Bite-sized reviews of the LGBTQ books I’ve read in the past week. All titles are linked to their Goodreads page.
Between December 23rd and 29th, I read:
Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis (2020)
Queer rep: The two MCs are sapphic
Thoughts: This novella is set in the Harwood Spellbook universe and although it is nominally a standalone with a focus on a different pair of characters, I do think it works better if you’re familiar with the series since it references prior events. In this novella, Juliana Banks is a top student at the new Thornfell College of Magic, which has opened its doors to women magicians for the first time. The school is hosting a ball to introduce their first class of students to society, and Juliana is looking forward to it as an opportunity to reconnect with her fiancée, rising political star Caroline Fennell, who has become strangely distant as of late. Their potential reconciliation takes a turn, though, when they’re tricked off the safe pathways into the fey-controlled woods. Their relationship is not all that’s at risk anymore: the night could cost them their very lives. I like this world and its intricacies a lot; this novella focused more on the characters and although it started with the communicating-at-cross-purposes/misunderstanding trope that I’m not a big fan of, I enjoyed the way it was resolved.
Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger (2017)
Queer rep: One MC is gay and the other is bi, several queer secondary characters
Thoughts: This is another novella set in an existing universe that is nominally a standalone but benefits from familiarity with the world. In this one, Biffy has recently taken over as alpha of the London pack, and he is not having a good time; his Beta wasn’t there to help with the transition of power; the pack is questioning his interior decorating choices; and abandoned human infants keep turning up on the doorstep. Professor Lyall, the absent Beta in question, returns to chaos and crisis, and it will take all of legendary practicality and efficiency to set things right…and it doesn’t help that one of the things in need of repair is his own broken heart. Lyall has always been one of my favorite characters in the Parasolverse and I loved that he finally gets to be the main character. This is a sweet story with Carriger’s usual madcap humor and I enjoyed it immensely.
Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis by Alexis Coe (2014)
Audience: adult/young adult appeal
Queer rep: centers on an f/f relationship
Thoughts: This is a fascinating account of an 1892 crime with a motivation that shocked the nation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell and seventeen-year-old Freda Ward were secretly engaged, with Alice intending to pass as a man in order to marry Freda. But when Freda’s sister discovered their love letters, the two were forbidden from all contact. Freda took the enforced separation in stride, which deeply wounded Alice, who was heartbroken and continued trying to contact Freda. Her obsession grew and culminated with Alice publicly slashing Freda’s throat with a stolen razor. More than the murder, it was the same-sex love that grabbed the headlines. So much attention was paid to the case that the judge had the courtroom expanded to allow for more spectators. Alice was declared insane by a jury and sent to an asylum, where she died just a few years later in murky circumstances. This is a slim but gripping account of the whole tragic affair, and it includes more than 100 illustrations of everything from love letters, historical documents, newspaper clippings, and courtroom accounts, to maps and domestic scenes.
Boy Meets Hamster by Birdie Milano (2018)
Audience: young adult
Queer rep: The MC is gay; his best friend is queer (implied to be pan); a secondary character is mlm
Thoughts: Fourteen-year-old Dylan always has high hopes for the summer holidays, and they’re always dashed. This year looks likely to be the worst ever: his mum’s booked a discount package at Starcross Sands, a crummy caravan park. At least his best friend Kayla was invited along, and when they arrive Dylan immediately perks up at the sight of the gorgeous boy in the next caravan. If Dylan can catch Jayden-Lee’s attention, the week might not be so bad…but Dylan is thwarted at every turn by bad luck; the park’s giant hamster mascot, Nibbles, who seems to have it out for Dylan; and the growing evidence that Jayden-Lee is a massive jerk. This is a comic adventure with some real laugh-out-loud scenes, and I liked the way it balanced Dylan’s romantic focus with plot lines about his friendship with Kayla and his relationship with his parents and his younger brother (who, much to Dylan’s disgust, absolutely loves Nibbles). A fun, quick read.
A Queer Trade by KJ Charles (2016)
Genre: historical fantasy/novella
Queer rep: The two MCs are mlm
Thoughts: Crispin is an apprentice magician whose life is thrown into turmoil when he returns from a trip to find his master dead. To make matters worse, his master’s relatives have already started clearing out the house, including selling reams of paper inscribed with experimental and potentially deadly spells. Crispin tracks the missing spells to waste paper dealer Ned Hall, but he’s already sold some of it on and chaos is beginning to erupt. The pair will have to work fast to prevent disaster, but will they be fast enough to protect Crispin from the magical authorities? This is set in the Charm of Magpies world, but (unlike the other novellas I read this week!) it does work as a standalone since it introduces completely new characters. I enjoyed this a lot; Crispin and Ned are endearing characters and the story had good tension and pacing. This is a prequel to Rag and Bone, which I’m looking forward to reading when my hold comes in.