Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rhapsody by KG MacGregor


Book:  Rhapsody
Author:  KG MacGregor
Publisher:  Bella Books

While often dismissed by the tony hair salons under the bright lights of the big cities, the Midwestern is a fringe hairstyle sported by sensible women in sweater sets and comfortable shoes all across the Corn Belt. It generally incorporates a range of style tricks from a decade or two earlier, including angled overgrown sideburns in front of the ears, a spiky top with shorter sides, and the ubiquitous color, perm, cut, and comb out. 

On the most rare of occasions, it evokes that wonderful example of onomatopoeia, “shellac.”

All this and a latte too!
My mom has a Midwestern and has gone to the Fresh As A Daisy Hair Salon to have her hair set every Thursday morning for the better part of thirty years.  The Fresh As A Daisy is a one-stop shop—you can get your hair and nails done, tan, discuss state and local politics, pay your water bill, and order a venti, non-fat, no foam, no water, 6 pump, extra hot, chai tea latte to go.

Some of the biggest hair of my life came courtesy of Mary at the Fresh As A Daisy Hair Salon. 

Mind you, it was the halcyon days of the 80s, and big hair was the height of fashion, even for twitchy little dykes.  Of course, back in those days, Nancy Reagan was President [sic], Murder, She Wrote, Matlock, and Golden Girls were the top shows on television, and the little known 8888 Uprising made what would soon be known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre look like child’s play.

But I digress; we were talking about hair.

I, personally, discovered the Fresh As A Daisy as a traumatized teenager­­. By that time, my older cousin, Glenda Sue, had graduated from cosmetology school and was using me as her personal crash test dummy. Since my freshman year of high school, I had suffered through a storied range of hair disasters that included, among others, a botched color job that rendered my hair a lovely shade of pond water gray, an epic failure of a haircut that Jaromir Jagr adopted as his very own a mere decade later, and a haunting perm that was eerily reminiscent of the one Phil Spector sported at his murder trial. 

Suffice it to say, finding a hairdresser who understood the unique elements of my husky hair changed my life for the better—draw your own conclusions below.

My big Fresh As A Daisy hair
In KG MacGregor’s newest release, Rhapsody, TV4 anchorwoman Ashley Giraud has worked hard to become Tampa’s most beloved and recognizable personality.  She’s smart, beautiful, and has an easy style that makes coworkers and viewers trust and adore her.  But, beneath the public persona, Ashley fights a brutal battle against a raging torrent of demons.  When she finds herself in need of a new stylist, her coworker Robin suggests Rhapsody, a small salon owned by Julia Whitethorn.  Julia and Ashley strike up an easy but arm's length camaraderie, until slowly Ashley allows herself to open up to invitations from Julia and her eclectic group of friends.  

While Ashley begins to appreciate the way her new world is opening up, she continues to hide her secrets and fight her torments, taking one step back to every two steps forward.  It doesn’t take long for Julia and Ashley to admit feelings and a growing sexual attraction to one another.  But despite Ashley’s best efforts to purge her demons, and Julia’s best efforts to understand and support the woman she loves, there is no quick fix for either.  When the story of her career breaks on the one day she’s out of town, what’s left of Ashley’s world begins to crumble at an accelerated pace.   There’s no doubt that Ashley and Julia love each other, but is that love big enough and strong enough to withstand the rest of their journey?

KG MacGregor’s Rhapsody is a well-written story populated by keenly-developed characters.  The tempo is apropos to the story, at times lento, presto, or allegro, and the bits of wit and drama are balanced and timely.  The relationship between Julia and Ashley is believable, and the pacing of their attraction adds credibility to their actions.  The supporting cast of characters is multi-dimensional, and they each add depth and value to the greater story. 

Ms. MacGregor skillfully writes Ashley Giraud such that the reader develops a peculiar para-social relationship with the character—much like the anchorwoman’s daily viewers. In fact, we know little more than the public aspects of the anchorwoman's life without Julia as a conduit.  Likewise, Julia’s character is kind to a fault, and pays attention to the world around her, yet Ms. MacGregor nimbly and quietly slips her into patterns of romantic relationships where her needs are only partially met.

The novel is a heady mix of literary contradictions—at turns edgy and austere, then sweet and playful. While it is a classic love story, it’s not another run-of-the-mill romance.  In truth, Rhapsody is the fractured fairytale of two women falling in love, and emerging stronger for it. And, while there is the requisite “happy ending,” it’s a happy ending with a caveat: Ashley hasn’t vanquished the bête noire from the depths of her soul, and Julia may never have all of her needs met by the woman she loves.

During last year's GCLS Keynote Address, Ms. MacGregor pointedly challenged writers to address dark themes such as rape, incest, exploitation, manipulation, and violence because these sadly are as much a part of our lesbian community as romance and first love. In this novel, KG MacGregor has managed to walk the talk—Rhapsody is a story that stays with you long after you close the book, not so much because of the sweet romance or the enviable friendships, but because of the specter of darkness that lingers.

I’m giving Rhapsody a solid 5.2 out of 6.0 on the Rainbow Scale for all that, and a good read to boot.

2 comments:

  1. I have this book in my kindle and it was a toss up if I would start this or another in the line up next. Now I'm decided. I'll be reading 'Rhapsody' before the night is out.

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    Replies
    1. Splended, Mary Anne! Hope you enjoy the story, you can't go wrong with KG MacGregor.

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