From the Boots Up by Andi Marquette

fromthebootsup

I know some people feel like self-publishing and electronic books have ruined the publishing world. But I find that there’s so much more stuff that can be read that way – and I’m happy. I’m aware that some of what comes out of the woodwork is not worth the reading, but there are also treasures that otherwise wouldn’t have been discovered. So, you can keep your cynicism when it comes to these new forms of publishing, because I love it. And I don’t mind reading something bad every once in a while – there’s a time for trashy stories, too.

Fortunately, From the Boots Up is not one of those. It’s a good one. Here’s a synopsis:

Meg Tallmadge works on her father’s dude ranch when classes are over for the summer. Her recent coming out is still a sore spot on the otherwise good relationship with her dad, Stan, when she meets Gina Morelli, a reporter come to the ranch to write an article about it. While the two women are attracted to each other, Meg doesn’t want to compromise the work ethics on the ranch – but can their passion for each other be contained by mere will power?

As said, I liked it. It’s a well-written novella from a woman who knows her story-telling. I must confess, I’m partial to stories set on dude ranches – or other kind of ranches. The romantication of the (wild) west has worked for me all my life and I’m drawn to lesbian romances that involve boots, hats and horses, and have read my fair share.

Still, I find From the Boots Up different in some respects. For once, it focuses entirely on Meg’s point of view and while her feelings for Gina are at the core of the story, her life does not only revolve around them. There are other things going on, other people in her life, her studies, her plans for the future. Gina does not step into a void, she rather disrupts Meg’s already full life, and Meg struggles with her feelings because they come at a inopportune time – as those feelings tend to.

There is a sequel to this story called From the Hat Down and it’s already on my reading list for next year (this year is already filled with books that made it to my kindle before this one). If you are like me and love stories with a western feel to them, if you care for well-written, well-told, well-established characters and plot, you should give From the Boots Up a try – you won’t be disappointed.

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Heartland by Julie Cannon

heartlandThe wonderful thing about romances is that you can read them in two days tops. And especially if you just have nothing else to do but don’t want to engage a lot of brain matter into the venture, romances are just perfect. Maybe that is why many people – me included – see the whole genre as trivial. But think about it this way: how much more difficult does it have to be to write in a genre that is so trivial, has so few tropes but so many clichées? It is, and I cherish the authors of this genre who can make me swoon and/or surprise me.

Julie Cannon is not one of them, though. Given, Heartland is the only novel of hers I’ve read so far. Here’s a synopsis:

Rachel Stanton needs a break from her work as political strategist and books ten days on a dude ranch. Shivley McCoy is the owner of same ranch and the two women meet ahead of Rachel’s stay there and fall in lust at first sight. And this is mainly what seems to be going on between the two of them: they flirt, they kiss, they watch each other with eyes filled with promises of wild, hot sex. But while sensuality abounds, the inner lives of these two are also stirred as they work together and settle in a routine that may lead both of them too far into terrain they’re either unfamiliar or too familiar with. Their pasts and presents collide and ten days are over in a heartbeat. (Yeah, I know it’s as vague as a book cover but sometimes I like to engage in a little bit of professional vagueness.)

The attraction between Rachel and Shivley is the focal point and there’s a lot of it. I’m not a great fan of the erotic romance novel – as I want to call it. I like two people to meet, get acquainted, become friends through and with the attraction, not the other way around. That said, I have to praise Cannon for turning the concept but still make it plausible why these two women fall in love, even if lust seemed the first and more forceful factor in their relationship. Cannon teases the reader endlessly, yes, but scenes of erotic near-experiences are paralleled by scenes of work and conversation on the ranch and it makes for a nice mix.

The writing itself is alright, not great but not abysmal. I sometimes became irritated when a scene was describes from both women’s views, as I feel this is unnecessary. Also, the use of both the protagonist’s names was a little overdone. The use of referential monikers like ‘the rancher,’ ‘the taller woman,’ ‘the blonde’ might not be the most innovative but is something I find necessary. This is a problem we face in lesbian romance – or really in any kind of genre and writing where two women meet and interact, which mainly means lesbian romance: using ‘she’ too often might leave the reader wondering of whom we are talking at the moment. Using names is a possible solution to this problem but – as I said – I found it a little bit overdone here, especially with a name that is as unusual as Shivley – after a while it just sounds strange in one’s ears.

On the whole, Heartland is a solid romance. It is sexy, the setting is beautiful and knowledgibly described by the author. I find myself drawn to rural settings, especially the cowgirl trope is fascinating as well as inspiring. A nice read for those first days of spring when the mood turns to casting out the cobwebs of a too long winter.