Roller Girl by Vanessa North (Lake Lovelace Vol. 3)
Published by: Riptide
Format: eArc .mobi
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Erin
What to Expect: F/F roller derby romance featuring amazing female friendships, queer ladies everywhere, a trans heroine, and a goofy dog named Elvis!
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
Roller Girl is a kickass celebration of women in a way we don’t often see in media. The heroine is Tina, a trans woman who is trying to muddle her way through life after her divorce. She’s hopeless at home repair, is trying to make ends meet with her job as a personal trainer, and is mostly content to hang with her dog and her friends from her pro wakeboarding days. Then she meets Joe, a hot plumber who makes Tina want a lot more. Joe isn’t just a soft butch hottie who knows her way around a wrench; she’s also the captain of a local roller derby team. She sparks Tina’s interest and re-ignites her competitive fire.
This book is, plain and simply, a celebration of women. The romance between Tina and Joe is hot, and frankly, I would fall on a sword for Tina, I love her so much. But for me, the absolute best part of this book is the relationships between the roller derby women. This book is about friendships between women, that iron core that lies at the center of female friendship, even when relationship drama or other issues get in the way. There are a handful of token dudes, but their role is relegated to the side. I love that. Tina’s mentoring of Lauren is lovely, and I was cheering just as hard for Lauren as I was for Tina.
I also liked the parts set in and around Tina’s work. She’s a personal trainer and takes a lot of pride in her work, but the gym is struggling. I really enjoy it when books take people’s employment seriously as a part of their lives, and I liked seeing Tina’s competence at her job and her worries about bringing in new clients. As a fat girl who loves to work out and likes physical fitness as a hobby, I am a hundred percent here for a book where you see body-diverse women being athletic. Love it.
Joe and Tina’s chemistry is explosive from the beginning, and the sex scenes are on fire. You can understand why Tina would lose her head over Joe, because gaaahhhh hotness. Whiskey-voiced soft butch who’s good with her hands and is confidently athletic? Yes, please. And Joe is clearly all about Tina, which is good, because I will fight anyone who doesn’t recognize Tina’s greatness. Joe isn’t quite as developed a character as Tina, and I didn’t always understand her motivation. There are parts where the conflict feels like it goes on a little too long, but that’s a minor quibble.
The conflict in the book comes from the fact that Joe is Tina’s coach, and due to issues with Joe’s ex and her best friend, she doesn’t want any hint of impropriety or favoritism within the team. So if Tina wants to be with Joe? It has to be a secret. Tina’s not too into being someone’s secret on the side, and Joe is sending a lot of mixed signals. Can Tina ever measure up to the Perfect Ex? Can the Lake Lovelace Rollergirls accept Tina and Joe’s relationship if they go public?
Despite these issues, this is a relatively low-conflict book that is genuinely heartwarming. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading it, and I noticed that I was smiling every time I picked it up to reread bits for this review. It’s a little slice of happiness, a sports romance with an unusual sport, and women everywhere. Oh, and a lovably ugly dog named Elvis. What more are you waiting for?
What you may not like: The misunderstanding/conflict feels a little manufactured at times.
What you’ll love: Women of all shapes, sizes, ages,(Did I mention that Tina is 37?) and orientations becoming friends and being athletes together, hot secret sex, and a heroine to cheer for.