Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Kat's Review: The Boss of Her

The Boss of Her by Julie Cannon, Aurora Rey, and M. Ullrich
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (April 16, 2018)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- F/F

Going to work never felt so good. Three office romance novellas from talented writers Julie Cannon, Aurora Rey, and M. Ullrich. 

In For Your Eyes Only by Julie Cannon: Dress for success takes on a very different meaning. CFO Riley Stephenson finds herself in a particularly difficult position when the stripper she's fallen for shows up at her office―as her new employee.

In Lead Counsel by Aurora Rey: Attorney Elisa Gonzalez is happy working behind the scenes while still having time for a life. All that changes when her firm takes on a major case and Parker Jones, powerhouse litigator and her law school crush, is named lead counsel.

In Opportunity of a Lifetime by M. Ullrich: Luca Garner is eager and hardworking, but her new boss is a total nightmare―snarky and uncooperative, not to mention an ice queen. VP Stephanie Austin doesn’t mean to be unkind, but the last thing she wants is an assistant getting under her skin, especially one who is as attractive as she is kind.

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Kat's Review:

As M/M is very over-represented in queer romance, I was looking forward to reading this trio of lesbian romances. I feel like this set is really a microcosm of romance: the writing style, plot, and dialogue vary widely. I’m not sure if these novellas will be available separately, but I’ll review each of them on their own. Their order is slightly different than that in the blurb; I’ll review in book order.

Lead Counsel

This was the best one, hands down. It was also first, which set my expectations way too high for the others. I was very easily invested in the story of Elisa, a lawyer with a really good work-life balance, doing her thing in her Louisiana law firm, and Parker, a former classmate of Elisa’s who comes down south after working in New York for a while. Elisa and Parker have History, which colors their perceptions of each other in different ways. Parker is trying to slow down her life and smell the roses, etc., while Elisa does a great job of modeling what it means to have a life beyond one’s occupation.

I found their romantic tension, and doubt based on their encounter in law school, to be very realistic and relatable. I liked both of them, too. Parker has been brought onto a civil case, a barracuda who Elisa’s firm is hoping will scare the other side (the bad one) into settling. Elisa’s boss is pretty excited about Parker’s reputation, and how everyone treats her (who, from her description sounds pretty obviously butch) is so wonderful, like a fairy tale where women are taken seriously in the workplace, and are given leadership positions because they’re skilled and have earned them.

Without giving too much away, Past Parker did something that hurt Past Elisa, and Present Elisa is warranted in being guarded around Present Parker. They have a conversation about their past interactions, and Parker sets about to show Elisa that she has changed from who she was in law school.

Because it’s a novella, and there’s an actual a plot, there isn’t too much sex, but what there is is sweet and Parker and Elisa are both grown-up enough to handle it and the aftermath.

The only drawback to this one is that though it’s third person POV, the omniscient perspective can switch quickly. I could be reading about Parker’s thoughts, and then the next paragraph would be talking about Elisa’s inner monologue. Not a fatal error, but it could be jarring. On the whole, though, I definitely wouldn’t have minded spending more time with these ladies.

Lead Counsel = 5 stars.

For Your Eyes Only

As I mentioned above, the novellas varied in quality. This one was a bit of a let-down after how much I liked Lead Counsel. The premise is that Riley attends her BFF’s 50th birthday (I didn’t learn until later that Riley is mid-30s; she just has an older friend) and falls in lust with a stripper there (“Jess,” which is not her real name), who she hires several times for private shows. And then the mysterious lady (whose real name is Dana) ends up getting a job at the company where Riley is CFO.

One of the problems I had here was the dual first person POV, though that’s not even entirely accurate. The novella is split into three parts: Part 1 is Riley’s first person POV, then Part 2 is Dana’s first person POV, except that it also covers almost exactly the same period of time as in Part 1, just from Dana’s POV. So I learned just what she was thinking when she and Riley met the first time, and how she felt during each of the private sessions. The entire time I was reading Part 2, I was not sure what its purpose was. If we needed to know exactly what Dana was thinking, a very quick and easy method would be to have a flashback or a “she’d felt the attraction instantly” or something. Not a literal play-by-play. I mean, it’s not Grey, but it really felt unnecessary. Then we get to Part 3, which is third person, mostly from Riley’s perspective, and picks up where Riley and Dana realize that they’re now coworkers (well, Riley is Dana’s Super Boss).

This is probably due to my background in organizational psychology, but I winced a lot at the problematic power dynamics of a company CFO hiring a subordinate for sex work (because of course Riley keeps seeing Dana for private shows). And neither disclosed their prior relationship to their company. I know, I know, it’s fiction. But it made me uncomfortable.

This novella was mostly a “slice-of-life” story. I didn’t get too much backstory on either Riley or Dana. And while most of the focus is on their interactions, I didn’t see their relationship developing much, either. Yes, they’re attracted to each other. But why? Is it just lust? Do they have things in common? I don’t know.

The ending felt a little abrupt and ambiguous to me, and I couldn’t help feeling their future is full of signs saying “Here be dragons.” The writing style was ok, and I got a little lost with some of Dana’s strip routines. I did definitely pick up on a specific dance, being very familiar with its inspiration, and if you’ve seen “Striptease” as many times as I have, you will, too. (Hey, I was a confused baby queer, don’t judge me.)

It’s not that I didn’t like Riley and Dana. I was fine with Dana; Riley seemed like a cipher, and I didn’t feel like I knew anything about her by the end. The thing that sunk this one for me, though, was definitely the repetition of Part 2. I don’t think its purpose was to have the reader ask “why am I reading this?” throughout the whole section.

For Your Eyes Only = 2 Stars

Opportunity of a Lifetime

The actions of this one’s boss, Stephanie Austin, made me want to punch something. She. Is. A. Terrible. Boss. Remember when I said I have organizational psychology background? Her behavior would inspire low organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and few organizational citizenship behaviors, and high turnover, absenteeism, and burnout. Seriously, just awful.

Stephanie is a preeminent forensic accountant, which sounds cool, and probably is! She’s used to working alone, though, and does not seem to like people much at all. She’s really awkward around her family, especially her nephew (I can definitely relate to that, at least), and isn’t happy when her boss assigns her an assistant. This assistant, Luca Garner, is a rising star in forensic accounting, and Stephanie’s boss wants Stephanie to mentor Luca and nurture her talents.

I can understand Stephanie bristling at the prospect of having to babysit someone until they’ve proven themselves, but she consistently tries to sabotage Luca’s prospects. She won’t let Luca do assistant things, like answering her phone or keeping her calendar, and shuts her out of the cases she’s working on, instead assigning her filing work in the basement.

Luca eventually proves her worth (initially by handling Stephanie’s nephew, which sends a weird message, like she has to demonstrate care-giving talents?), and Stephanie realizes what an ass she’s been. Her initial actions come back to bite her, though, as they definitely should.

I know that Stephanie’s behavior is supposed to be the purpose and driver of tension in the story, but for me, it just inspired visions of me punching things. She could have been an excellent mentor, right from the start. We need more women mentoring women in every industry. Instead, Stephanie is petty and cranky, basically because she doesn’t want to talk to someone at her job. She does get over it, and realizes how good Luca is, but at what cost?

They get a HFN, but I am definitely giving Stephanie the side-eye. I did not want to spend more time with her, though I liked Luca ok (she was pretty peppy, which can be a positive or a negative, I guess).

Opportunity of a Lifetime [it wasn’t] = 2 stars.

Overall, this set of novellas features very different characters in terms of personality, though they feature mostly white characters, with no mention of trans folks or disabled folks. For a variety of reasons, gay male MCs saturate the queer romance space, so it’s nice to see women who love women as central characters. But even though the quality of these stories varies, I’d still recommend them.

3 Stars average
2 - 5 STARS! 

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Source: NetGalley eARC

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Thanks for the reviews, Kat! 


Until Next Time,

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