3.5* – I had liked the interaction between Claire and Zoe so much in A Special Gift, the bonus short story in F is For… Five Sapphic Tales, that I wanted to go back to their origin story, discover how they met and why that blindfold was such a big deal.
Reading an established author’s debut novel after you’ve read some of their later work is often fascinating, as you get to see how their writing has evolved, or not.
Finding Love Down Under is Donna Jay’s first full-length novel, and it starts with a bang. Claire finds out her girlfriend has been filming their sexual encounters and making money from posting the videos on porn sites, taking care of hiding her own face under masks but leaving Claire easily recognizable. Instead of crumbling under the weight of the betrayal, Claire picks herself up and moves on. A year later, she’s the owner of a vineyard. She meets Zoe by chance and, realising the young Canadian needs a job and a place to stay, she takes her under her wing. Both women soon find out they’re attracted to each other and are both into kink. They also both have trust issues to work out.
One of the reasons I love reading so much is that I get to travel. I love that not all anglophone lesfic is written in American English and that sometimes idioms find their way into the dialogue. I love that sense of discovering something new, of shifting a little to the side, not always being on firm ground surrounded by landscapes and people I know. Donna Jay does a great job of keeping the language true to her characters while still making it understandable to those not familiar with New Zealand.
Donna Jay’s writing has definitely evolved since she wrote this novel, which at times feels a little choppy, but her trademarks are already here. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a lot more plot than I expected. It’s complete instalust/instalove, as is often the case in erotic romances. The characters are complex, Zoe is a sweetheart and Claire is kind and careful, there’s mild BDSM and power play, and the recurring themes are trust, communication and, most important to me, always, consent. There’s also a very real romantic element, which makes this story both hot and sweet.