If you thought dating while famous was hard, try doing it when you’re the president!
Presidential by Lola Keeley is an age-gap workplace romance, which is surprisingly low on angst. Basically, this is a feelgiod utopia; we can only wish it was real some day!
Emily is an environmental lobbyist, intent on saving the world. She doesn’t usually get in the spotlight, but when she does, practically everyone notices. Connie, the president, is a widow and single mother, and a bit of an ice queen. Her known bisexuality hasn’t been much noted before, but enter Emily – and rumours start to fly.
The characters are great, very human and relatable, and the political bits of the story also seem real – so much deals and compromise and chasing poll results.. this was a gripping one I didn’t want to put down, even though a couple of scenes seemed a bit rushed.
I’ve actually read this novel before, way back, when its name was something different and it was still a bit ”raw”. So happy it’s a real novel now; us wlw readers need these stories!
Jae’s latest is exactly the kind of feelgood romance we need at this time. It’s cute and funny, but also very relatable at times.
Denny is the delightfully realistic butch main character, who works as a cashier and helps her sister take care of her niece. One day, she gets a message on her phone from a strange number… and begins to chat with the sender, Eliza, who turns out to be a fun person to talk to. So they become sort of pen-friends.
Denny is pining after her niece’s school bus driver, Eliza goes on one failed date after another. And they talk, compare experiences — even though Eliza is straight and the complete opposite of Denny — and soon Eliza is more interested in Denny than new dates found online.
The slow-burn romance is written so well you won’t mind the slowness; instead you’ll root for Denny and Eliza, laugh at the mishaps and coincidences, and likely enjoy every page. The side characters, Eliza’s best friend, and Denny’s family, are a hoot. Actually, I wouldn’t mind getting to read Heather’s story one day!
Yes, there are a few more serious topics, but nothing angsty, and the novel is more like a warm hug from a friend, not an agonizingly slow trip to Dramaville.
Whispering Wildwood by Emma Sterner-Radley is a gay YA fantasy adventure about a pair of siblings who, with the help of a glamorous rogue of a pirate, have to go into a mystical forest to retrieve something stolen by a folkloric beast. At first glance, this is a very straightforward adventure story: young protagonists go on a quest to a ”forbidden” place, meet odd creatures, make friends along the way and battle the ”big bad”. Simple, right?
The three main characters — Korinne, Matt and Vicktoria — are absolutely fascinating and all reveal more sides of themselves as the story progresses (I would love to learn more about these people).
There’s also an almost philosophical handling of power, friendship, family and one’s purpose in life, mostly from Korinne’s point of view. This makes the story even better; it’s not all action and adventure.
As for the inhabitants of Whispering Wildwood, there’s a whole multitude of animals and sentient creatures. All are described in a way that made my imagination run so wild, I even attempted a few sketches of them!
Here’s a refreshing take on the doc/patient trope. This time, the main characters are a physiotherapist (Kudzi) and a new police (Molly), still in training.
Reasons to heal by Jenn Matthews gets going when Molly is injured during a routine arrest. Getting back in shape takes quite a bit longer than she thought, she lives alone in a small flat, her little sister is rebelling… but hey, at least her physiotherapist is cute!
The medical side of things, such as physical therapy, group sessions, and slow recovery are believable and not too detailed. The romance is slow burn and sweet but not schmaltzy. At times I felt like it would be really easy to fall for Kudzi.. and wanted to shout at Molly.
Themes of culture clash, responsibilities and coming out were handled nicely and all the characters seemed real. Another solid novel from Jenn; four stars!
Helen & Nikki! Lucy! Asking for consent! The ASMR-y hand thing! Waita zvako (the language nerd in me was delighted)!
Ruby, a university lecturer, is roped into a gardening project with young school kids. She’s the opposite of a green thumb. Mel, a down-to-earth paramedic, would be an ideal partner for the project but Ruby and Mel are complete opposites and don’t like each other.
In the mix: some prejudice, internalised homophobia, dyslexia (what’s that got to do with anything? read and find out), relatable situations with children and older students and – wow.
The Words Shimmer by Jenn Matthews is super entertaining but also a thought-provoking read. It’s a slow-burn romance peppered with interesting facts; I could hardly put it down! I may also have sent the author some distressed messages… oops?
Ella is a big movie star, Cam a successful yoga instructor. In a romance. Superficial and perfect? Nah, they both are flawed, relatable, completely believable characters. There’s also a great supporting cast; for example, I found myself to be a bit (or a lot!) like Vanya among certain people..
A word of warning, though: Living by Lise Gold starts with a bang, not sparing the reader at all. It’s heavy, OK? Most of the drama afterwards is of an easier kind, though – this is, after all, a romance. Slow burn, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably enjoy every minute and don’t want them to rush.
I really liked how depression, its treatment and the side-effects of stardom were handled. Special kudos for the gorgeous cover!
It’s a new Greengage book! It’s a cosy mystery! It’s, in a word, delightful!
Laura’s eccentric uncle is visiting (and nursing a broken heart). A seemingly unimportant book has gone missing and Kit has promised to help out. Laura and Kit try to be stealthy in more situations than one. Guess how well that goes…
There’s trivia and extra info in footnotes (which I loved), more quirky islanders than you can shake a cat at, and while Greengage Shelf by Emma Sterner-Radley isn’t laugh-out-loud funny all the time, it will keep a smile on your face for a long time time after you’ve finished the book.
Christmas romcom / cosy mystery, a delightful read about the little island of Greengage and its inhabitants.
Kit has promised to find Pinky, while everyone is getting ready for Christmas. Kit, however, isn’t feeling very festive, what with spending it on Greengage for the first time and her girlfriend Laura being tied up with work.
Frustrations (for Kit), amusing situations, quiet humour – that’s what this story is made of. Perfect snack while waiting for the next installment in the Greengage series!
How much heartache and pining can you pack into 142 pages? LOADS!
If I were to describe Leaving Bree by Claire Highton-Stevenson by tropes, it would be second chance, friends to lovers, slowburn. Simple, yeah?
But nothing is ever simple, not the characters or the story – there are layers and depth to everything, and that’s what made this novella so good.
Morgan and Bree are great, realistic characters, ditto the supporting cast. I found myself rooting for Morgan all the way, occasionally wanting to yell at her to just get on with it and stop being so.. [censored]!
For the squeamish: the stalker bits are mostly just hinted at, as they are not the focus here. Mainly, they are there as another layer to Bree’s backstory.
The South Coast Lesfic Hangout took place on May 4th, 2019 in Crawley.
My travel plans started way back in February with a to-do list and pep talks to myself to Just. Do. It. I made the list public (on Facebook and Tumblr) to reduce the chance of chickening out. Also listened to Seize the Day podcasts (whole lot of positivity, interviews with authors and an important one about conquering your fears).
apply for new passport (old one expired in 2011)
book flights and hotel
book bus tickets
budget for food and shopping (also, cider)
take a small suitcase and leave it near-empty (for books)
take a backpack, notebook and pens
remember charger & adapter
don’t freak out when you meet them
don’t just sit alone in some corner (it may freak them out)
Jae (my spouse, not the famous writer) added:
leave spouse with kids
enjoy alone time
remember to come back home
I stressed and worried about the silliest things. But hey – twelve years since my last trip to the UK, things had probably changed a bit! And this was only my second weekend trip to the UK (the last one was in 1990, when I went to see Elaine Paige in Anything Goes and there was a fan club meet & greet).
I had, prior to this trip, emailed and chatted online with a few writers, even helped some out a bit (like beta reading, typo hunting etc.) so not everyone was a stranger. Still, nerve-wracking to finally see them face to face!
Things got easier on Friday, 3rd of May when I finally left for Helsinki, and even more when I managed to arrive at the right gate at the airport (Helsinki airport had changed a lot, and not for the better – it was a maze!). As for the flight, I’d completely forgotten how boring it was to just sit for three hours, doing practically nothing.
Gatwick turned out to be not that bad of a maze.. but without detailed directions from Wendy Hudson, I would have taken ages to get to the bus platforms; it’s like they were hidden beyond a secret exit! Got the bus to town centre, found my hotel, checked in, had a quick shower and change of clothes, and went out again. At this point I was pretty much famished, having eaten nothing since before leaving for the airport several hours ago.
There was a Pizza Express nearby so I ate there, then headed out to the evening’s destination: Bar 7. It’s a small bar but easy to find, and I was there in no time. Saw familiar faces already from the door – at least two tables were occupied by SCLHO people. I said hi to Claire, Carol and Jenn and went to the bar to get a drink.
There were two people standing at the bar – a tall one, facing me, whom I recognised instantly as Wendy (at this point my knees started to shake a bit) and a shorter one whom I saw clearly only when I was right next to them: A.L. Brooks. Cue shaky voice and knees! I said hello, shook their hands, said something else, and got that drink. Wendy said the handshakes would turn to hugs before the weekend was over.
The rest of the evening was spent in excellent company (Kit Mallory and Lise Gold being completely new acquaintances, both lovely even though I immediately confessed I hadn’t yet read anything by them), talking about books and loads of other stuff.
Carol and I occasionally reverted to fangirl mode – hope the authors didn’t mind too much! I sneaked a few pics and sent them to Jae, had a few more drinks – six in all before finally leaving for the hotel. Tipsy but happy and relaxed – the good night hug from Wendy certainly helped! Went to bed after a few more messages to Jae, woke up very early in the morning, dying of thirst, drank some water and slept for two more hours.
In the morning, I messaged a bit back and forth with Angela about breakfast plans. As the place I’d planned to go to wasn’t open yet, I went downstairs for a Full English with Angela and Kit *). Besides, it was ”unlimited”.. and I ate a lot! Had planned to skip lunch so this was perfect.
Kit offered us a ride to the Crawley Horticultural Society and we accepted. At the gate we spotted Wendy. I stayed with her for a bit while the others went to set up. I just wanted to keep out of the way.
Inside, I got my name sticker (name and pronouns! Cool!), watched as people arrived and set up their tables, said hi to few more people, donated a bunch of queer books (only to fill up my backpack later) and well, sort of waited a bit. Jenn was the first one I approached about books; bought Hooked on You and a crocheted rainbow-coloured guinea pig.
At first I was nervous as hell and only hung out close to Wendy, Carol, Kit and Angela.. also, got some tea and puzzled looks when I asked Chris to fill the cup (no milk), and make it strong, without sugar. I took pics of the authors, tables, raffle prizes, my growing pile of books.. Chatted with a few more people and just enjoyed. Bookish fangirl heaven, seriously.
Every now and then an author got up on the small stage to read an excerpt of their book – and everyone else listened quietly. There was also a short but very informative talk about audiobooks. I took notes, it was that interesting. Sometimes people disappeared for a bit into a corner of the stage, where Jenn had set up a Calm down zone, complete with colouring pictures & pens, fidget toys, stuffed animal toys and the like.
At some point I finally got up the nerve to say hi to Emma Sterner-Radley and A.E. Radley and to buy some of their books. Later, at Jae’s insistence over Whatsapp, and with Carol’s help, I got the fan pic I wanted.
Managed to talk to Kiki Archer, who was quite a bit less intimidating when she was sitting down. She distracted me and I never did get to gush about her YouTube stuff or anything else; instead I ended up on her video clip, talking with Emma – in Swedish (her dialect is adorable)!
Another surprise came when I saw the audiobook narrators. I’d just finished a book that Jessica Jeffries had narrated and talked with her about that, and found out there’s a new one in the works.. and then I of course had to talk to the author – Emma Nichols – too (cue shaky knees all over again).
Coolest T-shirt of the day was probably that of Arizona Tape, another unknown writer to me. I talked with her a bit, got a pic of her and that awesome shirt, and of course bought a book. Not an unknown any more!
There was a raffle to benefit Allsorts Youth Project, for local LGBTQ youth. The profits from sales of coffee, tea, cakes etc. went to Allsorts, too, and I later heard that in all, we’d raised about a hundred pounds! Never mind that I didn’t win anything. Just being there was a win in my books.
What I’d planned to buy:
Wendy Hudson: Meant to Be Me
Claire Highton-Stevenson: The Dollmaker
Emma Sterner-Radley: Greengage Plots, Tinderbox tales 1-2
Amanda Radley: Second Chances
Kiki Archer: The Way You Smile
Jenn Matthews: Hooked on you, guinea pig, keyring?
Emma Nichols: Forbidden
Lise Gold: French summer
A.L. Brooks: (any book, signed)
What I got:
Wendy Hudson: Meant to Be Me
Claire Highton-Stevenson: Forget it
Emma Sterner-Radley: Greengage Plots, Tinderbox tales 1-2
Amanda Radley: Second Chances
Kiki Archer: The Way You Smile (e-book; my backpack was about to burst at the seams)
Jenn Matthews: Hooked on You, guinea pig
Arizona Tape: Not today
Kit Mallory: Blackout
Lise Gold: Northern Lights, French summer
A.L. Brooks: Write Your Own Script
2 bookmarks (from Emma Wallis)
When the event was winding down and people started gathering their stuff, Claire, Organiser Extraordinaire was already gathering a list of people for a dinner reservation. I gave my name and tried to help out with the chairs and tables, but Claire’s Crew (aka Chris, Lou, Elaine and Nic) had it all under control. So after saying goodbye to Kit, who had to leave for home, Wendy, Angela and I walked back to town centre.
Angela and Wendy went elsewhere for dinner but we agreed to meet at Bar 7 again afterwards, and after a quick detour I joined the main group at Bella Italia. The place was packed but we fit well enough, ate our fill, talked and talked – about books, languages, life, food.. everything important. This went on for the rest of the evening, including at Bar 7, where I had a few drinks but mainly just continued soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the company.
When it was time to go, it was hugs all around and I probably declared my undying love and respect to everyone (if I did – a bit hazy on the details – I meant every word and still stand by those words). Walked to the hotel, packed, went to bed, couldn’t sleep, read something like two chapters of French Summer (by Lise Gold) before finally conking out.
The way back next morning was uneventful, except for bloody Helsinki airport where there were long lines everywhere and masses of people who had no idea of how to move in a place with masses of people (i.e. they didn’t). Missed my bus and got the slow one home; glad the driver still accepted my ticket.
Stella the Drama Queen (our dog) was beside herself with happiness when I got home, The Bear Cub (human child) loved his guinea pig and immediately made a house and a bed for it, Jae liked the loot but soon(ish) got tired of me talking about the Hangout. I didn’t shut up for hours.
So many people have already blogged about the event.. like Jenn, Amanda, Claire, Kit Eyre.. Carol (LESBIreviewed), of course, did a video about it. This one’s a long ramble but hey, it was my first event of this type and I’m clearly still quite not over it.
*)Still can't get over the fact that I was on a first-name basis with all these cool people, eek!