Rachel reviewed The Locket and the Flintlock by Rebecca S. Buck


From Bold Strokes Books comes an unusual story of love amidst pre-Victorian England. The Locket and the Flintlock by Rebecca S. Buck starts in 1812 when Lucia Foxe, daughter of a wealthy British aristocrat, and her family are robbed by a band of thieves called Highwaymen. The thieves steal Lucia’s treasured locket and leave, but Lucia, bound and determined to get her locket back, secretly leaves home and pursues the outlaws. She soon meets their female leader, Len Hawkins, who on the surface seems vastly different from Lucia, but in reality shares a lot of common ground. The two, much to their surprise, become friends after a while, and later those feelings turn into undeniable love. But can gentlewoman Lucia and outlaw Len make a life together in a time when homosexuality was abhorred?

The Locket and the Flintlock  covers interesting topics, such as the social constraints women were faced with in the early 1800s, and how the poor barely had enough wages to live on and so many turned to a life of crime. The author did a good job highlighting these points, and the scenes where Len challenged Lucia on what society deemed “proper” rang true.

However, there were some things about the book that didn’t sit right with me. Lucia, never having been in a lesbian relationship before and unfamiliar with homosexuality, seemed to accept her feelings for Len too quickly. It felt to me that, a woman in Lucia’s time and society would have been more hesitant, afraid of being gay and done some serious soul-searching about it. But Lucia never really addressed this to herself, which I found surprising and unrealistic for the plotline.

At times, the two women’s stories were really absorbing and tense, but at others the book reiterated some of the same points which slowed the plot down. One unexpected twist felt a bit too convenient for Lucia and Len. And there were other moments in the novel that felt a little far-fetched for the characters, detracting from the story.

Though The Locket and the Flintlock wasn’t really my cup of tea, I applaud Rebecca S. Buck for all her research into the historical details of 1812 England and the last days of the highwaymen. The subject of a female highwayman isn’t touched on much, so it was refreshing to see that aspect of history acknowledged. Readers who love historical fiction, particularly in England, and women’s history should give The Locket and the Flintlock a try and see if it’s something they like.

Maryam reviews Ghosts of Winter by Rebecca S. Buck

Full disclosure: I did not read anything about Ghosts of Winter before I downloaded it for review. I was coming down off a marathon of Japanese horror comics and the second season of The X-Files when Danika’s suggestion hit my inbox. Ghosts? In winter? Sign me up!

Unfortunately for me, there are no actual ghosts in Ghosts of Winter; the tale is that of Ros, a young history teacher who has broken up with her long-term girlfriend and her teaching career in the wake of her mother’s death. However, a family friend from Ros’s childhood has bequeathed Ros a dilapidated manor in her will, stipulating that Ros restore it as a condition of acceptance. Of course, one woman cannot restore an entire crumbling 18th century manor house by herself – enter Anna, the sexy architect who will help Ros rebuild Winter Manor AND her broken heart!

I have to admit I am not familiar with romance novels at all. I am wondering, then, if a standard romance novel is as – dare I say it – plotless as Ghosts of Winter. Most of the action revolves around the interaction between Ros and Anna – which is not to say that their budding relationship is unimportant; it is just not as interesting against this sort of mundane backdrop of fixing up an old house. There are occasional passages that reveal the hidden passions of the previous inhabitants of Winter Manor, and I wished that the author had given us more of these flashbacks. When I read the first of them, I was hoping for there to be two stories that would eventually merge, but they are just tiny glimpses that do not relate directly to Ros and Anna’s storyline – and frankly, the lives of Winter Manor’s previous inhabitants are much more captivating. They are chapter-long peeks into the secrecy and danger of same-sex romance, and there is far more potential in these stories.

That being said, the sex scenes are well-written and hot, and the author does know her perfumes – can a girl even buy a bottle of Tabac Blond, these days? If romance and house renovation are your idea of a good time, I’d say give Ghosts of Winter a try – but I hope that future efforts by Ms. Buck will be a little more captivating.

Anna reviews Ghosts of Winter by Rebecca S. Buck

I enjoy reading historical fiction and, of course, lesbian fiction, so the opportunity to read Rebecca S. Buck’s Ghosts of Winter, which features both, was too good to pass up. Protagonist Ros Wynne has come to a crossroads in her life after losing her mother to cancer, leaving her job, and breaking up with her long-term girlfriend. When a kindly woman from her past passes away, she quite unexpectedly leaves Ros with an 18th century manor house in Northern England and the money with which to restore it to its former glory. Ros takes the challenge as a step toward a new beginning, but arrives at Winter Manor with no idea of who she is now, or what she wants from her life. Enter Anna Everest, the beautiful architect who seems to be as put-together as Ros is falling apart. Sparks fly between them, but Ros can’t be sure of her heart, and Anna has a wedding band on her finger . . .

Against the development of Ros and Anna’s relationship, Buck juxtaposes three stories from Winter’s past–18th century, 19th century, and 20th century–of same-sex love which does not truly have the opportunity to blossom. [Minor spoiler alert] The lord who remakes Winter Manor engages in an illicit relationship with another nobleman; a young lady’s passion for a free-thinking friend turns to ash when her love returns as her brother’s fiancee; and the flapper who prefers her female lover as a beautiful memory bears a child who will one day inherit the property and hand it down to Ros. I enjoyed the way these stories lent a weight and history to the setting of the main plot; as more of the house was repaired, their stories came to light. I almost expected some sort of diary or historical record that would connect the stories more tangibly, but the connection is made for the benefit of the reader, rather than Ros and Anna.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. The “thinking about her past mistakes and being unsure” parts of Ros’s character development were often privileged over action or dialogue in a way that sometimes made it slow going. I prefer large blocks of text to be broken up a little bit more, but I appreciated the effort at showing her growth over time. The attraction between the main characters was believable, and I especially enjoyed the glimpses into the past and the tiny traces of their stories that cropped up in the present. So much of gay and lesbian history is unwritten that it was a fun exercise to put a tangible “what if” to the diverse kinds of relationships thatmight have happened but never got recorded.

And finally, who wouldn’t want to inherit a manor house and the money to fix it? I kept expecting Ros to run out of money after the first few weeks of work. In my experience, these things do not usually go together (even if one is fortunate to inherit the house). Well, I guess it might not be for everyone, but the urge to renovate is strong in my family, and this book definitely played to it. Readers who enjoy the historic threads of Ghosts of Winter might also take a look at Lyn Denison’s Past Remembering, in which queer relationships in the past are uncovered in present-day Australia.