North Coast: A Contemporary Love Story


4.00 · 1 ratings · Published: Dec 7th, 2015 {{ book.ratingTitle }}
North Coast, a lesbian love story set in Eureka, California, is a debut novel by Dorothy Rice Bennett. Two women, who have every reason not to be attracted to one another, share a house and a dog and gradually find they have feelings they didn’t expect—and don’t want to own. Do they belong together, despite their differences, or should they move on to other people and other places? Artist Valerie Stephans has fled San Francisco following the death of her longtime partner Doreen Hawkins. She has embarked on a new life in Eureka, an historic community and artist’s colony on California’s scenic but remote North Coast. To make ends meet, Val decides to take in roomers, and as the novel begins, she opens the front door to a scrawny young woman with deep blue eyes who needs a place to live—and has more mental baggage than personal belongings. Locked in their landlord-tenant relationship, Val finds Gina Fortenham a mystery, and the reclusive tenant attempts to remain so. Why Val wonders, as do her lesbian friends, would a woman with a doctorate in English literature work as a waitress rather than teach college? And is she a lesbian? Eventually, Gina admits that she owes a sizable debt from a sexuality crisis and resulting psychotherapy in Tucson, Arizona, where she had been a graduate student. When the debt is paid, she plans on moving to San Francisco—which for an Illinois farm girl has always seemed the pinnacle of sophistication and where she hopes to teach and create her future. Sharing the same household brings Valerie and Gina into tentative intimacies which each fights to avoid. Val in her early 50s is a stable adult and would not involve herself in anything but a committed relationship. Gina, a 30-something and still sorting herself out, thinks that writing and teaching are her number one priority. Sensual experiences—long walks on the beach, a day of sailing on the ocean—bring a growing sexual attraction between them anyway. Yet they continually fight off this bond. And, since their ages and life goals are so disparate, their friends also encourage them to avoid one another. After pushing herself to work three different part-time jobs, Gina finally pays off her debt, says goodbye to Eureka, and sets course for San Francisco—after a bittersweet farewell with Valerie. Arriving in the Bay Area, Gina is at first apprehensive and then excited. Her dreams begin to come true; she finds a full-time job, she visits all the famous landmarks, she tours the Castro, and she pursues a teaching job. She even has a woman boss, a definite dyke, who makes sexual overtures to her, and she has a fling with a beautiful American-Asian student. But after the initial excitement wears off, Gina begins to find herself thinking and dreaming of Eureka and of Valerie. Now she confronts herself: What are her real priorities? Meanwhile in Eureka, Val accepts that Gina is truly gone from her world and moves on with her artistic career. She also allows herself to become closer to one of her lesbian friends, Lainie Olson, a real estate agent who finds Val attractive. Keeping up with her North Coast friends through e-mail, Gina comes to a major decision. Some weeks later, her battered Beetle heads up the 101 toward Eureka, with a more confident, well-groomed Gina going for what she now knows she truly wants. When Valerie opens the door this time, the stakes are totally different. Val must face her own demons from the past as a determined Gina comes on strong.

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