3.5* – Despite her friends’ efforts to set her up with all kinds of women, Charley Owens doesn’t mind being single since her twenty-five years relationship ended abruptly three years ago. Love often comes to those who don’t expect it nor look for it, and Charley suddenly finds herself interested in two women, one – Neely – much younger but sweet and fun, the other – Joanna – closer to her own age, dark and mysterious. Her job as an executive assistant allows her time to revisit the novel she had tried writing before writer’s block stumped her for twenty-odd years. These developments – dating again, writing again – are brand new in Charley’s life when we meet her, then the past comes back blasting when her ex, Tricia, asks for her help while she fights lung cancer.
This novel didn’t work for me. It felt well-written but dull and, at times, dated. It’s sometimes too wordy and there’s too much minutiae. I don’t want to read so much about cleaning and other house chores, it is not exciting and it slows the pace too much. It made connecting with the characters difficult, made me feel insensitive, as I couldn’t get myself to care whether Tricia was going to beat cancer or not.
Forging a Desire Line has many of the marks of a debut novel: it parallels the author’s life (as in, write what you know), and it goes simultaneously in too many directions, as if the author hadn’t been able to choose between all her ideas, which makes it feel a bit disjointed.
There’s a lot of promises in this book, however. My impression is that the writing is there, now it needs emotions. I found out, reading the author’s bio at the end, that, while this is her debut novel, I have already read her prose, and enjoyed it a lot. Last December, I reviewed the Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year (volume 4) anthology, edited by Sinclair Sexsmith, and Burns’ short story, Leviathan, written under the name of Catherine Collinsworth, is one of the two I remember best. So I know she can do emotions and scorching hot scenes. Maybe now that she’s exorcised her writer’s block, through Charley, she can let her writing flow more freely. I’ll be looking forward to her next novel.