Book: Storm Season
Publisher: Interlude Press
Publication date: February 2, 2017
Length: 226 pages
Reviewed by Erin
The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared
Lien’s focus is on Claudie. “You’re being unfair. I never thought of you as a cause,” she says. Her voice is choked.
“I only meant that you want to build my band for me. I need to do it for myself.”
“I never wanted that. I wanted to help. You could definitely use help.” Lien’s eyes glitter in the streetlight. She lifts her chin. “But more than that, I wanted to spend time with you, Claudie. Look, I had this whole plan to ask you to go on a date with me.” She swallows. “I didn’t want a cause. I was kind of hoping for a girlfriend.” Car headlights arc behind them. Lien goes on. “What I said up at the cabin? That I thought we could be something? Nothing changed for me. I still think we could work. But you don’t. You push me away if I come close. So I’m done. I’m not going to trail around after you trying to prove that I’m a different person from the one you made up in your head. I can’t make you believe this would work when you’ve already made up your mind that it won’t.”
She whirls around and strides away. She’s across the road in a break in the traffic before Claudie has time to think. Lien’s white dress reflects the green and red and white of the city lights. Her hair flies out behind her.
Claudie can’t breathe. The rest of the world keeps moving. Wind spirals in the trees that line the street. A few clouds tumble across the sky and block the moon. A siren wails in the distance.
Lien’s the opposite of what Claudie needs. She’s hectic. She’s interfering. She’ll move on. It’s taken months for Claudie to realize that none of that matters.
Storm Season by Pene Henson is just as stunning on the inside as the cover is on the outside. Coming from Interlude Press, I wouldn't really expect anything less. IP books have always had the most gorgeous covers, and from the number of books I've read from this publisher, the words inside more than do them justice! A lush setting, gorgeous imagery, and well-developed, multi-faceted characters made reading Storm Season quite an enjoyable experience.
Lien Hong is a city girl through and through. She's all about fashion and music and food and hanging out with her friends. She's also utterly endearing if not a bit flighty and self-centered, but as a young woman in her mid-twenties, not really unexpected. What she is NOT is an outdoor kind of girl, and is definitely not looking forward to the camping trip her friends are dragging her to. I found myself smiling, and perhaps rolling my eyes a bit, while she packed, making sure she had her fashionable boots and her pith helmet, not to mention her lemon yellow cardigan because goodness knows, you can't ever look too good in the middle of the rain forest, right? What happens once Lien and her friends make it to their campsite might be predictable seeing as how Lien winds up lost in the middle of a rainstorm only to be rescued by the sexy and beautiful park ranger, Claudia. However, what happens once the two are secluded in Claudie's--as she's known--cabin to wait out the storm is anything but cliche'.
I loved both of these characters. Lien is irreverent and sweet; Claudie is a bit more pragmatic but no less likable. The push and pull of these two opposite people was quite the treat to watch play out for sure. Once the two make it back to civilization, their differences become readily apparent, but Lien's attraction to Claudie won't let her move on. Claudie's back story tugged at my heartstrings, and the more we got to really know her, the more I loved her. Much less quiet than the quirky and effervescent Lien, these two really are the perfect complement to one another. The romance is beautifully written, nothing overly done or in your face, just easy and sweet. Henson's writing is effortless, it flows like a meandering, bubbling stream, gently rolling its way down a slope. There is no over the top dramatics in Storm Season, which I SO much appreciated, but there is a realness to all the characters in the book. And let's not fail to mention the utter smorgasbord of secondary characters. A broad range of ethnicities and sexualities but none felt trite or cliche'd.
This is a gorgeous book that I'm so glad I read. Pene Henson's writing style is evocative and gripping and I found myself completely engrossed from the first page until the end. I loved the music and the fashion and the whole sense of Sydney and Lien's neighborhood. Storm Season is a delight for all your senses and I highly recommend you pick this one up immediately and immerse yourself in the lushness of Henson's words.
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Storm Season.
Hi Pene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
I’m Australian, extroverted and hard to ruffle. Also I’m pretty tall, mostly lacking in sporting prowess, and way less funny than I’d like to be. I live with my wife and our two divinely awesome kids in Sydney, along with a ferociously loving cat.
I grew up dreaming of being an astronaut or an experimental physicist. I love sciences and mechanics but I’d do a dreadful job of either of those things so fortunately surprised myself by developing a career in law and writing.
I’ve always written poetry and short fiction. I never really dreamed of a novel until I was writing one. It was delightful to build a whole world, the first in Hawaii and on the ocean, and fall in love with my own characters.
Storm Season is my second novel. It’s set on the Australian East Coast, in land and in cities that I know well. Like my previous novel, it’s essentially a happy queer story. It’s a romance between a bubbly and adorable fashion blogger and a capable park ranger living alone in a remote cabin. As you’d imagine, these women have vastly different experiences. They think they have vastly different priorities. Trapped together by a storm, however, they uncover not just a deep attraction to one another but also all the ways they fit together. And then, of course, the storm breaks and they have to work out what will happen when they return to their ordinary lives.
The experience of writing Storm Season left me thinking about subjects I may tackle next.
I want to look at a character who’s left home and essentially discarded that place for good and bad reasons, and see what happens when she returns. I’m working on a short where an LA based basketballer returns home to her small town for the holidays. She learns more about herself back home than she expects and that changes her. I like watching adults re-determine their priorities and accept people and places that might not be perfect but have great value.
I’m definitely looking forward to exploring more women in sports. It’s not that I’m interested in the fame and success of sports so much as that I’m interested in people who have big dreams beyond the romance. I’m also very interested in people with that kind of innate physicality. I love watching people handle their bodies at a high level. I love seeing the world through the eyes of someone whose body moves the way they want it to. I want to write romances where the women and men address the world physically as well as emotionally.
I’d like to watch sports people grow up and face the joys and heartbreak, successes and failures that wanting to be the greatest brings.
I’m also planning to revisit the world of my first novel, Into the Blue, which is set among a group of young housemates and surfers in Hawaii. I’m really excited to explore that found family as they grow up further and achieve unexpected things. I want to think about how to hold together a family of people who don’t have to stay together. I want to watch how new relationships, new priorities, change and growing up can crack those families open, and how they can love one another enough that the family can be rebuilt.
About the Author
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue, her first novel, was published by Interlude Press in 2016 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Storm Season will be published by Interlude Press on February 2, 2017. Connect with author Pene Henson at PeneHenson.com; on Facebook at facebook.com/penewrites and on Twitter at @penehenson.