Guest Review: Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown

NB: This guest review is from Reader Tara Scott. If you want to read her previous guest reviews (and we highly recommend that you do), you can see them all here.

Tara reads a lot of lesbian romances. You can catch her regularly reviewing at The Lesbian Review and Curve Magazine and hear her talk about lesbian fiction (including romance) on her podcast Les Do Books. You can also hit her up for recommendations on Twitter (@taramdscott).

I’ve been a fan of Lorelie Brown for a long time, so you can imagine how surprised and delighted I was last year when I heard she was putting out a romance with two female leads. And I wasn’t disappointed! Far From Home ( A | BN | K | iB ) blew me away and ended up being one of my favourite books of 2016. It stood out not only because it’s a marriage of convenience story (of which there aren’t many in lesbian romance), but also because it’s told in the first person perspective of a woman who lives with anorexia. I got even more excited this year when I saw she was releasing a runaway bride romance, and much like Far From Home, Her Hometown Girl ended up being so much more than I’d expected.

The book opens with Tansy Gavin sitting in a tattoo chair, miserable and on the verge of tears. Instead of celebrating the wedding she was supposed to have had that day, she’s getting a tattoo that her controlling ex, Jody, would hate. It’s Tansy’s first step towards independence in years, hastily made after catching Jody banging a dude from the catering staff that morning. Her tattoo artist, Cai, is kind and gentle as she listens non-judgmentally to her story, and when Tansy comes back for touch-ups six weeks later, she doesn’t hesitate when Cai asks her on a date.

Cai has her own baggage that leaves her reluctant to open up to anyone or get involved in a relationship, but when she’s around Tansy, it just feels different than her previous encounters. Tansy isn’t ready for anything serious anyway, and Cai is more than happy to be the rebound for the much younger woman, even if she’s aware that she needs to be careful with Tansy:

Campsite rules and all that. I’m older than her. If I’m willing to do this with Tansy, I have to be able to leave her better off than I found her. That seems easier said than done when I’m pretty much a hot mess at any given time.

As Tansy heals from her last relationship and begins to figure out what she wants her life to look like, she starts to feel the call to go see her family in Idaho. For reasons even Tansy doesn’t totally understand, she invites Cai to come along, making their no-strings-attached arrangement feel a little more real than either woman would have expected.

Her Hometown Girl is told in the first person, shifting between Cai and Tansy’s perspectives. This lets us quickly realize exactly how fucked up Tansy’s relationship with Jody was and its lasting effects on her because we see how intentionally gentle and careful Cai is with Tansy, and how Tansy responds very differently than someone would if they weren’t carrying the same trauma. Lorelie Brown made a brave choice to tackle abuse in same sex relationships, because it’s especially rare in romance stories between two women and yet it’s a problem that needs to get talked about.

Even with abuse as an important part of the story, Her Hometown Girl is often fun in parts and is incredibly sweet. Cai and Tansy have a lovely chemistry that makes it easy to see why they’re attracted to each other even with their respective emotional issues. My favourite moments were the ones like this, where we see how cute they are together as well as the emotional upheaval that underpins so much of Tansy’s thought processes:

I lift my hand and slowly turn my palm to the sky. The bird on my wrist travels with me until it’s standing in my palm. There’s a shaft of sunshine over both of us. I really am Sleeping Beauty or something. If only I could sing. “This is so fun.”

“I’m glad.” Cai’s hair slides like silk from her shoulder to cascade down her chest. Her neat, pleat-front shirt catches black strands. “It’d really suck if I brought you here and then it turned out you were afraid of birds.”

“Who’s afraid of birbs?” I coo at the green friend standing on my hand. “Birbs are adorabubbles. Tumblr says so.”

“Meme addict.”

“Only the good ones.”

I like the way she looks at me. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but it makes me feel . . . appreciated. Wow. That’s such a sad state of affairs. I crave being appreciated. That’s not something that I should have been missing considering I was hours away from being married.

Next time. I’m not screwing it up next time. I’ll pick someone who looks at me the way Cai looks at me.

The sex is also worth noting because it’s hot as hell and has some light kink that works really well. The sex and their kink shifts as their connection deepens, and it’s a nice complement to the relationship building as they each grow to trust each other more and more.

Her Hometown Girl is beautiful, sexy and occasionally gut wrenching. I wholeheartedly recommend it and am giving it an A- because of its difficult subject matter, not despite it. That the author managed to make it funny, sweet and hot while addressing abuse is impressive, and I hope that this book will give queer women in abusive relationships with other women the courage to seek help. It’s why I rooted for Tansy and Cai both as individuals and as a couple, and hoped very bad things would happen to Jody.

The story had my attention from the first page to the last, and I even found myself reading the last chapter ever so slowly because I didn’t want it to end. It may be the third book in the Belladonna Ink series, but it truly stands alone, and this could be a great place to start if you’ve never read Lorelie Brown before.

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