Review: Roller Girl by Vanessa North07:58
Author: Vanessa North
Genre: Queer romance, F/F, Trans
Release Date: 25 July 2016
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My rating: 3 Stars
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Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
Review by Ellie
This is my first f/f romance, rather trans f/f romance and I liked a lot of things about this story but there were also some elements that did not work very well for me.
I generally enjoy Ms North's writing, the way she builds this ordinary, often sweet, life for her characters is a bright light in the midst of many romances where the characters are often victims of abuse, violence and their happy ending is a hard won one and bittersweet. I found these elements made a very pleasant and entertaining mix in Blueberry Boys (review) which is my favourite book by Ms North. We have these elements here too but here they seemed overabundant and the sweetness was borderline cheesy at times.
I was excited to try f/f romance for the first time and I did enjoy the way the relationship between Tina and Joe developed. It read as real and believable and I was glad that things between them worked out without any major/over-the-top drama. At the same time I have to admit that Joe's resistance to having a relationship with Tina because they were both in the same roller derby team (Actually, Joe was the coach and she invited Tina to join which didn't happen until later in the story, mind you) was too much, it felt like a convenient excuse and not a real obstacle.
While I enjoyed reading about Tina forging a new life on her own after her divorce, I would have liked to see more of her past, her transition, everything that happened to her to bring her to place where she was at the moment. It felt like an important element of her character was missing from the story.
I didn't get really involved in the roller derby as a sport/hobby but this didn't bother me too much. It ave me enough sense of the community and camaraderie among the different women in story, and it was nice seeing women supporting each other for a change. At the same time, there were subplots and elements related to team's dynamics which I was interested in but there were just glossed over and not explored in the depth they deserved.
While I very much like and appreciate the inclusion of characters with different sexuality, at times it read as preachy and the message for celebration of diversity seemed superimposed on the story/characters and not an intrinsic element of it.
Having said that, I still think it's a nice, sweet f/f romance. It's well-written, engaging and positive, if a bit too sweet for my taste. I think it touches upon important issues of sexuality and identity and building relationships and I wish they were explored in more depth and detail.