Saturday, June 9, 2012

I thought about doing individual reviews for each of these books, but instead I think I'll start a tag for books with love interests who are such insufferable, arrogant assholes that I stopped reading. Is this something left over from the het romance 'bad boy' trope? Why? WHY?? Are there really women out there who long to be insulted by a brooding jerk? Apparently the answer to that is a resounding YES! Clearly I am not the target audience for these books. Your mileage may vary.

Goldenseal by Gill McKnight seemed promising, but Leone, the wolfie love interest, is such a complete arrogant ass AND a stalker that I just couldn't keep reading. Maybe this combination is sexy to some, but not me. It's especially creepy when you understand the power dynamics here: Leone, a werewolf, is literally capable of tearing Amy to shreds with her superhuman strength so her stalking is more than a little unsettling. The fact that she's a douchecanoe just made me want to throw my kindle out the window. 

Thief of Always by Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou. Again, I really wanted to like this, but the main character, Allegro, is another smug, insufferably arrogant jerk. I get that these books are escapist and therefore not terribly realistic, but she's supposed to be undercover and therefore NOT DRAWING ATTENTION TO HERSELF. Instead she's rude, cocky, and her flirtation with her target/boss borders on sexual harassment. I just don't get it. And I don't understand why she wasn't fired after fifteen minutes. She's supposed to be a handy woman hired after wandering in off the road (!), yet her boss (a COUNTESS!) is making her dinner despite her insults? Yeah, I don't know either. Maybe it's really hard to find good help in the Netherlands?
I got an email telling me that I was being a bit harsh and that I should be more supportive of lesbian books. I get this, but I also feel like there's a difference between 'harsh' and 'critical'. Criticism in the best sense is supposed to push us to do better. And I think that the lesbian publishing world could do better. Especially for what they're charging us poor little lesbians ($15-25 for a paperback! $9-18 for an ebook!). There are too many mistakes, too many novels that are simply too light in terms of length, etc. and the quality is just not there with some of them. For the price I pay for one of these novels, I should receive a professionally edited (and I don't mean simply proofread) work. I'm not expecting Literature or even Jeannette Winterson or Sarah Waters, but I do expect a well-structured, proofed, and edited book. Otherwise lesbian fiction will forever remain a ghetto of publishing.

So, let's talk about Andi Marquette for a minute. I'm not sure why this author doesn't get more love from the community. Her books are very well written, plotted, and edited. No, they're not perfect, but they're much better than so many lesbian novels I see getting heaps of praise. 

I'll start with her Land of Entrapment, which is the story of K.C., a young, sociology post-doc who's hiding out on her grandfather's farm in Texas after an ugly breakup. Marquette manages to give us a ton of information about K.C.'s backstory with her ex, Melissa, without an ugly info dump. Melissa shows up after three years to beg K.C. to help her find her younger sister, Megan, who's disappeared after taking up with a white supremacist. K.C. it turns out is an expert on white supremacy groups and she reluctantly agrees to help the woman who cheated on her and broke her heart. 

There's a great story here and a romance that isn't the one you're necessarily expecting. Marquette handles the plot well and with the exception of a few over-the-top desciptive touches (especially during the love scenes, which was a bit bothersome), her prose style is clean and efficient. Her setting, Albuquerque, New Mexico, is so lovingly described it becomes a character in itself. My one issue is the lack of real jeopardy for the characters although this is a failing of most of the genre and Marquette's puts her characters in more danger than most. Especially Megan who we've begun to care for despite her potentially problematic character (she did take up with a racist, sexist asshole after all and it's a miracle Marquette can make her sympathetic). I'm not sure why so much of the lesbian fiction/romance genre tends to smooth over any real danger for their characters (or even worse, go over-the-top into pointless character torture), but it seems to be normal. I know it's hard to balance a gritty crime novel plot w/a believable romance, so I'm going to assume it springs from that. Marquette certainly manages it better than most. 

Marquette's the real deal. She can write, her characters are believable and likable, and her stories are actually compelling. In other words, you won't find yourself skimming over the 'story' to get to the racy bits. I highly recommend this author's crime novels and her sweet, crime-free novella, Some Kind of River )it's only .99 for the ebook!).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram

Dayna Ingram's Eat Your Heart Out from BrazenHead (part of Lethe Press) is a sexy, stylish zombie apocalypse tale with loads of wit, blood, brains, shotguns, and a B-movie, celebrity love interest who feels, looks, and acts a lot like Michelle Rodriguez. I don't know why you're still reading my blog with that knowledge. Here's the official synopsis:

A breakneck tale of kick-ass, wise-ass, sexy-ass lesbians and zombies, Eat Your Heart Out opens on what promises to be another tediously annoying day at Ashbee's Furniture Outlet. Then the strip-mall calm of Nowhere, Ohio, is shattered by the sudden, simultaneous appearance of Renni Ramirez-hyper-competent star of the beloved Rising Evil B-movie franchise-and actual zombies, leaving Ashbee's hapless staff and Renni trapped behind an automatic door they can't lock. Can failed creative-writing student/apprentice store manager/eagle-eyed markswoman Devin escape the besieged furniture store to rescue her girlfriend? Will Renni's experience slaughtering motion-captured CGI monsters save the day before the army bombs the town? Once bitten, how many zombies can a person expect to take out before succumbing to infection? Who is the mysterious Deus Ex Machina, and what is he doing with that bone saw? All of these questions and more whisper behind the scream of the single most important thing Devin needs to know in order to survive: is Renni a top or a bottom?

Ingram's got a real feel for dialog although I think that the book would have benefited from a bit less of it. Clever can get tiresome after a while and it loses its punch. My only other criticism of this book concerns the ending, which just didn't feel big enough for what is at its heart a zombie action thriller (with hot lesbians!). The story just sort of ends and no amount of clever winks (naming the guy who swoops in to save them and infodump the zombie genesis story, Deus ex Machina, for example) makes it any better. I'm not sure if its a criticism, but really what I wanted from this book was MORE. I wanted our heroes to have a sweeping, action-filled finale and a sexy resolution to all of that build-up (there is hot sex, but I still want MORE). Ingram leaves us hanging a bit although I still enjoyed the ride like crazy. I hope that means that we can expect LOTS more from this talented author. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

L.A. Metro by RJ Nolan

L.A. Metro by RJ Nolan is unlike any lez romance you've ever read before!! Just kidding. This novel began its life as a post Kim/Kerry ER fic (Kim/OFC) and was restructured (although Kim's name didn't change!) and reorganized so you could purchase it (and the author wouldn't get sued). Actually, from what I remember, this is a much cleaner and improved version of the original fanfic, although it's on the light side in terms of length. This seems to be a thing w/lez romances. Too many of these books seem too light in terms of story. This is a lot of money for what doesn't feel like a complete book.

Anyway, the 'review': Kim's running from some terrible past events and lands at L.A. Metro where she immediately encounters the gorgeous, stoic, brooding E.R. Chief, Jess McKenna, who is also dealing with her own demons. And these demons (Kim's and Jess's) provide pretty much the only tension (besides the familiar, will-they-won't-they push/pull) in the book. I kept waiting for at least a subplot (possibly involving the homophobic, sexist, harrasser and chief of something big at the hospital, Rodman?), but no. This is strictly about their romance. It's good as that goes although I think things are resolved a little too quickly and easily and Kim seems to conveniently forget her training and experience too often (even when dealing w/cases! the ER doc is better able to read certain patients than the experienced psychiatrist! whatever).

Whatever. Hot docs haunted by mysterious pasts get together and have hot sex. And there's a great dane! Yeah. what more could you want? Also, Kim finally gets someone who treats her better than mean old, homophobic Kerry back in Chicago. I mean...Anna back in Detroit.

Thirteen Hours by Meghan O'Brien

If Thirteen Hours by Meghan O'Brien was fanfic, we'd call it a PWP. But it's a 'novel' so we call it a PWP. Seriously. There is no plot here. Oh wait. Is it a plot if an uptight, closeted exec's best friend sends a stripper (who's almost finished with vet school) to her office late at night to give her a lap dance and when the exec escorts her out of the building they get stuck in the elevator for thirteen hours and end up having sex? A lot? I didn't think so. And when they get out of the elevator they have more sex? Yeah, still no. The only real plot here is the gradual build of the story to more and more and different sex and BDSM and, well, SEX. I've already told you that O'Brien writes a hell of a sex scene so imagine a novel of just that. Is there such a thing as too much lez sex? If so, you may just hit your limit with this one.

Deception by Erin O'Reilly

Deception by Erin O'Reilly is part romance, part legal thriller. Don't let the cover fool you. This is not a Western. It's set in the rancher world of Texas, but it's contemporary. Lane wants to be a celebrity lawyer like Nancy Grace and she's planned her education and career to make it happen (even if her plan doesn't make much sense). Bryce wants...well sometimes it seems like she wants to be a badass businesswoman/rancher serial killer (or at the very least a ruthless sociopath) and sometimes it seems she's just emo and wants to be understood. Or maybe Bryce just wants to be alone with her money, her terrible shameful lesbianism, and possibly Lane. She's mysterious.

When Lane gets her dream to leave her job as a rising star ADA in Houston to (inexplicably) partner in some backwater Texas law firm all in the name of furthering her non-existent broadcasting career, she jumps at the chance. When Bryce gets charged with murder almost immediately, it's just too good to be true. When your client is as hot (and rich and photogenic) as Bryce, it's hard to hang on to those ethics things. Who can stand in the way of client/attorney privilege *wink wink*?

Trial, legal semantics, procedures, threats, dirty, dirty lesbians, DNA evidence, blah, blah, blah. Will Bryce's dark secret exonerate her or simply drive them apart? Or just turn out to be pretty much useless. Will every secondary character turn out to be a serial killer/sociopath who's also an upstanding citizen and just misunderstood? Is everyone in this small Texas town a murdering, raping psycho? Probably.

Whatever. This is sort of a legal thriller with sort of a conclusion and a romance that ends up where every lesbian wants: BABIES!!!! What? It's only $4.99 for the ebook.

f/f disclaimer: I should point out that the lez sex in this book is of the purple prose, mystical clouds and unicorns variety. Except when Bryce is having disturbingly creepy serial killer-eqsue sex with a trick in a motel then going to confession because she's a dirty, dirty lezho.