Over the last few weeks, my reading increased in direct proportion to the number of cable shows’ season finales. Now that I’ve exhausted all the PVR’d episodes of various series I’ve been hoarding, I’ve started playing around with the “On Demand” selection of movies and series that was included with my cable package. Sadly, just because it’s “On Demand” doesn’t mean that it is “In Demand”.
One of the series I stumbled upon was Femme Fatales – which I thought could be interesting as I’m a big fan of the Noir genre. This anthology series is produced by Cinemax, which I didn’t discover until later is also known as Skinamax, and the first episode follows a Lindsey Lohan-like actress who’s sent to prison. Oh yeah, baby, Women in Prison. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor during the rather, uhm, vigorous sex scene between Lacey and her cellmate, Camille, I had a good laugh, seriously considered rewinding and was reminded of a few fanfic and lesfic stories. I know, I know – Women in Prison movies and pulp novels were exploitive, geared to push censor boundaries and titillate male audiences. But there are a few WiP lesfic stories that I loved – more for the absolute angst ridden melodrama than anything else (and, some hot smoldering sex behind bars). Once I thought about them, I just had to read them again. For research purposes of course.
Hard Times by Blayne Cooper From her days as Advocate in the fanfic world, I’ve always been a big fan of Blayne Cooper’s work. She has a wicked sense of humour with fast paced and imaginative plots and characters who stood out as vibrant, smart. Hard Times was one of the first “published” novels by Cooper that I read and I think it is an excellent example of successful transitioning from fanfic to publishing. Her humour is still there but there are more serious plot lines and I found the characters even more real and endearing than in her fanfic. Kellie Holloway is a privileged, self-destructive woman who ends up in prison after a drunken confrontation with the police ends in tragedy. Once there she meets Lorna Malachi, a woman who’s been incarcerated since she was a teen and has learned early how to toughen up and survive behind bars. An unlikely friendship (not really … since this is a pretty common trope in prison stories) develops and of course there’s a sizzling romance and at least one shower scene. Both main characters are flawed – making bad choices along the way and learning to deal with the consequences – but at the same time. If you haven’t read this one yet, I’d recommend it as a well written romance set in a not so typical setting .
Angel and Ice Trilogy by Susanne M Beck (Sword’n’Quill)
(Redemption, Retribution, Restitution)
Note: I read (and re-read) the fanfic versions of these books, and can’t tell you whether the published versions (issued in early 2000’s) have any major differences, editing, etc. According to Amazon, these books are still available in paper version, though the publishers that are listed are no longer in business. Fanfic versions can be found here: http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/redemption.html, www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/retribution.html , http://www.ausxip.com/fanfiction/r/restitution.html
Angst, romance, tragedy, deception, danger, corruption, noble sacrifices, soul mates (who are united, torn apart, reunited, torn apart and reunited again), scads of uber characters including a gang called The Amazons, lots of sex, lots of violence, an over the top plot that keeps getting more and more ridiculous, hilarious dialogue that makes the reader laugh out loud and a breathless florid narrative. I really shouldn’t … but I really love this story . This is a long series – in which the author seems to be having such a fun time telling the story from Angel’s perspective that she just doesn’t want to wrap things up and continues to throw up obstacles in the path of Angel and Ice’s quest for a Happily Ever After. And I had such a fun time reading it that I didn’t want it to end. Angel, who embodies her nickname, is convicted of killing her husband (but it was self defense as he beat and was about to rape her) and sent to The Bog to serve out her sentence. The Bog is a decrepit, corrupt and dangerous women’s prison full of gangs, crooked guards and …. lesbians. How could I not love this series? Once Angel has established herself as a person who can “get things” behind prison walls and settles in for what is going to be a long sentence, Ice returns. One of the most uber of uber characters, Ice is an assassin for the mob until she’s double-crossed and returned to prison where she resumes her leadership of the Amazons, a gang of self-appointed protectors of the innocent. Dark, brooding, stoic, noble and a total bad ass when it comes to fighting – of course she’s Angel’s soul mate. The first book focuses on Angel and Ice’s time in the Bog, the second follows them on the lam and the third continues as they deal with the aftermath of the second book. This series pretty much breaks the angst-o-meter, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief and enjoy.
Orange is the New Black
Based on a book by the same name, this is a standout new series produced and available through Netflix. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of Netflix’ other series, but they knocked this one out of the park. The actors, writing and production in this series are outstanding – something I wasn’t expecting from a company that doesn’t even have a channel on TV. The story follows Piper Chapman, a rather self-absorbed and entitled woman who ends up in prison for inadvertently being her ex’s mule in an international drug cartel. Chapman is a spoiled little rich girl, used to avoiding consequences and taking accountability for her words and actions and to say that she’s a fish out of water in prison is an understatement. Although she is the primary character in the series, I think Orange is the New Black shines through the ensemble cast. Unlike most series, each of the supporting characters back stories of how they ended up in prison is brilliantly portrayed – elevating what would normally be two dimensional, stereotypical background characters into fully developed and real women whose circumstances and choices led them to incarceration. Even better, as the series progressed, characters I liked, I learned to hate and those I hated I fell in love with. I started this series with almost no expectations – and finished it on the edge of my couch, devastated that I have to wait a year to find out what happens next.