Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: L World by Taryn Rose

In L World by Taryn Rose, sparks fly between a recent divorcee and lawyer and the gorgeous girl who does her hair. But can they overcome the age difference, and can she come to terms with being gay? Can the over achieving lawyer stop working so hard and take time for romance? (Obvious spoiler: Yes. Yes she can).

This is escapist, fairly fluff romance; a standard F/F happily ever after, that suffers from a lack of decent editing (like so much of lesbian fiction), but is easy to read, and there's a believable attraction between our various characters. Don't read it for the sex, though; while there is perfectly good sex in this book, there's also very bad sex. But overall, it's more about the tentative-slash-passionate romance between Blake, an extremely workaholic finance-related lawyer, and the sexy young hairdresser Janie. The theme of the story starts out as angsting over sexual attraction, then acting on it, and later shifts into emotional coming out and commitment issues.

Blake is our protagonist, and by far the most well rounded character. We're inside her head most of the time, so this is a good thing! She's a complete workaholic, a financier who delves into accounts and deals with very large lawsuits and bankruptcies involving lots and lots of money. She never takes a night off and is scarily obsessed with her job. Actually, the glimpses of her job were often quite interesting and added a lot of depth to her character. A questioning/closeted recently divorced mother, she's run away from her same sex interests all her life, and suffered a passionate marriage (though it appears her husband suffered more), and has a spoiled teenager with major abandonment issues. Her internal worry and vacillating and passions are probably highly identifiable to most people. At least, to most people who are recently divorced, much older than their lovers, worried about the effects of them dating will have on their kids, or struggling to admit their sexualities to themselves. To people who aren't these things, especially the last, this may be slightly tiresome.

 Janie is a pretty shallow character, overall, she exists to be pretty and generally nice, have interesting friends, and to be the foil and catalyst for Blake. She's a party girl, and all her drama is usually cast as 'not her fault'. And she has understandable worries about dating a closeted woman.

They meet when Blake stops in for a hair cut, gets distracted by Janie's utmost sexiness and then flips out over the haircut she recieves while distracted. Guilt, and lingering attraction, has her chasing Janie downtown into L World, a lesbian bar, to apologise. Cue dating, romance, and finally sex.

Which is where it all fell apart. That first sex scene went on for pages and was terrible. It read like bad fanfiction.The kind which gets quoted for its mad libs approach to anatomical description. Starts off fine, but constantly destroys the mood with random terms for certain parts of female anatomy (love box, love juices, inner lady folds - just inner folds would have been fine) every few sentences. Initially, I'd relax, get blindsided, sigh, keep reading, but by the end I was just wincing and counting. That should never have gotten past an editor. It also suffered from something that I commonly associate with F/F fiction; the sex was all about getting off with a hot partner, and mostly focussed on how aroused a particular character was. This is not necessarily the same thing as being straight up erotica. There's a lack of emotional investment, or characterisation, and it comes across as 'written as porn' rather than 'written as story'. Sadly, Ravenous Romance is associated with this kind of thing in my mind.

Happily, the rest of the romance isn't as nearly as bad and later sex scenes are much better, if a lot shorter. (I've noticed the sex scenes I really enjoy and that strike me as best written tend to keep the characters 'in' the scene, rather than shoving them into the closet so we can watch two hot chicks make out; for example Jericho [review] and The Art of Mapmaking [review] ).  Later, the sex gets much better, with at least a couple more, less drawn out scenes which flow much more naturally, keep our characters in the same room, and mostly don't use any ridiculous words.

By the 2/3rds point I was cringing; Wesley was a selfish brat of the highest order, whose mother viewed his vile behaviour affectionately, or just ignored it. There's a 'misunderstanding', the basis of which should have had Wesley slapped bloody hard for sexual harrassment (seriously. That was NOT appropriate), and that Blake then milks for as much angst as possible, taking the opportunity to bring up all the insecurities she has, convince herself she's not really gay, and drop Janie. Poor Janie is left hanging and heartbroken, in an utterly inexcusable manner.

Fortunately, it turns around after that; Wesley finally gets over himself a bit when he realises how heartbroken his mother is, and prompts her to get back with Janie, Blake starts to acknowledge how badly she treated Janie. I was having my own doubts about whether they even should get back together, and had actually concluded that, once the intial heartbreak was over, Dom was a much better partner, or that embarking on some less than serious flings would be a pretty good way for Blake to work the kinks out of her system (and her body). And 'hotties' stopped being used to describe every woman under the age of 30. Thank you.

The relationship between Blake and Janie never quite sucked me in; it felt more like a mutual infatuation that may not last the course. I felt an affair between Dom and Blake, once Blake had been broken into the lesbian scene by Janie, could have been a pretty awesome book. But that would have been a different book - one I'd have enjoyed more, but probably not one most readers who pick this up on purpose would want - and would have had to have been twice as long, for proper character development (which is good, unless the author isn't able to write that book, in which case it would have been a disaster. I can't tell if I'd rather have read that book, but I think it would have worked).

So, sadly, or happily, the fling with Dom turns out to be just a fling (though that comes with its 'I'm not quite sure this is serious' side drama) and the book wraps up pretty quickly after that with a happily Ever After (required in these kind of books, I am given to understand!).

It's not really my kind of book, and on a scale of all books everywhere it's average. On a scale of the kind of book I see as F/F, it's pretty good (the sliding scales of limited genre fiction!). As an offering from Ravenous Romance (I didn't realise they published it at the time, but I'm not surprised. I hate most of the stuff they publish, I'm not sure they even have real editors) it's better than I would have expected, but pretty much par for the course.

As F/F, 'straight woman gets a second chance and finds sexy, sexy, true love in a lady, has doubts and classic misunderstanding and and then gets over it for a Happily Ever After' romance, it's actually pretty good. Apart from the first sex scene, and the period where all the cliches and bad behaviour was building up enough to aggravate me (but was then mostly solved and sorted out just as I reached my tipping point) it was easy to read, and pretty fun.

You can buy L World for the Kindle on Amazon. 

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