Review of No Other Love by Harper Bliss, Audiobook narrated by Angela Dawe
This is book 6 of the Pink Bean series which follows the lives of a group of lesbians, workers, or patrons of the Pink Bean café in Sidney, Australia. Most of the books in the series can be read/listened to as standalone, though there are always mentions of characters from other books. However, this novel is very intertwined with book 5 Water Under Bridges and I recommend reading that one first.
Annie McLean is the owner of a feminist bookstore that was saved by joining forces with the Pink Bean café. She’s been together with her wife, lesbian romance author Jane Quinn, for twenty years but they are both struggling with different issues. Annie is confused by her growing attraction to her business partner Kristin, while Jane is struggling with an acute case of writer’s block. Will their relationship survive the storm?
Once again I’m surprised by the level of depth of this series. I’m not sure why, maybe the covers or the series title suggests to me a lightness that cannot be found here. I love that Harper Bliss writes about conflicts that most romance authors don’t dare to talk about but are quite common in real life. In this book, Ms. Bliss deals with long-term relationship issues such as loss of passion, attraction to someone else, and work-related stress. As these are two mature women in their 50s, it also deals with menopause and how it affects life in general and relationships in particular. Everything is dealt with realistically and compassionately.
Mia Miller, one of the main characters in book 5, makes an appearance in this installment as a very important secondary character. I mentioned in my review of book 5, that the ending felt a bit rushed, but this novel finally ties those loose knots. Mia not only acts as a buffer between her boss Kristin and Annie but also as a soundboard to Jane. It’s really good to see such character growth and finishes her full circle towards redemption.
No Other Love isn’t a light romance; the reader is in the headspace of both very conflicted leads who are fighting their own very real demons despite their goodwill to face their problems and overall honesty. This shows that relationships are hard work, however, it also demonstrates that if both partners are willing to communicate and compromise, there is a way forward. I’m glad that the author didn’t fall into the temptation of solving the issues magically and even though this is a romance and has to have a positive ending, the conflict resolution sounded plausible.
Angela Dawe narrated the audiobook version, as most of the series, which gives it a fantastic added value. Once again, a standing ovation for her awesome performance confirming she’s one of the best in lesfic. This series is particularly difficult because it has so many important female characters but Ms. Dawe manages to make distinct voices for them all. I loved the emotional charge that she added to the written text which made it so much enjoyable. As audiobook 10 has been recently released with her narration, it’s a good chance to indulge in her outstanding talent. 4.5 stars.
Length: 5 hours, 50 minutes