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Sometimes I stumble into reading a book that isn’t in my usual target zone at all. I’ve read some short fiction by El-Mohtar that I rather enjoyed, but “epistolary time-travel secret agent romance” isn’t something that would necessarily pique my interest until you insert the word “lesbian” into that phrase. Reading the book set me ruminating on questions of what even is gender in a post-human society, but that’s a different discussion.

This Edwardian country-house murder mystery follows the usual script of assembling an odd assortment of family, friends, and what-the-heck-are-they-doing-here characters, identifies certain characters (ideally more than one) as worthy of murder, establishes murderous motivations for most of the cast, with a handy storm to pen everyone in at the crisis. The mystery here is solid and even--if you haven’t read the book this is a prequel to--carries just enough doubt regarding the motivations and guilt of some of the more likeable characters to keep one on edge.

Penny Micklebury braids together the historic, romance, and thriller genres in a story about personal and racial relationships and found family in Philadelphia on the eve of the Civil War. Eugenia Oliver (who sometimes operates as Eugene) escaped slavery and navigated the complexities of establishing herself as a professional seamstress and supporting less fortunate community members while also participating in the Underground Railroad.

I wrote something of a mini-review of this when I included it in a podcast for The Lesbian Talk Show on five reasons why the Regency era is great for f/f romances and five books that illustrate each reason. I might as well let it do double-duty:

Reason Why the Regency is Great for F/F Romances: Gender Imbalance

I can’t be anything other than delighted to find romance authors with established reputations and readerships venturing out into the field of f/f historic romance. Courtney Milan has tackled not only same-sex romance but a later-life  discovery of love, as well as tossing our two protagonists into a “burn down the patriarchy!” (literally) adventure. I admire the enthusiasm and cheerful fury of the non-romance plot, but certain aspects of this historic setting fell a bit flat for me.

I had much more to say about this collection right after I read it, but unfortunately that was about a year ago.  The stories cover historic eras from the 14th century up through the 1990s, with almost half falling in the 20th century, more than half set in the USA, and none set outside Europe + North America. Based on my own experience of soliciting queer historical fiction (and collections my work has been included in) these statistics aren’t at all surprising but are worth noting.

Wise’s collection of fantastic (most often futuristic or steam-punkish) short stories is best read in individual bites so that the effect and implications of each piece has time to settle. Many of them focus on the use of language--either as a theme of the story or simply in its presentation. Pain, damage, and disability are strong through-lines. And queerness is an assumed given in most of the pieces. These are not comfortable stories; they’re often angry and many feature characters who can’t easily be framed as likeable.

I needed something fun and fluffy and light and a quick read. Burgis’s YA magical Regency novel Kat, Incorrigible perfectly hit the spot. Having recently been on a panel discussion about Regency fantasy at Worldcon, I’ve been thinking about the role that magic plays in this sub-genre. It can either be an analog of social rank and privilege, or a forbidden underlayer, or in rarer cases, a subverting force that acts openly across the formal structures of society. But that’s a discussion for a different time and place.

Everyone and their cousin is using the relationships and themes of Sherlock Holmes as inspiration for characters in decidedly non-English non-Edwardian non-mimetic settings these days. Some of them are doing it very well--sometimes so well that the Holmesian framework is almost unnecessary as an underpinning for the story.

This is a pleasant (well, maybe wrong word, see futher...) side-story in the Vorkosigan universe focusing on collaborations between Ekaterin and bioengineer Enrique looking for genetically engineered mitigations for the toxic waste site that forms part of Miles’ inheritance. It’s also about the persistance of ingrained prejudices and the ways in which ignorance (on all sides) enables unprivileged people to fall through the cracks in an otherwise progressive society.

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