Books Reviews

REVIEW: “Rhapsody” by KG MacGregor

If you’ve followed by blog over the last few months, you may remember a review I did of the movie “One Day” (you can read the whole entry here).  In that review, I compared watching that movie with reading a book by Karin Kallmaker or KG MacGregor:

Pick up a book by KK or KGM and you’re sure to get the following:

  • Interesting, 3-dimensional, well-developed characters
  • Believable dialogue
  • Nicely developed plot lines that, while often fitting that “romance formula,” never – EVER – seem overdone or banal
  • A lovely romance, usually developing throughout the book with just the right amount of sexual tension to keep things interesting until The Time
  • Most importantly – A HAPPY ENDING!!

I stand by this.  Particularly after reading KG MacGregor’s newest offering, Rhapsody (Bella Books).

Rhapsody tells the story of Ashley Giraud, award-winning news anchor in Tampa Bay, FL and Julia Whitethorn, owner and stylist at Rhapsody hair salon.  Ashley and Julia are brought together by a mutual friend who suggests Ashley visit Rhapsody for her hair appointments after Ashley’s regular stylist is no longer available.  Soon, Julia and her small group of friends gradually bring Ashley into the fold and out of her self-imposed solitude.  But as Ashley and Julia grow closer, will Ashley’s well-kept secrets prevent them from finding their “happily ever after”?

Readers have come to expect great reading material from a KG MacGregor novel and time after time, MacGregor does not disappoint.  So it is with Rhapsody.  KGM has put together a compelling romance filled with interesting characters and just a splash of mystery – all of which holds the reader’s interest from beginning to end.

Past work has shown that one of KGM’s strengths is writing well-rounded, clearly developed characters.  The same holds true for the characters in Rhapsody.  We learn details about both the main characters – and their supporting cast – that make each woman distinctly different and fully unique.  I’m sure we’ve all read books that had characters who were so alike, we lost track of who was who.  This is not the case here.  The secondary characters are also very interesting and diverse – KGM does a great job of showing how that diversity binds them together as a group of friends.

The most growth as a character is seen in Ashley Giraud.  At the beginning of the novel, Ashley is aloof and rather introverted when it comes to her life outside the TV persona.  When she’s “on”, Ashley is the most trusted, most beloved newsperson in Tampa Bay – beautiful, smart, friendly.  But once away from the public eye, Ashley is perfectly content to spend her time at home – alone with her garden and her nightmare-ish memories.  Gradually, however, she is drawn out by this small group of women, finding that it’s okay to turn off the TV personality and simply be.

Ashley’s interactions with Julia are key to this burgeoning social life.  Julia becomes the one person who Ashley is able to speak to freely – slowly revealing bits of herself that she’s never shared with anyone else – save, perhaps, her therapist.  Julia becomes more and more of an anchor for Ashley as their relationship develops – remaining steady and true as Ashley deals with traumatizing events of her past.  Perhaps, however, Julia is a bit too steady and true .  I think Julia might have been just a bit too calm in the face of everything that was happening with Ashley; she was a little to quick to back off and “give Ashley her space.”  Her conversation with a military veteran while having a drink at a bar in Ft Lauderdale spurs Julia into action and she becomes a tad more determined to not allow Ashley to push her away.  But, for me, this just doesn’t seem to be the dramatic catalyst that I was hoping for.  We moved from “I’m here for whatever you need” to “I’m here for whatever you need and I really, really mean it!”  I think Julia is a great character who is well-written.  She’s intelligent and witty.  I just think she didn’t really have as much growth in the novel.  Perhaps that was by design – she doesn’t carry the baggage that Ashley carries, so perhaps she didn’t need as much growth.  Personally, I would have liked just a little more “umph” in Julia’s character.  If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay…let me know below by leaving a comment.  I’d love to hear counter-arguments.  You may bring something to my attention that I hadn’t thought of.  I can be swayed.

Where this novel truly excels is the telling of the romance.  MacGregor always, always tells a good romance.  What I really appreciate about this particular romance is that it’s a mature romance.  What do I mean by that?  Hmm.  Well, these characters are not young 20-somethings who don’t have a lot of life experience.  Ashley and Julia are adults – late 30s and early 40s – who have been in their respective businesses for quite some time.  They are experts, professionals.  They have life experience and they’ve learned from it.  They’ve sailed these waters before…to varying success.   Appropriately, it is in the romance that we see the most conflict.  It’s interesting to see how these two woman navigate the obstacles that are placed in front of them – both individually and together.  There were some aspects of their romance – particularly the physical romance – that were left unresolved at the end of the novel.  I’m actually glad they were left unresolved.  Had all obstacles been magically overcome by the close of the book, it would have felt very, very unrealistic.  The issues at hand are serious issues that will not be resolved simply by someone saying “I love you.”  But, at the same time, the reader is left confident that these obstacles will be overcome and that Ashley and Julia will have their “happily ever after.”  Of course, this also leaves room for further exploration in a sequel.  It’s NOT an open-ended finish to the novel by any means…but there’s wiggle room if MacGregor wishes to wiggle. (Or Twist – KGM does a mean Twist.)

Rhapsody is definitely a novel that I will be revisiting…it’s really that good.  If anything I’ve mentioned above comes off as truly negative criticism, then I’ve done a very poor job of expressing myself.  I very highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a really good romance with an interesting story line and fascinating characters.

It’s clear to see why KG MacGregor is one of the big, bright, shining stars of Lesbian Literature.

1 comment on “REVIEW: “Rhapsody” by KG MacGregor

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