Babusha reviews Charming the Vicar by Jenny Frame

Charming the Vicar is the sequel to Courting the Countess and tells the story of the ultra femme and sexy af Bridget Claremont, the vicar of Axedale. Jenny Frame has been my go-to lesbian content author since I read Royal Rebel and this is my favourite book she’s written so far.  Her characters are always adorable wholesome lesbians, which are my absolute end-all kink and their love stories never fail to induce at least a week’s “book high”.

Bridget is used to having to guide lost sheep to their flock, but this one might just be out of her reach. Finnian “Finn” Kane is a famous magician and an even more famous atheist who has spent her life exposing “fake” evangelists and psychics. A confident playboy butch if there ever was one, Finnian is hiding away in Axedale after a personal tragedy and absolutely refuses to entertain Bridget and her “collar” under any terms.

I really loved both characters and their stories. Bridget’s struggles with the church hierarchy as an openly lesbian vicar is very realistic yet it doesn’t venture into tragedy as most novels might be wont to do.  She may be almost widely accepted and loved in Axedale, barring a few, but is haunted by her previous life, even more so as her need to help Finn open up and cope with her grief becomes a lot more than just her day job. We also find out a lot more about Bridget’s history and how she came to be the person she is.

Finn starts off as this skittish, damaged  ‘deer’ who has suffered deep loss and is instantly suspicious of church figures, trying to run Bridget off many times, but Bridget is also no ordinary ‘herder’ and is up for the challenge. They slowly fall in love and embrace other sides of their relationship and personalities they’ve given up. For Frame’s characters, the struggle with their faith in love and faith in God is two sides of the same coin and hence constructs a genuinely empathetic tale of two scarred people who are facing a relatable struggle in faith in love of all kinds.

For anyone who’s read Courting the Countess, Sam, the awesome farmer butch, also makes an appearance and is funny and supportive as ever. I hope we get a book of her falling in love with a cute sweet femme soon. Also, a shout-out: for the second installment of Lady Hildegaard’s adventures. This story was especially awesome for this poor lesbian looking for a dashing knight to save her.

The ending was wrapped up in a particularly pretty little bow, but for a topic which is as sensitive as the Catholic Church’s views of LGBT vicars and priests and how easily it could have gone wrong in a different genre, that’s probably a good thing!

I give it four stars and would read again and again when I’m feeling especially ~love-lorn~.

Babusha is a 23 year old ace lesbian who loves queer love stories in every form- especially fantasy lesbian assassins who can kill her with one look. I am constantly searching for that mythical POC bookish lesbian nerd and will at some point actually start writing out of sheer desperation and boredom. I’m obsessed with mutual pining and angst with happy endings, with complex, flawed characters who are still cinnamon rolls that should be protected at all costs.

You can find her gushing about her fave gay novels and movies on Twitter @redqueensparta

 

Elinor reviews Summer’s Cove by Aurora Rey

This is such a pleasant romance! In this sweet novel, chef and single mom Darcy meets adorable soft butch artist Emerson at a wedding and the pair begin casually dating. Ever since the death of her parents while she was in med school, Emerson has been all about living in the moment. Darcy on the other hand has spent her entire post-college life as a devoted and responsible parent. Deciding to keep an unexpected pregnancy changed everything she imagined for her future but her eight year old son Liam is the light of her life and she wouldn’t change a thing. She keeps her dating life strictly compartmentalized so her son doesn’t have Darcy’s girlfriends flitting in and out of his life. That is, until he and Emerson meet by accident and hit it off. As Darcy’s bond with Emerson grows, so does Liam’s attachment to Emerson. What happens when a little summer fling starts turning into something more?

I really liked this novel. The obstacles seemed realistic and conflicts hinged on differing worldviews and experiences, not simple misunderstandings. All the adults acted like grown ups and talked things out for the most part, even when they didn’t handle everything perfect. Darcy might come across as a bit guarded, but as a mom I thought that was relatable. She had never shared the daily experiences of parenting with someone else and didn’t picture bringing a stepparent or other significant adult into her child’s life, so a relationship that didn’t fit that mold was challenging for her. Liam came across as a real, nerdy eight year old, which I especially enjoyed. His scenes with Emerson were very cute. This book has a nice balance of sweet and believable as well as having some pretty hot love scenes.

The whole thing was very satisfying and fun. I liked the resolution, though I thought the last few pages seemed to rush the story along a little bit and I would have preferred them as an epilogue set a few months down the road. Still, it was a delightful romance and I highly recommend it.

Summer’s Cove is the second in a series of romances set around Provincetown. I haven’t read the first book, Winter’s Harbor, which is about Darcy’s boss Alex and her wife Lia, who are also friends of Emerson. For the most part I didn’t think I was missing anything having not read the first book but I was curious about it after reading this. It might be worth reading the series in order but if you, like me, are only interested in books with lesbian moms right now, skip straight to this one. Five stars.

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 ElinorZimmerman.com


Amanda Clay reviews Femme by Mette Bach

 

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Knowledge is power. Sofie, however, has always felt pretty powerless, at least when it comes to academics. She enjoys school—playing soccer and hanging out with her cute, popular boyfriend Paul. And even though she and her single mom don’t have a lot of extra money, their home is loving and stable. But now, close to graduation, she realizes that her world is changing. The time she spends with Paul isn’t what it used to be, and her mother is beginning to pressure her about the future. When Sofie gets paired with her high school’s star student Clea, she is sure this is the final straw. Until she realizes something else. Clea’s the only out lesbian at school, and once she and Sofie start working together, Sofie begins to question everything she thought she knew about herself, what she’s capable of, and what she might become. A road trip with Clea to scout potential universities kicks off an avalanche of self-discovery, one which sweeps away her old life and just about everyone in it.

I wanted to like Femme, and while I didn’t actually hate it, I was unable to muster much feeling one way or the other.  It’s a hi/lo title (high interest, low reading level) but that classification doesn’t mean that the book must be shallow and simplistic. Unfortunately, Femme is just that. Everything happens too quickly, too easily. Time zooms along. On one page it’s Christmas, on the next page it’s months later with no inkling of anything that might have occurred in the interim. Character development seems limited to a few signifiers: Clea is a good student!  Sofie is a foodie (who never really talks about food or cooks anything after declaring herself a foodie)!  Paul is handsome and popular! Along we cruise towards the predictable end of the story. Coming out stories still have their place in LGBT lit, but it is not unfair to expect more from them these days than mere self-discovery. Sofie’s story offers nothing more than that, and even the self-discovery is as insubstantial as every other aspect of the book. It seems like Sofie comes out because the author decided to write a story about a girl coming out. No stress, no struggle, just another plot point and on we go.

The world needs stories. We especially need lesbian stories, lesbian stories of butch women, women of color and size and age, stories of self-discovery and first love. We need all of this, and while Femme tries hard to deliver, ultimately I believe we can do better.

Anna M reviews “Air Planes” by Anna Macdougal

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“Air Planes” is a work of short fiction, the first in a series by Anna Macdougal called The Lock and The Key: Butch/Femme Erotic Romance. It’s the story of marketing consultant Stephanie, fresh from the triumph of closing a deal, and her erotic encounter with the chivalrous butch woman she meets at the airport. Their chance meeting leads to high-flying intimacy, and–perhaps–love.

As you might expect from the collection’s title, this story relies heavily on the mystique and appeal of the butch/femme dynamic:

A butch lesbian stood near the exit, browsing the New Titles display. Something happens to me every time there’s a butch woman in my vicinity. Each cell in my body instantaneously comes alive and urgent messages from my femme brain race through my entire nervous system.

If butch/femme dynamics are your cup of tea, you will be quite happy with this promising debut. I found that mentions of “the butch” and “the femme” as objects–stepping back from the interplay between interesting, relatable characters to delve more deeply into that archetypal aspect of lesbian desire–distracted me from the otherwise excellent writing. However, I enjoyed the story immensely and will definitely read anything else that Macdougal produces.

 

Danika reviews Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme edited by Ivan Coyote and Zena Sharman

I’ve been a fan of Ivan Coyote for years, so I had high expectations for this collection. It absolutely delivered.

It’s hard to sum up Persistence other than using its own subtitle. It contains a huge array of different kind of butches and femmes (and a futch, and some switches, and…), embodied by many different genders and sexualities.

The writing it top-notch, and there are a lot of big names:  Ivan Coyote, Jewelle Gomez, S. Bear Bergman, Joan Nestle, Sinclair Sexsmith… The content ranges from academic essays to poem and short stories. Some are incredibly personal, and some are political declarations. I really appreciated the amount of essays that approached how race intersects with butch/femme, and a few that also address class.

If I could guarantee one thing, it’s that at least one entry in this collection will piss you off. There are opinions all over the spectrum in this collection, and there is a lot to be debated. For example: do butch and femme constitute each other, or can you be a butch without a femme and vice versa? Are femmes more privileged by having “passing privilege”, or are they invisibilized, or are people just not looking hard enough for femmes? Is the concept of “butch” too tied to whiteness to be used in an antiracist way? Can other sexualities and genders by butch or femme, or only lesbians? Where do butch and femme fit into the trans* spectrum, or vice versa, or are they unconnected? It is the trans* questions that are particularly divisive. But I think this range is the strength of the collection: it is a good attempt to encapsulate a broad-ranging community that is entirely in flux. And the voices are strong, so even the essays that were actively angering me were still compelling.

I definitely recommend Persistence, even (especially?) if you’re not butch or femme or know very little about butch and femme. It is an important part of the queer community as a whole today, and lesbian history as well. There are quite a few contributors that I will now be seeking out in a longer format.