The Bookgeek Reviews Inside Out by Susan X. Meagher


The newest book by Susan X. Meagher is not only a sweet romance but a thoughtful and thought-provoking exploration of sexuality.

Kit is turning forty and straight, thoroughly straight. She is a liberal with gay friends, supports a lot of gay causes, but she is – no doubt in her mind about it – straight. Then she meets Bailey – cuteness incarnate, who is a lesbian, a boi, and out and proud. A perfect dance of attraction begins. Susan again is the master/mistress of a slow simmering romance until the flames flare and consume Kit and Bailey.

But Kit struggles with her self-identification and Bailey with her insecurity about this identification because falling for a self-professed straight woman is for a lesbian according to the lesbian rule book a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. This is where the story becomes thought-provoking. Ever since the Kinsey-Report, we have known that sexuality is more fluid than a simple straight/lesbian binary. And recently among the younger crowd who is growing up in a more accepting society the “labels” and personal expressions of sexuality have become more fluid, too. Being queer now describes a whole gamut of sexual orientation without pigeon-holing or requiring a binary decision.

“I think sexuality is complex. Really complex. And I am absolutely certain sexual orientation isn’t binary.”

Frankly: this is new and overdue and something to be expected in a society open to more possibilities. And at the same time it is challenging for all of us who grew up in a different time where you had to struggle to come out and identify yourself against a hostile society: Where falling in love with a straight woman might have spelled disaster and where the word “bi-curious” was not in the least positive. Inside Out is a perfect reading companion to this new, wonderful challenge to our LGBTQ-rainbow-universe. While reading and enjoying the tender romance revolving around Kit and Bailey, Susan X. Meagher makes us subtly understand our own internalized queer-phobia and challenges our perception of the old binary straight vs. gay. Well done.

Another layer which enriches this book is the baggage both main characters come with. They are both outliers. Kit is the one liberal in her very conservative and traditional Bostonian family. Her job, her friends (OMG a black person and OMG gay people) and being single instead being a trophy wife to a successful male are alien to them and make her an outcast and very private person, private as in not willing to be out in any form.

“Since the day she was born she’d just felt a little off – a little different. Outside of her family, classmates, even many of her co-workers. But it wasn’t like that with Bailey. With her she was an insider.”

Bailey was and is as a lesbian boi who wears the cutest suits and ties, an outlier to “normalcy” too. But her family, going against their traditional background which does not encourage homosexuell behavior at all, is accepting of her, even though it is difficult though for them. But past experience made her wary of anyone not being out, let alone claiming to be straight. Another curve-ball is thrown into their budding romance by their perception of what feels comfortable in the “in” and “out” game.

At last. The story is set in Washington DC where Kit is part of the frantic political circus – first by being a political blogger and running a gossip site and second because she had been the long-term girlfriend of a prominent senator. Bailey is a computer nerd and totally innocent politically. The setting is well-developed and believable and is a great stage to develop the themes around the romance.

The book is very obviously a romance and can be enjoyed as such. But the sub-themes and layers added to it give it a lot of depth which one would not ordinarily expect from such a “light” read. The author plays with our comfort-zones, challenges our perception of what is “right” and “wrong” and still writes a sweet queer romance. Only a master-writer can pull that of and Susan X. Meagher is nothing less than a true master. The writing is totally “Meagher” – at a leisurely pace, with a lot of attention to detail and an insightful development of character and setting. The main characters are very likeable and the sex is hot. The recipe for this book is: Savor slowly and expect some unexpected education of your taste-buds.

You can download a sample or purchase Inside Out by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews The Crush by Susan X. Meagher


I will start this review by saying that I’m a fan of SXM’s work and I’m also a fan of her. I like Susan and have a lot of fun chatting with her, both on Cocktail Hour and through other venues. That being said, I am completely comfortable giving a very honest review of The Crush. And I’ve got a bit of bullshit to call, too.

Ok, with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on with the review, shall we? The Crush’s blurb is sort of long so I’ll just sum it up for you: Nicola Bagnolesi (Bah-nyo-lazy – if I remember correctly from the book) works for her father’s advertising company in Chicago. She’s sort of lazy and does the bare minimum to get her job done. She’s good at what she does, she just does as little of it as possible. Her father, Aldo, inherits a winery in Italy but, because of some legal stuff that I won’t go into, a family member has to be there to run it. Aldo, who I’ll from now on refer to as Aldouche, decides she’s the perfect choice to go for the two years or so until he retires and can move. Nic quickly figures out that what she thought was a simple caretaker job was going to be much more demanding.

Nic, a people person, finds herself isolated and miserable so she treks out to one of the only gay bars around and meets the lovely Chiara Bellini. Chiara, who should from now on be referred to as My Pretend Wife, and Nicola are immediately drawn to one another and, a very short time later, become lovers.

So here’s what I thought of the book. I fucking loved it. So there. You probably want a little more detail than that, though, so I’ll give you some reasons why I loved it. In no particular order, I loved the setting. Meagher brought the area to life for me. And I don’t just mean the land and buildings but the culture. I saw someone, I can’t remember who, say on Susan’s Yahoo! group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SX_MeagherUpdates/) that the location itself was a character and I completely agree. I loved learning about the Contrade from Chiara. Shit, I loved reading anything that My Pretend Wife wanted to share, to be honest. I could feel the history and Chiara’s love for her family and neighborhood and it was wonderful.

I also enjoyed that nothing was easy about running the winery. It felt much more authentic that way. Aldouche, the father, was maddening in his lack of confidence in Nic’s ability to run things and constantly second guessed her. Actually, the term “second guessing” is much too generous. I wanted to kick him in his man bits in nearly every scene he was a part of.

I’ve written my bullshit calling two different ways and I’m afraid I’ll give something away that could be considered a spoiler and I don’t want to do that. So I’ll try it in a cryptic way that you’ll probably agree with once you read it. If you do, you can post a cryptic comment to let me know. No sex doesn’t mean no attachment.

I nearly forgot that I wanted to mention that I liked the second half of the book a bit more than the first. The first half spent a lot of time laying down the foundation of the story and tension building and such. If you’re reading it and feeling your attention waning at all, just keep going. I think you’ll agree that it will be worth it. Also, by “half” I have no idea if it was really half. Just keep going if you’re feeling it drag a little. That’s all.

If you’d like to hear the author read the part where Nicola and Chiara meet, she did a reading for us at Cocktail Hour Productions so click here to listen!

The Crush weighs in as my third favorite of Susan’s books with All that Matters and Almost Heaven taking first and second, respectively. I love those two so that should tell you how much I enjoyed The Crush. I want to mention that, unlike some of Ms. Meagher’s books, The Crush is 100% penis-free.

You can buy it, and all of Susan’s books, through Brisk Press or Amazon. Unless you’re a die hard Amazon shopper, buy it from Brisk. It’s Susan’s company and she gets to keep more of the profit and offers fantastic customer service. If you buy from Amazon, C-Spot Reviews and Cocktail Hour get a few pennies. If you’re a fan of SXM’s work, it doesn’t matter where you buy it, just pick it up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Nancy made our Contrade Flag. Thanks!
Nancy made our Contrade Flag. Thanks!

Starting from Scratch by Georgia Beers #2


Georgia Beers writes wonderful, down to earth characters that could be everyone’s neighbour. And so it came as no surprise for me that I cared about Avery and Elena right from the beginning.

Avery is a graphic-designer who loves to bake, has good friends she visits regularly and is very close to her grandmother, who raised her. She has a crush on Elena who’s a manager at a local bank. Elena has a little boy, Max, with her former girlfriend and moves into a house down the street.

I really liked that Georgia Beers portrayed all characters realistically. None of them is a model or the president of a huge company or super rich. They are just like everyone else, they have strengths and weaknesses and not even the secondary characters are divided into good guys and bad guys.

I didn’t care for the ending all too much since it seemed a bit detached. Things that seemed a constant factor in Avery’s life are all of a sudden not important anymore and friends that had been there for years have disappeared completely. Apart from this, I can recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a nice read with realistic protagonists and a believable story.

Cheri also reviewed this book on February 20, 2010.

Click to purchase Starting From Scratch by Georgia Beers

How to Wrangle a Woman by Susan X. Meagher

I had no plans to read this book. I hadn’t heard much about it but did have one person tell me not to bother. So I wasn’t going to. I figured I’d read it eventually but there was no rush. It had been sitting on my ereader since it was released but I kept passing it over in favor of something else.

A few days after I finished Almost Heaven, which I loved, my Cocktail Hour co-host and dear friend, Andy, shoots me a text saying that I need to read How to Wrangle a Woman. I replied that I heard it wasn’t that good. I got a two word response, “Read it.” So I did.

Contrary to what the title may imply, this isn’t a western or rancher book. It’s about a comedian, Brooklyn York, who is about to lose her job as a radio/television personality if she can’t get her shit together. The company hires Kerri Klein to try to get Brooklyn’s schedule under control. Brooklyn and Kerri couldn’t be more different but they grow to truly like and care for each other.

This book is much more of what I love about Meagher’s work than the few books that preceeded it. While the books between All That Matters and this one were nice, rainy day reads, they, in my opinion, lacked the depth and chemistry between the characters that I so loved in ATM. How to Wrangle a Woman gives us a chance to crawl inside both women’s heads and Meagher does a great job, I think, of letting us see what makes them tick.

There were a few bits of information – emotional motivations or relationship requirements, things like that – that I thought were repeated too much but, all in all, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who liked Arbor Vitae, All that Matters, or Almost Heaven. Hey, all of those books start with an A…

Click to buy How To Wrangle a Woman

Almost Heaven by Susan X Meagher

I found out yesterday morning, via the emailed newsletter from Brisk Press, that Susan has a couple of new books out. One is the latest in the San Fran series, Monogamy, and one is a new stand alone novel called Almost Heaven. One of my favorite books, All That Matters, is by Meagher and I got a strange feeling in my gut when I saw the cover of Almost Heaven.

I briefly skimmed the blurb, and I do mean briefly. I don’t remember what it said but I felt like I needed to buy this book. I do tend to be impulsive sometimes but figured even a not-fantastic Meagher book is still not a bad book so I felt ok with my purchasing choice.

In a nutshell, here’s what the book is about… Cody Keaton is dirt poor. Her entire family, who live in Ramp, West Virginia, is dirt poor. Cody is immediately shown to be a caring, giving, and honorable woman who puts her family above all else. When good luck smiles down on her and she becomes an insanely rich woman, she meets bank manager Maddie Osbourne. Maddie dreams of getting the hell out of West Virginia and living in a larger city that has a football team, some good theater, and ethnic food. Greenville, WV has none of those things and that becomes a sticking point when she realizes that she’s developing some strong feelings for the financially naive and strong willed Cody. Then throw into the mix Cody’s family, who have a mess of their own issues and you’ve got a good idea of what you’ll find in Almost Heaven.

Now, in a nutshell, here’s what I think about the book. It’s been a good 30 minutes since I finished it so everything is still very fresh in my head, and in my heart. Maddie and Cody, I think, are very well written. I immediately felt like they were people and not just words on a page. That doesn’t always happen. I cared about them both and, to some extent, a few of the members of Cody’s family. The Montgomery family, Cody’s people, had a dynamic that was interesting and believable and so were the descriptions of the poverty they live with. There was no heavy handed bashing of the system nor blaming the victim. Meagher simply writes it the way it is – good and bad exist in all people and situations and there is only so much we have control over.

I absolutely fell in love with the place. I could see Ramp in my head and could nearly smell and feel the forest around me. I wanted to feel the water of the river and taste the fish that had been cooked on the campfire. I’ve always loved nature and feel most at peace while in it and this book made me feel like I was hiking along side the characters.

The romance was sweet and developed at a believable pace. There’s some angst but there were very few moments when I thought about shaking the hell out of the characters and making them talk to each other. I don’t want to go too much into the story but Cody and Maddie are very different people who seem to fit together very well, but not without some frustration, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. But what would a romance novel be without that?

I think, honestly, that this book has replaced All that Matters as my favorite. I just finished it and can’t wait until I can go back and read it again. I want to immerse myself in the forest and family again and see what I missed the first time through. And to connect with Maddie and Cody again. Of course, listening to a handful of my favorite John Denver songs on a loop for a few hours helped to set the mood.

Thank you, Ms. Meagher, for giving me several hours of unexpected joy. If you could pump out one like this every couple of months, I’d be forever in your debt. I would really like them more often but understand that you may have other things on your to-do list. But since you are so open to suggestions and accepting of criticism, that’s what I’m asking for. Also, fantastic job of getting the right balance of hair, boob, and ass descriptions. It felt perfect!

Click to buy Almost Heaven

P.S. All that Matters is also reviewed on C-Spot .

The Lies That Bind by Susan X. Meagher

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I reread The Lies That Bind in preparation for co-hosting the next Cocktail Hour podcast which will feature guest Susan Meagher. I read the book a year or so ago and remembered feeling a bit unfulfilled at the end but I couldn’t remember why. I finished it last night and now I remember. But, first, let me tell you a little bit about the book.

Our protagonists, Erin and Katie, meet in the tiny New Hampshire town of Essex, where Erin is the town doctor. Katie’s car is struck and Erin tends to her wounds and they seem to have a nice, playful rapport right from the start.

They speak a few times but become more involved in each others’ lives once Erin’s widowed mom begins dating Katie’s divorced dad. Dan, the dad, and Katie don’t get along and each have explosive tempers and seem to enjoy setting each other off. Erin and her mom, Gail, are as timid as can be.

Erin and Katie, eventually, begin dating and that’s when things really start to pick up.

All in all, I did enjoy the story. I liked the development of Erin and Katie’s relationship and the way their personalities and pasts unfold. The drama with the parents, I thought, was well done and made me want to shake – or slap – both Dan and Gail at various parts of the book. The sex was pretty damn hot, too. But that goes without saying when it comes to this author.

My only real issue with the book was the abrupt ending. I felt that some major issues were just left hanging. I’m not one of those readers who has to have everything tied up nicely at the end of a book but this just seemed to end a chapter or two too early.

http://www.briskpress.com/catalog/item/3014737/7463781.htm