Cover Image: Calumet


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Member Reviews

This is a romance with several twists and turns.  In order to not spoil the outcome of this well written book, I will keep my review rather brief.  When reading the synopsis of Calumet, one would assume it is just another second-chance romance.  I can assure you that it is not.

There are several prime characters in this book, however the two main ones are Jaxon Lavigne and Iris Lang.  Jaxon is an English Literature professor living in southern California.  She left her hometown of Chackbay, Louisiana, as soon as she graduated from high school and swore she would not return unless there was an urgent family problem.  She has a movie star actress girlfriend who plays a rather big role in helping Jaxon move beyond the multitude of childhood and family issues.  

Iris Lang is Jaxon’s old high school girlfriend.  Her husband is the old high school star quarterback, and they have two teenagers.  Iris works as a secretary at the high school and finds her life to be quite ordinary.  She often thinks of Jaxon and what could have been.

The story revolves around their high school reunion.  Iris is on the 15-year reunion committee, and when she sends out the invitations, she wonders if Jaxon will return to Chackbay for this party.  Of course, Jaxon does return.  

Ms. Vali has done a very good job with the story development.  She weaves a bit of family mystery into the romance and teases readers with little pieces of information which will keep them motivated to turn each page to unravel the story.  All of the characters are so well developed.  I have always found Ms. Vali’s writing to be interesting and the plots are smooth.  This one is no exception.

I recommend this book and rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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I like reading books that are about rekindling romances.  This book is a different twist on that.  The main characters are Jaxon and Iris.  Once together in high school, things took a turn when Jaxon left to go to college out of state.  
Now, there is a chance encounter with the reunion coming up.  Jaxon does not want to go, but friends encourage her to do so.  She has not been home since she left and has been estranged from her parents too.  
She decides to go anyway.  Once she is in town, everyone knows.  Gossip here is quick to spread.  Iris finds out and is very interested in seeing her.  What Jaxon does not know is that Iris married the star quarterback and had a child.  
Jaxon does see Iris.  Iris is very interested in getting back together with her, but Jaxon is involved with someone else back home.  Iris is hiding something else from Jaxon.  For one, why does her daughter like very much like Jaxon?
Secrets could keep Jaxon from ever returning to her home town.  Right?
I would recommend.
 I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This book was given to me as an ARC in exchange for an honest review from Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley.

I did not finish this book. Ali Vali is one of my favorite lesfic authors, and this one was very difficult to get into. th3 story felt like I had read it before, it did not seem original. The characters were very stereotypically like every other character she writes. I am just finding it difficult to find joy in lesbian fiction anymore, and it is not only this books issue. The stories in general have been done numerous times before.
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Ok, let me just start by saying don't go into this book with expectations. 

In my mind, this is not a romance, it is a story about love but kind of falls more into Women's Fiction / family drama than anything else. The blurb while slightly misleading, also sums up a lot of the story but doesn't manage expectations well...When I walk away and strip out the expectation I had of a romance, the story has good depth of characters and is an enjoyable read.
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This book was completely surprising. I was expecting a sing, straightforward love story, however I got so much more. The intricate nature of this story was a pleasure to unfold.
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Some of the reviews I read stated that this story is strange; I tilted my head and said okay, this is an Ali Vali story, I can work with that. It was not a typical "love story". It was a love story within a love story. Dr. Jaxson Lavigne, college professor with a past that caused her to move across the country and never look back, until her high school reunion. Iris Long, school secretary that missed her chance for true love. Margot is a beautifully written character. Margot's father, Wilbur is, shall I say, passionate about his daughter and wife. Secrets can make cowards of us all.

While reading, this story reminded me of a lesbian short story I saw on YouTube a number of years ago. As a matter of fact, the secret was almost identical. I cannot recall the name of the short story. But I recall, it was interesting as the main characters reflected on what could have been. First love may or may not be true love.
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1 star. Jaxon Lavigne is from a small town in Louisiana, before she moved in CA to go to college and become a successful English Professor. Iris Long married the high school quarterback and did not have a great love affair with her husband. She had one love in her life, and  she let her leave. There is a high school reunion coming up and both Jaxon and Iris decide to attend. Jaxon has not been back in a long time and had not wanted to come back. 

I really did not like this book. I could not even finish it, I found it boring and hard to read. I did not like the storyline of the book once I started reading it. I really started to not like the characters, especially Iris and I felt just frustrated about the characters and how they talked about their life. I was about 40% in when I gave up on the book, and I don't think Iris and Jaxon had one interaction yet, which I found annoying and I did not like how the story was progressing. Do not read this book.
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I want to say this was a sweet book but it ended up giving me so many different feelings than I expected. I spent time early in the book wondering about the story line because it didn't seen to match the blurb the way I thought it should. I continued on because every Ali Vali book is great regardless of whether or not I understand the directions early on. I really loved the characters in this book, even the villains because they were well fleshed out. I grew up with parents like that. I so wish there will be a sequel with Sean and Adeline in 10 years that includes where everyone in this book is. It was awesome seeing Tully and family too. I definitely recommend this book. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I love Ms. Vali's books and this one was just as great.  A bit different from her other stories, in that to me there were 4 MC, Jaxon, Iris, Margot and Sean.  This also doesn't follow the normal romance path, where one character meets the other and falls in love, no this one was a bit different and I loved it!

It takes place in Louisiana, small town USA, so it has all the southern charm we are used to in Ms. Vali's writing with some fun sub-characters brought in for some love and humor (we always love a feisty grandmother).  There is some twists and turns along the way to give it great angst, and one HUGE surprise to Jaxon that I really did not see coming.  And again this is not a normal girl meets girl romance, but there is still a happy ending.

So if you like a bit of an untraditional w/w story that we normally have in romance novels, this one is it and you won't be disappointed, at least I wasn' it in one sitting and still thought about the characters even after I closed the book.  

I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, but would have written the same opinion if I had come across this author on my own.

To see my Amazon review, it is under CC-A nontraditional love story and excellent
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4.5 stars. Ali Vali throws the lesfic formula out of the window and I loved it! It’s surprising, complex and it keeps you wanting to know more. I already knew from other reviews that the blurb is misleading, this is not the romance you expect from the blurb, but it is a romance. Had I not already known a little bit more info from other reviews I probably would have been more anxious about one of my favorite characters in this book, but I was very happy with how it all turned out. While the romance is important, there is also a lot of drama, this book is also about forgiveness and coming to terms with your past.

Jaxon, a professor in English literature at UCLA, is reluctantly going back to her small southern hometown for a high school reunion. She has built a nice life for herself in California and is happy there, so I say reluctantly as she has no good memories of her high school period, her family, or even her old high school girlfriend Iris. Iris stayed in the small town, got married and has two kids and she regrets some of her actions in the past that are connected with Jaxon. When Jaxon returns old wounds are opened and there are some surprises for Jaxon. She is kept in the dark for a long time about what happened (and thus the reader too, and I needed answers!), which is about all I can say without spoilers.

Strangely this book reminded me of Vali’s “The Inheritance”, only where The Inheritance is pretty much over the top soap opera drama this one is far more subtle. Yet, it resembles the intricacy of all connections between the characters and some of the crazy-ass family members. Especially Wilbur, an overly protective father with a military background, cracked me up. 

Since this book is a bit different from the norm the secondary characters are almost as important as the mains. Some of them are a bit stereotypical small-town prejudiced people, but most of them (the important ones) I liked a lot. The best character for me was Jaxon though. She’s is larger than life, successful and good looking, and everybody wants to be her or be with her. This is a type of character I have come to expect from Vali, but we also get look at what exists under the surface and she shows so much growth, it was extremely well done. 

I know others have expressed their wishes for a prequel or sequel and I too would love to see this happen. This is a beautiful layered romance with excellent characters, definitely one of my favorites of Vali and I highly recommend this book! 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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https://wwwThis book took me awhile to get into. As other reviewers have mentioned this book went an unexpected direction. Once I got there, I loved it. But I had some worries about where it was going. And I thought it was spending too much time in the set-up. I get it now! (I think the problem might be the blurb.)

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my
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This book has a different and interesting plot that veers away from the usual romance idea of going back to find your long lost love. Instead there is a recognition of the importance of first love as an experience rather than a forever that you long to return to. The plot around the daughter is downright clever. I also liked the lack of reconciliation and the acceptance of making your own family. Excellent read. The sex scene wasn’t really necessary for this particular plot (fine though it was).
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First thing, don’t let the blurb mislead you, this is not a second-chance romance. In fact, it’s not a traditional romance in any sense. The main couples are already established, I actually did a quick search to see if this was a sequel just because of the way it’s written. This is more a journey of forgiveness and letting go of your past so you can move on. There’s also quite a bit of family dynamics and some of those were the best bits.

Jaxon Lavigne is finally happy with her life. She’s got a great job teaching English lit at UCLA and is in love with her actress girlfriend, Margot Drake. She reluctantly agrees to go to her small Louisiana hometown for her high school reunion. She runs into her first love, Iris, and is taken aback by some surprises Iris has for her. She also has to deal with her family; and her issues with them after she came out in high school. 

There’s a lot to like about this book. It doesn’t follow the usual romance structure which makes for a nice change of pace. There’s a lot of drama and angst (which I love) with some lighter moments to balance out the drama. The characters are all interesting, even if some aren’t actually likeable. It’s full of characters and stereotypical personalities from small-towns which both annoyed and amused me. My favorites were side characters such as Jaxon’s grandmother and Wilbur, Margot’s dad. I did have an issue with one person who Vali seemed to try to redeem but didn’t deserve it in my opinion. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not but he got a big yikes from me. 

So, while I did enjoy many parts of this there were some parts I didn’t particularly enjoy. Those things are just personal taste preferences and a few aspects that I can’t really discuss because it would spoil some major storylines. There were several times I got really frustrated and almost stopped reading but I’m glad I moved past it because it is a terrific overall read. 

I do recommend this. It’s a well written, fascinating tale of being queer in a small-town and all that can encompass. 

I received an ARC from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Calumet really pushed the lesfic boundaries and I could not be happier. I really don't want to give too much away but this book has thrown away the formulaic lesfic structure and created something very unique.

I really liked this book, mainly for our main character of Jaxon. She felt so real and vulnerable at times, it was quite overwhelming. I couldn't help but being so invested by her story. She was a joy to read and get to know.

The storyline is so unique and truly kept me guessing. Some of the secondary characters were a bit cookie-cutter for me, but regardless they bought what they needed to the story. Calumet won me over, however, for two reasons: Jaxon Lavigne and it's very intriguing plot.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Bold Strokes Books for a copy of this novel. ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.
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Ali Vali knows how to keep her readers hooked. Calumet is one of those books. This read was different from most romance novels because romance has little to do with what happens in this book. 
    Jaxon Lavigne grew up in the small town of Chackbay where she left as soon as she graduated highschool. Leaving behind Iris Long, the girl she loved, hoping she could follow Jaxon but as happens sometimes life got in her way.
    After Jaxon left Iris started dating the highschool quarterback and before long she found herself pregnant. Now her daughter is getting ready for college. Working as the school  secretary  has been a great way to keep up with her son and daughter.
    Unfortunately Iris is also in charge of the fifteenth high school reunion. Iris doesn’t think Jaxon will attend but if she does there will be some explaining to do. Number one, why does her daughter look so much like Jaxon. Many secrets were held back form Jaxon and if she returns what will Iris say about that. 
    Most romances follow the same tried and true plot line but this one doesn’t even try. I would love to say more but everything I think of saying I’m scared will ruin the reading experience for other fans of Ms Vali’s work. So I will say this. I started reading and had a very hard time putting this book down. Great read.
ARC via NetGalley/Bold Stroke Books
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I found Calumet to be quite strange but very enjoyable. I read it in one sitting. As usual Ali has woven a beautiful story that depicts Love, Hope and sacrifice. The plot was amazing. The characters are beautifully portrayed and loveable. I recommend this masterpiece. You will not be disappointed. Well Done Ali!!  5 Stars across the board.

Thank you NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I enjoyed Calumet for many reasons, but one of the most satisfying surprises about this book (for me) was the fact that it did not follow the romance structure I was expecting. There's enough angst to swamp a riverboat, for sure. There are tons of hurt feelings, resentment and questions. But there are also layers of love, sacrifice, and hope. 

There are some characters we might expect, like Danny - a cop who's not sure he likes who he's become. Or his wife that he sacrificed so much for. She can't let go of the past, not really. And no matter what the reader thinks of her choices, Iris does surprise us eventually.
There is a T.V celebrity with a heart of gold and a plan, and far more patience than I might have! Her father is funny, dedicated and a little scary. And Jaxon, the main character, who has been hurt so horribly in the past but still loves the most special people in her life. There's a full cast of unique characters here, each with their own distinctiveness and personalities.

One of the things I know I can expect in Al Vali's stories is that her main character will be Southern, polite and genteel. They're most often well-educated in their field, wear their heart on their sleeve and are usually passionate. Their morals are usually in the right place, too. (Yes, even Cain Casey).
But don't fool yourself into expecting cardboard cut-outs, because they aren't. Each of them might easily be the person in front of you at the grocery store.

One of the charming aspects of this book is, as I said earlier, the hope interwoven through the layers of angst. By the time you get to the end, the title makes a new kind of sense, and you find yourself cheering for most of the characters in some way or another.

I am very glad I read Calumet. Many thanks to Ali Vali for writing it, and to Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Calmet was definitely different than any author seems to be writing these days which is intriguing and I could not put it down; A story of forgiveness I had to stay up all night reading it. It's revolves around two high school sweethearts Jaxon and Iris, this was a first for me reading about two main characters story separately and having them in a relationship with people other than each other without an end to those relationships in sight. I'd argue that the real romance was between Jax and Margot but I digress.

There also happens to be a teenager involved that is pretty much living the life of the main character Jax all over again only thing is the child happens to be a bit smarter and doesn't have the homophobic parents like the main characters did growing up. 

About seventy percent into the book I realized that this was your typical romance, read with an open mind and you will not be disappointed. I give it a 5/5 because someone out there needs to read this story and learn so that they do not make the same mistakes and the writing is just amazing and poetic and makes you root for these characters to make it and continue to be successful inspite of the hand they have been dealt.
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This novel was such a lovely surprise. Just when you thought you have it all figured out, like ''this will be second chances romance'', you get a twist. I loved the characters, the depth, the whole plot. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who loves good, complex lesbian fiction.
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Jaxon Lavigne is an English literature professor in California.  She grew up in the conservative southern community of Chackbay, Louisiana.  After coming out as gay she left her disapproving parents and her girlfriend, Iris Long, who decided not to follow her to college at LSU in Baton Rouge.  After Jax left, Iris has been married to Daniel, a local police officer, for sixteen years and they have two children including a daughter, Sean, who looks and acts exactly like Jax.  

Jax has turned down past class reunion invitations, but her girlfriend who is successful actress, Margot Drake, encourages her to consider attending this sixteen year? reunion.  

There's a lot to like about this book and I'll by saying that there is so much more to the book than what the brief description reveals.  The blurb shares background on Jax and Iris, but Margot is also a major part of the events and provides Jax the push that she needs to address her past and get answers to things that she never even was aware of in Chackbay.  The story also describes issues that sometimes occur within families when certain events result in pulling apart family members.  The book focuses on trying to set some of those things aside to begin the healing process.  

The book has a good balance of serious topics with the major narrative; little lessons along the way like "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the humor that Jax's conversations with Wilber brought to the table.  4.5 stars

I received an ARC from Bold Strokes Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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