Standby Counsel – Alexi Venice

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
3.5 stars.

The second part in the Monica Spade series, Monica is just settling in after having started her own law practice with her other colleagues who also escaped the misogynistic, homophobic practice they were previously at.

Monica doesn’t specialises in criminal law, yet she finds herself requested by the court to act as standby counsel for Stela – a female student at the local university who has been arrested for murdering her boyfriend.

I enjoyed the premise of the book. I’m a fan of queer law/crime based books and wasn’t previously aware of the concept of a standby counsel, so I found this refreshing. The interactions Monica has with Stela are both strangely amusing and kind of creepy, adding another dimension to the book.

The case isn’t straightforward and brings unexpected elements into Monica’s life, including some stalking and some of the acronym based law enforcement agencies. These inclusions were done well, stoking but not over-exaggerating conspiracy theories.

One of my frustrations with the book was the length. There were times where things could have been shortened as they repeated things that had previously happened. For instance this happens when counsellors are undertaking their closing arguments. I found myself skimming over these sections.

Monica’s interactions with non-crime related characters were a little hit and miss. Her relationships with her colleagues are well written. There was a bit of a jealously sub plot with her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s ex that left me feeling a little strange about the HEA.

I’d definitely be interested in a third part to this series if it happens and would recommend anyone who likes some queer romance and lawyers combined to give this series a go.

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

Journey to Cash – Ashley Bartlett

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Great ending to a great series. I read this whole series in week or so, so whilst this is a review of the final book, it’s also of the series as a whole (so there may be some spoilers prior instalments). I’m considering this a five star book due to it being the closing part and how I feel about the series, but from a writing point of view I preferred Cash and the Sorority Girl slightly.

There isn’t really anything else like this out there in queer fiction at the moment that I’m aware of and I love how much it stands out. It hit me whilst I was reading the third book in the series – Cash and the Sorority Girl – that one of the reasons I love this series so much is its inherent queerness. The discussions of the patriarchy and heteronormativity in an everyday manner and how it flows through the whole series are fantastic.

The narrative of this final part neatly closes up the issues Cash is facing due to her drug dealing past and her former supplier Henry who previously tried to kill her and her ex-girlfriend Laurel. The situation throws them both back together to work with law enforcement to both hide from and find Henry.

All of the characters are great, Cash and her sarcasm, knowledge, values and the way she lives her life are obviously the thing everything revolves around, but the other characters are well written and bring out all of the sides of Cash.

Laurel as an ex-cop has a lot to work through and convince Cash of in this book after she walked away to find herself. The romance between Laurel and Cash isn’t the most important part of the book to me, but it is a huge part of the narrative. The power dynamics, the second/third chance to make it work and both of their reluctance to address their own emotional feelings make for compelling exchanges and portrayal.

I really enjoy the roommate relationship that Cash has with Lane. Her being Laurel’s sister adds a dimension to it, but at its heart this relationship shows Cash at her best, just as her relationship with Andy as a teenager does too. Andy’s teenage moral beliefs are very black and white and I love how Cash responds to this and how Andy has grown throughout the series.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention Nickels the cat, who has her own unique personality and provides some amusement.

I highly recommend this series – it stands out in wlw fiction, but it’s important to begin at the beginning with Cash Braddock. Despite the hard topics the whole series is easy to read, and all of the books are page turners. This was my 300th book this year and it was the perfect book to end the year on.

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

A Matter of Blood – Catherine Maiorisi

Rating: 4 out of 5.
In anticipation of part 3 in this series coming out in January I wanted to read this series as it seemed like it would be right in my wheelhouse and I’m really happy to say it is.

When I first started reading I thought I’d started the wrong book, and that I was actually reading the second one, because you’re dropped into a storyline that feels like the middle of something, but once it gets going it all starts to make sense and whether intentional or not really gives you the same discombobulated feeling the main character – Chiara Corelli – would have been feeling at the same point.

Corelli is a Detective for the NYPD, but has also served in the Army. When she came back from her latest tour in Afghanistan training Afghani policemen, she was asked to undertake an undercover operation to route out cops in the NYPD who were ‘on the take’. Her actions and discoveries have left her extremely unpopular with the rest of the force, with her facing the ‘blue wall’, and it is at this point we meet her.

Newly promoted Detective P.J. Parker is asked to be Corelli’s bodyguard. She has her own history with the force, with her father being a senator. She has to decide whether to team up with the most hated person on the force.

This is an interesting murder mystery, with a victim that inspires many emotions. The long list of suspects keeps things interesting and gives a lot of opportunities to learn about both Corelli and Parker. The family dynamics of both MCs and the victim are also really interesting.

I really enjoyed this book. Maiorsisi doesn’t try to pretend law enforcement is perfect and she certainly hasn’t written Corelli as the perfect character that can do no wrong. I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes this kind of thing.

Canopy – Liz Faraim

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This one is a hard one to review – I couldn’t put it down, I read it one setting. It’s very well written, especially for a debut author. The subject matter is dealt with sensitively. It’s just over a four star book for me. Yet it’s hard for me to say I enjoyed it. It’s a tough read and perhaps that’s it for me, I appreciated rather than enjoyed, but it didn’t take anything away from the book – I’m fact I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

Viv is ex-army, studying at College and making a living bar tendering. Whilst she’s not completely estranged from her family she is very much a loner – her friendship with another vet Jared being her anchor in a storm. She struggles with PTSD.

She meets Angela, a cop, a vet from the Navy and they begin a complicated relationship, with elements of polyamory.

Viv stumbles on something criminal that brings a lot of issues into her life and shakes things up in ways she’d never have expected.

The topics of abuse from the past, relationship ethics, PTSD, intermittent violence, sex trafficking and some homophobia all mean this isn’t a light read, yet there is something about the way Viv is written that just keeps you reading, wanting to know where this is going to go.

The romance between Viv and Ang isn’t the headline for this book. Viv’s life in general, her friendships and her making her way through life are very much front and centre.

Despite the somewhat darker tone of the book and therefore my review, I’d encourage you to give this a go – just don’t expect an easy light hearted read, or a neatly tied up ending.

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

One More Chance – Ali Vali

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s over a 3.5 star but not quite a four. It’s really hard to say you enjoyed something with such serious and difficult topics as domestic violence and homophobia. So I think it’s more appropriate to say I appreciated the writing.

The MCs are Harry and Desi – childhood lovers who met in third grade but due to life circumstances we no longer able to be together after high school. Harry becomes a well respected orthopaedic surgeon and happens to be in the ER the day Desi is brought into the ER after her husband makes an attempt on her life – throwing them together again in ways neither had hoped or expected.

I liked both MCs. Desi was written well to illustrate the feelings people in this situation feel (I have no experience in this situation, so I can only presume sensitivity readers were used to ensure this was accurate). Harry is definitely a character written in the ‘hero’ mould.

Once they are thrown back together a relationship does come around quickly which I struggled with slightly but could also understand. I’ve previously enjoyed books where characters have got back together after break-ups but I have tended to prefer ones where that’s a slower burn so this was a bit different for me.

I liked the secondary characters around the MCs – and even the horrible secondary characters had a purpose to the storyline. The inclusion of Serena, Rachel, Mona and Tony ensures that we see the MCs from different points of view and ensures that we get the opportunities to move away from the violence where possible.

The book comes with many warnings from my point of view, it definitely will not be for everybody, but it is definitely a well written book and from that point of view I can recommend it. I would be interested in a second part of the story.

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