Embracing the Moon

The details…

  • Title: Embracing the Moon
  • Author: Jeannie Levig
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Publication date: June 14, 2022
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 1453 KB
  • Print length: 369 pages
  • Genre: romance
  • Themes: car crash, amnesia, overcoming physical trauma, opening oneself to love, friendships, overcoming the past, women loving women, queer romance
  • Tropes: best friends to lovers, age gap

The blurb from the publisher…

Gwen Jamison has been attracted to her best friend Taylor for years but has kept her feelings masked as friendship. Left behind by her mother at age nine, then by her first love eight years later, she’s vowed never to trust her heart to anyone. It’s easier to have casual relationships than risk falling in love.

Taylor Matthews has no interest in a relationship. The one and only time she lost herself in love it cost her four years of her life. Never again. In the three decades since, she’s turned her life around, built a successful career, established solid friendships, and had plenty of women, sex, and fun. No complications, no entanglements, no regrets—until Gwen.

Just as Gwen and Taylor are exploring the new love they’ve found, the present and past collide, threatening the future they long to share.

An Embracing the Dawn Romance.

My thoughts…

This is the first book I’ve read by Jeannie Levig, but it definitely won’t be my last. Her writing style and mastery of storytelling is wonderfully inviting. She plants the seeds of anticipation and wonderment in those first few pages and one must see how the story will play out. It’s futile to resist; the promise of a good story is there for the taking. Levig props the door wide open and readers eagerly walk in, ready to nestle themselves inside this splendidly told story.

Embracing the Moon is more than a love story; it’s a journey. Levig tells it with genuine patience, letting readers care about Gwen and Taylor and the trajectory of their journey. At times readers almost ache for them. Levig craftily weaves themes of fear, desperation and love into the pages of this book, supplying it with scenes that fuel a genuine and relatable connectivity for the reader. She does this by handily exposing and manipulating vulnerabilities, and readers respond. She keeps the stakes high, ensuring a real emotional investment. It all works together to supply the perfect ingredients for a well-told story.

Final remarks…

When Gwen and Taylor’s journey is over and they’ve gotten their happily ever after, there’s almost a sense of sadness for the reader. These characters feel like friends and one doesn’t want to part from them. For me, that’s a sign of good storytelling. The author has created characters that one cares about and their journey is worth the price of admission. What more could a reader ask for? The author did her job and the story worked. Embracing the Moon certainly gets high marks there, and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending this book or this author.

Strengths…

  • Well-told
  • Well-developed, likable characters
  • Emotionally gripping
  • Well-constructed and believable
  • Worth a re-read

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Jeannie Levig is an award-winning author of lesbian fiction and a proud and happy member of the Bold Strokes family. Her debut novel, Threads of the Heart, won the 2016 Golden Crown Literary Society (Goldie) Award in the Debut Author category and was a finalist in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Her second novel, Embracing the Dawn, won a 2016 Rainbow Award in the Traditional Contemporary Romance category, and her third, a romantic intrigue entitled Into Thin Air, was released in January of 2017. Embracing the Moon is her 6th novel.

Raised by an English teacher, Jeannie has always been surrounded by literature and novels and learned to love reading at an early age. She tried her hand at writing fiction for the first time under the loving encouragement of her eighth grade English teacher. She graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She is deeply committed to her spiritual path and community, her family, her four-legged best friend, Dexter, and to writing the best stories possible to share with her readers.

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10 Days in May

The details…

  • Title: 10 Days in May
  • Author: Tracey Richardson
  • Publisher: Bella Books
  • Publication date: September 20, 2022
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 2765 KB
  • Print length: 304 pages
  • Genre: contemporary romance
  • Themes: women loving women, friendships, finding love, accepting fate, learning to change, finding meaning
  • Tropes: second-chance

The blurb from the publisher…

Camryn Hughes has reinvented herself since the chaotic and nomadic years of being a musician. She’s happy in her serene life until a new client has her examining her one regret—parting ways with her first love. Is it possible to go back and choose the other fork in the road—the one that leads back to the only woman she’s ever loved?

Brooke Ross has no regrets about her long-ago decision to put herself and her career as a restaurateur first. But thanks to the ongoing ravages on her business from the pandemic, plus a girlfriend she can’t bring herself to love, Brooke is at a crossroads. Throwing caution to the wind for once, she agrees to an unusual invitation that just might lead her to figuring out what—and who—she really wants.

Ten Days in May is about second chances, about choosing life, and discovering what’s meaningful in turbulent times.

My thoughts…

I’ve been looking forward to Ten Days in May since I first heard about its upcoming release. The possibility of a romance set on Mackinac Island with Tracey Richardson steering the narrative—I knew it would be this Michigander’s jam! And let me tell you, it was!

I enjoyed so many things about this book. The setting is spectacularly well done. Richardson doesn’t miss a thing. Her magnificent descriptions jump off the page, perfectly conveying the beauty and splendor of this magical place. It’s very obvious she’s spent time on the island. Her fondness for it lights up the storytelling and pulls the reader into the narrative, making it a completely enjoyable read.

Though Ten Days in May follows the old tried-and-true romance formula, Richardson does get a little creative with its storyline. She manages to give Cam and Brooke’s romance a fresh angle, something that’s complex as well as powerful. Using a death doula, a dying man and a few exs is the key to it all. Cam, the death doula, and Landon, the dying man, become friends when Cam helps Landon navigate through the whole end-of-life process. As a last wish, Landon requests that Cam meet with his ex-wife on Mackinac Island to inform her of his impending and unfortunate situation. All does not go according to plan and the meeting produces nothing but double-trouble exs times two. A dying man’s simple request takes quite a turn and yields some interesting, if not compelling, twists.

Ten Days in May is a character driven story, one that is dependent on growth and change. It works because Cam and Brooke stand up to the challenge; they change in ways that engage readers’ hearts as well as their minds. That’s largely because Richardson scripts solid developments for these women. She also constructs reliable backstories, one’s that make sense for the characters as well as the story. Readers walk away with a clear understanding of who these women are and where they came from. Their pasts are neatly threaded with their present, providing readers with a full-circle romance that is heartwarming as well as endearing.

Final remarks…

This book is like a delectable piece of Murdock fudge; it hugs your senses with every page. Its writing is pure and sweet, told with such tender insight it will make you pause and appreciate the beautiful of its narrative. There is no doubt about it; Richardson has thrown herself into this one. Ten Days in May is a truly touching romance.

Strengths…

  • Well-developed story arc
  • Insightfully and poignantly written
  • Captivating setting
  • Likable characters
  • Heartwarming romance

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Tracey worked in the daily newspaper business as a journalist for more than 25 years and is now happily retired. She enjoys playing and watching hockey, golfing, and learning the guitar. She spends her free time with her partner Sandra and their two Labrador retrievers on the shores of Georgian Bay in central Ontario.

Tracey has won many awards for her writing. Last Salute (2013) and No Rules of Engagement (2009) were both Lambda Literary award finalists. Side Order of Love (2009) was a Romance Writers of America Rainbow Award of Excellence winner in contemporary romance. 10 Days in May is Tracey’s 14th novel.

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A Perfect Fifth

The details…

  • Title: A Perfect Fifth
  • Author: Jaycie Morrison
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Publication date: September 13, 2022
  • ISBN: 1636791328
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 1301 KB
  • Print length: 295 pages
  • Genre: romance
  • Themes: women loving women, music, homophobia, families of privilege, coming out
  • Tropes: rich girl/poor girl

The blurb from the publisher…

Two divides perfectly into four, not five.

Zara Keller is a survivor turned piano phenomenon living for a big dream. When she’s invited to spend the weekend with four long-time friends outside of London, she has little use for luxurious Fullerhill Manor—but Lady Jillian Stansfield might be a different story.

The obligations thrust on Jillian Stansfield as Lady of the Manor center on home and family. Even her best friends expect her to put aside the desire for a meaningful life and carry on her legacy through marriage and children. Will the arrival of a fifth person be enough to tip the balance of their “gang of four” in her favor?

Zara challenges Jillian to pursue grander plans and stirs something new and profound, compelling Jillian to be true to herself and make the hardest decisions of her life. But when tragedy strikes, saving Jillian may cost Zara the goal of a position at the Royal College of Music, and the chance at love.

Content advisory: This book contains instances of trauma and homophobia.

My thoughts…

It took me a little bit to get into this book as it had quite a few characters and shifting perspectives. However once I did, I was completely taken with Zara and Jillian’s romance. It’s complex and layered, but that’s the appeal. They are strong women with vastly different lifestyles and experiences, yet they have a connection that can not be denied. No matter how hard others try to discourage the romance, it seems the flame between them can not be extinguished. Their desire for one another is too strong. All of the family drama and tangled friendships only help add to this compelling romance.

Though some of the secondary characters were a tad unappealing, I enjoyed both leading ladies very much. Jillian and Zara are interesting, likable characters and they work well in this romance. What makes them stand out is their chemistry; it’s strong, but not forced. The romance could be declared somewhat angsty, but it doesn’t bog the romance down at all. Ultimately, readers are drawn to Zara and Jillian and want them together.

Overall the storytelling in A Perfect Fifth is solid; Morrison is a strong writer. However, her greatest strength in this novel is her elegant and magical use of music. She integrates it into the narrative quite beautifully. Its inclusion gives the story a depth that most music lovers will not be able to resist.

Final remarks…

A Perfect Fifth is a nice book for a lazy day of reading, especially if you like the London scene and music. No doubt Zara and Jillian’s romance will scratch your happily ever after itch.

Strengths…

  • Solidly written
  • Unique storyline
  • Interesting drama among the cast of characters
  • Strong romantic leads
  • Lovely integration of music into the storyline

A peek inside…

“I care for you, Jill. You’ve been on my mind ever since…well, ever since we met. And I’ll never forget the night we spent together. But I won’t live a false life, not even if I’d get to be with you. Nothing and no one is worth sacrificing my real self.” 

Jillian took in the shape of her, thinner than before, it seemed, but still extremely alluring. She thought about what Zara was asking and wondered if she had it in her to be that fearless…

She tried to imagine what it would be like to be in a relationship with Zara. With no other experience in romance, she had nothing to compare. She just knew she’d never been with anyone who made her feel alive like Zara did, both emotionally and physically. Along with their one night of incredible passion, they’d had such wonderfully deep conversations. Zara was such an intent listener. It felt as if they were the only two people in the world when Jillian talked about her plans, her ideas, and her dreams, and she could hear in Zara’s declarations that she believed in them too. She made Jillian feel strong, like she could take on the real world and come out unscathed.

Zara made her laugh without being cruel and made her want to cry when she’d revealed the hardships she’d endured. And the way they’d been with each other [that night] had made her feel all the things that she’d heard in songs and had read about in poems and in the books Constance had loaned her. While she might not know everything about being with Zara, she knew all too well what it was like to be without her. Her world became barren and tiresome, her heart hurting in a seemingly irreparable way.

That thought alone drove her into the kitchen, where she pressed herself lightly against Zara’s back. The little sound Zara made gave her the courage to say what she’d been thinking ever since she’d seen her through the taxi window. “I want to spend time with you again. I want to be with you like we were at Fullerhill that night. I’ll do whatever it takes.” Zara didn’t move away, so Jillian slipped her arms around her, linking her hands under Zara’s breasts. “Please,” she whispered in her ear. “I think about you all the time. My work is suffering, but I can’t bring myself to care. Nothing has been right since…I’ve never missed anyone like I’ve missed—”

Before she could finish, Zara turned in her arms and covered her mouth in a kiss that was almost fierce. After a second of shock, Jillian matched her passion for passion. When she felt Zara’s hands come into her hair, her arms automatically tightened, and her own need to touch Zara everywhere heightened. She ran her hands up Zara’s back, letting loose the want she’d been holding back. Leaning away just enough to get her fingers on the buttons of Zara’s shirt, she barely restrained a cry when Zara’s mouth left hers.

“Okay, yeah,” Zara panted. “I’ve been given second chances in my life, so you get one too. I’m going to trust that you really want this, and we’ll agree that if something isn’t working for either of us, we’ll say so. Okay?”

“Yes, of course,” Jillian answered automatically.

“And there’s one other thing I need to tell you…We’re going to date first.”

Zara took in a deep breath and eased herself a half step back. “Date…first?” Jillian’s brain wasn’t fully reengaged yet.

“Yes.” Zara separated from her completely, and Jillian held back a whimper. “Before we, uh, before we’re intimate again, we’re going to go out in public. Like, have dinner together or go to a movie. The way people do when they’re interested in each other.”

“Oh. I see.” Jillian tried hard to keep the frustration out of her voice.

Zara touched Jillian’s cheek, her voice gentle. “Don’t misunderstand me, Jill. I’m already interested in you. Any time we had together, just the two of us, I never wanted it to end. Not only the sex, but the hikes, the conversations, all of it. And once upon a time, I’d be taking you to bed right now. But…I’m seeing a lot of things differently [now]…That’s why I’m asking you for more, for a real relationship. And why I think it’s best we take some time to make sure this is what you want. What we both want.”

Jillian nodded solemnly before allowing a tiny smile to cross her lips. “You want me to court you, is that it?”

Zara grinned back…“I want us to court each other.”

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Jaycie Morrison recently made the move to Colorado-trading the heat of her lifetime big-city home of Dallas, Texas, for the cool beauty of a small town in the mountains. Her Love and Courage series, Basic Training of the Heart, Heart’s Orders, and Guarding Hearts, is set during World War II, combining her interest in history with her love of the written word. The Found Jar was her first foray into contemporary romance, but definitely not her last. Her latest, A Perfect Fifth, is set in the 1970’s, primarily in London, and features music, wealth, drama, sacrifice and, of course, love. When not writing, Jaycie can be found traveling, experimenting with gluten-free cooking, or pretending to be a rock star.

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The Rules of Forever

The details…

  • Title: The Rules of Forever
  • Author: Nan Campbell
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Publication date: September 13, 2022
  • ISBN: 1636792480
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 1553 KB
  • Print length: 312 pages
  • Genre: contemporary romance
  • Themes: finding true love, learning to trust, family, art, education
  • Tropes: friends with benefits, rich/poor girl

The blurb from the publisher…

Public school teacher Cara Talarico is determined to pay off her student loans by the time she turns thirty-five and has sworn off everything fun to make it happen—including dating. Attending her high school reunion definitely ranks in the not-fun category. The last thing she expects is to reconnect with Lauren Havemayer, her unrequited crush from ten years ago.

Having just returned from Europe, Lauren barely remembers Cara from their school days but can’t deny the sparks flying between them now. It’s too bad Lauren is abstaining from romance—love has caused her nothing but pain, and she doesn’t trust herself or anyone else.

They embark on a cautious friendship with benefits—no feelings allowed. But with their chemistry off the charts no matter how much they try to fight it, feelings are being felt. They both agreed to the rules at the start, but keeping them is more complicated than it seems.

My thoughts…

I really enjoyed this book. The friends with benefits trope can come off a bit contrived at times, but I found this one believable. I bought into The Rules of Forever hook, line and sinker. This is mainly because the characters are so likable. Campbell does a nice job developing both leads. Cara and Lauren are relatable and reliable while remaining interesting and unique. Campbell sketches them with sensitivity, compassion and humor, paying close attention to the kind of details that promote connectivity to the reading audience. Additionally, their chemistry plays out well on the page; it’s authentic and convincing. It comes off as fresh, not forced and contributes greatly to the success of the romance.

Besides well-developed characters, Campbell uses sound literary devices that give readers a romance they can count on but not find overly predictable. She charms readers with her delightful dialogue, entertaining subplots and engaging secondary characters. In addition to that, her use of conflict and sexual tension is masterfully done. Readers quickly become engrossed as well as captivated. The romance flourishes because of it.

Final remarks…

This is another writer whose debut has taken me by surprise; Campbell’s romance shows adeptness and skill. The storytelling flows smoothly across the page and absorbs the reader quickly and completely. This is a solid book. I look forward to reading Campbell’s next tale, which comes out sometime in April of next year.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Well-constructed
  • Well- penned dialogue
  • Well-developed, likable characters
  • Amusing
  • Charming
  • Sweet

A few scenes from The Rules of Forever to wet your whistle…

She dropped her hands from Lauren’s coat and said, “I have a suspicion that my mom and Aunt Deedee might be watching from the window, so let’s bow to each other like martial artists to really confuse them.” 

Lauren complied, her eyes mirthful, and they stood apart and bent at the waist before breaking out in giggles.

“Why are they watching?”

Cara shrugged…“They want to be all up in my business.”

“Family.” Lauren opened her car door, but her eyes lingered on Cara. “Just one of many things to be thankful for.” She got in and touched her fingers to her lips and blew Cara a kiss, and Cara nearly swooned at the sweetness of it.


“…Now what were we talking about before this? Oh yeah, that awesome kiss from this morning.” Cara sighed dramatically. “Amazing.”

“You’re laying it on a bit thick. It was just a kiss.”

“That’s where you’rewrong. It was different. I felt that kiss from the soles of my feet to the tips of my split ends. You managed to make me feel really special this morning even if you weren’t feeling your best.”

Lauren could feel herself blushing and was glad Cara couldn’t see it. “You don’t have split ends. Your hair is very healthy.”


“I want it all: a relationship with a woman that will last forever, someone I can depend on and who depends on me, the proverbial house with the white picket fence and the dog in the yard, a passel of kids to keep us busy.”

“Nice.” Lauren’s smile was brittle.

She might as well know what I’m looking for now [Cara thought]. Lauren might even bail on their friendship without any more prompting than this. “It’s a dream I have. I don’t know how likely it is to come true. And I had always thought that whoever my future forever woman is, she’ll have to be a lot younger than me because even after I’ve paid off my loans, it will be a long time until I’m financially ready to commit to someone. I’ll be way past child-bearing years. She’ll have to be the baby maker of the family unit. Can you see me? Fifty years old and hobbling around after my offspring with a cane in one hand and a tissue in the other.”

In her mind’s eye, Cara could see the home and kids and dog, and the woman beside her was Lauren. They looked so right together in her imagination—in love and happy, supporting each other through life’s ups and downs. She shook her head to rid herself of the image. It wasn’t going to happen.

Lauren had been gazing into her bowl. She looked up, shaking her own head a little. “A tissue?”

“To wipe my imaginary kid’s imaginary snot.”

“Ah,” Lauren said, nodding. She picked up her spoon again.

“Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.”

“Why would imaginary snot make me uncomfortable?” Lauren gave her a half smile. “That sounds lovely, Cara. I hope you get your forever woman and all her accessories. You deserve it.”

“Thanks.” Her forever relationship had always been a comforting, hypothetical, someday, sometime thing. In all her youthful daydreams, she never once thought she might develop feelings for someone who wasn’t driving toward the same life destination as she was, but there it was. All the wishing in the world wouldn’t make Lauren want what Cara did.


Lauren held up her beer so it eclipsed the waning sun behind it, turning it into a molten ingot of fire. “She’s undiluted. She fills me up,makes me feel a little unsteady. Sweet, a little salty, and golden. She nourishes me.” She took a sip and set her glass down with a thump, flicking embarrassed eyes at Preston. “Tell me to shut up already.” 

He slid his glass along the table and clinked Lauren’s with it. “I have to meet this woman. Not many people could make a poet out of you.”

“Yeah, she might secretly love to hear me talk like that, but she’d also be quick to tell me I’m being ridiculous.”

“What does she look like?”

Lauren retrieved her phone and scrolled to the photo of them from before the gala.

“Paloma took that before we went out last week.”

Preston took it from her. “Hot.”

“Yup.” She looked over his shoulder at the image. “Smoking.”

She stared at [the photo], turning pensive. “It’s not going to last.”

“Why not?”

“She wants it all: wife, kids, hers and hers minivans sitting in a suburban driveway somewhere. Your basic happily ever after. I can’t give her that.”

“Do you even want that?”

Lauren sat back and thought about it. She did, she realized. Somewhere in some dead-end chamber of her heart burned the candle of her thwarted desire for a forever love. Her attempts to starve it of oxygen and light hadn’t worked. Dashed relationships and broken hopes had seen the flame gutter and smoke, but it had never gone completely out. That scrappy little light seemed inextinguishable, but locating it amidst all that came after was the hard part. If she allowed herself to even go looking for that candle, she imagined she would find Cara already there, tending its flame. But she had no idea how to get to that place of love and trust and hope anymore, no matter how much she wanted to be consumed by its fire. She stared morosely into her beer, not bothering to answer.

Preston scooted his chair closer. “You can have it if you want it. You’re just not letting yourself.”

This book is available from…

A bit about the author

Nan Campbell grew up on the Jersey Shore, where she first discovered her love of romance novels as a kid, spending her summers at the beach reading stories that were wholly inappropriate for her age. She was, and continues to be, a sucker for a happy ending.

She is a seasoned traveler, having visited many countries across six continents, and hopes to make it to the seventh someday. She hates to cook but loves to practice her cocktail-making skills. She also loves karaoke, which is unfortunate for anyone within range of her singing voice.

Nan and her wife live in New York City, where they struggle to balance their natural homebody tendencies with all the amazing things the city has to offer.

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Purposefully Accidental

The details…

  • Title: Purposefully Accidental
  • Author: G Benson
  • Publication date: September 4, 2022
  • Indie Author and Publisher
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 1500 KB
  • Print length: 519 pages
  • Genre: romance
  • Themes: women loving women, loss and grief, learning to love again, living with ADHD, fighting homophobia and sexism in the workplace,
  • Tropes: Hollywood, celebrity superstar, fake dating, enemies to lovers

The blurb…

An unfortunate accident, an old grudge, and a Sapphic fake romance.

Since A-List actress and Hollywood’s sweetheart Wren Acker came out, not only is she at the top of the acting world; she’s also crush number one for her queer fanbase. Loving life, loving her job, loving her cat—everything is fantastic. Except that lack of any kind of private life.

When a car accident brings her to the ER, the bottom falls out of her world when she realizes that reserved Doctor Taylor, her physician, is Madison Taylor from camp way back when she was a kid. And boy, does Madison still hold a well-earned grudge for how that all ended.

When Madison ends up working on Wren’s set as a medical consultant, suddenly everyone’s assuming they’re a couple. The media loses it, their fanbase grows even further, and the entire thing snowballs.

Every grudge has to be moved on from eventually, right?

My thoughts…

I adore this romance. There are so many lovely things going on inside the pages of this book; Benson just gets so many things right. The characters, the story world, the tropes, the themes, the dialogue—all are finely developed and executed. I’ve enjoyed all of Benson’s work, but Purposefully Accidental is a clear stand out. The writing is definitely some of her best.

Where Benson really shines is character development. Purposefully Accidental is a character driven story and she does a thorough job of letting readers understand who these women are. Madison and Wren aren’t perfect; they have baggage. However, that’s what endears them to the readers. Additionally, readers understand their baggage. Their vulnerabilities have weight and meaning. Readers feel a connection to these ladies and are fully invested in the story because of it. It’s what makes this romance so captivating. Readers want these women to end up together.

Besides having strong character development, this book is thoughtfully and beautifully threaded with captivating themes. Benson knows how to construct the story arc so that they are effectively integrated into the narrative. These themes appropriately and solidly enhance the storytelling. I especially like the way she worked Madison’s ADHD into the storyline. It is done with real sensitivity and insight. Also, her handling of Madison’s grief was tender and heartfelt. Benson masterfully guides readers through some genuine and authentic emotions and the storytelling glows because of it.

Benson has always demonstrated good literary instinct while developing her stories, but I am particularly impressed with this one. She demonstrates patience with Madison and Wren’s story. Purposefully Accidental has some raw and emotionally charged scenes, but Benson uses poise and humility while shaping these ladies’ arcs as well as their romance. She doesn’t rush that first kiss. She builds the intimacy slowly and organically, and the narrative benefits greatly from it. This diligence fosters not only credibility but believability. If readers can believe in it, they can invest in it, and that is something they are eager to do with Madison and Wren’s story.

Final remarks…

This romance has received a lot of positive feedback from readers and reviewers alike. The praise is well deserved; Benson’s Purposefully Accidental is arguably well written and well told. Beware though: it will ruin you for your next second chance/celebrity read. You’ll make comparisons and there will be high bars to hurtle. It’s going to be tough; the next one may fall short.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Well-constructed
  • Likable, well-developed main characters
  • dynamic, immersive story world
  • Engaging, enjoyable romance
  • Has strong read-again potential

An excerpt of Purposefully Accidental

“So, you never watched any of my movies?” 

Madison didn’t know how she did it. How Wren could ask something like that and not come off sounding conceited, but more curious.

“Not a one.”

“I think if we’d been in reversed situations, I wouldn’t have been able to contain my curiosity about the girl I knew from camp being in movies.”

“Ah, but did that girl you knew from camp shove you into the dirt?”

“She did not, no.”

“There you go then,” Madison said, smirking.

“But even if she had…no, sorry, curiosity would have won out.”

“We clearly don’t carry grudges the same way.”

Wren laughed, throwing her hand over her mouth since she’d just taken a bite of some kind of fish they’d been promised would be ‘heavenly.’“But what if I was terrible? You could have gloated to yourself.”

“But see, I’m less about gloating and more about stewing. Case in point: it was twenty-five years later and I was still bitter. I like my grudges.”

“We definitely hold grudges differently…Are you a big grudge-holder?”

“I mean…probably not? To be honest, you fed my grudge holding for such a long time that no one could ever really compare.”

“I was unbeatable?”

“Oh, come on! What happened at camp? And that girl who pushed me being the first girl I—” Madison snapped her mouth shut, heat racing up her arms and back to flood her neck and cheeks. But she was too late. The damage was done.

A wicked, teasing grin was curling up Wren’s face. “I’m sorry? The first girl you what now?”

That grin was growing even wickeder and something about it made Madison’s face heat up even more.

Though that could simply be the sheer mortification she was experiencing.

“Nothing,” she squeaked.

Wren laughed delightedly. “The first girl you ‘nothing?’ Wow, you’re red.”

“Shut up,” Madison said, reaching for her water in the hopes that drinking it would somehow cool her flaming cheeks.

It did not.

Wren took pity on her, resting an elbow on the table, chin in her hand. “You were the first girl I had a crush on too, you know.”

More heat in her cheeks? How was that possible?

“Why do you think I dared you to kiss me then panicked so hard?”

Madison cleared her throat lightly, hoping to regain some of her dignity. “That’s embarrassing for you. I was going to say the first girl I wanted to deck in the face.”

Wren’s grin was like a thousand-watt bulb, Madison’s attempt doing nothing to dim it. “Sure you were.”

Madison rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine. The first girl I had a crush on. But don’t worry, that went away the second my ass hit dirt.”

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

G Benson is an Australian living with her wife and three cats in Spain. Since a young age, she’s put pen to paper, then hand to keyboard. Her foray into terrible angsty poetry as a teen will thankfully stay hidden and, again thankfully, is something she has moved on from. She spends her time travelling when she can, being passionate about queer topics, accidentally rescuing animals, and playing video games. Her other novels include All the Little Moments, Flinging It, Pieces, Who’d Have Thought, The Thing About Tilly, and Dead Lez Walking.

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Catboat Road

The details…

  • Title: Catboat Road
  • Author: Kate Rounds
  • Publisher: Bywater Books
  • Publication date: September 6, 2022
  • Available formats: paperback, ebook
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Genre: general literary fiction
  • Themes: family, parenting, coming of age, adultery, romance, humor, women loving women
  • Tropes: age-gap, forbidden love

The blurb from the publisher…

For Candace “Ace” Ragsdale, Mrs. Forest is an irresistible force of nature: luscious, tantalizing—and maybe not completely out of reach.

The backdrop is the Massachusetts seaside town of Horton, cut off from the world. On the surface, boats sway on their moorings, while below bubbles a primal brew of salt and sea life—much like the Ragsdales, a decidedly modern family whose humor and goodwill skim breezily above an ocean of smoldering emotions.

The Ragsdales aren’t moored to social convention—but they’ve learned to surf the wave of the unfamiliar and make the most of chaos. From Ace’s womanizing-yet-worshipful brother to her elusive-yet-loving parents, we watch this well-meaning family weave its way into a rich tapestry of townspeople, often to comic effect.

Into this infinite chaos careens a rebel grandmother who shows up to help the Ragsdales save the town windmill, whose mysterious energy whips up the coastal disturbances of a changing world. As this spectacle of public conflict and private anguish unfolds, we’re fully on Ace’s side as she pilots the turbulent waters of love, sex, and traditional small-town values.

My thoughts…

Catboat Road has been described as The Graduate meets Catcher in the Rye—only with lesbians. It’s part coming of age and part romantic comedy. It contains captivating, entertaining storytelling that reflects the rich diversity one finds in society today. This is the kind of storytelling that Bywater Books believes in and takes pride in publishing. It’s also why I never hesitate to read anything published by Bywater. They recognize talent and produce rich, original stories that readers can truly enjoy.

Catboat Road is a debut novel for Kate Rounds, but it doesn’t read like one. There is so much to appreciate. Unconventional and daring at times, it pushes boundaries that might make many nervous. Yet, the writing is so sharp and intuitive, one can not turn away. Rounds has fun with this story, and the result is a highly engrossing, comedic tale well-worth picking up.

Even though Rounds has spent her whole career rearranging and scripting words, I found it very surprising that her resume didn’t include a full length novel. Storytelling is certainly her forte and Catboat Road is an impressive effort. This book reads like it’s been penned by an accomplished bestselling novelist. It’s solidly constructed and utilizes a strong, immersive narrative. The characters are original and diverse, driving the story forward purposefully. This is first-rate storytelling, the kind that charms and delights till the very end.

Final remarks…

Catboat Road is an endearing, offbeat tale, one that’s hard to put down. Rounds is a natural born storyteller and I hope to see much more of her work.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Charming, memorable characters
  • Brilliant, unconventional storytelling
  • Subtle, well-placed humor

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Kate Rounds is a veteran journalist whose work includes stints as News Editor and Senior Editor at Ms. Magazine, Executive Editor and speechwriter to the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Editor in Chief of the Hudson Reporter. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Jersey City without a cat.

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Cause & Effect

The details…

  • Title: Cause & Effect
  • Author: Cyan LeBlanc
  • Publisher: Posies & Peacocks
  • Publication date: August 30, 2022
  • ISBN: B0B45X1WXZ
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 490 KB
  • Print length: 292 pages
  • Genre: romance
  • Themes: coming of age, wlw romance, high school friendships, teenage drama

The blurb from the publisher…

A rupture in a once-close friendship An obsession. Is there a chance for recovery?

Luisa had just been released from rehab, and she must now resume her life without her closest companion. However, because of her constant obsession with Natalia, starting over is no longer an option. She doubts that she has the strength to complete the task alone.

Natalia, a self-absorbed pop star, uncovers secrets from the terrible night that severed her friendship with Luisa. She finds out more than she bargained for when she gets her hands on Luisa’s journal, and as a result, she feels compelled to renew their friendship and explore the possibility of something more.

Though CJ’s roommate Luisa was the last person she expected to develop romantic feelings for during her month in mandatory rehab, she finds herself unable to stop thinking about her. As they part ways, CJ expresses the hope that they will continue to develop their friendship into a flourishing romantic relationship once they leave the hospital.

This coming-of-age tale focuses on two young women who are best of friends and are attempting to maintain their bond despite the challenges of love, addiction, and sexual awakening, as well as a love triangle that threatens to pit them against each other.

My thoughts…

Though Cyan LeBlanc is new to the Sapphic romance publishing scene, he has been writing Hannah Montana fan fic since 2008. However, Cause & Effect is his first full-length wlw tale.

LeBlanc jumps right into it with Cause & Effect. There isn’t much backstory; readers are given clues to who the key players are as the story progresses. I quickly picked up a “Hannah Montana” vibe from Natalia, which makes sense since that’s LeBlanc’s jam. Natalia is a regular high school student by day and popstar by night, and just like Hannah Montana, her popstar identity is a big secret to the public at large.

Luisa is a confused and angry teen and Natalia’s best friend. They don’t exactly have a warm and fuzzy relationship, or at least not when readers first meet them. A near-fatal car accident after a New Year’s Eve party their senior year of high school causes a major riff, as well as some life changes for the two. There is a lot of raw emotion and hostility expressed by the two throughout this story; their immaturity often seems to be their worst enemy. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg really. Their biggest problem is that Luisa is insanely jealous of Natalia, a jealousy that’s fueled by her unrequited love of Natalia.

Even though this is a progressive young adult novel, one should be cautioned that the narrative does include several scenes depicting rough sex. Additionally, there is some talk of underage drinking and drug use in the book. Though LeBlanc uses it to heat up the conflict and spur on the plot, some readers might find it unsettling.

All of that aside, LeBlanc seems to understand the mindset of teens; turbulent emotions and teenaged confusion is well-scripted and effectively penned. It seems LeBlanc’s intent for Cause & Effect is for it to be a unique coming of age story, and it’s certainly all of that. I’d describe it as edgy, different and filled with steamy teen angst. If that is something that appeals to you, I suggest giving this debut novel a try.

Final remarks…

If you are looking for something unconventional and like to explore young adult fiction with progressive themes, Cause & Effect might be a good fit for you. The writing is edgy, titillating even, and emotionally charged. Overall, this is a decent debut.

Strengths…

  • Emotionally charged
  • Angsty
  • Steamy
  • Progressive

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

New Sapphic romance writer, Cyan LeBlanc makes his debut with a coming-of-age novella and is embarking on a multi-series universe centering around a group of friends that find themselves embarking on the world of BDSM.

Cyan has been writing since about 2008 in fanfiction where he created stories under the Hannah Montana fandom. He has journeyed into the world of lesfic and is delighted to share upcoming works with women loving women fans.

Originally from California, Cyan currently resides in Houston, Texas where he is a florist by day and Sapphic writer by night. 

Cyan is also a transgendered non-binary, using the he/him pronouns.

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Just a Touch Away

The details…

  • Title: Just a Touch Away
  • Author: Jae
  • Publisher: Ylva Publishing
  • Publication date: August 24, 2022
  • Formats: ebook, paperback
  • Length: 120,000 words (434 pages)
  • Genre: romance
  • Themes: women loving women, pansexuality, aphantasia, cuddle therapy, family conflict
  • Tropes: ice queen, enemies-to-lovers, forced proximity, slow-burn, age-gap, opposites attract

The blurb from the publisher…

An ice queen’s frosty façade is melted by the power of touch…

Hannah Martin has an unusual job: she’s a professional cuddler. While she has a big heart for her clients, she hasn’t found someone special to snuggle up to in her personal life.

Winter Sullivan isn’t looking for love. She’s an aloof workaholic who’s built walls of ice around herself. She would rather drive toothpicks under her fingernails than cuddle, and she certainly doesn’t want to share her space with anyone.

When Winter’s estranged father dies, he leaves her one last surprise: she and Hannah, a perfect stranger, will inherit a building together. But there’s a catch: first, they have to live together for ninety-two days.

Winter is determined to dislike her rival, but soon finds Hannah isn’t what she expected at all. Thanks to a hilarious doormat war, a cuddle dare from Winter’s half sister, and a kiss in the most unusual of places, the frosty fortress around her heart begins to melt. 

Will she be able to accept that love might be just a touch way?

My thoughts…

Just a Touch Away is simply the most lovely romance in every possible way. In fact, it just might be Jae’s best to date, and that’s saying something because all of her stories are quite good!

In her latest one, Jae gives readers a love story that unfolds beautifully and naturally across the page, making the romance ever so inviting. It’s tenderly told, filled with leading ladies that are as complex as they are interesting. They are flawed and vulnerable in ways that melt the heart; readers care about Winter and Hannah and they want them together.

What I appreciate most about this story is her approach to the romance; she does not rush it. She cultivates it with tender care. The result is a beautiful romance that is overflowing with gorgeously expressed emotion and desire. Readers connect with it; they feel it and understand it.

Jae is a top-notch writer and with this latest novel, she once again proves that she’s skilled in the use of literary elements and devices. Just a Touch Away showcases her use of theme beautifully. Aphantasia is probably something most readers aren’t familiar with, but Jae takes advantage of that by gently incorporating it into the story. The romance is richer, full and more dynamic for it. Ultimately, it provides readers with some interesting and enlightening reading. The same can be said of Hannah’s occupation, a professional cuddler. It’s unique and original and without it the story would be less.

Jae hits it out of the park with her use of tropes too. They play into the storytelling quite well and are equally as effective. Slow-burn, ice queen, forced proximity—they all work well in this story, especially forced proximity. Often forced proximity comes off as contrived, but not here. Jae sets it up nicely and readers see it as believable. It most definitely adds dimension to the romance. In fact, this is probably one of the best forced proximity romances I’ve read.

Final remarks…

Just a Touch Away is a winner. I predict Jae will scoop up some awards with this one. If you love her work, you won’t want to miss this one. If you haven’t read her before, then this is a great place to start.

Strengths…

  • Touching and romantic
  • Beautifully written
  • Lovely, diverse characters
  • Insightful and endearing
  • A book that can be enjoyed again and again

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Jae is the author of twenty-three award-winning lesbian romances.

She lives in the sunniest city in Germany, near the French and Swiss borders. The writing bug bit her at the age of eleven.

She used to work as a psychologist but gave up her day job in 2013 to become a full-time writer and a part-time editor. As far as she’s concerned, it’s the best job in the world.

When she’s not writing, she is an avid reader of lesbian books, indulges her ice cream and stationery addictions, and watches way too many crime shows.

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80% Done with Straight Girls

The details…

  • Title: 80% Done with Straight Girls
  • Author: Mari SanGiovanni
  • Publisher: Bywater Books
  • Publication date: July 6, 2022
  • Formats available: ebook, paperback
  • Length: 315 pages
  • Genre: humorous fiction/romantic comedy
  • Themes: family, illness, finding love, letting go, moving on from heartbreak, women loving women, grief, friendship, siblings

The blurb from the publisher…

The third book in Marie Santora’s search for true love finds her big Italian family still serving the up the fun, Italian style: Loud, lusty, and volatile―overflowing with lots of love and laughter.

What’s funny about losing everything you love? Plenty, if you’re a member of the Santora family.

Marie Santora has always suffered from an enormous case of good luck/bad luck when it comes to women, and the past six years have been no exception. When Marie’s love life hits the skids―again―her irrepressible sister Lisa begins to wonder if this is the time that her sister’s loss is too great for even their eccentric Italian family to heal.

To help Marie escape the painful memories, Lisa ditches her gay campground for a family lake house, and Marie vows to be done with straight girls once and for all. But just as the Santora clan descends upon Marie to “help”, a surprise house call changes her good luck to bad luck once again, putting Mari’s willpower to the ultimate test.

The family motto has always been “Either you’re IN, or you’re OUT!” and this newest family crisis means the Santora’s are ALL IN―even though Marie wants them out!

My thoughts…

This book is an absolute delight! It will tickle your funny bone, squeeze your heart and make you smile. Mari SanGiovanni writes from the heart, and she doesn’t hold back. Readers will be talking about this one.

This is the third book in the series, and as always, the characters are brilliant. They are all so well-written. They compliment the storytelling beautifully, bringing it to life in ways that only a good writer can. Though the story is primarily told from Marie’s point of view, this is really an ensemble effort. Each character adds color and texture, making the story more dynamic and strong. The supporting characters help to bring an emotional depth to the narrative; their unique personalities and perspectives make this continuing family fable more relatable and entertaining. Their overstepping antics are fresh and witty, but more importantly they are essential for directing focus to the internal and external conflicts in the story.

What really makes this rom-com other level is that it feels authentic, not contrived. The humor, as well as the pain, isn’t shoehorned into the story. SanGiovanni writes from a place she understands and readers not only feel it, they appreciate it. From page one readers are on a journey with Marie and they gladly climb aboard.

Though it’s probably shelved as a traditional rom-com, I’d categorize it as more of a humorous piece of fiction with a heavy side of love. This third installment of the Santora saga breaks away from the standard romantic comedy script. Yes, the love story is central to the plot; it just contains a sharp bend in the traditional arc. What do I mean by that? Well, the happily ever after is not what you expect. SanGiovanni challenges the conventions of romantic comedy and it’s genius. She adds a HEA twist. It’s unexpected and it works.

Final remarks…

This is every red-blooded Italian’s answer to to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Its culturally rich and dynamic cast sets this one apart from its fellow rom-coms. It’s more than girl meets girl and rides off into the sunset. It’s girl’s family helps girl find love and everybody is content…for awhile, or until the meddling and family drama begins again. This is a well-written book and I highly recommend it.

Strengths…

  • Well-written
  • Likable, dynamic characters
  • Humorous and great fun to read
  • original storytelling
  • Heartfelt and insightful
  • Nice addition to the Santora saga

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Mari SanGiovanni published her first book with Bywater Books after entering a writing contest back in 2007. Her first novel Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer is a romantic comedy that was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award and was re-released for a book club offering. Her second novel, Camptown Ladies, is a sequel to her first novel and was the winner of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award for Best Traditional/Contemporary Romance. 80% Done with Straight Girls is the follow-up to Camptown Ladies.

When Mari is not writing, she is the Divisional Manager of Product Development for a major home retail corporation with global markets across the US, Europe, Australia, and Germany. She also has Facebook and Instagram pages for Artwork By Mari where she works to inspire others to paint, draw, and stay creative.

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The Woman at the Top of the Stairs

The details…

  • Title: The Woman at the Top of the Stairs
  • Author: Jamey Moody
  • An Indie Author Publication
  • Publication date: August 8, 2022
  • Available formats: ebook, paperback
  • File size: 2003 KB
  • Print length: 307 pages
  • Genre: romance
  • Tropes: ex-con, mafia, age-gap
  • Themes: friendship, family, women in business, women loving women, second chances, starting over

The blurb from the publisher…

What would you do for the woman you love?

Dru Rae gave up everything to get away from her mafioso family. She disappeared with hopes they’d never find her. All she wanted was a quiet life with a few friends and the woman she knew in her heart was out there.

Marina Summit was an uber successful realtor in a thriving housing market. She gave someone two dates, if there wasn’t a spark then she moved on. Besides, she was too busy for love.

As a house stager on the first day of her new job, Dru was waiting to meet the realtor for a final walk through.

Marina was set to approve a new listing when she went to check on the house staging. She wasn’t prepared for what happened to her heart when she saw the woman at the top of the stairs.

My thoughts…

This is a fine romance, full of relatable characters and heartfelt drama. Dru and Marina are ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances. They aren’t afraid of life’s challenges, and they’re willing to navigate through the tough stuff to get what they want—and what they want is a chance with each other. The passion jumps off the page, giving readers an intensely emotional read start to finish.

This is my first book by Jamey Moody, and it won’t be my last. The writing is smooth and strong, with tight, well-scripted dialogue. The characters are well-formed and fleshed out. It’s a dynamic ensemble, and readers find them intriguing as well as appealing. What’s more, the narrative is engaging, relatable and charged; it’s sensual while remaining true to the story arc. Readers are left with a passion filled romance meant to satisfy as well as entertain.

Besides being emotionally satisfying, The Woman at the Top of the Stairs is fresh and original. Moody is a clever writer and she’s penned an intriguing story, one that grabs readers by the feels and surprises them with its ending. The storytelling is distinct, yet romantic, stirring a compelling desire on the page. This is a captivating story, to be sure, tenderly told and creatively crafted.

I appreciate much about this story, but what I like best is it isn’t completely predictable. Yes, it’s a romance and readers still get their happy ending; they’re just surprised by the journey. Moody keeps the tension tight and elevates the emotion; readers are immersed into the emotional lives of these ladies. What’s more, their chemistry is steamy—hot really—and it fans the romance ever so nicely. Their sizzle is a whole new level of satisfying sensuality.

Final thoughts…

This is the ultimate escape, one where passion meets second chances and new beginnings. If you like stories about courageous women that use their intellect and talent to overcome life’s challenges, then this one will appeal to you. It’s stirring as well as page turning.

Strengths…

  • Irresistible leading ladies
  • Passionately told
  • A fresh twist on contemporary romance
  • Courageous, yet complicated characters
  • Sizzling and sensual chemistry
  • Strong internal and external conflicts
  • Satisfying ending

This book is available from…

A bit about the author…

Jamey is a small town Texas girl that grew up believing she could do anything. Her mother loved to read, and romance novels were a favorite that she passed on to her daughter. When she found lesfic novels, her world changed. She not only fell in love with the genre but wanted to write her own stories. When she’s not writing her next lesbian romance, she can be found riding her bike, paddle boarding on a lake or in the middle of some adventure.

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