Leaving’s Not the Only Way to Go – Kay Acker

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is an impressive debut for Acker.

Lauren came home to her small town when her Dad’s health took a turn for the worse. Now he’s gone she’s looking at what her next steps should be, including deciding if she wants to stay in her demanding yet unsatisfying job. When demonstrating her company’s latest piece of discouraging software to an architectural firm, she meets Georgia.

Georgia works at the architecture firm designing homes. She has a lot to think about herself. She’s reeling from the unexpected death of her daughter’s father, Georgia’s best friend and work colleague, trying to navigate life as a bisexual autistic woman without his help and the last thing she needs is Lauren and her dreadful software in her life.

I found all three of the main characters (I’m counting Georgia’s daughter Hannah in this because her part in the book is so important) are written really well. You get to know who they are and why they are the way they are, and I thought Acker did a great job of portraying how their pasts impact their decision making and feelings about themselves. I don’t have much experience with autism, but from my limited knowledge I felt the portrayal of Georgia and Hannah was done well and I’m happy to see other reviewers with more experience feel this way. I also found most of the secondary characters to be interesting and well thought out too.

A book full of communication almost feels like a rarity nowadays, but this one has it, until it doesn’t. The gaps in communication do however fit with what we know about the characters, and I felt that this played really well. So whilst I was disappointed to find the 90% angst blow-up, it did at least make sense within the narrative.

As I often say when that 90% blow-up happens – I wanted more of them together. I wanted to see how they all worked together as a family, how Lauren integrated further into Georgia and Hannah’s lives and how Lauren began to feel about herself when she realised she could do anything she wanted with her life.

I’m definitely hoping the success of this one means that another book will be forthcoming for Acker and I’ll be looking out for it.

To be fair, I’m not sure this review does this book justice, but I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for an unusual romance with interesting characters.

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

Table for Two – Kate Gavin

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I’m not sure why I was surprised that I enjoyed this so much, but this is definitely falling into the category of one of my favourite books of the year so far.

Reagan owns a number of restaurants with her best friend. She’s dealing with the terminal illness of her father and is convinced to take a break for a few hours. Whilst getting lunch she finds herself sharing a table with Jillian.

Jillian, or Jill, is an ice queen workaholic, who automatically makes presumptions about Reagan. They both “enjoy the view” over lunch, but don’t leave each other on good terms. They’re thrown back together when Jill ends up planning her stepfathers birthday party and Reagan’s company is hired to do the catering.

Gavin provided the perfect mix of sadness, disappointment, hope, joy and love for me. Whilst Jill and Reagan’s family issues are very different, they have a shared knowing and understanding that makes them great partners for each other.

I loved that Gavin didn’t automatically make Jill less of an ice queen just because Reagan walked into her life one day and I especially enjoyed her character arc because of this. Her enlightening moments are really well done and the internal conflict and understanding she comes to feels very genuine.

Reagan has to take a leap of faith, and I enjoyed the aspects of the storyline where she is attempting to connect with Jill. szadfrerI also liked that Reagan calls Jill out regularly and that it becomes a great part of their relationship.

The parts of the narrative that take place when the MCs are apart from each other really add to the storyline. Reagan’s friends are well written and I love the protective gestures and holding Jill to account that take place. The scenes with Reagan’s mom are really well done, with a kindness and gentleness to them that act in stark contrast to Jill’s family. The way they are articulated ensures that you can understand where Jill has come from and why she is the way she is.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but anyone who has read lots of my reviews knows I’m a sucker for the inclusion of a pet in a book, so the added addition of a number of dogs in the narrative was definitely a positive factor for me, even without the impact they have on the storyline and allowing us to see some things.

I think any sapphic romance fan will enjoy this, especially ice queen fans and would happily recommend this.

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

On The Rocks – Riley Scott

Rating: 3 out of 5.
I read this book a couple of days ago and I still don’t really quite know what to say with regards to reviewing it. It has it’s good moments, but it just didn’t work for me.

A one-night stand to relationship romance, Lennon and Alex meet after Alex comes into town following a break-up. Lennon is also looking for a mindless hook-up following a break-up of her own.

There were aspects of both characters that I found interesting. How Alex is depicted with regards to her art and her career was intriguing to me, but otherwise, I didn’t particularly connect with her as a character. I connected more with Lennon, and I liked her personal growth through the story.

Scott is clearly an experienced, talented writer, and whilst I haven’t read any of her previous work I was excited to read this. However, I’m not a big fan of reading about alcohol, and it’s something that’s very prevalent in the narrative here. I’ve read novels previously about bar owners and the like that haven’t contained as much detail about drinking as this one did so I was caught a little unawares. I would say however that as this is such a personal thing about why I couldn’t enjoy this more – others may feel very differently about the book.

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

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.

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.