“The Stepmother” by Melissa Tereze is not a “traditional” age gap lesbian romance.
The title certainly suggests it and we’re all intrigued how the author could make the stepmother and the stepdaughter fall for each other without being a big cliché.
First, Diane Astell (the stepmother) and Hayley McCalister (the stepdaughter) only meet after Mike’s death, Mike being Diane’s husband and Hayley’s father.
The reasons for that is Hayley living abroad, mainly in Ibiza and Hayley not having a good relationship with her father, who did nothing for Hayley after his first wife and Hayley’s mother have left them, blaming Hayley for it.
Second, they both have a deep understanding of emotions and they both have been through pretty much drama in their pasts. The way Diane and Hayley reveal themselves to each other is absolutely normal, like two strangers ment to know each other while living under the same roof for 5 weeks. Their incredible attraction is absolutely hot, even if they try hard to avoid it.
I love how the book starts with a surprise and lots of laughter and many flirts from Hayley’s part.
Hayley is a DJ in Ibiza now in her thirties, she left England and her father and his father’s house, a couple of years after her mother have left them when Hayley was twelve years old. As soon as she finished highschool and got some cash, she flew to Ibiza and never looked back, because her father blamed her for her mother leaving them, which was unfair and a really bad thing to do.
In Ibiza Hayley built a great life, she works hard for most of the summer, then in the other seasons relaxes and enjoys her friends. She doesn’t do relationships anymore after two failed ones with Claire and Saz, especially because of what happened after Saz left back to England. In one word, she is a seen as heartbreaker, some sort of a playboy, sleeping around with women, who doesn’t commit to anyone, but has a great success to the ladies back in Spain.
She knew about her father’s death, she didn’t go to his funeral, she wanted nothing from him or from his latest wife, she just wanted her stuff and childhood pictures from her father’s house. So, she arrives to England and goes to her father’s house, still having a key, hoping none is home (especially not the stepmother), take the stuff with her and go away, Ibiza was calling her name.
I loved Diane and Hayley’s first encounter.
Hayley rings the bell to her father’s house, but none answers and she uses her key to get in. She enters the house and remains at the bottom of the staircase when the most beautiful woman she has ever seen half naked, dressed only in a short silk black robe rushes down the stairs. Hayley can’t believe this, this woman was far too beautiful to be his father’s wife and she can’t stop herself from telling her that. And to her surprise, Diane invites her to stay, because this is her house, too. Diane doesn’t flirt back, but she likes Hayley from the start.
Diane Astell has been an accountant for many years and met Mike at the same working place she works now. She is fifty two years old now. She is an incredibly beautiful brunette middle aged lady. She has few friends here, like her co-worker Steph, who turns to be not so much of a friend. Nobody knows that Diane is bisexual, not even Mike knew. It was easy to tell Hayley that one day, because Hayley was openly gay. The love of Diane’s life was not Mike, Hayley’s father, but Carol, the woman whom with Carol has spent nineteen years, the most beautiful years of Diane’s life so far. When they were in their thirties, she lost Carol to a brutal disease and Carol’s parents didn’t even told Diane were Carol was buried and slowly distanced themselves from her. After her, Diane never had another female lover.
She met Mike three years ago and they were married for two years when he died. She didn’t love him, she just didn’t want to be alone anymore.
After some time, she realized she would never be happy with a man.
So here she was, with a lot of drama and loss and shattered dreams in her life and she just let life go by.
When she met Hayley, she knew her boring life will change, because Hayley was vibrant, full of life, full of youth and made Diane feel young again. I liked all those little things between them that made two strangers living under the same roof know each other and become close: Hayley cooks dinner for hardworking Diane, Diane half-dressed coming from work going to the upstairs bathroom bounces into Hayley leaving the bathroom covered in a small towel, I like how they have an argument and then how they make-up, in the mature way. Hayley is more mature than she shows and she deep down, she feels so much more.
I enjoyed their discussions and their flirt so very much.
Their chemistry and their attraction are really hot. And their toys are really imaginative.
They don’t want to act on it, because of the situation they are in and because Diane knows that Hayley will leave in five weeks.
I am in love with Diane Astell, I love her self-assurance, her confidence, her courage and I imagine her beauty, her smile and her laughter and I can see within her soul through Melissa Tereze’s words and how she revealed Diane to the reader, through Hayley’s eyes.
Diane knows she’ll end up with a heartbreak, but she can’t resist Hayley, and even if Hayley, keeps saying this is just sex, even she can feel it is so much more.
Their intimacy and their lovemaking are incredibly hot and the levels their relationship rises to are truly amazing.
There is a villain in the plot of course, it is Steph the homophobe.
Other side characters , like Hayley’s friend Mila from Ibiza, are worth to be mentioned, because she tries to keep Hayley’s heart unbroken and defends her, not trusting Diane. Which figures to be wrong, as Mila is even younger than Hayley.
There were up’s and down’s in the plot, especially psychological ones: Hayley meeting Saz in England and understanding how the people around her saw her in Ibiza ~ a playmate, heartbreaker, the moment Diane tells Steph she is bisexual and of course the happy ending.
The turning point will be Hayley leaving England and going back to Ibiza, leaving Diane in England. The turmoil within their souls, the heartbreak, the loss, the insecurities and the love they both feel will make love prevail, in the end.
This is a very well written novel. I loved it very much, especially the plot and the main characters and how complex they are both psychologically and emotionally and how they found a way to escape this big cliché of stepmother and stepdaughter. I recommend it very much.
I loved the audiobook also, narrated by Nicole Eden.
Diane and Hayley’s story surely reminds me of this song and the story from “Loving Annabelle”: