Jagged Dreams targets two social evils, homophobia and incest, and though it is also about love and commitment, its greatest contribution lies in the intelligent and sensitive handling of the issue of abuse. In spite of its serious exposition of such topics, Jagged Dreams is also a sexy tale of lesbian lust and love. It is a romance novel tightly wrapped inside a ‘whodunnit’, a novel that offers something to everyone without weakening any of its parts.

Sexual violence, emotional violence: for most of the thirty-odd hours since Tamara, a victim of a random attack, collapsed in the grounds of a deserted parking lot somewhere in an Australian city, her thoughts are a shaken and stirred cocktail of memories, stretched and distorted by the warped reality of dreams and nightmares.

Yet, despite the dark thread of violence woven through the novel, one of its most lyrical moments occurs only hours after Tamara becomes the unwitting witness to the ugliness of sexual abuse.

It is in the vineyards of Bordeaux – Marielle is eighteen and straight. Tamara, at twenty-four, is the older woman who, though she is terribly attracted to Marielle, understands that when the young woman eventually sneaks into her bed, snuggles against her and begins a dreamy exploration of her body, it is more an emotional connection Marielle is seeking than sexual gratification. Tamara intuitively recognises that Marielle’s fragile psyche might construe any overtly sexual response on her part as yet another act of physical domination.

That night-time visit is a very touching, very tender moment because Tamara’s sensitivity is, ultimately, what brings Marielle not only to survive the ritual of incest her father has been subjecting her to but also to find the strength to finally break free of him.

Jagged Dreams is a novel that brings hard-hitting issues to the romance genre without compromising it. Make no mistake, though it foregrounds violence, Jagged Dreams is really about love.  And while real time is suspended for Tamara who drifts in and out of consciousness inside a hospital bed, the reader still has to work out whose act of violence has put her there and why.

C.C. Saint-Clair writes with luminous language and creates remarkably visual scenes. The topic of violence perpetrated against women in general, but more particularly against a strong cast of endearing lesbian characters – that spans five novels – is visibly one that preoccupies this author. Thus, her portrayal is always compassionate and moving, hard-hitting yet dreamy. It is romance with bite and substance. And with a great deal of style, too.

A genuinely great escape on rainy days.

A seriously engaging read on sunny days.