Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Souls' Rescue by Pat Cronin

Book: Souls' Rescue
Author: Pat Cronin
Publisher: Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC

Pat Cronin has been lingering around the fringes of lesbian fiction publishing for a few years now. Mostly known for her short stories and editing skills, she finally released her first full-length effort. In this feature, she treats us to what appears to be a personal study of firefighting and the tolls it takes on those putting their lives on the line, and those who love them because and in spite of it.

In Souls' Rescue, we meet Kelly McCoy, a gutsy firefighter/paramedic who left a post 9-11 NYC for the quieter life of Cincinnati. As we get to know her, we find out she's got all the requisite notches on her smokey turnout coat:
  • Dad died on the job: Check
  • Broken heart: Check
  • 9-11 First Responder: Check
  • Breathes firefighting:  Check
We also meet Talia Stoddard, who coincidently works in insurance, has a delightful gay best friend, a controlling mother, and a stuck up freak for an ex-girlfriend. As the book begins, Talia is caught up in a frightening accident, and Kelly McCoy comes to her aid. Kelly crawls under a truck to first evaluate Talia's condition, render immediate first aid, and then ask her out on a date.

Yes, that really happened in the book. I don't know, but if two tons of truck and concrete were sitting on my chest, I'm not so sure I'd be thinking in terms of candlelight and soft music -  I'd probably be reminding myself NOT to walk towards the light.

Talia is rescued, and spends the next many weeks in the hospital. Kelly, having been immediately smitten, shows up daily in the hospital to moon and flirt over the badly injured woman. Enter Talia's over-controlling mom, who just needed to be told where to go.

And I don't mean a 'take a left at the Nurses Station, it's the third room on the left' kind, either.

Momma has designs on getting Talia back with her ex and then returning to DC, because the ex is the daughter she really wants. The story progresses with Kelly and Talia becoming closer and closer, despite a few bouts of miscommunication and assumptions. Talia ends up losing her leg, and Kelly is injured in a fire after a jerk-wad with a small pee-pee abandons her. A few things happen and Talia tries again with her ex, but keeps coming back emotionally to Kelly.

I'll save the ending of the book, but there's a little bit o' drama, some dastardly action, and our girls finally get very naked and sweaty.

Okay, overall this was a nice little story. The 'good' characters were likable with depth, and the 'bad' characters were disgusting. The rescue scene was graphic and frightening, and the fire fighting scenes made your heart drum a little faster, There was some snappy dialogue, the pace was steady, and no major parts that required the reader to take a deep breath before making that grand leap of faith over the Great Fiction Gorge.

However, there were just a few plot points that didn't hold up as well as the rest of the book:

(1) In the book description, we're told Talia is "too big, too tall, too black, too lesbian, and not a very snappy dresser" . . . and other than the fact that her ex is girlie-girl that dresses well, none of this really matters in the book. Kelly isn't bothered that Talia is what Mma Ramotswe would proudly call 'a traditionally built woman'; race is never brought up; Talia's momma wants her to get back with her ex, a woman; and who wears anything fashionable in a hospital bed?
(2) Kelly REALLY did ask Talia out on a date while her fellow firefighters were using the Jaws-of-Life to cut up the truck parked on top of Talia . . . Really.
(3) One could almost say that Kelly was stalking Talia in the hospital, until Talia started expecting her to show up as a friendship developed.  I was thinking Stockholm Syndrome for a few paragraphs early on.
(4) We learn about Kelly being a first-responder on 9-11, and losing most of her Company when the towers came down. We learn that she worked for weeks trying to first rescue then recover. That's pretty heady stuff, but she seems remarkably well adjusted. This is one point where the author went too far off track. Kelly could have had the exact same baggage without bringing 9-11 into the story.

I did, however, like that Ms. Cronin had the courage to break with a few conventions in recent lesbian literature: We have a black woman and a white woman who fall in love. These two women cover the white collar/blue collar spectrum; and one is a big girl and the other isn't.

I'd throw out Baptist and Catholic, but nobody bothered to go to church. Can I get an "Amen"?

I can't say this was the most well-rounded book I've read, but the author told a good story, wrapped in some gripping action, and made you care about her characters. I'd like to see Pat Cronin work on another book or three to see if she can work out a few of these early kinks. With a little luck, her novels can put her a little more solidly on the map.

On the Rainbow Scale, I'd give this a 4.1 out of 6.

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