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I think I have enjoyed every single thing I’ve read from Stephanie Burgis, though I haven’t real any of her middle grade series. When preparing to recording an interview with her for the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast on the occasion of the release of Moontangled, I read the entire series leading up to it. Herewith are some briefer-than-usual reviews of the component parts.

I had no idea what to expect going into this book, and if I’d had expectations they would have been wrong. Based on the cover copy, what you have is a Neolithic murder mystery with intimations of queer romance. But Between Boat and Shore is neither a murder mystery nor a romance in terms of genre. The story opens with both a violent death and the arrival of two traveling strangers in the small community of Otter Village, motifs that would ordinarily suggest a classic whodunnit plot.

Contemporary romance isn’t usually my thing, but I’m so desperate to get another f/f historical romance out of Alyssa Cole (having loved “That Could Be Enough”) that I decided to triangulate by picking up “Once Ghosted, Twice Shy” for the f/f side, and her Loyal League series for the historical side. I still want more f/f historicals but at least I get more Alyssa Cole.

The second book in O’Dell’s near-future Sherlockian thriller series takes the reader on a game of cat-and-mouse where our protagonist, Dr. Janet Watson, struggles in the midst of chaos and danger to continue trusting her colleague/housemate/friend--I would say “partner” except that word carries some erroneous implications when you’re talking about two queer women--Sara Holmes.

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.

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