Publisher/Date: Borders Personal Publishing, May 2005
Genre(s): Romance, Mature Lesbians
Who says one can’t find love in the stodgy halls of academia?
Certainly not debut author S. Renee Bess, who has crafted LEAVE OF ABSENCE, a lovely novel about a high school teacher turned college professor. Kinshasa Jordan has retreated to Allerton University after a leave of absence from her New Haven, Connecticut high school, more so to escape a chaotic relationship than to teach undergrad English. Kinshasa is still smarting from the mental and physical abuse she endured from her ex, Michael, and moves to get away from the horrible memories.
At Allerton University, Kinshasa is introduced to the English department staff she’ll be working with for the next year and a half – a staff that has few people of color.
One of them, though, happens to be Corey Lomax, a full-time professor and part-time author. She was attracted to Kinshasa when she first spied her at a local restaurant days earlier, but the two women weren’t properly introduced until that particular staff meeting.
Being a lesbian, Corey’s curious as to what Kinshasa’s tea is, but keeps her distance since Kinshasa’s sporting a “don’t mess with me” vibe. Kinshasa has been hurt so much, she’s put a wall around her heart no one can penetrate.
It’s only when the two ladies are paired on a volunteer project at an inner-city school, that Kinshasa and Corey become more acquainted. Kinshasa becomes a member of Corey’s clique, which includes Allerton professors Simone and Charlene. Despite persistent egging by Simone to pursue Kinshasa, Corey is reluctant, especially after overhearing a terse phone call between her and Michael. The name “Michael” indicates to Corey that Kinshasa is straight-and off limits.
As the days wear on, and the two spend more time together, Kinshasa finds herself falling for Corey. Only she masks her attraction with indifference. When Kinshasa confronts Corey one night, their frenzy turns into passion and they end up more than colleagues.
At this point, Kinshasa’s teaching stint is almost up, and she has a decision to make: whether to return to her New Haven high school or stay at Allerton University. It also becomes complicated when Michael comes unannounced and wants Kinshasa back.
Leave of Absence is a well-plotted novel. Bess’ writing is effortless and thoughtful, although the ending wrapped up rather quickly. The novel is a simple love story that, like real life, develops slowly but fulfills its promise.
Reviewed November 2005