Cream by Christiana Harrell

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creamPublisher/Date:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Aug. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Sexuality
Pages:  230
Website:  https://www.facebook.com/girlnovel

Rating: ★★★★★ 

CREAM is my first Christiana Harrell book. *hangs head in shame*

But it definitely won’t be my last because Harrell, whose Cream was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist, truly proved her talents with a book surrounding the life of a character I loved and rooted for the entire way.

Cream is her stage name, a strip club performer with an androgynous appearance and a beautiful body. Dancing for men became a means to an end after being in a foster home after her parents’ abandonment. The first few pages introduce this past and her take-no-shit personality that serves her well as a stripper.

Lambda-Medal2014

2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist From http://www.lambdaliterary.org

But it also gives credence to why she moves from city to city. Why she’s never befriended hardly anyone since her group home days. And why, even with the fights she’s had (and won), there’s still there’s an innocence about her.

Cream’s sexual naivety is the meat of this book. It’s shown in the way she was drawn to her friend Kitty – until she suddenly left Cream’s life. In the way she latched onto Payton, the daddy’s girl who shows her being a stud is her real meal ticket – both professionally and romantically. And when finally she finds unconditional love, she almost runs in the opposite direction.

And this realness is what I loved about Cream, both the book and the character. This gullibility Cream owns is not a Mary Sue plot device, it’s a journey Harrell writes so we can take this journey with her main character. You feel as if you’re a newbie right along with her, from Kansas City to Atlanta, and everywhere else in between.

Just the way Cream drops her boxers on the stage, Harrell’s writing leaves it all on the page. There’s very realistic dialogue, the sex is on fire, and Harrell’s voice is loud and clear through Cream without muddying the two voices. Her supporting characters also play a big role in the book, to the point where I thought Cream molded herself to any woman who offered her a hand.

That leads me to my next point that one of the most interesting aspect of Cream hinges on the sexuality of the characters. Though Cream dressed and performed as a stud based on Payton’s advice, it should be noted that Cream sometimes questions defining herself as a stud. Until meeting Payton she wasn’t aware of what a stud was, which at times I did find a skeptical. I could say it was because of her upbringing and her singular focus on survival, but never thinking about who you are sexually was a small part of the book that nagged at me. But her exploration of who she is was genuine.

Cream definitely fulfilled my expectations. The love she found and the book’s conclusion were so fulfilling, and worth the learning curve Cream took to find what I think she was always looking for – whether she could admit it to herself or not.

There’s a reason why Harrell has more than 10 books to her name. I plan to read every one of them.

[rating-report]

Reviewed June 2014


8qqlogo8 Quick Questions for Christiana Harrell about Cream

Tell us about your book, Cream.
Well, in as few words as possible, Cream is simply a story about a woman who learns some hard lessons about love and money, while discovering her identity and sexuality along her journey.

Who is Cream?
I want to say that Cream could be any of us, but she’s just too unique to be categorized. She’s carefree, she makes her own rules, she has tunnel vision, she just is.

One of the things I enjoyed about your novel was it felt as if you put yourself in the head of Cream: being on the stage, discovering her sexuality. How did you create her as a character? Any research involved?
Oh, there was plenty of research (lol). If you noticed, in the novel I mentioned real stud strippers like Face and Juicebox. I watched every video that I could find, but this time for “research,” rather than enjoyment. I watched their moves carefully and their facial expressions. I had to pay attention to costumes and audience reaction. Basically, none of the things I would normally pay attention to. We tend to forget that during the fantasy they create, they are people and they have lives outside of those neon lights. I try to be my characters in my real life when I write them. The people around me get some great entertainment.

Is Cream based on a true person or situations?
Cream is part fiction and part non-fiction. I don’t remember how this person came up, but my ex-partner and I were talking/gossiping like most couples do and she was telling me about a “stud” that lived the same lifestyle as Cream. The little bit that I learned made me want to give her a story. I didn’t know this person myself so I had to fill in the blanks. Literally, all I had to go on was a dancer who danced for both men and women because she was “about her money.

The gist I took away from Cream is that sexuality can’t be defined by roles or labels. Was that your message?
That was definitely one, the biggest one. Roles seem to be a big deal in our community when they really shouldn’t be. If people can read about Cream and accept her the way that she was, then they can accept anyone.

Will you continue Cream’s story?
I thought about it, but if I did that, I’d have to continue so many others. I couldn’t stand the pressure

What’s next for Christiana Harrell?
At the moment, I’m working on the second stud in the “Stud Life Series.” Her name is Magic. There are three others that have to come after her. That should keep me busy for the next two years or so. Hopefully, one of them will get an award. I won’t complain.

Cream was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the Lesbian General Fiction category. Congratulations! How did it feel to be finalist?
Aw man. I literally almost fell out of my chair. The day that I submitted the novel, I honestly did not expect to hear anything back. You’d be surprised how much I doubt myself. Being a finalist definitely gave me confidence, but now I have to top Cream and I’m not sure that’s possible. Either way, I’m happy and humbled for the experience.

Want to know more about Christiana Harrell? Read her Sistahs on the Shelf interview A Sistahs Favorite Things interview.

About Christiana Harrell

“I write about heterosexuals, I write about lesbians, I write about transgenders… I write about people.”

Christiana Harrell is a 27-year-old writer from New Orleans, LA., that got her start in writing at six-years-old. She published her first title Girl: a Story for Every Les Being in 2009. She currently has more than 10 titles to her name. She is currently working on her next novel.


It’s Complicated: Misconceptions by Erika Renee Land

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itscomplicatedPublisher/Date:  Ezarie Publishing, Jan. 2013
Genre(s):  Romance, Drama
Pages:  254
Website:  http://twitter.com/elandthewriter

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Why does it seem as if in some lesbian breakups that we never really break up, at least not completely? There’s that unfinished business that gets pushed aside, not resolved, as we move to the next woman.

Enter IT’S COMPLICATED: MISCONCEPTIONS, the debut novel from Erika Renee Land. It’s a whole mess of things going on this book, mostly surrounding Laila Morriston and her 8-year relationship with Victoria. Good as all are relationships are, their romance dwindles due to Victoria’s infidelity. Laila can’t trust Tori, and in my eyes, should have left her a long time ago, but Laila is still holding on to that connection they still have when times are good.

Just when she thinks things are getting back on track, Tori pulls the disappearing acts again. Acting secretive. Leaving the house at all hours of the night. Laila has had it up to here, and decides that Tori needs a taste of her own medicine. Enter Camille, the stripper she meets on a night Tori got missing. What transpires between them was nice, but Tori is still the love of Laila’s life and she wants to put things back right between them.

As always, though, things are good, and then Tori acts shady again. This back and forth causes them to separate, and Laila believes it’s truly over this time. Enter Nadia, another woman Laila meets at a vulnerable time, an assistant to a client of hers, and a dynamite woman. They could talk about anything, and bonded over loved cultural events and books. Nadia was someone she could see herself with – if she weren’t still wondering about and pining for Tori. Dating Camille and Nadia at the same time, both women are smart, beautiful and open up Laila’s eyes to new possibilities. The problem is Laila isn’t truly honest about her unresolved feelings for Tori; neither woman knows just how deep Laila’s feelings still run for her ex.

When Tori returns, what’s a woman to do with the new relationships she’s entered into in the meantime? Is she willing to drop everything for the woman who left her, or take a chance on someone new?

A fast-paced read, there is more to this story than I should put in this review, but trust me, you’ll read all about the deception, heartbreak and betrayal (plus crazed stalkers) in It’s Complicated: Misconceptions. One thing I should say is that everything is not what it appears. What is transparent is that Laila and Tori’s back-and-forth relationship was something that could have been resolved if they were more mature about how they handled each other. But after 8 years of cheating, why was Laila still even with Tori? As 32-year-old landscape architect at a respectable firm (one that is unbelievably tolerant of her messy personal life), she’s smart, but naïve and too into her head. We’ll see if she learns the game in the sequel. Hopefully.

Reviewed June 2013