Cheri Reviews Perfect Rhythm by Jae

Jae is the author of one of my very favorite lesbian romances, Backwards to Oregon, but I’ve not read several of her newer books. When the cover was revealed, I thought it was great and decided to keep it on my radar. Then when I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy, I jumped at it. One of the main characters in a lesbian romance being asexual definitely piqued my interest. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.

In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.

Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?

A lesbian romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.

I knew the bare bones about asexuality so it was nice to get to know Holly and get a better understanding of some of the relationship hurdles she and other ace folks deal with. Besides the issues dealing specifically with asexuality, this is a pretty standard lesfic romance. Not too much angst but lots of relationship building and outside things going on that help to move our leading ladies toward finding love with each other.

Jae is a master at the slow building romance while giving the reader plenty of time to get to know the characters. The best part is that the reader isn’t beaten over the head with info dumps or flashbacks; everything happens organically and feels like we’re learning about our new best friends. There were a few times when I felt that some of the information about asexuality felt a bit too educational. But now I do feel like I understand the issues that asexual people and their non-asexual partners must go through.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this review is that I know that many of my friends haven’t read Jae in a while and I think they’ll like this book. Besides, more visibility and inclusion of the B,T, and A aspects of LGBTQA spectrum are needed. I think Perfect Rhythm is a great addition.

You can download a sample or purchase Perfect Rhythm by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Departure from the Script by Jae

I’m late to the party a lot. It can take me years to finally read a book on my TBR list but, if I hear enough good things about it from folks I trust, I’ll get to it.

The Hollywood Series by Jae has been on that list for a mighty long time. It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big fan of Jae’s historical fiction. I’ve read Backwards to Oregon more times than I can count – the sequels nearly as many times. Second Nature and the Portland Police Bureau series is another favorite. So I was pretty hopeful that I’d find another set of books to immerse myself in for a good long while.

Departure from the script is a quick read that focuses on Amanda Clark, aspiring actress, and photographer Michelle Osinski. They meet under less than ideal circumstances but quickly become close. As it happens in most romances, emotional and physical attractions happen fast!

The story, itself, was interesting. Even though the book is novella length, very unlike Jae, I felt connected to the characters. We don’t get a load of background on either of the leads but what we do get gives us a great idea of their histories and personalities. We even get to spend some time with the families as we really get to understand what’s important to each of them. I very much liked Amanda and Michelle.

The writing was good and the dialogue felt natural. These women felt like real folks and it’s always a joy to read a romance that has believable situations and genuine characters. There were no misunderstandings or exaggerated angst – I had not a single instance of wanting to shake the hell out of someone. I don’t think I had any bullshit moments, either. I think the only thing that got a sigh from me was the number of times physically and/or emotionally close moments were disturbed. Even the characters mention it at least once. But, honestly, I liked them and the story so much, it was very bearable.

If you’re a fan of Jae’s romances and haven’t read this one yet, you’ll probably enjoy it very much.

You can download a sample or purchase Departure from the Script by clicking here.

Sequella Reviews Jae’s Shape Shifter Books

I admit, it took me a while to turn my attention to Jae’s shape shifter stories. Even though I liked all of her books I’ve read so far, I kept pushing them to the back of my reading pile. I have no idea why…

After finishing Second Nature, I immediately turned my attention to the second full length novel, True Nature. And when I say full length novel, this actually means a really long story in Jae speak, much longer than the usual ~80.000 words you find in lesfic romance.

True Nature revisits wolf shifter Kelsey Yates who made an appearance in Second Nature, where she almost killed Jorie, one of the lead characters. Struggling with distrust from her boss, high expectations from her parents, and part of her past, Kelsey sets out to rescue an adolescent shape shifter boy from his adoptive mom, Rue. Of course, circumstances are different than they originally appeared and slowly, a relationship between Kelsey and Rue develops.

For me, what stands out in this book is the relationship between Kelsey and Rue. I would have expected the shape shifter, Kelsey, to be the stronger character of the two. Especially since she is a wolf shifter, and they tend to be invulnerable and on top of everything in other fantasy novels. This is not the case here. Kelsey is not interested in following her Dad’s role as alpha of the pack at all. Instead, she is drawn to Rue’s strength and dominance and is happy with an omega position.

Chronologically, Manhattan Moon happens before True Nature. It’s not important in which order you read both books though. In Manhattan Moon, we meet two characters that have been shortly introduced in True Nature. Shape shifter Shelby, a psychiatrist, and Nyla, a human nurse, work together at a hospital in New York. The attraction between them grows, but Shelby knows that she needs to protect the Wrasa secret and should try to find a “more suitable” mate instead. Jae perfectly captures Shelby’s struggle about not wanting to do the “right” thing and you will feel yourself wincing whenever she might get confronted by fellow Wrasa about dating a human.

Nature of the Pack is a short story that starts where True Nature ended. If you’re not ready yet to let Kelsey and Rue go, you definitely need to read it. Although, it’s way too short for my liking!

You miss Jorie and Griffin? The book ended too soon? I know that feeling. At least there is Natural Family Disasters with a collection of five short stories connected to Griffin and her family.

You can download samples or purchase all of Jae’s books by clicking here.

Group Review of Hidden Truths by Jae

What started out as a three-way review ended up as a group review. We all had the same opinion, we liked the book and if you like Jae’s work or historical romance, you probably will, too. So check out the video below for our review and discussion.

You can download a sample or purchase Hidden Truths by clicking here.

Alberta Reviews 96 Hours, Heart Block, and Second Nature

96 hours by Georgia Beers

96 hours is set in the first days and weeks of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Abby Hayes, a young woman in her late twenties, is on a return flight from London to New York to visit her mother for a few days. After having quit her job a few years before so she could experience life and travel around the world, she’s what you would call a free spirit. On the same plane, Erica Ryan is returning from a business trip that didn’t quite turn out as planned. Living for her work and ready to be home so she can continue to work on a solution for her product, she’s more than a little frustrated when all of a sudden the plane is redirected to a small town in Newfoundland. With nearly 7,000 other passengers they learn of the 9/11 attacks and try to cope with the horrible reality of the aftermath. Trapped for nearly a week in this small town, Abby and Erica have to learn to work together to make the whole situation as bearable as possible.

I started this book a bit apprehensively since I was afraid it might be more about the attacks on the Twin Towers than about the characters and I wanted to read a novel not non-fiction. I needn’t have worried. Georgia Beers uses the backdrop of 9/11 as a setting for two very different characters to look beyond their own perspective. It is never a tool to paint the world in black and white and good and evil – something I unfortunately have come across while reading stories set around the attacks. One of her main characters describes this best when she sits in a bus in New York a few weeks after 9/11 and is devastated by the hateful looks some passengers throw at everyone that looks like someone from the Middle East.

The secondary characters are equally well developed, with their own backgrounds and perspectives. Something I came to expect from Georgia Beers’ books. Her characters are always well developed and seem very real – no superheroes, no perfectness. Everyone could be someone you might actually meet in the grocery store or on the street. The whole story has a very slow pace since most of it takes place within a week. As a reader that gave me the chance to experience this claustrophobic atmosphere along with the characters, the waiting around, not knowing what to expect.

I recommend this book to everyone who is interested in reading about three-dimensional characters in a very difficult situation and a slowly developing romance. If you are looking for an action-driven plot in the midst of 9/11 this is not the book for you.

Heart Block by Melissa Brayden

Emory Owen, owner of a multi-million dollar news agency, isn’t all too thrilled that she has to take care of selling and cleaning out her late mother’s mansion. Never having been close to any of her family and especially not her mother, she’s not willing to invest too much of her time into her childhood home. When a friend recommends a cleaning service to take care of the house, she accepts right away.

Sarah Matamoros is a young woman, working for her mother’s cleaning house business. She tries to balance her life around the job, taking care of her eight-year-old daughter Grace and finding enough time for her large Mexican family.

When she meets the owner of her newest project, Emory Owen, she’s at first taken aback by the aloof, all-business like behaviour of a daughter that has just lost her mother. As time passes, the two so very different women get to know and love each other. But is that enough to overcome the obstacles of two very different worlds?

Having read Melissa Brayden’s “Waitng in the Wings”, which I really liked, I was curious whether she’d be a one-hit-wonder or if her second book would be equally as interesting. And it is. Her characters are well developed and especially the little girl was most definitely not a plot device – which in the books I’ve read is unfortunately quite often the case with children. I especially liked the way Emory developed new insights throughout the book. There were a few problems I didn’t really get since simple communication could have solved them pretty easily but it didn’t take away from my reading enjoyment. The book features interesting secondary characters in real worlds as well, with jobs, friendships, responsibilities and families.

All in all I’d like to recommend this book to anyone that’s interested to read a story that’s – much like the author’s other book “Waiting in the Wings” – not your formulistic lesbian romance.

Second Nature by Jae

Jorie Price is a writer of fantasy books, working on her newest project – a book about shape shifters.

Griffin Westmore is a real life shape shifter, assigned to stop Jorie from publishing her novel since it comes very close to the reality of their world and might endanger her species. When she realises that there is more to her assignment than trying to stop Jorie from finishing her book, she starts an investigation into her own ministry – a decision that puts her, as well as Jorie’s life into mortal danger. But there is only one way to save them and that involves trusting a human with her greatest secret and at the same time trusting her own estranged family to support her decision.

Second Nature is not your typical lesbian romance novel. Having read several of Jae’s previous books, I was curious if she’d be able to draw me into her fantasy world as well with her writing skills. She did. Developing not only interesting and three-dimensional protagonists and secondary characters, she also created a very complex and thought-out setting – a world where shape shifters exist in a parallel world to “regular” humans. She manages to make their worries to be found out believable and their struggles with their identity very convincing. After all, those are circumstances, a lot of minorities that have to hide in an unfriendly society have to face. So I wouldn’t consider that a fantasy aspect.

But even though this part was not fantasy for me, the rest of the book most certainly is. The characters are not humans with an additional skill – like an additional sense or special powers like Spiderman or Harry Potter, who are first and foremost humans, no, they aren’t human – at all! They are as much animal, if not more so, as they are human. So if you are not into the fantasy genre, this book is not for you. One of the protagonist’s for example is a cat shifter. Which means, even in her human form she walks like a cat and only tries to disguise it and she sees colours like a cat does and not like a human.

If you are new to this genre – like I was – and you are willing to open your mind to this world then you’ll find a novel full of suspense and action, of romance and fleshed-out cast of characters and a storyline that had me reading until late at night. And if you are already a fantasy fan then you’ll love this book.

Alberta Reviews Two from Ylva – Connected Hearts and LA Metro

Connected Hearts – Four Lesbian Romance Stories by Joan Arling, RJ Nolan, Jae

This compilation of four short-stories takes the reader back to well-known characters. For one, there’s Annie and Drew from “Something In The Wine” by Jae. As I mentioned in my book review to that novel, my only complaint with that was that I wanted to learn more about the main characters’ troubles in the relationship after they finally got together – and I got my wish. I really liked the way the author developed Annie and made her insecurities believable. I had to laugh quite a few times but it made me care about the characters even more. This short story was my favorite one of the four.

Another story is a continuation of RJ Nolan’s novel “L.A. Metro”. I hadn’t read the novel before reading this short story, so I didn’t know the characters yet. I found it was written really well and I liked the obstacles both women created for themselves while having a very similar idea – even though I didn’t much care for the actual idea all that much. Now, after having read “L.A. Metro” as well, I can appreciate the story even more.

The other two stories are about new characters – as far as I can tell. At least I didn’t know them from any novels. Both are about women that have a chance encounter with a stranger. And both are more than a bit surprised that their bleak view on love seems to be not as depressing as they originally thought.

From all four stories I liked Jae’s “Seduction for Beginners” the best. That might be because I had just finished reading the novel and already knew the characters. But all stories are really well written and the book is a nice and entertaining read. I’d recommend reading the novels beforehand, though, since it makes reading these short stories even better.

L.A. Metro by RJ Nolan

Dr. Kimberly Donovan is a thirty-something psychiatrist – and she’s ready to start over as far away from her ex-lover as possible. After being involved in a debate about her ethics, her lover, the ER Chief of Memorial Hospital where Kim had worked, leaves her and even denies their relationship. Kim ends up at L.A. Metropolitan Hospital, more than ready to move on, professionally as well as personally.

On her first day at work she learns that her new job entails being the ER psych consult – a job no one in her department seems to want. The chief of the ER is Dr. Jess McKenna. She is known throughout the hospital as controlled, cold, and unreachable. Not the best start for Kim on the new job it seems but when she meets Jess, she’s attracted to her right from the start. Wary because of her instant attraction and quite sure that she’s not interested in yet another affair with an ER Chief, she focuses on finding her place in her new department and getting on good working grounds with Dr. McKenna.

Jess feels equally attracted to the new doctor in the psych department, however, she’s been burned with an inter-office relationship as well and has been the focus of gossip ever since.

Both women decide to keep their professional distance and focus on work instead. Along the way they become close friends who admire each other for being really good medical professionals – and both can’t help slowly falling in love with the other.

L.A. Metro is a really entertaining read that I’d like to recommend to anyone who’s interested in reading about grown-up women with pasts and a professional life that’s important to them. I really cared about both characters and liked their way of interaction. These women know what they want and have been burned for it in the past. Despite that, they are still willing to take risks – both professionally and in their private lives.

My only complaint is, that I’d have loved to learn more about the plots of the secondary characters and the hospital in general, e.g. in the beginning, when Kim starts out on the job there’s a lot of conflict between the different departments and later on we get to know a young resident that struggles with managing her family and her career. She talks to both protagonists – Jess as her boss and Kim because she’s a willing listener. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know her better and just assume that she managed somehow. And then there’s Jess’ sister … But that complaint is not something that couldn’t be corrected in a sequel.

Other than this minor thing I really enjoyed the book and will certainly read it again.

Backwards to Oregon by Jae

When Nikki and I found out that Ylva was rereleasing Backwards to Oregon, we were thrilled. THRILLED! We love the book and have each read it a few times and never, ever get tired of Luke and Nora. Since we couldn’t decide which of us would get to do the review we’re going to do it together.

In a nutshell, Backwards to Oregon is about the journey that Luke Hamilton and his new wife, Nora, take along the Oregon Trail. They’re moving from Missouri to Oregon so Luke can start up a horse ranch. Here are a few other things you should know: Luke is a woman passing as a man and Nora is a former prostitute who has a 3 year old daughter.  

There are some minor spoilery things in this review so please be aware.


Cheri: I freaking love this book so hard!

Nikki: Could not agree more. I love Luke and Nora and I was so excited that they were coming out with a revised, expanded edition! I thought, what would be added? More to the end? More adorable togetherness after such a big build up? But, really, I had a hard time tracking down scenes that had been added. What about you?

Cheri: I was only able to identify one scene so I’m wondering if there were just some small expansions of existing scenes.  I haven’t checked but I think the first scene may have been moved up from where it was previously a flashback. But I’m not 100% sure on that and don’t have the first edition handy.

It’s been several months since I’ve read the old one but I think I’d recognize something major added. I did, however, notice that the misused words and typos were pretty much all cleaned up. The notorious “bum in the oven” was corrected to “bun in the oven” so we can’t joke about that anymore. I only caught one typo: “scene” that was supposed to be “scent.” But I have to admit that I read the majority of the book with my ears (using a text to speech app) so there may have been some that got by me.

Nikki: I didn’t notice any glaring grammar problems, either, so that must have gotten cleaned up. But then you’re better at noticing things like that than I am.

They did include the short story “A Rooster’s Job” at the end, which I liked. However, I was hoping for a little bit more than that. One thing I’ve always wished with this book was that it included more after they finally acknowledged their feelings for each other. The book spends an extremely long time building up to that, and then it ends. Which always leaves me desperate for more of Luke and Nora! Jae alludes to a really touching scene in the short but didn’t add that into the main story, which I would have loved to see.

Cheri: I agree completely! I love the description of the journey and being a part of Luke and Nora learning to trust each other and, eventually, falling in love. But I adore reading about them after the big “reveal” and wish, WISH, there was more of that. I need to get the new book of shorts to see if that gives us a bit more. I’ve read all the ones that were available for free on the L-Book site but there are two new ones with compiled book Jae’s new publisher, Ylva, recently put out.

Nikki: I need to get that too. Because I will take any and all opportunities to read more about them. Normally, I’m not like that. I get tired of a couple and don’t care to learn more, but there is something about this couple that makes me want to read at least another book worth of their journey together. I want to know what their transition in Oregon was like, as it couldn’t have been easy with a new baby in tow!

And another thing. Normally, it irritates me to no end when the book goes on and on and on without the couple getting together, but that never bothers me with this book and I have no idea why. It also usually bothers me when characters don’t communicate with each other. I mean, Luke didn’t even know Nora had siblings until 2/3 of the way through! Normally that would drive me insane. But not with this couple.

Cheri: The reason that the non-communication thing doesn’t  bother me in this one is because there’s really no time for them to talk about their families and past and stuff because they’re spending all their time trying not to get maimed or die.

I think this book really does have it all. It’s got two wonderful and complex main characters, a couple of total bastard bad guys, some terrific secondary characters – Tess and Bernice, for example – and the adventure of the physical journey across the country in wagons.

There’s so much about this book that I love that it would take a long time to discuss them all but I want to bring up Luke’s relationship with Nora’s daughter, Amy. Watching Luke grow into a complete family “man” just makes my heart happy.

Dammit! I started another book this morning but now I’m going to have to go read Hidden Truths.

Nikki: I love the relationship between Amy and Luke. Luke really is the best ‘father’ she could ask for. I knew you couldn’t resist it! I started Hidden Truths already this morning and will likely fly right through it. 

All in all, still loved the book, would have liked a more ‘expansive’ expansion, but I still loved reading it. I’m not entirely sure it qualifies as “revised” as it was hard for me to pin down what was added, so whatever it was, it wasn’t big like I was hoping for.

Cheri: I’m not sure if there could really ever be an expansive enough expansion for us. I think that really does speak to how much we love this book.

Ok, I’m off to read Hidden Truths!

Click here to purchase or download a sample of Backwards to Oregon
And here for Beyond the Trail. Six Short Stories