‘Meeting Millie’ by Clare Ashton is set in amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford. Upper-class lesbian Charlotte is geeky and awkward and is surprised to find friendship with the powerhouse that is Millie Banks. Millie is straight, confident and charismatic. No-one could have predicted they would become friends. Ten years after university, they meet again and this time could be different. Can they be friends after all of this time? Or is there a chance of more?
Meeting Millie was so easy to read and so difficult to put down. It had lovely characters and was deliciously heartwarming. It was also beautifully written, and proved to me that Clare Ashton has genuine love for her characters. Oxford is described with real affection too, making it a character in its own right.
Clare Ashton lovingly takes the reader on a wonderful journey, with the odd emotional blip on the way. But she always gives us the prize in the end. Love wins. The experience is akin to snuggling on your favourite comfy spot, with a warm cup of milky coffee and a delicious cupcake. Comforting, immersive and welcome.
In ‘Maid Of Steel’, Kate Baker takes two of the most important historical events of the early part of the 20th Century, and weaves them into a beautiful story. Emma has become involved in the emerging suffragette movement in New York, and looks forward to taking part in an upcoming march in the city. But tragedy changes everything. To recover from a life-changing event, her mother sends her to their ancestral home in Ireland, hoping that the change will also curb her political leanings. Emma meets the quiet and unassuming hotelier Thomas, a man whose unhappy marriage has left him cowed. As Emma settles into life in Queenstown, she befriends Aoife and joins other women in the town as they fight for the vote. Her holiday becomes much more than her mother planned for her, and life will never be the same.
I liked Emma. Her impressions of Ireland when she arrived took me to the early years of the century, and into the changing lives of the inhabitants of Queenstown. She found the stories told by her grandmother were a lot more complicated than she ever let on. They give her a strength and a determination to live her own life. Emma was feisty and brave and determined to fight for women’s rights.
The growing loves story is tender and increasingly important. Life doesn’t have to be lived to a plan – especially one determined by other people. But society’s rules were hard to overcome in those days, and the strength to fight would take an enormous leap of faith. Kate Baker pitched it perfectly.
The story is set in 1912, and if you know the significance of Queenstown, then it will be thrilling to discover that a significant event of that year will play some part in the story. I was enthralled. ‘Maid of Steel’ was a beautifully written historical story, with an ingenious twist I definitely did not see coming.
‘Stolen Dreams’ by Robyn Nyx is set in the world of Mexican drug cartels, where escaping the clutches of the drug lords is a dream to which few can aspire. Luca Romera has been betrayed and finds herself trapped on a drug farm, with little prospect of a free life. Marissa Vargas, the beautiful and kind daughter of the cartel boss, has her own reasons for wanting out. But freedom seems just as elusive for her. As the pair become entwined in a fight for survival, they must rely on each other, and hope that they can flee before anyone finds out. Will their growing feelings for each other be enough to keep their dreams alive? And will they ever break free from the desperation and fear of life under Marissa’s evil father?
We can always rely on Robyn Nyx to ramp up the tension, and this story was no exception. The suspense was immense and I couldn’t put it down. She pitched the fear of living under the drug lords perfectly. It was brutal and scary, and individuals meant nothing to those making money from their labour. I could feel the sense of hopelessness in those forced to toil in the fields.
The relationship between Marissa and Luca was intense, emotional, and so passionate. It‘s the best written love story between any of her characters. I’ve read all of her books so far and this tops them all. It felt so real and immersive from the start. Being forced to share a plan for escape pulled the women together, but the attraction was already there, and grew stronger as they fought to survive the carnage.
I also appreciated the various ‘Easter Eggs’ scattered throughout the story. If you’re a fan of lesfic, you’ll pick up on those quickly. A brilliant story I can see myself going back to again and again.
MyQueerSapphfic.com has a huge festive sale on at the moment and one of my books is part of it. You’ll be able to find Kilbirnie, Scotland – one of the Loving Blue in Red States series on sale for $0.99. If you love sapphic romance, then I’m hoping you’ll give it a try.
‘Vision of Virtue’ by Brey Willows is the second story in the Memory’s Muses series. This time we are with Clio Ardalides, the Muse of history and virtue. She seeks to show the good in every situation. Positivity is her mantra. But sometimes her TV show veers too far towards the superficial.
Kit Kalloway is the complete opposite. She is for truth and reality, whatever the situation. It irks her that Clio focuses too much on appearance and the lighter side of life. She may find the Muse extremely attractive, but that won’t stop her voicing her disapproval.
When the pair are pushed together in a terrible situation, can they see past first impressions? And can they find a way to take their mutual attraction further?
Brey Willows breathes new life into classical characters. Characters who would otherwise have remained in dusty tomes, unknown to the majority. Her stories are thrilling, exciting and fascinating. The world she has imagined, where gods and mortals coexist, is a stroke of genius.
Clio wasn’t the person I thought at first. She had lived a long life and had witnessed some awful things. She didn’t want to dwell on all that horrible stuff – and who can blame her? Sometimes we all need to shut off the news.
Kit had a huge chip on her shoulder, but spending time with Clio let her see that immortals are not all the same. She didn’t seem to consider the feelings of others. Until faced with some home truths – and the fear of losing a chance for love.
Brey Willows took Clio and Kit to a place where they had to face who they really were. Humans and immortals can both be guilty of self delusion. Sometimes it takes a kind soul to point out the truth. Or an inciting event forces reflection. It takes courage to change and a desire for something more than the status quo.
I loved being back with the muses. All of them. Tying their stories together works so well and I look forward to the next in the series. Highly recommended.
‘Of Light And Love’ by E.V. Bancroft is ‘thawing the ice queen’, but with a twist. Two years after the death of her wife, Caro is still mourning as if it happened yesterday. With a shrine to her wife in her bedroom, she cannot see a way out from the dark desperation she feels everyday. Believing that they were soulmates, she sees no possibility of ever finding happiness again. Her financial situation is becoming precarious, as she can no longer paint and earn money. She needs to take in a lodger, but is not happy about it.
Masters students Laura desperately needs a place to stay for the duration of her course. The only place on offer at such short notice is with a woman whose grumpiness knows no bounds. Her icy demeanour doesn’t put the sunny young woman off, though. Can she break through the hard shell Caro has built around her heart? Is it possible to move on from different types of heartbreak and find love again?
I liked the drawing out of Caro, from her static grief-filled stage. She was stuck and unwilling to move on. She felt she would be betraying Yvonne if she let go for just a minute. E.V. Bancroft skilfully developed both of her characters, made them feel real. We experienced the changes in both Caro and Laura, as each woman recognised their own flaws.
I loved that the story revolved around art. Caro and Laura came from different areas of the art world and had much to teach each other. I enjoyed finding out about the high-end exhibitions Caro was involved in, and also the newer animation-studio based industry familiar to Laura. The Bristol setting was especially interesting, as it is refreshing to encounter different places. The descriptions were vivid and enlightening.
‘Of Light And Love’ is a well-written and engaging novel, with imagination, warmth and passion. Highly recommended.
‘Just A Touch Away’ by Jae is a feel-good romance set in Portland. Hannah Martin is a professional cuddler, a job that brings her a great deal of satisfaction. She is proud of that fact that she helps those who need a healing touch. One such client leaves her one half of a prestigious building in the city. The only snag is, she must share it with his daughter, Winter Sullivan. The two women must live together for 92 days in order to secure the inheritance. Surely Hannah can manage that? Winter proves to be an ice-queen of the highest magnitude, so it may not be as simple as Hannah first thought. Can they learn to live together – or will their differences end up being too great?
This book has lifted my mood in a way no other has this year. My oxytocin levels, also known as the ‘love hormone’, were overflowing by the time I had reached the final page. Hannah was kind and caring, and had a heart so big, she could have cured a whole city of the blues. Winter on the other hand was the quintessential Ice Queen who needed the right woman to melt her apparently stone cold heart. Jae hit the right balance with Winter, in that she made her vulnerable and not unlikable. I was rooting for the pair from the start.
Their story felt like being enveloped in a giant cuddle. Sometimes you want to feel good and wallow in the romance of a story. Jae does that every time for me. And no more so than with ‘Just A Touch Away’. Highly recommended.
‘An Art To Love’ by Helena Harte is the heartwarming story of Lauren Gray, a non-profit CEO with big ideas. She has always wanted to make a difference, and in pursuit of her dreams, she left her home town and her family. When tragedy brings her back from Boston, she must face whatever it is that she has been avoiding all these years. Does she have everything she wants and needs? Or is there more to life than ambition?
Jamie Nelson seems happy with her life as the town’s cemetery groundskeeper. Her artistic talents are a hobby and she has no desire to take them further. When the object of her schoolgirl crush returns to town she has to decide if she can take a chance and let her feelings be known. Lauren was so out of her league in High School, but maybe it is time to act on her feelings. Lauren can’t understand the lack of ambition of Jamie and those around her in the town. Should she push them? Or is there something to be said for being happy with what you have?
I liked Lauren. She was kind and caring and determined to help other people realise their goals. But why did she feel the need to cut her family and her home town from her own life? She had a blind spot when it came to her own behaviour. Could Jamie make her rethink? Jamie had reasons of her own for living a safe life. Would their feelings for each other spark something new in both of them?
Helena Harte’s writing is insightful, romantic and passionate. She seeks out a deep emotional intensity in her characters. And makes me love them. I could see both points of view in this story, but ultimately I wanted them to find the missing piece in each other. A wonderful, life-affirming story, sure to put a satisfied smile on any reader’s face.
‘Homeworld’ by Gun Brooke is the third book in the Dennamore Scrolls series, and the one where Velocity finally leaves Earth in search of Dwynna Major. Chief Engineer Claire Gordon is a vital part of the mission, but when her neural interface begins to malfunction she fears her skills won’t be enough to get them home. That and her increasing attraction towards the Captain, Holly Crowe, makes for a difficult journey ahead. Holly is determined to remain professional, and a relationship with another crew member is therefore out of the question. As they try to steer the ship through space and keep their fellow passengers safe, will they succeed in their mission? And will they ever find time for each other?
Having read the previous book, ‘Velocity’, I was keen to find out if the inhabitants of Dennamore would find a way to get the ship ready to leave Earth. The desire to return home was strong in them – but there were some who didn’t want them to take that chance. There was always going to be some tension and preparing for the journey was a learning curve for them all. I enjoyed finding out how they coped as they prepared and got underway. I was desperate to find out what Dwynna Major was really like. Although the story was about their journey, it was also about discovering themselves. This was a well written sci-fi story, with touches of romance. I won’t give away what they find, but I was intrigued and hope for more stories from these characters.