Soul Unique by Gun Brooke is a contemporary romance. If the title sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is on my list of the top 10 lesbian books of 2015. She’s one of my very favourite lesfic authors, so I’m always excited when she releases a new book, whether it’s a romance or sci fi.
Greer Landon owns a handful of prestigious galleries across America and is known as a tastemaker in the art world. When she visits an art school in Boston to assess whether she can endorse it, she finds two surprises: a teacher she had exposed as a charlatan many years before, and an extraordinarily talented young woman who is largely kept hidden up in the gym hall.
Hayden Rowe’s mother may want to keep her away from others, but Greer and she take a liking to each other immediately. Greer offers Leyla Rowe a compromise when she says she will endorse the school only if she and Hayden can co-teach a master class for the advanced students.
Hayden’s Asperger’s syndrome makes it a little difficult for her to communicate easily, but Greer finds her extreme honesty refreshing and is more than ready to put in the effort to get to know her better. She wants to make Hayden happy, but can a relationship possibly work with two people who are so different?
The whole book is told from Greer’s perspective, which means we get to know her best. Greer is smart, determined, and a self-described bitch. However, she’s not a bitch as much as she’s just not willing to tolerate bad behaviour from anyone, especially the artists she regularly deals with through her business. While she has an ability to love deeply, demonstrated as her relationship with Hayden grows, it’s her respect for Hayden and her autonomy that are to Greer’s greatest credit. She recognizes her own ableism in the few instances it pops up, and endeavours to do better and be the best possible partner she can for Hayden.
Writing a character that lives on the autism spectrum can be a risk for a neurotypical author, because often the result is a bundle of stereotypes or inspiration porn. Thankfully that’s not what happened here, as Hayden is a whole person and more than just her Asperger’s. She drives a car, pays bills, has meaningful relationships with friends and family, and is a person who desires and is desirable, complete with a sexual history. Some concessions are necessary, such as not cooking when she is alone and likely to become distracted, but those concessions include Hayden’s buy-in and are not made without her input.
Greer’s assistant, India, is likeable, warm and funny. Hayden’s grandmother is authoritative yet feisty, and she and Hayden’s brother are good support people for Greer and Hayden. In sharp opposition, Leyla and Michael Rowe are great examples of how not to parent, regardless of whether your child lives with a disability.
The Writing Style
This is the first book that Gun Brooke has written in a first person perspective, and that was 100% the correct choice. She avoids the pitfalls of trying to tell a story about living with with an autism spectrum disorder that she’s never experienced, instead making it the story of someone who falls in love with a person living with Asperger’s.
The romance is written well, the characters are largely well done, and the first person narrative works well.
I can’t think of any.
Course of Action and Fierce Overture will probably always be my favourite books by Gun Brooke, but Soul Unique is her best. It was an ambitious project that turned out beautifully. I highly recommend it.
Excerpt from Soul Unique by Gun Brooke
It took me a while to tear Hayden away from her new favorite place—my rooftop studio. She explored every windowpane, every board, and if I hadn’t interrupted her, I was pretty sure she would have dropped to her knees and examined the floor as well, tile by tile.
“Did anyone paint here besides you?” Hayden walked backward out of the studio.
“No. Only I did, until I realized I wasn’t very good. We tried growing a few plants here at one point. Tomatoes. Cucumbers.”
“Until you realized you weren’t a good horticulturist either?”
I burst out laughing. Hayden had asked from such an innocent and logical assumption. “Exactly.” It was true. I didn’t have a green thumb by any means.
“It should be used,” Hayden said dreamily as we walked downstairs.
“I think so too. I’ll get back to you about this. I promise.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781626393585
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books