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The anthology Rainbow Bouquet edited by Farah Mendlesohn marks something of a reorganizational reboot for Manifold Press, which specializes in LGBTQ historical fiction. Given that focus, I was a little surprised that only half the stories in the collection have historic settings (and one is clearly future/science fictional). That’s not a comment on the writing, only that I had a bit of expectation whiplash.

Emma Donoghue writes the sort of historical fiction that makes one unsurprised that she’s a historian first. This isn’t meant to be a criticism! But it can be crucial to know what you’re getting into and set your expectations appropriately.

The Arrival of Lady Suthmeer is a historical romp, with the light-hearted tone intruded on by brief bits of sexual importuning and violence. Lavinia juggles her passionate desire for the married Lady Suthmeer, the unwanted interest of Lord Suthmeer, the sad necessity for a woman to marry, and the awkward surprise that her betrothed expects to defend her reputation.

After some dithering, I decided to see only one show on this trip to New York. (There always seems to be a non-zero chance that either Lauri or I will get a cold while I'm visiting, and besides I wanted to manage at least two dinner meet-ups with friends. So maybe sometimes I don't have to over-schedule my visits?) We decided to walk down from Lauri's place to the theater district and pick a place for dinner along the way, which ended up being the Oxbow Tavern. Food served in a very trendy presentation (truffle foam around my pan-fried hallibut) but quite delicious.

One of the reasons I anxiously anticipate every new Aliette de Bodard release is because I can just assume there will be casual queerness somewhere in every story. (Note: I’m not entirely fond of the wording “incidental lesbians” that has become popular in lesfic circles because I’m not interested in either the characters or their orientations being “incidental”--I want them to be essential to the story, just not in a way that makes orientation or identity itself the essence of the story. For me “casual queerness” better evokes the thing that makes me happy.)

There is nothing quite so frustrating to me as coming late to a wonderful book because the cover synopsis deliberately concealed the information that would lead me to put it on my TBR list. And given my reading habits, that usually happens when the publisher has decided to erase all but the vaguest hint of queer content.

It’s funny what reputation can do: if you’d handed me A Study in Honor knowing nothing except what’s in the blurb, I’d probably have told you that I’m not really into near-future dystopian political thrillers, even one that’s  re-visioning of Holmes and Watson featuring two queer black women. But tell me that [author I love] is coming out with a new series under a new nom de plume and I’ll give anything she writes a try. I would have missed out on a great book if I’d gone just by my usual genre and setting preferences.

Two young women in turn-of-the-century San Francisco come of age, struggle to find their feet, and find each other. Kerry had a rough beginning, often on the far side of the law, and more comfortable taken for a boy in trousers than playing the girl. Only a chance alliance between her father and an up-and-coming doctor gave her a chance at a way out of the rough Barbary Coast neighborhood. Beth’s strict middle-class upbringing gave her a surer future, but one where she struggled to make her own choices even as a brilliant nursing student.

Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Tea Company, 2018)

T. Kingfisher has enough cred as an author with me that I will give anything she writes a try. But it’s not reasonable to expect that any one author will hit your target every single time. This is a perfectly good story, excellently written, with engaging characters. It just didn’t hit my personal sweet spots in terms of story and characters. Your experience will most likely be different.

Set in classical Greece, the plot of this novella is fairly straightforward: upper class woman who is Not Like The Other Girls is intrigued by the beauty and defiance of an exotic (in this case, Norse) slave and purchases her in order to tame her and (as we eventually find out) with the goal of some sort of interpersonal relationship. After a period of power play, assorted hurt-comfort scenes, and jealous pining, the slave runs away because...well, because, and her retrieval results in a rescue, a joyous reunion, and her being freed, concluded by a HEA with her former owner.

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