And Playing the Role of Herself

by K.E. Lane

Cover image

Publisher: Regal Crest
Copyright: 2006
Printing: June 2010
ISBN: 1-932300-72-4
Format: Kindle
Pages: 336

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Caidence Harris is an actress who has finally gotten her big shot: a starring role in the hit police drama 9th Precinct. She plays half of a police partnership; the other half is played by her best friend, the considerably more famous Liz Stokley. She's quite happy with her life and her work, and only tentatively pondering what to do about coming out (at least to herself) as a lesbian. But matters get considerably more complicated when she starts falling for Robyn Ward, a star in a parallel legal drama. And the very high-profile girlfriend of one of the best male tennis players in the world.

Yes, another lesbian romance. This one has won several awards, including the highest recommendation from my friend who's been prefiltering the genre for me and pointing out only the best stories. And despite being set firmly among the rich and famous and involving TV dramas with the serial numbers filed off, he was right. This is a thoroughly enjoyable story.

One of its strongest parts is how Lane develops the romance between Caidence and Robyn. There is a bit of the inevitable physical chemistry so common in romances (I still don't believe kisses work that way), and a few descriptions of physical beauty (after all, there's a built-in excuse for everyone to be TV-star beautiful). But Lane avoids putting either at the center of the relationship. Instead, this is a romance built on trust, tentative at first and then growing but rocky. That speaks to me a lot more than all the descriptions of physical chemistry.

For example, we don't see Caidence and Robyn meet for the first time in the novel, as is usually the case. They've been around each other before, with Caidence acting rather tongue-tied and a bit star-struck and Robyn thinking she's rather silly. The story begins when, for whatever reason, Caidence finally manages to relax and become genuine, and then both of them become closer as they find themselves lowering barriers around each other that they normally don't lower. Lane does an excellent job using a few key facial expressions as symbols and hallmarks of that, letting the reader follow the way that trust builds through the story.

The other great element of this book is Caidence's friend Liz. She could have been a stereotype of a movie star: drop-dead gorgeous, a new boyfriend each week, but not particularly intelligent. That's how she comes off at first. But as the story progresses, Lane shows more and more of their friendship, and the reader gets to see just how much Liz's first impression is a combination of an act and her unapologetic tendency to do what she wants. Underneath, she's a strong female character and an excellent, if meddling friend; by the end of the book, she was in the running for my favorite character. This is characterization of a quality that I rarely see in any genre of novel.

Given that it's a romance that I enjoyed, you can correctly expect there not to be a lot of obnoxious communication breakdowns or chapters full of the main characters refusing to communicate with each other. There are, of course, a wide variety of barriers in the way of a relationship for the main characters, not the least of which being that neither of them was looking for something serious. But while they both do occasionally thoughtless or hurtful things, it's always clear just why they were thoughtless, or where their buttons were accidentally pressed, and few of the character actions are outright stupid. And, delightfully, Lane structures the story so that there are multiple, incremental payoffs. One can not only enjoy the characters getting together in the end, as they always do in this genre, but a lot of important and meaningful steps along the way. Lane does a great job putting the reader in Caidence's head, helped by first-person narration, so that one can feel just how much some moments mean to her emotionally.

Add in several other fleshed-out and interesting supporting characters, some incredible architecture that was fun to imagine, and rather more in the way of plot twists and dramatic moments than I usually expect in a romance (and although the book worried me once, none of them go to the dark places that would have been less fun), and one gets a novel that kept me engrossed from start to finish. I'm tempted to read it again, and that's rare for me for a romance novel.

If you're in the mood for a heart-warming story about intelligent people learning how to be together, I highly recommend this book. It's a great book to read as a stress relief when you want a story that you know will turn out "right."

Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed: 2013-07-31

Last modified and spun 2016-05-02