Flinging It – G. Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is a beautifully written book about a divisive topic – infidelity. Benson approaches the topic from a character-driven point of view, giving us the opportunity to get inside the main character’s thoughts and feelings, giving us the ability to understand even if we might not necessarily agree were we to encounter the same situation in real life.

Both Frazer and Cora are heads of department at a hospital in Perth, Australia. Frazer heads up the midwifery department and has been fighting to introduce a new programme for high-risk patients, to improve their lives in the lead up to the birth of their babies and put them in good stead afterwards as people. As you’d expect that comes with budgetary fights and it’s suggested that she gets Cora’s support for the project as she’s head of the social work department.

Frazer buries herself in her work. She’s had a bad break-up and isn’t looking for anything serious despite her friend’s attempts at convincing her otherwise. Cora is married and is in the process of discovering she’s in an emotionally abusive marriage. As they begin to work together they discover they have an attraction to each other that neither was expecting, especially Cora who has never been attracted to a woman before. The affair is complicated by the fact that Cora is married to Frazer’s boss.

Neither are proud of their relationship, but recognise the power it has over them. Whilst I didn’t always agree with how they went about things, I was so absorbed in the writing and pacing of the book I was drawn to keep turning the page to find out what happened next.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I really appreciated how once they are found out their affair changed and forced both of them to look at life differently. I also appreciated that those that found out didn’t only provide judgement, they provided support and friendship too.

I liked the ending for the two of them. It felt authentic and focussed on themselves first, which I think must be harder to express and write successfully.

I love how Benson always includes a veritable array of characters who identify as LGBTQ+ as side characters in the narrative and this book is no different in that regard. Frazer’s friendship group and their insistence on setting her up provided some much-needed light-heartedness at times. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Frazer’s sister, especially when she has her own big reveal.

I felt that Benson’s depiction of one of the high-risk patients, Jack, a pregnant trans man, was done in a sensitive, engaging way that would encourage lots of people to think differently about someone facing this situation (or to think about it for the first time perhaps).

I’d definitely encourage romance fans and fans of character-driven books to give this a try.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Spirit of the Law – Carsen Taite

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I have to say this wasn’t what I was expecting when I started reading, it’s certainly a lighter read than I’m used to from Taite (though I am still working my way through her back catalogue so it could just be me). I also wasn’t expecting the elements of the paranormal that the narrative includes, though whilst they surprised me, I did in fact enjoy them.

We meet Summer on her first day of jury duty. She ends up being voted as the foreperson on a case where Owen is the DA. Owen doesn’t lose cases, in fact she has a perfect record. When the jury convenes to decide the verdict, Summer finds herself with influence she didn’t want and an understanding and outlook to the case that leads to her peers breaking Owen’s perfect run.

Owen is working on a larger case with bigger implications and when Summer has a vision involving the case, Owen’s boss forces them together. Owen is sceptical as to what Summer can provide to her case, but it’s fun reading them battle and work through the case together.

I loved all of the characters in this one, including the friendship Owen starts to develop with Summer’s family. I really started to believe that she would fit in with them by the end of the book.

The biggest drawback to this book for me was that it ended too early. I liked the ending, but it felt rushed. I like it when I get to see the characters together for a while before the book ends. I would definitely love a second part of this to see them continuing to work together and how their relationship develops.

Taite fans won’t be disappointed with this. I would definitely recommend this to romance fans and those that like their romance to include lawyers and a little bit of mystery. Due to the slight paranormal elements I think paranormal romance fans would also enjoy this even if they don’t normally read Taite.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Detour to Love – Amanda Radley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This was my first Radley and I’m happy to say it won’t be the last. This was a sweet easy-read romance, with an age-gap, an ice queen type character, and settings in more than one country, ensuring that things are kept interesting.

Lily is an artist traveling to Tokyo to meet the person she hopes will become her girlfriend for the first time. On the plane she meets Celia, an insurance executive on her way to Tokyo to accept an award. Lily is excited about her adventure, Celia would rather be anywhere but there.

I don’t want to give away too much about why Celia feels the way she does about herself and her career, but I really appreciated how Radley incorporated different sides to Celia, and how her friendship/relationship with Lily encourages her to see other sides to the situation.

Whilst it only forms a small part of the book I really enjoyed Celia’s time with her brother and the contrasts/similarities between the two.

I enjoyed how Radley played the conflict between Celia and Lily out throughout the book, rather than focussing on one big particular blow-up. The continued conflict and then points of understanding between the two makes the development of the trust between the two more natural and a nice read. The character development of both is strong, both individually and together.

The storyline has interesting plot points to keep you reading but is at its heart a romance between two people who on the surface are opposites and I think all romance fans would enjoy this one.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Last Time We Met – Maggie Brown and Leni Hanson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This is sort of a second chance romance, I’m not sure you can call it a full-on second chance when the characters don’t really get together the first time they meet, but they do have some history so I’ll classify it that way for ease.

Merritt is the daughter of a US senator. She works for Doctors Without Borders in the trauma team, visiting some of the worst tragedies to provide emergency medical care.

Austen is an Australian rock star. She has a reputation for bedding whomever she wants whenever she wants.

The two first meet when Merritt is in College. They meet when Merritt goes to a signing for Austen and Merritt is one of those that catches Austen’s eye. They have a nice night together but for reasons I won’t get into it, it doesn’t go any further than that. This forms a brief flashback in the book, but it’s the only one, so those that aren’t flashback fans don’t need to worry.

The two meet again in Australia. Austen has returned home for a vacation, but not before she performs an important show for some diplomats. Merritt has decided to vacation in Australia after a particularly difficult spell at work, as her parents are in Australia for her fathers work.

I liked how the authors approached the two meeting again and especially liked how they interwove both MCs friends and acquaintances into this part of the book. The side characters are interesting and provide a little bit of will they, won’t they intrigue, as well as allowing us to get to know the MCs better away from each other. It also serves to help build up chemistry between the two again – something we don’t always see in second chance romances.

I liked the Doctors Without Borders aspects to the storyline. I liked that Merritt was open about how her assignments had made her feel and that she dealt with them in a communicative manner.

There’s a couple of twists in the last quarter of the book that I actually really enjoyed.

I can’t comment as to how the authors styles have combined as this is my first time reading either author, but I wasn’t able to identify any clashing styles or weird jumps on the page, so I’d say they were successful.

All in all this was an interesting read that I think wlw romance fans will enjoy.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Coming Out Stories – Edited by Emma Goswell and Sam Walker

Rating: 4 out of 5.
A little disclaimer – I haven’t had the opportunity to finish all of the stories in this book, but it’s actually one of the beauties of the book – it doesn’t need to be read from start to finish, you can read as much or as little as you want to in one sitting and it doesn’t diminish the effect.

I have to say I wish this book had existed at all the points of my life when I was thinking about coming out. The stories aren’t all positive to start with, but the ones I’ve read so far do demonstrate that no matter what happens in the initial moment, things do get better. They might not look how we hoped but it will be okay.

I liked the acknowledgement by one of the editors that as LGBTQ+ people, we never actually stop coming out, it isn’t just that one big moment and it’s all over and done with, it happens on a semi-regular basis, in the little things and situations we often encounter. There’s also an acknowledgement that life changes, just because we come out as one thing doesn’t mean we won’t change as people in the future.

I particularly think this book would be of benefit to parents and other allies of LGBTQ+ people, who may benefit from the insights in these stories.

Somehow I’ve never come across the phrase ‘logical family’ (an Armistead Maupin phrase) before, I’ve always used ‘chosen family’, but I find I quite like it, so that’s another small takeaway for me too.

I’ll definitely finish this over the next few weeks.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.