One of the first lesbian romance novels I bought was Lee Lynch’s That Old Studebaker, back when it was originally published, and I’ve been meaning to find out whether the author’s current works live up to the happy memories I have of that book. As with the previously mentioned book, Rainbow Gap focusses on lesbians growing up in less-than-glamourous surroundings and going on to have mundane but nonetheless important careers. By way of contrast to my memories of a coming-of-age novel, however, this book covers a broad period of lesbian history, seen through the eyes of two relatively ordinary women.
Jaudon Vicker and Berry Garland go to school together after Berry is abandoned by her parents to stay with her grandmother. Both come from families with considerable histories of living in their small South Florida community; although neither has a particularly well-off background, Jaudon’s parents – her mother in particular – work hard to make a success of their chain of grocery stores and to constantly extend and modernise their home. As the girls mature, they grow ever closer, spending much of their spare time in the treehouse on the Vickers’ family property or out in the swamp around Berry’s grandmother’s home.
Although Berry could be one of the popular girls, she prefers to stay with Jaudon, who is bullied for the way she looks; when she is accepted onto a nursing course, she encourages Jaudon to take business classes so they can study together while Jaudon also manages one of her family’s stores. Berry makes friends, through her work and studies, with a number of lesbian and feminist activists; while Jaudon doesn’t always agree with their views, she respects Berry’s opinions and allows one of the women – a fugitive from the law – to stay with them, even though it places them both in jeopardy.
The path of true love doesn’t always run smooth – both heroines are tempted at times by other women – and Berry’s anti-war stance causes friction with Jaudon, when her brother is serving in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Jaudon faces opposition from her mother regarding the way she runs the store – particularly her hiring of African-American women to work there. Overall, though, this is a gentle book in which events unfold slowly (with one or two exceptions) and while the women’s circumstances change for the better, this happens only gradually.
A real feel-good novel: I can see I need to catch up with this author’s back catalogue.
Jaudon Vicker and Berry Garland are polar opposites yet know they are meant to be together. Growing up in steamy backcountry Central Florida, they fight each other’s battles: Berry protects boyish Jaudon from bullies, Jaudon gives the abandoned Berry roots. They pledge that nothing will part them, not a changing Florida nor a changing America, not Berry’s quest for her spiritual path, nor Jaudon’s ambition for her family’s business. When the war in Vietnam, politics, police, rough times, society itself, and other women threaten to come between them, their bond grows deeper. In the safety of their secluded tree house hideaway, they learn to dream, dance—and to make love.
Read an excerpt.