Link Round Up: February 1 – 14

Her Body and Other Parties Carmen Maria Machado cover   Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver cover   Lyric Sexology Vol 1 by Trish Salah cover   Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova cover   Villains Don't Date Heroes by Mia Archer cover

Autostraddle posted 8 Books to Read If You Loved Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body and Other Parties”.

Bella Books is holding multiple giveaways through their Facebook page.

Book Riot posted 7 Fantastic Queer Sequels Coming Out in 2018 and 10 Unmissable LGBTQ+ Poets.

Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian posted Three New Must-Read Queer Canadian Poetry Books.

Lambda Literary posted New in February: Joseph Cassara, Saundra Mitchell, Jeffrey C. Stewart, and Karin Kallmaker.

LGBTQ Reads posted New Releases: February 2018 and Valentine’s Day Reads for Under $5!

Ylva posted Inside India: Writing Lesbian Fiction from the East.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin cover   Fun Home by Alison Bechdel cover         All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell cover

“The Lesbian Grandma Romance In “Bingo Love” Will Melt Your Cold, Cold Heart” was posted at Logo.

“Lesbian media representation changed my life” discusses Fun Home and the podcast “Nancy.”

“Remembering ‘Tipping The Velvet,’ The “Joyous” Lesbian Romance That Changed Television” was posted at Decider.

In Croatia, an “enlarged effigy of My Rainbow Family, a picture book created for kindergarten-age children, was put to flames in front of several hundred children and parents on Sunday” at a children’s carnival. Here’s the link to their Indiegogo page to support the authors and get your own copy of the book!

Queerly Loving Vol 1 edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz cover   White Houses by Amy Bloom cover      Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann cover   Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley cover

Queerly Loving (Volume 1) edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

White Houses by Amy Bloom was reviewed at TBO.

What Weaponry by Elizabeth J. Colen was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Legend of Korra Turf Wars Part Two by Michael Dante DiMartino and Irene Koh was reviewed at Okazu.

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann was reviewed at Rich In Color.

An Outsider Inside by R J Samuel was reviewed at Curve.

Loving Her by Ann Allen Shockley was reviewed at Black Lesbian Literary Collective.

Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky was reviewed at Okazu.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazonpages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitter! We’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Thank you to the Lesbrary’s Patreon supporters! Special thanks to Jacqui Plummer, Ivy Quinn, Breanne Royce, Kath, Kayla Fuentes, Mark, Martha HansenLindsy Lowrance, Amy Hanson, Chris Coder, Ann, Ellen Zemlin, and Casey Stepaniuk.

Support the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month!

Keep up with all the Lesbrary posts and extra content by signing up for the Lesbrary newsletter!

Anna Marie reviews Women Lovers, Or the Third Woman by Natalie Clifford Barney 

Women Lovers or the Third Woman by Natalie Clifford Barney is an intense and poetic modernist novel about three women (N, L and M) deeply devoted and in love with each other, and chronicles the transformation of their relationship. The idea of the “Third Woman” is not only a reference to one of the women in the novel being left out by the others, but also to the idea that being a lesbian was being part of a “third sex” (something also explored at around the same time by Radclyffe/John Hall in The Well Of Loneliness and by various sexologists circling around at the time). The novel is also an exceedingly thinly veiled autobiography about Barney’s relationship with Mimi Franchetti and Liane de Pougy, both key figures in sapphic Parisian (generally immigrant) circles in the 1920s.

The language of the novel (in translation from French) is electric and so alive and sensual, just as the love story and relationships it depicts are. L is a decadent woman whilst M is frenzied and soft – “Her hands are more evolved than she herself is, and they get hurt on everything, just as souls do.” Barney’s description of herself, of the character N, is a potent snapshot of a person who constantly feels like the odd one out: “she communes with humans through joyful pleasure, even though she seems to miss out on it in every other way”. I think something in this novel that made it even more captivating than a queer love and loss story might have been is this positioning of some people as “thirds”, as constantly missing out because they don’t have a singular partner or relationship that consistently puts them first. It reminded me a little of this article that Caleb Luna wrote about being “denied intimacy and care… who reserve it for others” the ways that people undermine platonic relationships by focusing so intensely on romantic coupling. Obviously N in the novel has multiple other pairings, so its not an entirely accurate comparison, but I think it adds interesting current contexts for the novel.

The earthy but whimsical tone of Women Lovers as well as the descriptions charmed and inspired me so much. As someone studying the period, it’s also interesting to see who else weaves their way into and through the narrative, from their “Dearest Friend” (the artist and long term partner to Barney, Romaine Brooks) to “The Newly Miserable Woman” (Djuna Barnes author of Nightwood and The Ladies Almanack), as well as references to Radclyffe/John Hall and her partner Lady Troubridge.

Although this word is never used in the novel, it is clear that N and the women she is involved with are in some way polyamorous: they generally participate in and create non-monogamous relationships with each other, overlapping intimacies, so it’s a record of the way that historical queers connected separately and related to their communities and their partners/lovers/friends. The other really enjoyable part of reading this novel is the many ways in which the current sapphic and queer community I witness and participate in mimics these wild lesbian and bi+ women from almost 100 years ago! Just like when I read The Ladies Almanack, this novel/autobiography made me really feel like nothing has changed – we make the same jokes, we care about the same things, we use similar imagery and vocabularies, we have the same issues to work through, we are all dating each others exes and so on!

Megan Casey reviews Swamp Girl by Iza Moreau 

There was a recent article in The Washington Post about young adult novels written from the queer perspective. The gist of the article was that these novels “have begun to feel mainstream.” I’m sure that this is true to some extent; that a queer point of view is becoming increasingly more accepted by today’s readers, especially if these books are being published by traditional publishers. For some queer readers, finding a romance or a fantasy or even a mystery novel with queer protagonists comes as “a happy surprise.”

This last phrase—a happy surprise—is probably the most important idea in the article. Queer teens—or teens who are questioning their sexuality—need these types of books desperately. And not just coming-out stories or romances that end in tragedy—but books where the main characters just happen to be gay and live lives that are as normal as possible in our current society. That’s why Iza Moreau’s first Lesbian YA novel is so refreshing and, yes, important.

First of all, the book is a boisterous adventure that features a cast of almost Dickensian characters. The protagonist, “Sixteen-year-old Trixie McQueen—called Sixteen by her friends—wends her questing way from an abandoned subway tunnel in New York City to the mangrove-wild expanse of the Florida Everglades, where she is threatened by poachers and saved by a group of odd swamp dwellers—some of whom spent hard time as circus acts. Much of the plot involves the attempt of Sixteen and her new friends to uproot the criminals and drive them back to where then came from.

One of the oddest of all the characters is a bangle-and-short-shorts-wearing Valley girl named Raven, who is visiting her estranged mother. Sixteen—who has always accepted her orientation as a lesbian—and Raven—who has not—immediately bump heads, and Sixteen’s attempt to straighten her out—while combating her increasing attraction for the girl—round out the plot.

The first-person point of view is—I doubt if this is accidental—reminiscent of Tom Sawyer or Huck Fin, who have their own adventures to relate and crooks to foil. And, with the help of Voodoo-savvy Burundi, alligator-wrestling Large Lurleen, ex-Marine Big Ned Briscoe, circus-geek Señor Skin, Dorie the philosophy professor, and her other new friends, she manages to do just that. And in doing so, she not only rids the Glades of unwanted vermin, but provides a good, clean adventure for lesbian and questioning teens to enjoy, put on their shelves, and take out again occasionally throughout their lives.

Moreau has announced on her website that she is putting the finishing touches on the first three books in a new lesbian teen mystery series that will give lesbian and questioning teens a Nancy Drew type of hero. It should be interesting because, as far as I know, it will be the first such series. Until then, though Swamp Girl is as thoroughly enjoyable an entertainment as you could want.

Note: I received a review copy of this book that was kindly provided by the publisher in e-book form through Lesbrary.

For over 250 Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at

Elinor Zimmerman reviews Set the Stage by Karis Walsh

When I picked up this book, I wasn’t sure if a romance set in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival would really be my thing because I’m not a theater person. But Walsh’s vivid descriptions of Ashland, Oregon, of the festival, and of her lead’s clashing career paths were so charming that I was transported. If you want a nice little romance to escape into, this might be the novel for you.

Emilie is an actor with more than a few career regrets who sees her season with the festival as a chance to finally get back on track professionally. She suffers from stage fright and once abandoned her theater dreams and initial acclaim for her work in order to follow her girlfriend, a fellow actor, on tour. She’s determined not to let anything stand in the way of her ambition again.

Arden is a lifelong Ashland resident, daughter of an actor and a director who left her to be raised by her grandparents while they pursued theater careers all over the world. She works in the local park, just like her late grandfather did. She dates actress who come for the festival and regularly gets her heart broken in the process.

Arden and Emilie are drawn to each other from the moment they meet in the park but agree that they should just be friends. Emilie doesn’t want a distraction and Arden doesn’t need another relationship with an expiration date. Over many months of rehearsals and performances, the two grow closer and closer, cheering each other on in their careers even as those ambitions threaten their bond.

The romance in this burns slow but I appreciated that. A lot of the focus is on their connection as dear friends, Emilie’s struggles to perform when her confidence is low, and Arden reconsidering the life she planned for herself and what her professional aims actually are. It’s engaging and fun.

The only thing I didn’t really like was Emilie’s roommate, a graduate student in psychology, who wants to use Emilie for her studies. While I’d buy an undergrad new to the field blurring personal and professional boundaries, by grad school a psych student should know better than to pressure a new roommate into quasi-therapy sessions for her research. Maybe this sort of thing would happen but it sounded unethical. It also seemed to be a way to reveal some of Emilie’s backstory and have her come to realizations. Luckily this roommate basically disappears from the book once she’s served that purpose.

Overall, it’s a fun romance. It made me want to go this festival, which I’d never had any interest in before. Set the Stage is worth a read for fans of romance or theater.

Elinor Zimmerman is the author of Certain Requirements, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books in Spring 2018 and is a contributor to the anthology Unspeakably Erotic, edited by D.L. King, and out now. Her website is

Thanks To Our Sponsors!

You might have noticed that the Lesbrary now has a few ads! I’ve always been firm in not wanting to put randomly generated ads on the site that would be irrelevant at best and offensive at worst (no diet products on this site, thank you!) Recently, however, I’ve been reaching out to publishers and authors of lesbian and bi women books, and now we have ads that not only help keep the lights on, but are actually relevant to readers! I’m really happy with this development, and I wanted to thank some of the first advertisers with the Lesbrary!


You’ll be seeing a lot of Ylva Publishing! They are the top ad spot for all of 2018!

Ylva Publishing is the home of quality lesbian books. Our ever-growing catalogue of award-winning fiction includes everything from lesbian romance to mystery, erotica, and thriller.




The Year of the Knife by G.D. Penman, which also was a Sponsored Review! Check out my full review here.

Agent “Sully” Sullivan is one of the top cops in the Imperial Bureau of Investigation. A veteran witch of the British Empire who isn’t afraid to use her magical skills to crack a case. But Sully might need more than a good education and raw power to stop the string of grisly murders that have been springing up across the American Colonies. Every one of them marked by the same chilling calling card, a warning in the form of a legion of voices screaming out through the killers’ mouths: “It IS tHe YEAr oF the KNife.”


Wanderlust for Beginners by Alice Casey:

Welcome to the Moonlit Road is a joyously far-fetched fantasy novel with a queer family focus.

Ngaire and Katy settle in a small town, and set baby plans underway. The baby daddy is Ngaire’s cousin, Nigel, a dairy-farming wizard, and when it turns out that the baby has Down Syndrome, Ngaire asks Nigel to help. He finds an old spell and consecrates an owl to the Welsh Goddess Blodeuwedd, assigning it to watch over the pregnancy and later, the child as she grows up.


My Own Human by Arizona Tape:

At only 265 years young, vampire Adrianna has her whole life ahead of herself. But instead of planning out her future, she is fascinated by human history. So far she knows that humans were smart and resourceful, made both love and war, and are undeniably extinct. So can you imagine her surprise when she stumbles upon Heather, a young woman that loves fresh air, dances in the rain, and likes her heartbeat regular. Oh, and is as human as they come.

Travel 2000 years into the future where the vampire race has taken over our Earth. Discover with Heather who those vampires really are and exactly what they are capable of. And maybe, you might find out why they aren’t so different from us after all…

Thanks so much to our sponsors!

Julie Thompson reviews Sugar Town (issues 1-4) by Hazel Newlevant

Sugar and spice and everything nice is what adorable graphic novels featuring queer women are made of. Sugar Town is a sweet story about two women who meet in a bar in Portland, Oregon and fall in love. It’s polyamory and open relationships and queer sexuality. There’s no angst, no heart-stricken-dark-night-of-the-soul about loving more than one person simultaneously. This isn’t to say that the characters lack depth or haven’t wrangled with difficult personal histories, but that’s background to what happens in this volume. Overall, it’s fun fluff that pairs nicely with a lazy night on the couch and a glass of wine.

Author and illustrator Hazel Newlevant blends story and art in a delectable combination. Hazel’s relationships with Gregor, her comic artist boyfriend, in New York City and her burgeoning romance with Argent (“Hazel Hawthorne”), a Portland-based dominatrix, gives me the warm fuzzies. The illustrations are chock full of details that draw out how the characters feel and the overall mood of a scene. Take for instance that magic moment within the first few pages in which the dancers part and Hazel’s heart-shaped pupils lock onto Argent for the first time. It’s a magical moment worthy of the epic swells of Heart’s Alone. Every time I read Sugar Town, I discover new flourishes. And really, isn’t that part of what makes the world go ‘round?

Queer Books That Should Be Made Into Movies

I think everyone can agree that even as an increasing number of books are published about queer women, and written by queer women, we can always use more. In addition to being a writer and avid reader, I’m also a huge fan of movies and TV—the different media highlights different things about characters and world, and I love consuming both. Recently, I’ve been a writer for Tremontaine, a serial story from Serial Box Publishing based on Ellen Kushner’s very queer Riverside series. Because we work and publish on a TV model with a writers’ room, with show runners and a schedule where new episodes go live once a week, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the intersections of story-telling between novels and TV in particular.

As we’ve seen with properties like the Lord of the Rings movies and A Game of Thrones, when big fantasy projects are made into amazing movies and shows people start to pay attention to the genre and even more books are bought and sold. Of course, those two examples have T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E queer representation. My optimistic side thinks that one or two hugely successful movies or shows with queer ladies at the helm, telling queer stories, would go a long way to normalizing such things.

With that in mind, here are five queer books I’d LOVE to see made into movies or TV shows. All of them have queer ladies as main characters or the world itself is queered, and most are by queer authors. (And they’re all fantastic books—you should go right out and read all of them.)

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

This book is amazing—it takes place in an alternate USA about seventeen years after the Civil War was disrupted by the dead rising from their graves! Jane, our bisexual heroine, is being trained at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls to learn to kill the undead and serve as an Attendant to some rich white family. The story travels from war-and-zombie-ravaged east coast out west, and Jane is always getting into trouble. In a world like this, zombies are sometimes the least of her concerns. The scope of the story, the wild west horror, and Jane’s entertaining style would make this a fantastic movie.


Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

I’ve long wanted one—any!—of Kate Elliott’s series to be made into a sweeping TV series. She is one of the best epic fantasy writers alive, and they all include queer people to various degrees. Her worlds are intricate, her characters and their conflicts layered and intriguing. Black Wolves has everything Game of Thrones has, but better, including a bisexual protagonist. In fact, if HBO wanted to start with the Crossroads trilogy to which this is a companion series, they’d have years of quality programming with 100% less rape, racism, and homophobia.



The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

The imagery of this book (and its sequel) is so haunting I was already imagining it as a movie the first time I read it. It takes place in a Paris that never was, where fallen angels struggle against each other for power. The dark nostalgia and intense atmosphere of post-war love, suffering, and community-building would make this a fascinating movie that I think would really linger in viewers’ minds.


Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This hard-core space opera is one of my favorite queer reads, because the queerness—while also present in every layer of culture and world—is inherently a part of the language with which Leckie tells the story. Every character is linguistically gendered female, regardless of how they’re coded in other ways (which run the gamut of gender, not just male/female), which is both a fascinating experiment as well as indicative of the colonial themes in the novel. It would be very difficult to capture in film or television for the reasons I mentioned above: they’re such different media from books. But I’d love to see an ambitious filmmaker try it. And the story itself is thrilling enough to pull viewers along with the experiment.

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
While all Jemisin’s book stick with me because of their incredible characters, worlds, and intense emotional arcs, this first book in her Dreamblood Duology is the one that reads most cinematically to me. Not only is it a murder mystery and thriller, but the characters are so tightly written, and the setting is absolutely alive. It takes place entirely within the city-state of Gujaareh, and these neighborhoods are drawn so vividly, their political flavors so clear, that I felt like I’d visited it myself. There is queer love at the heart of it, and aside from being well written, the main characters are just so cool. It is easy to image them rushing along the shadowy rooftops, like the silent assassins they are. (Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy HAS been optioned for TV, which is super exciting).
Tessa Gratton is the author of the Blood Journals Series and Gods of New Asgard Series, co-author of YA writing books The Curiosities and The Anatomy of Curiosity, as well as dozens of short stories available in anthologies and on Though she’s lived all over the world, she’s finally returned to her prairie roots in Kansas with her wife. Her current projects include Tremontaine at Serial Box Publishing, her 2018 YA fantasy Strange Grace from McElderry, and her adult fantasy debut, The Queens of Innis Lear, coming in 2018 from Tor. She is the associate director of Madcap Retreats. Visit her at

Tremontaine season 3 is out now from Serial Box.

Elinor reviews The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

I have long-standing love for Ariel Levy’s work, so I was eager to read her memoir The Rules Do Not Apply. For those who’ve read her essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” about her miscarriage at 19 weeks pregnant, you have some idea what you’ll be getting in this book. Essentially, it’s a brutally sad story told gorgeously. The memoir gives context to Levy’s loss of her pregnancy, marriage, and home, all within a single month, and delves into her life before, during and after this central tragedy.

Much of the book explores Levy’s adventures as a successful writer, interviewing fascinating people all over the world, and how her work informed her ideas about gender, family, work, queerness, marriage, and a meaningful life. Alongside this is the story of Levy’s personal life, from a childhood spent witnessing her mother’s long-term affair and the dissolution of her parent’s marriage, to dating men and women as an adult. When Levy falls in love with and marries a woman before such a marriage was legally recognized, you can feel the heady excitement. Together the pair bought a home and wrestled with question when and how to become parents. Though Levy’s marriage was loving, it was complicated by Levy’s destructive affair with a creepy ex and her spouse’s increasingly serious drinking problem. Still, when they decide to have a child after many years together, she believes that they have things under control, that they’d weathered storms and gotten bad behavior out of their systems. Then the unthinkable happens and the story takes a turn Levy never expected.

Levy resists the cultural rules for women throughout her life, managing to have brilliant ambition, professional success, lust, love, adventure and a rich domestic life. But those are only a superficial rejection of the “rules” that the title references. This memoir rejects tidy lessons, platitudes, and the idea that loss is avoidable. Often in stories like Levy’s, the unstated rule is that it all works out in the end, that there’s a silver lining, or that everything happens for some ultimately rewarding cosmic reason. Levy refuses to pretty up her pain or to resolve the story neatly. Here, there is no happy ending. In fact, the book ends ambiguously, with Levy stepping out into an uncertain future.

The rawness and incredible writing draw you in, and leave you unsettled. You might want to line up something soothing after this. I was very glad I didn’t read it until after my child was born, because if I’d been pregnant or trying to get pregnant I would have been an anxious wreck reading this book. Having said that, I still highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating, honest, unique book.

Elinor Zimmerman is the author of Certain Requirements, which will be released by Bold Strokes Books in Spring 2018. Her website is

Advertise With The Lesbrary!

If you’re a publisher or author of queer women books, why not advertise where the entire audience is readers of queer women books? The Lesbrary has 10,000 views a month and has over 16,000 followers on its tumblr counterpart. The monthly rates for ads are:

  • $25 for an ad on the top of the right sidebar
  • $15 for the second spot down on the right sidebar
  • $30 for a banner ad at the bottom of every post
  • $40 for matching ads on the sidebar and bottom of every post
  • $50 for matching ads on the sidebar and bottom of every post, plus ads on original tumblr posts

If you would like to advertise with the Lesbrary, or if you have any questions, email danikaellis at gmail with “Lesbrary Ad” in the subject line.

Another option to get more exposure for your queer women book at the Lesbrary is to get a sponsored review. Sponsored reviews are $100 and guarantee a thorough, honest review in the time frame agreed on (at least 2 weeks notice needed). You can browse examples of sponsored reviews here. If you’d like a sponsored review, email danikaellis at gmail with “Lesbrary Sponsored Review” in the subject line.

Megan Casey reviews The Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series by Sandra de Helen

The Hounding  (Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series Book 1)

Pastiche: “a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work.” For decades, the word pastiche was commonly used to refer to stories about Sherlock Holmes that were not written by A. Conan Doyle. Perhaps the most famous is The Seven-Percent Solution, which was a best seller for Nicholas Meyer in 1974. More recently, Laurie R. King (who also writes lesbian mysteries featuring Kate Martinelli) has created the Mary Russell Mystery Series, which features the iconic sleuth. Holmes also appears in Carole Nelson Douglas’ Irene Adler series. In fact, lists over 7000 paperbacks inspired by Holmes.

As far as the lesbian mystery genre goes, characters based on Holmes and Watson appear in Nene Adams’ Gaslight Series, Olivia Stowe’s Charlotte Diamond Series, Debra Hyde’s Charlotte Olmes Series. There is more than a subtle similarity to Holmes and Watson in Iza Moreau’s The XYZ Mysteries, with Xande Calhoun as Holmes and her sister Yolande as Watson. There are stories about Holmes and Watson as lesbians and Holmes and Watson as gay. Now, Sandra de Helen has become one of the latest pasticheurs with her series about Shirley Combs and her friend Dr. Mary Watson. In the first novel, The Hounding, neither character is either gay or lesbian, or even hetero. But we’ll get to that in a paragraph or two.

We don’t hear the word pastiche much any more. Today, it’s called “fan fiction.” I suspect that The Hounding began as fan fiction, and perhaps that’s why it isn’t as strong as it could be. For one thing, the author makes over 15 references to Sherlock Holmes himself. A couple of the characters joke about the Sherlock Holmes/Shirley Combs vocal similarity. And the language sometimes is just too Holmesian (despite the story being set in modern-day Oregon) to be anything but fan fiction. Here are a couple of for instances:

“I have been engaged by Miss Goldenhawk Vandeleur to enquire into the circumstances surrounding the death of her mother, Pricilla Leoin.”

“Only a slight upward movement of Shirley’s left eyebrow would have given away her surprise, and only an observer as keen as Shirley herself would have seen it.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with fan fiction, which may be the newest literary genre. In The Hounding, the writing is strong and the mystery is worthy of the master himself. In short, a woman is mauled by dogs, causing her to have a heart attack and die. But who set the dogs on her and where are they now? Shirley Combs, private investigator and portfolio analyst, takes on the job of finding the answer. But unless an author is actually writing about the real Holmes and Watson, it is not a good idea to stick too close to the original.

There is little backstory about either Shirley or Mary. Both consider themselves asexual and both live alone: Shirley in Portland, Oregon and Mary in nearby Lake Oswego. And neither, unfortunately, seems to have a very interesting personality. Of the two, though, it is Mary—the primary narrator—who has the most promise. It is she who gets an odd feeling when she sees an attractive woman and it is she who continually questions her strange relationship with Shirley. Shirley seems to question nothing.

And I can’t let this review go without discussing point of view. As you will remember, most—but not all—of the original Sherlock Holmes stories are narrated in their entirety by Watson, who sees all and hears all. Holmes includes him in his adventures just so that Watson is in attendance, not only as a friend, but as an observer. De Helen knows this well, but often finds it difficult to insert her Watson into the action, although this action is important to the story. Here’s how Mary Watson explains her ability to do it. Evidently, like Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe detective series, Shirley has a photographic memory and is able to give a thorough account of her outings, as when Mary says, “she dictated her word by word account for me.” Then Mary continues, “I use my creative license to add what I imagine to be the thoughts and emotions of all the players.” She adds later, “It’s easy to imagine what happened next.” This is one of the cleverest point-of-view ploys I’ve ever seen, but it’s still a glitch in the artistry.

But that’s enough skating around. As fan fiction, The Hounding is as good as most–as creative literature, not so much. But despite everything, it is an interesting and well-developed mystery. I recommend it for any Holmes/Watson obsessives.

The Illustrious Client (Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson Series Book 2)

One of the many good things about this, the second novel in the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series, is that it stands alone very well. Conversely, perhaps the best way to review this novel is by contrasting it to its predecessor.

Let’s start with the Holmes/Watson comparisons. In the first book, de Helen refers to the original iconic detective no less than 15 times. Well, guess how many comparisons she makes this time? Answer: zero. What this means is that the author has become more confident in her talents and more creative in her thinking. Ditto about her “explanations” about inconsistent point of view. Although her narrative shifts once or twice from Dr. Watson to omniscient, the author genuinely tries to stay within Watson’s experience. Not perfect, but a vast improvement.

The plot is fairly complex, as was the previous book’s. Shirley is hired to dissuade a famous young pop star, Oceane, from her romance with international playgirl Zaro, who was once (while disguised as a male) a soldier in the Afghan army. But when Zaro is attacked with acid, the sleuth’s job becomes one of finding the culprit. Although, as I said, the story is a good one, the main merit of this book is the growth of Mary Watson. Although in the first book there were a couple of exquisitely tiny hints that Mary might not be quite as asexual as she believes, in this book she discovers, quite by surprise, her lesbian identity. Although from puberty, she assumed she was simply asexual, she suddenly found that “something had awakened in me,” when she met real estate agent Beth Adams. The idea of a romance—maybe even a sexual relationship!—causes her to gush, “I was excited to the point of near-hysteria.” This is really good stuff: details that are all-too-rare in lesbian fiction, although we have all been there.

A touch worth noting, Shirley’s new “administrative assistant” has the greatest first name in lesbian literature: Lix. Hopefully in the next book we will learn her last name and some backstory. And maybe some more about Shirley, too. Or maybe Lix and Shirley will get it on. Whoo weee. I can’t wait. And Lix should get her own series. You heard it all here first.

Finally—and I rarely comment on this—the formatting of the e-book for this novel is the most sophisticated I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. It may presage the day when e-books can look identical to print versions.

Negatives? Well the POV thing is still a little glitchy, as is Shirley’s lack of real individuality. And now that Sherlock himself is absent from de Helen’s pages, maybe it is time to stray from rewriting actual or nearly actual Conan Doyle titles.

Bottom line, give this one close to a 4; it is certainly worth a read. With the author continuing to hone her talents, I am looking forward to the next one.

For more than 250 other Lesbian Mystery reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at