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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