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50-book challenge III

June 17, 2010

#21 – Megan Carter – Passionate Kisses

Sara Stockton, Taylor Jenkins, and James Edwards have been best friends since pre-school. Their strong bond earned them the nickname of the Three Musketeers.

When Taylor turned fourteen and announced she was gay, James and Sara stood by her. When James and Sara began dating, Taylor hid her love for Sara and moved on with her life.

Now, fourteen years later, Sara and James are about to be married and Taylor is trying to deal with the upcoming wedding by rushing into a new relationship.

As Sara and James begin to face the truth about their relationship, Sara begins to realize who her love interest really is.

Will Sara and Taylor hide their feelings for each other to protect their friendship or will they realize they can’t run from love?

To tell the truth, I struggled to finish this one and skipped over some parts. We get to spend too little time with Taylor, so the relationship development wasn’t very deep.

#22 – Georgia Beers – Starting From Scratch

What happens when your life takes an unexpected turn?

What happens when you need to protect the one you love from the one you want to love?

What happens when you lose something you never knew you wanted?

Georgia Beers is probably one of the most successful writers of contemporary lesbian fiction. The writing in Starting From Scratch is good, and it’s a solid novel, but for some reason, I thought it was missing a certain “spark” to keep me captivated. For me, the novel had too little conflict and suspense. Maybe that’s just me.

But what I really liked about this book is that it portrayed complex and realistic relationships between the main characters and minor characters. Avery’s grandmother, for example, is not the (stereo-)typical grandmother. She’s not the “huggy” type, and she’s not all-accepting about her granddaughter’s sexual orientation, but she loves Avery.

#23 – Blayne Cooper – Stranded

Rachel Michaels is at the top of her profession, but she’s grown tired of trading barbs with her co-host/ex-husband on their popular morning radio talk show. Eager to stretch her wings, she takes a second job as the color commentator for Denver’s new professional women’s soccer team.

Along with her new job comes an exciting assignment, travel to Venezuela to profile the team’s sizzling star recruit, Miranda Gutierrez. But Rachel begins to long for a little of her old routine when her boss forces her to extend her stay to accompany team big-wig, Nora Butler, and the headstrong player on a “bonding” adventure.

Their journey gets off to a bad start, and things go downhill from there. All three women are tested mentally and physically as they fight for their lives. They must learn to depend on each other, shape their own destinies, and, ultimately, risk everything for what matters most.

What would you do to survive? How much would you risk for love?

I haven’t read a book like this before — it’s almost like the lesbian version of “chick lit.” It’s refreshingly different and an entertaining read. The story has witty dialogue and a strong adventure plot. The ending felt a bit rushed in comparison to the rest of the book, but it’s still a very good read.

This one just won a GCLS award in the category traditional contemporary romance, by the way, and I think it’s well-deserved.

#24 – Frankie J. Jones – Whispers in the Wind

Athletic photographer Dixon Hayes thinks she and her best friend, high school teacher Elizabeth Colter, would make the perfect couple. There’s just one little problem– Elizabeth is only interested sharing a friendship and nothing more.

When events occur on a hiking trip that changes the course of their lives forever, will Dixon be able to find the happiness that she’s wishing for… with or without Elizabeth…

The book tries to do and to be a lot of different things at the same time — time travel, romance, historical fiction… It didn’t really work for me. We meet the love interest relatively late in the story, so there was no time for relationship development.

#25 – Ronica Black – Wild Abandon

Doctor Chandler Brogan’s favorite things start with the letter S: Speed, Sex, and as she soon discovers when a cop pulls her over on her motorcycle for reckless driving—Sarah.

Chandler is a clinical psychologist who focuses on sexual dysfunction, but her professional expertise has never made her personal life any easier. She spends more and more time searching for the ultimate connection, and when she fails, she escapes on her bike. Officer Sarah Monroe enjoys being in control, so much so that she can’t let down her guard enough to achieve the intimacy she secretly craves.

From their first tumultuous meeting, the two women are drawn together in a battle of wills and a fiery sexual dance that neither can turn away from.

Lots of sex scenes, but the plot couldn’t really keep me interested. Also, one of the main characters is a psychologist, and she offers to counsel the woman she slept with. She didn’t quite cross the line, but it was too close for me.

#26 – Val Brown – In the Works

Civil Engineer Anne Schneider and her business partner, Patrick Ford, are struggling to make their new business enterprise, Clearly Perfect Water Systems, successful. They land a contract for a major project involving tainted wastewater from the Big Tree Paper Plant near the tiny town of Wood Mill, southeast of San Francisco. The job requires Anne to be on site for six months, under the watchful eye Adehm Trent, from the plant’s headquarters office in Detroit. Anne takes on the job, despite the fact that it takes her away from her parents in Albuquerque. Her mother’s health is failing badly, and her father relies on Anne to help with her care. Confident she can handle both her personal and her professional responsibilities, Anne heads to Wood Mill, ready to prove to Mr. Trent that Clearly Perfect Water Systems is equal to the task at hand.

One tiny problem… Mister Trent is really Ms. Trent, and not only that, but she’s drop-dead gorgeous, to boot, not to mention a demanding employer. Anne and Adehm find their way to workable relationships, both as colleagues and as something much more satisfying-until Anne’s mother’s condition deteriorates, forcing Anne to choose between fulfilling her obligations to Adehm and Big Tree and returning to Albuquerque to help her parents. In the aftermath of Anne’s choice, Adehm must face old demons that have haunted her for years. Like Anne, she too must decide what really matters in her life. Everything was going so well, but now both Anne and Adehm have to contend with serious derailments of their plans. What will happen to their goals and dreams that were In the Works?

It was fun to read about a German character, and the author got the German sentences right with one small exception. The beginning is relatively slow and I was tempted to skip ahead. Otherwise, a solid read.

I really had to laugh about the name of Anne’s hamsters: she named them Helmut and Angela — probably after Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel. 🙂

#27 – Tracey Richardson – No Rules of Engagement

With wounded soldiers all around her, Major Logan Sharp doesn’t have time to pamper some photographer from stateside. What spare energy she does have goes to worrying what she’ll do when she ships home from Afghanistan. Home–for Logan, the word means nothing. But photographer Jillian Knight is not what she expects, and certainly not what she needs complicating her last tour. Leaving her partner and daughter at home, Jillian Knight is on assignment in Kandahar to record the heroic work of medical units in war zones. She knows it’ll be rough, but Logan Sharp’s dedication and competence is reassuring. Jillian finds herself looking forward to her encounters with the intriguing military doctor, understand that by-the-rules demeanor is a must for surviving in a land where life is cheap.

Under the pressures of danger and conflict, the intense feelings of comrades threaten to overwhelm their good sense, but they follow the rules. After a single heart-stopping kiss, they do the only thing they must–say goodbye. Keeping in touch is not part of the plan,but when their paths cross unexpectedly more than a year later,abiding by the rules is suddenly much harder than they ever expected.

A satisfying read with interesting characters in an interesting setting. The two characters establish a connection that goes deeper than just lust/love at first sight.

#28 – Jane Frances – Training Days

For many, traversing the Australian continent on a long-distance train would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. But for Morgan Silverstone, who travels the globe as anchor presenter for a prime-time Australian travel show, it’s just another few days at the office. Or at least that’s how it seems until she meets Marie, a French backpacker bound for the outback.

Closeted for the sake of her job, Morgan usually restricts her amorous activities for outside Australia. Marie, however, proves hard to resist, especially in the confined space of Morgan’s sleeper compartment.

Will a few hours of unbridled passion be Morgan’s professional undoing? Kitty, Morgan’s long-suffering producer, certainly thinks so, especially since the encounter was overheard by a fellow passenger, found standing outside Morgan’s door…

After Kitty’s quickly arranged ‘damage control’ dinner, the passenger–Ally–no longer appears to be a threat. Not professionally. But could the very appealing architect end up undoing Morgan emotionally? After all, she does have two very unfortunate qualities–one, she’s Australian, and two…she prefers men.

The beginning drags a little, but otherwise pretty solid.

#29 – Meghan O’Brien – Battle Scars star

Returning Iraq war veteran Ray McKenna struggles with battle scars that can only be healed by love.

Ray McKenna returns from the war in Iraq to find that she had attained unwanted celebrity status back home. As the only surviving American soldier of a well-publicized hostage crisis, she is the center of attention at a time when all she wants is solitude. Struggling to overcome the fear and anxiety that plague her, she relies on her psychiatric therapy dog Jagger to help her through the vicious symptoms of PTSD.

Veterinarian Dr. Carly Warner hasn’t yet figured out how to open her heart to the possibility of falling in love again after the death of her longtime partner. When Ray McKenna walks into the North Coast Veterinary Clinic with Jagger, she and Carly begin a friendship that takes them both by surprise. Brought together by their shared love of dogs, Ray and Carly discover that they are both capable of moving forward, if only they are brave enough to try

So far, the best read of the year. The relationship is developed at a nice pace, and the author described Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in a realistic way. And finally, there’s a psychologist in the story who isn’t a jerk, unethical, or incompetent.

I would have loved it if the book were a little longer.

#30 – Karin Kallmaker – Warming Trend

Anidyr Bycall is frozen in her past, regretting words never spoken to the woman she loves and the one impulsive act that cost her all her dreams. Running from the courts of public and academic opinion in Fairbanks, she has landed in Key West. The nights are hot but she is colder than the glaciers she once explored.

Tending bar by night, she spends her days immersed in the research of her only remaining passion in life: the ice fields of Alaska. But trends may be improving when news from home hints that those she harmed may have moved on, and she can at least recover the papers and books she left behind. The respect and affection she once saw in Eve Cambra’s eyes is gone beyond recall.

When a few innocent questions raise Ani’s doubts about what really happened three years ago, she realizes she may have a chance to clear her name and reclaim her career. But there’s no data to prove that Eve has thawed and that the fire they once shared can be rekindled.

This is a solid novel. Karin Kallmaker has been writing for a long time, and it shows. She finds great ways to describe her characters without violating point of view or stopping the plot. I didn’t really like the “It was all just a misunderstanding” plot that separated the main characters years ago, though.

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