A Whisper of Solace by Milena McKay

A Whisper of Solace
Author:
Published: 4/12/2022
What makes an Ice Queen? Neve Blackthorne, head of one of the most successful Studios in Hollywood, is the one to rule them all. Powerful, beautiful, and aloof, she’s ruthless, yet irresistible. Above all, she has an unquenchable survival instinct. Surely a fleeting entanglement with one Audrey Avens, a bright, young, rising star in her company, won’t bring down the Wicked Queen of Tinseltown. Or will it? Neve’s public persona has no chink in the…

It is difficult to adequately convey how much I love Milena McKay’s writing. I’m not eloquent enough to do her work justice but I will do my best to express how her writing in A Whisper of Solace made me feel. When I first read The Delicate Things We Make, I was enthralled and then The Headmistress blew my mind. I thought there was no way she could eclipse the brilliance of The Headmistress but then I met Neve Blackthorne. This character and story will stay with me for a very long time.

Neve Blackthorne is the CEO of one of the biggest studios in Hollywood. She has been having an affair with one of subordinates, Audrey Avens for four months and she goes to therapist to help her quit because she knows she can’t do it on her own. She lives in constant fear that she will be found out, she will lose the power she has, she will lose her son. So, she pushes Audrey away even though Audrey is the first person to really love Neve just as she is.

What makes this story unique is that it is told from the ice queen’s point of view. We get to see the many facets of Neve and not through the rose-colored glasses of the woman who loves her. No, we see all of the moments where Neve is cruel and cold mixed in with the moments where she can be kind and vulnerable. There are more cruel and cold moments but in the kind and vulnerable ones, we see who Neve has the capacity to become as she gains more insight into why she behaves the way she does.

Each chapter begins with Neve talking to her therapist and over the course of several years, we see Neve’s growth. Dr. Moore never pushes, she listens and over time a trust develops as happens with the best doctor/patient relationships. Audrey is a fascinating character. She isn’t intimated by Neve, although she’s nearly twenty years younger. I really like Audrey’s growth throughout the story as well. She hardens as the story progresses but still retains her goodness. She is Neve’s perfect match if Neve can only get out of her own way.

This is a fascinating character study of a woman who lets fear consume her and the struggles she must endure to get to a place where she can overcome those fears. It may not be wise to call A Whisper of Solace perfect, but it’s a close to perfect as I have read in a very long time. It will be a few days before I can read anything else. I need to sit with this book and with Neve Blackthorne for a while. Milena McKay continues to show that she is one of the most talented writers in our community. Her writing is layered, beautiful, at times painful but always mesmerizing. Spend a day with Neve Blackthorne. It won’t always be easy but it will be an experience you won’t soon forget.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey

No Rings Attached
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Author:
Published: 4/12/22
Fake dating, only one bed, road trip.  All the best tropes in one book!

I enjoyed Read Between the Lines a lot, but I absolutely love No Rings Attached. Lia demanded to have her story told and I am so glad Rachel Lacey listened. Rosie’s two best friends meet when Lia returns home to England to attend her brother’s wedding. Grace lives in London and when Rosie reaches out asking her to accompany Lia, Grace is reluctant but knows she will accept because she would do anything for Rosie.  Grace wants to hate Lia because she feels Lia replaced her as Rosie’s best friend but the two have immediate chemistry. But Grace doesn’t do relationships and the two live in different countries.

Rachel Lacey has quickly become one of my favorite authors. With this book, she gives us fake dating, an only one bed situation and a road trip. She also gives us two characters in Lia and Grace who are each other’s perfect match. Lia is not only incredibly likable, but she also has a directness that takes Grace by surprise. She’s kind and instead of showing pity when Grace confides information from her past, she just listens and is there for her and seriously, she has a British accent and who doesn’t love a woman with an accent.  Grace surprises Lia by charming her family and making her want more than just their fake dating situation. Grace has a lot to deal with and her default has always been compartmentalizing. Her growth throughout the story was beautifully written and at times my heart broke for her.

I loved that we get more of Rosie and Jane from Read Between the Lines. Rosie is the catalyst for her two friends meeting and the hopeless romantic that she is, probably knew how it would all turn out.  I felt so many emotions while reading this book. That is one of Rachel’s greatest gifts, writing books that cause so many emotions to come to the surface. I laughed, I had a few moments of anger related to Lia’s ex, I felt Grace’s pain and Lia’s frustration. My favorite couple of Rachel’s is Josie and Eve from Don’t Cry for Me, but Lia and Grace are right behind them and now hold a special place in my heart. This is a great read and I highly recommend it.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

With A Trist by Georgia Beers

With A Twist
Published: 4/12/22
A Swizzle Stick Romance Book 3

Amelia Martini is a mess. At 49, she’s divorced and being hit hard by menopause. She’s retired from her government job and has started a dog walking/sitting company. When she takes a job house sitting for one of her father’s friends, she never expects Kirby Dupree to turn her life upside down. Kirby’s a housepainter and starts a job at the house Amelia is housesitting. Kirby is drawn to Amelia despite her less than pleasant disposition.

This is the third book in Georgia Beers Swizzle Stick series. The first two featured Amelia’s cousins, Julia and Vanessa, who also play a part in this book, along with their respective loves. The three cousins are more like sisters and are always there for each other, but Julia and Vanessa can’t really understand what Amelia’s going through. Kirby, on the other hand, even though she’s 14 years younger than Amelia, she shows such understanding and compassion to Amelia, which is exactly what she needs. Maybe because I’m the same age as Amelia and have started perimenopause, I felt a lot of empathy for her. There is nothing worse than feeling like a stranger in your own body and it takes someone with the compassion and patience of Kirby to help Amelia realize that the way she sees herself isn’t at all how everyone else sees her. I really like Kirby and Amelia together. They complement each other beautifully.

I have enjoyed most of the Georgia Beers books I have read. She always creates entertaining characters, and this is no exception. Kirby and Amelia are both extremely likable. This story has lot of humor but also deals with a subject that doesn’t get enough attention in lesfic, a woman dealing with menopause. Amelia’s plight is one we will all have to deal with, maybe not to the severity she does but I can only hope we all have someone like Kirby to help us get through it.

An ARC was provided by Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

The Hummingbird Sanctuary by Erin Zak

The Hummingbird Sanctuary
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Author:
Published: 4/12/22

Olive, Harriet and Eleanor are best friends. They are also the owners of The Hummingbird Sanctuary, an idyllic resort in Colorado for women. The women love each other but Olive’s control freak tendencies and overspending are causing issues. The arrival of a reporter who is doing a story on the sanctuary and her two friends turns the women’s lives even more upside down.

I love every last thing about this book. The story is told from three points of view, which I really enjoyed. I love to get into the mind of the characters I’m reading about. Harriet or Hattie, as she prefers to be called, is a force of nature and my favorite character in the book. She has been a player for a long time, but things have begun to shift, and Judy arrives at the perfect time. After Olive’s husband’s death, opening the Hummingbird Sanctuary becomes her primary focus. She is a self-described pain in the ass and a complete control freak. She has a secret that’s tearing her apart. And then there’s Eleanor. She’s the resorts marketing director, she’s classically beautiful. After having her heart broken years ago, she wants nothing more than to find happiness.

These three women are more than best friends, They’re family. It doesn’t matter how much they argue or how much they may disagree, the love they feel for each other is a constant. The arrival of the reporter and her friends threatens to tear them apart. Olive, Eleanor and Hattie are all well- crafted characters. Erin Zak does a wonderful job of developing these characters and they all evolve so beautifully throughout the story. The secondary characters of Mabel, Judy and Sunny are fabulous.  I would happily read a story featuring any of these as a main character.

This is my favorite Erin Zak book. I love how she featured lesbian, bisexual and ace characters. It’s so refreshing to see a book with so much representation. I really want to be friends with these women. I want Hattie to cook for me, I want to do some meditating with Olive to calm her down and, frankly, I just want to swoon over Eleanor. I recommend you book a stay at The Hummingbird Sanctuary as soon as possible.

An ARC was received from Bold Strokes via NetGalley for an honest review.

Something Between Us by Krystina Rivers

Something Between Us
Category:
Published: 4/12/22

Kirby never expects or wants to see Quinn again. So, when they run into each other at Pride, nine years after Quinn stomped on her heart, Kirby is less than thrilled. In a city as big as Chicago, they start running into each other a lot. Fate seems to be trying to give them another chance if Kirby can open her heart again to Quinn.

This is a very good debut novel. Krystina Rivers uses her personal experience of being in the military during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to bring us a captivating, second chance romance. I was invested almost immediately. I felt for Quinn, who wanted nothing more than to make amends for the decision she made to break up with Kirby to protect her career. And I felt for Kirby, who wanted to protect her heart from Quinn, the only woman who she ever allowed herself to love.

The two meet in 2008 and that time frame is told in flashbacks. Their relationship is idyllic and the two are truly soulmates. Flashbacks are hit or miss for me but they were really well done in this story. Without them, I wouldn’t have had such a sense of how much love the two shared and how truly devastated Kirby was by Quinn’s decision. Second chance romances are one of my favorite tropes when done well. And Something Between Us was done very well. I look forward to reading more from Krystina Rivers. She is a new author with a bright future.

An ARC was received from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for an honest review.

 

Behind Her Eyes by Melissa Tereze

Behind Her Eyes
Published: 3/20/22

Things are not going well for Abi. She has nowhere to go and ends up across from the restaurant she has always dreamed of working at. Victoria, seemingly has it all. She owns her own restaurant, Adley’s and has more money than she could ever spend. When Victoria drops her purse and Abi returns it to her, she’s so grateful she lets the down on her luck woman stay at her guesthouse. A chance meeting ends up changing both of the women’s lives forever.

Melissa Tereze does a phenomenal job of writing age gap romances, but she also excels at bringing two people from different economic backgrounds together who seemingly have nothing in common. Abi and Victoria are another one of those couples who shouldn’t work, yet they do. Professionally, Victoria, is one of the most famous and successful chefs in England but her personal life is a dumpster fire. Her marriage is over, and her daughter isn’t speaking to her based solely on a rumor spread by an ex-employee. Abi may be financially down on her luck but Victoria is just as lost. Victoria may think she’s the one helping Abi, however, she soon realizes that Abi is the one helping her. Abi helps her to laugh again and to feel alive just by being there for her to talk to.

I really like this book and these characters. Abi is sweet and so smitten with Victoria, before she’s ever met her. She realizes how much more there is to Victoria than just her beauty and success. They really get to know each other and find that they are more alike than either could have imagined. I adore Abi but I’m a bit in love with Victoria. I can’t imagine inviting a stranger to live in my guest house. Actually, I can’t imagine inviting most of the people I know to invade my space. Victoria has such a beautiful heart and doesn’t give it a second thought. You can call it a good deed or you can call it destiny. Whatever, you call it, you won’t want to miss out on another fabulous read from Melissa Tereze.

An ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

Podcast Info

I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The Sapphic Book Review Podcast is live and it’s a lot of fun. I have talked with some of my favorite authors and there is a lot more to come! I am really proud of it and I hope you enjoy my chats with the best writers in lesfic! You can check it out here:

The Sapphic Book Review (buzzsprout.com)

If you enjoy the podcast, I have bonus content available on my Patreon page. I play Would You Rather with the authors I’ve interviewed, and it they are always funny and a bit weird! Here’s the link if you want to join the fun!

https://www.patreon.com/sapphicbookreviewpod

Chasing Dreams by A.L. Brooks

Chasing Dreams

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Published: 3/16/22

Claire Pressley needs a change. She’s tired of her demanding job as a venture capitalist and trying to make her parents happy. She buys a homestead in Eagle Cove, Oregon and is set to fulfill her dream of having a guesthouse. Ruby Jordan is the sweetheart of Eagle Cove. She works at the town library and cares for animals in her spare time. Her dream is to buy the Pruitt homestead and turn it into an animal sanctuary. The same homestead that Claire saunters into town and buys. Needless to say, in the beginning Ruby is not team Claire, and she certainly doesn’t feel any sparks, nope, not at all.

A new book from A.L. Brooks is always cause for celebration. With Chasing Dreams, she has once again given us a wonderfully written book with characters who are relatable and have sizzling chemistry. I like both of these women a lot. I love a small-town girl meets big city girl story where both women try to ignore the pull, but just can’t seem to avoid the inevitable. Chasing Dreams deviates from that trope, however, because even though Claire moves to Eagle Cove from New York, the big city mentality doesn’t come with her. She quickly adapts to the small-town life, surprising herself by how much she wants to be a part of this close-knit community. She’s tired of the city, the noise and the pretentious overachievers that have been a part of her life for so long.

The supporting characters are delightful. Katie is Ruby’s friend and runs the local bar and senses Claire may be the perfect woman for her relationship averse friend. Rudy’s grandfather, Ned is dealing with the limits his advanced age is bringing about but provides Ruby with love and support at every turn. And Wayne, Ruby’s brother, who takes a job renovating the homestead for Claire and helps Ruby navigate Ned’s health issues.

This is touted as a feel-good book and it certainly lives up to that. There isn’t a lot of angst, which is something I think we all deserve after the last few years. It’s a story of women who act their age, communicate and find the right person at the right time. A.L. Brooks is one of my favorite authors. She always writes characters whose happiness I become invested in and Claire and Ruby have now joined the list of wonderful couples she has created. We are all Chasing Dreams in some form or another and you will be happy you joined Claire and Ruby as they chase theirs.

An ARC was received from Ylva Publishing for an honest review.

 

 

The Devil Wears Tartan by Katia Rose

no title has been provided for this book
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Published: 3/19/22

Moira and Kenzie don’t like each other. Since the third grade they have been rivals, competing against each other in Scottish Highland dance. Both are now instructors but a scholarship opportunity has them putting their tartan back on to compete one against each other one more time. Old habits die hard as the two once again engage in insults, Only this time, maybe there’s something beneath the surface besides rivalry.

I don’t usually read YA books but this looked interesting so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did because it’s a really entertaining read. I love a book where the MC’s hurl insults at each other to hide their attraction and these two were masterful with the barbs they throw at each other. Moira comes from a family of Scottish folk dancers, it’s in her blood. She’s always seen Kenzie as the girl she had to defeat. She never thought about who Kenzie was or what she was dealing with. It’s eye opening for Moira when Kenzie allows her vulnerability to show and reveals how difficult her life has been.

I always find myself drawn to the icier characters in a story featuring the sweetheart and the icy woman. Because there is always so much going on beneath the surface that leads a character to be more standoffish. In this instance, Kenzie is weighed down by so many obligations, it’s no wonder she comes across as a bit snarky. It’s only when she opens up do we see the wonderful woman she is behind her protective shield. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Kenzie and Moira. They make each other better, not just as dancers but as people.

This book is a wonderful read. It has humor and extremely likable characters, while also dealing with  subjects like depression, substance abuse, family dynamics and labeling sexuality with sensitivity and care. This was my first Katia Rose book, but it won’t be my last.

An ARC was received via StoryOrigin for an honest review.

The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton Narrated by Lucy Rayner

The Tell Tale
Author:
Published: 2/28/22
A small town, an enduring love, a web of secrets.

The Tell Tale, by Clare Ashton, is a beautifully crafted mystery and was one of my favorite books of 2021. The audiobook, narrated by Lucy Rayner, brings the story to life in a spectacular way. I’ve never been to Wales. I’ve hardly been out of the United States, but while listening to this audiobook, I was transported to the village of Foel. I felt like a member of the community, trying to solve the mystery of who was leaving the townsfolk notes, making it clear that their secrets weren’t so secret after all. Even though I knew the outcome, I was drawn in all over again.

Lucy Rayner’s voice is perfectly suited to the story. It’s soft and melodic. There are a lot of characters, and she did a masterful job of making them distinct. This is my first time listening to her narrate a book, and I certainly hope it’s not the last. Her voice is calm yet conveys so much emotion.

This book brought a lot of feelings out when I read it initially, primarily empathy and anger. And Lucy’s narration brought them out all over again. I have so much empathy for the women of Foel, who are living in the 70’s with misogyny running rampant. The men in the village think having a dangling participle gives them to right to belittle and control women. Overcoming that male superiority is at the heart of this story. I fought alongside Sophie, Beth and the rest of the women of Foel.

I am a Clare Ashton fangirl and I make no apologies for it. She is a brilliant author who brings stories to life in such a vivid way that I feel transported into the story. With Lucy Rayner’s narration that was only intensified. This is an author/narrator combination that I hope we get more from in the future. I will be not so patiently waiting for the next collaboration.