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 fiancĂ© 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

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