New York author Georgia Beers uses a sobering milieu for lesbian romance in her latest release, 96 Hours, which focuses on the experience of a group of passengers diverted to a small town in Newfoundland in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Erica Ryan, an uptight workaholic, finds herself thrown together with the bohemian Abby Hayes, who seems to be her polar opposite. Along with two male passengers, they find themselves hosted by Gander, Newfoundland natives as they attempt to process the horror of the attacks.

96 Hours is a window into shock and horror on an individual level, but also emphasizes the empathy and kinship that arose from 9/11. Beers is particularly interested in conveying the kindness and generosity of the Newfoundland population as they are inundated by people on redirected flights, as well as the way that volatile events serve to draw unexpected people together. Erica and Abby discover that they both have personal growth they must do if they want to be happier people, part of which means learning to trust one another.

I’m still not sure how well 96 Hours worked for me. I appreciate that Beers pushed the boundaries of “romance” a bit by investing it with such weighty topics as faith and grief, good and evil, and national tragedy. However, sometimes the contemplation of these larger issues seemed to overshadow the budding relationship between the main characters. In addition, reading the book inevitably reminded me of where I was and what I was doing on 9/11. I don’t think I was ready to read a “feel-good romance” (as Beers calls it in her introduction) about that time, no matter how well executed. But I’m glad she made the effort.

The cover art on the book is a cut above most lesbian romances, and fits the feel of the book perfectly. Another romance that touches on 9/11 (one of the protagonists lost her partner in the attack) is Kenna White’s Beneath the Willow.