Fighting Chance, by Barb Wolfe. Review by Batwoman
Fighting Chance is about fighting, Mixed Martial Arts style. DJ and Erin each have their own baggage when they first meet, but are equally intrigued with each other. The setting describes fighting in different ways, and in different areas, but centers on a female only gym for training in MMA. DJ is the seasoned Sensei for the gym, and Erin is a reporter looking to interview DJ for a newspaper article. DJ is closed and disciplined, and Erin thinks that she knows who she is, but both of them are in for wild, unpredictable fights against themselves, each other, their emotions and other unforeseen obstacles. The book is perfectly titled, and the cover is catchy.
I have some background in martial arts, and the setting of the book interested me right away. I have no knowledge of MMA, and it is well explained through actions and dialogue throughout the book without having to break away from the flow of the storyline. The characters are well developed and the setting is clearly illustrated down to the grinding work of training. There is also the issue of safety. Fighting skills give a woman confidence and strength, not just to knock someone out, but it is also mental preparation, and this is discussed throughout the book with details of self-defense techniques.
Barb Wolfe covers very difficult topics in the book. Without revealing the story, she handles these topics adeptly, and from the viewpoint of each character. The story flows well, along with the dialogue, so the transitions are smooth. Support characters enhance the storyline without distraction. There is a high level of emotion between the characters that Wolfe managed to make uplifting rather than depressing. She illustrates how tough situations can be handled.
Aside from a great read, the takeaway for me from this book is that Wolfe introduced me to something I was unfamiliar with. After finishing the book, I went to the internet to learn about MMA fighting. I was completely floored watching it, even though I have sparred myself in the past (in a very controlled setting). Those women are tough as nails. I watched videos and found interviews with the fighters promoting the upcoming event in Kansas City, KS sponsored by Invicta. The event is going to be available in live stream April 28. I have it on my calendar, thanks to Barb Wolfe and A Fighting Chance. I also look forward to more books by this author.
I did a beta read for this one as someone who had not read the first two books in the series. She explained enough about the history behind the characters to lead into the current situation without me feeling lost. The characters are well developed, and have progressed from the previous books (that again, I have not read). The relationships are certainly awkward, but that is what I appreciate about her writing. Her stories are less predictable because she creates situations where social mores are challenged. Victoria is a young college student now, and is caught with conflicting emotions about different love interests, with both presenting significant challenges. It is interesting to see where the maturity lies in the characters, and also how immaturity gets in the way.
VVALS can be read as a standalone, but I am sure that it would be best appreciated in the series. I intend to go back and read the first two books because I obviously missed some major lesbian drama, and want to learn more about the peripheral characters that were central to the previous books. I appreciated the book for the challenges she presents, the emotionally charged responses that people have and what drives them. She writes with a sense of humor, so it is not heavy. VVALS has a moderate steam level, and includes some modern day romancing via social media.
Reading her work in general, I question myself as to why the characters should not be allowed to have a relationship (Switch). We can all attest to the fact that love is often awkward and difficult and does not always conform to the norm. And, that sometimes it is worth the trouble to push the envelope. I do recommend "Victoria's Very Awkward Love Story", and encourage you to check out some of her other books as well. I like short stories, and have enjoyed those as fun and funny long before I read this. One of my personal favorites is Cupid Pulls a Prank involving a Democratic female presidential candidate and a Republican female presidential candidate. If that's not awkward, I don't know what is.
For the sake of disclosure, I was a beta reader for Q. Kelly’s most recent book, Reality Lesbian. I have not read all of her books, but this one is my favorite to date. It is not my habit to give spoilers or tell the story, but merely to give my impression and recommendation.
Reality Lesbian is based on the premise of the popular reality TV shows, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but with a lesbian lead. Q. Kelly managed to develop the various contestants well enough for them to have different voices and personalities complete with the expected amount of infighting and backstabbing. Admittedly I have never watched these TV shows, but given a lesbian lead, I found the book very fun and entertaining.
The lead characters are really what you would want them to be despite the given situation of reality (meaning unreal) on camera orchestrated events. Zara plays the lead on the show, and really hopes that she might find someone among the many contestants. Lucy is straight, and her friend set her up to be in the show. She has her reasons for following through, but it certainly is not because she expects to marry a woman. Toss in a spectrum of beautiful women as femme, butch, and everything in between. Zara has her work cut out for her to narrow the field, and the women become more competitive as time progresses. Of course the producers are there to mix things up a bit as well.
There are plenty of entertaining twists and turns in Reality Lesbian, and the personalities lend themselves to great humor and drama. Q. Kelly delivers on this one, and I highly recommend it as a fun summer read. Let the games begin.