Love in the Balance by Marianne K Martin is a romance novel, but it’s also so much more. First published in 1998, it addresses themes we don’t often seen anymore in lesbian romance, making it an important reminder that some happy endings are not easily won, especially in the real world.
Kasey Hollander owns and operates a renovation company but she’s hiring an accountant because, while she might be good at climbing scaffolding and swinging a hammer, math is not her strong suit. She doesn’t expect her new accountant, Connie, to be so beautiful or to be someone she so easily falls into friendship with. Still wary after her last girlfriend left to go back to men, maybe friendship really is the best way to go.
Connie Bradford recently broke up with her latest boyfriend, Greg, and he’s completely awful. He doesn’t like to hear her say no, can’t seem to accept that she doesn’t want to be with him and calls and shows up at her home despite clear instructions to stay away. All of her time with Kasey, by comparison, is a joy. After a lifetime of thinking she’s straight, Connie finds herself wondering if what she’s feeling for Kasey might be that elusive, all-consuming love she’s been chasing.
Connie and Kasey are likeable and relatable. Kasey’s been a lesbian all her life, but isn’t out with anyone except her friends. Her gender expression doesn’t fit cleanly into any one role—she may have a butch job, but she tends to present as femme in her off hours—and it’s something her friends comment on. She easily passes as straight when needed, which makes it a big deal when she shows up to a public event at the end of the book, holding Connie’s hand.
Connie’s always been straight and never questioned it until Kasey. She moves quickly from friendship to love, which makes her tenacity with Kasey and her honesty about her new feelings, especially in the face of some of the people around them, admirable.
Sharon and Sage, Kasey’s friends, are difficult to like, even as they care for Kasey in their different ways. Their skepticism and treatment of Connie reinforce that it’s not always easy to step from a straight lifestyle to living as a lesbian.
The Writing Style
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about this book at first. It’s a little dated and the style wasn’t really for me at times. However, the more I read, the more this book seduced me, and by the time I got to the end, I need a time to sit with it and think about its significance. A real turning point for me was when Kasey and Connie talked about their first times having sex and it was painfully, realistically honest.
Love in the Balance is primarily a romance novel. However, because of when it was written, there’s much more to it than that. As Kasey and Connie are exploring their love, a hate crime occurs that hits particularly close to home for Kasey and Sharon. However, because it’s the late 90s, there is no such legal designation for violence against LGBT people.
Kasey is closeted because it’s not safe to be out, especially as a small business owner. Connie’s hand is forced a little and has to come out to her boss, and there’s a very real chance that she could be fired for that. We don’t often see themes like this in contemporary lesfic anymore, because we’ve come a long way, with attitudes changing for many and with marriage equality now legal in every state—frankly, we want to see happy endings on the page. But the possibility of being fired for being gay is very real, with it still being legal in more than half of the United States, and harassment against women who don’t look feminine going up as states increasingly try to pass anti-trans bathroom legislation. We may feel like things are better than where they’re at in Love in the Balance, but many of the issues are still alive and well today.
Marianne K. Martin beautifully pulls off a satisfying romance with a politically savvy commentary that still resonates in 2016.
It was kind of hard for me to get into the first few chapters. Like I said, though, I’m really glad I stuck with it.
More than just a good romance, Love in the Balance by Marianne K. Martin is an important book. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s wants to see a little more reality in their love stories.
Excerpt from Love in the Balance by Marianne K Martin
“Hey, hot stuff,” Kasey smiled. “I thought I was going to have to come and get you.”
“I never expected some woman’s phone number tonight,” she said, handing the paper to Kasey.
“Don’t give it to me; she’s not my type.”
“Well, I told her I’ve got a girlfriend.”
“What? You heartbreaker.”
“Better now than later, I always say.”
Kasey laughed and shook her head. “And I was worried about you? Silly me.”
“Listen, you weren’t Miss Innocence all night, so don’t even pretend. You know how those women were looking at you. They were probably just too intimidated to offer their phone numbers.”
“No, they did.”
“Really? So what did you tell them?”
“That I was entering a convent next week.”
Connie burst out laughing at the thought, and Kasey joined her. “So what’d they say?”
“They wanted to know which one.”
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Bits and Bobs
- AISN number: B004T4LVBK
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Note: I received a free review copy of Love In The Balance by Marianne K Martin for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.