Lawless – Jenna Rae

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This was a well written interesting book, full of uncomfortable topics that’s hard to describe as enjoyable because of those topics, but was nonetheless a good read.

I have to admit I think I must have misread the blurb for this – I was convinced a romance was going to be appearing somewhere in the narrative, but it didn’t. I wasn’t actually disappointed in that fact, as it would have been really strange, but this is a straight up mystery.

Kate is undercover in the town of Lawless. She used to be a desk based analyst but she wanted to do something different, get ahead in her career. She thinks she’s trying to infiltrate a drug ring, but her handler hasn’t necessarily been all that clear, she just knows she’s living in a trailer park, pretending to be straight and trying to find a way to become friends with the drug dealers girlfriend.

As Kate finds the “in”, we find out more about her as she interweaves elements of her own life with the back story she’s using as her cover up. It’s a clever way of getting to know both sides of Kate and one that serves itself well as well the paranoia of being undercover creeping in, alongside the self-doubt.

As is the way with these kinds of topics, they become intertwined with lots of others, and there is much discussion of many unsavoury topics. I found myself a little confused at times with the many characters and how they all fit into things, especially towards the end. Whilst this does essentially help in aiding the mystery element I guess, it’s one of the things stopping it from being a five star book for me, as I needed just a little more help in mapping out how they all fit together and how Kate came to her conclusions.

The other main characters in the book are written really well, providing great narrative foils for Kate and showing the realities of drugs etc. on life in small towns. It’s a really relevant book for today’s society, and not one I’ve encountered in this way in sapphic books before, so if you’re into mystery and or crime books, I’d definitely encourage you to give this one a go.

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

A Big Straight Wedding – Sienna Waters

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This might be my favourite Waters book so far. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the storyline from the blurb, but I trusted that it Waters would get it right and I’m happy to say she did. I haven’t read a book in one sitting for weeks – a relatively normal occurrence for me – but I couldn’t put this down today.

Nic lives with her best friend George. They’re both gay, don’t have a lot of money and spend the majority of their time either partying or working to make ends meet. When Nic finds out that George’s wealthy family actually has a trust fund set aside for him – on the condition that he marries a woman, she suggests a marriage of convenience for the two of them so he can get the money she feels should be rightfully his.

When it comes time to choose a wedding planner – they meet Klara, owner of a small but growing wedding planning business, who is surprised to be asked to bid for such a large society wedding, but desperately needs the work to keep her business afloat.

The problem for all of them is that the attraction between Nic and Klara is unmistakable. They all have something to lose in this arrangement and I love how Waters uses this to create the tension and some laughs throughout the book.

All of the best friends are fun, including George. They all have a reason to be there and their characterisations ring true in how they fit with Klara and Nic. Their side stories whilst brief are also nice to read. I liked both Nic and Klara as characters and the opposites attract element worked really well.

The book is well paced, especially as it’s for the most part only a month long. Somehow Waters manages to keep the urgency of the need for the wedding, whilst conveying that the burgeoning relationship isn’t moving along screamingly fast.

I especially liked that the ending and the epilogue didn’t suddenly change who the characters are, the narrative stays true to how the characters would have behaved and has a really good ending because of it. I’d love some kind of follow up to see where they all are in a few years.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Breaking Out – Lise MacTague

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
This was my first time reading MacTague and I have to say I really loved this book. It was the perfect mix of sport and romance for my tastes, and with the intricacies of both main characters it just made for the perfect read.

KJ loves hockey. It’s her sanity. She considers herself lucky that her hometown has a rink and a women’s team. She’s the best player on the team and loves joining up with her defensive line-mate in pursuit of winning her team a championship. There’s only one problem – her line-mate is pregnant.

Adrienne has moved into town to work as the school counsellor. She’s recently divorced and just looking for stability for herself and her son, Lawrence. She agrees to join the team reluctantly, especially when she and KJ don’t exactly hit it off.

This isn’t a full blown enemies to lovers, but it’s definitely reluctant acquaintances to lovers. It’s also a great slow burn as they get to know each other first on the ice, then as friends before admitting their attraction to each other.

I particularly enjoyed the slow burn of the romance and the way both characters grew through the narrative, both together and as individuals. KJ coming to terms with her family situation is particularly well done.

Lawrence is a great character. I love the way his relationship develops with KJ, first as a friend and then as his Mom’s girlfriend. As to be expected, that’s a hard transition for him, but I thought MacTague did a great job of illustrating this and the disappointment all parties feel, and then the joy. I also love his relationship with KJ’s dog Chester.

The other secondary characters play their parts. The rest of the hockey team are fun, KJ’s family are difficult but redeemed and Adrienne’s family are pretty great.

If you like sports in your sapphic books, you’ll love this, but even if you aren’t a sports fan and like a good romance you should enjoy this one as it has so much going for it. There is some on ice action, but it doesn’t take up too much of the book and it’s more used to discuss their relationship and feelings, than for the actual action itself.

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

Lead Me Home – Shannon O’Brien

Rating: 4 out of 5.
3.75 stars. This is a very sweet romance set in a College environment.

Rose has worked at Jones University ever since she graduated. She’s the cafe manager, enjoying her role, especially working with the students in her employment, but perhaps missing something she can never quite manage to put her finger on.

Allison is a new professor to the University, chairing a new department – landscape studies. She needs to convince studies to major in her area whilst dealing with moving to a new area and being a department chair for the first time.

They hit it off quickly through their interactions at the cafe and the main narrative of the storyline is them getting to know each other and their friendship blossoming into a relationship. There are a few twists and turns along the way that keep things interesting and I really liked the two of them together.

I enjoyed the descriptions of landscape studies and its relevance to things in life that I definitely hadn’t ever considered before.

The humour added to the narrative through the students and the situations at the Cafe added some enjoyment to the book for me, and I appreciated the diversity of the students, even with it being a women’s college.

I hadn’t read O’Brien before but I’m definitely inclined to read her other book set in the same universe as this one. If you’re a contemporary romance fan you should enjoy this one. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is an enjoyable way to pass the time.

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

Closeness – Y.L. Wigman

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
3.25 stars. This book is a little bit different. I found it to be an interesting read but I probably wouldn’t revisit it. If you like a mix of contemporary and historical romance you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

Set in Australia Duscha inherits a home from her estranged father unexpectedly. She’s mourning the death of her partner and the house gives her the opportunity to go back to Canberra. The house is old and needs a lot of work, which inspires her to hire a gardener.

Honor owns her own gardening/landscaping company. Her partner Merrin is the firms accountant after Honor gives her the responsibility when Merrin experiences health difficulties. Honor is called to Duscha’s to give a quote for the gardening work, when they realise they have a connection from their pasts neither expected to encounter again.

The narrative is interspersed with historical information as to how Duscha came to inherit the house. Some of this is done through her discoveries, others are done through historical flashbacks. Whilst I enjoyed the short stories that were told, I found it jarring at times to be pulled from one timeline to another. There’s also a subterfuge plot line for Honor.

I appreciated how their discovering each other again as contractor/contractee and then friends is built into the narrative. It does provide a little bit of angst, but I’m happy to say there’s no crazy conflict and the majority of the angst in the book is provided by their feelings about their situation and the things going on around them.

I liked the relationship Honor had with her father, which grew on me after initially feeling quite differently differently about it, and Duscha’s relationship with her mother. The couple of friendships interspersed in the storyline also helped with understanding both characters.

There were a couple of small bits that weren’t revisited to the full extent I would have liked but I can understand why they perhaps won’t in the overall narrative. However there was something about the book that left me with a sense of it being unfinished. It’s possible it’s because it crams in a lot in a relatively short word count.

All in all I think this book has elements people will enjoy, with a good narrative, interesting setting and elements of mystery, paranormal, romance and family conflict.

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