Sunday, April 24, 2011

Promises, Promises by L-J Baker

Book: Promises, Promises: a romp with plenty of dykes, a unicorn, an ogre, an oracle, a quest, a princess, and true love with a happily ever after
Author: L-J Baker
Publisher: Lethe Press

"This is the room of the wolfmother wallpaper. The toadstool motel you once thought a mere folk tale, a corny, obsolete, rural invention." 

So starts the 1990 masterwork, Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. It could very well be the introduction to L-J Baker's reminiscent work, Promises, Promises. That's not to say that Ms. Baker's quest mimicked any part of Robbins' book, but man, what a sweet bit of playful, jaunty magic all rolled up in to a tasty phantasmagorical farce.

And all this without the faintest reference to a can of pork and beans, a spoon, a conch shell once part of the worship of the goddess Astarte, an Airstream disguised as a giant roast turkey, a vibrator, a dirty sock, or a talking stick.

True, true.  Instead our senses are assaulted with a Cyranoesque dyke, a dispossessed queen with loonie delusions and a wickedly shiny yet sharp paring knife, a post-modern feminist albeit straight warrior, a Renaissance Ogre horticulturist , stinky elves with way too much time on their hands, a unicorn dwarf with pathologic non-virgin issues, a pickled misogynist, a brutally frank talking pearl, one seriously closeted tin man, and the lovely, dimpled, resourceful, and business-savvy Ruth.

Va va voom!!!!

Promises, Promises . . . is the story of Sandy Blunt, an average at best witch with a silver tongue, when it comes to ladies she can't have.  One day, after sipping a bit too much of the brandy-laced Prodigiously Incredible Empericus's Cough Balm , she gets the opportunity to read the fortune of a most lovely lady, with [wait for it] creamy breasts.  Unbeknownst to her and her alcohol-soggy brain, Maybelle, the Princess, takes every silver-tongued promise to heart.  Sandy is then taken into custody, because prophesy is illegal in the Kingdom.  Drusilla, the self-proclaimed "dispossessed princess" cheerfully and clearly convinces the King to let Sandy make good on her seven promises.  Thus begins a fitfully funny journey into the world at large, that results in Princess Maybelle finding her true and pimply love, Sandy finding her destiny in dimples, and Mavis and Bob finding true equity in love, life, women's rights, and compost.

I could give a more in-depth description of the book's details, but why spoil the fun for those of you who haven't had the chance to experience any of it yet?

Okay, here's the scoop for the review:  This was a truly magical book . . . but I suspect that a lot of the ladies won't give it the respect due because it's like nothing out there on the shelves.  It's not a mystery with a tough and chewy butch with a gun [which I love]; it's not a romance full of push and pull before the girl finally gets the girl [pitter-pat goes my heart]; and there's not even the faintest hint of dykes-gone-wild, booty, patooty fun [schwing goes the rest of me].

So, why did you like the book?  Mmm, like I said, kinda reminded me of ol' Tom Robbins. 

I've read a whole bunch of fantasy books that star lesbian characters, and loved [just about] everyone one of them.  

And trust me when I say that love goes way, way, way, waaaaaay back to my first adolescent lesbian crush on Gaby Plauget, the astronomer from John Varley's Gaea Trilogy.  

L-J Baker, whether intentional or not, gives a firm nod to the awless stylings of Robbins, but has the joyous temerity to tweak Pynchon and Joyce.  She gleefully butt-smacks us with the flighty hint of texture and eloquence, and rolls the rest of the story in a tart, sexy, and surprisingly politically charged wrapper.  The result is a deliciously smart-assed and irreverent tale of heros, dirty underwear, love-lorn dragons, and a world that would be a lot better off if we all stopped to kiss the dimples.

While I fully expected to get to the end of the book, only to find that the whole story took place inside a pint of ripe mead, I wasn't disappointed to find that there was a truly happy ever after.

Of course, a little bit of lusty bar-wench sex wouldn't have been that bad now, would it????

I can't complain about much in this book being overbaked, over-used, or over-done. The romances, gay and straight or even piscine and humanoid, all seemed fresh and fun. If I have a complaint, as a reader, it's the timeline. The book takes place over "a year and a day". However, the story line seems to pick up speed at an alarming rate. The earlier adventures in the quest are well documented, but as the book progresses, they seem to do a badda boom, badda bing kind of thing. I would like to have seen the author spend more time detailing the talking pearl, the elves, and the hermit. In all three instances, the transition was so fast, I almost missed it . . . and I was just sitting there reading.

Was it pressure to hit a deadline, writers fatigue, intention? Ya know, I can't say from my comfy chair on the deck, but it sure seemed like the book missed out on a whole slew of potentially wonderful bits because of the exponential speed of the story.

Like I said, I fear that a lot of readers won't give this book the respect it deserves. If Tom Robbins had written it, he'd probably be back on the best seller list. Because he didn't, well, the world sometimes deserves a sound plunk up-side-the-head.

If you get a chance, grab Promises, Promises, open your mind to a little quirky fun, and consume it with both hands and no napkin. It's really a fresh take on the genre of modern-lesbian romance, and L-J Baker needs to be encouraged to keep pressing the envelope if for no other reason than 'she can'.

Sometimes reading is a participatory sport, kinda like eating barbecue.

On the Rainbow Scale, I'll give it a fit and furious 5.0 because as good as it was, it just moved too fast. Now, if only L-J can find a way to answer the question, "How to make Lesbian Bed-death die" in her next book . . .


  1. This sounds fantastic! Thanks for getting it out on the radar--finding queer analogues to favorite authors is sort of a reading life goal for me. :D

  2. I really want to read this one. It's had thumbs up all over the place.