BLACK IRIS by Leah Raeder
NA Contemporary Romance
Beautiful prose with a complex storyline, though perhaps overcomplicated by its timelines.
The hazard of switchback time, let alone more than two timelines, is that clarity is essential. It’s very easy to lose yourself in BLACK IRIS, and if you think that you’ll muddle through without being cognizant of the dates at the start of each chapter, then you’re wrong. Raeder’s prose is effervescent and her characters immediately compelling, it’s just hard to keep what everyone knows and doesn’t know straight from about halfway through onward. Part of the satisfaction in a complex plot is being able to unfurl it with the characters; here it felt like we were robbed of the rush of discovery by never being given the clues we needed to scent it in the first place. Some revenges are clear and very satisfying, others blindside us and seem too brutal until a reason is revealed conveniently in-scene. Laney’s addiction and drug use is carefully fleshed out and her relationship with Blythe burns on the page.
An immensely satisfying story of female friendship and romance that explores the dark places of the human psyche without losing its footing on the way down, even if its bloated plot occasionally stumbles.
CAM GIRL by Leah Raeder
NA Contemporary Romance
This was one of those books that I was really looking forward to– I’d read UNTEACHABLE, and that was fantastic– and I loved Raeder’s prose (it’s not a Raeder book unless the word “bokeh” appears at least once).
As much as I loved the characters, the unique and complicated world of camming, the point where this fell apart for me was the reveal. It’s fairly obvious from the start what the twist is–who the mysterious Blue is– but a little under halfway we are presented with a scene that makes our leading choice impossible. I’d liked knowing Blue’s identity and drawing conclusions about that other character, so I was scrambling. However, in the end this twist ends up being a red herring and Blue is the person we thought all along, and the machinations felt less like legerdemain and more like a fake-out for one last cheap thrill before an inevitable conclusion. I would have liked this more probably if it had dug down more into the characters without feeling like it had to surprise me with Blue– the mystery of the accident is enough to compel me to keep going, though I would have appreciated perhaps some more complications from the world of camming as well.
The prose is, as always, stellar and incredibly personal, and that alone makes this deserve a spot on your TBR, even if the plot is a little conflated.