Book Review: Kinship and Kindness by Kara Jorgensen

Beauty in Ruins

Title: Kinship and Kindness

Author: Kara Jorgensen

Publisher: Kara Jorgensen

Publication Date: August 5, 2020

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Romance

Shelves: Transgender

This was just delightful, both sweeter and darker than I expected, with some wonderful themes of understanding and acceptance throughout. Kinship and Kindness is a story of pack and of family, a story about transformations, and a story of making one’s own destiny, all set in a historical setting.

One of the first things that struck me about the story was Kara Jorgensen’s flair for detail. This is a book you can hear, smell, and feel on every page. It’s fully immersive, but in a way that’s never intrusive or overwhelming. I mean, read this and tell me you’re not right there, on that street, covering your nose:

Even in winter, the city still tasted of coal dust and bodies, a thousand dishes cooking on one stove overlaid…

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Preview of Kinship and Kindness

Kinship and Kindness

My next book in a brand new queer paranormal historical series, Kinship and Kindness, comes out July 31st, and to celebrate and whet your appetites, I have posted chapter one below. You can preorder Kinship and Kindness, on all major ebook platforms and paperbacks will be coming later.

Let me know what you think and stay tuned for more soon.


Chapter One

The Rougarou

Preparing for the Annual Delegation of American Werewolves for the first time on his own should have been exciting, but Theo Bisclavret’s eyes glazed over as Mr. Rosier droned on about the growing list of half-finished tasks he had to accomplish. Every werewolf in Grand Chien had been abuzz about the imminent arrival of delegation members from all over the United States, but after facilitating the preparations for three weeks in his father’s stead, Theo just wanted it to be over or for his father to return from England, whichever came first. It had been an endless parade of lists from various members of their international governing body, Les Meutes, each trying to make sure he had everything in order, as if he hadn’t attended nearly every werewolf event his father had organized in the last fifteen years. Tension creeped up Theo’s neck and into his jaw, but as he rolled his shoulders and tried to breathe out the nagging pain, his eyes shot up as his sister pointedly cleared her throat on the other side of the room. He raised his gaze to find Rosier looking at him with a grey eyebrows raised as if waiting for an answer.

Theo slowly straightened in his chair, keeping his face neutral and his back straight as he often saw his father do. “Could you please repeat the question? I thought I heard something outside.” His wolf surfaced, searching for a sound, but Theo gently shoved it down.

“I said, do you know when the Rougarou will return?”

That was what they were all wondering. “Our father has assured us that he will return in ample time to meet with the delegations. When we have a specific date of arrival, we will let everyone know.”

Rosier looked over his shoulder at Eudora, but she kept her head down over her portable desk. When Rosier turned back to him, Theo leveled a look at him that would quash any further questions. With a tightening of his lips and a final admonishment to send him the final preparations post haste, Rosier took his bowler from the edge of the desk and departed. The moment the door closed behind him, Theo deflated and let the chair beneath him languidly spin before swiveling back to his sister. Eudora pursed her lips and shrugged. Tucking a wayward brown curl behind her ear, she sat on the edge of the desk and reread the notes she had taken.

On the far wall, the calendar hung mockingly across from the desk. Theo counted back the weeks and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I can’t believe Pa’s been away three weeks already.”

“Yup,” Eudora replied flatly, her brows furrowing at the interruption.

“And you’re certain the last telegram came six days ago?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Yes.”

“Do you think something’s wrong? It isn’t like him to be away for so long.”

“I’m sure everything’s fine. Maybe they have bad weather and he can’t leave. I’m sure it snows in England.”

“Yeah.” Theo sat back. He wished he knew where his sister had put the letters she had read to him over the past few weeks during dinner. Reading them might put his mind at ease, but he hadn’t thought to ask. It seemed pointless to demand them now. “Do you think Wesley is all right?”

Eudora’s face tightened a fraction before brightening with a placating smile. “You are such a mother hen, Theo. Wesley is fine. He’s a Pinkerton. He can hold his own. Hopefully Pa can talk him into coming back sooner than later. Then, you won’t have to keep up this charade.”

Guilt rose in Theo’s gut so fast he felt ill. Being the future Rougarou had been his dream for so long that, even though it was impossible and had been for some time, he still felt as if he had failed. He had failed himself, he had failed Pa, he had failed the packs if Wesley or Eudora couldn’t take over after Pa stepped down and instability ensued. His wolf’s comforting bulk rubbed against his mind, and he absently flexed his hand as if reaching to touch it. An unexpected warmth closed over his hand. He looked up to find his sister’s acorn brown eyes pinning him with something between affection and sorrow.

“That is what you want, right?”

Theo nodded and inwardly sighed. “You should go back to the house and get some sleep. You’re going on patrol tonight, aren’t you?”

“Yes, mother. And you should, too. You’re burning the candle at both ends.”

“I have a few things left to finish up.”

“I balanced the books and took stock of the linens that came in this morning, so you don’t have to.”

“Oh. Then, I guess I’ll go home with you. I want to put a few baskets of food together for the neighbors before you go out tonight.”

“Just make me a list of names, and I’ll do it. Give them some peaches, would you? I can’t bear to eat another jar of peaches.”

“They’re good for you, and you love peach jam.”

“Used to.” With a smile, Eudora kissed the top of his head and squeezed his shoulder. “Come on, let’s walk home together. I don’t like you walking through the woods alone.”

“Now, who’s the mother hen?” Theo said only to receive a flash of her tongue in response.

Gathering his coat and hat, Theo tried to ignore the pain in the back of his head and the twisting in his stomach. It was probably just worry, but he couldn’t help the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

***

Bennett swore as he slapped a mosquito off his cheek. This trip had been nothing but a pain in the ass. He had thought the trip to Louisiana would be a vacation from his life in Brooklyn. For the first time in years, Bennett could sleep without the constant cacophony of city life only a stack of brick away. He could eat in relative peace without the lingering scent of turpentine or oil paint. There would be no fine layer of clay dust on everything or piss-poor piano music playing at all hours, and no raucous lovemaking on the other side of too thin plaster walls.

Instead, Bennett spent three days vomiting everything that passed his lips. Whether he was on the deck overlooking the East Coast rolling below or tucked into his windowless room, bile clawed up his throat and his stomach roiled at the ship’s constant motion. All he had been able to see before dirigible sickness struck was the northern half of New Jersey, and he had already seen that from the ground. Stepping off the dirigible outside of New Orleans, he knew he looked like death. He felt like it and probably smelled liked it. Three drivers had refused to take him to Grand Chien, but this one seemed far more eager to take him than he should have. As the narrow boat tilted beneath him, Bennett clutched the sides but yanked his hands back when he remembered the swamps were supposedly riddled with alligators. Cramps rippled through his calves and arms, but he bit them down with a grimace.

Hoping the young man ferrying him across the swamp didn’t notice, Bennett eyed him with suspicion. The entire journey, he hadn’t shut up for longer than it took to take a breath, and while he was far more willing to ferry an ill passenger than the others, Bennett couldn’t help but be suspicious. He knew he could easily be shanked and dumped into the swamp without a qualm once his pockets were emptied. It happened plenty in Brooklyn.

Bennett squinted at the stars dazzling through the trees as the midnight world began to awake around them. Bats and night birds cried from the tree tops while insects kept a heady buzz in time to an unseen metronome. Despite the noise, the lack of people was disconcerting in a way Bennett hadn’t expected. He was accustomed to constant movement. At all hours he could hear people coming and going from the Ruth’s house. Her numerous boarders and friends never seemed to all sleep at once, and the grocers, suppliers, and newsboys outside had no qualms about waking people up. Years in the city had taught him how to sleep through anything, except silence. Luckily, the ferryman hadn’t stopped talking since they embarked from the landing field.

Bennett pulled at his collar and licked his dry lips. God, he was tired and thirsty. It was painful how badly he wanted some water. The other man probably had a flask of something on him, but Bennett didn’t want to ask. Too much liquid meant he would have to relieve himself eventually, and he didn’t want to think about the logistics of that. He chuckled to himself under his breath. It was ironic to be surrounded by so much water yet be so thirsty. That shouldn’t have been so funny.

“Y’all right?” the ferryman asked.

Bennett swallowed against another surge of dizziness as he turned to face the other man. “Yes, why?”

“You’re a little green around the gills.” Removing the lantern from the bottom of the boat, the ferryman held it aloft. Bennett squinted into the darkness but couldn’t see what he was focusing on. Then, he shuttered the light and opened it again three times; twice slowly and once quickly. When Bennett looked at him quizzically, he added, “I’m letting the patrols know I’m a friend.”

“Patrols?”

“Oh yeah, the Rougarou’s people patrol the bayou every night.”

“Why?”

“Because the bayou is vast and dark, and people do bad things when they think others can’t see.”

Was that a hint or a threat? Bennett’s ribs struggled against the confines of his girdle at the thought. His normally attuned danger senses felt fuzzy. Bennett tugged at his collar and licked his dry lips as the pirogue pushed through a copse of mangroves to emerge in an open stretch of water that ended in a vast swath of grass. At the shore, a large shed stood near a dock, and behind it, a house emerged through the darkness. While he couldn’t make out much detail, Bennett could tell it wasn’t the grand plantation home he had expected the Rougarou to inhabit. The boat slid smoothly beside the dock and bumped onto the mossy shore.

“This is it?” Bennett asked, ignoring the ticking of a muscle in his leg.

“You said you wanted to be taken to the Rougarou, right?”

“Right. Will anyone be up this time of night?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t have brought you out here otherwise. The house is straight ahead up a ways.”

“Ah.” Fishing into his pocket, Bennett struggled to count out enough money to, hopefully, cover the fare, but as he put his hand out, the younger man pushed it away. “But I—”

“The Bisclavrets are paying me to ferry delegation members to and from the landing field. I’m not to take money from guests, Mr. Reynard.”

“I see. Well then, thank you for your help.”

Hefting his bag onto the grass, Bennett stood to shake the other man’s hand and lurched forward. He clasped his hand in what he hoped felt like a natural handshake even though the earth seemed to pitch beneath his feet. With a tight smile, he turned and took a heavy step onto the shore. His knees buckled beneath him as his vision shrunk to a pinpoint and his body collided with the wet grass.


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. If you’re interested, you can preorder a copy at all major ebook retailers.

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Cover Reveal: Kinship and Kindness

I know I’ve been going off the grid on here, but there’s a good reason (besides work and life), I’ve been working on a new book: Kinship and Kindness.

Kinship and Kindness is a bit of a spin-off from the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. It follows Theo Bisclavret, the name might sound familiar because he was mentioned in The Wolf Witch. He is Silas Bisclavret’s son and Wesley’s brother.

The story continues where The Wolf Witch left off, but it’s set in Louisiana and kicks off a new series about paranormal society in America. It’s a m/m romance between a cis man and a trans man, and yes, that is very possible historically (see my previous post about queer historical-romance). Here is the blurb:

Bennett Reynard needs one thing: to speak to the Rougarou about starting a union for shifters in New York City before the delegation arrives. When his dirigible finally lands in Louisiana, he finds the Rougarou is gone and in his stead is his handsome son, Theo, who seems to care for everyone but himself. Hoping he can still petition the Rougarou, Bennett stays only to find he is growing dangerously close to Theo Bisclavret.
Theo Bisclavret thought he had finally come to terms with never being able to take his father’s place as the Rougarou, but with his father stuck in England and a delegation of werewolves arriving in town, Theo’s quiet life is thrown into chaos as he and his sister take over his duties. Assuming his father’s place has salted old wounds, but when a stranger arrives offering to help, Theo knows he can’t say no, even if Mr. Reynard makes him long for things he had sworn off years ago.
As rivals arrive to challenge Theo for power and destroy the life Bennett has built, they know they must face their greatest fears or risk losing all they have fought for. With secrets threatening to topple their worlds, can Theo and Bennett let down their walls before it’s too late?

As promised, here is the cover, done by the wonderful Lou Harper.

Kinship and Kindness

If you’re interested, you can pre-order Kinship and Kindness here. I plan on setting up the pre-order to other retailers soon, but I need to work out the logistics first.

In regards to the publication date, it’s currently set on July 1st, but I’m hoping to have it ready by early May. When you set-up a pre-order you cannot push it back if things so south, so I’ve left myself wiggle room and will move the date up (and let everyone know when I do).

Stay tuned because I will be posting an excerpt as we grow closer to publication.

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Reading Rec: A Delicate Deception

A Delicate Deception takes two anxious messes with less than stellar communication skills and makes them fall in love with some incredibly delightful side characters to sweeten the deal.

delicate decept

Amelia Allenby just wants to be left alone. After a disastrous final season in London where she decided she had had enough, she retires to the country with her ex-governess to escape the demands of society life. All is going according to plan until Amelia runs into a stranger on her walk, a rather handsome stranger who has the gaul to be nice to her. Sydney is not thrilled to be back in town either. After the death of his brother and sister-in-law, he has avoided the old manor until his friend, the Duke of Hereford, summons him back, but he soon realizes the duke is nowhere to be found. Amelia and Sydney try to keep their identities a secret as they become entangled, but soon their attraction becomes too much to ignore.

I received an ARC of A Delicate Deception in exchange for an honest review, but more importantly, I’m a huge Cat Sebastian fan, so I’m already biased before the ARC reaches my inbox.

What I love most about many of Cat Sebastian’s novels is how much is going on inside the heads of her characters, especially as someone with anxiety and a tendency to overthink. Both Sydney and Amelia come off as very real but also different in how their issues manifest. There’s a wonderful balance between Amelia and Sydney in terms of temperament, and Sydney is *chef kiss*. Nothing like a hardworking male love interest with a job and passions, especially in a genre so full of dukes and aristocrats.

The novel is also populated with great side characters, like the Duke of Hereford and Amelia’s ex-governess, Georgiana. It isn’t often that we get a duke who is dealing with a physical disability, and on top of all that, everyone is queer. Despite these being a m/f romance, both Sydney and Amelia are queer, as are Lex and Georgiana. It’s really refreshing to read.

Most importantly, what I think the major takeaway from this book is, is the idea that family is what you make it, as is love, as is marriage. Cat Sebastian purposely challenges the traditional expectations of love and marriage, especially in historical-romance as a genre. A m/f romance that spits in the face of heteronormity and forces the reader to rethink their expectations and forces the characters to do the same, is one worth reading and recommending.

All in all, A Delicate Deception is an enjoyable yet thought provoking romance that looks to challenge expectations as well as what should be considered the norm.

You can grab a copy here and have it delivered to your Kindle tomorrow.

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On Accuracy in Historical Romance

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Adam and Immanuel from The Winter Garden.

Back in April, I presented a paper at Ithaca College’s feminist pop culture conference From Pippi to Ripley on the issues surrounding the perceived “inaccuracies” in historical romance, especially queer historical romance. Since this issue has reared its ugly head again, I thought I would share my paper with you.


 

Queer Historical Romance and the Reclamation of Identity and Power

 In recent years, as media has become more diverse, from Star Wars to romance novels, critics have claimed that portrayals of marginalized characters are historically inaccurate or done to pander to political correctness. What these critics fail to understand is that historical “accuracy” is often far from accurate. As with all wars, to the victors go the spoils and that includes the historical narrative. The narratives found in modern historical romance novels are by and large white supremacist, Christian, and upholding of colonialist values. Following the expansion of LGBT rights and the acceptance of queer characters in media, queer authors have fought to reclaim the history of those who have come before us, whose voices were lost to puritanical scholars and censors that twisted the public’s perception of the trajectory of LGBT lives. By writing historical romances to fill in the missing gaps in queer history, queer writers strengthen the modern community by asserting a history of sexual and bodily autonomy. Modern queer historical romance novels aren’t meant to be a revisionist history but a re-enlightened one that seeks to capture on the page the people and communities that had previously only lived in the margins of history.

If you’ve ever looked at the reviews of any piece of diverse media, you have come across someone spouting that the diversity present is forced or that it was impossible for a homosexual relationship to be semi-public given the time period. Questions of “realism” and “historical accuracy” have been the greatest hindrance to diverse media, but this begs one to consider what is truly historically accurate. In her essay, “Reclaiming Historical Romance,” Elizabeth Kingston posits that often what we, as readers, consider to be historical fact is actually historical fantasy that has been passed down by previous historians and repeated until it morphed into “fact” (Kingston 1). History has been overwhelmingly written by the “victors” or those who have maintained imperialist or political control. For most of the modern Western world, that has been white, Christian, heterosexual men who have espoused white supremacist views in their writings. As Bronski states in A Queer History of the United States, “The writing and reading of history is always, consciously or not, a political act of interpretation” (xiv).

Until the last few decades, queer history has been relegated to the periphery, and those queer figures who appear in the past are seen as aberrations or were viewed as deviants. The language surrounding queer stories in mass media was tainted by white supremacist political views. Despite a large portion of the queer community, especially in the seventeen to early nineteen hundreds being white, they were viewed by the community at large as going against the white supremacist view of sexual purity. This stems from Puritanical Christian views and was widely adopted after the Second Great Awakening (Bronski 89). To deviate from the heteronormative family structure was to go against the entire structure upon which evangelical and puritanical society was built (10). To many, this would mean that queer populations were nonexistent or were so afraid of persecution that they wouldn’t dare act on their feelings, but this is exactly what white supremacists want us to believe. To make a person who is not like them feel isolated or that they should be ashamed of their differences, is a way to keep them powerless. For if they hide who they are, they are less likely to find others who sympathize or understand their situation.

Developing communities of support and creating public sympathy through shared experience is how marginalized populations gain a foothold on power and social autonomy. In the mid-nineteenth century queer communities began to take root in cities and gained visibility. Due to the anonymity of city life and the ease for single people to find same-sex housing, queer relationships could blossom in relative security. Nowhere were these queer communities more visible than in the arts’ districts. Many places we think of as queer communities now, were the same over a century ago. Greenwich Village, Harlem, and Bloomsbury in London became hubs for the arts, which were often dominated by queer voices. Queer voices were consumed by the masses in vaudeville shows, plays, novels, and the visual arts, but as these voices grew stronger, political institutions stepped in to “protect” the public from what they deemed to be dangerous or deviant behavior in flouting their views of sexual purity and gender norms.

As we can see from the Oscar Wilde’s trial, art could be used as evidence against the creator if it contained homosexual or homoerotic themes, but this didn’t stop authors from publishing “scandalous literature” in America and France. While it was illegal to mail sexually explicit material through the mail, it happened and books regarding sexology and those with homosexual themes were increasingly popular well into the first half of the twentieth century (Bronski 126). History has shown that trying to stop publications is like a game of Whack-a-Mole. It was near impossible to stop people from distributing written material, especially since it was protected by the First Amendment, but the government could stop Hollywood from promoting queer or sexually progressive stories, such as Morocco, which featured the first on-screen lesbian kiss. After the US government threatened to create a censorship board, Hollywood adopted the Hays Code (or the Motion Picture Production Code) and began enforcing it in 1934. Among other things, the Hays Code stated that immorality had to be punished on screen, only “correct standards of life” could be portrayed, sexual behavior could not be shown, and “perverse” behavior could not be shown (“The Hays Code”). All of this combined to make it impossible for queer characters or relationships to be portrayed on screen without heavy coding or a tragic ending. The “bury our gays” trope sprung from this code as those who acted “immorally” according to puritanical Christian beliefs had to be punished and in many cases killed as penance for their behavior. Despite that the Hays Code stopped being enforced in 1968, the damage had been done. The general public had internalized years of anti-queer propaganda to the point that fiction became reality and the myth that queer characters could not have happy lives was solidified in Western culture.

Over the past decade, a new genre of romance has solidified itself as a rapidly expanding subset of historical fiction: queer historical romance. These stories seek to fight against the tide of historical myth that has painted queer relationships formed in the past as impossible or filled with strife. Authors such as KJ Charles, E. E. Ottoman, Joanna Chambers, and Cat Sebastian have sought to not only create works of fiction that uphold the idea that queer characters are entitled to a happy ending but have produced scholarship that upholds that what critics believe is historical fact is truly a political agenda to ignore what doesn’t fit their narrative. The question some of you may be asking is, “Why focus on romance?” Historically, romance as a genre has been treated with disdain by academia because it is portrayed as a genre filled with shirtless men and trope-laden stories about love. Bodice-rippers, as historical romances have often been called, are generally women’s fiction. They are stories written for women by women and act upon the desires and fantasies of women that have largely been ignored by society. The Western canon, despite rising scholars’ best efforts is still largely misogynistic, so the stories that are seen as feminine, such as romances, are shelved as drivel for the masses when in reality, romance strikes at the heart of what oppressed populations truly want: autonomy and power over their own destinies.

In her blog post “Historical Romance: Who Gets the HEA,” KJ Charles explores why readers get hung up on supposed historical accuracy in diverse historical romance. She writes, “And yet there is a powerful strand of opinion that holds that any m/m histrom must reflect the fear of legal persecution,…that marginalised people simply cannot have happy endings,…because history was too cruel” (Charles, “Historical Romance”). We see this on a 2 star review for Cat Sebastian’s A Ruin of a Rake. The reviewer states, “It’s extremely difficult to suspend my disbelief about the relationship between Lord Courteny and Julian Medlock as in 1817, Homosexual relationships were illegal and there were very serious consequences if they had been exposed” (Rodriguez). The reader is correct in that there were sodomy laws on the books in England, but the rate at which people were prosecuted for being in a homosexual relationship is far lower than many modern readers realize. Furthermore we must explore the idea of the legality of something being a hindrance for its occurrence. Gambling, graffiti, and jaywalking are all far more visible than the private lives of two people and are all illegal, yet they occur unpunished with alarming frequency. Readers of historical romance rarely complain that a story is lacking lice, a healthy fear of venereal disease, or the stink of chamber pots, but queer or interracial relationships occurring during earlier historical periods are remarked upon. As Kingston states, “Historical Romance is a shared, collaborative fantasy” that has shut out more people than it has let in (Kingston 4). The greater issue is that the trends within traditional historical romance send the message that “only straight white Christians deserve loving relationships” (4). No matter the amount of privilege the characters have, like Lord Courteny who is titled, rich, and already seen as a rake, it is impossible for certain readers to believe that alone could have afforded him the privacy and social standing to not be prosecuted for sodomy.

A key flaw in historical romance, as a genre, is the definition of a happily ever after disproportionately favors straight, white, cis couples. Generally a happily ever after in romance involves the couple courting, getting engaged, married, and often books end with a pregnancy or hint that a family will follow. For queer historical fiction, there are very few instances where that stereotypical happily ever after is possible. The assumption from romance writers and readers that queer love stories can’t be romances because they don’t follow that formula is inherently homophobic, but the greater question is, do we want that ending? The traditional familial model of date, marry, mate, follows a formula endorsed by the social purity movement. The forefathers of that movement, the Puritans, believed that anything outside of the family unit is forbidden and that to ensure society’s stability, partners must be monogamous and make matches in order to procreate. This “traditional” mode of living has gone relatively unquestioned for centuries, and what queer historical fiction offers is a precedent for more complex social and sexual relationships.

Inherently, the writing of romance stories is the private made public. The lives of those who came before us were often obscured for safety reasons or were written over by scholars who chose to ignore or not see what was truly before them. What romance allows us is to speculate how couples came to be and how they navigated the public and private spheres to find their own version of happily ever after. Queer historical romance deviates from the “norm” out of necessity, but it allows readers to explore how a relationship that doesn’t follow the formula of date, marry, mate was still able to thrive. Further, these stories uphold that women’s lives are not “made whole” by children or a husband to support them. Often, Sapphic historical romance involves women who are working to support themselves through a trade. For male-male couples in historical romance, we see how two individuals can live separate lives and without cohabitation still manage to be a long-term couple.

That isn’t to say that all queer historical works involve monogamy. In KJ Charles’ Band Sinister, we meet a group of friends who are for the most part queer, ranging from gay or bisexual to transgender. Three of the men in their hellfire club have had an ongoing relationship with each other for decades. When Sir Philip becomes involved with his new lover, Guy, he makes certain Guy understands how deeply he feels for his two friends. Philip states, “that may not be the kind of love about which the poets write, nor the kind I feel for you, but it’s still real and true as anything in the world” (Charles, Band Sinister 3010). Queer historical fictions allows for greater exploration of different types of love, especially those that have generally been seen as lesser in modern society. We see this blurring of queer/quasiplatonic relationships in many other queer historical works, including KJ Charles’ Society of Gentlemen series, Joanna Chambers’ Enlightenment series, and Cat Sebastian’s A Duke in Disguise.

Within queer romance, we’re given an intimate look at love that defies labels. Queer stories are “places for individual and collective explorations” that allow us to “[understand] the self through the larger fabric of culture and history and relationality” (Royster). Writing inherently requires us to pull from our own experiences and fears, and by writing within a historical setting and with characters who don’t fit our exact specifications, it allows writers to navigate the difficulties of their own world in a controlled environment and through a lens that allows enough distance and difference for exploration. In a way, we get to know “the self as other and the self as same” (Johnson 429). It is often through writing queer romance that people discover their sexuality or gender identity is more complex than originally thought, and for those who know, it allows a deeper exploration of queer identity than is often possible in real life.

Ultimately, writing is a performative act, and through the creation of images, action, and insertion of the self onto the page, the writer has self-actualized a moment in time (Rogerson 3). Much like photography, writing seeks to create and suspend moments. For queer writers, the images created are somewhat speculative since much of queer history has been erased, ignored, or purposefully left off the page for their own protection. By putting the actions and feelings of queer characters in queer relationships on paper, that missing history is being reasserted and physically actualized where there had once been a gap. Just because that moment or those people didn’t truly exist doesn’t really matter. The perception of history is itself as much fantasy as reality, but what is true is that no matter the rules, people have acted upon queer desire and others have been complicit in affording them a peaceful life. In an age of renewed fervor in the social purity movement, queer writers are digging in their heels and reasserting their sexual and bodily autonomy by reweaving the roots of history that were torn asunder decades and centuries past. By writing the past, they cement themselves in the present.

Queer historical romance aims to blow the dust off history by uncovering those who lived in the margins and reassert that history has been far less heteronormative than it has been portrayed to be. In recent years, queer historical romance has grown into a major subgenre of romance novels, and this assertion of sexual autonomy through the written word has come as a counterstrike against the white supremacist ideology dominating politics and romance novels. Despite what detractors might believe, queer relationships have always existed in America, and queer historical romance is not fiction in the way they think. Romance novels are the private made public, and queer historical romance is a reassertion of identity and sexual autonomy, a reminder that, no matter what social purists might say regarding queer relationships or non-heteronormative relationships, they have always existed and will continue to flourish.

 

 

Works Cited

Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States. Beacon Press, 2011. ReVisioning American History.

Charles, KJ. Band Sinister. E-book, KJC Books, 2018.

—. “Historical Romance: Who Gets the Happy Ending.” KJ Charles, 10 Oct. 2018, kjcharleswriter.com/2018/10/10/historical-romance-who-gets-hea/?fbclid=IwAR2wHOz1DzIW2gP9IFfRcSRSXS9GQgEjjmcCFbh4cbbm8CYSTv7SDyXQ5s4.

Johnson, E. Patrick. “Queer Epistomeologies: Theorizing the Self from a Writerly Place Called Home.” Biography, vol. 34, no. 4, Summer 2011, pp. 429-46. Academic Search Premier. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

Kingston, Elizabeth. “Reclaiming Historical Romance.” Elizabeth Kingston, Dec. 2018. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Rodriquez, Cecilia. “Masculine Pygmalion.” Review of A Ruin of a Rake. Amazon.com, 16 Mar. 2018, http://www.amazon.com/Ruin-Rake-Cat-Sebastian/product-reviews/0062642537/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_hist_2?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=two_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Rogerson, Stephanie. “Without Words You Spoke: Early Snapshot Photography and Queer Representation.” Afterimage, vol. 36, no. 1, July 2008, pp. 10-13. EBSCOhost. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

Royster, Francesca T. “Introductory Notes: Performing Queer Lives.” Biography, vol. 34, no. 3, Summer 2011, pp. v-xii. Academic Search Premier. Accessed 20 Apr. 2019.

 

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Reading Rec: Gilded Cage

In Gilded Cage, we find a lady detective having to team up with an ex-flame but current jewel thief to clear his name of murder.

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Templeton Lane, part of the infamous Lilywhite Boys, is no stranger to danger, but when he arrives to steal an opal necklace and stumbles across a double homicide, he knows he is in deep trouble. On the run and trying to keep his partner in crime and associates safe, he knows there is only one person he can turn to: Susan Lazarus. Susan hates the Lilywhite Boys and especially hates Templeton Lane after he deserted her when they were teens, but when Templeton turns up needing help, Lazarus decides she must get to the bottom of the mystery, even if it does help her lout of an ex. Together they must figure out who would want to set Templeton up before the villain takes them all down.

I received an ARC of Gilded Cage in exchange for an honest review. This book is also the second in the Lilywhite Boys series, so you should read book one (because it’s damn good) but it isn’t required.

If you like characters who have hard exteriors and rather soft insides, this series is probably for you. What I love about Lazarus and Lane are that they are hardened by the jobs and lives they have pursued separately, and even though they have been separated for years and reconnect under rather tense circumstances, they still fit. These characters don’t magically regress to who they were years ago when they meet. They’re still changed people and must learn to figure out if and how they fit. Of course there’s also the frustration of miscommunication and being on opposite sides of the law to contend with that give it an enemies to lovers feel, which just adds to the dramatic tension in the story. The moments of tenderness in this story help to counterbalance the tension and the horrific nature of the murders that make up the other half of the action.

And what a good mystery it is. A room full of jewels, a dead jeweler and his manservant, a lawyer, a newly discovered nephew, and a jewel thief who never should have made it out of the house alive. If you’ve ever read KJ Charles’s other works, you know she is ingenious when it comes to writing mysteries, and Gilded Cage is no different. There are enough moving parts and gaps in the narrative to keep it interesting without getting bogged down with procedural tedium. I love how the Lane and Lazarus work outside the law and manage to be underhanded without truly being criminal. It’s a fun knife’s edge to watch them walk, especially after knowing Lazarus’s origins from an earlier series. On that same note, we get to see how three of Charles’s series are interconnected and converge in this book. Lots of characters to run into twenty years down the line from their books along with others you won’t expect to hear about.

Overall, Gilded Cage is a cracking good mystery with complex characters learning to become better versions of themselves.

Gilded Cage comes out October 23rd, so keep your eye on Amazon or your favorite retailer for a copy.

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Reading Rec: A Little Light Mischief

A Little Light Mischief is a novella that captured my heart with a blunt lady’s maid and a cast out spinster teaming up for a bit of revenge and romance.

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Alice Stapleton is newly cast out and newly a lady’s companion, but now that she no longer has her father’s vicarage to run, she’s itching to something, which is apparently something the ton don’t do. To occupy herself, she sews, writes, and studies the assets of her companion’s lady’s maid. Molly knows Alice is watching, but she’s sworn off the sins of her past unless absolutely necessary, but there’s something about the quiet woman that intrigues her. As they grow closer, Alice and Molly find they have far more in common than they thought and embark on a revenge mission to get Alice back what she lost.

I received a copy of A Little Light Mischief in exchange for an honest review, and keep in mind, I really like Cat Sebastian’s books, so I’m a tad biased. If you like your romance on the low stress side, this novella is for you. Plus, it’s f/f, which is even better!

What I love about this story is both main characters are women with jobs. We tend to think of Regency period women as wandering aimlessly through the grounds or a mother, but both Molly and Alice are take-charge in their own ways and very capable people. There is discussion of women’s work in terms of value and the unseen toll of being a woman, especially under the control of a man. I love seeing this power dynamic being discussed in a context that isn’t centering on a marriage. Both Molly and Alice harbor secrets from their past, but neither dominates their lives and they aren’t the fallen angels some authors would happily portray them as.

Molly is what I wished other “strong” historical women were like. She’s loud, she’s take-charge, she’s cunning, but she isn’t a caricature. She’s multifaceted and willing to quiet down and meet Alice in the middle. Meanwhile, Alice is drawn out of her shell by Molly and uses her new-found moxie to help them both. Women helping women is my jam and needs to be in more f/f fiction (looking at you, Sarah Waters).

Overall, A Little Light Mischief is a wonderful f/f romance novella that has characters you cheer for and villains you are more than happy to see get their come-up-ins.

Grab your copy here.

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The Wolf Witch is Out Today!

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The sixth book in the Ingenious Mechanical Device is out today! You can grab a paperback or ebook copy of THE WOLF WITCH on Amazon here.

Since returning to England from abroad, Emmeline Jardine has managed to get a place of her own, maintain a tenuous truce with her guardians, and celebrate her new found freedom by attending as many parties as she can manage. That is until a man claiming to be her father shows up.
Her father has a problem. Her half-brother, Wesley, has disappeared while investigating possible werewolf sightings, and he needs Emmeline’s help finding him. Emmeline reluctantly agrees only to find there are others interested in Wesley’s plight. When she receives a mysterious invitation to a country estate deep in the woods, Emmeline is shocked to find a familiar face there.
Nadir Talbot, Decadent, writer, and all around nuisance, infuriates her to no end, but Emmeline soon finds he is the only she can turn to as they are thrust into a world of werewolves, monsters, and secrets from her family’s past that threaten to bring the empire to its knees.

Emmeline has done a lot of growing since Dead Magic, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading her story and following her on her journey to discovering who she truly is.

If you pre-ordered a copy, it will be waiting for you on your Kindle, and if you enjoyed THE WOLF WITCH, I hope you will leave an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. They help small time authors like me a lot in terms of visibility.

I hope you all enjoy THE WOLF WITCH, and I will have news soon on my next project, which involves characters mentioned in THE WOLF WITCH.

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Reading Rec: Hither, Page

Hither, Page is a murder-town mystery featuring a spy, a doctor struggling with PTSD, a dead maid, and a socialist, flask-swilling, graveyard inhabiting teenage girl who may be my favorite person in a book ever.

hither page

Dr. Sommers wants nothing more than stability and to put the war behind him, but in a country that is still picking up the pieces, that’s hard to do, even harder when his town’s peace is shattered by the death of the town gossip. In comes Leo Page, a spy for the crown whose entire life has been a series of transient identities. Page and Sommers soon team up to discover who killed the gossiping chambermaid and uncover the townspeople’s secrets, but they find more than they bargained for in each other.

First off, I received an ARC of Hither, Page in exchange for an honest review, and secondly, I’m super biased because Cat Sebastian’s books are some of my favorites but if you like romance with mystery and social commentary, then you’ll probably like it as well.

This was one of those books that was so satisfying that I was beyond overjoyed to see that it was part of a series. What I loved about this book is how Sebastian is able to take characters who might be seen as horrid people in other lights and show their humanity and goodness. The characters in Hither, Page are layered, and as you get further in the book, the layers peel away to reveal who they truly are, for better or worse. Sommers is one of those do-gooders who truly only wants the best for others while Page is great at his job as an agent because it is so easy to shed identities when you never really had one. They compliment each other perfectly, stability and flux, and their relationship is a slower burn considering the genre.

The ensemble cast and setting are what really makes this couple shine. There are high stakes in terms of intrigue, but that’s tempered by a sleepy, peaceful country town filled with children and little old ladies who make ginger cookies. To counterbalance the imagery and aftermath of war, there is so much tenderness in this story. The imagery of Christmas decorations and canned soup on a cold night are touches that make this story shine above other historical romances.

Hither, Page comes out tomorrow! Pre-order a copy here.

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Massive Series Sale!

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Need to Catch up on the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series?

Now is the perfect time to catch up on the first five books of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series before The Wolf Witch comes out July 12th.
Why?
Because the entire series is on sale from today to June 8th. Internationally (I believe), The Earl of Brass and The Gentleman Devil are free.
In the US, The Earl and the Artificer, Dead Magic, and Selkie Cove are all discounted ($1.99 or less!).
I don’t often heavily discount this series, so now is the time to jump on the later books in the series!

Grab your copies below:
The Earl of Brass (Book 1)
The Gentleman Devil (Book 2)
The Earl and the Artificer (Book 3)
Dead Magic (Book 4)
Selkie Cove (Book 5)
The Wolf Witch (Book 6)

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