Review of ‘The Pet Boutique’ by Suzie Carr

‘The Pet Boutique’ is a heart-warming, romantic and healing story that left me with a happy feeling. It is the first novel I’ve read by Suzie Carr and won’t be the last. The author really sees people and what makes them tick. She brings this understanding to her writing and I found myself loving the story more and more as it progressed.

Taylor is a successful author with a serious case of writer’s block. When her friend Maya suggests she help renovate a store with her, it seems this might be the distraction she needs. Maya’s niece Lexie, another helper in the quest to open a Pet Boutique, brings out something in Taylor she didn’t think possible again. Their story was slow and gentle and beautifully written. I loved the coterie of characters around the whole project – especially Lexie’s dog, Cashmere. She had a calming  and steadying role and seemed to be at the centre of everything good and positive in everyone’s lives. Both Taylor and Lexie had issues from the past they had to overcome. I enjoyed finding out how they dealt with their problems. I especially appreciated the positive representation of bisexuality. An excellent story and highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review. 

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Review of ‘Love’s Portrait’ by Anna Larner

‘Love’s Portrait’ is a perfect mixture of love, romance and belonging. Molly Goode is a fine art curator in Leicester, wishing to bring more diversity to the museum where she works. Georgina Wright is an important benefactor, albeit a reluctant one. She comes across as a bit of an Ice Queen but spending time with Molly begins to thaw her cool exterior. When Georgina needs help to research a painting in her collection, Molly is instructed by her boss to take on the task.

I liked Molly from the start. She was sweet, a bit ditsy and completely unaware of how wonderful she is. She worries about saying and doing the wrong thing and I found her completely adorable. Georgina was a woman in pain, dealing with grief and hurt, and I had high hopes that Molly would be the woman to see her through that. I felt compelled to follow their story. The mystery behind the painting drew me further into the story and I loved the historical aspect of it in regard to the research on the painting. Anna Larner’s writing has a gentle beauty to it, an engaging tone throughout.  Her characters feel real to me and she makes me want to know more about them. This is the second book I have read by this author and I must admit she has become a favourite of mine. A lovely story.

I was given this ARC for review by Bold Strokes Books and Netgalley.

Review of ‘You’re My Kind’ by Clare Lydon

Clare Lydon certainly played with my emotions on this one. ‘You’re My Kind’ is the story of Justine and Maddie and their road to love after splitting ten years previously. Justine has never been able to get over it and professes to hate the very mention of Maddie’s name. But when she unexpectedly turns up again on an already awful day, Justine is forced to start confronting her feelings.

Now, I was determined to hate Maddie too, on Justine’s behalf. But she crept up on me. I wanted to resist her, but I just couldn’t. I felt myself wavering and letting her in. The story was thoughtful and sad at times and really touched my heart. It was also hilariously funny and I almost spat my coffee across the room at ‘vagina cupcakes’! Clare Lydon writes romance like no other. I ached for the pair of them and when they had sex, it was so much more than that. It was everything; it was remembering and wanting and needing. 

The Bristol setting was wonderful. I could picture so many of the places mentioned. The constant mention of cakes might have made me dash for the mixing bowl too! An excellent story and highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Spencer’s Cove’ by Missouri Vaun

‘Spencer’s Cove’ is a fantastical tale of witches, good and evil and ultimately love. Foster Owen, a mystery novelist with a serious case of writer’s block, is given a lifeline when a job comes up to ghost write a family memoir for Abigail Spencer. Abby has inherited her family’s mansion on the Pacific Coast and on first meeting she is a shy, frightened rabbit of a woman. When Foster starts looking into the family’s past some very interesting stories emerge and she is intrigued. Just when I thought I knew where this story was going and who everyone was, Missouri Vaun took me on a ride that totally exceeded my expectations. Seeing changes in Abby was enlightening and Foster had a lot to do with that. She was a beautifully envisaged soft butch – and who could blame Abby for being attracted to her? The novel had some amazingly strong women and a feeling of camaraderie and power that appealed to me so much. I loved the mixture of the historical research Foster was undertaking and the present day story that stemmed from it.  It was a magical tale and I absolutely adored it. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC by Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books to review.

Review of ‘Hooked On You’ by Jenn Matthews

Ollie was seriously injured during her time in the army. She now owns a craft shop and runs a crochet group in the evenings. When teacher Anna joins the group they fall into an easy friendship, but there is more. What that might be is confusing for seemingly-straight Anna. She is dating total prat Liam, a colleague. Boy, did I want her to see the light regarding that one!

I enjoyed the slow build up in this story. It was so worth it. Ollie and Annie are grown -up women, with full lives and interesting histories. It was so refreshing to read a romance between mature women. Each touch, each kiss was special and tender. It was beautifully written. We got to see how Ollie struggled with her physical problems and how that affected her confidence in pursuing a new relationship. Anna’s struggles were of a different nature – that of being attracted to a woman for the first time. I was literally ‘hooked’ on their stories. 

I also really enjoyed finding out about their families. Anna’s adopted son, Timothy was on the Autistic Spectrum and I loved his way of looking at the world. His depiction was spot on. Jenn Matthews has an excellent understanding of someone with autism and I really appreciated how she put across how wonderful it can be and how rewarding it is to know someone with autism. Thank you for that Jenn. 

Finally the fact that the women met through their love of crochet was fascinating. I have, like Anna, watched multiple YouTube videos to try and learn the skill, to no avail. After reading ‘Hooked On You’ I’m feeling inspired to follow Anna’s lead and join a class. An excellent first novel –  I look forward to more from Ms Matthews in the future.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Escape to Pleasure’ by Victoria Villasenor and Sandy Lowe

‘Escape to Pleasure’ is an enticing collection of erotic stories on the theme of travel. Victoria Villasenor and Sandy Lowe are skilled editors and have brought together a perfect mix of hot and steamy stories sure to please. I enjoyed all of the stories but I particularly enjoyed Aurora Rey’s ‘The Lodge’, as the cosy Winter setting contrasted so well with the heat of a very sexy story. Her characters interested me so much that I wouldn’t mind meeting them again. I also loved Brit Ryder’s ‘Mistakes Happen’. This tale of a luggage mix-up and the resulting bedroom antics was perfect. Her wickedly sexy al fresco encounter was truly sublime. But Jeannie Levig’s ‘A Fantasy Getaway’ was my favourite. It is set in a lesbian resort and is beautifully written. She ramps up the sexual tension like a pro. It is so, so well done and the heat is off the scale. I can highly recommend this anthology.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘North of All Borders’ by Irene Hossack

Irene Hossack’s ‘North of all Borders’ is an impressive collection. I came away affected by the truth of her poetry, by that which I recognised. She has the power to shock as well as make the reader feel a part of her reality. The collection is about one woman, her life and experiences. It is also about us all. 

I loved the memories her poems evoked. Her love of Glasgow. And of words. She weaves these memories and the ordinariness of family, with the beauty around. ‘The Asylum Seekers’ is thoughtful and real. ‘My Father’s Mother and ‘Fairy Liquid’ jolted me out of my easy mood. She led me on only to hit me right in the gut. In ‘April’ she took my breath away. The emotion conveyed in that last line – wow! 

I loved this collection of poetry and will read it again and again. I see something different, something new each time. 

Review of ‘The Way You Smile’ by Kiki Archer

I have never laughed so much in my entire life. Ever. And this woman knows me! I recognised so much of myself in this book and I bet a lot of women will. Kiki Archer has the amazing knack of seeing the humour in situations we all can recognise. She is hilarious and so observant. I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole time I was reading this book. That and laughing out loud.  My chuckling every two minutes got me some very strange looks from the kids.And when I was doubled over in fits  of laughter at a certain scene in Boots they thought I’d gone mad! 

The story of thirty-something Camila, a mum returner to the workforce and Harriet, high-powered famous business woman is  funny, scorchingly hot and romantic. There is such a lovely connection between them and an honesty that shines through. This story has it all. Kiki Archer gets under the skin of Women-loving-Women. She really sees them- and it shows in every beautifully crafted page. A brilliant story that deserves 10 Stars! Highly recommended.

Review of ‘Language of Love’ edited by Lee Winter and Astrid Ohletz

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‘Language of Love’ is a lovely, heart-warming collection of festive stories from some well-known lesbian fiction authors. We go from Australia with Lee Winter, to India with Sheryn Muir and to Lola Keeley’s Edinburgh Hogmanay. There are also stories from Wales, Cumbria, the US and Germany. I enjoyed all of them – and that doesn’t always happen in an anthology. My favourite was Jody Klaire’s ‘Love Just Is’ set in the Welsh countryside. The setting was lovely and I’d love to hear more of that particular area. The story was funny, sarcastic (in a kind way) and with characters I really believed in. I also really enjoyed Andrea Bramhall’s ‘The Night Before Christmas – a Cumbrian Tale. It was an unusual story, very atmospheric and imaginative.

If there is one thing I have taken away from this anthology it’s that I want to read more from these particular authors – so my reading list has expanded exponentially!

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Empath’ by Jody Klaire

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‘The Empath’ – the first in The Above and Beyond Series – completely blew me away. I have never felt such a connection with a character as I did with Aeron – certainly not since Scout in ’To Kill A Mockingbird’ when I was a teenager. Aeron Lorelei made an immediate impression on me and I couldn’t put the book down. She has had a terrible start in life, growing up with parents who ignore and resent her and living in a small town where everyone seems to hate her. When she takes the blame for the death of her friend’s younger brother and is sent away to a correctional facility they think they’ve heard the last of her. Not so. When she returns 11 years later the town is beset with tragedy and fear as young women start to go missing – and who do they decide to blame? Why Aeron, of course.

Aeron is an empath but she only knows the half of it. The mystery behind her life, what and who she is is woven with the terrible goings on in her town. The mystery was chilling and powerful and never let up. I was completely stunned by the story – the intensity, the feelings it evoked. Aeron’s growing relationship with someone who wants to help her was beautifully pitched. It let us see more about her and I liked what I saw. She had an amazing heart, having dealt with so much, but still choosing to see the good in people and in life. I was amazed at the talent and skill of someone being able to write such a story. There were so many twists and turns and the characterisation was excellent. Jody Klaire knows how to look into the souls of her characters – be they good or bad. I am so happy that there are 5 more in the series for me to look forward to reading. This is the best book I’ve read in a long time – and I can’t wait to see if she can top it with book 2!

I was given this book for review.