, and time, as cruel as it was beautiful.

Since my last review, I’ve been on a mission to find a good f/f romance. I’ve spent hours browsing ebooks online, but the offerings are meager and I’m picky about my purchases. Bad covers and awkwardly written blurbs are common. Most of the excerpts I read (if I get that far) don’t sell me on the book. It’s frustrating.

So I decided to look elsewhere: the library. In the comments thread at Dear Author, LVLM mentioned Bold Strokes Books and Mfred recommended an author named Radclyffe. I was able to request several of her titles, including Tomorrow’s Promise and Innocent Hearts.

I liked Tomorrow’s Promise, a contemporary romance set in a sleepy coastal town, but it wasn’t a homerun for me. Innocent Hearts was. I really, really loved it.

This historical romance, set in the Montana territory in the 1860s, opens with Kate Beecher, an 18-year-old girl from Boston. She moves to the wild frontier with her parents and finds it breathtaking. Even more breathtaking is Jessie Forbes, a young female rancher she meets at a round-up. Kate has never been interested in her male suitors, and neither has Jessie, but they don’t know why. The women are confused and exhilarated by their mutual attraction. They fall in love before they even share a kiss; this is very much an affair of the heart.

When Kate and Jessie finally realize what they are feeling, they express it physically and emotionally, exploring their newfound sexuality. The love scenes are sweet and sensual. Although Kate and Jessie want to be together forever, they have to keep the relationship a secret, and face many hardships. Kate’s parents want her to marry a man, naturally. These struggles are dealt with in a way that seemed true to the time period and to Radclyffe’s style, which relies heavily on passionate declarations and near-tragic occurrences.

The setting details are well done, and that Radclyffe’s portrayal of a tight-knit ranching community seems authentic, if a bit idyllic. Kate and Jessie are strong, likeable characters. Their love for each other is so powerful it’s almost overwhelming. They will do anything, risk anything, to be together. While some readers might consider this aspect melodramatic, or find the innocence of the characters unrealistic, I ate it up with a spoon. If I had one nitpick, it would be that the sex scenes weren’t quite explicit enough. *blush*

I feel a glom coming on.

Grade: A


LVLM said...

Jill- Nice review. This looks like a winner for me. I will definitely pick this one up. I love that particular time period in American History.

I've read a few Radclyffe stories in erotica anthologies and enjoyed her stories, so even better.

Thanks for reviewing it!

Mfred said...

So far, I've enjoyed two of Radclyffe's books- Lonely Hearts Club and Passion's Bright Fury. They both had a few plot devices I don't care for and feature characters I don't normally seek out (anything "high-powered" - attorneys, surgeons, etc.)

I saw this one but wasn't sure how'd I feel about gay self discovery in the Old West. I'm glad you reviewed it!

M. A. said...

Nice review, Jill! : )

"Innocent Hearts" sounds like an enjoyable read worth checking out. I love a good historical romance and I don't mind less explicit erotica a bit. As long as everybody falls in love, I'm happy.

Bad covers and awkwardly written blurbs are common. Most of the excerpts I read (if I get that far) don’t sell me on the book. It’s frustrating.

I empathize. It really surprised me when I started paying more attention to my BROWSING habits. Not shopping but casual browsing. I learned how important cover art is as far as tempting readers to at least investigate the book . I can't say I've rejected books due to poor cover art, but I can say I've failed to consider them due to poor cover art.

Jill Sorenson said...

You're welcome, Leah. Thanks for having me. I also enjoy American Westerns but rarely pick them up.

Mfred, thanks for the recs. I also shy away from moguls/business types but I might like a medical romance. Young nurses in love? LOL. I think the setting added a lot here. I like working class/humble characters very much and this couple fit the bill.

Thanks M.A. This is definitely not erotic romance. The contemporary was a little hotter, so maybe the sensuality levels vary from book to book.

Mfred said...

The two Radclyffe's I read are definitely not working class. There is even a schmancy rare books librarian, which made me snort, because I KNOW rare books librarians and they are hardly ever fancy. Underpaid, grumpy, and myopic, yes.

However, if you like medical dramas, Passion's Bright Fury is almost exclusively set in a trauma center. Very reminiscent of more intense episodes of ER.

And I meant to say, even with plot devices and/or characters I don't normally care for-- the books were surprisingly still enjoyable to read. Radclyffe writes well, and engagingly.

Passion's did have some disconcerting moments for me-- during the sexxoring, both characters were often described as getting "hard". Ok, sure, I know clitorises (clitori?) engorge, etc., but I kept thinking, "you feel it get hard? really?" And then I flashed on Lisa Valdez's books and some of Robin Schone and started giggling over over-the-top anatomical scenes of erotica and the sexxoring got a little less hot.

But maybe that's just me. Hahaha.

LVLM said...


I read that in a book recently that I couldn't finish. The author kept referring "teasing the clit to full erection." It was so weird and I had your reaction, really? And then things like "over and over she fucked her clit." Really? Can you fuck a clit?

Jill Sorenson said...

LOL I've read "hardness" and "erection" to describe the clitoris in other books. As an author, I know it's kind of a difficult thing to put into words, but I don't want to picture a penis on a woman!

Cathy in AK said...

...I know it's kind of a difficult thing to put into words, but I don't want to picture a penis on a woman!

So not the image you want to have before the first cup of morning coffee : P

In one of the recent "Worst Sex Scenes in Literature" awards, an author described a woman in a similar way. I believe using quite clinical words/detached emotions throughout the "love" scene too. Ahhh, literary novels..... : )