Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting by Q. Kelly

Book:  Waiting
Author:  Q. Kelly
Publisher:  Ride The Rainbow Books

When I was a kid, my mom used to put a pork roast in the oven and slow cook it all day long.  About suppertime, she’d pull the roast of the oven, transfer it to a serving plate, and put the pan on top of the stove to boil.  She’d take eggs and flour and make a dry, crumbly dough, drop it into the boiling roast drippings, and then cook it for a few minutes.  The result was the most amazing, mouth-watering, artery-clogging dish imaginable, called Rivels.

And it was worth every milligram of Lipitor I take today to counteract the damage . . . 

My mom is one of those women that cooks through pure instinct.  She doesn’t use recipes, but always seems to know what ingredients compliment one another, and what proportions will give her the right result, every time.

Me?  My culinary instinct tells me what setting to toast my pop-tarts on to maximize browning.

Writing is like cooking in many ways.  Even though there is a treasure trove of books and piles of advice on how to do it, some people are just better at it than others.  Let’s face it, there’s really no strict guideline on what makes a good book.  At a minimum, I believe a good book needs memorable, multi-dimensional characters; deep, plausible emotions; a clever, compelling plot; and at least two fingers of magic elixir.

And, even then, there’s some debate as to whether the magic elixir goes into the story or down the gullet of the author.

Waiting by Q. Kelly tells the story of Caris Ismay, who’s just given birth to her newly estranged wife’s son.  Her stepdaughter, Lena, is forced to tell Caris that the baby’s other mother, Dale, has been in a horrific accident, and may not live through the night.  Caris believes that Lena dislikes and distrusts her, but instead, Lena has always harbored a secret love for her stepmother.  As Dale, survives the night, and then days and weeks, Caris and Lena test a tentative friendship, then attraction.  Each believes that their feelings of love are not initially reciprocated, so they push and pull, and then push and pull some more.  This situation is awkward, and potentially explosive, and they each must wade through a mire of other complicated conflicts, emotions, and relationships before they can even really consider being anything more than extended family. 

First and foremost, Q. Kelly is not a typical author, and she doesn’t construct everyday romances - she does however, cook the Hell out of her stories.  Her books are complex, breathing organisms with convoluted [in a good way] layers of depth, and they don’t always do what they’re supposed to, at least in terms of the recipe for romance writing.  She’s not afraid to expose the dark and selfish side of her characters, sometimes making them cold, uncaring, self-centered, and seemingly unrepentant. 

Sometimes, being the operative word.

Of course, it is exactly those unconventional traits that add the strength and richness to her characters, and even if we don’t fall in love with them, we find things we do like about them, and we understand them at some deep, base, instinctual level.  For instance, I find that I really like Caris and Lena, but Dale is in this persistent vegetative state because of a life-long, soul-deep pain, loneliness, confusion, and desperation.   I want Caris and Lena to get together, but I don’t like that it is happening because Dale felt there was no other option.  Even more so when we find that the people that love Dale would have understood.  As a reader, I can’t think of many authors that can so expertly balance the like and dislike response to their main characters.

One thing that makes Q. Kelly different is that she builds fully developed, well-rounded, multi-dimensional characters and she takes on tough subjects.  In Waiting, we see emotional abuse and abandonment, teen pregnancy, adoption, transgender conflict and success, multi-racial issues, healthcare considerations, and conflict over life and death. Waiting has an abundance of side-stories that are interesting and add to the character depth, but didn’t really advance the plot in proportion to the time we spent with them.  Would the burgeoning and taboo relationship between Caris and Lena been radically different if there was no newborn son, multi-racial twins born out of wedlock thirteen years ago, Betty at Almond’s, an art show? 

I know, easy for me to say, right?

There still would have been the turmoil and dynamics with learning about Dale and what may or may not have been behind the accident; the conflict and desire between stepmother and stepdaughter; maintaining a caring relationship with the parents-in-law; dealing with the emotional toll and long-term care of someone you love, in whatever way you still love them; and trying to figure out when it is appropriate to go on with your life.  In fact, we might have even gotten to explore these issues and the character reactions on a much deeper level.

Be that as it may, Waiting is an emotional tilt-a-whirl for readers and characters alike. 

I have read both Strange Bedfellows and Waiting, and I find I have similar comments for both stories.  However, I believe it's important to note that Q. Kelly is just getting her 'published author' legs under her, and she has an undeniably bright future as she matures as an writer, editor, publisher, and publicist.

And, in case you're wondering, she succeeds in giving us memorable, multi-dimensional characters; deep, plausible emotions; a clever, compelling plot; and those two all-important fingers of magic elixir.  

I’m giving Waiting a 4.9 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale – Q. Kelly is doing something bold, different, and interesting with her stories, she's taking on the challenge of self-publishing, and she's self-promoting the heck out of her very fine work.

Let’s face it, Q. Kelly is absofreakinlutely fearless.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I'm a little confused. I mean, this is a good review. Sure, there are a few "buts" mixed in with the positive commentary, but no book or author is perfect.

    Perhaps Anonymous needs to re-read the last few paragraphs of the review.

  3. I thought the review was very well written and very detailed.

    Do I agree with the overall rating ~ well, no. But I don't have the experience with reviews that Salem does and I don't know what factors she may be taking into account.

    I do know one thing ~ Anon's comment was unhelpful and inflammatory at the very least.

    I've read many lesbian romances that hit the top of the charts and did not come any where close to having a plot that was as engaging and well laid out as "Waiting" has.

    The topics that Q. Kelly took on with this book alone gives me hope for the future of LGBT romances. Readers do enjoy plots that make them think and delve into various aspects of life. We like diversity and love when an author pushes the threshold into areas where other authors just won't go.

    Salem, you did not "blow the review". I may not fully agree with the overall rating,but it was well written and well thought out.

  4. Just in case anyone is wondering - an "Anonymous" reader left a comment that attributed a false preception to Q. Kelly, and insulted me. I've removed the content of that comment, so TRR visitors won't be tempted to believe something that doesn't exist. Q. Kelly and I respectfully agree to disagree on one point, and that's perfectly fine and how this whole process sometimes works. It's called communication.

  5. If anyone is interested --

  6. This past year has seen an increase in the number of writers pushing the envelope of lesbian fiction/romance. It’s been exciting and often surprising. This review shows, yet, one more example.
    Five months ago I discovered the Rainbow Reader and have made a point of checking and every week to see which new books would be reviewed. I’m usually amazed by the attention to detail and the very thorough analysis that is both fair and balanced, but usually erring on the side of complementary.
    I don’t write reviews because I don’t have the patience to do that kind of analysis but I’m glad someone does. Two months ago I was surprised when my book was chosen for review. Of several reviews I received, it was by far the most detailed and insightful. Did I receive perfect scores? No. Did the reviewer find areas that were less than satisfactory to her? Yes.
    My reaction was jaw-dropping gratitude. It was exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. No one had taken the time to analyze my story as carefully. I want to be a better writer and every time someone takes the time to help me improve my craft, I’m grateful.
    Having an opinion is something we all have. Investing time & energy to review an author’s work (for nothing, I might add) is a gift.
    I enjoy Q Kelly’s work and think the analysis was appropriate. My 2¢.

  7. Thank you again for the review, Salem. Love your blog and the work you do.