Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Bitter Sweet Revenge by Donna Jay (lesbian romance)

Let me open this review with a confession. I was bullied in school. I was picked on, called names, pushed around, and set-up for extortion and betrayal. So, when we see Katie awkwardly tagging along with the cool kids in the first chapter of Bitter Sweet Revenge, my heart immediately went out to her . . . and when they invited her to the swimming hole after their exam, that heart crawled up into my throat because I knew she was being set-up. I was not expecting the level of cruelty that followed, but I knew it was not going to end well.

Writing a very different story that we are used to from her, Donna Jay shares a tale that is as much about coming out as coming of age. It is a deep, touching, heartfelt tale that is not afraid to explore the darker emotions - and I am not just talking about sorrow, self-pity, and shame. While this is not a story about revenge, it is one where revenge figures prominently, and it is indeed bittersweet.

What makes those scenes work, what keeps Katie from descending into the same level of cruelty as the cool girls, is partly the love of her family, particularly her brother, and her budding romance with Gillian. I loved Katie, but I was totally in love with Gillian. She knew her fair share of bullying too, but she rose above it and found the courage to fight back. Another confession, I found a similar courage in fifth grade. I waited until the class was quiet, stood up, walked across the room, and slapped my bully so hard he fell out of his seat. Gillian is that kind of girl, and her strength, her openness, her kindness, and her joy is infectious. It is through her that Katie finds the courage to be herself, to confront her past, and to embrace her future.

Final confession, I remember the anxiety and the terror of coming out so, when I felt that scene was looming, I put this down for a bit. I do not want to give the impression that Bitter Sweet Revenge is a dark and gloomy tale, but there was enough darkness to it, enough hints as to family prejudices, that I feared for Katie. I had to wait until I was mentally prepared to face that scene with her. No spoilers, but Donna Jay handles it masterfully, balancing the same emotions and attitudes that make the whole story so honest and engaging. This is not some fluffy cliched tale of love solving all the world's problems, but a realistic coming-of-age drama in which love is certainly a catalyst.

Filled with wonderful writing and memorable characters, Bitter Sweet Revenge gets inside your head and your heart, evoking memories and emotions that pull it all together.

Donna lives in the land of the long white cloud, otherwise known as New Zealand. Living in a picturesque country and enjoying the outdoors has provided many opportunities for her to create stories featuring dominant, loving women.


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