Reprise by Estraven

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Bad Girls fan fiction. A more recent author, Estraven, has made quite a splash over at Bad Girls Riot. After reading the review sent in by Anjoka for Exit Wounds, I decided I would read the copy of Reprise that I compiled a long while ago and never got around to reading. I read her first fic, Dark Coda, and loved it. Classic angst filled Helen and Nikki and she did them so very well.

A friend, and fellow BG enthusiast, had just read Exit Wounds and raved about it. Me being my wonderful neurotic self, couldn’t read a new Estraven without working through the one I had already said I’d read, so I loaded up Reprise, the somewhat sequel to Dark Coda, and got to it.

While she still did a great job of capturing my favorite ex-con and ex-gov, I didn’t really care about Pat Kerrigan (I never made it past the first few episodes of series 4 so I never saw her) and I didn’t really care about Helen and Nikki’s son, Calum. Don’t get me wrong, the writing and plot were still very good but I went into it thinking it would focus on my favorite pairing and was disappointed when it didn’t. Had I gone into it knowing what to expect, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more.

I still recommend it. Estraven has a great voice and a knack for capturing our Nikki and Helen. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you enjoy Canada Bad Girl’s (CBG) portrayal of Helen and Nikki, you’ll also enjoy Estraven.

Now I have to go read more of Exit Wounds. Loving it!! I’ve also got Written on the Heart loaded up but couldn’t put Exit Wounds off for another moment.

Exit Wounds By Estraven

Here’s a premise for you. Imagine Bag Girls series one through three, still set in Larkhall, still with Nikki Wade and Helen Stewart, still with the same incidents that occurred in the original story line (give or take a few changes) but Helen is the prisoner and Nikki is the wing governor?….piqued your interest has it?….Well you’re in luck, because somebody has written it and it’s called Exit Wounds.

It might seem a hard premise to imagine – under what circumstances would Helen Stewart find herself in jail for killing Gossard (yes that remains the same) and how would Nikki Wade end up in charge of G Wing?  It’s easy really, when you have a very capable writer like Estraven.

Exit Wounds is a much harder edged version than the original series in my opinion. The Helen and Nikki in this story are not the ‘naively idealistic’ characters they appeared to be sometimes in the original. A lot has happened to this Helen and Nikki in their personal lives and their journey towards one another, but Estraven keeps their core character and values true to the original.

A lot of effort and research has gone into this piece – evident by the facts Estraven gives us about prison practices. She also shows us, in more detail than the original, the machinations of prison life, not just from the inmate’s point of view, but also the bureaucratic obstacles Nikki has to face as Wing Governor. We know how difficult it appeared for Helen in the show, but here you get a better understanding and it makes it all the more frustrating for the reader to know what the characters have to face.

There are added plots twists to Exit Wounds with journal entry snippets, depicting Helen’s thoughts that give an insight into her psyche and are at times deeply profound and deeply touching.

Estraven builds the emotional element between this Helen and Nikki brilliantly, it’s allowed to simmer and grow at a natural pace, and as mentioned, she captures their personality and characters wonderfully.

Apart from the in-depth characterizations and descriptiveness in this story, the other most remarkable thing about it, is that once you become immersed in it, you actually forget the show and start to believe this was actually the original. That’s quite a feat to pull off, with a show as popular as Bad Girls was and still is in the fan fic world.

And it shows just how gifted Estraven is as a writer that she succeeds in convincing you that this is how it should have been.

This review really doesn’t do Exit Wounds justice, so don’t miss out on reading this story!

Exit Wounds can be found by clicking on the link, which is the Bad Girls Riot site, and finding the story under the Potted Plants thread.

Written on the Heart by Estraven

When it comes to Bad Girls fan fiction, Estraven is a writer you just have to read to believe. Yes – she’s that good! And with two new stories posted within the past few months, she’s given us plenty of proof.“Written on the Heart” is a story that Estraven wrote per a request for the Help Haiti blog and it offers the reader a twist on the original Bad Girls storyline, and what a twist it is … what would happen if Trish was the one in HMP Larkhall?

A character often written as violent, heartless or worse, Estraven offers us a softer Trisha. Imprisoned wrongfully and unable to cope, we watch as she slowly starts to self-destruct under the pressure of prison life. We meet Claire Walker, Trisha’s lawyer and friend of Helen Stewart, Wing Governor of G-Wing, both of whom believe that Trisha was wrongly convicted. And then we meet Nikki Wade, tattoo artist, former lover and always friend to Trisha; she’ll do anything to help Trish, but has a wee bit of a problem working alongside a screw – namely Helen Stewart.

Nevertheless, an alliance is formed, and while the occasional spark of temper flies between the head-strong tattoo artist and the by-the-book wing governor, other things, shall we say, begin to ignite as well. The characterizations of Helen and Nikki are spot-on and the interaction between the two characters is downright perfect! The reader will find themselves reading page after page of dialogue that is so well written, you will think you’re listening to their conversations instead of reading them.

Some of the other usual suspects appear in ‘Written on the Heart’ – namely Shell Dockley, Bodybag, Sean (the prawn) Parr and of course, the bastard Fenner, and Estraven has written each and every one perfectly, but she also introduces a new character, Jane. And although her name may be simple, the character is anything but. A strong and brooding loner, we meet her in Larkhall where she offers Trisha protection, and slowly, a friendship is born. While not a character that appeared in the original series, Estraven has written Jane so wonderfully that you’ll find yourself pulling for her, just as you do for Nikki and Helen. Not an easy task!

Of course, while the story contains lots of great characters and pages of wonderful dialogue – it wouldn’t be complete without a little romance. Did I say little? How about slow … as in simmer … because that’s what Estraven gives us. The attraction between the two main characters, namely Nikki and Helen, happens slowly, and the reader will find themselves sitting back with a smile on their face as they watch the characters fall in love – whether they like it or not.

I dare not say more about the storyline of the wonderful piece of fan fiction that is “Written on the Heart,” because I feel the reader needs to discover that for themselves, but I will say that you will be hard-pressed to find a better author than Estraven.

Dark Coda by Estraven

I’m going to get right to the point. I thoroughly enjoyed this fic. I hadn’t read any Bad Girls fics in a good long time. And I miss my girls. Helen and Nikki were the reason I got into fan fiction in the first place. The best part about Bad Girls is that their relationship wasn’t subtext, it was main text. It was there for us all to see. We were with them through it all. Well, until Nikki got out. Then they went away and we had to imagine how it was for them.

Estraven gives us a look at how it could have turned out. And it’s an original look. Not the same old thing, not this time. This time Nikki ends up killing Jim Fenner a month after being released from prison on her first conviction. As happy as I was at Fenner’s untimely demise, I was sad that Nikki and Helen wouldn’t have that happy ending that we’d all hoped for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, while this story has some intensly emotional parts and bits that made me shake my head at the injustice of it all, it wasn’t really that angsty sort of writing that we see so much of in this fandom. There were sad parts and small victories and some parts when I wanted to shake either Helen or Nikki or both of them at the same time, but I don’t know that I ever felt like the author was deliberately trying to manipulate my emotions. The characters were true to the spirit of the originals so I didn’t stop and think, “whoa, Nikki would talk to Helen about that and not just go off half-cocked.” But we all know that Nikki did go off half-cocked all the time. It was part of her personality. And Estraven did justice to her strong, but vulnerable, personality. She also nailed Helen’s strong moral code and loyalty.

All of the characters in this piece were done well. After I finished the story, I went back to the site I got it from and read some of the comments – I didn’t want to do that before I had read it, I hate having the surprise spoiled. Anyway, I found that other readers had the same reactions that I had. I was just going to copy and paste the response from stealthgirl regarding the author’s characters because she said it perfectly. All the characters felt very true to life. There were many from the show – Thomas (who I automatically cringe when seeing – it’s rarely good for our girls), Monica, Barbara, Trisha, Claire, and even Karen Betts and Sally Anne Howe show up. The original characters were fantastic as well and you feel the appropriate emotions toward them.

This is the first work from Estraven that I’ve read and I look forward to reading more. Thanks to stealthgirl for the recommendation!