Ylva Publishing, 2016
Sue Brent is straight. That’s what she tells any woman who tries to pick her up at the lesbian bars she frequents with her best friends Nora and Geraldine. An up-and-coming young lawyer at a top London firm, Sue works hard, both at her job and at suppressing her desire for women. Her one lesbian experience ended so badly that she has convinced herself it was just a fluke. After all, her sexual relationships with men bring her pleasure, even if she can’t seem to connect with her partners on an emotional plane. Probably, she tells herself, she just hasn’t found the right guy.
That belief is challenged, though, by Geraldine’s brother, Pádraig. He and Sue are close friends. He clearly wants to turn their friendship into something more intimate. When their first sexual encounter falls terribly flat, Sue is forced to admit the truth: she’s gay and always has been.
Her self-confession triggers a personal revolution. All at once, she’s seized by a fierce need to return to her native Australia. The prospect of facing the small town inhabitants who condemned her as a teen is daunting, but she knows she needs to reclaim her roots in order to truly be herself. The universe cooperates with her intentions in multiple ways, providing her with a challenging but rewarding job, a new home not too distant from her family (at least by Australian bush standards), and a lover—the straightforward Texan physician Moni whom she’d met briefly in London. Attracted to Sue from the first, despite the lawyer’s heterosexual claims, Moni finds work in Australia so she and Sue can be closer.
Leaving the past behind is not as easy as it sounds, though. When the woman who betrayed Sue as a teen—the woman who’d been her first lover—reaches out for help, Sue finds it hard to refuse, even though she knows this may jeopardize her deepening relationship with Moni.
As usual, Cheyenne Blue creates well-rounded, believable characters whose emotions ring true. You will feel Sue’s uncertainty and pain, not to mention her nervous excitement as she begins to explore her long-denied sexuality. Moni’s a live wire, very definitely American in her reactions. The two women clearly belong together. I found myself internally applauding as Sue took one step after another toward her obvious destiny as Moni’s partner.
What set this book apart for me, though, was the vivid portrayal of the Australian bush. Indeed, Australia almost seems like another character. The author’s personal love for the vast spaces and stark contrasts of her country’s interior shines on every page. London feels dark, cramped, and colorless compared to Sue’s homeland. The wide open horizons of the outback mirror Sue’s expanding sense of self.
Ms. Blue also succeeds in portraying the dangers of living in a land where running out of gas could be deadly and the closest doctor might be a day’s drive distant.
This is an erotic romance, but there’s less explicit sex than in many of Cheyenne Blue’s works. Instead, there’s a breathless sense of expectation, a building of erotic tension that I actually found more arousing than many sex scenes I’ve read. Sue and Moni know they have something special, and they don’t rush into physical consummation of their mutual desire. Their kisses burn up the page; you know that when they finally connect, the experience will be incandescent. Ms. Blue also skillfully conveys Sue’s anxiety about their first full-fledged erotic encounter. It means so much to them both; what if it goes wrong?
Of course, everything works out. Sue learns to trust her desires and her heart. Moni finds a way to stay in Australia. Nora and Ger have the satisfaction of knowing their instincts were correct—that their friend wasn’t so straight after all.
Not-So-Straight Sue is a classic HEA tale that will leave you feeling good. It’s also a story about finding and accepting your sexual identity. Finally, it’s a love letter to the wild, bright, bare continent where the author resides.