MEC reviews My Lady Lipstick – Karin Kallmaker

Kallmaker is an accomplished author – so the book is well written. The pacing is good and there’s a fair bit going on to keep the plot moving forward – this is a romance, but the characters are actively engaged in a number of subplots that keep things fresh and introduces some well rounded secondary characters.

The characters are interesting and don’t necessarily fit the stereotypical mold of lesfic MCs but they still still are world class at whatever they try their hand at (gaming development, writing romances, gymnastics, thievery) and that sometimes makes it a bit harder to connect with them. The plot is fun but a bit far fetched in some parts – Paris is torn on how to deal with a publisher who is insisting she attend a conference and become more active in marketing and publicity. Enter Diane, a thief masquerading as an actress (or actress who masquerades as a thief) who is looking for a way to infiltrate said publisher’s offices and purloin an artifact. Perfect match? Yes – but things don’t play out the way you would expect and that keeps things fresh and rather fun. Kallmaker touches on some serious issues but doesn’t delve too deeply, so I often felt that they were glossed over. The romance works well – there’s some chemistry between the two, but the “break up” was a bit too angsty and Diane was a bit of a blockhead – but it worked well enough and it also gave both characters a chance to grow and develop further.

Paris is a gamer game designer who was targeted by the online community for speaking out against the depiction of women in games and is now an accomplished het romance writer under a pseudonym. Butch, compulsive brownie maker, writer of bodice rippers, living with anxiety, and adamant to have no digital footprint – she’s not your stereotypical MC in lesfic, and that works really well to create a compelling character because she is so different. I liked the way that Kallmaker dealt with Paris’ anxiety – that it was something that has always been part of her life and always will and she’s developed ways to deal with it. The threats and online harassment she experienced did worsen things, but she was smart enough to retreat and reset her life and there was no magical fix. I was really happy to see how Paris was presented as affected by an anxiety disorder, but that didn’t stop her from making decisions and taking actions like suiting up and heading to New York despite her worry and fear of the repercussions.

Diane was a bit harder to connect with until the latter half of the book – most likely as she was always playing a character as a means to an end for the first part of the book . A former gymnast, titled aristocrat from a wealthy family that travels the world as an actress while she dabbles in a bit of moral thievery to return artifacts to their rightful owners/ cultures. She’s a bit of a superwoman – but Kallmaker does flesh her out a bit as she struggles with the long lasting after affects of her gymnastic career – including the chronic pain of injuries and the impacts of a slower maturity due to the rigours of competitive gymnastic. I also liked the scenes with her family – it provided a wonderful backdrop to further develop Diane as she interacts with her family. I also appreciated that on Diane’s part, she accepts Paris’ anxiety as part of who Paris is and Diane’s acceptance of it and her not trying to “fix it” or push Paris to overcome it.

My Lady Lipstick was fun with good characters and a well paced plot.  In writing up my thoughts, I’m finding I may have liked this more than I initially thought.

As a side note – the cover and the title mystify me. Neither match the actual book and I have to say both kept me from purchasing this book – I ended up picking this one up as I’m working my way through the GCLS finalist books as part of a challenge.

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