This book was not what I was expecting. Which isn’t a fault of Haunted Hearths & Sapphic Shades, I don’t think, but it was surprising. I picked up Haunted Hearths expecting… ghost stories. You know, campfire, spooky, ghost stories! In fact, there aren’t very many stories in this collection that are very scary, or that even try to be. Catherine Lundoff’s introduction is a must-read for this collection. She carefully explains that “ghost stories” are not, in fact, one genre. Ghost stories can be romances, or horror, or comedy. A ghost in a story can serve all sorts of purposes. In fact, the genres recommended for this book on the back cover are “Lesbian Fantasy / Romance”, and that gives you a much better indication of what to expect from this collection than the usual connotations around “ghost story”.
Haunted Hearths offers a variety of different tones in the stories contained here, from a rampaging ghost horse to a grumpy lesbian ghost housemate and a vengeful dead ex. These stories also offer different explanations for their dead characters’ refusal to move on from the physical world. It was interesting to see all the range of places authors could go with the topic of “lesbian ghost story.” My favorite topics, because I am obviously a big book nerd, were two, “A Quiet Love” by Suzan Tessier and “Focus of Desire” by Elise Matthesen, that explored the idea of falling in love with someone from a another time. They both explore two women who, in their study of a long-dead historical figure, become obsessed with them and try to somehow join them.
In a complete different tone, another story I appreciated was “The Dyke You Know” by Selina Rosen for its humor. This is the story with the dead lesbian roommate, and (spoiler) the protagonist eventually concludes that her wailing ghost roommate is easier to live with than the live lesbians she dates.
Overall, there were some interesting stories in this collection, and I appreciated the variety, though there weren’t really any that made me want to rush out and read the author’s other works. If you’re looking for a spooky Halloween read, overall I don’t think this is the book for it, but if you’re curious about how the concept of “lesbian ghost story” can be stretched and interpreted, Haunted Hearths & Sapphic Shades is worth checking out.