Corey Reviews Who’d Have Thought by G Benson

Rarely do I want to write a book review before I’ve completed the first chapter of a book, but I was 2% into Who’d Have Thought by G Benson when I started lining up my squees of delight.

First, this novel includes an actual, living, breathing, “they” pronoun-using non-binary character. Luce isn’t the central character, but they have a life beyond pronouns in the story.

It says something about the strength of the gender binary that I fought my own anxiety until Luce’s sex-assigned-at-birth was revealed; yes, I was disappointed in myself. This book is the first I’ve read in which “they” is written in firmly as a third person singular pronoun. Although I’ve adopted this pronoun myself in real life daily conversations with non-binary friends and people of unknown gender identities, I could practically feel my reading brain recalibrating itself. Success set in, happily.

Second, Hayden is matter-of-fact pansexual. When she answers a Craigslist advert for someone seeking a wife-for-hire, she shrugs away the possible gender of Sam. Spoiler alert: Sam’s a woman.

Third, marriage equality means that the Harlequin romance trope of the fake marriage leading to real love has legitimately come to lesfic. Huzzah! Thank you Supreme Court.

Yes, I did need to suspend disbelief for such a plot device, but I laughed from the start (G Benson has some sharp skills with internal and external dialogue), and also dug how much nurse Hayden loathes the cold surgeon Sam. And, in the end, I read all night and can report back that the deepening of the relationship between Hayden and Sam was full-bodied and the reveal of why Sam needed a wife worth the wait… and something not found in a hetero Harlequin romance. Extra kudos to Frank the cat. Viva la lesfic, dear readers.

p.s. G Benson, can I respectively request a short story or online epilogue from Sam’s point of view? I’d like to give her brain a hug and ruffle affectionately her feelings for Hayden.

You can purchase or download a sample by clicking here.

Corey Reviews the Books of Sophia Kell Hagin

Every year since 2013, I’ve reread the last ten chapters of Whatever Gods May Be, starting with chapter twenty-three, which begins with “The instant she strode into the yard with the rest of the Red Cross team, Jamie noticed her, and noticed that she seemed to be a study in contradictions.”

Marine Jamie Gwynmorgan, a prisoner of war in a not-too-distant future conflict in Southeast Asia, meets Senator Lynn Hillinger. There follows non-stop action and consequences as Jamie leads a prison break and firefight through the jungle. The first twenty-two chapters of this book, by the way, are excellent as we follow Jamie from recruit to training to heart-breaking actions all the way to survival… to meeting Lynn. This novel isn’t a lesfic romance. However, Jamie has an undefined relationship with Lynn that is tender and love-centered and forged in crisis. There’s a moment when they first embrace that holds so much compassion that I cry alongside Jamie. This entire novel rests in my memory, but I seek out the book’s ending annually to re-live Jamie and Lynn meeting and persevering.

Then I re-read Shadows of Something Real cover-to-cover (or as we say these days, 0% to 100% on my kindle). In this middle book of the trilogy, I am flummoxed by how many women I love in this novel. Lynn and her wife Rebecca, their daughters Robin and Dana and Dana’s partner Lily, and Rebecca’s mother Mary. They all live together at Great Hill, a compound of very strong, smart, fierce women who are waiting for Jamie to realize she is family, too.

Shadows of Something Real is about the aftermath of war on 19-year-old 1st Lieutenant Jamie, the powerful corporations who underwrote the conflicts Jamie survived physically if not emotionally, and the battle for information intelligence and privacy that seems more true-to-life every year that I reread the book. What once seemed like paranoid future fantasy now seems like today’s almost reality, as if “near future” might be next week.

This novel is a thriller, but also a romance, so much the sweeter for Jamie after all she’s survived. Adele (Lily’s sister and just as bad-ass as the rest of the family) is the emotionally open woman Jamie needs. Thankfully, all these women are humanized by their flaws. Lynn admits to her own overconfidence and sometimes manipulations, Dana is briskly single-minded as she addresses security issues, and Jamie romanticizes Adele always being right in their relationship, when Adele is just as mistake-prone as us all.

This book is chock-full of evil politicians and corporations, high-tech gadgetry and life-and-death struggles. Highly recommended, even to folks who don’t tend toward massive woman crushes like me.

Which brings us to Omnipotence Enough, which has a killer of a set-up: 15 years after the events of Shadows of Something Real, Jamie wakes up in an unknown prison, subject to solitary confinement and at the mercy of armed custodian robots who use pharma and force to control her. Jamie’s been abducted off the street, and she has no idea how long she’s been imprisoned and if Adele and her family are close to rescuing her.

The point of view also switches in this last book to first person, as Jamie records her imprisonment into an audiostick. This ramps up the uncertainty and claustrophobia. I was equally delighted to return to Jamie’s world and fearful I’d not get to meet again Adele and Lynn and their family.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, but let’s just say that the themes of political evils-doers and powerful corporations continue from the previous books. What has changed is Jamie, a more mature and self-possessed woman navigating physical and mental recovery that’s all the more courageous for her shakiness.

Jamie survived so much over her life, and I so want her to find stable happiness. I think any lover of thrillers will enjoy Omnipotence Enough, but readers of the earlier books will feel a special investment in this last journey.

Well done, Sophia Kell Hagin. I look forward to your future novels, for the adrenaline and compassion and all the future woman crushes sure to come.

You can purchase or download samples of all of the books by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews A Quiet Death by Cari Hunter


Cari Hunter is my go-to author for lesbian fiction’s mystery/thriller category. Each and every one of her books is engaging, fast-paced, well thought out, and well written. A Quiet Death, the third in the Dark Peak series, is no different.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

In book three in the Dark Peak series, things are looking up for Detective Sanne Jensen and Dr. Meg Fielding. Dating each other seems to be working, their families are behaving themselves, and the worst of the post-Christmas crime wave is over.

The discovery of a Pakistani girl’s body out on the moors changes all that. No one knows who she is, who hurt her, or how she came to be there. As pressure mounts on East Derbyshire Special Ops for a quick resolution, it becomes ever more apparent that the case won’t provide one.

With the Pakistani community closing ranks, and threads of suspicion reaching farther than anyone could have predicted, the investigation leaves Sanne facing an ordeal she may not survive.

A Quiet Death takes place pretty soon after the events in Cold to the Touch and finds Sanne and Meg happily engaged in committed coupledom. As we knew they would be, they’re perfectly suited and there’ll be no drama between them so no worries there. The ups and downs in this book are solidly focused on the case at hand. Hunter doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and A Quiet Death deals with one that, personally, is one of the toughest to read about: trafficking women for sex. I can handle lots of graphic details when reading mysteries and thrillers but rape is a bit gut-wrenching for me. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that. The author does a great job of letting the reader know what’s going on but there are no graphic descriptions. And I didn’t notice until very late in the book that they weren’t there. The case is the thing and I was completely wrapped up in the thoughts and actions of the detectives. The EDSOP team was a joy to witness and the addition of a POV for Sanne’s boss, Eleanor, gave me even more insight into the case as well as some of the characters. There was never a point when I wanted to get away from her POV and back to Sanne or Meg’s.

I heavily suspected that I’d enjoy this book since I’ve not yet been disappointed by anything written by the author and I was right. Hunter has not only a talent for bringing her characters to life and dropping the reader into the scene but also for balancing dark, deadly serious story lines with levity and humor so the reader doesn’t get lost in despair over the heartbreaking cases. I look forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.

You can download a sample or purchase A Quiet Death by clicking here.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Corey, Kitty, and Sequella Review Catalyst by Fletcher DeLancey


Sequella: Wow, another sequel in the Chronicles of Alsea already. Amazing! Unfortunately it is still sitting untouched on my eReader.

Corey: What’s wrong with you? I’ve already read Catalyst, re-read Vellmar the Blade, and re-read Catalyst again. Or at least my favorite bits.

Sequella: Show-off! Real life is happening.

Kitty: And some nice alien bits there be. Also, Corey, you sound like a judgmental speed reader.

Corey: But… This is it! The novel that fills in all the adventures of Captain Ekatya Serrado and Dr. Lhyn Rivers out in the Universe while Lancer Tal and Bondlancer Salomen Opah were finding each other in the Without a Front books. And the framing is perfect: The first three days of the Alsean version of a honeymoon (“Alsean bonding break”) for Tal and Salomen in which family share stories –

Kitty: – and everyone avoids explaining to little brother Jaros why Tal’s neck looks like a treecat attacked her.

Sequella: So we get Tal and Salomen time? That makes me want to chuck real life out of the window and start reading immediately!

Corey: Right. Okay. So on one hand, all the shifting relationships amongst Ekatya, Tal, Lhyn, Lead Templar Lanaril Satran, and Lead Guard Vellmar are explored in the moment. On the other hand, Ekatya and Lhyn each share a wrenching story about their lives after the Voloth war described in the first Alsean book The Caphenon. A very early scene in which Ekatya helps Lhyn survive a PTSD-like episode lets us know she experienced something traumatic. And yes, it turns out to be VERY traumatic. Whew.

Sequella: How Sci-Fi is the book. Do we get new races? Societies?

Corey: Some of the tech aspects of FTL travel are explained (and felt), and you definitely get a dose of Space Opera political shenanigans and a military-style raid on a planet. Not so much world-building. I enjoyed the action, but my re-reads were all about the aftermath. So emotionally intense.

Sequella: Is this a book mainly about Ekatya and Lhyn, or is a new couple introduced, like it happens so often in Lesfic?

Kitty: Ahem. Dr. Wells.

Corey: Oh stop it, Kitty. You are so homosexist. Who knows who the ship’s chief surgeon is into? And there’s so much to learn about Ekatya, Lhyn, Tal. Salomen, Lanaril, and Vellmar… who needs new couples? One of my favorite moments is when Salomen points out to Tal that the Lancer doesn’t get to decide how to handle the connection between herself and Ekatya… That is something that involves all four women, including Lhyn. And the tensions between Ekatya and Lanaril are nasty intense. So awkward when your wife’s best friend makes you uncomfortable. Frankly, these books are developing into the ultimate friends-and-lovers-and-tyrees emotional mash-up. I adore it all.

Sequella: What about other kick-ass female characters?

Kitty: Dr. Wells…

Corey: Yes, Dr. Wells. But also so much more Lhyn, who is a warrior in her own way. I craved even more Lhyn. We finally get her perspective, but during such unusual and harrowing circumstances. Really, I wish I knew Ekatya and Lhyn as well as I feel I know Tal and Salomen.

Sequella: So Kitty and Corey, who of you liked the book better? Kitty, how many bookmarks did you place?

Corey: Oh, don’t get her started. Me, I highlighted 20 quotes that just made me squee and bookmarked 6 scenes for their (non-sexual) intensity. Basically, they make me cry or clutch my heart. The first time I read the book, the action sequences carried me along but I came back to re-read the emotions.

Kitty: I bookmarked two make-out scenes.

Corey: Sigh. Is that a spoiler? Bottom line, Sequella, is that life may be happening but you need to pause and go visit Alsea RIGHT NOW.

You can download a sample or purchase Catalyst by clicking here.

Cheri Reviews Far from Home by Loreli Brown (Goodreads Review)


I’m really torn on the rating of this one. I think it’s better than just three stars and it’s the characters and the inclusion of and handling of anorexia bumped it to a pretty solid 3.5 for me. I debated on whether I should round up or down – since Goodreads seems determined to never allow for .5 stars – and while there were a few things that really pulled me out of the story on numerous occasions, the strength of my emotional connection with the characters pushed me to round up.

I thought that Rachel felt like a genuine and complex character and, even though the book is told in first person POV, I was comfortable with my level of understanding of Pari, too. For me, the most compelling part of the book was the way Rachel’s anorexia was handled. I don’t know anyone – at least I don’t think I do – who has suffered with the illness but I feel like I’ve gained some insight into the condition and a bit of what it must be like. I thought the author did a great job of keeping it in the forefront but never in any sort of preachy way that may have felt forced or contrived.

So what were these things that pulled me out of the story and prevented me from giving it a solid 4 stars or more? Well, the first person POV used with present tense was the first thing. It didn’t mess me up all the time and I mostly got used to it but everyone once in a while – YANK! – right out. But probably the biggest thing was some of the word choices. There were times when phrases or passages seemed like they had the wrong words mixed in. One example was something along the lines of Rachel noticing that Pari was tired and the phrase “she could tell by the weariness of her cheeks” was used. Or words really close to that – I don’t have the book open in front of me but it was the weariness of her cheeks. That pulled me out of the story so badly that I had to text a friend to make sure it wasn’t just me because I don’t know how cheeks can look weary. There were a few places where I felt like the author was trying to make a passage feel more poetic but the actual words didn’t do it for me and I spent more time wondering what words would have made it flow better or make more sense than I did being immersed in the scene. Things like that.

I was typing up the last sentence of this little review when I remembered that I wish so hard that there had been another chapter or three between the last chapter and the epilogue. How wonderful would it have been to experience what they went through to get to that epilogue? I’m not the sort of person who needs everything all wrapped up with a bow but damn, what a bunch of important things to not address. At least that’s how I feel about it.

So after reading all this you may be wondering why I still rounded up… It’s the story, the characters, and how I felt while reading it. Also I didn’t see any typos so that’s a bonus.

Cheri Reviews Poppy Jenkins (Goodreads Review)


I loved this book. First off, the characters are just wonderful. Except maybe Sam, I didn’t like her but I suppose my dislike for her still means she was well done. Poppy and her family and friends were lovely and each featured character felt unique and real. Rosalyn was tougher to connect with – being that she’s a good guy and a bad guy all at once for much of the book. Being, myself, a person who often comes across as unlikable, I felt a bit more for her than maybe some other readers. But one thing is undeniable, Poppy and Rosalyn have some kick-ass chemistry.

I would rate this one a 4.5 if Goodreads offered the choice but there were a couple things that prevent me from rounding it up to a full 5 stars. But I had to debate it for a while. This romance had just about everything for me and the author’s voice, writing style, and sense of humor will keep me coming back for more.

I definitely recommend this book to any lover of romance novels.

I received a copy of the book from the author for review purposes.

Nikki reviews Wishbone by Elaine Burnes


Meg Myers is an animal control officer in the Boston area who spends her time having unemotional sexual flings with nameless women and dodging her alcoholic mother. We follow Meg as she navigates a string of emotional experiences, some positive and negative, while trying to find where she fits in the world.

This story actually didn’t pull me in for quite a while. I was starting to wonder if I would just be following around this woman while she investigated possible turkey murders and the occasional injured deer. However once it got going, it became very intriguing. In great chunks of the book, we are following Meg as she encounters different women in her life, all helping to guide her into being the woman she didn’t know she could be. All were necessary for her growth, for different reasons. We see her gift with abused/unwanted animals, but she doesn’t recognize how her work with these animals mirrors her own needs, and highlights the treatment she should have received from a damaged system in her youth. She only sees her propensity for violence as a negative, as opposed to what it really is, her desperate need to lash out at the unfairness of the world, and the injustice faced by so many innocent children that the system continues to fail.

The characterizations are really well done, with fully fleshed-out primary and secondary characters. One of my very favorite characters is a transgender female, whose parents are having a difficult time accepting her for who she truly is. It is rare that books have a believable transgender character, and I was sad she wasn’t in more of the book. However, she did fulfill a very important role, so I’m glad she got the attention and respect she deserved by the author. Honestly there were several secondary characters that I wanted to see more of, but once they moved on I only heard of them in passing. I wish there was more from them, as they all had such big impacts on Meg’s life, and brought interesting textures to the story. However I recognize that would have made the book gargantuan.

As for the familial discord faced by Meg throughout,  I felt as though rehashing the past abuse and neglect, in addition to her troubles with her mother, became a bit repetitive. Yes, I completely understand the need for this, but at some point I started skimming through those sections as I didn’t feel they brought anything new to the narrative. The book was long enough that I believe some of this could have been trimmed to make it a more efficient story. That being said, this was overall a well done book, once it finally picked up some momentum, and by the end I was glad I stuck with it.

Also FAIR WARNING this book should come with a *trigger: a dog dies* disclaimer. Meg is an animal control officer, so she experiences her fair share of animal investigations, but some were difficult to read about. If that’s a deal breaker for you, it’s better you know that now!

You can download a sample or purchase Wishbone by clicking here.