Review of ‘Language of love’ edited by Astrid Ohletz and Lee Winter.

‘Language of love. A flirty, festive anthology’ is a collection of eleven lesfic short stories with the common theme of holiday season traditions around the world. Ylva is a very international and multicultural publishing company and this is reflected in this compilation. The mains characters in these stories includes an ice-queen, a shy lesbian, an allegedly straight woman, young and mature. It is also surprising the mixture of genres like romance, mystery, drama, crime and young adult.

I have to say that normally it’s hard to keep a high level of writing quality in a book with so many authors and different types of stories but this one achieved remarkable results. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every story will please everyone but they will surely enrich your knowledge of holiday festivities. Here I review my favourite ones.

‘The friend’ by Lee Winter. Great story about conflicting family dynamics focusing on an Australian Christmas summer celebration inspired by English traditions.

‘Deck the halls with bullets and holly’ by Alex K. Thorne is a quirky story about a rookie hired assassin and her attractive target. This story is set in South Africa and features an interracial couple.

‘Mask’ by Sheryn Munir is a fantastic coming-out story between two best friends secretly in love with each other with the background of Christmas celebrations in India. It deals with difficult issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and being a lesbian in the present and past.

‘Orphans’ Christmas’ by Cheyenne Blue is a superb story about an Irish family of immigrants in Australia, trying to keep traditions alive, while dealing with bereavement. A great personal bonus for me is to see an authentic portrayal of Irish characters, so often mentioned in lesfic but rarely described accurately.

‘And the bells are ringing out’ by Lola Keeley is an excellent interracial love story set in Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations from the perspective of a Senegalese woman living in London.

‘Paula gets a pony ranch’ by Patricia Penn is a very original, funny, sarcastic and irreverent Christmas tale set in Germany about a no-nonsense business woman who inherits a pony ranch.

‘Four Chanukahs and a Bat Mitzvah’ by Cindy Rizzo is a great story about Jewish traditional celebrations of Hanukkah in the context of a coming of age story and two young women going through different life stages and finding love.

‘It’s in the pudding’ by Emma Weimann is a great romantic story with the unusual setting of a dentist practice along with a German tradition of hiding an almond in the pudding and granting a wish to whom discovers it.

Overall, a fantastic compilation of holiday season lesfic stories, great to get you in the mood for celebration. 4.5 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 ‘This time’ by S.W. Andersen.

Artist Elena Jake has been having dreams about the same woman for years and no one in real life could ever live to her expectations. Convinced that she might be real and somewhere to be found, she asks her grandmother using her Native American roots to search for her. Dr. Tess Kenner is a neuropsychologist who helps patients with severe mental problems, some of them unexplainable. She believes in science and is wary of anything spiritual but when a chain of inexplicable events shows her the path to something that transcends her lifetime, she has the choice to ignore the strong force that calls for her or to believe the unbelievable.

This is a paranormal novel with the main premise that two soulmates from a previous lifetime can find each other in the next. I’m not a fan of the genre and I’m quite a disbeliever in afterlife so please read my review considering this.

The book is written on a timeline that starts in the 1950s but mainly focuses on 2017 and 2018. As the time goes back and forth a lot, I got lost a few times even though the author states the dates at the beginning of some chapters. Written in third person from the point of view of both Elena and Tess (with a few sections told from the pov of secondary characters), it is easy to get into the story and cheer for their reunion. Their encounter is very satisfying but short for my taste, as the mains are separated for most of the book. The main characters are well-rounded, very convincing in their struggle to understand what’s going on and to search for each other. The secondary characters support the plot perfectly, specially Elena’s grandmother and her best friend. All in all, the story is engaging, romantic and entertaining if you let yourself being taken to a fantasy world.

Overall, an entertaining read if you are a paranormal fan and if you don’t mind that the mains are separated most of the story. 3.5 stars.

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

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