Unbreakable by Blayne Cooper

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Blayne Cooper – another one of my favorites from Xena-fanfiction days, ’cause who could forget Madam President and it’s sequel First Lady. I sure haven’t and I enjoy a reread every once in a while. Still, I haven’t read a lot by Cooper and don’t know why. Her style is compelling, her story-telling prowess impressive. But what I like best is her sense of humor, her tendency toward siliness and downright slapstick. Here’s a writer who makes me laugh.

This goes for the aforementioned novels as much as it does for the one I’ve recently read – Unbreakable. It’s the story of five girls who became friends when they were nine. Ten years later they have a falling-out. When one of them turns forty, they meet again – as promised – and discover that their friendship might have been buried but is essentially unbreakable.

While it is not a typical lesbian romance, a lesbian love story is part of the novel. Jacie and Nina become fast best friends and just a little more, undetected by the other girls in their club. While Jacie accepts her feelings early, Nina pushes the realization of what she might be away until their desire breaks through the heteronormative world their friend Gwen has build for herself.

The really compelling part of the story are the relationships between these girl, young women and adults. The chemistry is wonderful and comical and heartwarming. The characterization leads the story sure-footed toward a surprising plot twist that is sure to drive the friends apart once again, but is ultimately solved.

So mainly, I loved the story because I loved the characters. Still, as is often the case, there are some parts of the story, I don’t agree with. And I think there should be a trigger warning applied to it – rape. It’s a graphic scene, a violent and disturbing chapter. And it dampens the mood of the novel severely. I’m sure I will read this novel again some time, but I will at least jump this chapter. I don’t agree with rape scenes which are mere plot twists… or rather, I don’t agree with perpetuating rape culture at all.

There are a couple of minor style mechanisms which I didn’t agree with either. Pushing for the most dramatic effect in a couple of scenes is one of them.

But neither of these things makes this a bad novel, because it’s enjoyable. If a novel makes you laugh and cry, you can be sure you’ve found a favorite and that holds true for me with Unbreakable.

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And Playing the Role of Herself by K.E. Lane

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First of all, kudos for the title. I like it, it has just the right amount of self-deprecating sarcasm and outright criticism of the film industry (at least, that’s how I like to interpret it). I wish the whole book had been like that. It hasn’t but that’s not quite as bad as it may sound.

Caidence Harris is a thirty-something actress who’s playing a popular tv character on a cop show in its second year. She’s not famous, really, but the show is good and she likes her work. She also likes her co-star Robyn Ward who is more of a rising star than herself and also one part of a very well publicized couple – with tennis player Josh Riley. That’s why the chemistry Caidence feels with Robyn leaves her mystified and wary. But it is there and it won’t go away, no matter how each of them tries to deny it. So they try this thing between them out and it surprises them both how well they fit – once they overcome their fears and insexurities.

This book seems rather long for a love story but I guess, I’m only now realizing that I’ve become too accustomed to the 200-something pages length that most of them have. It’s certainly not too long, it actually leaves more space and time to explore this budding relationship with the two protagonists. And I like it. It’s well-written, the setting as well as the characters. The plot runs along over the bumps in the road in an easy-to-understand prose. It’s a good read.

But it’s not a great read. I sometimes felt rather annoyed with the character of Robyn Ward and felt that Lane did not follow through on some of the indications like she could have done. At times she seemed to end things abruptly and left the reader hanging. Or maybe she just left me hanging (I guess, it’s always problematic to put oneself in the shoes of every reader).

I’m also not sure about the I-narrator in the romance novel… I’m not sure why I have my problems with this but it seems that everything that comes out in the genres of young adult novel and fantasy is tinged by the I-narrator these days and I’m not willing to put up with this in the romance-genre as well. This is, of course, a very subjective opinion, maybe I was just unlucky with my choices lately. I’m not even necessarily against the I-narrator but I always felt that it was a difficult mode to write in, and something someone has to be really good at because otherwise the book could turn into an endless rant. No worries, it’s not how this book feels. I guess, I just like to have a balanced view on both protagonists of a romance, getting to know a character through the eyes of the other character can be problematic and maybe that is where my problems with Robyn have really been coming from.

On the whole, it’s certainly a good read. There were little things I really enjoyed like the tv characters Caidence and Robin play which are kind of reminscent (at least for me) of Olivia Benson and Alex Cabbot from Law & Order: SVU. I also liked some of the supporting characters a lot, especially Liz who reminded me of Kristin Chenoweth. I’m a sucker for a Southern Belle, I guess. So, yeah, a pleasant read, not necessarily out of the ordinary but worth one’s while.