Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper

Rating: WORTHY!

This novel proved to be every bit what I'd hoped for. It was such a pleasure to read. Thanks to the publisher and author for a chance to get in on an advance review copy! That's not to say that it was all plain sailing. I had a couple of issues (when don't I?!), but overall it was fun, entertaining, well-written, and very engaging. I didn't even mind that the ending was entirely predictable, because that was kind of the point!

This novel is part of a loosely connected series known as "Queers of La Vista," and it's set in a fictional California town. I haven't read any others in the series since I was unaware the series existed until I encountered this volume. Given that we're told more than once in this novel that the gay community in La Vista is small, it's a bit of a stretch that we already have five novels in derived from it! Like Pianosa in the Joseph Heller classic Catch-22, is highly unlikely to be able to accommodate all of the activity depicted in the series, but it's no more of a stretch that a TV crime show has a murder rate that exceeds Chicago of the prohibition era, either, so I'm not going to worry about that!

All the volumes in the series twist their titles from US TV soap operas: As La Vista Turns, Gays of Our Lives, One life to Lose, The Queer and the Restless. As I said, I haven't read these, but only two of them, including the one I'm reviewing, are about female relationships if we're to judge a book by its cover (which I normally don't!). Jaq and not Jill, but Hannah, meet at a wedding and immediately get the hots for each other. Neither is looking for a deep entanglement, but they had no way of knowing where this would lead.

The fact is that they click immediately, but since Hannah is going through a divorce - and not a pretty one - the prospects for this interaction don't look too rosy. The story follows them as they navigate a slightly thorny path through the relationship, through the well-meaning intentions of close friends, and through issues which try to steal time from the relationship even though they are not a part of it: such as Jaq's teaching duties and high-school relationship issues, and Hannah and her ex's fight over selling their house.

There was a bit of a Nora Ephron vibe to this, but this isn't your parent's Nora Ephron as the next paragraph will confirm. It did have that upbeat, liberal, well-to-do aura about it, though: people who were well-off enough to not have a worry about where the next penny would come from. As I said, I've not read any other of the stories, so I can't say if they are all like this. I hope not, because it would be nice to find a story in this series about a less well-off couple, or one which doesn't have such an easy trajectory to follow. Maybe that's just me!

Issues? I mentioned them so let's look at one more (the first was the improbability that all of this was going on in such a small LGBTQ community). I was not happy with the fact that these two fell into bed after knowing each other for an hour and proceeded to have unprotected sex. Yes, reality isn't quite such a turn-on I know, but I would have expected that both of these people would have been more grown-up and responsible, and a bit more cautious than they were. They are not teenagers, after all. The problem for me was that they didn't even mention risks, let alone discuss them or take precautions! Yeah, not sexy, and sexy is what this novel aims at - and gets there, be warned. It's very graphic and explicit, and it does not pussy-foot around (so to speak). There is liberal use of four-letter words and depictions of lesbian sex, but I would have preferred a note of caution to be sounded at least, even if it wasn't satisfied.

Having just published my own LGBTQ novel, it was fun to read a different story - a contemporary one which was written so well, and with such good humor and a positive vibe. It was an easy read and a rewarding one. The characters were wonderful, and based on the overall story and the quality of the writing, I recommend this.

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