Way Back When

This weekend I have the pleasure of babysitting my grandchildren. The last time I had an infant that was mine to care for was about 18 years ago. It’s amazing what you forget in those intervening years. My granddaughter is the carbon copy of her mother in certain ways- her distaste for formula being one of those ways. It was a whole lot easier to deal with when I was the “cow” and not the person holding the bottle. This is the second time I have had her for a few days and I thought it would be easier. I forgot how mobility affected the equation,

I had also forgotten how messy preschoolers are. My grandson is speech delayed but one word he knows well is “mess”. I stopped counting after the seventh or so time he yelled it. Thank goodness for hardwood floors.

With all the fuss and mess, I am also reminded how much fun they can be- enjoying a book with me, exploring, playing with trains, laughing and generally being the adorable children they are. I feel both blessed and exhausted.

All of this remembering makes me think of the books I read when I first discovered f/f fiction. I was late to that party and didn’t figure out that it existed until 2012. I know, sheltered… There are so many wonderful new books out all the time that I don’t always have the time to go back and visit those early favorites. These are some of the books that got me hooked on the genre:

JLee Meyer’s books. Forever Found

8568B1EE-2C5F-471B-8146-BB6939DD66B1and Hotel Liaison
D91D5779-3204-4085-99F2-EF2878A723E0are my favorites, but I read all of her books multiple times when I first started reading f/f, even First Instinct, which is a bit more adventurous than my usual. There are scenes from all these books I can still conjure in my mind.

 

Harmony and then Improvisation1D4F980D-9A97-4273-9C28-B486EC1BCF469404D94B-47D1-49E3-8D3B-4DD69E69EA3E by Karis Walsh led me to read through her catalogue multiple times. I love the music in these two books. She also has many books with horse themes, which I enjoy. Her characters are always people I would want to hang out with.

 

Horse books brings me to D Jackson Leigh. She has a number of wonderful books set in the south with engaging characters D6B59586-B6BC-4C01-B828-E444467DF4D9and sweet romance.5CF02405-8186-46A0-99D8-B15C19340891 Touch Me Gently is an old favorite there. These books can be counted on to give you great stories with a fantastic setting. Did I mention the horses?

 

 

 

Rum Spring and Murphy’s Law B43FC440-EBD7-4066-9332-F8CC9FE77527led me to read all of Yolanda Wallace’s books. Rum Spring is especially E3588AF1-848B-4BAA-82F8-0C34D8D44D50engaging for its setting in an Amish community and for the richness of the characters. Murphy’s Law made me want to try mountaineering, not a usual interest.

 

I eagerly read all the new books from these authors, and I need to make time to re-read the old ones.

With all new books it’s easy to overlook older ones. What are your older favorites that you love to recommend?

 

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3 comments

  1. I am a Karin Kallmaker die hard when it comes to “older” classics and current stories. I spent one holiday season reading all her stories in order and that was a blast.

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  2. The novels that put me onto the lesfic genre game were, incidentally, written by the first three lesfic authors I discovered on my journey into reading romance, in general, again.

    Karin Kallmaker’s “18th & Castro.” In my humble opinion, not only is this novel a masterclass on writing erotic romance with requisite heat and surprising heart, but it’s also a masterclass on using structure to enhance stellar storytelling, engaging prose, and wonderful characterization. In other words, Kallmaker was the first lesfic author to clue me into how great a story with high heat levels could turn out. I’m a super nerd, so not only do I appreciate a great read, but upon subsequent reads, I gravitate toward eyeing the mechanics behind why I enjoyed a book as much as I did. I blame all those analytical English courses I took over the years. In 18th & Castro, Kallmaker employs the vignette style with a masterful stroke of the pen, weaving her tales of love & lust in the hustle & bustle of a single Halloween night that’s experienced by many different women of varying ages living and hanging out at the same San Francisco apartment building. The vignette structural backbone is enhanced by two women in the book’s opening scene having an ongoing story sprinkled throughout the novel; their mini-story highlights one of those endearing “putting-yourself-out-there” stories. It all resonated with me as I recalled snippets of life and love at different stages. The vignettes explore themes of new love to lost love to disillusionment with jilted love to reaffirmations of decades-long love; it’s a smorgasbord of romantic eroticism brimming with meaning, emotion, and truths. For certain Kallmaker writes on point erotically, but she also does so lyrically. And, most importantly, truthfully. And her dialogue in this novel is crazy good—so many writers forget that lovers talk to each other during sex and it’s not just to say ‘do me’ but also to reveal longings, worries, affirmations, desires and just straight up sexiness that revolves around a person’s uniqueness and her unique connection to another person (even if that connection is unrequited). Which echoes a truth in life: cathartic moments release different types of intense emotions, sensations and memories. Karin Kallmaker elevates erotic dialogue, erotic inner monologue, and erotic description writing in this novel. I don’t know how she did it, honestly, but this is basically perfection. I mean, when does an erotic romance touch upon all the emotions in such a commanding manner whilst juggling as many characters as she did? Kallmaker just nails it here. There is even one vignette that manages to be as hot (because Kallmaker is the author) as it is infuriating (because of how one character incorrectly interprets the event until she does eventually have an epiphany). 18th & Castro not already having been adapted into an independent film, or even a web series, is a huge sin! It’s thoroughly cinematic; it could star so many wonderful actresses and validate so many different lives on the screen.

    Harper Bliss’ “No Strings Attached.” Really, her entire Pink Bean series is good. (And daring. Topics run the gamut of ‘latebian’ life discoveries to recovering from emotional cheating.) However, No Strings Attached, being the first book in the Pink Bean series, hooked me first, lol. That’s largely due to it being about a 40+ woman coming into her own skin & her own self, post-marriage. Not just her sexuality, which touched upon raw vulnerability and honest exhilaration, but also in terms of her becoming employed after many years spent managing a household; her changing relationship with her children, her ex-husband, her mother and her best friend; her budding friendships with new people, including a love interest who she doesn’t like at first; her growing assertiveness with others; her growing honesty with herself and others; her stumbling and fumbling and picking herself up and cultivating herself. All of it was understandable and relatable. Many lesfic books skip over motherhood, but Bliss nails it here, which I completely appreciated being a mother myself. It was just the right book to fall into my life at the right time. While the Pink Bean series is a recent series, Bliss was actually the first lesfic author I discovered on my lesfic reading journey. I started off reading lesfic short stories, anthologies, compilations, and serials, many on Amazon and others in paperback; Bliss placed some of her books on Kindle Unlimited, had free short stories on her website, and wrote novellas that were easy to lose one’s self in while being a busy mom, so she was easy to find. But, what I think makes Bliss’ books appeal to me the most and resonate with me is she how writes in a way that, at first glance, shouldn’t work but does, wonderfully: She spends more time in her characters’ head spaces than most other authors. But, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of telling instead of showing. It thoroughly connects you to the main character. And, more importantly, it’s captivating and relatable. It’s not rambling or boring info-dumping; the emotions her characters reveal in their thoughts are as on point as the ones they reveal in their actions. The inner thoughts are ones that you’d actually want to know while reading their stories. Plus, she writes characters in ways that reveal aspects of their personalities that you’ll love and that you’ll question. She doesn’t write characters that make you shake your head because they’re plastic plot devices. You’ll shake your head because they feel, believe or do things you don’t necessarily agree with at the time but that makes them human. No Strings Attached had so many feels I related to; Micky Ferro stumbled and progressed through emotions in her latebian life that were so real, at times I forgot I was reading a fictional person. That, to me, was a major key to this book hitting a home run with me, even when I wished the novel had been a dual perspective so that you also had in-depth exploration of Micky’s love interest Robin’s head space (still, you do get enough of a handle on Robin because she answers tough questions and is open about her lifestyle and goals). When a novel makes you actually wish for more character inner monologues—an aspect of novel writing that is totally cringe-worthy when done wrong—you know it’s doing something good. You want more of it and don’t want it to end, lol. That’s this series in a nutshell. I think fans convinced Bliss to write a novella in the series (depicting the love story between two characters that was seen in other books in the background but that folks wanted explored a bit more) and a book 9 for this series that might have been slated at one point to end earlier, lol.

    Radclyffe’s “Fated Love.” Radclyffe was the second lesfic author I ever read, and I’m for sure glad that I did. In my humble opinion, she’s queen of the wlw medical romance realm. She takes many mainstream medical romances to task with her level of detail. I’m talking medical scenes that should have somebody at NBC or ABC or Fox or HBO contacting her to consult on medical drama and romance scenes highlighting women. Not only because Radclyffe is a retired surgeon, but also because she’s in her own league in the lesfic game with her ability to weave highly detailed medical scenes into a story and make them have emotional and structural relevance and importance. Reminds me of Tess Gerritsen—another retired doctor turned author; she writes the Rizzoli & Isles series—in how both authors write medical scenes so effortlessly into their stories. You can trust Radclyffe to write a medical romance worthy of your time. Good news: her novel Fated Love is also worthy of your heart. Plus, if you love reading about leading ladies who are massively competent at their jobs, then Radclyffe has you covered. In Fated Love, Radclyffe does all that without dumbing down the medical terminology—so there’s hella authenticity—but also without piling it up so high that it mires the read in a giant pool of technical jargon. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk, but Radclyffe pretty much does that in her sleep in Fated Love. While I also enjoy her Rivers Community medical romance series (because it has the backbone of a group of sisters and their friends as the main characters; I’m all about those friendship circles in romance series), Fated Love just happens to be the medical romance of hers that I continuously re-read, simply because of one pivotal scene that hit home on so many levels of emotion and truth (I won’t recap that super-important-to-me scene here because it’s one link in a chain of story detail spoilers; new readers should go into Fated Love knowing little more than what’s revealed in the book blurb for max enjoyment). In Fated Love, deeply interesting medical scenes punctuate a love story that seizes the heart and doesn’t let go. It explores so many wonderful story questions… How can you survive a deep first love cut short? How can you build a strong new love when that first love is still ingrained in your heart? How can you trust love when your life might not afford you with the time to enjoy it? How can you fall in love when the object of your affection might not ever be able to navigate that love fully with you? Honor Blake and Quinn Maguire are two amazing lead characters. Fell for both of them, which always makes a romance special when you do. Quinn is a sweet cinnamon roll love interest who you can’t help but fall in love with yourself. She’s also one you can’t help but hope triumphs at her job, over her situation, and at the roulette wheel of love. Honor is so raw and honest in her pain and so deeply entrenched within her heart-protective coating that you’re often on the edge of your seat hoping she can see Quinn as her fated love without losing the centering gravity of her first love. Also enjoyed the mother-in-law character who is much more than you expect from a mother-in-law character. Honor and Quinn’s love story had the right amount of push-and-pull angst (anyone familiar with Radclyffe knows she writes some level of angst into a story, lol). Here, the angst doesn’t overwhelm story but instead illuminates character. There were so many true emotions craved onto the pages of this novel; it’s poetic and searing and wholesome and sensual. It’s one of the best medical romances out there, period.

    Well, that’s me sorted. LOL.

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