‘Warm Pearls and Paper Cranes’ is the wonderful debut novel from E.V. Bancroft. It’s a story told over two time periods, with two couples. Starting in pre-war 1939, Maud and Bea find love at a time when lesbian relationships were completely taboo. How can they find a way to be together when the world is against them? In the present day Hannah may be open in some areas of her life, but convincing the woman she loves, Suki, to do the same is not easy. It seems prejudices remain and they can be hard to push back against. Maud and Bea are now old and forced apart in different nursing homes. As the two stories intertwine, the women must fight those who would keep them apart – and fight their own pre-conceived ideas.
I was surprised this was a first novel, as the storytelling was so skilful and appeared effortless. The prose flowed beautifully and the characters were believable and brought truth to the story. It was the most compelling story of love, of fighting to be see and heard. I went through so many emotions reading these two love stories, each with problems to be overcome. The writing was powerful, emotional and exceptional.
I left it feeling happy and joyful. Highly recommended.
I must admit to being a huge fan of the Strong Southern Women Series by Ali Spooner. ‘Footprints’ is book 4 and follows the story of Sandy, the youngest of the family. She has looked up to her older sister Cam, and hopes to be as good as her some day in helping run the family businesses. When floods endanger the people of Baton Rouge, Sandy and Cam volunteer with the Cajun Navy and help save those affected.
I loved reading more about Sandy, and seeing her as a grown woman. The whole family come together to keep their way of life going in the Bayou. I felt a part of their lives for a while, as the writing flows so well. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid and the emotional and romantic lives of the sisters so true. A great story.
‘Turbulent Waves’ by Ali Vali is a romantic fantasy novel set in Atlantis and New Orleans. Vivien could never forget meeting a girl on the beach years ago. She appeared to dip beneath the waves in the company of sharks – but how could that be? Years later she finds out when Kai Merlin, heir to the Atlantean throne, comes back into her life and they fall in love. As they plan their wedding Vivien finds out about the world beneath the sea and is astounded at the scope of it all. But Atlantis is under threat and the women must fight for their lives and the home they will now share.
This is the second in the series and I feel reading the first one is important to understanding the whole story. It’s a truly amazing world and the concept is so well thought out. I loved finding out about the history and technology of the Atlantean people. The love story between Kai and Vivien is beautiful and tender and extremely hot. The heat level is scorching, with very descriptive love scenes. But underneath all of the happiness at the impending wedding is an undercurrent of fear and tension as they battle an enemy from the stars. I loved to wallow in fantasy and this let me do that. An enjoyable story.
I love sci-fi, so getting the chance to read a new voice in the genre thrilled me. And I was not disappointed. Valden Bush has imagined a fascinating universe of worlds and peoples, with a brilliant twist, in her debut novel, ‘Nero’. Stele Hosun is an outcast on account of her black eyes. In her culture on Nero those with this characteristic are banished, as are those women who love other women. Stele is angry and volatile, but who can blame her? When Colonel Kian Ray offers her an outlet where her skills may be useful, she has to decide whether to let go of her anger and take a chance. She also has to find a way to live without her love, Ariane. But when pirates invade Nero, Stele has to use everything she’s got to find a way to save the woman she loves and the society than shunned her.
‘Nero’ is a beautifully written story, with exquisite world-building, an intriguing mystery and a passionate love story. The connection between Stele and Ariane was powerful, enduring and intense. The mystery of the coloured shards in Neroan culture made for an engrossing tale, captivating my attention until the very last page. I loved this book and hope there will be more of these characters and their stories in the future.
‘Elemental Attraction’ by K Aten is the first in her new MythWorld Series. It’s a beautifully crafted tale of shapeshifters, mythical creatures and destiny. Ellys is a half-elven swordsman and a great one at that. She hires out her skills to help keep body and soul together for herself and her companion steed, Roccotari. When dragon shapeshifter, Aderri offers her more than the usual rate to help her get home for an important family ceremony she agrees. But the journey is fraught with danger and the threesome find themselves dealing with more than they bargained for. Add in the beginnings of an attraction that grows hotter as they near Aderri’s homeland. As each grapple with their own and others expectations, life becomes a whole lot more interesting.
The world-building is superb in ‘Elemental Attraction’ and K Aten has once again hooked me with her imaginative storytelling. The mixture of different creatures is fantastic and seeing how they interact with each other made me laugh and sometimes shed a tear. Ellys is strong and fearless and loyal. She strives to achieve balance in everything she does. Her relationship with Roccotari is funny, sarcastic and joyful. They have an amazing bond and it is the most significant relationship for both of them. As they travel with Aderri we begin to see that love does not have to be static, and change can be embraced. I loved the banter between the three, but also the traditions, mythology and history that made them who they were. A great story.
‘The Tell Tale’ by Clare Ashton is outstanding. My book of the year by a long way. Lady Sophie Melling is lady of the manor, but the men of the village will not accept it. Her former schoolfriend Beth Harris is back in the village after years away. Like most people she has a secret, and when nasty notes begin appearing it looks like her secret may be revealed to all. Who is leaving the notes? And what does it have to do with unexplained events twenty years ago? As the tension builds, a sense of foreboding clings to the village and its inhabitants.
This is the best novel Clare Ashton has written. My jaw dropped again and again as the shocking realities were revealed. The exquisite writing, beautiful descriptions, and insight into the welsh language and people had me mesmerised. I could feel the fear of the villagers as they received their vicious notes, and the all-pervading abuse of power by certain men of the village. But I could also feel the growing confidence of the women as they tried to be true to themselves and fight against it all. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. If you only read one book this year, let it be ‘The Tell Tale’. You will not regret it.
‘Love at Leighton Lake’ is a lovely romance with two very endearing characters. Tally returns to the place of her childhood holidays when she needs time to recover from a serious injury at work. There she becomes reacquainted with Caitlyn, the daughter of the owner. Caitlyn has continued to live there, helping her mother and swimming in the lake everyday. But as they spend time together it becomes apparent that secrets have been kept from Caitlyn. Together they aim to find out the truth.
I loved the Devon setting and the relaxing vibe that came from spending time there. I could see why Tally wanted to be there, and why Caitlyn didn’t leave. Their growing feelings for each other felt genuine and I wanted it to work out for them. Working together to find out why so many secrets were being kept brought them closer and it had a healing effect. This healing was a major part of it for both of them, but in different ways. The love and passion came so naturally. An enjoyable read.
‘Midnight Slain in Georgia’ is a well crafted short story ideal for the upcoming Halloween season. Callie works for a travel company organising tours. One of them is a ghost tour of Savannah. Part of Callie’s job is to vet applicants to be included on the tour, and when one comes up with a link to history, she wants nothing to do with it. But along with her partner, Jo, she is required to check it out. Will an overnight stay change her mind about the property? And who is the ghost supposedly haunting the B&B?
The first thing that appealed to me about his story was the link to Anne Hagan’s ‘Loving Blue in Red States’ series. I’ve read all of them and was delighted to get a follow-up with two of the characters. There’s no need to have read the previous story, ‘Savannah Georgia’, but if you have you’ll bet an extra kick out of this story. The characters of Callie and Jo have a good humoured relationship which comes through here. They also have a hot and steamy time together and this is very evident in this story. The story was brilliantly executed and made me gasp. A clever and delightful tale.
‘A Con Con’ by Anne Hagan is an excellent short story, showing her mastery of mystery. After arriving at the GCLS Convention, she is tired and just wants to freshen up before the activities all begin. But an intriguing mystery has her flummoxed – until she uses her innate skills to solve an interesting mystery. It’s a fun story, with lots of humour. I really enjoyed it and it shows just how much the author loves a good mystery.