Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review Tuesday: Party Wall by Cheyenne Blue (#lesbian #romance #ReviewTuesday)

Party Wall cover

Party Wall by Cheyenne Blue
Ylva Publishing, 2017

Freya, the proprietor of the New Age boutique “A Woman’s Spirit”, aspires to elevate herself and her customers above the level of base sexual desire. Convinced that she no longer needs the physical connection she shared with her deceased partner Sarah, she lives a spare, disciplined life, spending her days teaching yoga, selling candles, crystals, herbs and tea, and offering advice to her straight best friend Carly.

When Lily moves to Freya’s small town from the big city and opens “A Woman’s Pleasure” next door, the stage is set for major conflict. It’s not just that Freya disapproves of the sort of merchandise Lily’s shop purveys—lingerie, spicy books and sex toys. The Cuban woman’s lush curves, colorful clothing, rowdy music, and sexual openness disturb, offend and anger Freya. However, nothing can alter the fact that Freya and Lily live side by side, with only a thin wall separating the flats above their respective stores where they reside.

Lily makes it clear that she wants Freya for a friend, and maybe more. But Freya’s not ready to allow another lover to tarnish Sarah’s memory, especially someone as exuberant and bold as her neighbor.

I love Cheyenne Blue’s erotica. Party Wall is the fourth romance by Ms. Blue that I’ve read and reviewed, and in my opinion, the best. She does an impressive job evoking the complex, shifting emotional dynamics between Freya and Lily, shaping two full-fleshed, believable characters. She also writes exquisite passages that capture the unwelcome desire Freya experiences, despite her attempts to suppress this. Meanwhile, Lily tries with mixed success not to push herself on Freya, who has made it clear she’s not interested in having Lily as a lover.

There’s a lot of sexual tension in this book, even though there’s no actual sexual activity until the very end. In one of my favorite scenes, Lily and Freya are both consoling Carly, after she has left her cheating husband. The three of them sleep in Lily’s large bed, with Carly in the middle for comfort. Despite the summer humidity, Freya dons flannel pajamas, to hide herself from Lily’s eyes, then is so uncomfortable she’s unable to sleep . The heat she feels is more than just the effects of the temperature.

Party Wall has the inevitability of romance. We know that Lily and Freya will ultimately get together, but up until very late in the novel, it’s hard to imagine how. That’s meant as a compliment!

My one criticism of the book has to do with its treatment of men. Man, actually. There’s only one significant male character in the book, Carly’s husband Andy, and unfortunately, he’s an utter bastard. Not only does he cheat on his wife with his secretary, he also breaks into Lily’s apartment, insults, threatens and ultimately attacks both Lily and Freya, and tries to force Carly to come back home with him. He’s violent and abusive, to the point that one wonders why someone like Carly ever married him.

I know, of course, that there are men like Andy out there, men who think they own “their” women, who believe that they’re justified in using physical force to take what is “belongs to them”. However, in this case, I think the author could have achieved her goals without making the character so extreme. As it stands, Andy’s character feeds the oft-voiced popular opinion that lesbians are “hostile to men”. I really worry that some people will dismiss Ms. Blue’s book with this sort of criticism.

Overall, though, Party Wall is a delightful book. If you’re a fan of lesbian romance, I recommend it highly.

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