Warning: This book contains explicit sexual content and is not intended for readers under the age of 18. This book also contains a lot of curse words. If either of those things do not appeal to you, this book is not for you.
This review, however; doesn’t contain those things. It is also an unbiased and unsolicited review.
Tales by Rails by Jewel E. Leonard is the story of Rhea (pronounced Ray) soon after settling a divorce from her much talked about but never seen ex-husband Mark. After many years in a loveless marriage, she is out on her own and decides to take a train trip from her home in California to Chicago on a whim. She meets a handsome man whom she refers to as Surfer Boy and they have whirlwind relationship during the train ride.
In general, a book classified as erotica is a book that I would pass by on the shelves. What drove me to purchase this book is that I follow the author on Twitter and she plays along in weekly games where authors share lines from their works in progress. She also likes to say she only writes fluff. Upon observing her lines from works in progress, I came to the conclusion that she doesn’t give herself enough credit. I decided to take a risk and read this novella and was pleased to discover I was right.
Despite the explicit material, this book doesn’t read like a romance. Rhea has suffered quite a bit emotionally and is carrying a lot of baggage. Her time with Surfer Boy is not just steamy encounters, (in fact, those do not start until later in the story.) They have deep, meaningful conversation and share very touching moments with each other. This book is more the fiction of two people who need to heal and happen to meet by fate, and then spend some time steaming up the windows.
- Character Development
- Excellent Pacing
- Realistic Storytelling and Setting
- Excellent writing and formatting
Okay, so it’s kind of funny to say this book is completely plausible but it’s actually true. One reason romance is often a genre I usually avoid is because of the unrealistic nature of “romance.” It’s hard for me to hold my suspension of disbelief in most cases. It’s not that I never read or watch romance, because I do, but just like this book those romances need to be about more than bosoms heaving, hair blowing back in the wind, and heavy sighs.
The way the characters are developed is what makes this story believable. Rhea could be any woman who has just left a bad marriage. She struggles with her identity now that she’s on her own. This is a real issue that women face. In the process of running away she meets Surfer Boy. She calls him this because she doesn’t want to form an attachment. She’s trying to find herself before a new relationship, even though she admits the marriage was dead long before the divorce papers were signed.
Surfer Boy is not what she expects. Although he’s described as very attractive, he isn’t the impossible Fabio. He’s had his fair share of troubles and behaves like a normal guy, not the impossible dreamboat. Although Rhea tries to cast him as the mysterious man on the train, he really doesn’t fit that mold. He’s too real to be mysterious, and this is a good thing.
Leonard is very blunt and straightforward in her writing. Her characters bare all; body and soul, and you actually care about what will happen to both Rhea and Surfer Boy. By the end you feel like you’re leaving behind two friends who just happen to share too much information about their relationship.
The book is also well written. There were no problems with grammar, structure or formatting.
I have two reasons I gave this only four stars. Both are more opinions and do not reflect the writing. First, the story is too short. Maybe that’s normal for the genre. I have nothing to compare it to as this is my first book in this genre. I would have preferred it to be longer and find out what happens next. Although the book ends in a good place, it only feels like half a story.
I know it’s a novella. I know a second book is in the works. I would have just preferred the story to have been a full novel instead.
My other note is with Rhea’s name, although not the name itself but the pronunciation. My book is full of names that are unusual. My theory is, even if the reader is saying the name wrong at least they will say it wrong consistently.
I was pronouncing Rhea as “REE-uh” because I used to know someone with that name. Well, at the very end of the story it’s revealed that her name is pronounced Ray, and Rhea hates it when people say it the other way, the way I was using. It made me feel bad, because as I said these people feel realistic. My note, therefore; is this should have come near the beginning somewhere. It’s a little thing, and my own personal thing and basically more of a nitpick.
I give this book four stars!