A sweet, butch-femme romance.

Lesbian Book Review of ‘Playing with fire’ by Lesley Davis.

3.50 Stars. This is the third book in the ‘Playing’ series. I did enjoy it but I do have to admit it is my least favorite of the series. The first two books of the series are really entwined, but you could read this book on its own if you needed too. Personally, I would suggest reading at least book one first. The main characters of that book are secondary characters in this one. Again it’s not pivotal, but book one is the best book in the series and I do think reading this series in order would make it the most enjoyable.

Like all three books, this is another butch-femme romance, in a city that centers around the same group of friends. This book had a slight twist as it also had a 10+ year age-gap between the mains. All three books are very sweet and mostly feel-good romances, with very little angst. If you need some sweet uncomplicated romance, this series is a great choice.Read More »

Review of ‘Recipe for love’ by Aurora Rey.

New Yorker hotshot chef Drew Davis has a clear professional goal to become a restaurant head chef as soon as possible. She gets the opportunity she was waiting for in a farm-to-table establishment in upstate New York. Apart from the inconvenience of having to leave her beloved city life to move to a rural area, Drew has to deal with local farmer Hannah Little who is as beautiful as obstinate and isn’t impressed by the fancy city chef. As they are forced to work together to make the restaurant a success, they both discover many things in common and a brewing mutual attraction. But Drew is only in upstate New York temporarily and will be back to NYC at the first opportunity to advance her professional career, or is she?

This is a slow-burn romance which will be appreciated especially by gourmet readers. Food is at the forefront of the story, with a particular focus on farm-produced ingredients. A farm-to-table restaurant aims to source most of the ingredients from local food producers, an apparently simple concept which presents a few challenges. Ms. Rey describes thoroughly the hard work involved in farming, the diverse types of products and the different nature cycles. As these descriptions take a big part of the book, people interested in farming, food produce and sustainability will enjoy the story much better than the rest. I personally found that there was too much detail in these aspects that distracted me from the main story.

In this novel, Ms. Rey uses contrasts expertly: femme-butch, white-biracial, countryside-city, and even including a feminine farmer character, which seems contradictory in itself. But beyond these disparities, there is an ample common ground; the appreciation of good food, the importance of family and the search of long-lasting love. The romance part of the plot is well written, and the characters’ relationship is built slowly from a strong initial antagonism that eventually changes into attraction. The author gets the butch-femme dynamic spot-on, especially in the sex scenes which, nevertheless, present a hot role reversal. My main criticism is that the characters’ main conflict could have been solved much easier with better communication.

Overall, a good butch-femme romance which will be appreciated especially by gourmet readers. 3.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Not the marrying kind’ by Jae.

Ashley Gaines is a florist adamant to remain in the closet as she lives and works in a conservative small town. Her neighbour and bakery owner Sasha Peterson is a pansexual who likes to stay away from relationships. Living in a small place, they know each other but aren’t friends. When they are asked to help organising Leo and Holly’s wedding, they start sharing more time together and eventually realise that they are attracted to each other. But Ashley is determined to stay in the closet and Sasha isn’t the marrying kind anyway. Will they find their happily ever after?

This is book two of the ‘Fair Oaks’ series which started with ‘Perfect rhythm’. Even though this novel reads as standalone, many events refer to the previous book and it catches up with Leo and Holly’s relationship. Having said that, Ashley is not a likeable character in ‘Perfect rhythm’ so, if you read that first, it might take you long to warm to her in this new book.

To say that this is a slow-burn romance is an understatement as the author takes her time to develop both characters’ personalities and their budding relationship. This makes the story credible in redeeming Ashley’s hurtful actions of the past and in challenging Sasha’s assumptions about commitment. Even though Ashley’s self-inflicted repressed sexuality might feel alien to younger generations or people living in big cities, Jae’s description of the circumstances that force Ashley to remain in the closet will strike a chord with many readers. In this series, the author continues to challenge our views about sexuality by introducing a pansexual character, in addition to the asexual and non-binary characters that were featured in book one.

‘Not the marrying kind’ balances the above-mentioned serious issues of diverse sexual preferences and society’s pressure on LGBTQA+ individuals, with the sensual world of baking and flowers. The use of the hidden meaning of flowers and baking metaphors, in addition to a few playful scenes and wonderful slow-burn chemistry, introduces lightness and beauty to the story. As usual, Jae excels in bringing out the romance and depicting the characters’ intimacy with, for example, an excellent remake of a famous ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ sequence plus a very steamy undressing scene. As a bonus, readers who enjoyed Jae’s ‘Damage control’ will have the chance to catch up with Grace and Lauren’s relationship.

Overall, an entertaining, sensual and fun slow-burn romance which raises deep issues of sexuality and coming out. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘You’re my kind’ by Clare Lydon.

Justine Thomas and Maddie Kind were a couple at university until Maddie left without saying goodbye. Ten years later, they are reunited at a friend’s funeral and Maddie wants to make amends for her past behaviour. Justine is not very keen to let Maddie back into her life but both have changed and this new Maddie is kinder, caring and still gorgeous. Will Justine keep her distance or will she give their relationship another try?

‘You’re my kind’ is a second chance romance that starts with a funeral. As anti-climatic that it might sound, the author makes it work more as a celebration of life than sorrow for an irreparable loss. Lydon is a master of lesfic rom-com with a British feel. Only that this time, she combines her usual witty, funny and sarcastic dialogues and situations with a savvy reflexion about life and death. As the author presents a piece of her philosophy of life, the story will make the reader cry, laugh and keep faith in humanity.

The novel is written in first person from the point of view of Justine, which helps to give an air of mystery to Maddie and her puzzling actions of the past. Despite that narrative distance, both characters are realistic and well-rounded and their chemistry is sizzling. Ms. Lydon knows how to write a good sex scene and this was no exception, both scenes reveal deep intimacy. Plus that first kiss was worth the whole read by itself. Hot, hot hot!

The secondary characters, mostly a group of friends, are also multilayered and altogether set the tone for compelling emotions around life, love and death. But, in my opinion, the absolute showstopper is ‘Cake Heaven’, the cake business featuring all kind of sweet delicacies. Warning: if you have a sweet tooth you might be tempted to run for some cake!

Overall, a great second-chance romance with a British feel and savvy insight about the most important things in life. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Cracking love’ by Emily King.

Pharmacist Janet Webber relocates to California for a new job. With the stress and travelling demands of her position, she has little hope of finding a partner. But when she meets walnut farmer Gail Lawrence things start to improve. Gail shows her the farming produce and Janet discovers the potential to start her own business. As their relationship develops, Gail is reluctant to trust Janet as she had her heart broken before. Will they have a happily ever after?

This is a well written debut book. The author herself is a pharmacist and has worked in farming in California so it seems that she drew a bit on her own experience to build these characters. I think that the mains needed a bit more polishing to make them completely well rounded but it’s a good effort anyway.

Having said that, in my opinion the author described with excessive detail certain activities like line dancing and cooking, while other more relevant parts of the plot didn’t get that much detail. However, the characters’ chemistry is good and the intimate scenes were well written and realistic.

Overall, a good debut novel for fans of line dancing and/or cooking. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Full English’ by Rachel Spangler.

Emma Volant is an American best-selling author that, after a nasty divorce, decides to leave the US for a small town in North Eastern England. Full of insecurities and low self esteem, she slowly starts to interact with people in the village, specially Brogan McKay, the pub’s bartender and job multitasker. As Emma and Brogan’s friendship grows so does their mutual attraction, but, Emma needs time to heal and Brogan thinks Emma is out of her league. Will they have a happily ever after?

According to the author, this book was conceived after Ms. Spangler and her family spent 9 months living in the north east of England. In her notes, the author described the challenges of writing a book set in England with American and English main characters. As a reader based in Northern Ireland, I appreciate her efforts to explain her spelling choices and pronunciation guidelines for the otherwise perplexing Irish names. I’ve heard so many times people butchering my sons’ Irish names that her endeavour is appreciated.

This book is as much a romance as a crash course in British culture. The author goes beyond highlighting the obvious differences in spellings and regional words and opens up a world of different types of food, habits and social conventions. I found that Ms. Spangler researched the issue well and I found her descriptions of the landscape, the weather and social classes’ issues very realistic. As a foreigner in the UK, I concur with Emma’s problems while driving on the left side and her newfound love for scones and clotted cream!

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, I found the book slow in developing the romance mainly because there are a good number of secondary characters and a whole set of cultural differences that needed to be introduced. Some readers who aren’t interested in the clash of cultures or life in small towns might find the pace of the romance too slow. However, once the romance part of the story starts developing, their personal issues and their conflict is realistic and credible.

Having said that, while in most of the book both characters voiced their feelings so well, the later stages of their conflict felt a bit forced. The secondary characters are well rounded, even considering that there were lots of them. While I recognise the ubiquitous gossip of small towns, I’m not convinced that the meddling in the mains’ love life is characteristic of British or Irish families. The McKays might be an exception but, in my experience, I find that both British and Irish people, while they love their gossip, they tend not to voice or meddle with other people’s affairs. That’s my only criticism in the depiction of British and Irish cultures as I found that the rest was spot-on.

Overall, a very good story about American and British culture clash with a moving romance at the side. 4.5 stars.

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

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