In some ways, I was brought up rather conservatively and must confess that I’m sometimes sticking to self-imposed traditions tightly. One of those is that I rarely strike out to explore all the excellent, talented writers of the genres I prefer. While I pushed myself to not limit myself when it comes to genre, I usually stick with the writers I know.
I’ve been reading lesbian romance for… let’s see, about 15 years now and this is probably the first time I’m going on a wide search for new writers to read. I was most literarily stuck (not that I regret reading those I’ve read or the many times I’ve read my favorites; I just feel I could have been more adventurous). The reason is simple: I’m afraid to be disappointed. If I know that one writer and they write the way I like it, why would I pick up a book by a writer I don’t know who might not write the way I like? It may sound silly with all the amazing talent out there, but as I said – I’m a little conservative at heart, even though I would probably claim the exact opposite in a lively discussion held late at night among friends.
Anthologies are a great way to discover new authors, new stories, new themes, even. And this anthology proved to be a well of all the above and I’m really glad I unstuck myself to read about love and food and the sensuous adventures that begin if truly amazing talents mix both.
All You Can Eat is a pleasure. It combines the sensuous with the unexpected, the intimate with the breathtakingly erotic, and then there’s food and love and it’s sticky and messy and delightfully diverse. Marquette and Emanuelle present a feast of capable authors’ culinary fantasies that will satiate even the most ravenous reader.
It’s difficult to pick favorites from among these luscious stories. While they all include food and eating, they’re still very different, unique. And, as far as I’m concerned, there’s not a literary offering within these pages that disappoints. Still, not all flavors are for every reader and if I had to pick one among each dish I would recommend these: Rebekah Weatherspoon – Burn, Andi Marquette – Sugar and ‘Shine (with a very close second Cheyenne Blue – Tomato Lady), and for dessert Yvonne Heidt – Turn the Tables. But believe you me when I say, all stories are worth a read, all writers are worth checking out… you can never discover too many good, new writers (and I have already lined up the next anthology to find even more).
When Carly Griffin comes home on a vacation to Leland, Kentucky, she expects everything to be just how it always was: smalltown-ish, small minded and too small for her ambitions. But meeting her high school crush Justine Hall for the first time in twenty-five years changes a lot of things, most of all Carly herself. Suddenly smalltown, Kentucky is not the worst place to be – if it weren’t for some unresolved issues in Justine’s family.
The fact that I have so far read this book four times this year should give you a clue whether I like it or not. I do. In fact, it is one of my favorite romances ever – and I have to admit that I have read A LOT of romances. So, why is this one so special?
It really is a conglomeration of things that I really like and love that makes this book so good. It has two sympathetic main characters who are tied down by bonds they made through life. Their families play an important role in their lives which is not always an easy burden to bear. There is angst, there are problems but there is also the joy of two people meeting after a long time and realizing that the spark is still there.
With Carly and Justine it seems like they are continuing a conversation they had twenty-five years ago, just as they continue a kiss that changed both their lives. It is heart-warming to watch them rekindle their love but also some fears that cannot just be brushed aside. MacGregor has an unerring feel for human frailty, Justine’s feelings of guilt are so well written that one wants to reach out and hug her. We kind of do through Carly who proves an even better friend than Justine could have wished.
The one thing I cannot get over is that these two women are good people. They help out when someone needs them, they care deeply about their families and friends. The fact that there are things that might keep them apart makes the reader blink their eyes in confusion saying: but they are perfect for each other. And indeed they are. Here is a couple you want to see together because it just feels right. This might be a convention – at least we are told that it is so in every romance novel – but I don’t feel like it is because there are actually very few couples in romances that I feel so strongly MUST be together.
Lately, I’ve come to think about the way we read, how we perceive the same text differently, how we interpret through reading and come to such different outcomes. When I say, this is one of my favorite romances (actually it is one of two favorites and I will probably review the other one shortly) I am aware that others might not feel so strongly. And you should be aware of this also. But I do think this is very much worth your time whether it will become one of your favorites or not. It is well written and it is about life.