Tuesday, January 24, 2012

After the Night by Rachel Dax

Book:  After the Night
Author:  Rachel Dax
Publisher:  Self-Published

One of the advantages of growing up in a small town is that I had the good fortune of knowing my grandparents as regular features in my life.  In particular, my dad’s mom, Wilma, was my best friend, hero, and chocolate chip cookie enabler. 

I’m the twitchy little dyke I am today because of her constant love and devil-may-care attitude.

Still, Wilma led a hard life as a farmer’s wife, and my parents and aunt finally convinced her to move off the farm and into town in 1970.  At the time, she grumped that she was just fine where she was, but I never heard her complain about suddenly having electricity, indoor plumbing, running water, a washing machine and dryer, a telephone, or a furnace.

She did, however, put up a valiant and successful fight against the evils of air conditioning for another thirty-one years.

One of Wilma's Stories
One of the things my grandma loved most about living in town was that she could regularly volunteer at the library three times a week, and any time she needed to go to the Stop-n-Shop to do her trading, which was conveniently located next door.  Grandma would help the librarian restock the shelves, work the front desk, and carry stacks of books to and from the bookmobile. 

As ‘payment’ for her efforts, the librarian would send grandma home with a paper bag full of “stories,” as she liked to call them.  Her absolute favorites were the Avon originals, Harlequin romances, and the old Mills & Boon books in brown.

As a kid, I mostly remember the covers usually featured handsome, square-jawed men and women with flowing hair and oh-so-heaving bosoms…no wonder I grew up to have a squishy little heart and a healthy libido.

In After the Night, author Rachel Dax takes her readers back in time to 1960 in this pulp fiction nod to the 1956 film, Yield to the Night.

Yield to the Night Poster
US Theatrical Release
Which featured the “eye-filling, gasp-provoking, blonde bombshell,” Diana Dors, as a murderess sentenced to hang and spending her last days in the condemned cell in a British women's prison.

Twenty-two year old nurse, Leah Webster takes a position in the hospital wing of Deepdown women’s prison in order to save up money for her impending marriage to the handsome and square-jawed Bill.  Dark haired serious looking Chief Officer Jean MacFarlane is assigned responsibility by the Governor for her introduction.  Immediately, “Mac,” who is a walking contradiction, intrigues Leah – the guard is edgy, distant, rigidly professional, and gruff, but almost without fail, the prisoners and other prison workers seem to brighten up when she is near. 

By the time Leah is introduced to Matron and the prisoners in the sanatorium, she’s having second thoughts about taking on this position.  Almost immediately, Marge, who is infirm with a broken hip, begins flirting openly with Leah.  Leah has heard stories of inverts and perverts, but has never really encountered one before, and is even more unsettled.

Of course, over the next few days, Leah learns of Mac’s heart being broken by the execution of a prisoner she was assigned to guard.  And, then, a young prisoner that is one of Mac’s favorites is rushed to the san – she’s been beaten severely and is deep in the throes of pneumonia.  Mac stays by her side night and day, and as Leah watches the motherly love and devotion, she suddenly realizes that she may be developing feelings for the older woman.  Leah fights the feelings, and even capitulates to sex with Bill to convince herself she’s not an invert, but all she can think of is Mac.

Of course, true love must always be fought for, and their budding relationship is tested time and again by a prison break that turns deadly, lies and deceit that threaten their jobs and their honor, ugly prejudice and vile accusations, and a wholly unplanned and unimagined surprise.

They push, they pull, they have partially-clothed sex in Mac’s office, they plan a life with hundreds of dogs and cats…

Rachel Dax delivers a solid debut in this highly stylized piece of British historical romance.  After the Night features strong central characters that offer a satisfying mix of strength and vulnerability, and a plot that twists and turns and inspires feelings of true joy and ultimate despair. 

The author gets her mojo rolling and channels the very best of the Avon, Harlequin and Mills & Boon authors of the late 50s, 60s, and early 70s.

Ms. Dax has produced a story that exemplifies the very best of the classic romance novel, and checks off each and every box on the “So You Want to Write Romances” pamphlet… 

  • After the Night revolves around two women as they develop romantic love for each other and work to build a lasting relationship together.
  • Both the conflict and the climax of the story are directly related to that core theme of developing a romantic relationship, and the myriad subplots that do not specifically relate to the main characters' romantic love add appropriate levels of angst and turmoil. 
  • In addition, Ms. Dax rewards the characters who are good, and penalizes those who are evil; we see the couple fighting for and believing in their relationship, and we see them rewarded with happiness and unconditional love in the end.

I appreciate that Rachel Dax wrote this historical romance, stayed true to the rules of romance writing, and produced characters and dialogue that are appropriate to the time period and character stations in life.  After the Night is a fun, artful, and compelling read, and it is different from anything else on the Lesfic market.

Think the love child of Kathleen Woodiwiss and Mabel Maney.

This book took me back in time, and reminded me of those stories my grandma loved so much – and I mean that to be a high compliment to Ms. Dax.  At times, the plot was a bit predictable, but the story forged ahead at a brisk pace.  For aficionados of classic lesbian romance, this is a must read. 

After the Night gets a rising 4.9 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.


  1. What fun! This review was almost as much fun as the book appears to be.And who couldn't enjoy a little time travel back to "the day". Life today is a bit more angsty but it sounds like ms Dax has brought us some relief.
    Kudos, Ms West!

  2. Thanks for this thorough and rather lovely review, Salem x

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  4. Thank you very much, Taryn. Glad you enjoyed it xx

  5. Another fascinating review. While I am not familiar with that style of writing from the 50's, 60's, and 70's, it looks like a wonderful book to introduce me to it. I already have "After The Night" on my Kindle, and I will be moving it to the top of the list to "Start Reading....Now". It is writers like Rachel Dax that will help destroy the myth that self-published novels are sub-par. This is a prime example of an intelligent writer creating and technically producing just as fine a piece of literature as any one out there.

  6. Well - I just hope you like it now, Karen...

  7. Ms. MacBean and Karen!!! Welcome back to TRR, thanks for swinging by to talk about "After the Night". Taryn, welcome to the TRR family and weighing in on this story - stop by any time. Rachel, wow, you stuck your landing on this one...

  8. Your review was fun to read, I am a staunch believer “A child's life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark”. I believe this resonates both with your review, and the story being told. Like in the book After The Night, most of us have family or people from our past that either inspire us to open our hearts and instruct our minds in the need for toleration not to fear all that we do not understand. While others will teach only to share in their beliefs and biases using them to influence those who are forced to listen. As we grow to form our own opinions and become strong enough to follow our hearts and believes we often fall into direct conflict. Often outcaste from the family we are rarely able to express our feelings, fears or aspirations like other family members. The character Leah having a mother with such biases that made me want to spit feathers, no unconditional love there. Although set in 1960 I felt it speaks reams of now, although some of us have come a long way we are by definition deluding ourselves that we have it all and this book for me echoes this parallel but for the life of me I don’t know why? What keeps this book modern is the pace it is written.
    I thought Rachel Dax covered all these feelings and so much more within the characters of this story and for this I rate her book as one of the Best Books I have found in years, a classic in the making. Personally I would have given this a strong 5.6, add to this “Self-Published” I would give her book another .4, a truly great book, from an exciting new author buy it now, I am so pleased I did.

  9. Thank you hazeyfantasey! That's the second time you've been so lovely about my work that you've made me cry! So glad you love the book xxx

  10. This is not on topic, but I noticed that you review older lesbian lit. Have you done a review for Mary Renault's "The Middle Mist/The Friendly Young Ladies"? I love your reviews -- they're so informative.

    ~ Heather (tougakiryuugroupie@yahoo.com)

  11. Nice to see a self-published author being given a fair shot at a fair review. I have defnitely got this on my Must Read List for next month when I'll finally be able to get around to purchasing a Kindle! This review, over and above all the others on the site, drove me to the Amazon Look Inside and I like what I see.

  12. Hey Devon, thanks for stopping by. I have a hunch you'll like what Rachel Dax has to offer. Sometimes books just speak to us, glad you heard this one!

  13. Well, Ms Devon from Scotland (please note the British geographical humour...) - I look forward to hearing your thoughts! :-D Thanks, Salem, for becoming such an effective marketing department... ;-)