Infinite Loop by Meghan O’Brien

From the blurb: “
Together they embark upon a physical and emotional journey where they discover that breaking free of old habits may be the only way to change your life.”

I fully recognize the fact that “tall, dark, and attractive lady killer” meeting and falling for a shy, socially awkward girl has been beaten nearly to death in lesfic. And that is precisely why I waited so long to read this book. It kept sneaking up on me as “recommended for you” while online book shopping and the blurb just didn’t grab me so I kept almost buying it. I am so very glad that I eventually did, as this has become one of my favorite “give me good feelings about life” books.

The plot centers around Regan, a shy computer geek/gamer that meets Mel Raines in a straight bar at the opening of the book. Neither of them wants to be there, and no one is surprised more than Regan when the gorgeous queen of one-night stands hits on her. They spend the night flirting and almost end up going to bed.

What you would expect to happen happens. Mel gets freaked out because she actually likes Regan and almost takes too long to call her back. When Mel’s partner gets shot in front of her, she turns to her new friend, who welcomes her with open arms and suggests an old fashioned American road trip to help Mel sort out what she wants out of life.

Doesn’t that sound like a horrible idea? These two are barely dating and decide to take off together on a very long road trip while dealing with some rather impressive insecurities and baggage. It really should be a bad idea. And it should really bother me that they get together so quickly, as that usually drives me batty in other books. Somehow, the relationship in this book comes across as sweet instead of clingy, and O’Brien does such a good job of letting us in, that you really do want this couple to work.

Yes they both have insecurities and there are some pretty monumental daddy issues to overcome. What I love about this book most is how they work through their problems together. What a concept! At one point in the story, Regan even brings up the fact that too many times in movies and books, emotional roadblocks are thrown into relationships, causing everyone to run away in angst-ridden clouds of discontent. Even a self-proclaimed lover of angst such as myself can’t begrudge their adorable happiness.

They both have baggage and idiosyncrasies, but it’s complementary baggage. And throughout the book, you really do believe they’re going to make it and that they have both made each other better people by accepting each other exactly how they are. And isn’t that what everyone is really looking for?

Infinite Loop by Meghan O’Brien

Who We Are Not by Meghan O’Brien

Meghan O’Brien doesn’t seem to write the fluffy kind of romance stories with dove-eyed lovers. The on-line stories that I’ve come across by this writer – if it’s not erotica – has a touch of something a bit more serious, something that might make you a bit uneasy. In “Endgame” it was the story of a cruel rape that acted as the backdrop of the romantic storyline, in “Ritual” it’s about family acceptance and in “Who We Are Not” it’s the pain you can inflict on the one you love the most.

Jess and Kendra meet in college, fell in love and build a life together. Easy enough, standard romance stuff told in flashbacks, but the flashbacks aren’t just there to tell you how the women got to be a couple, the flashbacks also show bits of information about the women and their personal stories, and gives an insight into how they ended in the situation that we are invited to watch through this short story.

I liked the serious tone of the story and found it entertaining, even if it’s perhaps a bit simple in construction. All in all this story was a nice bit of a break from the classic romance stuff.

Meghan O’Brien has published a few books through Bold Strokes Books. The story “Battle Scars” was reviewed by Cheri.

Endgame by Meghan O’Brien

Romantic (fan) fiction of the alternative nature is often just a bit of light reading, for girls who love to be girls*, but sometimes you’ll stumble on a romance with a setting which is too disturbing to carry the label ”light” even if its basically just another entertaining romance. Fortunately only a few of these “not so light” fic’s turns out to be real sad or depressing. Mostly the setting is just used as a way to give some background or motivation for the storyline and actions of the protagonists.

“Endgame” is based on the story of a rape and one of the scarier ones at that, but the rape it self is only the backdrop of the storyline and even when reference is made to the act its not too explicitly described. The story is mostly just a touching romance where the emotional development within and between the protagonists is the sole focus of the tale. One might say that the story is a bit one dimensional, but if you read enough (fan) fiction you get used to the fact that the romance and the road to “hot sex” or the “living happily ever after” is the goal that we never loses sight off.

If you can handle the setting you could joiner the party at Max and Lories place and see if Delaney has any luck with her pickup line; “”I’m really embarrassed to admit it, but I was standing over there,” I pointed with my finger, “in the corner, alone, wishing I didn’t feel so out of place and awkward. As much as it shames me to ask, I was wondering if you’d pretend to socialize with me for a minute or two until someone rescues you?”. Delaney has a lot of practice at picking up women, but no inclination to look for a relationship lasting longer than a night of hot sex – preferably with her in a dominating role.

Hannah on the other hand is the woman her friends think of as “the girl who was raped”, but Hannah feel’s that she has moved on and she is looking for something or someone that will give her the fresh start, let her regain her place in life and feel strong again. In the eyes of Max and Lorie, Delaney is not quiet what Hannah needs, and they are not subtle about telling Delaney to go look for her fun elsewhere, but Delaney really can’t get around to letting go of Hannah and their slowly developing friendship in the weeks after the party.

Well if you read the story you can make up your own mind as to Delaney’s personality – is she the single minded womanizer or just someone who as never found love before?

I guess that I should tell you that the writer has included a sample of Delaneys’s sexual encounters that portrait her as a sexual predator. If you are of a positive mind you could say that this helps to paint a picture of Delaneys personality, to me it’s a bit out of place in the storyline, but maybe the writer needed to let go of some hot steam.

* The quote “The best of light reading, for girls who love to be girls” was attributed to Jeanette Winterson on the cover of a lesbian romance from an English publishing house named Silver Moon Books years ago. I basically borrowed the wording and changed it a bit, but I want to own up to the fact that it’s really not my words at all.

Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien

What a pleasant surprise this book was for me. I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have bought if it hadn’t been picked as the January selection for a reading group I sometimes attend. I had tried to read a work of fan fiction by the author and I could not get into it at all. So I grumbled a bit when I found out I was going to have to lay out part of my meager book fund for Battle Scars.

I was wrong; my money was well spent. Ray McKenna and Carly Warner, our main characters, were well written and I could feel the pain and hope in each of them. Ray, a veteran of the Iraq war, was kidnapped and held captive for two months by insurgents, forced to watch the beheading of a fellow solider. She suffers from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seems to have made only a small amount of progress over the nearly two years since her return to the United States. She meets Carly, a local veterinarian, when she takes her service dog, Jagger, in for a visit. Carly has had some serious emotional trauma, as well, and these two damaged women develop a strong, supportive friendship.

As a former US Marine, I usually have a difficult time with books that try to discuss military concepts, philosophy, and events but I didn’t feel that way with this book. The use of the word “rack” made me smile. There were plenty of things in this book that I could relate to, like growing up with a Vietnam vet who suffers from PTSD and alcoholism, one time having a big, beautiful, clumsy, blue Great Dane, having many German Shepherds, the stress of dealing with the military’s ban on gays, and the lingering feelings of helplessness that sexual assault can induce. Battle Scars made me think of how all of these things have affected my life and helped me to see just how much worse it could have been.

The only real issue I had with the book was the way the author dealt with the aspect of time passing . What felt like a few days or maybe a week or two to me was really a couple of months for the characters. I was shocked more than once by a comment made regarding the amount of time between events. I was happy to know that more time had actually passed than I initially thought, because otherwise the closeness of the characters would have been developing WAY too fast, but it still threw me off for a few seconds.

Battle Scars is a quick read that drew me right in and didn’t let me go. Both Ray and Carly have had emotionally devastating experiences but this book is about love and hope and dogs. Wonderful, supportive, loving dogs.