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GAY WRITES REVIEW: Homecoming by Nell Stark

This review is part of our Gay Writes celebration. Don’t forget to comment on the original post for a chance to win one of those prizes as well as commenting on this post for a chance to win a copy of this book.

Dear Ms. Stark,

I ordered your book because I liked the cover and I was looking for a good “coming out” story.   Homecoming is a sweet, modern romance between two likeable young women, but I almost gave up on it before I got to the good parts.

Homecoming by Nell StarkSarah is a premed student with a bright future.   When her parents discover that she’s a lesbian, they freak out and disown her.   Sarah’s girlfriend, who wants to stay in the closet, dumps her over the phone.   Although it sounds heartbreaking, a lack of cohesiveness at the beginning prevented me from becoming engaged in the story.   The first few chapters read like a string of flashbacks and a series of prologues put together.   We’re introduced to a couple of characters (probably from a previous book) that have no real significance in this story.

Sarah feels all alone in the world and is forced to transfer from Yale to a less expensive university.   Things perk up when she meets her new roommate.   Rory is a hot geek who loves video games and film studies.   She’s also straight-maybe.

Rory and Sarah hit it off, and the story is smoothly written from here on.   Sarah is described as boyish but beautiful, with short hair and an androgynous look.   All of the femmes on campus are in love at first sight.   Sarah doesn’t notice the attention because she’s totally unaware of her appeal.   I’m a sucker for this classic romance trope and you made it work through character development.   Sarah has a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor.   She’s also passionate, unpretentious, and idealistic.   Now that she’s out, and cut off from her family, she’s learning how to stand on her own.

The prettiest lesbian in the university, Chelsea, quickly sinks her claws into Sarah.   They start dating but Sarah holds off on sex, claiming she’s not over her ex.   The truth is that she’s falling for Rory.

Rory is another great character, quirky and outgoing.   She’s always liked guys but she finds Sarah very attractive.   As roommates, they spend a lot of time studying and hanging out.   Rory sees Sarah kissing Chelsea one night and imagines taking her place.   When Sarah rents the movie Bound, which features some hot girl-on-girl action, they watch it together and Rory gets hopelessly turned on.   The air between them sizzles with sexual tension.

Both Rory and Sarah become involved in a campaign to legalize gay marriage, and this political aside failed to hold my interest.   It’s not that I’m against those rights-‘on the contrary.   I just felt as though the issue took up too much space and came off as a bit didactic.   I also wish the “coming out” portion had been more personal, more emotional.   The end of Sarah’s relationship with her parents isn’t explored in detail.   I didn’t get the sense that they’d ever been close or that either side would attempt to reconcile.

[spoiler]Another aspect that bothered me was Rory’s abrupt sexuality switch. She goes from crushing on guys to crushing on Sarah and wondering if she’s bi. Before she even talks to Sarah about their attraction, or shares a kiss with her, she announces that she’s “queer.” Rory isn’t interested in any women besides Sarah, so her statement surprised me. Does falling in love with a woman automatically make you a lesbian? And, are bisexual heroines as rare in lesbian romance as they are in straight romance? I believed that Rory was committed to Sarah, not “just experimenting,” but I wasn’t sold on her total gay conversion.

My last quibble is with Sarah. After avoiding Chelsea’s bed for months, she finally breaks up with her and confesses her love to Rory. They make out like crazy and Rory is ready to go all the way for the first time. But Sarah changes her mind and leaves Rory unsatisfied because she doesn’t want Rory’s parents to disown her. Yes, you heard it right. Sarah can save Rory from her own gayness by refusing to put out! [/spoiler]

Later, Sarah apologizes to Rory and they have hot lesbian sex.   I mean, really hot.   This scene is touching and erotic and all the more satisfying because of the slow buildup.   At that point, I was screaming for someone, anyone, to get laid already.

Overall, Homecoming is a smart, sexy romance.   The characters talk like real college students, not like your mom trying to sound hip.   Rory is Korean, and I appreciated the inclusion of an Asian heroine.   I also liked the way their relationship developed over time, and through genuine affection.   Your voice reminded me of Sean Kennedy, a popular m/m author.   Perhaps fans of his would enjoy you.   C+

Best regards,

Amazon Buy Link We have a PRINT copy of this book to giveaway. Comment by 3pm EST Tuesday to win! (One win per person for the day of our Gay Writes giveaways, but feel free to comment on all posts to increase your chances of winning!)

Guest Reviewer


  1. Jason
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 15:30:37

    I am interested in this title.

    Thank you,


  2. Tweets that mention GAY WRITES REVIEW: Homecoming by Nell Stark | Dear Author --
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 15:31:27

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Frantz, dearauthor. dearauthor said: NewPost: GAY WRITES REVIEW: Homecoming by Nell Stark […]

  3. Aralorn
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 16:26:46

    This sounds pretty good.

  4. Lindsey
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 16:27:01

    This sounds like an excellent book! I’m half in love with Sarah just based on the review. xD

  5. Jill Sorenson - Blog
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 17:36:54

    […] my review and comment to […]

  6. maygirl7
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:17:30

    This sounds good. I have read very little f/f so I am interested in trying more.

  7. Lindsey
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:35:34

    Oh, and a real comment, since I just read the spoiler bits. You’re mistaken when you equate the word “queer” with lesbian. People who are lesbians might identify as queer, but so too do people who are gay, bi, pansexual and omnisexual. It’s a catch-all, more inclusive term that some people in the community choose to identify as. For instance, I consider myself omni, but if I am coming out to a person, I self-identify as queer. People generally take it to mean that I’m a lesbian, which I don’t really mind, but that’s not all it can mean.

    (This comment is not for a contest entry).

  8. Nikyta
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:40:47

    This sounds interesting so count me in, please. :D

  9. OmNe
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:59:05

    I’m interested in this as well!

  10. Kelly Thrash
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 18:59:21

    I’ve only read one f/f and I am interested in reading more. Thanks! :)

  11. Lorraine from CA
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 19:41:24

    This sounds good. Please enter me in the contest.

  12. LVLMLeah
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 20:04:09

    My favorite stories are those in which someone discovers for the first time they are attracted to someone of their own sex.

    There’s usually something innocent, angsty and sweet about it. This one sounds pretty good after the first bit.

    Nice Review!

    Count me in. :-)

  13. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 20:22:03

    @Lindsey: Thanks so much for correcting me on that! I did assume that queer meant lesbian.

  14. Heather Massey
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 21:33:51

    This story sounds fun. Please enter me, thanks!

  15. Cathy in AK
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 22:05:49

    Great review, Jill. Sign me up : )

  16. Marie
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 23:22:53

    Sounds interesting, so had to comment for a shot at the book. No better way to get people to delurk than free awesomeness!

  17. Stephanie K.
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 23:43:33

    I would like to be entered to win this book.

  18. Tae
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 01:30:12

    I’ve never read a lesbian romance or lesbian sex scene so I’m rather intrigued by this

  19. cories5
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 02:40:40

    The cover looks more like a YA book which, considering that the characters are in college, it could be. The only other maybe-lesbian-couple book that I recall reading is Rachel Cohn’s “Very LeFreak” in which Very falls for her roommate (in another Ivy League school, Columbia) <-YA book

    Yup, still have not read any gay adult books (just YA).

  20. Abby
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 08:14:15

    I’m always looking for decent f/f boooks – somehow they seem harder to find than good m/m ones. This one sounds great!

  21. kardis
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 08:16:16

    I would love to win a copy of this book!

  22. Ell
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 10:09:18

    Really hot sex? Hmm….

  23. kisten saell
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 10:53:25

    LOL, I can see where you might have made assumptions over the “queer” thing, Jill, because the “total conversion” trope is so common in f/f. Although that seems to be changing–kind of a line being drawn between lesbian romance and f/f romance, which is nice.

    My favorite kinds of f/f books are where one character experiences a same-sex attraction for the first time, and doesn’t angst a whole lot about “OMG, am I gay? Am I bi? WHAT AM I!!!???” but simply goes with it. A little questioning is natural, but the story can get bogged down in those issues sometimes. (I angst enough about my own queerness, and it gets tiresome to read it, heh.)

    And I wanted to also express how much I appreciate DA having a “designated f/f(/m) reviewer” now–even if it’s just the occasional post. :)

  24. Silvia
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 16:24:52

    I’m chiming in about the use of “queer”. I agree that as the term “gay” is used predominantly in society to refer to male homosexuality (though lesbians and bisexuals are also gay), more and more people are using “queer” as a general description of homosexuality/bisexuality.

    It’s what I use myself more often than not, as it can be frustrating when you’re trying to talk about gay film, gay culture, etc and people take that as meaning m/m only. I think of both lesbian and bi women as “queer” and having a character call herself queer would not make me assume she must be a lesbian.

    However, I don’t know the context of how it appears in the novel. Bisexuality is still more rare in media than gay men and lesbian portrayals. (And that doesn’t even get into the trepidation some lesbian women feel about dating a bisexual. We rarely see this situation explored seriously in romance.)


  25. mfred
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 16:42:00

    When Sarah rents the movie Bound, which features some hot girl-on-girl action, they watch it together and Rory gets hopelessly turned on.

    This description made me laugh and wince at the same time, because it is SO TRUE and also SO TERRIBLY EMBARRASSING.

    I’m fairly certain that every single lesbian in the world has made this “smooth move” at least once.

    When faced with the tough questions: “is she queer?” “does that make me gay?” and most importantly, “DOES SHE LIKE ME?” — pop in Bound and pretend to watch the movie while you instead just watch your date watching the movie, trying to read her mind, and hoping/praying/dying for some kissing to start.

  26. Jill Sorenson
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 20:05:32

    @kisten saell: You might like The Lovers by Eden Bradley, which I’ll be reviewing next. I don’t think Homecoming had too much angst though. The questioning seemed very natural. Even Rory’s coming out declaration, which felt abrupt to me, was perhaps meant to be more about her *individual identity* than her romantic feelings for Sarah. So, after some reflection, I have a better understanding of why it played out that way. I probably also underestimated the importance of saying “I’m queer” out loud. These nuances are more difficult for straight readers to pick up on, I suspect.

    @Silvia: Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate your comment. I’ve also noticed that when most people talk about gay romance, they mean m/m exclusively. That issue can be frustrating when shopping for f/f titles.

    @mfred: Having seen Bound, I have to say this sounds like a winning strategy! Gina Gershon OMG.

  27. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 20:17:05

    @Kelly Thrash is our winner for this giveaway! Congratulations!

    And everyone else, don’t forget to go to our main Gay Writes post and enter there for the chance to win many more books.

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