The Flaw in our Design by Monica McCallanThe Flaw In Our Design by Monica McCallan is a rich girl/poor girl, small town romance about two young women who struggle to find a way to be together.

Valerie is back in Lake Cabot for the summer. She hasn’t visited her family home here for a few years and just before heading off to law school she is taking a break in this adorable small town.

Feeling the weight of expectations pushing down on her she can’t wait to finish law school and finally follow the career path laid out for her.

Val has a secret that she is pushing deep down and not letting her parents or siblings in on. She is a lesbian. And when she meets the sexy, brunette at the paddle board rental shop she can’t help but wonder if a summer fling would be a way to get the lesbian thing under control. Then she would know what it was like to be with a woman and she could suppress her desires again until she was well on her way to a successful career.

Olivia is a local. She helps her father at his paddle board rental shop and works as a bartender for the local watering hole. When she isn’t working she is writing, visiting her father’s neighbour (a grumpy old man that I just loved) or hanging out with her brothers. She is fiercely independent and lives a pretty simple life.

And Olivia likes it that way.

After watching her father’s devastation after her mother died she is determined never to fall in love. It was bad enough losing a mother, she can’t even conceive losing the love of her life. So, rather than put herself in that position she decides never to open her heart.

But things change for both women when they meet early one morning. The chemistry is instant and after a few more meetings they hook up and decide to have a no strings summer fling. The problem, though, is that summer flings don’t really work when the chemistry is this intense. But there is no way they can be together with Val heading off to law school at the end of the summer and Olivia determined never to fall in love. Or is there?

The Characters

Olivia is a serious, guarded person. She is out to everyone and has a fierce love for her family and her father’s grouchy old neighbour. She is loyal and hard working with a passionate side that is unlocked when she meets Val.

Val is deep in the closet. To the point where her ex boyfriend pops into the picture briefly and people are convinced she is going to make up with him and end up married to him. And while she is guarded about her romantic feelings towards women she is also a really sweet girl-next-door type.

I liked both characters and found them interesting and different enough to want to keep reading about them and not getting confused between them.

There were also some strong supporting cast members that almost stole the show and added a lovely depth to the town and the world that McCallan built.

The Writing Style

This is an interesting book from a writing point of view.

It’s not your typical easy-to-read contemporary romance nor is it your dense literary fiction novel. It kind of falls somewhere in between.

It’s fairly denser and packed with internal dialogue from the main characters. We spend a fair amount of time getting to hear what they think and feel about things. This adds an interesting flavour to the story and McCallan has a witty way of seeing the world that comes through in these moments.

My Favourite Parts

Imagine a gif of someone fanning themselves because the chemistry in the book was rather heated. Yup that gif was me. I LOVED the chemistry between the leads. It was exciting and steamy.

McCallan has a knack for writing complex characters and situations in such a way that I absolutely believed it. I could see all the reasons they couldn’t be together and no, a simple conversation would’t have fixed it.

To add to my list of things I like about the book is the actual writing itself. I highlighted a ton of lines because the use of language was wonderful. Not only were there moments when I stopped to reread a line because I liked it so much but there were moments that resonated deeply with me.

And for the hopeless romantics in the audience (like me) this one has a wonderful, fulfilling ending that will leave you satisfied and happy.

On a side note: McCallan’s claim that she does not believe in soulmates or the concept of meant-to-be-together leaves me wondering how on earth she managed to write this book because it sure reads like the characters were meant to be together.

Props to MCCallan for her synopsis on Amazon. It’s exactly what the book is about and I do appreciate a good synopsis.

The Conclusion

sheena's favouriteWhat you get with this book is a deeper story of two young women finding themselves and one another over a summer in a small town. The writing is thick with feelings and the inner thoughts of the characters. The summer is hot, but nowhere near as hot as the feelings that they have for one another.

The side plots and characters expand the world and make it feel so much more real.

This book made me laugh and cry. And left me whole satisfied at the end.

This is not an easy read. It’s not a fun, sweet romcom so don’t go into it expecting that.

Excerpt from The Flaw In Our Design by Monica McCallan

A figure running along the path distracted her, too far away for her to make out if she knew them. Granted, tourists had begun popping up in the last few weeks, so it was entirely possible this was an outsider. She was impressed the woman was clinging to her workout regimen on vacation, especially at the early hour.

And, if she was being honest with herself, she was also impressed at how the woman’s clothes were clinging to her body, accentuating every curve and muscle on her long, lithe frame. Definitely an outsider. She’d know this woman already if she was from Lake Cabot.

As the stranger moved closer, Olivia could see the deep, steady breaths she exhaled, running down the path in a practiced motion. Expecting the woman to continue past her without stopping, Olivia had to brace her fingers hard against the wooden bar running along the inside of the hut when she instead stopped quickly in front of her.

“Hey.” The woman’s voice was light and airy, punctuated by a few uneven breaths that made Olivia’s stomach swoop low.

When Olivia recovered from, or at least calmed, the sensation that her body was being pulled by the tides, she managed an eyebrow raise and a questioning “Hey?” back.

At a loss for words wasn’t her natural state of being. She didn’t like talking to people, but she usually did it well. Why then, were her eyes darting across the woman’s gently freckled face, her mind running through a million scenarios instead of simply asking what she needed? You know, like a normal person.

The woman’s rosy lips curled into a lopsided, almost hesitant smile. “Sorry if this is weird, but do you have any water?”

Olivia’s brow lifted, and she tamped down on how her body responded to the woman’s breathy voice again. As she watched the woman swipe a bead of sweat from her clavicle, her mouth went dry. “Water?” Water. Water. Water. The word sloshed around in her mind like the very definition escaped her. She stared into almond-colored eyes, coming up empty.

“Stupid, I know, but I forgot how big the lake path was. I didn’t really think it through.” The woman sounded slightly embarrassed as her voice ticked higher at the end of the sentence. It was surprisingly endearing, especially when the hand on her sternum shifted to wrap around the back of her neck and massage gently. And that wasn’t helping, like, at all, the smooth lines of muscle beneath skin becoming defined with the movement.

If words were failing Olivia, she could at least come up with actions. She hopped off the stool and walked over to a mini fridge to grab a water bottle. The coolness seeped into her skin, and after a few indulgent seconds of normalcy, she turned around and moved back toward the woman. “Here you go.” She extended the bottle. When their fingers touched, heat curled through her veins, ratcheting up her internal temperature.

And then, as if Olivia wasn’t already aware of every bead of water in the lake and every grain of sand on the beach, the woman breathed an exquisite-sounding sigh of relief that made Olivia’s brain kick into a level of hyper-awareness she didn’t know she could achieve.

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About the author

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Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born