Welcome to the December edition of the Queer Fiction Blog! This month we have an American girl falling for a Scottish princess, a young psychometric man falling in love and trying to save Manhattan from a magical relic with his new boyfriend, and a female astronomer falling for her newly widowed roommate after the local scientific society ignores her credentials.
Title/Author: Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
Summary: An American girl goes to an exclusive Scottish boarding school where she becomes the roommate, best friend, and girlfriend of a royal princess.
Series/Standalone: Series (but can be read as a standalone)
Genre/Sub-genre: Young Adult
Book Format: Print
Length: 274 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Bisexual/lesbian
Violence: No physical violence
Well-written/Editor Needed: Editor needed
Would I Recommend?: Recommend
Personal Thoughts: I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. Enemies to friends to lovers? Accidentally falling in love with royalty? It has everything I love! However, the book’s pacing is too fast and all over the place to really get to the heart of Millie and Flora’s characters and relationship. I did not go into this book expecting anything more than fluff. (In fact, I picked up this book because I thought it would mostly be fluff.) But it missed the mark, letting major plot points fall apart and rushing through most of the relationship-building between Millie and Flora.
This was a book that I mostly enjoyed reading; it’s entertaining and trope-y and doesn’t require me, as the reader, to do much work. But the author had some work to do in helping the reader to connect with the characters and I don’t think she accomplished it. I mostly liked it while I read it and instantly forgot it the minute it was over.
Title/Author: Spellbound — A Paranormal Historical Romance by Allie Therin
Summary: 1925. New York. Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects, but he needs a powerful psychometric to help. Rory has become a recluse in order to protect himself, but his ever-growing attraction to Arthur begins to make him brave and as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.
Series/Standalone: Magic in Manhattan book 1
Genre/Sub-genre: Historical Fantasy/MM Romance
Book Format: ebook
Length: 275 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Violence: Some violence, but it's minor
Ratio of Sex/Plot: Fade to black and heavy on the plot
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written, but with some issues.
Would I Re-Read?: Maybe
Personal Thoughts: On the surface, this was a light, very sweet, enjoyable read that I can easily recommend to the casual fantasy/romance reader. But digging into the details, I found a few things lacking. I didn’t have a good sense of the time period and felt this could have been set in 2019 without much of a problem. The magic was really interesting but I didn’t get a good sense of how accepted it was in general and how it affected their everyday lives, beyond Rory’s experiences. The characters were likeable, but were not as well-rounded as they could have been. For example, Rory says he can cook several times, but we never get to see it happen. He also can’t stop thinking Arthur is too good for him, viewing that he’s poor and Arthur has a lot of money, no troubles in his life, and has no problems throwing money at other people’s problems. Speaking of Arthur, he keeps thinking Rory is too young for him and he’s casually on a mission to save Manhattan, but we don’t learn why or how he came to be on the mission.
This is just the first book in the series, so maybe things will get explained and expanded on in the second book. As I said, I did enjoy this on the surface level, so I may give book two a whirl when it comes out. (There is no release date yet.) I’m a bit curious where this story and these characters go from here.
Title/Author: The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Summary: After the double blow of her father’s death and her lover’s marriage, astronomer Lucy Muchelney seizes the scientific opportunity of a lifetime and runs off to London. She knows she will face opposition because of her gender, but the refusal of the local scientific society to even acknowledge her qualifications comes as a shock. At this low moment, she finds steadfast emotional and financial support from Catherine St. Day, the widow of a famous fellow astronomer and the owner of a rare scientific text that Lucy hopes to translate into English. As the two women settle into cohabitation, they must both decide whether to risk their already wounded hearts on another chance at happiness.
Series/Standalone: Standalone in a planned trilogy
Genre/Sub-genre: Historical romance
Book Format: Paper
Length: 322 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: lesbian and bisexual
Violence: There is no physical violence. However, Catherine is recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship and the effects of the abuse she experienced are explored.
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Would I Recommend?: Absolutely. I’m so happy to finally have a full-length historical romance about two women falling in love that I can shout to the heavens, gorgeous cover and all. (Side-note: if you like queer historical romance written by queer authors and want a book about two men falling in love, you should definitely also read The Lawrence Browne Affair.)
Personal Thoughts: What a delightful experience it was to read this book! I was cheering for Lucy and Catherine to find happiness from the instant they appeared on the page. This is not a romance where one of the protagonists needs to reform in order to earn their happy ending. I spent the book hoping that they would find healing, rather than redemption. And they do! I loved the way science and art were intertwined throughout the story. Science and the treatment of women in science is obviously a big theme in The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, but as Catherine’s embroidery becomes a more important part of the narrative, it also brings up questions about how women’s work, in both science and art, is systematically devalued. Catherine values and uplifts Lucy’s work in science and Lucy does the same for Catherine’s art.
On some level, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is about the idea of the art monster — or science monster, in this case. Catherine, who has been the unappreciated support system holding up a single-minded scientist for her entire adult life, doesn’t want to be reduced to a mere helpmeet again. Who could blame her? But that isn’t what Lucy wants from her either. Nobody has to be a monster to the people closest to them in order to accomplish great things. As two women in the 1800s, they’re unable to celebrate their relationship publicly or be recognized for what they are to each other, but they’re free to build a different kind of partnership. No spoilers here, but the way they do decide to join their lives together is all the more romantic for being unique.