Review of ‘Ask me again’ by E. J. Noyes.

This is the sequel of ‘Ask, tell’ which was one of my favourite lesfic books of 2017, so I was anxiously waiting for it and wondering where was Ms. Noyes taking one of my favourite couples in lesfic. If you haven’t read ‘Ask, tell’ I strongly recommend that you read it first as this sequel won’t have the same emotional impact if you don’t understand the background story and, anyway, it’s a must read for any lesfic fans.

‘Ask me again’ is a different kind of book by Ms. Noyes. Normally, she writes romances in which conflict is a mechanism to create tension and move the story forward. In this case, the conflict is in the driving seat of the story and the romance is in the background. The main issue is Sabine’s PTSD as a consequence of serving as an army surgeon in Afghanistan and her partner Rebecca trying to help her cope with it. As you can imagine, this isn’t a light read. It’s intense, raw, emotional and even heartbreaking. At times I wanted to crawl inside the book and give the characters a hug, it’s a story that gets the reader that emotionally involved.

This author normally writes in first person point of view. ‘Ask, tell’ was written from Sabine’s but this sequel is written from both Sabine’s and Rebecca’s points of view in alternating chapters. It works well as the reader has a prime view to Sabine’s OCD and anxiety issues and it gives a new dimension to Rebecca’s character. Both of them have their own distinct voices and their personalities are built to the tiniest of details. This couple works not only in their chemistry but in a deeper level of relationship which feels realistic and believable. A surprising addition is Jana, Sabine’s sister, a larger than life character who introduces some very much needed levity to this book. Ms. Noyes is planning to write a book based on her and I can’t wait to read it.

Overall, a novel with a surprising level of depth and a sequel that does justice to the characters’ story. Both highly recommended books to read in chronological order. 5+ stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Goodmans’ by Clare Ashton.

Dr. Abby Hart lives in a little town in England secretly in love with her straight best friend Jude Goodman. Her mother, Maggie Goodman, is like a parent to Abby. But Abby isn’t the only one hiding secrets and they could surface any time with enormous consequences for everyone involved.

What an incredible read. Ms. Ashton has done it again. The first impression is that this is a ‘best friends to lovers’ romance but it’s so much more. This book has it all: love, romance, family drama, angst, quirky humour, sex, social criticism, redemption and deep insights in motherhood and ageing. It even has unexpected twists and turns.

‘The Goodmans’ is written in third person from the point of view of the three main characters Abby, Jude and Maggie. The author finds a distinctive voice for each one respecting their personalities and ages. Maggie is described in all her complexity and Abby in her insecure but honest self. The dialogues are engaging and the descriptions of a small town in middle England are realistic and evocative. The social critique is current but universal at the same time. As she did in her previous novel ‘Poppy Jenkins’, Ms. Ashton builds the mains’ chemistry and pent up attraction to superlative levels and delivers the intimate scenes beautifully.

This book can be at times funny, heartbreaking, feel-good, inspiring, surprising or shocking. It raises the level of lesfic novels to its highest standard. Ms. Ashton delivered a tale that transcends lesbianism and England to describe humanity in general. Highly recommended.

Overall, an excellent novel recommended to anyone who enjoys romance and family drama. 5+ stars.

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Review of ‘The music and the mirror’ by Lola Keeley.

“Jump before you are pushed. In love, war and pas de deux”

I feel that my words won’t be enough to do justice to this book properly. What a fantastic read and even more so considering that this is a debut novel.

This is the story of Anna, a newbie in a successful dance company, and Victoria, former prima ballerina and its current artistic director. It gives us an insight of the ballet world with its high competition, the physical demands, the threatening of injury looming all the time, the jealousy and egocentric behaviours. Written from the point of view of both main characters, the change of pov flows naturally. Everything is so realistically described that you’d expect a dancer to leap out of the book at any time. Thanks to Ms. Keeley’s talent, she depicts ballet without sounding technical, boring or pedantic.

Victoria is the epitome of the British stiff upper lip, ice queen of ballet, in such control of herself that the reader feels her tension like a string about to snap any time. Her sarcastic comments, her strong discipline, even her wardrobe – always dressed in black – gives her an air of inaccessibility. Anna, on the other hand, is much younger, very eager to please, unaware of her incredible talent and friendly to the point of annoying, bringing a breath of fresh air to the dance company. She is almost the complete opposite of Victoria. And boy how opposites attract.

There’s a delicious slow thawing of the ice queen, step by step, jump by jump. Victoria’s sarcastic renaming of Anna as Annya and gradually accepting Anna in all her honest-to-god self, is a beautiful example of how their relationship evolves. Slowly they copy certain treats of each other, hinting the reader how they are falling in love even before they realise themselves. Their relationship is a huge dancing foreplay, Anna and Victoria’s chemistry is off the charts. Their scene in the wardrobe room is in my opinion, one of the hottest ever mastered in lesfic. Just for this brief but incredibly sexy scene this book is worth a read.

Overall, a fantastic debut novel. Highly recommended even if you are not interested in ballet. This book goes straight to my 2018 favourite books. 5+ stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Just for show’ by Jae.

This is another fantastic book by Jae, a heart warming romance
about a fake relationship between psychologist Claire Renshaw
and barista/actress Lana Henderson. Dr. Renshaw is a
successful couples therapist with a mild obsessive compulsive
disorder and a big reputation at stake when her fiancée calls
the engagement off. As an expert in relationships, a career
changing book deal might fall through if her publisher
realises that she’s been dumped. Hiring an actress to play the
role of her fiancée seems to be the perfect solution, at least
in theory. But when Lana appears in Claire’s life with her
untidiness, her diet full of carbs and tendency to put her
foot in her mouth, Claire starts second guessing her decision.
Will they be able to fake their relationship? And what if it’s
not so pretend after all?

Lately there’s been a few lesfic books on sham marriage or
fake relationships with different degrees of success. ‘Just
for show’ is one of the best (if not the best) I’ve read so
far. As usual, Jae likes to deviate from the common
stereotypes portraying Lana as a plus size woman proud to show
her curves and happy to enjoy food. Jae tackles issues such as
anxiety and OCD with tact and the rest with a healthy dose of
humour. She exploits the absurd fake relationship situation
with great skill.

“I want you to be my girlfriend.” For a moment, all Lana could
do was stare at her. Was this some kind of joke? Then the
humor of the situation overcame her. “Shouldn’t you at least
buy me dinner first?”

The dialogues are witty, the chemistry is off the charts and
the secondary characters are spot on. Jae is a master of the
‘show not tell’ in lesfic (no wonder she’s authored a non-
fiction book on the issue), the pace is perfect and the
growing chemistry is believable. A pleasure to read.

As a bonus, readers can catch up with the lives of Jill and
Crash from ‘Just physical’ and Lelah and Hope from ‘Heart
trouble’ who make their appearance as secondary characters.

Overall, a very entertaining, well written, heart warming
romance. Highly recommended. 5+ stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest
review.

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Review of ‘Who’d have thought’ by G Benson.

This author is writing better and better every time and this book in particular is getting on my list of the best 2017 books so far. The theme of sham marriage is not new in lesfic but Benson presents it here so skillfully that makes up for the lack of originality. Both main characters are crafted with special detail in their personalities and little quirks. Ms. Benson’s descriptions are quite cinematographic, the reader can actually feel their chemistry growing slowly until it sizzles out of the pages. The plot keeps the reader guessing the reasons for the sham marriage and even manages a nice twist at the end.

The secondary characters play a fantastic supporting role, adding realism and sometimes humour to the plot. Frank the cat is hilarious as Hayden’s judgemental alter ego, a magnificent performance without (obviously) uttering a word. Also worth to mention is the introduction of the concept of non-binary sexuality via Hayden’s friend Luce, who challenged some of my prejudices about gender fluidity. I love when an author makes me think without sounding preachy. That was the cherry on the top for this fabulous read.

Overall, an excellent read, great romance and food for thought. Very easy 5+ stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Turbulence’ by E.J. Noyes.

Wow… and when I say ‘wow’ I mean… WOW. After the author’s debut novel ‘Ask, tell’ got to my list of best books of 2017, I was wondering if that was just a fluke. Fortunately for us lesfic readers, now it’s confirmed: E.J. Noyes CAN write. Not only that, she can write different genres (‘Ask, tell’ was a military story / romance, this one is a traditional romance) with exactly the same competence.

This is the story of Isabelle, a rich stockbroker who has a one-night stand with Audrey, unaware that she is the new-hired pilot of Isabelle’s private jet. Having to meet each other almost every day, the plot focuses on how their relationship evolves. The book blurb might seem to describe a superficial romance between a rich woman and her f**k buddy/employee but nothing could be more remote. There are quite a few sex scenes, but they are justified within the plot as they showcase the evolution of their relationship. Additionally, they are all described tastefully.

Written in first person from Isabelle’s point of view, the reader gets into her headspace with all her insecurities, struggles and character traits. Alongside Isabelle, we discover Audrey’s personality, her life story and, most importantly, her feelings. The subplots and supporting characters add realism to the story, specially Isabelle’s mother who shows her daughter in a different light. Throughout the book, Ms. Noyes pushes us down a rollercoaster of emotions as we accompany Isabelle in her journey of self-discovery. In the process, we laugh, suffer and enjoy the ride.

Overall, a very easy 5 stars. Highly recommended if you like romances with a bit of substance and don’t mind a few (justified) sex scenes.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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