Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review- The Messenger by KC Blake, Lavinia Marksman

The Messenger (A Lesbian Romance)
KC Blake, Lavinia Marksman
Jan 5, 2014
F-f/ erotica/Contemporary/Romance/Interracial/ May-Dec
54 Pgs
Kindle Edition

A refreshingly new take on modern lesbian romance!
Lucy Murphy is a corporate shark. She’s a master of the deal and a force not to be reckoned with. For all her power and expertise, however, she lives in a self-imposed bubble. When her work life isn’t as satisfying as it once was, she begins to doubt her powers and wonders if there could be something more.

One day, a tough young messenger comes into the office, who entrances Lucy with her shockingly white hair and her “don’t mess with me” attitude. One gaze from this young woman divides Lucy’s life into before and after. Could this be the beginning of something wonderful, or just another sign that Lucy’s losing it?

Romantic and deeply moving, "The Messenger" is an unconventional love story that will stay with you long after the final page.

This was an amazing, lucky find for me. I was buying another book and Amazon had this on that page as a--you may like this one too. I liked the cover and the blurb grabbed me so I took the chance. And it was well worth it.

As the blurb says, Lucy is a corporate shark. Characters like this can rub me the wrong way depending on how they’re written. You know they can be too hard-nosed with no conscience, cruel and hard to sympathize with. Lucy walked that fine line but was very appealing because while she does have those characteristics, she’s extremely self-aware. And that was the main appeal of this story for me because it’s told from her POV.

Self-aware characters are my favorite. I love a character who is flawed, is maybe not very nice at times, but who becomes aware of it and is very perceptive about how people around them experience that. Maybe they don’t make excuses for their behavior or they even use it to their advantage, like Lucy does for her job. But they have the ability to learn, grow and change from having that innate understanding of themselves and others and that spurs character growth.

Lucy is also willing to let go of what’s she’s been and has felt who she is to break out of a mold she’s starting to feel trapped in. And damn, but I love the idea of saying screw it to all one’s responsibilities and doing something so crazy and off the wall, damn the consequences. It’s a nice fantasy and fun to read since it’s often a dream of many of us.

So, “Rabbit” as she calls herself, is the cause for Lucy’s sudden self-reflection.  Rabbit demands that Lucy come out and sign for a package she’s delivering. Lucy doesn’t have to sign herself, but Rabbit forces her by acting as if she gives a crap about the consequences to her job if she walks away with the package without delivering it. The gall of that piques Lucy; she doesn’t do the bidding of others, they do it for her. But being the first and really only person to ever stand up to Lucy grabs Lucy’s attention.

Lucy finds herself obsessed with finding Rabbit. She can’t stop thinking about her and goes looking for her. She finds her but she’s got a lot of judgments that she unconsciously expresses that she needs look at in order to get Rabbit’s respect. 

Rabbit is just as turned on by Lucy and while being just as proud and resolute, she doesn’t resist when Lucy finds her and they hook up. Like Lucy, Rabbit is written is such a way that she has a lot of pride, and although she wants to have something with Lucy she will not let Lucy get away with disparaging remarks about her and puts Lucy in her place.

The sex is no holds barred hot. While it’s Lucy’s first time with a woman, and she muses that she’s never been attracted to a woman before, she also muses that men and sex in general haven’t been an issue at all, not until she met Rabbit.

Just an FYI, Rabbit is probably almost half Lucy’s age. So there is a bit of the May/Dec thing going on. However, that didn’t seem to be an issue with either and it didn’t come across as squicky in any way. To me at least.

Although a short novella and technically not really a “lesbian romance” as part of the title suggests, it is a provocative and juicy story that hints at a future for these two characters. I would scoop up any other lesbian story this author writes in a heartbeat. I loved the straightforwardness of the characters and the writing.

Heat level: 3-4- one semi graphically written sex scene

Grade: Loved it

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Review- Imperial Hotel by Diane Marina

Imperial Hotel
By Diane Marina
Jan 1, 2014
Lesbian/Era Historical 1940’s/Romance
32 pgs
Kindle Edition

In a posh hotel in New York City in 1948, two young socialites are introduced by their mothers. As their friendship grows, so does love. Will Lily and Joan's love prevail? Are they brave enough to stand up against the social standards of the time, or will their love simply become part of the history of the Imperial Hotel?

I saw that the author posted this book on Goodreads and I bought it mainly due to the mention of the time period and that it’s set in NYC. Ultimately, I liked this story. It’s short but expresses enough to get hooked into the characters. And while not erotically written in language, what the two young women experience together is erotic and deeply passionate.

At first I thought there was too much tell and was fearful that the whole story would be told in such a way. It’s told from Joan’s POV and she gives the background on how she first met Lily and what she felt. They’ve met through their mothers’ introduction. Lily is engaged to be married, but this doesn’t sit well with Joan as both women start to get close. And while Joan doesn’t really get why she feels this way, she doesn’t question it too much either.

At the point that both women understand that they have special feelings for each other, there is a nice shift in the story in that there’s enough dialogue to start getting a good feel for where both women are coming from. Their first sexual interaction is sweet and shows the intensity of their feelings. This is probably what turned me on most about this book.

What was missing for me is that this book didn’t have a strong feeling of being in the 1940’s. Maybe it was because both women are from upper class families and the way they speak didn’t include much slang or colloquial speech of that era. Outside of having to hide what they feel due to an unaccepting society, there really was nothing that made this story stand out as a retro story. Would have been nice if there were some cultural references to the era in the form of clothing style or music, etc.

The ending was also wrapped up a little too perfectly for me. But overall this is a sweet,  feel good love story and I would highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure I will read another of Diane Marina’s books. She does have a pleasing writing style.

Heat level: 2- one sex scene, not graphically written. More suggestive.

- Really liked it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review- Castle of Dark Shadows by Patty G. Henderson

Castle of Dark Shadows

By Patty G. Henderson

July 1, 2012


164 pgs

Publisher: Blanca Rosa Publishing

Kindle edition

Olivia Hampton's lifelong love of dark literature led her to accept a job as a cataloger for Julian Dunraven's extensive but extremely disorderly library. The only problem is that the position requires her to work at Dunraven Castle, the remote and mysterious home of the Dunraven family. In Victorian America, a young lady had to either earn her keep or be married off to the best man for her hand. Olivia accepted the position at Dunraven Castle.
Olivia could not have guessed the dangers that awaited her in the exotic but darkly menacing castle. When there is an accident on the road to Dunraven, she wonders: Are the broken carriage wheels mere random misfortune or a sign foretelling doom? Olivia's fears soon turn to mortal terror after a subsequent encounter with a terrifying faceless phantom disabuses her of the 'random misfortune' theory. Frightened but undaunted, she decides to put the nightmare behind her and throw herself into cataloging the enormous Dunraven library.

What Olivia could not have foreseen was the devastatingly beautiful Marion Dunraven's effect on her heart. But the madness that seemed to curse the rest of the Dunraven family makes Olivia realize she must find a way to escape Dunraven Castle with her life and the woman she loves before they both become victims

I read Passion For Vengeance by this author and totally loved it. I like gothics so it was a no brainer to buy some more of this author’s books. What I enjoyed about this book is how quirky it is even as a mystery and an historical.

Right from the beginning, on her way to her new position as a library cataloger for a private residence, Olivia experiences what she feels is an evil being in her coach driver. It’s nighttime and they are pushing through to get to Dunraven Castle. It scares her but she chalks it up to her overactive imagination.

Marion Dunraven has hired Olivia to catalog her father’s extensive, but disorganized, library. Marion is warm and friendly to Olivia but keeps things formal between them, not really trying to interact outside of what they need to discuss. Olivia is immediately attracted to Marion and can’t stop thinking about her. Unfortunately her job in the house as well as her status more as part of the staff offers her little contact with Marion.

As the days go by, in brief meetings, Marion expresses her romantic interest in Olivia. However, it never leaves Olivia feeling confident about what Marion actually feels. This plus the odd things going on all have Olivia feeling somewhat out of place even if she’s in awe that she’s temporarily living in such a beautiful place.

While this story does have a romantic element, this is more about the mystery of what’s going on in the house. Strange things keep happening to Olivia specifically and she and she’s reluctant to discuss them with others.  She has been introduced to Cora, Marion’s sister, who is off. Meaning, everyone quietly suggests she’s mentally unstable even if they don’t contradict her and actually let her do her thing. Cora seems to vacillate between being very friendly and nice and at other times cross and caustic to Olivia. Olivia can’t figure her out but is leery of her.

Then there is Marion’s father, Julian. She meets him totally by accident and he chastises her for interrupting him. His manner is in direct opposition to what he’s really like. He seems to be in control of the house and yet he’s very elusive and almost a recluse.  In fact, most of the characters are not what they seem at first except for Olivia. But the story is told through her voice. Then there is this book in the library that everyone is focused on, a book written by Julian’s long ago ancestor that might be worth a lot of money for the information it contains.

So here’s the thing, while this is a quick and easy read that does capture the essence of a gothic mystery, it didn’t really stand out as a huge wow for me. It’s a decent mystery, although the author did give away too much in the beginning, taking away from what I though was supposed to be a big reveal in the end? Not sure. But the ending is not that surprising.

Then there’s the romantic angle, which was also written in a reserved way. Olivia pines over Marion. Marion does come to Olivia and they get together. But there wasn’t much focus on it; it was more a side bar, which is not a bad thing. But combined with the mystery that didn’t really have depth to it, I felt nothing stood out particularly. Also, the epilogue wrapped things up in a way that didn’t fit with the on page development of the relationship between the two ladies. Meaning, the epilogue focused more on their relationship than the rest of the story did. Or so it seemed to me.

What did totally float my boat in this, and what saved this story for me, is how totally quirky it is. Reading this was rather like hanging out in a carnival combination fun/horror/mirror house in which you feel a bit disoriented, but in a good way. The women speak of love to each other in over the top flowery and dramatic ways that don’t match how they act, which I kind of liked because it seems so unexpected. The characters are all a bit askew in how they act on the surface but not on a one on one basis. And it does have the traditional gothic setting; a quirkily built castle (a la Winchester Mansion), but one that stands out of place to the rest of its environment.

So while individual aspects of this book were lacking, overall, it’s a good, entertaining read. I’d recommend it if you like gothics and or if you’re in the mood for something offbeat.

Heat level: 1-2

Grade: Liked it

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review- Silver Wings by H.P. Munro

Silver Wings

By H. P. Munro

Oct 15, 2013

Lesbian/Era Historical 1940’s/Romance/Multicultural

251 Pgs

Pub: self?

Kindle Edition

When in 1943, twenty-five-year-old Lily Rivera is widowed, she finally feels able to step out of the shadows of an unhappy marriage. Her love of flying leads her to join the Womens Airforce Service Pilots, determined to regain her passion and spread her wings, not suspecting that she would experience more than just flying.
Helen Richmond, a Hollywood stunt pilot, has never experienced a love that lifted her as high as the aircraft she flew…until she meets Lily.

Both women join the W.A.S.P. program to serve their country and instead find that they are on a collision course towards each other, but can it last?

This book was a lucky find for me. In fact, I don’t remember how or where I heard about it, but I’m glad I bought it. It’s one of those stories that crept up on me and left me feeling a bittersweet sadness. Not that this is a sad book, not in the least. It’s an upbeat and beautiful love story as well as an accurate depiction of the time period and history of the W.A.S.Ps.

Lily has lost her husband in the war, and being a pilot, decides to join the W.A.S.P program to help out her country. Coming out of her interview she passes Helen, a beautiful blond woman who somehow attracts her attention.

Helen notices Lily right away and feels the same immediate attraction. She is a lesbian however, so it’s not a strange feeling for her.  Luckily for them, they end up being assigned the same living quarters at the training camp.

The two women become fast friends during their training and slowly little glances and innocent touches start happening between them. They both feel an energy between each other, but circumstances don’t allow them to explore or acknowledge it. It’s especially uncomfortable for Lily because she’s aware of an attraction but doesn’t completely understand the nature of it.

Even though the 40’s was not a time period where same sex couples could be open, and especially it was illegal in many places and particularly the military, it wasn’t that odd if women cuddled or slept in the same bed or comforted each other. This is exactly the situation that Lily and Helen end up in and living and working together in a close atmosphere gives them a chance to get closer and have little touches without attracting suspicion. At the same time, it created more sexual tension between them until they were able to finally express their true feelings. What’s nice about how their romance developed was the fact that their relationship as friends had time to grow as well. So it’s totally believable that they would invest in a future relationship.

While the romance is in the foreground, there are a lot of other aspects to this story that made it a fun and gratifying read to me. First are the other characters who stand out in their own right. The women assigned to bay four are an eclectic mix of women who all have distinct personalities and all come from completely different backgrounds. As the women slowly get to know each other secrets that some are hiding come out. Secrets that could potentially be harmful. But they all accept and stick up for each other and I liked this. It’s actually kind of refreshing to read a story with a bunch of female characters in which at some point it doesn’t turn into a catty bitch fest.

Also on characters, the author doesn’t go for the default, which was also refreshing. Lily is Hispanic and shares an apartment in NYC with an African American woman, both working in night clubs as a musician and singer. Lily, besides being a great pilot, is also a concert violinist in the NY Philharmonic. One of the other women is married to a black man, who is a lawyer but serving in war. She hides that she’s married because her marriage is illegal in Texas but not in her state of MA. So I loved that the author didn’t go with stereotypes, which actually made it more realistic and appealing due to that.

Other issues of the time were addressed as well. A local Texas dept. store wouldn’t serve Lily because they “don’t serve Mexicans.” Racism and sexism of the time are realistically shown but are tempered by the women themselves standing up against it.

The other interesting part is the actual history of what the W.A.S.P.s did. While they didn’t fight in the war and weren’t part of the military, their contribution was great. The author really got the historical facts correct and the small, intricate details accentuated and created an authentic feel that this was set in 1943 and that the women were pilots.  

Ultimately though, it’s about two women who fall in love and try to navigate how to be together during this time period and being separated due to their service and social mores of the time. I liked that the author did both a prologue and an epilogue from current time. It gave a strong feeling of a life- long interesting history of a woman, her love, and other women who had guts and lived what they wanted to.

Heat level: 3- not very graphic written, but several sex scenes. Also, first time to read very erotic foreplay and sex in terms of how one starts and preps a plane for take- off.

Grade: Really liked it