This is My Body by Elena GrafThis Is My Body by Elena Graf is one of those books that stays with you long after you have finished it. And yes, it is a romance, but that undersells it. It provides a superb discussion about the meaning of love.

The story takes place in the Hobbs universe, and this is the second book in the series (although the additional Christmas novella introduces Lucy and Erika, the main characters of this story). You can read this book as standalone, but I would suggest you treat yourself to the other books as it gives you much more depth to some of the side characters in the story and more background to Hobbs itself. Lucy and Erika demonstrate how a relationship can falter when love and sex mean different things to each partner. In addition, we see how that love relates to their families and friends. The added spice is that their love has to traverse everyday religious and contrasting agnostic points of view.

Erika Bultmann is in lust with Lucy, whom she has met only once before and finds both attractive and intriguing. Erika is on sabbatical from her job as a Professor of Philosophy. She is newly arrived in Hobbs to stay in her holiday home for the winter and to write a book. Lucy is the Reverend Lucille Bartlett, the rector of the local Episcopal Church, and finds herself attracted to Erika. As well as attraction, they both feel there could be more to their relationship; Erika wants to take care of Lucy, who is overworked looking after her flock and helping others as a pastoral counselor.

Problems and issues begin to appear as they start their journey together. Lucy wants a sexual relationship and more but believes in sacred love, which means the sexual act should only take place when accompanied by love between the couple. Further, Lucy is committed to her role in the church and is very conscious that she appears to the congregation as clergy should. These views are in direct conflict with Erika, who is agnostic and had an open relationship with her ex. Lucy’s stance both surprises and angers Erika. Can their relationship survive with these differences and the additional issues we find as the story reveals more of their backgrounds?

The Characters

Graf has created a masterpiece with Lucille Bartlett. She has come to the church later in life, having given up an operatic career. She is beautiful with bright red nail varnish on her toes. Mmm! She has a superb voice, and if you follow the links in the e-text, you will understand her singing. Her singing is part of who she is, and so she continues her daily practice, but in a much-shortened form. Lucy has an uncomplicated view of sex and is very giving in her relationship, even if she looks at porn on websites to get ideas! As a reader, I found myself drawn to Lucy and heavily invested in her future.

Erika is a direct contrast to Lucy in many ways and thus is a great foil. She is tall and with a pale countenance and the traditional blonde hair of Germanic extraction, speaks with an English accent, and is honest in her view of religion and church. She wants Lucy in her bed and her life but struggles with the church and what it needs from Lucy and any relationship that she has.

Liz and Maggie are a couple that feature quite heavily in the story. They were the main characters in the first book of the series, but Graf manages to relate enough about their characteristics to ensure their appearance in this story has some depth. Both women act as confidantes to Erika and Lucy and support them as they struggle to come to terms with the knots in their relationship. They also help to counterbalance some of the angst with their take on things.

The Writing Style

While this is the story of a romantic relationship between two women, Graf has created something very thought-provoking and extraordinary. You don’t need to be an opera lover nor a philosopher (and make no mistake, this reviewer is undoubtedly neither), but the writing has so much depth. It will repay your investment a hundred times over as you consider the different nuances between the women. You can also read it on a more superficial level without losing anything and still enjoy the romance, and the angst as the couple work out their differences.

The Pros

My high spots in the book relate specifically to the character journeys of the two women and the contrasts between them. Without revealing too much, the later story gives further differences between the two women and what one woman struggles with at some point, the other is struggling with something similar at a later time.

The Cons

There is nothing in this book that is a con, although there is reference to a historic rape but no intimate details.

The Conclusion

valdens favourite booksThe book was a stand-out read for me and as the second book in the Hobbs series, well worth your emotional and financial investment. The writing is beautiful with both angst and humor and the full rainbow of emotion in between. Could you tell I loved it?

Excerpt from This Is My Body by Elena Graf

Finally, Lucy let her go. Her breaths were still shallow and fast. “Oh, I wish I could stay tonight.”

“You can,” said Erika. “I did invite you.”

“I can’t.”

“No one’s stopping you.”

Lucy reached for Erika’s hand and squeezed it. “I’m sorry. I can’t make love tonight.”

Erika sat up and frowned. “You’re not celibate, are you?”

Lucy laughed softly. “No. But I don’t believe in casual sex.”

“Neither do I. And I assure you that there’s nothing casual about my interest in you.”

Lucy sat up and looked earnestly into her eyes. “I never thought so. But I also don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves. I believe that making love is a sacred act.” Erika couldn’t stop the disapproval from showing. Despite her obvious attempt to control her face, Lucy looked hurt. “I’m sorry, but that’s what I believe,” she said in a slightly defensive tone.

Erika glanced down. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be mocking your beliefs. In some ways, they are very romantic and touching.”

Lucy sighed. “You’re still trivializing them.”

“Not intentionally.”

Lucy took Erika’s hand. “If I give my body to you, it will be because I love you. I know I want you. I really want you, but that’s not enough. Please try to understand.”

“I do, I suppose,” said Erika, taking her hand back. She brushed off her pants as if their kiss has somehow sullied them. “Now, I prepared some dessert. Please come to the table.” She got to her feet.

Lucy remained where she sat. “I feel I’ve disappointed you.”

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About the author

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I am from near Bournemouth in the UK and live on a lesfic book diet of thrillers, adventure, crime and law stories. I also devour every sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian book I can get my hands on. I have a particular love of stories of people in uniform!

When I am not reading and reviewing, I am at a beach somewhere in my camper van or playing in a brass band.