“Training Op” by Radclyffe from Best Lesbian Stories 2012 (Cleis Press).

The thing that most surprised me when I started reading gay and lesbian romance tales was how blatantly sexual the latter were compared to the former. I’ve since heard the theory that people craft fiction around what they desire but don’t necessarily have, so people who (perhaps) have easier access to purely sexual encounters and can’t seem to find the lasting relationship for which their soul yearns write about commitment, while folks who wish they could crank up the heat in their steady relationship write racier stories. That would make sense. Of course it also assumes the ability to make generalities about two groups of people, and I’m not convinced that can be done.

As if to prove that point, this story is decidedly racier than the last one. Or the next one, for that matter. The writing is good, of course, but there isn’t any character development or any kind of arc that I could find. It feels like the beginning of something, and I was waiting to see what happened next. It’s probably a fraction of a novel, and that’s great, but it doesn’t leave me with much to review.

The main character is in law enforcement, a federal agent no less, attending a conference on the same. She’s carved out a niche among her uber-macho fellow agents, she’s doing well career-wise, but there’s no special person in her life. Partly this is because she hasn’t let go of the feelings she had for one particular agent she bonded with back in school – Kris. As luck would have it Kris is also attending the conference, and the two have arranged to share a room. At the kickoff party Kris defends the main character against the unwelcome advances of a boorish man in the hotel bar, one thing leads to another, and unrequited love is revealed to be not so unrequited after all. It’s fun, but like I said, I was looking for, and then waiting for, some conflict beyond the main character being interested in Kris for years, but respectful of the fact that Kris was (apparently) straight.