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Reviews: Books

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(I recently did a podcast on the topic of female highwaymen in history and literature, and the motif in modern lesbian romance. This is one of several reviews resulting from my reading for that podcast.)

(I recently did a podcast on the topic of female highwaymen in history and literature, and the motif in the lesbian romance genre. This is one of several reviews resulting from my reading for that podcast.)

Lawrence Hogue’s Daring and Decorum, stands out in the micro-genre of lesbian historic highwaywomen stories for its solid worldbuilding and the deliberation with which it builds the relationship between the two female protagonists, making both their attraction and the obstacles to it believable and solidly grounded in the social history of the times.

Shira Glassman writes self-described "fluffy queer Jewish princess fantasies" (ok, I may have reworded slightly but I think I've kept the essence of it). The Second Mango introduces the reader to Perach, a secondary-world fantasy realm where everyone just happens to be Jewish. I mean that in the most positive possible way -- when creating a fantasy setting completely separate from real-world history, why not set it up exactly as you choose?

"Shadow Duet" is a short story with the same setting and characters as her 18th century historic fantasy novel Masks and Shadows, featuring the famous castrato singer Carlo Morelli and his accompanist-lover Baroness Charlotte von Steinbeck. (Needless to say, their relationship--which was established after the end of the novel--is something of a scandal.) I'd call this work more of a character sketch than a short story, to tell the truth.

I've been a fan of Donoghue's academic works on the history of same-sex relations between women, but although I've collected up a number of her novels, I've only recently decided to prioritize them on my reading list. One essential thing to know, going in, is that a Donoghue novel about romantic and/or sexual relationships between women in history is not a "lesbian historical romance." These aren't formulaic books with happily-ever-after endings, they're fictionalizations of the lives of real historic women.

There are two approaches to fairy tale retellings: ones that re-map the original story as a whole into a new setting that shifts the reader’s vision to a different angle, and ones that take the original premise as a jumping-off point then map entirely new territory thereafter. Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra is definitely of the second type.

When reading a contemporary werewolf story, generally one’s first thought isn’t “I love the multi-layered allegorical resonances,” but that’s what I came away with from Lundoff’s Silver Moon (originally published 2012 by Lethe Press but now reissued as one of the initial offerings of Queen of Swords Press).

I picked up this collection after seeing mention of the author’s novel Mask of the Highwaywoman, and seeing that it had the original shorter version of the same story (since the novel isn’t yet available for iBooks). I’m always looking for lesbian historical fiction that reaches farther back than the 20th century. Magic and Romance doesn’t have a focused theme (other than lesbian protagonists) and only four of the eight stories fall in my historical/fantasy target interest.

I ran across this book during my “book release re-boot” promoting titles released in November 2016 and was rather startled to realize I hadn’t taken note of it when it originally came out. But that was what the re-boot was about, after all. A Certain Persuasion (very clever title, by the way) is an anthology of queer stories inspired in some way by the fiction of Jane Austen. It includes new looks at Austen’s protagonists, imagined back-stories for minor characters, and stories about modern characters that interact with the Austen canon in some way.

I don't usually highlight reviews in my blog (I have separate pages for that), but I woke up to a really lovely Goodreads review of The Mystic Marriage from fellow Storybundle author K.J. Charles. If you have ever wanted to try some incredibly well-writen historical fantasy featuring gay male protagonists, K.J.


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