Cheri Reviews The Roundabout by Gerri Hill

Like all Gerri Hill stand alone romances, I went into The Roundabout with mid-range hopes. Her books are rarely stellar but they’re almost always enjoyable in a “light, easy to read with moderately engaging characters who I want to see succeed and be happy” sort of way. The description of this one, which I’ll add just below, seemed like it might be like a reverse of one of my absolute favorites from the author, No Strings. That was enough to make me put away the other two books I was reading and focus on this one. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Megan Phenix—bar and grill owner in gay-friendly Eureka Springs—is labeled as “playing hard to get” and finds herself the object of much unwanted attention. If only she were seeing someone…maybe the women would leave her in peace.

Leah Rollins thinks fifty is too young to retire, so instead, she opens a store in the touristy shopping district of Eureka Springs next to the popular Phenix Grill. She soon learns that Megan Phenix is a bit on the grumpy side as they spar over parking spaces and anything else they can find to argue about. When Leah catches the attention of the multitude of single lesbians in town, she searches for a way out. Could the grumpy grill owner next door be the answer to her problems?

Megan and Leah strike an unlikely alliance and conspire to rid themselves of the unwanted attention by fake dating. Can they pull it off?

As they pretend to date and convince everyone in town that they really are a couple, the pretense becomes harder to hold on to. But there’s just one problem…they don’t really like each other.

There seemed to be some potential for a pleasant reading experience but, for me, it never panned out. I had some problems with this book that covered the plot, the characters, and some editing issues. Two of the biggest problems I had with The Roundabout were Megan being a completely unlikable character for nearly the entire book and the whole Facebook/blackmail scenario. First, Megan is constantly rude to everyone – family included. To call her grumpy is an understatement. I was probably 75% through the book before she acted like a decent human being. I don’t know why anyone would want to be friends with her, let alone ask her out even if she was the youngest available lesbian in town. And she treats Leah terribly while Leah, for a reason I don’t understand, is nice to her and doesn’t seem to mind the treatment. She says a few times that she enjoys annoying her but I don’t know what she gets out of the interactions.

I felt like very little time was spent letting the characters get to know each other and develop the chemistry that they ended up with. There was lots of space devoted to telling the reader, often in the same basic words, about Leah not knowing what she was going to sell in her shop – right up until it was time to open – and how Mary Beth was crazy or how Megan was pissed about the parking situation but not much showing positive, one-on-one experiences with the two leads. It seemed like Leah decided that Megan was cute and that was enough to move forward. Megan spent a lot of time complaining about everything and, after the attraction started to feel mutual, saying that “this can’t happen.” I never felt connected to the characters or to their relationship.

The second thing that I struggled with was the plot arc dealing with blackmail photos posted on Facebook. I found it disturbing and creepy that everyone except Megan found it funny and cute that someone stripped, posed, and photographed a passed out, drunk woman and then repeatedly posted pictures – each more revealing than the next – publicly in order to blackmail her into going on a date with her. To have even Megan’s sister, a friend of the blackmailer, tell her to just go out with her and maybe she’ll stop, felt so dirty and wrong to me. I found nothing funny about the situation and it made me feel negatively toward every person who thought it was okay to do something like that or to not do whatever they could to make it stop.

Lastly, and these things may not bother most people but they were pretty distracting to me, there were lots of repeated words and information. About halfway through, I started looking words and phrases up to see how many times they were used. If I took a shot of tequila, the drink that got Megan into the blackmail situation, every time the word “smoky” was used to describe Leah’s eyes, I’d have ended up in the hospital. Like I said, stuff like that may not bother you as a reader but, for me, they kill an otherwise good story. Where I was already having a tough time caring about the characters, it made the experience even worse.

I wouldn’t put this one on my re-read list but I will keep reading Gerri Hill’s books. Her hit-to-miss ratio with me is still pretty good when it comes to her romance novels.

You can download a sample or purchase The Roundabout by clicking here.

I received a copy of The Roundabout from the publisher for review.

No Strings by Gerri Hill

It’s no secret that I enjoy Gerri Hill’s work. I think I’d have to say that No Strings is definitely one my favorites.

Reese Daniels has an “encounter” with someone she shouldn’t have and ends up losing her job. She finds herself in the VERY small town of Lake City where she’s the temporary sheriff, much to the dismay of the secretary and deputy working there. Reese has decided that once her year long contract is up with Lake City, she’s out of there for some other tourist town that can offer her more in the way of a social life. She has no desire to begin any friendships. She wants nothing that will make it hard to leave once her sentence is up.

Morgan has been a forest ranger in the town for seven years and considers Lake City home. She is also the only lesbian for miles. Until Reese shows up.

I think the thing that I enjoyed the most about this book was the humor. The author gives us the opportunity to get to know the characters separately and then lets us watch their friendship grow. We know from the jacket notes that Reese and Morgan set up an arrangement that lets them enjoy each other sexually but not have any emotional attachment. I think we can figure out how that turns out.

As with most of Hill’s work, the characters are likable and they feel real. There are lots of good laughs in this book and the dialogue flows naturally, which is a must for me. I particularly enjoyed the way Reese and Morgan quickly developed their own inside jokes and how they interacted with each other. It didn’t go exactly as I had suspected, as far as the build up to the end, and that was a nice surprise.

Thanks, Ms. Hill, for another thoroughly enjoyable read.

Artist’s Dream by Gerri Hill

You might already know Gerri Hill from her novels published by Bella Books. A few of these has been reviewed by Cheri. If you haven’t familiarised yourself with Hill’s work yet, and you need an appetizer before you decide to spend your money on her published work, you can try out one of the fic’s by Hill available for download at the PDAfiction site.

I would recommend that you start out with “Artist’s Dream” that I have found to be a captivating romance. The story is centred on a woman’s struggle with her strict religious upbringing and her attraction to women. At the age of 33 Cassie has successfully run from her attraction to women for years, even in light of constant attempts from her lesbian best friend Kim and her partner Lisa to make her stop and own up to her true feelings.

You can run, but you cannot hide, at least not forever, what put an end to Cassie’s running from herself is the long tanned legs and dark brown eyes of Luke, a woman with a history of bad relationships and a battered heart. Luke is a successful architect and new to the small local community of artists and organic farmers, where Cassie and her friends live their lives. A string of chance meetings between Cassie and Luke paves the way to a friendship, a friendship that can turn into more if Cassie’s fears and her father don’t put an end to it.

“Artist’s Dream” is based one of the classic romantic storylines in lesfic, but I found it to be well executed and with an interesting and likeable cast of characters to move the story along. So I can definitely recommend that you give it a try.

For those of you who might not be familiar with the PDAfiction site where “Artist’s Dream” is archived I’ve included the following information.

If you like to keep your favourite on line fiction on file, PDAfiction offers a number of fics for download in different formats. I’m real fond of the .lit format that can be read on Windows based devices with the Microsoft Reader, which is free software you can download here.

The Athenaeum has also started to offer the option to download fic’s archived on the site in a number of formats. Should you have difficulties reading the formats offered on the devices that you have, you can use the free software Calibre to convert files to a number of different formats used on eBook readers and to keep your eBook library organised.

Don’t hesitate to try this out – I’m definitely not a computer geek – and I’ve had no difficulties with the software mentioned.

Behind the Pine Curtain by Gerri Hill

Jackie and Kay were best friends since early childhood. They were inseparable until their senior year in high school, when Jackie realized that she felt drawn to Kay in a way that was much more than just friendly. After coming out to her rich and powerful parents, they put her on a bus out of town with $100 in her pocket.

Fifteen years later, she returns to Pine Springs, Texas for her father’s funeral. Jackie reunites with Kay and the friends still feel that connection that they’ve always shared. But they’re different women now, with some serious baggage.

I enjoyed this short book very much. Hill’s writing style is so easy to lose yourself in and her characters are strong, yet vulnerable. I wished that there was more of the story but still felt satisfied at the end.

Hunter’s Way by Gerri Hill

I’ve read a couple of Gerri Hill’s on-line stories and completely enjoyed them. But I was still pleasantly surprised by Hunter’s Way. Tori Hunter, the volatile and angry homicide detective, goes through partners at an alarming rate; most of them not coming out of it well and some not making it out at all. Samantha Kennedy is her last chance before she’s likely put on desk duty or some other unpleasant task. They immediately rub each other the wrong way.

From the beginning, there’s tension between the two. Samantha is a bit uptight and plays by the rules, while Tori is a rogue who makes up her own. In addition to Samantha dealing with a new, difficult partner and a move from the assault division to homicide, she also has to put up with her proper and demanding attorney boyfriend, Robert. No one is really happy with this situation. But when the partners are caught up in the investigation of a serial killer, Tori and Sam (“It’s Samantha.”) find out just how well they complement each other.

I found the mystery well done and nicely graphic – I like that but others may find some of it a bit much. It was really not much more than you’d see during an episode of prime time television, well, maybe a bit more but not much. While it’s not tough to figure some parts out, there were enough twists to keep my interest. My favorite part of the book was the funny and playful banter between the new partners. That eases considerably toward the middle of the book but by then I was pretty well involved in the mystery and growing relationship.

I do enjoy Gerri Hill’s writing style. She has a way with drawing the characters so that I can easily relate to them and understand why they make the choices they make, whether I agree with them or not. I’ve already started the sequel “In The Name of the Father.”