Cheri Reviews Timeless by Rachel Spangler and Balance by Georgia Beers

I’ve not been reading as much over the past few months as I usually do. Well, I’ve been listening to the last couple of books in the Song of Ice and Fire series but I’ve no plans to review them… I’m happy I was able to break my lesfic fast with these two books.

Here are the disclaimers: I know both Rachel and Georgia. I like them both and have enjoyed their books to varying degrees. I don’t, however, have any problem being completely honest about my opinions of their work. They both accept legitimate criticism of their books in the way authors should, with tact and professionalism. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?

I’ll kick it off with Timeless. I got a copy from Bold Strokes Books in preparation for the Cocktail Hour live event with Rachel this coming Saturday (which can be seen on the CH website – Even though it’s not really a review show, I wanted to see if Rachel has continued to grow and mature in her writing. I’ve read the last couple of her books and have enjoyed her progression.

Before I share my thoughts on Timeless, let me share the blurb with you:

What would you change about your past if you had the chance? What if you didn’t have a choice?

Stevie Geller doesn’t do conflict. She likes her job as a successful novelist and playwright because it allows her to peacefully ensconce herself in her New York City loft, avoid human interactions, and leave personal drama for the page and stage. When her agent asks her to return to her hometown of Darlington, Illinois, to accept an award, she agrees only because he promises the process will be quick and easy. One panic attack and concussion later, Stevie is forced to confront her past in ways that seem to defy reality. As if befriending a social outcast and confronting high school bullies weren’t enough, she also finds herself falling for a closeted teacher. Along the way, Stevie must decide if some things are worth fighting for. In her rush to escape the past, will she leave behind a better future, or are some conflicts really timeless?

Now that we’re all caught up, I want to say that I genuinely liked Stevie. I saw parts of myself in her and that’s always good when you’re reading a book, right? I was able to connect with her and get why she made some of the choices she did. I also liked Jody, the teacher. But I really loved the social outcast. For me, she was the focus of the book. I cheered for her and related to her and fell for her a little bit. Maybe even more than a little bit.

The romance was sweet and while it could have felt rushed, it didn’t to me at all. I even caught myself thinking, this is sort of fast; why doesn’t it bother me? It didn’t bother me because it was plausible and felt right. Rachel told a great story with a twist that made me stop what I was doing and nearly yell out “HOLY CRAP!” Seriously. I read the majority of this book with my ears and I was typing out an email when that moment came up and I had to stop typing to share with the recipient what had just happened and I wrote “HOLY CRAP!” Oh, I guess I should also admit that there was one scene that dealt with bullying – or the aftermath of bullying – that brought me to tears. I didn’t want to cry and I fought it but some tears fell.

I think Timeless is a quality book – although there were some typos that the editing team could have caught (typos are a major pet peeve of mine) – and I think fans of lesbian romance will really enjoy it. Love it, even. This one may be my favorite. Does She Love You? was a big winner with me but I enjoyed the story in this one very much. It’s not like anything I’ve read from this author before – different from any lesfic romance I’ve ever read, maybe. I can’t remember another book like this one, anyway. But I’ve not read as widely as many of you have so I could be wrong.

Next up is Balance. Now this one is much different from Timeless. And different from Georgia’s other work, too. Just for the record, I bought Balance and Balance Episode 2. They’re short – novella length maybe? – so I was able to pick up both books for the price of a cheap novel length ebook. Before we go any further, here’s what Amazon has as the book description:

The first in an ongoing series by award-winning lesbian fiction writer Georgia Beers, “Balance” introduces you to Norah Ellison, who has a gift…or is it a curse? She knows nothing about the women whose names appear to her in the morning, only that she must help them, and that time is of the essence. She’s spent more than a decade building a tiny team of trusted assistants, but even they can’t guarantee she can figure out what needs to be done–or ensure that she’ll get it done in time. (This story was originally printed in the collection “Outsiders,” released by Brisk Press.

That’s pretty vague and I don’t want to give away too much but you’ll find out what’s going on right away so I don’t need to blow the surprise here. I will say this, Balance isn’t a romance, it’s a suspense story. And it’s dark. Not super dark but we get to see some disturbing stuff – nothing graphic so if you’re squeamish, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Balance is told in the first person and by doing this, we really get inside Norah’s head and have to deal with the choices she makes right along with her. While this is a different type of story than we’re used to from the author, her voice comes through strongly and I’m so happy that it does. I’ve always loved Georgia’s voice, even in books that I didn’t like very much. Norah’s humor and the way she deals with her conflicting emotions felt natural and flowed so well. The author also did a great job with slowly building the tension and putting us right there with Norah, physically and emotionally.

I haven’t finished the second episode yet but if it’s as good as the first, I have a feeling I’m going to be wanting much more featuring Norah and Balance, Inc. I’ve tried to think of something to say that’s not glowing about this but I can’t come up with anything. I was a little thrown by the last sentence but what I questioned is cleared up quickly in the second book so that’s a good reason to pick them both up at the same time.

Cheri Reviews Does She Love You? by Rachel Spangler

I received a copy of Does She Love You? from BSB in preparation for Rachel joining me and Andy on the next Cocktail Hour podcast. I read a couple chapters last week because I was curious about it but knew I needed to wait to finish it. My memory isn’t what it used to be and I didn’t want to forget how I felt while reading before it was time to record. It was actually a little tough to stop reading but I forced myself.

I picked it up again a couple of days ago, still a little early but I wanted to make sure I had enough time to finish it by Saturday morning – that’s how I justified it, anyway. I was immediately swept up into the story and couldn’t put it down. I suppose this is a good time to share the blurb with you so you know what the hell I’m talking about. Here you go:

Annabelle Taylor has been in her ideal relationship with an adoring partner for thirteen years. Davis Chandler is jaded from years of bad luck with women, but she thinks she’s finally started dating the girl of her dreams. The only problem is they’re both in love with the same woman. Nic McCoy is living a double life that is about to come crashing down on all of them.

All three women are left trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of shocking realizations that leave them second-guessing everything about themselves and each other. As they struggle toward recovery, they each face life-altering questions about trust, redemption, and the possibility of finding love in the wake of betrayal.

Now, I’ll be very honest with you, I’m a big fan of Rachel Spangler as a person but I’ve not been much of a fan of her work. I’ve read two of her books previously and they just didn’t do much for me. But this one, this one was a big winner for me. I felt the characters – I felt like I could know them and see them and feel their pain. For the most part, the writing disappeared and I was left with some genuine people who were going about their lives in my mind’s eye.

The subject of the book felt pretty original to me, too. I don’t claim to be an expert in all things covered in lesbian romance books but I don’t recall reading another story quite like this one. I knew what I hoped would happen but, for quite awhile, I wasn’t sure if that was what would actually happen.

There’s a lot I could say about the subjects covered in the book – there are some very serious themes happening here and I’ve got some strong opinions about some of them – but I don’t want to give anything away. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of growth and self-discovery and the journey of one of the characters doesn’t go quite the way I had initially thought. Also, I hated Nic for a good chunk of the book. Bastard!

I’ve not felt much like writing reviews lately but I wanted to knock the dust off the keyboard to share Does She Love You? with you all. I think this is Rachel’s best book yet. I’m honestly looking forward to whatever she’s got coming next.

You can purchase a copy or download a sample of Does She Love You? by clicking here.

Learning Curve by Rachel Spangler

From the blurb: Ashton Clarke, a local Casanova, is perfectly content until she gives in to helping out at a gay and lesbian youth center, where she meets the intriguing Professor Carrie Fletcher, someone who isn’t looking for a relationship with anyone.

I chose to make Rachel Spangler’s first book to be my first introduction to her writing. I like finding an author after they already have several books out, so that I can see the growth of their writing in short succession. I was able to read this one pretty quickly and the writing was fairly smooth with lots of humor popping up in unexpected places, which was delightful. I particularly enjoyed how the author wrote Ash, especially in her interactions with Carrie, with whom she loses her confidence and becomes a tongue-tied klutz immediately. One of my favorite moments being when Ash is basically just silent and staring at Carrie before blurting out “YOU LOOK NICE.” At least, that’s how I heard it in my head, similar to Steve Carrell saying “I LOVE LAMP” in Anchorman.

There were some issues with the consistency of the conflict within the story. There was one significant point of contention that was preventing Carrie’s involvement with Ashton for the majority of the book, but that sort of just disappears toward by the end. That didn’t ruin the story for me, but it was definitely noticeable.

Aside from the issues I encountered, I enjoyed it and look forward to checking out the rest of Spangler’s work to see how her writing has progressed.

Reviewed by Nikki Little

Click to purchase Learning Curve