Snow Falls by Gerri Hill

snowfallsThere are those times in your (reading) life when plot makes you irritable. When the mere mention of a complicated crime story makes you want to run for the hills (no pun inteded). You look at all the books you own, you browse through your ebooks and look for that one story that is not complicated, the one that will make you feel good without having to think about it too much. Such a book is Snow Falls.

Ryan lives a hermit’s life on a mountain in Colorado with her two dogs. She’s got her reasons for being a recluse and only one of those is that she wants to write another novel. But then her life is disrupted by the arrival of Jennifer Kincaid and an avalanche. The avalanche buries Jen’s car and the road down the mountain for the next seven weeks. Jen Kincaid captures Ryan’s attention and heart as the women spent the next seven weeks talking, writing and hiking the breathtaking paths of Ryan’s home. But time on the mountain is running out and Ryan has a secret she wants to keep.

I read this novel in two days but I’m not fooling myself that I’m back in the reading mood. Yet Snow Falls was just the story I needed to read. It’s not overly complex, it’s an easy read, a pleasant read and a rather typical romance. And it gripped me like few have this year.

Here’s Hill writing a good story with likable characters and little plot. The story flows from the page into your heart and makes you feel good about life, love and being trapped in a cozy cabin in the mountains with a complete stranger. The characters carry the story, they talk, they contemplate and fall in love, only to be seperated by their inability to reveal their hearts.

I already told you that Hill is one of my favorite romance writers, if not THE favorite. Mind you, she’s written better stories than Snow Falls but I actually cherished that this story wasn’t complex, that it simply led me to a good place where I wanted to stay. It’s a warm and cozy novel, the conflicts are not too overwhelming. This may sound boring to some but I found myself wholly captivated. It’s a story about two women. They have their lives, their problems but all is put on hold for seven weeks when they only have each other and two lively dogs to keep them company. I liked it.

It’s also a story about two writers stuck in a cabin. You know I’m not a fan of writers writing about writers, it’s a little self-congratulatory, a little masturbatory. But Hill has the sensibility to not bore us with pages over pages of someone agonizing over the writing process. She doesn’t complicate, she simplifies. Maybe it’s a little too much, maybe the main conflict is just too easily solved. But for me it was just the book I wanted to read, just the story I needed to become inspired myself. And I dare say, I will pick it up again and still like it. Maybe not as much as some of Hill’s other novels but well enough to read and read again.

The Killing Room by Gerri Hill

thekillingroomWhile reading this novel, I did something I don’t usually do – I read reviews about it on Goodreads (you can find me under Cori Kane :)). However, it was still so early in the novel that I couldn’t agree with the negative ones and I guess, I still don’t. There were different things that bothered me from what bothered others, but let’s discuss that after I gave you a synopsis:

Jake McCoy is recuberating from a gun shot wound in her cabin in the mountains when she meets Nicole Westbrook who’s lost. The attraction is so sudden and so overwhelming that they spend a day and a night having fabulous sex in a tent. When they part the next morning, neither expects to see the other again, but when Jake gets back to active police duty her first case of murdered women throws her back in the way of psychologist Nicole. And their mutual attraction is not the only thing they will have to fight to survive.

It’s one of Hill’s thriller-meets-romance novels but it’s not one of her better. I think the beginning – while maybe a little too clichéd with all the fabulous sex they’re having – is very well written. I like how Hill buids the two paths that ultimately lead the two women to the same spot in the woods. Hill is able to build these scenes with a wink, saying: yeah, these two lesbians happen to be at the same spot at the same time, what a coincidence. And, of course, they’re having amazing sex with each other.

It isn’t really the story that has me discontent with this novel. Hill is able to build a conclusive narrative out of an unlikely premise. It was really more some details that put me off. Like the character of Jake McCoy, for example. I didn’t have a problem with the male name, I’ve given a character a male name myself once and was surprised why people had a problem with it. But the novel is in part about the sensitive topic of domestic abuse, mostly husbands/boyfriends beating and raping women, and to have a rather dominant female cop treating the proposed victim, Nicole, with sometimes careless force, sometimes condescending protectiveness – it didn’t sit well with me. I get that as a cop, Jake is competing in a testosterone-driven field but at times she comes over as a player, then a total macho, before Hill turns her back into a sensitive female cop who’s trying to protect the woman she is falling in love with. The characterization is sometimes a little wild. I also didn’t like the premise of these two almost comically attractive cops, like tv cops, who had little going for themselves apart from their looks. It was a little ridiculous at times.

In Nicole’s case, there was also some inconsistency in her character. While she was unhappy with her life and her circle of friends from the first she’s not able to break from it or them until the end of the novel. She just repeats that it’s ridiculous to be tied down in the closeted world of powerful lesbians but she doesn’t do anything to change it. She’s trapped in repetitive arguments either against the way she lives, or the woman she is falling in love with (because ‘she’s not her type’), and it gets boring. One might have expected for her as a psychologist to acknowledge the repetitiveness and break free from it but it doesn’t happen until Hill has set the stage for a defiant dramatic gesture that comes too late in the book.

‘Staging’ is actually a good key word when it comes to the novel, unfortunately it’s all done by Hill. She sets up spaces and conventions, like The Killing Room itself, but they fall flat within the narrative. I’m not sure what happened but it all felt very staged, plotted, unnaturally build, disjointed. If Hill weren’t such a sure-footed story-teller, this book would have been unreadable. But somehow she and the reader muddle through to a somewhat fascinating showdown – only to draw out the ending unnecessarily.

In the end, I felt like the novel was simply too long, that things could have been edited more, that some phrases have been repeated too often (anyone remember ‘we have shit on this case’? yeah). It’s not an abominable read, many have liked it on Goodreads and it actually won a GCLS award in 2007, but to me wasn’t an enjoyable read. Hill can do better than this.

The Scorpion by Gerri Hill

thescorpionThis is one of my all-time favorite lesbian romances. Of course, ‘all-time favorite’ is a deceiving term when a novel has only been published in 2009 but I feel that it will always be among my favorites because it does little things differently.

Marty Edwards is a reporter investigating cold cases and her latest endeavor brings her to Brownsville, Texas, where the local police is less than thrilled to have someone snooping into a 10-year-old case. There’s someone on the force, at least, who will help her: Kristen Bailey. She’s the outsider in the department, having only moved to Brownsville two years ago, and her collegues’ nervousness at Edward’ investigation makes her more than curious as to what they’re trying to hide. It turns out, both women become a threat to the power of a man who pretty much owns the city, a man who will stop at nothing to have Marty and Kristen kiled. And then love happens – and the stakes are getting impossibly high.

It doesn’t sound all that innovative and truly isn’t. The plot isn’t the thing that makes this book better than others, it is Hill telling an unflinching story, following through with ideas and solving possible incontinuities instead of turning a blind eye. Genre-mixes are never easy, especially when you mix crime with romance. Usually the romance is on the forefront, the crime story dawdles along and plot-holes are happening along the line. Not with Hill. She works the romance into the crime but the crime story is at the forefront and it is getting solved around the love, not despite of it.

With Marty Edwards, Hill creates a heroine who is somewhat unusual in her perception of self and sexuality. Having had an unstable childhood, she has big trust-issues and was never able to trust another person completely. This transcends into her relationships and she gave up on love and romance before she comes to Brownsville. Bailey is pretty much at the other end of the spectrum: loving family background, coming out at a fairly young age without any drama involved, she is the kind of hero we love to fall in love with. At the point when they meet, they are both alone, though, and need each other more than they care to admit, not just to survive but to reconnect with life. With all the things that have been happening in their lives, they have ceased to really live, or enjoy life.

Hill entwines the backgrounds of these two women with a thrilling adventure with the blossoming friendship and then romance. It does not stand still, it evolves, it changes course but is not showy or flashy. There are moments of fright and action but they are never out of context or over the top. Hill knows how to weave a story that is relatable and real, that’s what I like most about her stories and The Scorpion touches on some sensitive story-elements without exploiting them.

And that’s why it’s one of my all-time favorites, without being all that all-timey.

Devil’s Rock by Gerri Hill

Karin Kallmaker is usually referred to as the Queen of Lesbian Romance but Hill is my declared favorite. I think she is constantly better – of course, it is just possible that I have yet to encounter one of her novels that will disappoint me terribly. Devil’s Rock is not that novel. It is a solid if not her best work.

Deputy Andrea Sullivan has left L.A. to forget the horrors of a mission gone awry. In Arizona, her job as deputy usually constitutes of nothing more exciting than drunk drivers and domestic violence until a serial killer makes the canyons around Sedona his dumping ground. The FBI sends Cameron Ross, ex-military special ops, to help Sullivan and her team find the killer. While working the case together the women find themselves attracted to each other but do realize that their jobs may be as much of an unsurmountable obsticle as the man who soon kills one of their own.

I like Hill’s thrillers meet romance. While they are not the best within the genre of crime they certainly make for a good combination with crime fighting star-crossed lovers. The crime does not take center stage, the chemistry between the women does, but it is still important enough that we want to see the bad guy apprehended. Hill adds some very scenic background to the mix and it is simply a joy to read her novels.

Hill also understands a lot about human relationships and does not force her characters into situations. She is sure-footed and let’s her characters set the pace for the romance. Sullivan and Ross both have demons to fight – other than the serial killer – and they face them together. Ross may not be so terribly different from Hill’s other recluse crime fighter Tori Hunter but she brings her own history to the table. I find most of Hill’s characters very down to earth, sympathetic, easy to relate to though entirely different from my life and circumstances

As I have written in another post, lesbian romance is not a very innovative genre. Love in itself is always different but to convey this on paper is a difficult task. Hill understands that love is a meeting between two people and as the people vary so does the story that describes their love. I cherish that in Hill and this is what makes her my favorite among lesbian romance writers.