Monday, December 17, 2001

The Story of Me

Advocate (Blayne Cooper)
Writers Club Press

Tall, beautiful, straight (not to mention rather antisocial) Randi, a driver's education instructor, can't quite believe all that's happened to her in the last four weeks. First, she was stalked by an unknown stranger. The "stalker" turned out to be Mac, an attractive, petite woman from one of her classes. Mac needs Randi's help. Mac was dumped by her girlfriend, Sandra. The gold-digging Sandra used Mac has a stepping stone on the way to her brother, the doctor. Mac knows that Randi also has reason to hate Sandra and Mac has devised the perfect revenge for both of them. Mac wants to attend the next family gathering in Nevada and present Randi as her girlfriend.

Despite thinking Mac might be crazy and not too bright (she failed Randi's class, although it turns out to have been the same week Sandra left her). Randi has agreed to help extract revenge from Sandra. When the date for the reunion is changed the two must begin a cross country trek by car that turns into a strange, wild romp. These two women are like oil and vinegar as they engage in a range of miscommunications as well as intentionally irritating behaviors. Indeed Randi even subtitles a portion of the trip "Thema & Louise had it easy." In the midst of ridiculous events, Randi and Mac draw closer to their destination and to one another. After all, add a few spices to oil & vinegar and shake and you have a lovely salad dressing.

Nothing is safe from Advocate (AKA Blayne Cooper)'s observations and most of them will bring a smile, if not an out right laugh. As she states in her disclaimer "No squirrels were harmed during the production of this story. Although priests, morticians, sluts, proctologists, Big Gulps, Debby Boone, Scottish names, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Volkswagens, `that ugly chic,' gym teachers, eating disorders, Dr. Pepper, and stalkers are all seriously maligned." (122) Indeed all these running jokes and more flicker (or stomp) through the story.

The same vein that pokes fun at these issues, turns others on their ear. For example, Mac's parents and extended family are totally accepting of Mac's sexuality and even more supportive of Randi as her new girlfriend. Neither parent thought the bulimic gym teacher, Sandra was good enough for their daughter. On the other hand, any living (as opposed to inflatable) girlfriend is the best they expect for their son, the proctologist. By the end of the journey Randi and Mac have developed a great deal of affection, companionship and (gasp) attraction. This situation embarrasses Mac and frightens Randi. The growing love between Mac and Randi as well as Mac's family's love balance some of the hard edged sarcasm and cynicism. The overall effect is a delightful if strange, little novel that brought many smiles and several laughs out loud. Occasionally the shifting narrative perspective between Randi, Mac and the squirrels is confusing. --Yes, squirrels. It's too hard to explain, just read the story yourself.-- However, there is fuel for lots of good endorphins here.

-MJ Lowe

Friday, December 14, 2001

Meridio's Daughter

L. J. Maas
Yellow Rose Books

Everyone has secrets in Meridio's Daughter, this fast paced thriller by L.J. Maas. Andreas Meridio is a powerful and prominent businessman and olive grower on the Greek island of Mykonos. What his daughter, Cassandra doesn't know is that he is also the "Mangas" or godfather of the Greek black market in certain illegal goods. The 25 year old Casey is returning to Greece for the first time in six years, having completed graduate work in Classical studies and anthropology. She has been chosen to assist with an archaeological dig near Athens. The petite blond has spent most of her life since the age of five in America, although each summer until she started college was spent with her father. Casey also has a secret. Her traditional, "Old World" Greek father doesn't know that his accomplished archaeologist daughter is a lesbian. Then there is Tessa Nikolaidis, the beautiful and deadly Right Hand or "Kare" of Meridio. Openly lesbian Nikki, as she is known to friends, holds the most potent secrets of all. She has reasons and plans for revenge against Meridio.

Life gets complicated when Nikki, entrusted with the safety of Meridio's daughter finds herself falling in love for the first time in her life, with Casey. It is a relationship of which Meridio would never approve. The open and honest Casey sees no reason to deny her feelings for Nikki. The two women finally compromise and begin a clandestine affair. Meanwhile Casey is once again haunted by dreams she can't remember reflecting events from 20 years ago. The same events that prompted her mother's decision to leave Greece.

Meridio's Daughter is a suspenseful and engrossing story with a few plot twists. Maas provides wonderful depictions of the Greek islands, its culture (and lesbian subculture!) as well as interesting characters. Casey's post traumatic stress is handled reasonably and moves the plot. There is plenty of erotic play for Nikki and Casey that serves to further develop the characters and their relationship.

Technically this novel could be considered Xena uber for those who might enjoy seeing it. However, happily the story requires no understanding of the show to be appreciated. L.J. Maas also created the lovely cover of this book (and several other books by this press) that matches the mood of the culture and climate. After reading Meridio's Daughter, this reader will be looking for other Maas novels.