Review of ‘Decree absolute’ by W.A. Cooper.

When divorce lawyer Jessica Barron discovers that her husband is cheating on her with their children’s nanny, she throws them out of her home. In urgent need of a new nanny, she finds the perfect replacement in Renée Arden, an enigmatic French woman owner of a childcare company in need of a temporary home after a recent breakup. After a rocky start, their relationship develops into mutual attraction but will they act on it and what will be the consequences?

This is a slow-burn romance by debut author W.A. Cooper, written in third person from both main characters’ points of view. It took me a while to adapt to her writing style that, in my opinion, interrupted the reading flow. For example, the story is presented in short-ish scenes cut with a text break without transitions. Additionally, the dialogues are often interrupted by long sentences about what the character is thinking and incidentally there is also a good amount of tell but no show.

Regarding the plot, I found it at parts unrealistic – for example, in Jessica’s coming out – and some other parts on the melodramatic side. While both main characters are well rounded and kudos to the author for featuring main 40 somethings, some of the secondary characters seem a bit stereotyped, specially the villains. All in all, the story didn’t appeal to me but I’m not that interested in plots with lots of drama and angst but I’m sure other readers will enjoy it more.

Overall an ok read from a debut author, specially if you are interested in dramatic fiction. 3 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Passionate rivals’ by Radclyffe.

This is book 4 in the PMC Hospital romance series of standalone novels set in Philadelphia. For some reason, the author left a big gap between each book’s publishing date with the first one written in 2004. ‘Fated love‘ was the first of this series and one of my favourite lesfic books ever. The main characters, Honor and Quinn, are very important secondary characters in this book and it’s nice to see them interacting with a new generation of leads. Even though you don’t need to read ‘Fated love’ to enjoy this novel, I highly recommend it.

Emmett McCabe is about to start the last year of her surgery residency and is the most likely candidate to get the coveted Chief Resident position. That is, until someone from her past arrives unexpectedly. Sydney Stevens has lost a lot in her life and now she has to finish her residency in another hospital.
At PMC she meets Emmett with whom she shares the past she’s trying to forget.

Radclyffe is hands down the best writer of medical romances in lesfic. Her inside knowledge of the profession, acquired as a surgeon, plus her perfect depiction of the fast-paced world of hospital emergency services are always reflected in her novels. It’s not necessary to know anything about medicine to read this book, things are either explained or not relevant to the plot. Radclyffe is unapologetic in using medical terminology and describing surgical procedures but, at the same time, balances that content very well with the personal struggles and conflicts of the characters. Additionally, the author works well in setting the contrasting paces of the fast emergency services as opposed to the slow-burn romance. Life or death and love or loss are frequent dichotomies in her novels.

In ‘Passionate rivals’ Radclyffe creates a perfect set of main characters: Emmett, the dark, handsome and stoic butch and Sydney, the beautiful and strong femme. At the beginning, the reader knows little about their shared past but, as we learn about them, their strong chemistry takes over and we can only hope that they’d act on that. My only criticism is that the slow-burn romance is a bit rushed at the end, somehow altering the beautiful pace set until the last few chapters. There is a new generation of doctors presented in this novel, some with potential of becoming great leads for future books in this series. One of them is Dani, a blunt but loyal friend of Sydney’s. So there’s a promise of more good stories to come. For the moment, with ‘Passionate rivals’ Radclyffe doesn’t disappoint and delivers an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Overall, an enjoyable slow-burn medical romance in a fast-paced emergency hospital environment. 4.5 stars.

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

 

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Review of ‘The shape of you’ by Georgia Beers.

This is not a typical lesfic romance and it won’t please everyone because it deals with infidelity which is a no-go zone for many romance readers. However, talking about infidelity and lesfic, author Clare Ashton said that lesfic genre could quickly come still if authors try to please the crowd all the time (LesDoBooks podcast interview, August 2018). I totally agree with her. Kudos to Georgia Beers for writing a novel that won’t necesarily be popular with her fans. So, consider yourself warned that if infidelity is a pet peeve for you as it is a mayor part of this book’s plot.

After an awful and embarrasing heartbreak, Spencer Thomson leaves the driving seat of her life and is happy to have others make decisions for her. When her fiancée enrolls her in a fitness class because her body is “too soft and curvy”, Spencer goes along and attends the “Be your best bride” class. Personal trainer Rebecca McCall isn’t happy having to cover for a colleague on this class as she considers that her job isn’t to make her clients skinny but healthy. She particularly dislikes Spencer who admits that she’s attending only because her fiancée signed her up. Soon their initial antagonism transforms into attraction but Spencer is engaged and an involvement is definitely not acceptable for Rebecca. Or is it?

This is a character driven novel and Ms. Beers is unapologetic about highlighting the mains’ flaws. Spencer makes a very frustrating character: she procrastinates, she allows others to make decisions for her and she’s passive-aggressive when facing conflict. At the same time, she’s compassionate, cheerful and loving. As a reader you just cannot dislike her but, at the same time, you want to shake her up from her lethargy. Rebecca (and the reader) know that she has to make her life changing decisions by herself and see her through this process. Ms. Beers has achieved this cleverly.

My issue with this book isn’t infidelity. This is part of life and I’m happy that the author doesn’t sugarcoat, judge or try to justify it. It’s just a consequence of the main characters’ actions and how lost Spencer is. That’s were the conflict lies and the good thing about this book is that, even though this is a romance, there is no obvious or formulaic end. Infidelity is effective for this plot. However, my issue is how tension is crafted. For me, it doesn’t ebb and flow in the right places. At the beginning, the tension builds painstakingly slow in multiple, almost cloned scenes in the gym. Then the story finally takes off only to almost lose the tension completely near the end. In those sweet moments when the urgency of the tension unfolds is when this book earned my 4 stars. It’s a pity that it didn’t quite get to pack the punch near the end.

The secondary characters are multilayered and support the characters’ journey effectively maybe with the exception of the fiancée who seemed too flat. Zoe, Rebecca’s friend, makes a great secondary character, I hope Beers write a book with her as a main.

Overall, a good departure of the typical lesfic romance. Recommended unless you hate infidelity in romances. 4 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Does she love you? by Rachel Spangler.

I have to admit that I refused to read this book for a long time. A plot in which two lovers of the same woman discover her infidelity, slowly become friends and eventually get romantically involved had seemed a bit far fetched and endogamous for my taste. Of course infidelity happens a lot in real life but normally romance readers don’t want to be reminded about it. So, kudos to Ms Spangler to raise such an uncomfortable issue and somehow make it work in a lesbian romance. The three characters in the love triangle are multilayered, the author brings to life the ‘villain’ with good and bad traits, in her human contradictions as she falls slowly in her own manipulative trap. The main characters, Annabelle and Davis, each show vulnerability and strength at the same time. Their chemistry isn’t forced despite the strange situation they’ve been thrown into and their eventual involvement flows seamlessly. Despite my previous reticence, it was an enjoyable read.

Overall, a different romance that doesn’t shy of presenting a contentious issue. 4 stars.

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Review of ‘An outsider inside’ by R. J. Samuel.

In the run-up to Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage, Irish-Indian lesbian activist Jaya Dillon has to confront her unresolved issues on bisexualty and her mixed-race origin. When she discovers a manuscript while tidying a rental house, she finds herself emotionally invested in search for its disappeared author.

This is not a typical romance and definitely not an easy read as it touches difficult identity issues such as race, gender and sexuality. On top of that, the author deals with politics, feminism and arranged marriages as well. Some of the real events described in this book are close to my heart as I live in Ireland and witnessed the process of the referendum vote on same sex marriage which was a great advancement for the LGBT community. The myriad of characters – mains or secondary, heroes or villains – are well rounded and realistic and for once I’ve found a set of credible Irish characters in lesfic. There is a book inside this book and Ms. Samuel works well to set each different writing styles. Regarding the mystery disappearance that Jaya tries to solve, the author keeps the reader guessing how events are going to develop including an unexpected twist at the end. It is a testing read, not always pleasant but surely worth it.

Overall, a very well written book. Highly recommended if you are in the mood for a challenging read. 4.5 stars.

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Review of ‘The art of us’ by KL Hughes.

I don’t particularly enjoy angst in my books but I have to admit that ‘The art of us’ deals with it well. Around fifty percent of the plot is written as flashbacks but, instead of dividing the plot in halves, past and then the present, the author intertwined them cleverly. Past and present are not even divided in chapters or labelled in titles, Ms. Hughes makes them flow in little sections without any clarifications, and it works remarkably well. It balances sad and happy aspects of the story nicely.

The story is written from two point of views, Charlee, an artist based in Boston and her former girlfriend Alex, a hospitality admin. They split after five years of relationship when Alex moved to the West coast to pursue a career opportunity. They meet again a few years later when Alex moves back. The chemistry is still there but both are in relationships. Will love bring them back together?

This read will take you to a journey filled with angst, sadness and joy. It touches issues such as love, loss, bereavement and the meaning of happiness. Every emotion is balanced so the reader is not on a high or a low for long. Highly recommended even for people like me who don’t enjoy angsty books. 4 stars.

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

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