Thursday, January 31, 2002

None so Blind

L. J. Maas
Yellow Rose

L.J. Maas has written a captivating and touching romance of unrequited love and survival against difficult odds in None So Blind.

Torrey Gray and Taylor Kent -- who bear a striking resemblance to the actors Renee O'Connor and Lucy Lawless -- first meet at the Tau Alpha Zeta sorority house when Torrey is a college freshman and Taylor a senior. It is August 1981. The two legacy sisters make an unlikely duo but become fast friends. The openly lesbian and rebellious, art student, Taylor, does have a tendency to lead the younger Torrey into trouble. Yet the genuinely kind, caring and responsible Torrey has a stabilizing effect on her friend.

These talented, intelligent and likable women live together for almost four years during their late adolescence. Both women finish college. Torrey writes her first book while Taylor begins her art career. The best friends support one another as they struggle in those vulnerable, challenging years of early adulthood. They also carefully, and perhaps unconsciously, intentionally misunderstand one another. Taylor assumes the younger Torrey isn't gay and Torrey assumes Taylor isn't attracted to her. Or to paraphrase Torrey, "sometimes love isn't blind, she's just plain stupid." (364)

Although they've never lost touch with one another, the two women went their separate ways when the strain of their miscommunication hurt too much to continue to live together. Some 15 years later, Torrey asks for Taylor's help and, as promised, Taylor will do her best to help.

Maas does a wonderful job weaving the past and present together as the women find themselves meeting again after so many years. Unrequited love can be very bittersweet as achingly depicted in Torrey's first interaction with Kat in New York in 1991. Both women realize that almost two decades of maturity has increased their understanding of themselves and each other; as well as their potential for happiness together and the capacity for love. Maas deals sensitively with issues of coming out and substance abuse over the course of the story. She provides an erotic denouement that is romantic, loving and electric.

The practice of Tai-Chi and particularly the Tai-Chi symbol -- more popularly known as the "yin yang" symbol -- is a leitmotif that Maas threads through None So Blind. Perhaps my favorite example of this theme is the image of Torrey and Taylor on the night they go to Chancey's.

In addition to the lead characters' appearance, there are enough winking references to Xena for fans to recognize this as "Uber fiction." However, these references strike this reader as a pleasant inside joke more than any real connection with the show. Certainly, Torrey and Taylor are Maas' creation and a reader with no particular affinity for the show, can enjoy None So Blind, completely.

Other readers may not identify as strongly with this novel as this reviewer, who was in college during the same years as Torrey. Still, one might consider this warning should you treat yourself to this novel: Be sure you have the time to read None So Blind's 373 pages, because you won't want to put it down.


BN: Intaglio Publications re-released None So Blind in 2006, ISBN 978-1933113449.

Saturday, January 5, 2002

A Wild Sea

Rebecca Montague
Cape Winds Press

In 1999 Katherine Jenkins, a 34 year old, openly lesbian, financial investor living in Seattle, returns to Smith Island to empty the summer house her parents built there some twenty years ago. Located off the coast of North Carolina, Smith Island was the paradise of Katherine's adolescence. It was also the site of the accidental drowning of her first lover, Caroline, 15 years ago. Although Katherine has had her share of lovers since the loss of Caroline, she has never given her heart to anyone else.

A Wild Sea is the story of Katherine finally facing her survivor's guilt as well as her grief over Caroline and allowing herself to love again. Shortly after arriving on Smith, Katherine meets Jennifer, the "kid sister" of an old classmate and friend from high school. But the adult Jennifer, an attractive, athletic, artist and gallery owner from Raleigh, is nothing like the annoying 13 year old from Kat's last summer on the island. Indeed, Jenn is the first woman since Caroline for whom Katherine has felt more than lust. Katherine fears those feelings because to love opens her to the possibility of hurt. Yet loving Jenn seems to hold the potential for Katherine's happiness in life.

The vacation island setting is lovely, yet it allows glimpses of the stress living a closeted life in the more conservative parts of America can provide, even in a paradise. Montague's observations about being queer in the South are insightful. Her lead characters are interesting, intelligent and well rounded. The love scenes between Kat and Jenn are touching, arousing, and romantic. Even the extremely patient and enamored Jenn has enough self respect to limit what she will put up with from the stubbornly grief-ridden Katherine. Perhaps one of the more touching, and even mildly amusing, elements of this story is the role Caroline, or her ghost, plays in helping Katherine to heal. As Caroline says,"I'm dead, Katherine. It gives one an interesting perspective." (160)

A Wild Sea is a well written little romance. Montague resolves Katherine's struggle with herself and provides hope for the future. A Wild Sea is certainly worth the price of the ferry ride.