Monday, April 30, 2001

Roses & Thorns : Beauty and the Beast Retold

Chris Anne Wolfe
Windstorm Creative

Roses & Thorns is a touching retelling of the "Beauty & the Beast" fable with a lavender twist. We all know the old story. A young, handsome noble whose cruelty and selfishness had caused pain to many was cursed. He was condemned to appear to be the beast he had behaved until he could learn responsibility, compassion, how to love and finally be freely loved by a young woman.

The author, Chris Anne Wolfe, did not merely place a lover of women in the role of the callous beast. Instead she took an opportunity to explore how a hateful and homophobic society condemns those seen as different. Thus forcing the condemned to shamefully hide who they are in an effort to win acceptance, approval and possibly even love.

Years ago, Drew, a young noble woman was condemned as "the most perverted, grotesque of creatures known to our earth" because she loved another woman. Sadly the object of Drew's affections had more interest in gaining access to her father's wealth and having Drew cursed was part of the plan. ...Drew was cursed to live in a parallel, magical time and place until she could find another woman who would love her in return.

Drew internalizes this hate to the point of not expecting or believing that she could or should be loved freely by another woman. Drew's shame prompts her to cloak her female identity from any accidental visitors to her realm. Over centuries no young woman was willing to look beyond Drew's mask to know her as a person, let alone love her freely. It seemed to Drew that her damnation was deserved.

Bound by the curse, Drew once again barters for the hand of a traveling merchant's daughter. But Angelique, this latest young woman to arrive in Drew's domain, is different. She's not afraid of Drew. This charming, romantic fantasy is a delightful way to pass an afternoon. Quite enjoyable, it is unnecessary to read the fable as more than a love story. However, elements of the story returned to me after reading it. This is not just a "simple" retelling of the beauty and the beast story.

The late Ms. Wolfe succeeded in creating a new fable for the lesbian (and gay) community from this old tale. She reminds us that there are many "beasts" in this world who would like to condemn us for being different. People who use fear of that difference to achieve some personal gains. She points to our love as our ironic redemption in the face of such hate and fear. This multifaceted story is what fables are supposed to be. Read it and be charmed.

-MJ Lowe

BN: This title was originally published under the title, Bitter Thorns by Pride Productions, in 1994. The cover was based on Wolfe's illustrations and not as evocative as the new cover, however, if you can locate this edition, do so. There were editorial errors in the new edition.

Saturday, April 28, 2001

Day Stripper

Jenny Scholten
New Victoria Publisher

Day Stripper is a readable, entertaining first novel for Scholten. The mystery follows Aubrey Lyle, a San Francisco stripper who finds herself tracking down a murderer after another of Naughtyland's dancers is found strangled in a leather bra borrowed from Aubrey.

Aubrey is helped along by an assortment of strange yet endearing roommates and friends who add texture and redeeming humor to the story. Though at times defensive of her work Aubrey is painfully realistic and practical about it. In fact Aubrey's roommates have begun to worry that her job as a "testosterone mop" has robbed her of her sex drive.

Scholten (who worked her way through graduate school as a stripper) depicts the illusionary world of "Live Nude Girls" as often grim and sometimes bizarrely amusing but never erotic particularly for the women working in it. Although at times uneven Day Stripper is a promising first novel for Scholten. It will be interesting to see what future stories she pens.

-MJ Lowe

Uniform Sex: Erotic Stories from Women in Service

Linnea A. Due
Alyson Books

The most recent anthology of lesbian erotic stories from Alyson,
Uniform Sex: Erotic Stories from Women in Service is one of the best of the publisher's several titles in this genre. The uniforms featured in the 19 stories run from the expected police officers and soldiers to a rather amusing fixation on the polyester worn by workers at that artery hardening fast food purveyor known as the Golden Arches.

The stories also cover a broad range of the roles uniforms play in our lives and fantasies. There are humorous entries like "Butch Talk" by Nicole Foster (who has edited similar volumes for Alyson). It contains several tongue-in-cheek observations of "lesbian culture." The touching and insightful "Naked" by J. M. Redmann (author of the Lambda winning Mickey Knight mysteries) offers observations on the identity involved in putting on -- and taking off -- a uniform. Kate Allen (Denver lesbian writer and author of the wonderful Alison Kaine stories -- which you should read if you haven't already) takes the reader into a captivating power exchange at "Uniform Night at the Butches' Club."

Uniform Sex is sure to provide a perfect fit for readers.

-MJ Lowe