by Georgia Beers

Bold Strokes Books, Inc., 2007. ISBN 978-1933110950.
Reviewed by Cheri Rosenberg
Posted on 11/26/2007

Fiction: Romance

From the eye-catching cover and appropriately named title to the last word, Georgia Beers' Mine is captivating, thought-provoking, and satisfying. Like a deep red, smooth-tasting, and expensive merlot, Mine goes down easy even though Beers explores tough topics. There's no question that losing the love of your life is a difficult journey.

In Beers' acknowledgments, two women stand out. First is her friend Erin, who "gave me free rein to pick her brain as well as her heart so I could try to understand the issues, emotional roadblocks, and internal doubts and questions a young widow must face." She also thanks Sue "for all the insight, information, and education on bereavement groups, what they do, and how they're run." Beers weaves her romance around these issues by creating the character Courtney McAllister, who learns firsthand that widowhood is hard and unfair and that grieving goes through many phases. Initially, she is trapped in the past and paralyzed with her dead wife's memory, but she struggles toward healing. Mine explores Courtney's hopes and fears in rich detail. It is cathartic to go through the process with her because, even if you have never experienced it, you can empathize with the pain and suffering of those left behind.

Beers balances this rather untraditional subject matter for a romance with the more familiar theme that life does go on. While selling her dream home, Courtney meets the ice queen realtor Rachel Hart—"Million Dollar Producer." Rachel is a control freak and a savvy businesswoman. In order to sustain her perfectly ordered life, she is meticulous in every way. Keeping up appearances and maintaining her distance let her avoid dealing with raw emotions or hurt feelings about her past. Both women have a lot of baggage, and it is instructive to watch as they empty their suitcases one item at a time.

The novel ends happily, as all romances do, but Beers' exploration of the grieving process adds a depth that is unusual in this genre. I enjoyed the witty dialogue. In this example, Rachel takes Courtney to an animal shelter and is hardly aware of the double meaning behind her words:

"It must be hard," Courtney grimaced, "seeing all the strays and animals people have abandoned." "It is. It can be horrific. Believe me, there are times when I just want to beat the crap out of some people. But Happy Acres has a no-kill policy, which is very unusual, so if nothing else, I don't worry that these animals have time limits."

The strong supporting cast and characterizations further enhance the story. Courtney's best friend Amelia is smart and sassy and essentially helps her friend to live again. Mark, Theresa's brother, is Courtney's rock and vice versa because they share the loss but gain strength from each other. Even Lisa from the bereavement group has a place in this novel, where secondary and tertiary characters count but don't overshadow the main characters. Rachel has Jeff to help her discover what she already knows. Beers throws in a couple of surprises to keep you on your toes and is clever at exploring more than one type of healing.

This is more than simply a feel-good romance; it is a romance with substance. Georgia Beers won the 2006 Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Lesbian Romance and the 2007 Golden Crown Literary Award for Fresh Tracks. In reading this novel, you will make Mine yours and achieve a better understanding of the issues, emotional turmoil, and inner conflicts that a young widow faces.

Born and raised in upstate New York, so close to the border she's practically Canadian, Georgia Beers has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pen. Her first romance novel, Turning the Page, was published in 2000. Since then, she has written four more and doesn't intend to stop any time soon. Her fourth novel, Fresh Tracks, won the Lambda Literary Award as well as a Golden Crown Literary Society Award for Best Lesbian Romance of 2006. Tired of snow, Beers now lives in North Carolina with Bonnie, her partner of thirteen years, and their two dogs. The eldest of five daughters, she has a slew of nieces and nephews to keep her on her toes. She is currently hard at work on her sixth novel, Finding Home.

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