I highly recommend this book if you like slow burns, full lives, sharp laughter, mature outlooks, relationships that make you think, hot and emotional sex scenes, intelligent dialogue, and messy turns that follow the “desire lines” off the established path. Charley’s forging of desire lines felt so real to life and without the artificial hipness of some romances.
Charley, a member of the Executive Assistant Mafia, has withdrawn from dating after her wife of 25 years left her for a younger woman three years earlier. She’s getting cranky that her friends keep trying to set her up, as they watch her daily withdraw into a smaller life. Charley may be avoiding emotional investments, but she’s intimately lonely and misses being treated with love.
But then a series of encounters leads Charley to one woman who she later realizes “was a key to open a door I didn’t know was locked” and another woman who is elusive and challenging and even more wary of relationships than is Charley.
The first part of this book immerses you in Charley’s circle of friends, that pack of lesbians who verbally harass each other with the confidence of 30 years of friendships. Her friends hold football TV game potlucks and take turns offending each other and making up. Meanwhile, Charley’s mother keeps calling to ask her to bring one single item at a time from the store to her, resulting in endless trips completed with exasperation. And Charlie is efficient at her job but putting out administrative fires. I know people like Charley; she’s the real deal.
I enjoyed poking around in Charley’s world while she figured out her personal life, which to the astonishment of her friends includes two new women. Charley meets both Neely and Joanna at the YMCA. Both will become central to her finding love and desire again, in different but equally satisfying and realistic ways. At moments I was appreciatively conscious that this book’s romantic rhythms also do not follow the traditional worn path. Unlike in a traditional lesfic novel, one can hold close multiple romantic possibilities and like everyone involved.
The second part of the book is hard to describe without spoilers, so stop reading here if you don’t want to know why Charley’s former wife reappears in her life asking for help.
Seriously, stop reading to avoid spoilers.
Okay, then. I make a point of not reading a book’s synopsis because I want to be surprised. Perhaps you would know what was coming if you read about Charley’s ex-wife calling with “devastating news,” so that Charley decides to take care of her. Tricia has cancer and Charley makes a conscious choice to re-enter her life knowing that death is at the end of the shared journey.
Now, it just so happens that earlier in the same day I started this book, I had finished reading another lesfic novel in which the main character’s mother is dying of cancer. Seriously, two cancer books in the same day? I tossed the kindle across the bed, then picked it back up because, dammit, I needed to know…
But I’m telling you the second part of Forging a Desire Line contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve experienced in a lesfic novel. The feeling that these characters are people I’d come to know transformed into people I’d come to care about intensely. Oh I cried, but I also kept laughing because humor doesn’t disappear in tragedy and I kept hugging myself hopefully as Charley discovered more about her own capacity for love and desire.
A few days after I completed this book, I re-read the second part and felt again its power. This book… so well done.
From the author’s bio, I can see she included many of her own life experiences in this book. I’m eager to learn where her future plots take me, because I plan on acquiring her next book without even reading the title.