Who doesn’t love ice queens? As Roslyn Sinclair (who knows her ice queens) wrote on the Ylva blog, “Any fan of ice queens knows that what makes an ice queen irresistible is when she finally reaches melting point”. To end the year in the best way, Bold Strokes Books gives us three ice queens, in three novellas, by three different authors, and the result is both fun and hot, as should be. I enjoyed all three, for different reasons.
The first novella is Ice on Wheels by Aurora Rey. Brooke, aka Femme Fatale, has been holding a huge grudge against Riley, aka Moby Dyke, since last season’s Louisiana Women’s Roller Derby championship, when Riley’s last block against Brooke lost the latter’s team the title. When they end up on the same team for the new season, and working for the same company, Riley tries her best to charm her way back into Brooke’s good books, or at least to a civil relationship.
Brooke is not so much an ice queen as a bruised one. I liked how Riley is such a natural charmer, mostly unaware of how much space she takes but willing to turn the charm down if it helps Brooke feel more comfortable. I like that she doesn’t understand how being so nice could be a “bad” thing but she’s willing to do it anyway. No ego there.
The pace is excellent, Brooke’s change of heart is totally believable, the chemistry between both characters works well, and the novella-length is perfect.
The second novella, Closed-Door Policy by Erin Zak, is an age gap teacher/student romance, but this time, the teacher is a lot younger than the student. Caroline Stevens’ life completely changed after she was shot doing her job as a nurse in Chicago. Her husband left her and she moved to Sedona, Arizona to be closer to her daughter and her family. She enrols in an eight-week college program to get her teaching certificate and apply for a job as a nursing instructor. One of her classes is creative writing, taught by Dr Atlanta Morris, an incredibly talented and bitchy young teacher, who also happens to be supposed to mentor her.
The characters are great, even if I wanted to shake Atlanta more than once. I really liked Caroline’s trio of college students friends, the way they take her in as one of their own despite the age difference. I wish there had been more about the daughter, she seemed fun and I enjoyed the family dynamics.
Caroline’s real attraction to a woman for the first time at 55 goes surprisingly unchallenged (her barely-there doubts are mentioned a few times but never beyond the surface), and I didn’t completely believe that waiting eight weeks was really so difficult when not doing so meant fatally endangering Atlanta’s career. Which also led to a rather rushed ending. It was still fun to read, even so.
My favourite novella of the three is Private Equity by Elle Spencer. Julia is definitely an ice queen but when we meet her, the thawing has already begun, unbeknownst to her chief of staff Cassidy. When Julia, her tough and cold-hearted venture capitalist boss, asks to tag along to her friend Sarah’s birthday party, Cassidy can’t say no. She can’t say no either when Julia pretends to be her girlfriend so that Sarah will stop trying to fix her up with totally inappropriate women. As her closest collaborator, Cassidy has seen sides of Julia most people don’t know, most notably as the mother of a precocious five-year-old daughter, and these glimpses into her more private self make her impossible to resist, even though she’s straight and her boss, and all that.
This novella is so very Elle Spencer. It’s hilarious and moving, well-written, sarcastic and sweet at the same time. While it doesn’t feel rushed, or crammed or anything, this story is one I could absolutely see as a longer novel.