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Rouman (2012): A Day in the Life

Hildred Billings, Rouman (Barachou Press, 2012)

 

photo credit: Barnes and Noble

Despite what I say below, I can’t deny that’s an eye-catching cover indeed.

As a rule of thumb, I find this current trend of releasing ebook-only novellas as companion pieces to longer works—usually marketed as optional fill-in pieces of a series, but you know full well you’re going to miss something important if you pass one over—annoying. Which isn’t to say that I don’t like some of the works themselves; both Maya Banks and Mara Purnhagen have distinguished themselves in the ebook-novella format recently within earshot of yours truly. I have yet to read any of the novel-length pieces Hildred Billings has written about the couple who stand at the center of Rouman, a thirty-two-page short that gives us a glimpse into the life of a long-together lesbian couple, Aiko and Reina. Did that affect my judgment? I’m not sure. More certain, yes, that the hum in the back of my mind reminding me the entire reason for this story’s existence is a “buy my book!” subtext, well, that did affect my judgment, so take the following for whatever it’s worth. I did like this little bite quite a bit. This may be the only time you will ever hear me, of all people, say this about a piece of lesbian fiction, but for me, the story’s weak point was the sex. Not that it was written badly, not at all (I’m not going to go that far), but it felt unnecessary; I got that Billings wanted the scene previous to the sex scene to lead naturally into it, but it didn’t quite feel like it did to me. There was an artificiality in the segue that unfortunately I can’t quite put my finger on. Again, this is not to say this isn’t worth reading, or that Hildred Billings is not a writer I’m going to get better-acquainted with; I like her style, once she gets into the swing of things, and while we don’t get much of Aiko and Reina here, from Billings’ style and the details on which she chooses to focus her attention in this story, I can tell that over time there’s a very good chance I’m going to come to like them. So, while it’s far too late to say such a thing, here’s the short answer: don’t do what I did. You want to read this, but I suspect it will go down a lot smoother once you’ve digested a few of the other bits of the Ren’ai Rensai series (as I write this, Amazon shows me five full-length novels and about a dozen shorter pieces, so at this point I’m going to assume I simply started in the wrong place). I will definitely be reading more of this series. ** ½

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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