Although I write lesbian fiction, when it comes to reading, my tastes are far more wide-ranging. Give me a book that is well paced, has an intriguing premise and characters who make you want to climb inside the pages to spend time with them and I'll read right to the end, no complaints.
New writer Doug Welch's 'Shadow' series ticks the boxes. I read 'Shadow Games' early this year and was immediately interested by the story-line and the characters. I've just heard that one has been re-released with new editing, so it will be a real treat on all levels now. 'Shadow Spies' is a great sequel and proof that Welch is really starting to hit his stride as a new and talented writer.
'Shadow Spies' is made of the good stuff. The characters are fresh, well rounded and I especially enjoy the obvious depth of feeling they show toward each other. They are a 'family' in the true sense of the word (if you've read Shadow Games, you'll especially know what I'm talking about). These are the sorts of characters you want as part of your own family. They forge strong bonds with each other and consequently with you as the reader. They know what they want and what they'll do to get it - which doesn't mean sacrificing each other. The best characters have values and integrity just like real people and Welch does an especially good job at making his characters convincing and likable - and the bad guys just as convincing but not so likable!
'Shadow Games' and 'Shadow Spies' are great examples of suspense/thriller genre. They're fast paced, with an internal sense of logic and reason that makes the action natural and incredibly interesting. Throw in a lovely side helping of romance, a dash of the paranormal and a bit of conspiracy and you've a recipe for a damned good time.
I've been reading Gabriella West's work since I was a review writer for the Kissed By Venus website and magasine, now sadly closed down. Her novel 'The Leaving' impressed me enough to follow her work closely. I bought this short story when it was first published, then came here to get it in a different format, and have been back to read it several times since.
There's something about the way Ms. West writes that really resonates with me. It might be a personal thing, but even so, there's an unflinching honesty to her work that makes her narrative voice compelling. Even though this story is short, it still manages to take up a lot of space in my head. She has a skill for choosing the right detail, the perfect description, to fill in for everything else, making the picture she paints in her stories colourful, intriguing and above all - realistic.
There's no glossing over things in Night Train to Florence. West writes the tale with brutal honesty. It's not a glamourous story, but it still shines. The two characters illustrate perfectly the inexperience, introspection and desire of their youth. Funnily enough, although there's no big romantic, rose-coloured tint to the intimate scene that transpires on this train journey, it's one of the most memorable, touching, and actually pretty damned sexy loves scenes I've read.
If you're wanting a deftly-written and intelligent story, well, here it is.