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REVIEW: The Midnight Hunt by L.L. Raand

Dear Ms. Raand,

A friend recommended your lesbian paranormal romance to me when I asked for something new. Although I'm not a big fan of weres/shifters, I've enjoyed several of your earlier books (written as Radclyffe) and I consider myself an adventurous reader. I was eager to try the new pseudonym and new series.

Unfortunately, The Midnight Hunt didn't work for me. If I had to describe the story in one word, it would be overpowering.

the midnight hunt ll randOn a quick personal note, fairness in reviewing is something I strive for but do not feel I can achieve. I'm not a lesbian. My opinion on your character's sexuality or how you choose to portray it carries little or no weight. But I can't write a thorough review without being honest about my likes and dislikes. I had a strong negative reaction to the erotic elements in this story and I hope not to cause offense to you or anyone else in the LGBT community with my criticism.

I've said before that I'm new to lesbian romance and some of the tropes are foreign to me. I've grown accustomed to one of the heroines being more androgynous or boyish. At times these characters are "too masculine" for my taste. Most of the cast of The Midnight Hunt fell into this category.

Sylvan Wir is the Alpha to end all Alphas. She's the head of her pack and the leader of the council of preternatural beings. She's like the president of the paranormal world. People nearly piss themselves when she walks by. In this story, vampires and weres are "out" in society, trying to gain acceptance. Sylvan is under a lot of pressure to convince politicians to pass a bill for equal rights. The parallels I saw between "unnatural" creatures and the gay community were interesting. You have an engaging writing style and the premise felt fresh to me.

After a difficult day at the office, Sylvan returns to her wolfpack compound, only to find that one of the "pups" has been injured. She shifts in a running leap and races to the hospital. When she arrives, snarling her demands for a special were-medic, she meets human ER doc Drake McKennan. Drake is fascinated by the paranormal patient and her protective Alpha. Sylvan growls and snaps and tends to the pup's wound by removing a poisonous piece of metal with her powerful claws.

The animalistic behavior seemed exaggerated and the world-building uneven. Sylvan shows up at the hospital in jeans and a shirt, her feet bare. She can shift into a clothed human, but shoes are beyond her scope? She's also reluctant to tell the human doctor any details about the pup's injury. The girl was stabbed with a silver-based blade, and according to Sylvan "only another Were would know that silver was lethal, even in very small doses." I thought it was common knowledge that werewolves are sensitive to silver. Silver bullets, at any rate.

I also thought Sylvan's characterization was weak. Weres are hypersexual beings, needing constant physical release. If they don't mate, or at least copulate, they can become violent and unstable. Despite the danger, Sylvan is reluctant to see to her own needs. She's unsatisfied with empty sexual encounters but refuses to take a mate. Why? Because her father was devastated by her mother's death. Sylvan decides she'd rather be alone forever than risk losing a partner.

The Alpha's sexual frustration is bad for the pack. Her needy scent can trigger a snarling hump-fest by sending all of the females into heat and causing dominant members to fight for mating rights. I had trouble believing that Sylvan would continue to deny herself release and jeopardize the safety of her pack. Her edgy stubbornness was not a strength or a sympathetic vulnerability.

For me, the most jarring aspect of The Midnight Hunt was its portrayal of werewolf female sexuality. There are frequent sex scenes and the clitoris is described in masculine terms. It acts like a penis. The were-clitoris becomes engorged, stiff, erect, rigid, hard, etc. It can be placed between a lover's buttocks, sucked deep into a mouth, or milked to release. Were-females also have a strip of fur down the center of their abdomen, six-pack abs, and olive-sized nodes on either side of their phallus-like clits. These sex glands ache, grow firm, and need to be drained.

Okay. I don't want to get too personal, but I cringe at the thought of my ladyparts being manipulated like manparts. It's not a turn-on for me to imagine male sex organs on myself or any female. The "nodes" reminded me of testicles, of course, but also of canine anal glands, which I had many unpleasant encounters with while working at a veterinary clinic in my youth. This unfortunate resemblance, paired with the raw animalism and overwhelming masculinity of the characters, disturbed me. About halfway through, I quit reading.

Lora Leigh writes a werecat series in which the heroes have barbed penises, if I remember correctly. I’m okay with that. Enhanced clitorises, not so much.

I think I'll stick to your contemporaries.

Best regards,

Jill Sorenson

Book Link | Kindle | Amazon

Guest Reviewer

43 Comments

  1. Laura Vivanco
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 05:51:01

    a werecat series in which the heroes have barbed penises, if I remember correctly. I'm okay with that.

    I read a news item yesterday about barbs on penises:

    Scientists believe men once had small spines on their genitalia such as those found in chimpanzees, cats and mice.

    Analysis of the genomes of humans, chimpanzees and macaques indicates that a DNA sequence thought to play a role in the production of these spines have been deleted in humans, but has been preserved in other primates. […]

    The researchers believe the loss of these spines in humans may be related to changes in human courtship.

    The loss of spines, they say, would result in less sensitivity and longer copulation, and may be associated with stronger pair-bonding in humans and greater paternal care for human offspring.

    So it would seem that barbs lead to a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am technique and “there is evidence that they can cause damage to the female.”

  2. KB/KT Grant
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 06:20:44

    I’ve been looking for more paranormal lesbian romance to read but there doesn’t seem to be many out there. Too bad this one didn’t work for you :(

    First time I’ve heard of a were-clitoris. O.o

  3. Jane
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 07:11:14

    So confused as to why the clit is turned into a peen and berries in this lesbian fiction book. (But perhaps akin to the m/m books that are thinly disguised m/f books).

  4. DS
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 07:37:03

    I’ve read a bit of lesbian fiction over the years but this sounds a bit off putting. I did think about the clitoris of hyenas while reading your review. Maybe it should have been a werehyena pack.

  5. Jane
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:15:46

    @DS But do you want to be reminded of a hyena’s clit while reading a romance?

  6. DS
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:24:43

    @Jane: Absolutely no. I can promise I won’t be reading this book anyway.

    I let one of Mrs. Giggles reviews talk me into reading a book about a satyr with two penises and I was so traumatized that I am still having flash backs.

  7. LVLMLeah
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:34:01

    I had some of the same issues you had with this book, although overall, I liked it.

    I felt there were some inconsistencies about the world building. Like that vamps and weres have been around for centuries, living amongst humans, and yet, this is the first time any one of them have ended up in a human hospital needing treatment? Or that until now, their physiological differences would not have been known to any humans?

    And I think L.L. Raand did too much description of the changing, which led me to wonder about the clothes and shoes as well. Most of the female weres walk around topless on a regular basis, which stood out to me a odd, although they did it only on their compound. This issue is often skirted in most shifter stories so it hasn’t stuck out too much as a logistical issue in the past as it did in this book.

    And I’ll totally agree with you that the descriptions of the female sex bits coming across as overtly masculine was a turn off. However, in quite a few contemporary lesbian stories the use of “getting hard” in reference to the clitoris is common. So this isn’t that much of a leap.

    I didn’t have a problem though with Sylvan holding back on her sexuality even though it could be taken as you took it.

    I saw it as the set up for the whole fated mate thing between her and Drake. Only Drake is meant to be her mate. Foregoing slaking her sexual needs with others gives the whole fated mate thing more impact.

    And I have a general liking for characters who can absolutely control their biological impulses, which is common to alpha males in m/f. So this didn’t bother me as much as it did you. I find many alpha male heroes doing the same thing in m/f and it’s taken as honorable. I liked that Sylvan did that to some degree.

    Unfortunately maybe, L.L. Raand probably took that too far since it was brought up over and over again how dangerous it was for Sylvan to not have sex even if it were to release energy.

    If she were to have had more sex with her seconds in command, who were there to take care of that, it would have been easier to take I think. And the reader would still have had that feeling of her and Drake being fated anyway because the difference between being a mate and just having sex because of biological needs was clearly explained over and over.

    But in general, I liked this book because I liked the slow build up of Sylvan and Drake’s relationship. It’s fated, but it takes a long while. It was the one thing that kept me reading this. I wanted to see how they would finally get together after all that.

    And I was quite intrigued with Drake as a character. She’s very intelligent, curious and open, but in general a kind of quiet and unassuming person with no personal life. She has no fears and is perfectly willing to follow her gut feelings in this.

    I like the idea of a character having a normal, boring life who is suddenly swept up in something extraordinary.

    But I’m totally on board with this was intense. And sometimes not in a good way. The world building, tension created, and graphic descriptions of hybrid sexual bits was a bit too in the face for me at times.

    However, somehow, I had an overall good impression of this book. Those issues that bothered weren’t enough cloud the parts that intrigued me.

    @KB/KT Grant-

    I think the lesbian author community is only just starting to pick up with the whole were/shifter/vampire genre. I’ve seen that more and more authors writing lesbian are doing it. It’s still not as common as contemporaries. Unfortunately in my case, I’m sick of animal/vamp paranormals, so I probably won’t be reading them.

  8. Ruth
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 08:49:45

    I read rather broadly — m/f, m/m, and f/f — and fortunately this is the first time I’ve come across masculinized ladybits in an f/f. Maybe I’ve been lucky?

    Also, silver? Something certainly worth telling the doctor about just in case they don’t know, but even in pop culture I agree most people know silver:werewolves::garlic/stake/holy water:vampires. Iron for fae, but I don’t know if as many people know that one.

  9. LVLMLeah
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 09:02:57

    Damn, I wrote a long comment and it got eaten or something. Not going to write it again, but I agree with a lot of what you said, just didn’t bother me as much as you.

  10. mfred
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 09:05:42

    It sounds like Raand/Radclyffe was seriously playing with gender and gender roles in this book. Which is doubly interesting, if you think of the parallels between trans-humans (humans shifting to werewolves) and trans-sexuality (shifting gender presentation).

    The butch/femme trope, which is often also associated with themes of masculinity, dominance, etc., is a familiar and well worn path for many in the gay community. I haven’t read it, but I wonder if Raand was trying to tweak these stereotypes a little, play with them on various levels. Although, from your points about worldbuilding, it doesn’t sound like she did a very good job.

    I’m a little torn on your take on masculinity in lesbian fiction, Jill. I get that it doesn’t do it for you, and I sincerely respect that you are willing to be honest about your preferences. The sensitive part of myself wants to wail that “it isn’t faaaaaair”, but I think you gave this book a real chance and an objective review, even considering your own personal likes/dislikes.

    Does a preference for more feminine lesbian or f/f fiction also mirror preferences in reading in other genres? Specifically, I am thinking of urban fantasy or paranormal? While heterosexual female characters in UF/PNR are often presented as quite physically feminine, they often have a more stereotypically masculine role – physically dominating, “ballsy” (pun!) attidudes, etc.

  11. mfred
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 09:07:21

    Uh… sounds like Raand DIDN’T do a good job! Damn you typo!

  12. DS
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 09:09:35

    @Jane: Did my comment get caught by the spam blocker? Essentially, I don’t like to think about hyenas much at all, but their personal lives do have a sort of train wreck quality about them. Like goats and the book about satyrs with two penises that I let a review by Mrs. Giggles talk me into reading.

  13. L.A.D.
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 09:43:24

    The olive-sized nodes need to be drained? That makes me think of boils. Thinking of boils in connection with sex organs is slightly horrifying.

  14. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:14:13

    @Laura Vivanco: Thanks Laura. I can always count on you for an interesting link.

    @Jane: I would hesitate to make a comparison to feminine characters in m/m because most of those are written by straight authors for a straight audience. A lesbian author writing an extreme Alpha is different.

  15. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:16:13

    @DS: Although I also found it off-putting, the nodes seemed realistic to the animal kingdom and fit in with the world-building.

  16. Ell
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:23:02

    A drake is a male duck. Having a female character named Drake seems awkward to me…

  17. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:28:52

    @LVLMLeah: Well, they have “were-medics” so obviously weres had been in hospitals before. But why keep the silver a “secret”?

    I’ve seen the clitoris described as hard and erect in m/f erotic romance, even in a Jennifer Weiner chick lit! So that doesn’t really phase me. It was the repeated emphasis on the nodes and the suggestion that a were-clitoris can act like a penis, ie penetrate.

    I’m conflicted about the “fated mate” aspect you enjoyed. I really like Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed series, which features that trope, and I’m a fan of the tortured/unsatisfied hero. I just didn’t believe that Sylvan would do anything to potentially harm her pack.

    Thanks for showing up to comment because I think that the majority of readers had a positive reaction to this book, like you. I saw a lot of good/great reviews on Amazon.

  18. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:50:48

    @mfred:
    “It sounds like Raand/Radclyffe was seriously playing with gender and gender roles in this book. Which is doubly interesting, if you think of the parallels between trans-humans (humans shifting to werewolves) and trans-sexuality (shifting gender presentation).”

    Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that. Good point.

    I’m really glad you commented about fairness because I don’t think this review is fair. Calling a butch character too masculine is sort of like saying “this gay book is too gay!”

    The question is, if I can’t review every facet of a book fairly (and the sexuality is a large part of this book), should I not review it at all?

    When I made the “too masculine” comment I was thinking about a Julie Cannon book with a real estate tycoon heroine. She wore business suits and wasn’t in touch with her feelings. I had no problem with the sex scenes in that story–they were pretty hot. It was just that the character acted like a man IMO.

    Another example that comes to mind is a cross-dressing heroine from Meghan OBrien’s The Three. I didn’t think she was too boyish, but she did wear a strap-on (almost like an extension of herself) and that sort of confused me. I can see how Raand’s descriptions of the clitoris could be sexy to some. Like a natural strap on?

    I love tomboy characters and strong, sexually forward women in m/f. And I’ve read some very sexy, likeable androgynous characters in lesbian romance. But I suppose I find it easier to *identify* with feminine women.

  19. FiaQ
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 10:56:29

    @Laura Vivanco: Lovely. Trust you to come up with interesting links. I really do need a cuppa to steady my nerves after imagining what it must have been like.

  20. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:07:22

    @mfred: One other thing I’d like to say is that when I read lesbian romance, I’m reading from the perspective of a straight female, and I’m looking for something that might appeal to readers like me. I don’t know that I would be able to judge a book’s appeal to the GLBT community. So my reviews are geared toward a crossover audience. Even if that doesn’t really exist, or if the author never intended for her book to crossover.

    Hope that makes sense.

  21. fairyfreak
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:10:35

    I guess I’m confused…if it was a danger to the pack to be sexually frustrated, why wouldn’t she take care of it by herself? I mean, if a f/f pairing will work, there’s obviously not a need for a male “deposit” to lower the danger, so she shouldn’t have needed anyone else of either gender to get the job done. Am I being too logical, or is there an explanation in the book for this not working?

  22. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:18:21

    @fairyfreak: For these characters, masturbation doesn’t work to fully satisfy a craving. Sylvan has to slake her needs with another were in order to stay healthy.

  23. LVLMLeah
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 11:34:22

    I love tomboy characters and strong, sexually forward women in m/f.

    This is very interesting. I’m rather put off by overly aggressive or sexually forward (not just open) but forward female characters with men.

    I guess I’m stuck in antiquated gender roles as far as sexuality goes. I like it when a female is more submissive with a male even if she’s strong on all other aspects.

    But in lesbian, I have no problem with the masculine or male-ish female. I guess because I expect that one partner is going to be more dominant or sexually aggressive.

    I think this is one reason why lesbian doesn’t seem to go more mainstream with straight female readers. If you become open to the idea of the butch/femme or masculine female character, it becomes more normal and less noticeable. Or so it’s happened to me.

    I went from being shocked to read butch/femme when I first read lesbian, to now I enjoy these different gender quality dynamics.

    I know lots of women, straight women, who are not emotional, not maternal, not dying to get married and have babies, are aggressive and defy the usual stereotype of what a woman is supposed to be. So I don’t find it that odd if a woman acts like that in lesbian.

    But it’s probably not that easy for many to accept that and not get put off. And it’s all a matter of taste.

    I also wanted to say, that as a straight reviewer of lesbian for a long time now, it is hard to review a book in which sexuality and gender roles are not a personal experience.

    I’ve felt the same as you in that I’ve wondered if I’ve had the right to review lesbian as a straight person. And I’m sure I’ve gone off the mark or said some things that a lesbian would be like, “what?” but that’s normal for us.”

    However, I know there are straight readers out there who do like f/f. It’s basically the only thing I like to read and I think if we’re honest, like you were in stating that you can only review as a straight reader with the straight reader in mind, then that’s the best we can do.

    I think there are a lot of really good lesbian books out there. Really good authors. That those books are usually only reviewed on lesbian centric blogs means mainstream readers who might like to try it will not get the exposure.

    So I’m glad you review f/f, lesbian for DA. Even if it means that sometimes things are expressed purely from the straight POV.

  24. Janine
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 13:34:09

    @Jill Sorenson:

    I'm really glad you commented about fairness because I don't think this review is fair. Calling a butch character too masculine is sort of like saying “this gay book is too gay!”

    The question is, if I can't review every facet of a book fairly (and the sexuality is a large part of this book), should I not review it at all?

    I’m not sure I agree that the review isn’t fair, Jill. Or rather, that the concept of fairness applies to reviewing. I think all reviewers can only review from their personal perspective, and therefore all reviews are subjective.

    We all bring our personal life experiences, our likes and dislikes, the things that resonate with us or that fail to do so, to reviewing. There is no other way to respond to a book.

  25. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 14:05:28

    I agree that all reviews are subjective, but fairness is a different issue, to my thinking. It’s an important consideration for me and I’ll probably continue to question myself. All of this criticizing makes one self-critical, I’ve found!

  26. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 14:08:31

    By criticizing, I mean reviewing, not that anyone in the comments has been critical.

    I miss the edit feature.

  27. mfred
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 15:10:24

    @Jill Sorenson:

    My fairness comment wasn’t meant to imply that I don’t think straight women should review LGBT books or even that your review was actually that unfair.

    Upon further introspection, I think it’s a shared personalization — that we both bring our own, but different experiences to the same characters.

    Generally speaking, I think it’s fine to say you don’t understand something or you suspect you may be missing a cultural reference. You mentioned your confusion from a character wearing a strap-on. To me, this is perfect shorthand for a whole host of character traits.

    I think the grey area comes up when personal tastes are conflated into something normal/ acceptable/ understandable. I have read reviews in other places where the reviewer says something to the effect of “and if you took the gay out, the story would still be great!” — as if that was 1. a good idea, 2. a compliment. Whether intentional or now, this kind of comment makes the assumption that homosexuality = not like “us”. But, I mean, where is that line between other-ing a character because you come from a certain POV and honestly speaking about your ability to empathize with a book? I think it will always be different, and probably always somewhat difficult.

  28. Janine
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 15:18:20

    @Jill Sorenson:

    All of this criticizing makes one self-critical

    By criticizing, I mean reviewing, not that anyone in the comments has been critical.

    I’ve found that true for me too. It does tend to train my critical faculties and sometimes more than I wish it would!

  29. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 16:29:28

    @mfred: No, I didn’t think you implied that at all. My question (should I review?) was rhetorical and I’m the only one who can answer it. Although I don’t mind hearing varied opinions on the subject. Ahem.

    I guess what matters to me is that I make a sincere effort to be fair. I’m in a bit of a sticky position as an author-reviewer because I have this tendency to want to downplay my negative reviews. Especially with a book like this, which just not my cup of tea. I feel uncomfortable with the idea that someone might not buy this because of ME. Because what do I know? On the other hand, I want my positive recommendations to be taken seriously. Wish I could have it both ways.

    Thank you for a great discussion, as always!

  30. Ell
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 19:02:38

    @Jill Sorenson: I figure a review that says “This isn’t my cup of tea, but this is what it is” gives the reader the information to decide whether it’s their cup of tea; I’ve read a few panned books because the review made it sound like something I would like. To me, that’s fair reviewing.

  31. Kelly L.
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 21:05:38

    I've read a few panned books because the review made it sound like something I would like.

    This. I think I *will* read The Midnight Hunt…because I honestly didn’t know there was lesbian UF/PNR (I have flirted with the idea of writing some, though) and as a bisexual I’m terribly intrigued.

  32. Arwen
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 23:51:38

    I’ve read Midnight Hunt. It’s an awesome read and the lesbian sex was hot. Of course, I am bisexual.

    I think if you don’t like lesbian sex then you really shouldn’t be reading and reviewing a book. That’s a little like a pagan reviewing an inspirational, don’t you think?

    The hard clitoris was a huge turn on for me for many reasons. Okay, you don’t like your girly bits squeezed.

    I just think your reviewing this book when you stated that the sex squicked you out is really unfair. Of course, I id as a queer femme who is attracted to very butch lesbians and even FTM’s so it was damned refreshing to read a F/F book that didn’t read like some cheap porn movie.

    So, even though you gave your caveat of hoping that you didn’t offend, I am offended.

    For what that’s worth. Here’s a dollar so you can buy a cup of coffee. :) I don’t hold the offense for long but I think you need to revisit what you said and how you said it.

  33. Naomi Clark
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 04:06:40

    As a straight woman who writes lesbian UF (werewolf-centric, coincidentally), I’m finding this discussion fascinating. My big worry when my first book was released last year was that people wouldn’t take my lesbian characters seriously because of my sexuality. It hasn’t happened, but it’s always at the back of my head as a possibility.

    It’s interesting to me that there’s a question of “should straight women review lesbian fiction?” and it mirrors the debate I’ve seen other whether straight women should write gay men (I think Alex Beecroft has addressed this somewhere).

    I think it’s a little unfair to say that if the sex squicked you out, you shouldn’t be reading the book. I’ve read plenty of m/f books where the sex turned me off for reasons that were nothing to do with the genders of the characters, and entirely down to the execution of the writing.

  34. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 08:06:31

    @Kelly L.: Now that’s the spirit! Hope you like it better than I did. :)

    @Arwen: I didn’t say that lesbian sex squicked me out or that I didn’t like having my girly bits squeezed. I said that I didn’t want to imagine a penis down there. But I’m sorry that I offended. Thanks for your honest comment.

    @Naomi Clark: I read your blog post and appreciate your take on the issue. Of course I think it’s okay for straight women to read and write lesbian fiction. I’ll have to check out your books!

  35. Arwen
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 09:22:12

    @Jill, you are right. I read that into what you said. I’m sorry. It was late and I was irate. :)

    Here’s why. You hit (unknowingly) a trigger for me with your comments about how masculine the women were. Because I prefer masculine women (my joke is that I don’t want to date someone that wants to borrow my lipstick), I took it personally. And that was not fair of me. It colored my whole response.

    So, I will just reiterate that I found The Midnight Hunt to be very satisfactory. LOL

    Please accept my apology for my late-night snarking at you.

  36. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 11, 2011 @ 11:44:34

    @Arwen: No worries! It’s all good.

    One positive thing I forgot to say in my review is that this book wasn’t boring! Raand really went for it and I admire that. This is a love it or hate it type of piece.

  37. Author On Vacation
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 10:33:53

    I’m a straight female who writes, reads, and reviews “a little bit of everything” when it comes to romance and erotic romance.

    It’s never occured to me I have less right to read/write/review GBLT romance because I myself am not part of the GBLT community. I would never question the right of a GBLT author/reader/reviewer to create, read, and review romances or erotic romances featuring straight characters, either.

    For me, the turn-ons in GBLT romance are the same turn-ons in straight romance. I enjoy writing and reading about interesting characters meeting, interacting, and forming relationships.

    There are no gay books. There are no straight books. Books are either well-written or poorly written.

  38. Tasha
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 14:34:00

    @Author on Vacation: Nobody’s saying straight authors should not be reviewing GLBT books. People are addressing what I believe to be a legitimate concern: when a reviewer brings a bias into a book review, is that a fair review? I think as long as the reviewer is aware of that bias and acknowledges it, it’s not a big concern. But I do think it needs to be acknowledged so readers of the review can take that into account.

    Also, I have to disagree that “books are either well-written or poorly written.” That is subjective, not absolute. One person may think a book is fresh and new while another person finds it hopelessly derivative and cliched. In that case, the opinion is influenced by the reader’s exposure to the genre rather than the quality of the writing itself.

    FInally, lesbian fiction does have a fair amount of paranormal romance. As someone mentions above, these books tend to be published by smaller GLBT presses for a GLBT audience, rather than the m/m stuff, which tends to be put out for a straight audience.

  39. Maria
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 00:34:32

    @Arwen: You made some valid points. Not enough posters are making them here. But perhaps that’s because queers like me come here and just go pffft and log off.

    Personally, I think straight women may be capable of reviewing lez stories fairly if they take the time to do some homework. It also helps to actually know people in the lgbtq community to understand butch/trans perspectives of sexuality and body parts… as well as those who love them and are excited by them. These things can be very fluid. And what’s with the strap-on bashing?? lol. I’m sorry, but we all can’t be werewolves to explore imagining our body parts differently… or to explore penetration and intimacy in different ways. In another lez romance review, Jill wrote about skimming the sex scenes. Here she focuses on the off-putting masculine parts on the females. Geez. If you’re going to review something outside your tastes… EDUCATE YOURSELF. Sorry, but this reeks of someone who knows very little of the lgbtq community… and while reviews are certainly subjective and everyone is entitled to one…. some are clearly fairer and more intelligent than others.

    I’m not completely discouraging Jill from reviewing more lezfic… maybe find some queer pals and run your reviews by them at the very least so you can anticipate some things in our queer sexuality you seem to be unfamililar with… you write about possibly focusing on a crossover audience, but I cringe at the ignorance you share with your fellow straights.

  40. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 11:02:19

    @Maria: Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry my review made you cringe. I agree that I’m ignorant of the issues you mention and that my criticism of the fluid sexuality is unfair. But my opinion of the book stands. Some of the problems I had with it are not related to sexuality. In my review I was striving for honesty and sensitivity. Sounds like I failed on the second part.

    I hope to educate myself by continuing to read lesbian fiction and having more frank conversations like this.

  41. Maria
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 15:47:31

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Your entire review did not make me cringe, Jill. I don’t really know who your readership is here as I fell upon your page quite by chance… but since you are straight and have a straight following with your own books and openly discuss issues in lezfic I imagine many straight women would have… I just wanted to weigh in some lez perspective. I have no apologies for what I previously posted.

    However, I will add that I actually enjoy the fact that you dare to be critical… especially as a fellow writer (I am not a writer, btw). I find little more than blind praise by other lez writers and groupies when I am browsing reviews on Amazon to buy a book and this irritates me. And I’m a big supporter of all reviews having their place. But that doesn’t mean I will agree with them. I think if you did not allow commentary and discussion here… that would be your real failure.

    I’m impressed with your very polite and diplomatic response to my post… thank you for that.

    Radclyffe is definitely a golden god in lez romance because her writing tends to outshine so many other lezfic writers and their books… and she is just great with her fans and does so much for us. So I’m not surprised you chose her as one of the books to review. But some of her books are weaker than others and she sure does love her formulas and butches. I love Rad, but I am not a Rad groupie, or anyone’s groupie, and if her book is weak, it should be called on that with explanation. That said, I’m okay will all your other criticisms.

    But, seriously, once you explore tons more of Rad’s work, you will find Rad favors butches and masculinity bigtime. Sometimes they are so masculine I honestly feel you could substitute the female pronouns for male and it wouldn’t make a difference. But that doesn’t bother me too much… it’s just part of her ideal butch she dreams up.

    Her feminine characters rarely stand out and many times they just seem to be some kind of nebulous non-butch. Now I am not a butch (on the outside) myself… nor do I date them…. but I appreciate them when they are appealing and I happen to enjoy most of Rad’s portrayals of them. On the rare occasion she actually depicts a clearly feminine character and gives her some spotlight (Honor Series, for example)… wow. Blair is one of my favorite characters in lez romance! My point being… if masculinity isn’t your thing in women then you may struggle with Rad. I find most queer readers love her anyway… even if they prefer to see a star femme or two feminine leads, however.

    If I were suggesting Rad for the first time to a straight or bi curious woman… it wouldn’t be this book, lol. First of all, paranormal isn’t for everyone. Some hate it and it’s a very specific genre. And in my life-long experience of being with women (straight, lez, and bi), masculinity is a controversial issue with straight women and a lot of bi curious… so many want that hot femme or L Word girl, ya know?? So introducing a book like this to a pool of straight women who have never read lez romance before is potentially off-putting, I suspect. lol. Just sayin’…

    Typically, I suggest Fated Love as a first Rad read. Innocent Hearts is also a sweet one. And, of course, Above All, Honor… these 3 definitely have something for everyone and they are some of her better books. And I’m sure there are a few others that would be a much better first read over this one.

    Um… I don’t completely know your source for selecting books… but there are a lot of good ones out there and they aren’t represented here. I don’t think you even chose one of Karin Kallmaker’s better reads… but I can see how those femme legs on the cover would tempt you. Personally, I have some girls in my queer book club to chat with… and I have some favorite reviewers I depend on for honesty and ignore the ones I’ve identified as shills… it’s always a starting point for me when exploring lezfic.

    I wish you luck in your explorations… and I hope you will think twice about reviewing a book you couldn’t even finish. On the subject of fairness, it’s not really fair at all to review a book you only read half of. Maybe the book wouldn’t get any better for you, but I’ve had plenty of authors surprise me by the second half. In my own book reviews, it would be unthinkable to review something I hadn’t finished… but if I REALLY want to review them, if only to warn readers it’s a dud or dang-near, I will finish them out of spite if I have to!

    In any case, I do hope you continue to try and keep an open mind in your discussions about us… and uh, do a little more more homework (or at least finish the book!) before you review.

  42. Jill Sorenson
    Jan 29, 2012 @ 10:05:17

    @Maria: I agree that this particular Radclyffe book is not a good choice for beginning/crossover readers. I really enjoyed Innocent Hearts and Tomorrow’s Promise. I also liked the two alpha females in Firestorm. I’m not against butch characters.

    As far as my reading selections, I often choose books based on price and availability. I’m more likely to review titles from the library and NetGalley. I don’t have a go-to person for recs, but I read reviews at Loving Venus, Loving Mars and browse Goodreads. I’m always on the lookout for new authors–I loved Awake Unto Me by Kathleen Knowles. Will review it (elsewhere, as I no longer review here) soon.

    I’m not going to weigh in on the merits of a DNF review, but I’ll take your thoughts into consideration.

    Thanks again for the comments and well wishes.

  43. Silver
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 18:24:00

    At the time of publication, was there not an interest in this type of teenage fiction?

    S.

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