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Review–Kissing Frogs by Tori Turnbull

Buy here on Kindle for 2.99

5/5*

Published June 2018

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Twenty-nine year old Kate is “riding the euphoric wave of successful shoe shopping” when she is exiting the Tube. Until the escalator reaches the top, and Kate is faced with an incredibly unflattering picture of Kate captioned “Date my daughter.” Yes, her mother has used her pension to pay for the humiliating digital posters. Worse, after Kate is arrested for trying to damage the posters, she is picked up by her childhood nemesis Mark who eggs her mother on. Kate agrees to date for two months to get her mother off her back. Even more worse, it turns out Mark is going to be sharing her flat in exchange for doing home improvements for her mother, who owns the building.

Things go about as well as expected. There’s the stalker. The one who flees. The one on the cover who won’t let go of her legs even as she’s beating him with carnations.

I couldn’t put the book down. Between the hilariously bad dates and the growing sexual tension between Kate and Mark it was irresistible. It’s obvious to the reader that they belong together and that Mark is trying to pursue her. The end result is a sleek, funny romance.

Written in the first person voice, Kate comes through loud and clear. At first I thought it was a bit of a riff on the whole Bridget Jones thing, especially with an antagonist she’s known since childhood named Mark, but Bridget and Kate are very distinct and different voices, although fans of Bridget Jones should check this book out..

Even though you don’t get Mark’s inner voice, he’s well written. His personality comes across clearly, as does his interest in Kate. The secondary characters are developed enough. If there was more side story for them, I think it would take away from Kate and Mark’s story and make it flabby.

There are only a few sex scenes, but they’re worth the wait. Turnbull builds the tension so well that the reader is plenty turned on and ready to go by the time Kate and Mark are. From the moment Kate sees Mark coming out of the shower in just a towel, the chemistry sparks. When Mark begins to date someone, Turnbull ensures that we’re just as irritated by it as Kate, although she’s blind as to why she’s so jealous.

Turnbull has another book, and the highest compliment I can give her is that I’ve already bought her other book.

Book Review: Roll by Lynn Townsend

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“Full Frontal Neighbor” in The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica (my review here) put Lynn Townsend on my map.  I wanted to read more by Lynn, so I picked up her novel Roll.

From the farms of Tennessee, Beau Watkins had it all in high school; the cute girl, the popular, jock lifestyle, a loving family. As a rising freshman at an out-of-state college, he’s determined to find out who he really is behind the fake it ’til you make it attitude. He joins Rainbow Connection, the gay student alliance, hoping to find himself. Instead, he finds Vin Reyes. Raised by his grandparents and the heir to a prosperous company, Vin has been out of the closet since he figured out what that meant. He has it all: fashionable clothing, fancy cars, huge houses, and a real party lifestyle, even a bodyguard. Most of all, he has a secret.

Uncomfortable with Vin’s generosity, Beau fights his growing attraction for the president of Rainbow Connection, chasing instead a series of shallow affairs. Vin’s never been denied anything that he wants, though, and now he wants Beau. But it’s not until an old rival puts Beau in the hospital that Vin realizes that Beau means more to him than a simple love affair. Can the two of them bridge the gap between their worlds and roll with the all the punches life will throw at them (goodreads description)

Before I get into Beau and Vin, I need to share that over the course of the book I  fell for Ann-Marie.  She’s another member of Rainbow Connection that becomes one of Beau’s closest friends.  She’s funny, she’s brassy, and oh my god the speech she gives about why she wants to be a teacher just made me fall all that much harder for her.  Ann-Marie has joined my ever growing list of fictional crushes.  We should make #fictionalcrushes a thing–tag me (@Delilah_Night) if you tweet yours.

Roll is a romance.  You see the attraction between Beau and Vin from both points of view.  This can be frustrating at times as the reader sees all the missed signals and understand the depth of emotion long before they do.

While we get to know and love Vin (when we don’t want to smack him for drinking rather than dealing with his shit), this story is primarily Beau’s.  Beau is a sweetheart, but not a pushover. Over the course of the novel, it’s Beau who comes out to himself, to his friends, and to his family.  He’s a college freshman, so there’s also the experience of trying to build community in a new city,  and shedding who you were in high school so that you can become who you’re going to be as an adult.  Beau also has his first sexual encounters in Roll.  In many ways, it is his coming of age novel.

Vin, for his part, at first glance is a rich playboy who drinks as much as he wants to instead of perhaps the limits of what could be considered wise.  Over the course of the book, though, what could have been a superficial character shows the depth of his feelings.  We also learn what events in his past influenced who he is and how he copes with things.  The book ends with a cliffhanger that seems to indicate (to me) that the next story will center a bit more on him.  I look forward to that, and the revelations I hope we’ll learn.

As a couple they deal with not just the ordinary struggles, but their massive class disparity as well.  I’m really grateful that Lynn has her characters confront it head on, rather than just have the “poor” partner accept gifts like it’s no big deal.  My husband and I had a class disparity (although nothing this massive) and it is something that does affect the power dynamic (even if it’s only in your head) and can expose insecurities.  It was refreshing to not see it swept under the rug.

Lynn peppers her world with memorable secondary characters like Hector (who makes terrible puns on his name, but in a way this is disarming and endearing), the aforementioned Ann-Marie, and Shannon (Ann-Marie’s girlfriend who speaks fluent sarcasm).  Beau’s scenes with his mother and his Aunt Lucy were written with such poignancy that even though I didn’t know them as well as other characters, I could feel the depth of their history with and love for Beau.

I should give a heads up that there is some anti-gay violence in the book that reminds me exactly how liberal a part of the country I’m from.  If anything, Lynn’s recent encouter online reminds us that while momentum is gathering big picture (such as in the area of Marriage Equality), the day to day experience of being LGBT still involves bigotry and violence.

I really enjoyed Roll, and I think the best indication of that is how impatient I am for the sequel Blues to come out (March 25, 2015).

***Full Disclosure–My story “Love is a Virus” (excerpt here) is in Lynn’s upcoming anthology Among the Stars.  However, this is an unbiased review.***