Two LGBT books I want to talk about today! I have very lukewarm feelings about the first, but I’m a huge fan of the other!
Date of Publication: July 12th, 2016
Page Count: 240 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Literary agent Emily May is in danger of losing everything she’s worked for—her job, her home, her friends, and the security she provides her older sister back in Singapore—all because she doesn’t have a green card. Racecar enthusiast, high-flying, fast-living Derian Winfield is called home when the only family member she still cares about falls ill. Forced into assuming a role in her father’s dynasty she’s spent years avoiding, Derian needs to rehabilitate her black sheep reputation in a hurry or the agency will likely end up being lost in a takeover. Together, she and Emily take on Derian’s father and his hatchet woman, and in the process, Derian comes up with a plan to solve both their problems. Now she only needs to convince Emily to marry her, a perfectly reasonable solution to all their troubles, or so she thinks. She just hadn’t counted on falling in love.
The blurb intrigued me because it made the story seem to be the lesbian version of the standard ‘fake relationship’ trope wherein two characters pretend to be dating/married and gradually end up falling in love with each other. I was excited to read that premise! However, the marriage proposal only came in at the very end around the 90% mark and it wasn’t really ‘fake’ since there were genuine feelings motivating the proposal. So the blurb is quite misleading.
Putting aside my expectations and considering the book on its own merits, I still have trouble pinpointing many positives. I did LIKE the ladies, but there wasn’t much depth to their relationship. They locked eyes and insta-love set in. We had some token resistance before they consummated their attraction, there was much mooning around before the inevitable misunderstanding (always due to lack of communication!) and then finally their true feelings were confessed to make way for the happy ending. So far, so typical – I don’t mind something being cliche as long as it’s executed well, but I didn’t feel that was the case here, it seemed perfunctory and more like the characters were going through the motions because that’s what’s expected.
I found Derian to be very forward and thought it was a little unrealistic how touchy-feely she was with Emily right from the start – her casual invasion of personal space to tilt up Emily’s chin and cup her cheek, etc. etc. didn’t seem genuine, it felt a little contrived to hit the ‘romance by numbers’ cliches. Then walking around naked in front of her…maybe I’m just sheltered and/or haven’t met the right ladies, but this was way too outlandish and jolted me out of the story because I couldn’t suspend disbelief that it seemed socially acceptable to her.
I preferred Emily out of the two main characters, but even then, her vague characterization frustrated me. The author has given her a Singaporean background which pleased me because I always appreciate diversity in novels, but then this aspect of her character matters so little in the story she may has well have been American born & bred. It was disappointing that her heritage seemed shoe-horned in JUST for the green-card storyline because it had no bearing on her personality or motivations. I certainly don’t expect Emily to be a walking, talking ethnic caricature, but I expected to see shades of her heritage informing her character. (but as a migrant myself, I may be a bit more sensitive to this than others)
After all this criticism, one aspect that I wanted to praise was the way Derian’s ex was included – I was worried that Audrey would be the typical poisonous ex out to sabotage the main couple’s relationship, and she really surprised me. It was painfully REAL the way she harbored unrequited feelings and continued to pine after Derian even when there was no chance for them to get back together. I found Audrey the most convincingly portrayed character in the novel, with her alternating between bitter sniping at Dare (even if it was counter-productive, it’s such a human response) and sympathetic support – it takes a strong person to help their romantic rival score the person of their dreams! I would’ve liked to see her finding true love, although I know that’s not her role in the story.
Overall, this was a cute easy read, but it was ultimately quite shallow and had very lightweight 2-dimensional characters. It’s good for a beach read, but not if you’re seeking something more substantial.
Personal Rating: 2 out of 5 kitties approve this book.
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Bold Strokes Books, Inc through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Dira Lewis
Date of Publication: July 20th, 2016
Page Count: 325 pages
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
Sin is a vampire at the end of his rope. Having escaped forcible conversion by a vampire cult, he temporarily kills himself and rises again only to immediately imprint on a human: eighteen-year-old Dominic.
Thanks to the cult’s conditioning, Sin can’t bite Dominic, but because of the imprint he also can’t leave him alone. Protecting Dominic from a local vampire named Oriana puts Sin between a rock and a hard place.
With nowhere else to turn he does his best to convince Dominic to like him–but finds himself becoming just as attached to Dominic, which definitely isn’t making his life any easier.
‘Gun To My Head’ is exactly what I’ve been after for a long time. Vampires have been figuratively de-fanged as they’ve become more mainstream and increasingly romanticized. I’ve searched for a story that treats them as the predator they are instead of glossing over the fact that they need to DRINK BLOOD to survive and this book provides that in spades.
Sin is a vampire being pursued by others of his kind and needing someone, anyone, to provide shelter and support. Dominic is a vulnerable human with zero instincts of self-preservation and suicidally reckless. It’s an explosive combination with a lot of push-and-pull, and I was constantly thrilled and surprised with the developments in their relationship which is so original and nothing like what I’ve read before, but always craved.
I’m going to comment on the elephant in the room – this is no ‘Twilight’. Edward bemoans his monstrous state, how his soul is damned and he’s a danger to Bella, yet he continues to pursue her and breaks into her room at night to watch her sleep. He tells her to stay away from him before she was even interested in him, but he stalks her – it makes zero sense! What I love about ‘Gun To My Head’ is that all the choices and actions are believable, you might get frustrated with a character but you understand why they’re behaving that way, it’s never contrived to make the plot progress according to certain bullet points. And the best part to me is that the author makes no bones about the fact that the central romance is terribly unhealthy.
It’s not really a love story as Sin is using Dominic and acts in his OWN best interests, regardless of how that affects Dominic, but there is a growing emotional attachment between them. This is what I’d call a dark romance, and it’s super addictive to see where Sin will draw the line, how far he will jeopardize Dominic or whether he’ll pull back in time and rein in his monstrous instincts. Even though you know it’d be best if they had never met, you can’t help rooting for this messed-up couple!
I really can’t praise their relationship enough – it’s developed so organically and avoids the insta-love trope that irritates me so much. You really feel the chemistry between these characters and the slowly growing bond between them is carefully crafted so it’s believable, against all reason. It’s genuinely fascinating from a psychological perspective as Sin coolly calculates how best to manipulate Dominic and the trespasses against his agency that he justifies as being for the greater good, and looking at how that measures up against the very real affection that he feels for Dominic despite himself.
Dominic isn’t a helpless patsy in all this – it’s fantastic how quickly he learns Sin’s vulnerabilities and how to best exploit them so he can arm himself with the appropriate weapons (the hilariously practical water gun filled with holy water). He might be willing to throw himself headlong into danger, but he’s got street smarts and he’s not afraid to use them! I find that so refreshing and admirable, as opposed to Bella just lying in a meadow with Edward and trusting he won’t snap and tear her throat open.
The story is quite gloomy – as much as I enjoyed the writing and characterization, the bulk of it features Sin on the run from those intent on doing him harm, traumatic flashbacks and hallucinations, violent confrontations and so forth. His relationship with Dominic is the main bright spot and even that is fraught with tension, so this can be heavy-going at some points. I’ve mainly been reading this while waiting at the bus-stop instead of powering through the deluge of misery which is why it’s taken me a while to post this review. Just a warning that you may need breaks to read some lighter fare so you’re not completely disheartened at how tough it is for our protagonist!
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Less Than Three Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.