With the exception of horror, I read a wide variety of genres. The optimist in me turns to HEA romance for a lift and a mental hug while other genres provide their own unique satisfactions. “Training days” is the first of Ms. Frances’ three published books I have read and was released in 2008 as a paperback by Bella Books. If you are looking for the quintessential lesfic romance, then this sweet story by Jane Frances will fit the bill.
Morgan Silverstone and Alison (Ally) Brown meet on board a trans-continental train ride from Perth to Sydney. Both young professionals, the author creates characters who are successful in their fields (travel journalism and architecture, respectively) prior to meeting. Directionally challenged Morgan is a closeted lesbian who hides her sexuality for professional reasons. Ally is straight and currently nine months into a pedantic relationship with James. They are supported by a number of secondary characters who provide a backdrop against which the two women negotiate their growing relationship. The supporting characters fit into the plotline, are the source of drama, deceit and surprising support, but would have benefitted with a little more development to fill them out. This romance moves from the confines of the train to their lives beyond and forces them to consider the implications it has upon their everyday reality. Coming out is a major theme of the story, as each reconciles with her personal integrity and tries to manage the permeability of their relationship.
A player, Morgan is initially introduced enjoying a dalliance with a young French tourist. In the resultant cover-up, we meet Ally. This initial encounter will have implications for both main characters and later provide challenges they must overcome. The dialogue in the second half of the story allowed me to relate more to the characters than I did in the beginning. There the story was dominated by detailed descriptions of internal thoughts and the characters immediate environs. Ally’s response to her attraction to Morgan is well described and allows me to follow as she adjusts her self-perception and considers the implications this has for her life. Morgan’s challenge to Alison endeared her to me, standing up for both of them as Ally vacillated in her response to her attraction to the journalist.
Some readers might find it slow going, almost too descriptive and perhaps even prescriptive to absorb the author’s vivid imagery. To my mind this exemplifies the double-edged sword: a strength that is simultaneously a weakness. Ms. Frances’ ability to recreate the characters’ thoughts and paint a picture is exceptional but it also leaves me little room to bring my own imagination to bear. Her extensive research is couched in these descriptions and sometimes proves a heavy load for the plot to carry. I do think that editorial pruning would have allowed the text to be tightened, released the reader to enter the story and allowed for more expansion on the actual relationship without lengthening the novel.
While the plot suffers at the expense of the setting, this tale is a sweet love story with some pleasing sex scenes and a satisfying conclusion. Morgan and Ally’s responses to their attraction are distinct and appropriate and the time allowed for decisions and actions quite believable. The motivations for remaining closeted are perhaps less of an issue today than they were prior to publication, but the story remains realistic and a welcome escape into love discovery. I intend buying Ms. Frances’ other novels and look forward to experiencing her well written stories in the future.