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.

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.

Review of ‘Ask, tell’ by EJ Noyes

This is a beautiful love story between two US army doctors (one the boss of the other) in times of the Don’t ask don’t tell policy. Written in first person and in present tense, it takes a couple of chapters to get used to but, despite the potential problems of this stylistic choice, the author pulls it off perfectly. This book goes beyond the typical lesbian romance, it has suspense, action, angst and there is even place for social and political criticism. All perfectly balanced, realistic and beautifully written by a surprisingly debut author.
In a nutshell, the best lesbian military book I’ve ever read. Cannot recommend it more. 5+ stars.

Review of ‘A quiet death’ by Cari Hunter

I didn’t want to read this book. Despite the fact that I’ve previously read a couple of Ms. Hunter’s books and loved them, I tend to avoid gruesome stories and I normally go for romances or light mystery / action books. However, after seeing so many good reviews about this series I decided to take the plunge and read it. I read the series chronologically starting with ‘No good reason’ and I suggest that you do the same. Not because these are not standalone novels but because you will lose the chance to enjoy the background stories that the author so skillfully builds throughout the series. There are also some spoilers in the second and third novels about the previous stories that you might want to avoid.
I’m afraid I cannot add much more to what other reviewers have said and I’m not going to be very original here. Ms. Hunter is very skillful at building a fast paced thriller with unexpected twists and turns. In this book the author adds a third point of view (in addition to that of the main characters) based on DI Stanmore, the detective in charge of the investigation which gives an interesting insight to this secondary character.
A bonus for me is the British feel that permeates this book, starting from the beautiful description of the landscape, the depiction of the awful winter weather and the clever use of British English that describes characters perfectly. Additionally, you can “hear” the author’s voice in her social and political criticism that touches issues ranging from racial inequality to budget shortages on the health system. This criticism is delivered in a subtle manner and never losing the main plot.
Despite its level of violence, nothing seems gratituous or unnecessary to the plot. As a matter of fact, I prefer that the author didn’t decide to water down the cruelty of human trafficking for the sake of a lighter read.
In conclusion, I’m glad that I’ve decided to bite the bullet and read this book. 5+ stars.
ARC provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review of ‘Heart trouble’ by Jae

When I read that this book was about a mysterious (paranormal?) connection between the main characters, I thought that the plot could go terribly wrong. But I like this author and decided to give it a try. I’m SO glad I did as in my opinion this is one of the best lesbian romances of the year. 

First of all, the characters are so well rounded with their virtues, struggles and contradictions that you feel and suffer for them as if they were your friends. I especially loved the way Persian-American Laleh is portrayed, as the author immerses the reader in Iran’s food and traditions. I have to admit that I knew nothing about this culture and reading this book would have been worth just for the interesting insight on Persian traditions. Fortunately for all fans of lesbian romance novels ‘Heart trouble’ goes beyond that. And what a romance it is.Jae takes us to a rollercoaster of emotions in a slow-burn romance in which the “paranormal” aspect doesn’t affect the suspension of disbelief. The chemistry between the main characters evolves through the plot to very sexy hot scenes. The cast of secondary characters are also multilayered and support the plot perfectly. The story is perfectly balanced with humour, wittiness, angst and, above all, love. As it should be in a romance.

In addition, the book gives those who have read Jae’s ‘Just physical’ a chance to catch up with its main characters Jill and Crash.

Overall 5+ stars, a very good read and a great romance. Highly recommended.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.