Clare Ashton – That Certain Something


Love or money? Follow the head or heart? Pia and Cate seem to be flip sides of a coin. But when they meet they definitely have that certain something, and these questions aren’t so simple after a night like theirs. 

Pia Benitez-Smith has her head in the clouds of ideals and romance. She’s a photojournalist out to prove herself with her compassionate eye and although not exactly accident prone, most days trouble seems to find her. On one such day, she literally falls into the arms of beautiful Cate. Elegant, intriguing and classy. Cate is Pia’s polar opposite. When the two dispute the importance of love versus money, Cate is adamant that her perfect night will always be an expensive one. Working class Pia can’t resist the challenge and with the assistance of a beguiling summer night in London, she begins to enchant her new friend. 

An irresistible couple, a charismatic city, a priceless supporting cast – That Certain Something is a sparkling romcom from Goldie award winner Clare Ashton.

From the very first page, That Certain Something grabs its readers and doesn’t let go. Some novels are slow to warm. Authors usually set the stage in the first few chapters of their novel before really getting down to the nitty gritty, but Clare Ashton…. She don’t play. It’s fast-paced, engaging, and takes your head for a nice little spin.

This is just a side note, but what I’ve noticed is that many many lesbian authors make desserts sound so damn delicious in their books. After I finished reading That Certain Something, that next morning, I went to a nearby breakfast café in my neighborhood and ordered a lemon-butter crepe.  The extra centimeter of horizontal growth in my thighs is attributed to you Clare Ashton.  I hope you’re happy.

This isn’t your average rich girl-poor girl love story. There’s a lack of superficiality and a depth to Cate’s character right from the onset. The readers see how Cate is a product of her upbringing, and understand the reason why she doesn’t choose to prioritize her passions and talents. Those are only secondary to seeking a normal and stable life.

When Cate meets Pia, all bets are off.

Sometimes, it only takes the right person to help you realize that a heart isn’t just an organ that beats in your chest, and that love isn’t built on the promise of money and stability. Pia shows Cate that the best things in life don’t come with a price tag and that any place can be magical, as long as you have the right company. Just as Pia captures a person’s essence through her camera lens, her eyes capture the beauty of Cate’s soul. Seriously, what can be more romantic than that? If only we could be so lucky to meet someone as passionate and idealistic as Pia. I loved the way Clare Ashton wrote the spirit of this character.

When you read this novel, you can really sense that the characters feel at home with each other. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for, a place to call home? We all belong in the arms of the one we love.

1. Imogen Heap – Goodnight and Go
2. Bird and the Bee – Rich Girl
3. Corinne Bailey Rae – Like a Star
4. Wynton Marsalis – The Very Thought of You
5. Joss Stone – The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)
6. Belle and Sebastian – Waiting For The Moon to Rise
7. Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me
8. KT Tunstall – Heal Over
9. Frou Frou – Let Go
10. Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds And A Sound
11. Corinne Bailey Rae – Another Rainy Day
12. Tim Myers – Today’s The Day

This book would be best read with a…

-1 part prosecco chilled
-1 part orange juice
-1 part pomegranate juice
-Mint leaves

Combine prosecco, orange juice, and pomegranate juice in a champagne glass. Garnish with mint. (This is a 2 drink max. If you’re planning on having more, you’ll be reaching for your Advil in the morning)


Ann McMan – Backcast


When sculptor and author Barb Davis is given an NEA grant to pair original feminist sculptures with searing first-person essays on transitions in women’s lives, she organizes a two week writing retreat with twelve of the best, brightest, and most notorious lesbian authors in the business.  But in between regularly scheduled happy hours and writing sessions, the women enter a tournament bass fishing competition, receive life coaching from a wise-cracking fish named Phoebe, and uncover a subterranean world of secrets and desires that is as varied and elusive as the fish that swim in the waters of Lake Champlain.  

Set on the beautiful shores of Vermont’s Lake Champlain, Backcast is richly populated with an expansive cast of endearing and outrageous characters characters who battle writer’s block, quirky locals, personal demons, unexpected attractions, and even each other during their two-week residency. For Barb and each of her twelve writers, the stakes in this fast-moving story are high, but its emotional and romantic payoffs are slow and sweet. 

Filled with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and breathtaking pathos, Backcast serves up a sometimes irreverent, sometimes sobering look at the hidden lives of women, and how they laugh, love, lose, and blunder through their own search for meaning.

I didn’t think it would be possible to beat Jericho, but it looks like Jeri Cho will be sharing her pedestal. Honestly, I was floored by the storytelling in Backcast. What an unexpected surprise this book turned out to be. Ever watch a movie at the theater, then end up turning the plot over in your mind days after seeing it? This is that type of story. And what’s even better is that it’s the kind of story in which the readers can gain a new perspective with every reread. I’ve finished one reading, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on what Ann McMan is trying to convey within its pages.

Reading the book jacket, you might feel a little overwhelmed with the number of narratives contained in Backcast (13 in total). I wondered if there were too many cooks in that kitchen, and whether or not the dinner would end up palatable. Let’s just say that Backcast is the equivalent of a 12-course meal served at a Chinese wedding. Party. In. Your. Mouth. Or rather, party in your brain. Between chapters are the personal essays that the characters have written for the project. In the beginning, I was racking my brain trying to figure out which of the characters wrote each of the essays. I felt like I was playing a game of Clue, and losing… badly. It seemed like the essays could’ve been written by anyone. Hell, it could’ve even been written by Phoebe, the giant fish in the lake.

It wasn’t until I was about halfway in that I realized that identifying the source was only secondary to what these stories meant collectively. These stories are our stories. These are our painful experiences and transitions. It can happen to you, it can happen to me, and we’ve all experienced (directly or indirectly) its aftermath. Backcast illustrates how interconnected we are as women and as human beings, and your heart will fill with compassion for all of its characters. There were two stories in particular that made me tear up at the end. When it was revealed who the authors were in the appendix, I was a mess.

If there’s only one novel you’re going to read this year, make it this one.

1. Jonsi – Go Do
2. X Ambassadors – Renegades
3 Handsome Ghost – Blood Stutter
4. The Books feat. Jose Gonzalez – Cello Song
5. Morcheeba – The Sea
6. Husky – Tidal Wave
7. Ryan Adams – Night Birds
8. Shins – It’s Only Life
9. Phox – Slow Motion
10. Zero 7 – Destiny
11. Alt-J – Lovely Day
12. Groove Armada – At the River
13. Jose Gonzalez – Stay Alive

This book is best served with a….

PABST BLUE RIBBON  It’s perfect if you’re planning on taking Backcast for company on your next early a.m fishing trip. Pabst tastes like corn flakes and cereal is a breakfast meal. Voila.

Lyn Gardner – Give Me A Reason

Give Me A Reason

Intelligent, confident and beautiful, Antoinette Vaughn had it all until one night she went to help a friend and paid for it… with a life sentence in hell. 

Four years later, Toni’s judgment is overturned, but the damage is already done. She walks away from the prison a free woman, but she’s hardly free. Actually, she’s hardly alive. A prison without rules can do that to a person.

She was raised amidst garden parties, stables and tennis courts, but now a dingy flat in a decrepit building is what Toni calls home. It’s cold, dark and barren just like her heart, but it suits her. She doesn’t want to leave much behind when she’s gone, but the simplicity of her sheltered existence begins to unravel when a beautiful stranger comes into her life.

How does anyone survive in a world that terrifies them? How do you learn to trust again when everyone is your enemy? How do you take your next breath and not wish it were your last? And if your past returned…what would you do?

If you’re an avid reader of books in the lesbian fiction genre, you’ll eventually cross paths with Give Me A Reason. It has the highest number of reviews on Amazon (currently 200), and its rated an average of 5 out of 5 stars. Give Me A Reason was released around the time when everyone and their mama were losing their minds over Orange Is the New Black, which probably contributed to the book’s huge popularity. Talk about being at the right place at the right time… but really, this is a great novel in its own right.

Reading this novel, I assumed the author was English or Scottish (she’s actually an American from Florida) and I don’t know if she’s ever spent any time in the pokey or if she watches a lot of prison shows and documentaries, but her writing is incredibly detailed on both accounts. She has quite an imagination, to say the least. What I like about this story is that it doesn’t lack in originality, and it really draws the reader into its world. My only gripe is that whenever I read the phrase “give me a reason” in the novel, it reminded me of listening to the Fugees’ cover of “Killing Me Softly” on Power 106 in 1996.  The song played on the radio 7x per hour, every hour, every day.  In other words, “give me a reason” got REALLY old REALLY fast. You can only bounce that ball so many times before it goes completely flat.

The main characters of this story, Toni and Laura, are both FIERY. They’re portrayed as strong women with strong personalities. The beauty in their friendship and eventual romantic relationship is that they allow each other to simply be the individuals that they are. Toni has her episodes, and Laura has her temper tantrums, but they manage through those experiences and move forward together. They don’t view each other as improvement projects, and love joins their lives together like puzzle pieces.

I spent six months stuck on this damn book. I couldn’t stop reading it because I enjoyed it so damn much. At the time, Give Me A Reason was the third lesbian fiction novel I finished reading so I didn’t have a collection of favorites in my re-reading rotation.

This is a great novel to read during the long winter season. I would recommend reading a few chapters a night before going to bed, and savoring and stretching it out as long as you can.

1. James Blake – Retrograde
2. Travis – Writing To Reach You
3. Amy Winehouse – Wake Up Alone
4. Depeche Mode – Somebody
5. David Grey – Please Forgive Me
6. Keane – Somewhere Only We Know
7. Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
8. Adele – Make You Feel My Love
9. Ed Sheeran – Kiss Me
10. Sam Smith – Lay Me Down (Acoustic)
11. Nick Drake – Northern Sky
12. Ellie Goulding – How Long Will I Love You

This book would be best read with an….

-1 oz of bourbon
-1 tablespoon of honey
-2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
-6 oz of boiling water
-1 packet of Earl Grey tea (I would recommend Tetley)
-Orange wheel

Boil water and pour into a mug. Steep the tea. Mix the bourbon, honey, and fresh lemon juice with the tea. Float the orange wheel on top. Warm and cozy!