Highly recommended for fans of age gap romances
This is the 30th-anniversary edition of this novel. Touchwood was originally published in 1991 by the now extinct Naiad Press and later released as a second edition in 2021 by Bella Books. To say that a sapphic book has been published so many years ago is an accomplishment on its own (there were few books available back then), but to read it now and find it is still current is what classics are made from.
When Rayann Germaine was cheated on by her lover, she finds herself homeless and unemployed. She is offered a place to live and a job by bookshop owner Louisa Thatcher who is 25 years her senior. Both women feel an undeniable attraction but they are very different in age and life experiences.
This is an age-gap, opposite-attracts romance set in San Francisco in the early 1990s. For those of us who came out around that time, we know that it was hard enough. However, this story manages to highlight the difficulties and at the same time leave a positive message. Maybe because it’s set in one of the hotspots of LGBT rights and a very liberal part of the US. I gather that if it was set in the deep south, it would have been a very different story.
This second edition added some scenes that were deleted in the original version because of printing costs. Ms. Kallmaker tells the background story surrounding the first and second editions of this novel in her notes and she also describes the hardships of being gay in the past. Unfortunately, these notes, present at the beginning of the ebook version, are missing in the audiobook. I really recommend you to read them, it’s a great tribute to the people who fought for gay rights so we can now enjoy the freedom to express who we are.
Back to the plot, as both mains came out at different times, it shows the contrasting experiences and how they affected each woman’s approach to relationships. I loved how Ms. Kallmaker describes the strict notion of butch/femme roles within the lesbian community in the 1950s and 60s and how these stereotypes start to blur a few decades after. It gives a good historical perspective of what it was like to be a lesbian for those generations and how luckily things have changed for most of us.
The romance itself is sweet and the chemistry between the mains is good. This is Karin Kallmaker’s second novel and considering that she has now written more than thirty, the characters’ chemistry isn’t as strong as in her later works but it’s still fine.
This novel has a sequel called Watermark which was written nine years later. The author suggests on her website that readers should allow a lapse of time between the two novels. Watermark hasn’t been released on audiobook yet.
Angela Dawe is the narrator and is the perfect choice to do this novel justice. As usual, her performance is full of emotion and elevates the story to its full potential. Highly recommended for all lovers of age gap romances. 4.5 stars.
Length: 7 hours, 48 minutes