A MelanieM Review: Whitewater by Meredith Shayne


Rating 4 stars out of 5

Whitewater coverBaker Luke Henderson loves his job, and owning a bakery at Coogee Beach makes it even better.  His Black Dog bakery is becoming known for its delicious concoctions and Luke dreams of spreading out to other restaurants and stores.  Each morning before Luke opens up his bakery, he heads to the beach for his favorite pastime, watching surfers, a particular surfer. Little does he know that the surfer has been looking back.

Cameron Brown, surfer, chef, and café owner of a popular beach front cafe, spies Luke leaning  against the wall, watching him surf but nothing more.  A chance meeting occurs when Luke pops into Cameron’s  restaurant to sample their food and deserts, hoping to get the owner to take his bakery goods on consignment.  Cameron is intrigued by Luke, and his scrumptious deserts, and soon a deal is struck.

Working together brings Cam and  Luke closer but there remains several obstacles to romance.  The main one being Cameron’s idea of the perfect man, physical perfection being a key.  That’s something that Luke can never attain.   Can Cameron put aside his “ideal man” in order to find love with the real one in front of him?

Whitewater (part of the Under the Southern Cross Anthology but can be purchased separately) is a perfect example why I love Meredith Shayne so much.  The characters of Luke Henderson and Cameron Brown are so marvelously textured, so nuanced that it puts them far outside the norm of the typical romantic leading characters.  Luke Henderson has cerebral palsy.  It gives him a decided limp but the real driving force in Luke is his passion for baking, the other is just a small part of who he is.  I love the matter of fact treatment given to his disability and his outlook.  Luke is a beautifully well rounded character, full of hopes and dreams and wonderful concoctions that makes him so easy to connect with, especially when he’s covered in flour, immersed in his recipes.

Cameron, the surf god who also happens to be a chef and restaurant owner, long ago lost the passion that Luke thrives on.  Cameron’s search for perfection happens not in the kitchen but in gay bars and hookups nightly.  Those men he finds are easy to discard, but Luke?  Imperfect Luke becomes the itch Cameron can’t scratch and Cameron is intelligent enough to look inside for the answers.

What did I wish for?  A longer story.  Luke and Cameron cry out for a full length novel.  I wanted a little more of the life they were building at the end.  But that would be the icing on the cake for this reader, others readers will love it as it is.

As in her other stories, Shayne brings the local settings and locations vividly into focus.  The Black Dog Bakery and Cameron’s restaurant reside on or near Coogee Beach in New South Wales, Australia near Sydney.  Shayne captures all the flavor andcoogee-beach atmosphere of this beachside suburb of the little town known as  “Sydney’s Seaside Village”.  I got a real feel for the people and shops that fill the streets and line the shore, the nightlife and the family packed pools.  The full picture is so enticing, that like all the other places Meredith Shayne writes so lovingly about, I’m ready to pack up and go see it for myself.

Not familiar with author Meredith Shayne?  Whitewater is a wonderful introduction.  Read it, love it, and then go looking for all the other stories that we have tucked close to our hearts, including Cutting Out.  I absolutely recommend Whitewater and its author, Meredith Shayne!  Happy Reading.

Cover artist:  Anne Cain.  I like the cover but don’t love it.  It’s just too generic considering what she had to work with.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press    All Romance (ARe)     Amazon    Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 117 pages
Published March 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 12th 2013)
ISBN 162380468X (ISBN13: 9781623804688)
edition languageEnglish
Anthology/series: Under the Southern Cross

A MelanieM Review: The Body on the Beach (Under the Southern Cross) by L.J. LaBarthe


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Body on the beachIt’s 1920 in Adelaide, the only free colony in Australia.  When  a body on the beach is found to be marked up with Chinese symbols, it only makes sense for the local constable to call upon William “Billy” Liang for advice and help with the investigation.  Billy Liang, prominent member of both cultures in Adelaide,  has often worked as a liaison between the various emigrant societies in Adelaide and the white establishment.

With his lover and business manager, Tom Williams,  at his side (and with the support of Billy’s wife), Billy and Tom must investigate a crime that looks to implicate the local Chinese community in the murder.  Billy and Tom deal with illegal opium dens, fantan games and gambling, racism, and being shot at throughout the investigation. And while Billy’s family accepts the love he and Tom share, Australia’s laws against sodomy and homosexuality pose a constant danger.    It’s a delicate balance that Billy and Tom maintain, one that this murder and the ripples it sets in motion threaten to destroy.

The Body on the Beach, part of the Under the Southern Cross Anthology, is a perfect little window into a time and societal framework of 1920 Adelaide, Australia.  L.J. LaBarthe recreates gallimaufry of cultures that is Adelaide, a situation that hasn’t changed much today.  Within the limits of the town, there exists the Chinese, the Greeks, the Russians, and more nationalities that have flooded into the region and are now coexisting, however uneasily, with the white population.  I  especially loved the intimate look at the Chinese community from the viewpoint of Billy Liang.  The character of William “Billy” Liang is a compelling one.  He acts as the bridge between all the “foreigners” and the local establishment by way of his success as a businessman and his status within the Chinese insular community.   And he does so successfully because he lives in both worlds in his private life.  He is married to an intelligent, understanding wife who accepts his love and relationship with Tom. Indeed, they have created for themselves their own insulated world where their servants are supportive of their unique relationship dynamics, including the fact that he and Tom live in one section of the huge house and his wife in another.

Some readers might balk at this arrangement, but as its laid out here by L.J. LaBarthe, it not only works but we enjoy the camaraderie and ease in which they all deal with each other.  I enjoyed Billy’s wife for her grace and intelligence as much as I did Tom, a terrific balancing act indeed.

While the plot has Tom and Billy investigating a complex murder, it was all the descriptions of the various sides to Adelaide and its people that I really enjoyed.  I felt as though I was there, walking the streets and beaches with Billy and Tom.   There is the realistic aspect of racism that has to be dealt with along with the need to keep their sexuality and true nature of their relationship hidden.  And within all of that complicated framework, a murderer needs to be caught and brought to justice.

When an author brings me takes me back to the past and makes it feel alive once more, as LaBarthe does here, then I feel that I have taken a marvelous journey, one I was unwilling to see end.  The Body on the Beach is just such a story.  If you are unfamiliar with L. J. LaBarthe, this is a wonderful place to start!

Cover Artist Anne Cain.  How I love this cover!  Everything, from the design to the characters, pull you in as does this story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press           All Romance (ARe)           Amazon           Buy it Here

Book Details:

Published March 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 12th 2013)
edition languageEnglish
seriesUnder the Southern Cross