Jaq Cummings has been a part of the queer community of La Vista long enough to know all the players and dated half of them. She wants a more meaningful relationship, but tends to run before things get too serious. After all, it seems easier to say goodbye instead of letting someone break her heart. And then Jaq meets Hannah. Gorgeous and smart, Hannah would seem like the perfect woman if she weren’t in the midst of a messy divorce.
Hannah has moved to La Vista to put her soon to be ex and their tumultuous seven-year marriage behind her. She isn’t looking for drama and she certainly isn’t looking for a rebound romance, but Jaq offers her something altogether different. As their romance progress beyond casual sex and occasional dates, Jaq has to decide if having love here and now is worth more than running away from the possibility of future pain.
The Butch and the Beautiful is the second in the Queers of La Vista series and picks up by immersing readers in the now familiar La Vista LGBT community. You don’t necessary have to have read the first in the series, Gays of Our Lives, but for overall continuity, it would probably help. I actually waited to review this book for our Reading Challenge Month because it’s the first lesbian romance I’ve read and thought it would be a perfect fit for our Genre Week challenge.
The Butch and the Beautiful is well written and the author does a great job of giving us a real feel for the insular community of La Vista. We meet old and new friends and their backstories have slowly begun to fill in, which really opens up the secondary cast. Unfortunately, the book has some real pacing issues. It often felt draggy and it moved with an overall slowness that became somewhat frustrating. This said, the plot and overall story evolved in a realistic way and this made the pacing issues somewhat forgivable. I will say there is yet another reference to the recent killing of a drag king that went absolutely nowhere. This happened in Gays of Our Lives as well and while it’s obvious the author is building to something with this plot point, the negligible amount of time it is discussed makes its presence utterly useless. It has very little to do with the plot of The Butch and the Beautiful and serves no real purpose here.
Jaq is pretty much the show stealer. Her personality is inviting and she is so quick-witted that she is easy to love. She’s a woman who knows exactly who she is and as a result, she’s comfortable in her own skin. This gives her a confidence that really came off the page and drew me in as a reader. That said, with regards to her relationships, she’s fragile and clumsy and it’s easy to see how her confidence doesn’t carry her as far as she’d like. Which I think is what makes her so very human. She’s putting up a good front, but she doesn’t always have the courage to take the kind of risks she needs to. As a result, she’s incredibly relatable and even when she’s making bad choices, you can’t help hoping things work out.
Hannah is just the opposite. I found her character to be rather bland and devoid of much dimension. I never felt like I knew who she was or why Jaq was interested in her, beyond their obvious physical attraction. Those few traits that did come through tended to suggest she was selfish and lacking much empathy for others. There wasn’t enough of a character structure to decide if I liked her, hated her, or anything else. This was rather maddening when reading given how fully formed Jaq was. This lack of character development really crippled the relationship between Hannah and Jaq and tended to leave this aspect of the book wanting in a big way.
The Butch and the Beautiful is the second in the Queers of La Vista series and it tended to have some significant pacing issues and at least one main character that failed to materialize on page. Yet Jaq was such an engaging personality that I still found the book worth reading. Acknowledging the aforementioned issues, The Butch and the Beautiful and Jaq specifically served as a good introduction to lesbian romantic fiction.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for Genre Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Less Than Three Press. Three lucky winners will each receive a selection of print books. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Genre Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!