The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.
This story was wonderful. I truly enjoyed how everything unfolded slowly and carefully. I liked slowly getting to know Claudie and Lien. I really enjoyed seeing how they may have been forced together for a few days but they took their time getting to know each other and stumble into bed. The way they both handled themselves when they were friends and figuring out their own lives before hey could have one together was wonderful.
Lien at first came off very shallow and as someone I wasn’t sure I was going to like. You could tell pretty quickly though there was more layers to Lien and she was aware of how she came off and wasn’t as happy as she appeared to be. Watching Lien evolve over the course of the story was lovely. By the end I was cheering her on and waiting to see if she makes it. I was so happy to see how she succeeds by the end of the epilogue.
Claudie was someone I liked immediately. I could tell there was more to her than we see on the surface at first. When we learn about her past and why she’s working as a park ranger, I just loved her that much more. I was glad we got to see Claudie’s path to happiness as well. Watching her overcome her anxiety and fears as she stepped back into the world that she ran from was fabulous. The epilogue truly shows how Claudie is doing what she loved and is successful at it.
Together, Lien and Claudie have so many obstacles to overcome before they can take a shot at being together. I truly enjoyed how the story was about their overall journey, not just their romance specifically. I got more invested in each of them individually and as a couple because of how much I could connect with them. The storytelling is wonderful and I couldn’t put the book down because I wanted to keep reading. Ms. Henson has a strong voice that I enjoy and I hope she continues to write so I can continue to read.
Four and a half
I’m very excited to have Claudie stop by and visit today. She’s here to talk about a very important topic. One that many people have opinions on and one that I love hearing about. What topic is it you ask? Romance of course! Claudie tells us what it means to her. Read and enjoy!
I’m not really a romantic, I guess. Not anymore. The first time I fell in love, it was everything. Every moment was about Dani. There wasn’t room for much else in my life.
I was young. I think from the outside I looked pretty confident. A 19-year-old lesbian in a leather jacket and tight jeans, carrying a beat up guitar. But I had no idea what I was doing. I met Dani after an open mic. She was so certain of everything, who I was and who she was. She was so willing to push me to be better. For years that seemed like romance: she was all I wanted, her interests came first with me. We fought, sure, but we made up and that seemed romantic too.
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy my life. I had the music, and the band. It was all amazing. But thinking about the band meant thinking about Dani. She was my agent so organizing anything meant thinking about her. And my friendships, I mean she let me have friends, but I was always worried that she was home waiting for me. I loved writing music, and that was space that was just for me. Everything else was caught up in her.
That relationship fell apart, of course. It hurt. A lot.
After that I moved away. I wrote a few songs about the break up. Sad songs. That seemed like romance too. I was alone, really isolated up north, writing sad songs under a huge sky and feeling that unending ache. But over time everyday ordinary things tend to win out over sweeping remote romance. I had to learn to do the job as wilderness ranger, how to look after the bushland and read the area and fix stuff in the cabin. I was still alone but all that work made it less about grief and romance and more about wilderness.
With Lien, things aren’t all romantic like that. I mean, sure she’s the first person I think of in the morning and the last at night, but I’m never wondering what I need to be to make her happy. If I’m interested in something and she’s not, that’s cool. When I need time to myself, a few days out in the bush, there’s no question. She has her friends and all that scene, I have the band. We both have lives that matter to us. But we’re together a lot, I treasure time with her. Every time I see her we’ve both got something new to say. Even me. Though I usually wait for her to talk first :).
There is some romance to it too, I guess.
So many of the songs I write have these glimpses of her. She says the same of her writing. And the other thing is… look. Everyone wants to be close to Lien. She’s adorable and beyond beautiful but more than that she’s just so engaged and engaging. I’m the rock star, apparently, but you watch her walk into a room and everyone moves toward her. And the magic is that she comes in, and she’s surrounded by people, and she always looks for me.
“Come out here,” calls Claudie from the deck.
Claudie’s leaning on the railing looking over the vast expanse of nothing. “Come and stand at the edge here,” she says. “It’s like the edge of the universe.”
It’s dark; there’s nothing out there. The world smells rich and wet. Lien holds herself still and looks out with the cabin lights behind her.
“Wait a sec,” says Claudie.
She steps back toward the house and reaches inside the cabin door. Everything goes dark.
“Hey—” Lien can’t see a thing. They haven’t had lights in days, and now Claudie’s turning them off. The blackness seems complete.
“You’re okay,” says Claudie. “It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust. I figured—It’s been raining so much. You haven’t had a clear night up here. I wanted to show you.” She moves beside Lien against the railing.
And as Lien’s eyes accustom themselves to the dark, the sky opens up above them. The Milky Way sweeps a path of light across the great black bowl. Around that the night extends from one clear horizon to the other, lit by a thousand layers of stars on stars, dazzling bright in the dark.
The universe goes on forever. It’s huge, and Lien’s tiny and breathless in front of it.
In that moment nothing is worth thinking about beyond that sky, nothing but the huge universe and Claudie’s hand, steady and close beside Lien’s on the railing, Claudie’s warm body so near. Lien twines her pinkie around Claudie’s. They stand under the stars, still and silent.
When Lien turns, Claudie’s cheekbones are traced in blue-white and her eyes reflect a thousand pinprick lights. She’s beautiful. She’s from a whole other world.
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue, her first novel, was published by Interlude Press in 2016 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
a Rafflecopter giveaway