Miranda Macleod – Your Name In Lights

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After eighteen years, the stars may have finally aligned to give Cecily and Rorie a second chance at happiness together. The trouble with stars, though: they don’t stay aligned for long.

As Cecily settles into her life in sunny California, she imagines her biggest challenge will be learning to take care of herself as a newly divorced mother and publicly out lesbian. The last thing she expects is to land the acting role of a lifetime. But is it worth being so far away from the loving support of her girlfriend and son?

Rorie is dismayed by the prospect of a long distance relationship, but there’s no time to dwell on it. Between stepping in as a surrogate parent and facing a family crisis of her own, she’s soon in over her head. Will Cecily ever be the true partner that Rorie needs?

Despite time, distance, and some persistent paparazzi, Cecily and Rorie have found in each other a love to last a lifetime, but only if they can learn to navigate the dual pressures of fame and family.

REVIEW
Cecily and Rorie are back! Your Name In Lights is book two of three in the Love’s Encore series. A Road Through Mountains was released this past spring, and the third installment, Fifty Percent Illusion is coming out in October. Three seasons of Miranda Macleod? Don’t mind if I do! Hey, Miranda… *Waves*… Maybe a Christmas short story starring Cecily and Rorie? Make it all four seasons? An encore for Love’s Encore?

It doesn’t hurt to try, right? 🙂

Fast forward six months from A Road Through Mountains: Cecily and Rorie finally have their second shot at luuuuurve and these two have a LOT of catching up to do. What would you do if you were separated from your true love for nearly twenty years? Maybe a better question would be, what wouldn’t you do? But as fate would have it, a hot minute after Cecily has finally settled in California, she’s already off to Portland for a once-in-a-lifetime acting gig that she can’t pass up. Meanwhile, Rorie has major mama drama that’s starting to brew, and it has the potential for changing life in a very drastic way. I’ll just leave it at that, so I don’t give anything away.

In Your Name In Lights, one of the things that I admired about Cecily was her tenacity to succeed. As she sets out on her new life in California, she’s determined to make it on her own, without having to rely on her inheritance and without relying on anyone else, including her new girlfriend. She’s not looking for handouts and she has pride and drive in creating her own success. Ooo girl, go on wit yo bad self.

Miranda Macleod also brings some interesting points for her readers to consider regarding the price of fame in this novel. Us non-celebrity folk don’t really have to worry about being followed by the paparazzi and having our pictures splattered on tabloid pages for the world to see. We don’t have millions of people who are watching us and scrutinizing our every word and action. Celebrities don’t have the luxury of leading private lives and are much more exposed and vulnerable to those that want to take advantage of their fame and wealth. It’s always easier to believe that the grass is greener on the other side, but there are always pros and cons to every place in life. Just as with the choices that we make, there’s always something to gain and something to lose in its place. Readers will have the opportunity of seeing the flipside of fame through the lives of Rorie and Cecily. Honestly, reading Your Name In Lights has made me a little more sympathetic towards celebrities. Money certainly doesn’t buy love or happiness.

As far as the writing for this novel, it’s exactly what you would expect from Miranda Macleod: entertaining and a pleasure to read. It was a bit slow to warm in the beginning, but it picks up the pace considerably towards the middle, and has a nice little cliffhanger at the end. I would recommend reading A Road Through Mountains and Your Name In Lights back to back. If you’ve already read A Road Through Mountains, take a quick skim before you dive into this novel. Sometimes, it helps to prep your palette before taking your next bite.

Another homerun from Miranda Macleod. I’m eager to read the final installment, Fifty Percent Illusion this fall!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Coldplay – Hymn For The Weekend (Seeb Remix)
2. Maroon 5 – It Was Always You
3. Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling!
4. Calvin Harris – This Is What You Came For
5. Chainsmokers – Roses
6. Yuna – Best Love
7. St Lucia – All Eyes on You
8. Alicia Keys – How It Feels To Fly
9. Usher – Dive
10. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

STRAWBERRY-BASIL BOURBONADE
-1.5 oz of McKenna bourbon
-0.75 oz of agave
-3 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
-3 medium sized strawberries sliced
-5 basil leaves
-Ice

Muddle the basil leaves, agave, and strawberry into your mixing tin. Pour ice and the remaining ingredients into the mixing tin and shake whatcha mama gave ya.

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KG MacGregor – Trial by Fury

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When a coed is viciously assaulted on the campus of Harwood University, performance studies professor Celia Perone learns a brutal truth- star athletes can get away with whatever they want. Threatened with her job if she goes public, Celia pays a secret visit to celebrated women’s rights attorney Theodora Constantine.

Theo’s riding high after winning a very public sexual harassment claim against a cable news network. Next up for her firm is a class action suit that will strain her small staff. She can’t afford to get sidetracked by another case, but Celia won’t take no for an answer. 

The case is compelling and so is Celia- so much that Theo finds herself falling hard. But before they can win love, they have to win justice.

REVIEW
I’ve been in a bit of a reading frenzy lately. Mostly because the annual conference for the Golden Crown Literary Society is just around the corner. This is like Coachella + Dinah Shore for me, minus the bikinis, flower crowns, and drunken make-out sessions with random strangers. This conference is an incredible opportunity to interface with other readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers in the lesfic community and I’m beyond excited to go this year!

I have to be honest though, I’m dreading the flight to D.C and back. I hate flying and I’m seriously terrified. The last time I went on a plane was when I flew out to San Francisco with my band for Pride in 2010. Let’s just say that I was highly inebriated on the flight there, and heavily sedated on the flight back. No joke. I suppose you have to face your fears to chase your dreams? Maybe chase it down with a shot or two of tequila? Hopefully, I won’t arrive at the conference totally tossed. Kidding!

Trial by Fury is the latest release by KG MacGregor, one of the titans in the world of lesbian literature. KG MacGregor is like Homer, and I don’t mean Homer Simpson. I’m referring to the Greek poet Homer, who wrote the classics: Iliad and Odyssey. 

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MacGregor, like Homer, has some pretty epic heroes in her stories doing some pretty epic things during some pretty epic times. Every novel that I’ve read by KG MacGregor has been high on drama and adventure, and Trial by Fury is one that you definitely won’t want to miss. Anna and Celia kick some major institutionalized misogynistic ass in this novel. Anna and Celia battle against the powers that try to suppress them and Harwood University discovers that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are relentless in their fight to seek justice that the victims in this story rightly deserve. These women are heroines in every sense of the word: passionate, strong, brave.

MacGregor prefaces the novel by stating that she’s not a subject matter expert in law. If you aren’t from the legal world, I think you’d be easily convinced otherwise. The author’s storyline narrative is riveting, and the writing is compelling and convincing. I can only imagine the amount of research and time it took for the author to learn about the process of law, and to meticulously craft this novel.

Trial by Fury isn’t just fiction. It’s a mirror image of the huge problem of rape and sexual assault that we’re facing at our colleges and universities today. The statistics that are shown in the novel are as alarming as they are real: 1 in 4 women have been victims of sexual assault at college campuses across the United States. Unfortunately, most of these incidents go unreported due to the victim’s own feelings of shame and fear, and their deep-seated belief that nothing will be done and that “you’re on your own” because “you did something wrong”. The resolution of the People of the State of California vs. Brock Allen Turner reinforces this type of toxic conditioning and perpetuates a destructive cycle of abuse. It’s incredibly disappointing and infuriating to see how our justice system failed Emily Doe, and ultimately, failed all of us. The judge dropped the ball on this. Big time. We have a ways to go in changing rape culture in this country.

Writers have the gift of words. Words which are expressed to their respective audience for a myriad of purposes: to comfort, direct, entertain, educate. Unfortunately, words can also be used to manipulate, lie, cheat, and inflict pain and suffering. In Trial by Fury, MacGregor utilizes her talent and gift to shine a light in a very dark place. And I hope, as a community, we continue to create light and bring change, no matter how big or small.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Tori Amos – Crucify
2. Sarah McLachlan – Witness
3. Daughter – Youth
4. James Vincent McMorrow – Down The Burning Ropes
5. Max Frost – Let Me Down Easy
6. Joshua Hyslop – The Spark
7. Staves – Steady
8. Ben Howard – All Is Now Harmed
9. Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek
10. Agnes Obel – Falling, Catching
11. Liv Dawson – Tapestry

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with…

I think I’ll skip this one.

Miranda Macleod – A Road Through Mountains

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When Cecily Parker volunteers backstage at the Oakwood Theater, the only thing she wants is a few hours of relief from the doldrums of her upper-class suburban existence. The last thing she expects is to be reunited with the only person she ever truly loved, a woman she left behind almost twenty years ago. 

Rorie Mulloy has build a career as an award-winning production designer in Hollywood, but her personal life is anything but a success. When she agrees to design the sets for a community theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire in Connecticut, she has no idea that the woman who broke her heart and ruined her for love will be assigned to her crew.

As the sparks are rekindled between them, these star-crossed lovers just might have a second chance at love. But only if they can overcome the ghosts of their past, and survive the sometimes comic cast of characters determined to keep them from their happily ever after. 

REVIEW
Some people look forward to spring flowers or summer sun around this time of year. I look forward to ROYGBIV, since it’s….. (drumroll)…. PRIDE SEASON! Right now, my neighborhood (gayborhood, really) is bursting with color as businesses and residents pitch their rainbow flags and equality signs. It’s a wonderful feeling to enjoy brunch with your closest friends at a local breakfast cafe that supports LGBT. That’s something I never take for granted.

Pride Season is also when everyone “in the scene”, in the periphery, or out in hiding gather in one square mile to celebrate. We’re watching (or marching in) the parade together, line-dancing in the Country tent, guzzling down over-priced booze, and also… (dun dun dun) running into our ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriends). For those of us that have this experience, you know that it’s the MOST. AWKWARD. THING. EVER.

Cecily doesn’t run into Rorie at Pride but at a local theater, so it might as well be. 😉 There are few places that are as inclusive as a theater for those that are of the straight and non-straight persuasion.

In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Jacque’s monologue that begins, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” is perfect in describing the succession of stages in Cecily’s perfectly planned life. She’s the lead actress who’s expected to play her role and move seamlessly from scene to scene: growing up, attending university, joining a sorority, marrying a rich husband, a house with a white picket fence, two children and a dog, etc. When Cecily meets Rorie, Cecily loses all her lines. The irony is that Rorie assumes that Cecily was only pretending with her, when the truth is really the exact opposite. Cecily has only been most authentically herself with Rorie. It’s only when Cecily goes back to her carefully scripted life without Rorie that she’s mindlessly going through the motions again.

Fortunately, fate brings Rorie and Cecily back together again after nearly two decades apart. What happens following that… Readers, you’ll just have to pick up this book and see for yourself! This is another fantastic novel by Miranda Macleod that you won’t wanna miss!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Michael Brun – Tongue Tied July
2. Jarryd James – Do You Remember
3. Kimbra – Two Way Street
4. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Stars
5. Lapsley – Hurt Me
6. Patrick Baker – Feel the Same
7. Sophia Black – OVR AGN
8. Rationale – Re.Up
9. JP Cooper – Colour Me In Gold
10. RAC & St. Lucia – Ready For It
11. Ruben Haze – City of Dreams
12. Wolf Gang – Lay Your Love Down
13. Chvrches – Warning Call
14. For The Foxes – Running Back To You
15. David Guetta feat. Zara Larsson – This One’s For You

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

SIDECAR
-2 oz of Cognac
-1 oz of Cointreau
-1 oz of lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake shake shake until it’s chilled. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with a twist of an orange peel.

Georgia Beers – A Little Bit of Spice

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Andrea Blake’s life has order. Everything is meticulously laid out and planned, from her house in its quiet neighborhood to her career path at Hagan’s, the largest supermarket chain in the Northeast. Andrea knows what she wants. 

Enter Kendall Foster, the distractingly attractive woman in charge of sales for her family’s local microbrewery, and somebody who wants very much to get her beer into Hagan’s shelves. A decision that happens to be Andrea’s.

The physical attraction is immediate and hard to resist, but Andrea doesn’t need a complication like Kendall in her life, not when she’s rocketing toward predictable security. But Kendall is fun. And smart. And oh-so-sexy. Can she convince Andrea that her rather flat, flavorless life could be way better with just a little bit of spice?

REVIEW
“But there was also a very large independent streak in Andrea’s soul. She wasn’t quite sure of where it had come from, but she relished in it, held tightly to it, and guarded it with everything she had. Losing herself in somebody else was not in her plan. She did not want to be one of those women who looked to her significant other before answering a question. One of those people who couldn’t make plans without consulting another person. She liked being in charge of herself, of her life, having to answer to nobody. She was the only person she wanted to be in control of her world.”

Girl, I totally understand where you’re coming from.

A Little Bit of Spice made me squirm a little, but in a good way. Andrea may be my long-lost literary twin. My sister from another mister. My imaginary doppelganger. But really, I think that the sentiment expressed is something that everyone can identify with in one aspect of their life or another. I don’t believe that any of us enjoy the feeling of losing control or becoming an accessory to their partner in any relationship. But isn’t it so easy…  almost too easy, to lose parts of yourself when you’re head over heels in love? Andrea keeps everyone in her life (close family included) at an arm’s-length distance, but Kendall proves to be too hard for her to resist. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two main characters. Andrea is in a position of power, as she is the ultimate decision-maker on Kendall’s sales bid, but she’s powerless to the attraction that she feels towards Kendall. What a conundrum… And add beer to that equation. Yeah, these two definitely don’t have a prayer.

You know what I’m really diggin? These cameos that lesbian authors are putting in their books. Melissa Brayden, MJ Duncan and Georgia Beers… They all do it, and it makes my heart happy because it feels like the stories they’ve created never really end after the last page. My recommendation is that after finishing A Little Bit of Spice, read the next one she wrote, Rescued Heart.

When I picked up A Little Bit of Spice, I knew it would be a long, sleepless night for me. Georgia Beers never lets me down. I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve read five of her books, and I’ve become more familiar with her style after finishing each one. The prototype that she uses to build her main characters: gorgeous, strong, independent, athletic, smart, and capable… This is who we lesbians in real life refer to as our “unicorn”. The unicorns in Georgia Beers’ stories take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get together. Seriously, I’m in agony for half the novel. Be ready for a slow burning fire that bursts into a raging fireball in the end. And careful…. Your literary eyebrows might even get singed.

SOUNDTRACK
1. Musiq Soulchild – Just Friends (Sunny)
2. Yuna feat. Usher – Crush
3. Miguel – Adorn
4. Mandalay – Beautiful
5. Goapele – Closer
6. John Legend – Ordinary People
8. Lori Carson & Paul Haslinger – I Want To Believe
8. Maxwell – This Woman’s Work
9. Mandalay – No Reality
10. Sade – By Your Side

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with….

LINDEMANS FRAMBOISE LAMBIC

MJ Duncan – Atramentum

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Joss Perrault left Sky, Colorado after high school with no intention of ever returning, but all that changes when she inherits Atramentum. Burned out on public accounting after too many sixteen-hour days, the allure of operating a small, independent bookstore is too tempting to register, and Joss decides to walk away from the career she spent the last decade building to move back to the resort town high in the Rockies. Cupid strikes as she’s moving into her new place outside Sky and, contrary to popular belief, Cupid has four legs and a tail, hits like a linebacker, and answers to the name of George. Before Joss can recover from being tackled by the Great DAne, she finds herself face to face with George’s mom, Maeve Dylan. Joss is immediately smitten with her beautiful neighbor, but their conversations walk the line between friendliness and flirtation like it’s a tightrope, and Joss is reluctant to do anything that will risk their budding friendship. Thankfully for her, however, George doesn’t give up so easily.

REVIEW
When I was typing in the title of the book, I felt like I was entering in my WiFi internet modem password. A….T…..R……S…Wait, fuck (Backspace)…A…ME…N…..T….UM. You bet I wikipediaed the word, and guess what I found?

Atramentum or atrament, generally means a very black, usually liquid, substance. For example, an octopus may emit a puff of atrament (see cephalopod ink). In ancient Rome, the term atramentum signified any black colouring substance used for any purpose.

They even have this picture to go with the definition:
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Just a guess, I think that MJ Duncan fancies Latin / Ancient words. (Veritas, anyone?)

In Atramentum, Atramentum is the name of the bookstore that the lovely protagonist, Joss, inherits from her Aunt Helen. She decides to chuck her lonely life in Los Angeles and her career as a public accountant, for greener pastures (because anywhere is greener than LA) in Sky, Colorado to manage this charming little bookstore.

When Joss and Maeve meet, it’s almost as cute as this:
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Animal companions that are determined to play Cupid for their human companions is a recipe for a fantastic story, folks! If only this happened in real life. I tried walking my cat, Marbles once. Unfortunately, this experiment miserably failed. He refused to walk more than two steps, kept rolling around on his back and belly, and I didn’t get any numbers! None! The most we got were very curious (and very sympathetic) stares from passersby. Ah, well. Anyone in LA need a dog-walker?

There are not two, but three main characters in this story. George certainly has enough personality to qualify. MJ Duncan, if you ever decide to do a spinoff starring George, I’m there! George helped make this a really delightful read for me. I almost miss her.

There’s plenty of “will you or won’t you” angst between Joss and Maeve. This mostly stems from “are you or are you not” regarding Maeve’s sexuality. Don’t you hate the guessing game? Everyone needs to wear a blinking sign, I think. The back and forth between the main characters is very sweet, and there’s plenty of romance and passionate love between the pages. There’s one section of the novel that readers and wordsmiths will certainly appreciate. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that I had to go out for a nice looooooong run after I finished reading through it.

As with MJ Duncan’s other novels, this would be perfect to pack in your suitcase to read on your next vacation get-away.

Happy Reading!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Vance Joy – Fire and the Flood
2. Susie Suh – I Do
3. A Fine Frenzy – What I Wouldn’t Do
4. Jack Johnson – Better Together
4. Ingrid Michaelson – The Way I Am
5. Lianne La Havas – What You Don’t Do
6. Jason Mraz – Love Someone
7. Brandi Carlile – The Story
8. John Mayer – A Face To Call Home
9. Colbie Caillat – You Got Me
10. Leftover Cuties – At Last

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with….

MEIOMI PINOR NOIR 2014

RJ Nolan – L.A Metro

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Dr. Kimberly Donovan’s life is in shambles. After her medical ethics are questioned, first her family, then her closeted lover, the Chief of the ER, betray her. Determined to make a fresh start, she flees to California and L.A Metropolitan Hospital. Dr. Jess McKenna, L.A Metro’s Chief of the ER, gives new meaning to the phrase emotionally guarded, but she has her reasons. When Kim and Jess meet, the attraction is immediate. Emotions Jess has tried to repress for years surface. But her interest in Kim also stirs dark memories. They settle for friendship, determined not to repeat past mistakes, but secretly they both wish things could be different. Will the demons from Jess’s past destroy their future before it can even get started? Or will L.A Metro be a place to not only heal the sick, but to mend wounded hearts?

REVIEW
Ever watch Grey’s Anatomy and wish that the show was about lesbian doctors? The lesbian-version could be Lesbian’s Anatomy. Er…. actually, that title sounds more appropriate for a lesbian porn movie. Maybe not a good idea. But RJ Nolan’s novel series featuring F4F McDreamys… DEFINITELY a good idea, and a great execution from the author.

Sometimes, we forget that doctors are people because they are often times perceived and defined by only their medical profession. But they have cuts and bruises, and wounds on the inside that need time and care to heal just like the rest of us. RJ Nolan does a wonderful job at humanizing the main characters in L.A Metro, and putting into perspective that there’s a person behind the stethoscope.

Jess and Kim both have unresolved issues when it comes to their past. (Sheesh, don’t we all). Despite their attraction towards each other, they try really really hard to maintain their professionalism and keep each other at arm’s-length. Jess and Kim… both of you get an A for effort, but thankfully for us readers, an F for keeping it in your scrubs. Humor aside though, the physical intimacy between the characters in this story is rich with emotion. Readers get the sense that Kim and Jess help each other heal and piece together the parts that were broken in their individual pasts. The journey that they take together in learning to love and trust again makes this a heartwarming and enjoyable read.

Now, if LA really had a hospital like L.A Metro… Hmm… I might not mind visiting the doctor. Doctor Doctor, take my temperature please, cause I’m burning up in here!

SOUNDTRACK
1. John Mayer – In Repair
2. Alicia Keys – Prelude To A Kiss
3. Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
4. James Morrison – You Make It Real
5. Joshua Radin – Cross That Line
6. Meiko – Stuck On You
7. Ray LaMontagne – Let It Be Me
8. Gavin DeGraw – Follow Through
9. Ed Sheeran – This
10. Sara Bareilles – The Light

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

MANGO MARGARITA
-1 cup of frozen cubed mango
-1 cup of orange juice
-1 oz of lime juice
-3 oz of Patron Silver tequila
-2 tablespoons of simple syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. This drink contains Vitamin C from the orange juice, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K from the mango, and also Vitamin PartyTime from the tequila. Just what the doctor ordered. 😉

Georgia Beers – Rescued Heart

Welcome to Junebug Farms, a successful, well-known animal shelter in upstate New York, where every day brings something new- love, stress, heartbreak, warmth- and not just from the animals. 

Lisa Drakemore is in charge of intake and adoption at Junebug. She excels at her job, in large part because of her ability to keep her emotions in check. Her past has given her many years of practice and she’s becoming a pro. But once she meets dog-walking volunteer Ashley Stiles, a distractingly attractive, perpetually late, emotions-on-her-sleeve young woman who smells like cupcakes, all bets are off.

REVIEW
Georgia Beers had me from the first line of the synopsis: hook, line, and sinker. A story about lesbians and an animal shelter? Woof! Meow! How can I say ‘no’?!

On a more personal note, about a month ago I adopted a young tabby from the animal rescue next door to my boxing gym. I named him Jaxx (since my senior citizen at home is named Marbles) and it’s a nice little coincidence that one of the animals in Rescued Heart is also named Jax! Stop copying me, Georgia Beers. *Wink*

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Sorry, I just couldn’t resist sharing Jaxx’s picture. Moms and dads of furry children will understand. Thank you readers for involuntarily indulging this crazy cat lady.

Moving along with the review…

In a similar fashion as other stories written by Georgia Beers, the progression of love between the characters is slow and sweet. Lisa has her own reasons for baby-stepping.. or not-stepping at all, really. Eventually, Ashley breaks through her barriers and gives her a reason to pick up the pace. Wow… when these two finally sync and step, they sprint to that finish line together like they’re the pair of legs that belong to Marion Jones. Georgia Beer certainly has a way of showing readers that foreplay is not overrated, and the pay-off at the end is definitely worth the wait.

Somehow, in the middle of reading this book, I completely forgot that the setting of the story is in upstate New York. If you didn’t review the synopsis before diving into the novel, you may get the sense that it’s set in a small-town because it has such a down-home feel. The characters in the story are very down-to-earth and interconnected in a way, that’s more often than not, a bit uncharacteristic in an urban setting. For me, it felt a little too cozy to be in the city, but this doesn’t detract from the exceptional writing and entertaining story from the author. It’s just a side observation.

We don’t seize opportunities that are presented to us often enough, especially when it comes to love and romance. The lesson that can be learned from this book is that we are not meant to exist as passive observers. In our own pursuit of happiness, we have to grab life by its horns and follow our hearts without fear or reservation. This is Ashley’s journey in Rescued Heart, and it’s really a joy to see this transformation in her character.

Rescued Heart will pull the heck out of your heart strings and make you want to give a big hug to your pets at home. I wonder what Georgia Beers will write about next!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Fountains of Wayne – Someone to Love
2. Gavin Degraw – Crush
3. Capital Cities – Love Away
4. Guster – Manifest Destiny
5. Elliott Smith – Happiness
6. Mat Kearney – Sooner or Later
7. Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World
8. Magnet – Where Happiness Lives
9. Ivy – Hideaway
10. Aqualung – Brighter than Sunshine
11. Dave Matthews Band – Lover Lay Down

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with….

CAKEBREAD CHARDONNAY 2013

Melissa Brayden – Waiting in the Wings

Waiting

If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.

Jenna McGovern has spent her whole life training for the stage. She’s taken dance classes, voice lessons, and even earned her performance degree from one of the most prestigious musical theater programs in the nation. At graduation, she’s stunned when a chance audition lands her a prime supporting role in the hottest Broadway routing production in the country. In more exciting news, Jenna discovers acclaimed television star Adrienne Kenyon is headlining the production. 

Jenna settles easily in to life on tour and has a promising career laid out in front of her, if only she plays her cards right. She’s waited for this opportunity her entire life and will let nothing stand in her way. The one thing she didn’t prepare for, however, was Adrienne. Her new costar is talented, beautiful, generous, and utmost professional. As the two women grow closer onstage and off, they must learn how to fit each other into a demanding lifestyle full of unexpected twists and difficult decisions. But is Jenna ready to sacrifice what she’s worked so hard for in exchange for a shot at something much deeper?

REVIEW
Out of the les-fic novels that I’ve read, these story-lines seem to be pretty common:

  • Teacher + Student
  • Lonely and married “heterosexual” female falls in love with her cool new lesbian friend
  • Hollywood A-List Actress x 2

Who hasn’t fallen in love with a teacher? Or a straight woman? (or two, or three… hundred) And raise your hand if you didn’t trip all over yourself when you found out that Portia de Rossi is gay.

Yeah, I see no hands raised.

This story though, is less Hollywood than it is New York Broadway. It’s written in the author’s biography that she’s a theater director in her home state, so she’s not just a storyteller that researched a topic and wrote about it on the fly. She’s a subject matter expert and it shows, not just in the details written of the theater acting world in Waiting in the Wings, but also in the execution of her writing style. An example of this would be the ending of Brayden’s novel, How Sweet It Is. The author has the ability to draw from her own personal experiences and expertise to create fresh, original stories for her readers to enjoy.

Has anyone watched the movie Tangled? There’s a scene in the movie that reminded me of one of the important messages gleaned from Waiting in the Wings:

Rapunzel: I’ve been looking out of a window for eighteen years, dreaming about what I might feel like when those lights rise in the sky. What if it’s not everything I dreamed it would be?
Flynn Rider: It will be.
Rapunzel: And what if it is? What do I do then?
Flynn Rider: Well, that’s the good part I guess. You get to go find a new dream.

Like Rapunzel in Tangled, Jenna pursues one dream to find another. Jenna ventures out into her new world with innocence and naivete. Eventually, she finds the way to her heart and her home. It’s normal if you want to give this book a big hug when you’re done. It’s really that cute and heartwarming.

Waiting in the Wings is a wonderful introduction to Melissa Brayden’s work, and I guarantee that when you put down this one down, you’ll be reaching for more!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Great Good Fine Ok – Not Going Home
2. The Hunts – Make This Leap
3. Babe – Make It Real
4. Meghan Trainor feat. John Legend – Like I’m Gonna Lose You
5. Matthew Koma – Clarity (Live at the Cherrytree House)
6. William Fitzsimmons – So This Is Goodbye
7. For the Foxes – Running Back to You
8. Jewel – You Were Meant For Me
9. Grace Weber – Everything to Me
10. Alicia Keys – That’s When I Knew

CHEERS!
This book would be best served with a….

FRANCIS COPPOLA DIAMOND COLLECTION CLARET 2009

MJ Duncan – Spectrum

Spectrum

Sparks fly the moment Bryn Nakamura lays eyes on Anna Fitzpatrick, and not in a good way. Driven, reserved, and recovering from another encounter with a life she would rather leave behind, all Bryn wants is to forget about Anna and focus on her beloved vineyard- but Fate has other plans. No matter where Bryn goes, Anna seems to be there, and despite how annoyed she is by this development, she can’t help but be charmed by Anna’s warm smile and easygoing charisma. But as carefully constructed walls come down, new obstacle take their place, leaving Bryn to question who she is and what she truly wants out of life.

REVIEW
I always tell my friends that it’s my dream to buy a vineyard in Tuscany and spend my twilight years enjoying the beautiful earth and drinking wine. FYI, if you suddenly have the image of Diane Lane in your head, then virtual high five to you! I’ve had the biggest crush on her since I was 5 years old. Hey, Diane… We can drink wine together under the Tuscan sun! Si or no?

One of my favorite quotes is from that movie:
“They say they built the train tracks over the Alps, between Vienna and Venice, before there was a train that could make the trip. They built it anyway. They knew one day the train would come. Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere, I would be different. What are four walls anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer. Unthinkably good things can happen, even late in the game… it’s such a surprise.”

In a way, the story in Spectrum seems to mirror the message in that quote. Anna lays down those tracks for their locomotion of luuuuurve. It’s nice that this story features characters that aren’t 20-something year old spring chickens, and though it isn’t really “late in the game”, love blooms for Bryn in her middle-age. Bryn could be categorized as the stereotypical cat-lady, except she doesn’t have cats. She’s a bit of a spinster, a bit of a loner, and a whole lot of a curmudgeon before Anna comes into the picture.

This is what Bryn would’ve turned out to be if she never met Anna:
Grumpy

Thank the universe of lesbian fiction for Anna Fitzpatrick. She’s smart, funny, charming, and persistent. She’s determined to get under Bryn’s skin (and under Bryn) regardless of Bryn’s sarcastic remarks and “sunny” disposition.

Anna’s easy-going nature is a nice counterpoint to Bryn’s tough-as-nails exterior. Readers have the pleasure of seeing the richness in Bryn’s character, as Anna slowly but surely draws her out of her shell. Their chemistry and combination is sizzling: Anna and Bryn are like two distinct flavors that combine to make a unique and delicious taste profile. (Sweet & Sour, anyone?) The story is excellent from start to finish. Highly recommended!

SOUNDTRACK
1. Chilly Gonzales – Solitaire
2. Ani DiFranco – She Says
3. Edvard Grieg – Lyrische Stucke Op. 38, Melodie
4. Good Old War – Tell Me What You Want From Me
5. John Fields – In Flight
6. John Garrels – Born Again
7. Jon Jang – Two Flowers on a Stem (Solo Piano Version)
8. James Bay – Hold Back the River
9. Gonzales – Manifesto
10. KT Tunstall – Universe and U
11. Chilly Gonzales – Venetian Blinds
12. John Fields – Nocturne No. 2 in C Minor
13. Elliott Smith – Say Yes
14. Roy Todd – Hope Springs
15. Iron & Wine – My Lady’s House

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

PEJU PROVINCE 2011

Melissa Brayden – How Sweet It Is

Sweet2.jpg

Molly O’Brien is a sweetheart.  Her friends and neighbors all think so.  While she enjoys her quiet life running the town bakeshop in Applewood, Illinois, she wonders if there could be more.  After losing the love of her life four years prior in a plane crash, Molly thinks she’s ready to navigate the dicey dating waters once again.  However, you can’t always pick who your heart latches on to.  When Jordan Tuscana, the beautiful younger sister of her lost love, returns to town, Molly finds her interest piqued in a manner she wasn’t prepared for.

All secrets are uncovered, Molly and Jordan must figure out how to navigate the difficult terrain of their multi-faceted relationship.  Especially when something much deeper seems to be bubbling between them.

REVIEW
The publisher’s summary of this book definitely gave me pause. Just to wrap my head around the storyline of girl falls in love with deceased lover’s little sister…. it seemed too heavy of a read for me.

This might sound a little ridiculous, but what nudged me over the edge was that the woman on the cover of this novel looks a lot like Jillian Michaels. I have a minor crush (okay fine, I own 7 of her DVDs) on her. And How Sweet It Is was the only Melissa Brayden novel that I hadn’t finished. It really turned out that I saved the best for last.

Just a forewarning, if you have a sweet tooth, you may want to read this book on a full stomach. Or just imagine that the Jillian Michaels look-alike is yelling at you to abstain from eating cinnamon rolls and to drop and give her 20 for even thinking about it. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to assume that the author enjoys chocolate and sweets. Actually, I think she’s really borderline obsessed with chocolate. (Midnight Chocolate, anyone?) Maybe I can bribe her into writing one more book for her Soho Loft series. Melissa Brayden, I will give you 500 chocolate Santas if you make my Christmas wish come true. Please?! Pretty please?!

Aside from the description of the decadent desserts that make my thighs feel like they’re ever expanding, the writing in this novel is a real treat for its readers. The author has a mighty set of ovaries for writing this story. She treats each of her characters with dignity. There isn’t a sense of real betrayal, and thankfully, no one in the story is demonized or dehumanized. It’s written sensitively and respectfully, without undermining the love in the past between Molly and Cassie, and the love in the future between Molly and Jordan. Brayden doesn’t gloss over the tough conversations on the complexities of the different relationships, and navigates the readers through those waters with ease.

You really experience the small-town America feel with this novel. The author is adept at changing settings without compromising the writing, or the readers feel for the story. Although, Brayden’s writing has a familiarity and comfort between the stories, that’s not to say that she’s a typecast author. Her stories are as varied as her characters, who are always interesting and unique. What I also enjoy about Brayden’s writing is how she subtly ties the characters in her novels together. Just to give you an example (and this hopefully isn’t too much of a spoiler), in How Sweet It Is, Jordan has a meeting with a potential investor Emory Owen, one of the main characters in Heart Block.  The reader gets a sense that none of the stories really end. Perhaps, this is a clever way for the author to have her readers revisit her novels? If it is, I’m a sucker every time. I’ve reread her books so often, that I’ve practically memorized the words. No joke.

After finishing this review, I’m almost tempted to add a dessert section…

SOUNDTRACK
1.  Heartless Bastards – Skin and Bone
2.  Elliott Smith – Sweet Adeline
3.  Duncan Sheik – She Runs Away
4.  Ani DiFranco – You Had Time
5.  Paper Kites – Bloom
6.  David Grey – This Year’s Love
7.  City and Colour – We Found Each Other In The Dark
8.  Iron & Wine – The Trapeze Swinger
9.  Fisher – I Will Love You
10.  Sam Palladio – When The Right One Comes Along

CHEERS!
This book would be best read with a….

GODIVA CHOCOLATE MARTINI
-2 oz of Godiva chocolate liqueur
-2 oz of creme de cacao
-0.5 oz of vodka (I would recommend Belvedere)
-2.5 oz of half and half

Mix all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Shake Chica Shake Shake, Mentirosaaaa. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Ladies and gentlemen, you are now entering chocolate heaven.