Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Annabell and I

Chris Anne Wolfe
Windstorm Creative Ltd.

The author, Wolfe says of Annabel & I in her introduction that she wrote the story as "a romance to celebrate magic and joy." She was quite successful. Annabel & I is an enchanting tale of the power of love in overcoming the restrictions of time itself.

The novel is the story of Jennifer Cassel. A shy tomboy, Jenny is struggling to deal with the loss of her mother and her emotionally distant father. She finds home and family every summer that she spends at Chatauqua, New York, where her uncle runs a lakeside lodge. It is also the story of Annabel, a girl that Jenny meets the first summer after her mother's death. Their friendship develops over the years as the two spend every summer of their adolescence together.

As the girls grow older they become more aware their differences. For Jenny, born in 1960, is growing up through the 1970s and 80s; while Annabel, born in 1879, is living in the 1880s and 1890s. Annabel's grandmama, the family matriach makes it clear that the girls should enjoy their friendship and not question the impossibility of it.

As a young adult Jenny finds herself attracted to women and eventually realizes that she is in love with Annabel. There are a few required misunderstandings before the two young women recognize that their love and attraction is mutual. Just as the young women discover the depth of their love for one another, their happiness is threatened by Annabel's brother, Richard. Having recently gained control of the family business, Richard is determined to force his "head strong" sister into a marriage that would increase the family assets. In a desperate effort to outwit Richard's machinations, Jenny and Annabel come to understand the magic of their time together and the plans, past and future, that Grandmama has been working on for years.

Annabel & I is a delightful little romantic fantasy that only asks the reader to suspend her disbelief and enjoy. Several pen and ink illustrations by Chris Storm are included and add an old fashioned charm to the story as well. It is a perfect love story for a lazy afternoon.

-MJ Lowe

Saturday, June 9, 2001

Coming Attractions

Bobbi Marolt
Rising Tide Press

Reading Coming Attractions, Bobbi Marolt's first novel, is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Well known NYC newspaper columnist Helen Townsend has decided it's time to come out. Out of the emotional hiding she's been living in while recovering from the loss of her lover to cancer, and out of the "passing for straight" closet her feminine looks have allowed her. Come out in a big way.

Just as she begins to plan a major coming out show for herself and a number of broadway and motion picture stars, Helen meets Cory Chamberlain. Cory is beautiful, intelligent, enigmatic and a world renown pianist. Intensely attracted to one another, Cory and Helen become lovers. There are several obstacles on the way to the "Stars Come Out" show. Not the least of which is Cory's cold feet at participating in the show, after she is been offered the position as conductor of a Boston orchestra.

For its length, the plot seems unnecessarily complicated; consequently it sometimes lacks development or follow through of some story threads. And some of the secondary characters are difficult to keep straight (as it were). Marolt is willing to introduce a very powerful issue in the importance for gays and lesbians, particularly prominent professionals in show business, to come out. Yet she doesn't address the complexities of coming out to this reader's satisfaction. Having said that, Coming Attractions is a promising and entertaining first novel. It is interesting to have this "romance" deal with this issue in such a manner. And the ending at show night is fun and touching. Hopefully, Marolt will continue to develop her writing.

-MJ Lowe

Saturday, June 2, 2001

Winged Isis

Jean Stewart
Bella Books

Winged Isis is a fast-paced, action story with a cliffhanger ending. Beginning six months after the close of Warriors of Isis, it follows Tomyris Whitaker -- Whit to her friends -- and her partner Kali Tyler as they struggle to protect their country from invasion.

The satellite generated electro-magnetic shield between Freeland and Elysium has begun to fail. Thus the women of Freeland set about replacing the satellites. It is a race for time, as they also prepare to defend their young, prospering country from the Elysians. This is the story of Winged Isis.

The post-pandemic world that Stewart has created is a lesbian feminist cross between King's The Stand and Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Freeland, perhaps the most interesting presentation of a feminist democratic culture in contemporary literature, is not a utopia. Views of how to implement their country's political goals vary greatly among the citizens. Power struggles are frustrating to Whit (and perhaps to the reader) as she is drawn into the complexities of governing. However, they have a ring of reality that echoes the struggles of many feminist, democratic organizations.

Stewart is also unabashed in depicting Freeland's need for a military defense. Her exploration of how this woman centric society might go about creating and implementing this amazon military is thought provoking and insightful.

Stewart's characters are complex and realistic. In their struggles to rebuild the colony of Isis and survive the threats of the Elysians, many of these woman find love and hope for a happy future. These characters grow and change over the course of the series. Winged Isis appears to be a pivotal, transition story within the series. For example: the shy, brillant Danu finds confidence and skill as a Warrior; Kali and Tor both explore their mystical strengths; while Kali and Whit anticipate the changes that their first daughter will bring to their lives.

One might wish to read the first three titles in the series (Return to Isis, Isis Rising, and Warriors of Isis, in that order) before Winged Isis. The series as a whole is unique and enjoyable reading. However, it is not absolutely necessary to read them in order. Stewart provides enough context within Winged Isis to enjoy it alone. And there is a helpful glossary and character summary at the end of the book. Winged Isis is an exciting summer read. The series overall is thought provoking and lingers in this reader's mind.

It's been five years since the third Isis story was released. Given the ending of Winged Isis, one hopes it will not be so long before the fifth novel comes our way.
-MJ Lowe

BN: Wizard of Isis is the 5th book. The second and third are still available via www.bellabooks.com