||Nov 11 2002
Risking–me is about taking risks. It is about facing, rather than hiding from one’s insecurities.
Risking–me is about triggers.
What prompts Emilie to involve herself with one woman as opposed to another? Forced to make more choices that are emotionally draining and risky, Emilie has no choice but to find herself and confront some of her hang-ups.
But above all, Risking – me is as sexy and sensual as it is relevant to the modern lesbian reader.
Barnes & Noble.com
The Thinking Women's Lesbian Romance Novelist
As the candles flickered on the nightstands, as their glow danced sensuously across her face, her collarbone, over the immature creases of her stomach, over the length of her thighs, and the dark patch of springy hair, I knew that if I could draw I would’ve drawn her. Not on the spot, no, but later. I would’ve drawn her during a re-enactment of sorts. She would have let me draw her if I had told her of the dance of light across the valleys and planes of her strong and healthy body. If I had known how to, I would have told her about illusions, as well. About illusions of light and illusions of my own making as I delighted in the aestheticism of her naked body. I would have drawn her as she was. At ease inside her body. Her body at ease with itself and with her. Just as she was, at ease, watching me. (Emilie)
"'Risking-me', unlike the 'average' lesbian romance, looks at the everyday realities of women. C.C. Saint-Clair explores issues such as domestic violence, ageing and age difference between lovers, as well as the universal fears of rejection and impermanence. Within the context of these everyday realities, there are also fun times and moments of exquisite connection between women. Will Emilie's self-reflexive musings lead to insights which might gradually allow her to 'let go' and to risk becoming involved with Tamara, who is many years younger?
Layer upon delicate layer of erotic sensation and desire between Emilie and Tamara is portrayed subtly and passionately through Saint-Clair’s sensuous language and imagery. This subtle, sensuous, slow spiralling of stimulation and sensation reminds me of the French confection 'mille-feuilles' (literally, a thousand leaves) - multilayered, simultaneously rich and light, creamily textured and delicious." J. Dougherty, PhD
TO RISK OR NOT TO RISK? THAT IS EMILIE’S QUESTION
C. C. Saint-Clair
ISBN 1403367663 (electronic)
ISBN 1403367671 (softcover)
1stBooks 2002 380pp
The issue of age difference between Emilie (46) and Tamara (28) subsumes other issues for Emilie: growing older, being alone in her older age, rejection, abandonment and control. In “Risking-me,” we follow Emilie’s attempts to let go of her insecurities, and to risk becoming involved with a much younger woman. The ageing issue, which is embedded in this lesbian romance, is an important one for all lesbians, given the lack of recognition and social support (in some cases, even family support) for our relationships. Like Emilie, we also share, to varying degrees, the universal fear of rejection and/or abandonment; and we all have control issues :)
Emilie, the narrator, is attracted to Tamara, and also to Alex, who is much the same age as Emilie. These attractions are reciprocated; overtly in Tamara’s case, and covertly (except for ‘the kiss’) in Alex’s case. However, despite her misgivings about the age difference, Emilie begins to develop a more intimate friendship with Tamara, rather than with Alex. Is this because Alex, like Emilie, is wary of becoming involved in yet another relationship, and does not ‘pursue’ Emilie, whereas Tamara does?
Saint-Clair weaves the intricacies of these developing friendships and relationships into a background of domestic violence - both lesbian and heterosexual - to create a rich, complex, social fabric. The author explores a court case of heterosexual domestic violence through Jill’s story, which involves Tamara as a worker in a domestic violence centre, and Emilie as a volunteer in the centre’s court support programme. Saint-Clair also explores woman-to-woman violence through the relationship of Laurel (Tamara’s mother) and her partner, Melissa, as recounted by Tamara. By focusing mainly on the heterosexual domestic violence case, Saint-Clair’s structure mirrors our social reality: lesbian victims just do not report their abuse.
While other issues are discussed during dinner table conversations between Emilie and Alex, the main theme is that of domestic violence, and other themes (such as female genital mutilation and the Taliban war against women) simply help to situate the character of Alex, and Emilie’s increasing fascination for her. Such topics treated in a conversational way act as ‘flags’ to trigger the interest of the reader, who may then wish to explore the issues in more depth through other texts. A romance novel is not the medium for exploring such serious global issues. However, it is the medium for exploring sensuous, passionate and tender connections between women, and no one does this more exquisitely than Saint-Clair.
The author’s style is fluid and introspective. While the use of the personal pronoun ‘she’ has the potential to be confusing in describing woman-to-woman interactions, the personal pronoun technique used in ‘the kiss’ keeps the reader in delightful suspense for some time. Saint-Clair’s use of colloquialisms is apt, and it is a pleasure to recognise local Brisbane landmarks. Her imagery is richly descriptive and evocative.
The author favours internal monologue to reveal her characters, and fleshes them out in idiosyncratic detail. She describes well the complexity of lesbian relationships - friends, lovers, ex-lovers, ex-lovers now friends. What I find successful in this novel, and in Saint-Clair’s other novels, is the interweaving of narratives of lesbian relationships with the harsh realities of contemporary social issues, and the engagement of her characters in those issues.
Another genre needs to be created for Saint-Clair’s ‘romance’ novels - perhaps social realist lesbian romance? or lesbian-feminist romance?
Jean Knox, Aberdeen, Scotland
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