Tag Archives: lesbian lit

The Girl on the Edge of Summer – J.M. Redmann (Bold Strokes Books)

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Just as reliable as Fay Jacobs, although in a totally different genre, J.M. Redmann has long been a favorite of mine. Her Micky Knight series is one of the finest I’ve read, both in terms of the mysteries themselves and the characters. Micky’s breakup with long-time lover Cordelia was traumatic to some of Redmann’s fans, but those downvotes are only proof positive how close Redmann’s readers feel with Micky. Her latest, The Girl on the Edge of Summer, is a solid addition to the post-Cordelia series and one that might finally see Micky Knight ready to move on with her life.

In this pair of cases, Knight attempts to find information for a mother to ease her distress over the death of her young daughter, who killed herself because an older boy she had sexted with was threatening to make those pictures public if she didn’t have sex with him. Eddie isn’t hard to find, but he also turns up dead after a violent confrontation with Knight at the mother’s house. Even worse, Knight is suspected of the murder. Her other case involves archival work to solve the hundred-year-old murder of a member of one of New Orleans’s wealthiest families.

At their hearts, both cases are about vengeance as closure, maybe serving as examples to Knight that vengeance rarely closes anything and only leaves everyone open to more damage. Knight is on a different emotional edge this time, since she finds out Cordelia is now back in New Orleans. They haven’t yet run into each other, and I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you they don’t meet here, either. But for an absent character, Cordelia is all over this book. That’s okay. Nine books in, Redmann knows the secret to a successful series is to make it dynamic, changing it up so it doesn’t get stale for anyone–especially the writer. Part of the enjoyment of this bunch of books for me is Micky’s slow climb back to something approaching normalcy after she and Cordelia call it quits. Is their story over? Doubtful. Am I waiting to find out? Desperately.

In the meantime, we get to enjoy some well-plotted mysteries, some life-and-death rescues, and some despicably seedy characters. Redmann works through her action scenes with precision and balance, never letting them drag or sputter. The YA characters here are also well-drawn. They sound like teenagers, not forty-year-olds, and they act age appropriately as well. But at the heart of it all is Mickey–mostly smart (but sometimes stupid), looking forward without forgetting her past, and trying to reassemble her life with some bent and abraded puzzle pieces.

I’ll certainly be reading the next installment. For maximum pleasure, you should start at the beginning of the series. But this also works well as a standalone, so you can read this one and pick up the others later.

JW

© 2017, Jerry L. Wheeler

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The Liberators of Willow Run – Marianne K. Martin (Bywater Books)

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One of the reasons I brought this blog back to life is the political climate in our country these days. Queer writing of any sort has always been a rebellious act. Make it romantic, make it raunchy, make it strident, make it sweet, make it so beautiful that even our most vile enemies can’t hold back their tears. But make it count. And the more voices we can muster, the louder our collective cry will be. Marianne K. Martin’s latest, The Liberators of Willow Run, shouts freedom from the rooftops for the disenfranchised of all stripes.

Audrey works at the Willow Run Bomber Plant near Detroit, making B-24 bomber planes essential for victory in WWII. Rose works at a nearby restaurant, having gotten the job after a stay at the Crittenton Home for unwed mothers. Nona is a young black woman also employed at the plant, but she has a plan for her education and a career in mind. Together, they conspire to prevent Amelia, also a Crittenton resident, from returning to a less-than-desireable home situation as Audrey and Rose fall in love.

Martin draws all these plot elements together with a sure, steady hand, creating characters that live and breathe on the page. Moreover, they fight. They fight for respect at work, they fight for love, they fight for the right to do as they please with their bodies and their lives. But most importantly, they fight for each other as they risk bucking the whole white patriarchial system. They are more than cute, scrappy fighters, too. Their struggles are real in ways we are about to become all too well-acquainted with again.

But there is little, if any, polemic here. Instead, Martin serves us people—strong and indomitable, yes, but as fragile as we all can be. Audrey, in an attempt to lay bare her life to Rose, takes her to meet her former lover, Velma, confined to a nursing home as the result of a so-called “cure” for her “condition.” If I take anything away from this book, it will be this scene between these three women. It brought tears to my eyes then and does now as I write about it.

Martin also shows a mastery of suspense as Audrey and Rose concoct and carry out an improbable scheme to rescue Amelia, putting a delicious spin on the title of the book. The event and subsequent investigation by the police is taut and well-spun. And when the plant closes, and the women are again relegated to secondary roles in society, Martin has plans for them. Just as it should be.

The Liberators of Willow Run isn’t just a good read. It’s essential. It’s a primer for struggle, a reminder of what was, and a cautionary tale of what may be around the corner. Highly recommended.

JW

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