One of the things that's going to make Floodtide a hard sell to the lesfic crowd is that it's not a capital-r-Romance novel. For all that Roz's interest in other girls drives key elements of the conflict throughout the book, this isn't a book about finding True Love (tm) and achieving a romantic happy ending. It's very much about finding out that you can have a wide variety of intense emotional relationships with people that aren't sexual and that contribute every bit as much to your happiness as a girlfriend would. But that's a theme that is only beginning to be accepted as being just as worthwhile as a traditional romance plot.
(I can guarantee you that there will be a certain subset of readers who trash the book saying, "I was cheated! There's no romance! And no sex!" regardless of how it gets presented. I regularly see people complaining that Daughter of Mystery "doesn't have any romance" when what they mean is that it doesn't have sex scenes. But I digress...)
Rotenek isn't so small a place that Roz is constantly running into her ex-girlfriend, so that makes it more of a jolt when she does--especially in company with Iulien, who may or may not know Roz's back story. It's even more of a slap in the face to find out it was Nan who had spilled the beans about their relationship in an attempt to divert the importunings of the footman who ratted on them. But Celeste is there to be a shoulder to cry on and bring Roz back to reality with a bucket of metaphorical cold water.
* * *
Celeste knew I was fussing about something. I wanted to ask her about [irrelevant spoiler], but I’d just promised myself never to tell secrets again. Not that sort of secret. So I told her about seeing Nan and everything she’d said. I was crying by the end of it, but I didn’t mind that in front of Celeste.
“It’s a hard place to be in,” Celeste said.
At first I thought she meant me, and not knowing what I could and couldn’t tell Maisetra Iulien.
“She should have known you can’t put a man off by putting a woman before him. That may work out in those romantic stories you read, but an ordinary man won’t stand still to be told a woman comes before him. Nan should have known better and just stuck to no. But once she’d spilled it, what could she have done?”
“She could have been loyal to the end,” I hiccupped.
“What, do you think you’re the heroine of a gothic novel?”
Celeste took away the fancywork I’d been sewing on because I couldn’t see for the tears. She handed me something that only needed plain seams.
“Do you know how stories like that end, Roz? They end with the two of you starving on the streets huddled in each others arms as a moral tale for other girls. If your places had been swapped, you would have been a fool not to do the same.”
“But I loved her!” I blurted out. I was remembering now how much I’d loved her, and all the plans we’d made lying there in the dark. Some day we’d set up a shop together. In our wild fancies we talked of running off to see the world. It never would have happened—not the running off part. But maybe the shop part, if we’d saved our money carefully and had a bit of luck. And if Nan had been able to keep her mouth shut.
Celeste was quiet for a long time the way she had when she was thinking something out. At last she said, “Love’s too fancy a thing for the likes of us. It’s like wearing a bonnet with laces and bows for sweeping gutters. It never does you good and only gets you in trouble.” It sounded like she had someone particular in mind, but not herself. Celeste had never talked about having a sweetheart and I’d never dared to ask. If someone had done the same thing to Celeste that Nan had done to me I would have…I think I would have beaten him bloody. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone making her unhappy.