Bingo Love written by Tee Franklin

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[Edit: Originally published June 22,  2018]

Bingo Love is the utterly sweet and heartwrenching story of Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two young girls who find love in 1963, however, the homophobia of the time ends up tearing them apart and they don’t see each other again for almost 50 years. 

Something I really loved about Bingo Love was seeing an older queer couple. We get Hazel and Mari’s story from the moment they meet to the moment they pass away from old age. We get a bit more of the Hazel’s story, because Hazel is the primary protagonist. Seeing stories that show older queer people gives me such joy, partially because they make me feel less lonely and scared about my future, showing that queer people can make it to that age and still find happiness. 

Honestly, the fact that the book was focusing on two older queer women was the reason I picked it up in the first place. 

I also really appreciated the Hazel’s family’s reactions. Now, I’ve never had an older relative come out and shake up my world, but I know how my parents have reacted to me coming out and I appreciate so much the variance in reaction and how, even when people are angry and shouting, they’re never demonized or made into the Ultimate Villain™ of the story.

So if you’re in the mood for a sweet, heartwarming, and incredibly emotional story this Pride Month I would highly recommend Bingo Love.

You can find it here.

Related Reviews: Iceman: Thawing Out, Opal Charm: Path to Dawn, Opal Charm: Hope in Nautical Dusk

“Eggshells” by Ziggy Schutz from Behind the Mask

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[Edit: Originally published May 19, 2017]

When Pen falls and gets a concussion (and not even while superheroing) the repercussions are a lot more long lasting than she maybe expected. 

There’s this trope in action genres, that’s basically, hit a person on the head as an easy and harmless way to knock them out. Except that’s not how brains work. If you go unconscious you have a concussion. 

I’ve followed Ziggy on Tumblr (from my personal) for a while now, and she is nothing if not passionate about concussions being treated appropriately in fiction, because fiction surrounding concussions has a direct affect to how concussions are dealt with in real life.

“Eggshells” has some of the best representation of a person dealing with a concussion and post-concussion syndrome in fiction that I have ever read. And that’s not the only amazing thing about this story. It is beautifully written. The characters and their relationship are so incredibly well formed and vivid. The relationships are diverse and incredibly well written.

I think one of my favorite relationship dynamics was between Davie and Pen. 

There is a scene between the two of them when, they’re both holed up in Pen’s room because their parents are arguing and they’re trying to avoid getting dragged into it. It’s in this scene that my favorite exchange in the story takes place.

“Davie snorts. ‘How should I know? I’m adopted.’
‘Careful!’ She reaches over and slaps a hand over his mouth. ‘Say that too loud and they’ll decide it’s time to revisit nature vs. nurture.’
He promptly licks her hand.
Because she is a veteran superhero with hundreds of hours of training under her belt, she does not shriek.”

It tells you so much about the characters in such a small moment.

If this isn’t enough to get you on board, Pen’s a lesbian. We learn this in a beautiful moment that highlights the obliviousness of straight people. It’s A+ and not at all tropey.

@hulklinging

You can find the whole anthology here.

Related Reviews: Falling in Love with Hominids, Love in the Time of Global Warming, Dreadnought

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Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner

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[Edit: Originally published August 6, 2016]

Ice Massacre is mermaids unromanticized, well, except for the fact that our leading lady falls in love with one. 

These are not the friendly mermaids that appear on our Starbucks cups, or even really the (Disney) Peter Pan mermaids, though those certainly do want to drown you. These are the sirens of legend who’ll seduce you and and then eat you for a midday snack. 

The island of Eriana Kwai sits off the coast of Alaska, relatively isolated. Something that has only gotten worse since the arrival of the mermaids. They’ve all but lost their principle export, fish, due to mermaids attacking their fishing boats. So every year they have a Massacre. Wipe out as many of the demons as they can and hope that they’ll fall back enough to allow for the island to recover a bit. Problem is, they keep sending men to fight the mermaids. And the last few years, the boats haven’t been coming back at all. 

This time they’re sending girls in the hope that they’ll be immune to the mermaids charms and they are except for one girl, Meela, who falls in love with one. Whoops. It’s not quite that simple, the mermaid in question had been a childhood friend of Meela’s, but after Meela’s father finds out that comes to an end and they don’t meet again until they’re fighting each other at the Massacre.

But if mermaids and the humans of Eriana Kwai are bitter enemies, then how does Meela end up falling hopelessly in love with one? The answer is carefully and slowly. Meela’s realization that she’s fallen in love with the mermaid, Lysi, doesn’t come until the final line of the book. That might seem like a little bit of a let down, however, the build up of the relationship is honestly excellent and this is the first book of a trilogy so I think it’s safe to say we can expect more development in books two and three.

The back drop to Meela falling in love with Lysi is, oddly enough, the Massacre itself. The troupe of girls has set out for the yearly Massacre. Of course, because things are never easy, there’s a divide amongst the girls and there winds up being two “groups” on the ship each following a different Captain. So there’s massive internal conflict on top of them being attacked by flesh-eating mermaids. Pretty romantic, huh? Both conflicts tie together extremely well, and in the end allow for a surprising revelation about the why the mermaids keep attacking Eriana Kwai.

Warnings:

  • It’s pretty violent and bloody for a young adult book. The fights with the mermaids get kinda graphic at points.
  • Child death. Two instances. One, a vague mention of a child being grabbed by a mermaid. Two, the rather graphic killing of an infant mermaid. 

@tianawarner

You can find it here.

Related Reviews: Valhalla trilogy

The Price of Salt (or Carol) by Patricia Highsmith

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[Edit: Originally published June 22, 2016]

Another classic lesbian novel. In fanfiction terms I would describe this book as slow burn. It takes it’s time getting to the point where the couple, Carol and Therese (pronounced Terez), get together. It’s not a coming out story, in fact I don’t think the word lesbian is mentioned even once in the book. Therese just accepts her attraction to Carol as what it is. No label aside from “love” is attached to it. Which I found interesting in comparison to Spring Fire in which the word “lesbian” has such import that it’s capitalized whenever it comes up.

You only see in the reactions of other people that the love that Carol and Therese share is not something that’s accepted. Therese’s friend Richard, Carol’s to be ex-husband Harge, plus a conversation between Carol and Therese about the world not accepting what they have, make this clear. But to Therese and Carol it’s not wrong, yes Therese doubts herself at times, particularly at the beginning, but not to the point of ‘oh god what am I doing’ angst.

Carol’s friend Richard. I won’t call him her boyfriend, because that’s not quite right. Richard wants to believe they’re dating and that Therese will love him, but Therese makes it very clear from the beginning that that is not the case. Richard however, despite saying that he’ll drop what he’s said about being in love with Therese, he never does until the very end of the book.

Platonic friendships between queer women. Carol’s former love interest is ever present in this book as Carol’s best friend. We don’t get to see queer friendships of this caliber often because many times there are too few queer characters in a show/movie/book for there to be more than just a romantic couple. 

Nobody dies at the end! Hooray! Carol and Therese do have to split up, because Carol and Therese’s relationship ends up used to keep Carol’s daughter away from her, but the book ends with Carol and Therese reuniting on a happy note. You are left with the thought that perhaps Carol and Therese will end up happy together after all. 

Where to find the book, related reviews, and snaps are under the cut.

You can find the book here.

Related Reviews: Spring Fire, The Case of the Not-so-Nice-Nurse

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Spring Fire by Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker)

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[Edit: Originally published June 15, 2016]

The original lesbian pulp fiction novel. That alone is something that grabs and makes you want to read, but let me tell you, proceed with caution. As important as this book is historically, it’s not something that everyone will want or be able to read.

This is not a happy lesbian story. There are happy parts sure, but they are few. Please remember, that a positive portrayal of lesbians would have gotten the book censored at the time (1952). For all the heavy handed telling us that being lesbian is wrong you can see the threads of how real this is and how wonderful it could be, if it had been allowed by the publisher. 

Nobody dies, but tragedy strikes and one of the girls ends up institutionalized. This isn’t the start of the woes that befall main character Susan Mitchell (Mitch to friends), at university. 

This book reminded me why I hate Greek Life so much. The frat boys in this book are assholes who think the world should cater to their every whim. Much like frat boys in the real world today. Nothing much seems to have changed there from the fifties. Anyways, the supreme frat asshole of Spring Fire is called Bud Roberts and Mitch spends the first portion of the book dealing with him. It’s victim blaming at it’s finest. Bud is a predatory creep and when Mitch tries to protect herself she gets in trouble and her Sorority demands that she fix it so that the Sorority won’t get a bad rep because of her. Like wow. Then, trigger warning here, Bud ends up getting Mitch drunk and raping her in the basement of the Sorority house at a party. Mitch is instructed by her roommate Leda (she’s the lesbian love interest) that she can’t tell anyone, because the basement was off limits and Mitch will get in trouble. 

It’s after this event that things start between Mitch and her roommate Leda. And everything is filled with guilt and the books tells you how wrong it is.  This goes on until Mitch can’t take it any more and writes a letter to Leda. That’s the point where everything goes downhill and Leda and Mitch end up getting caught together. Leda claims that Mitch attacked her in an attempt to save herself and pin the blame on Mitch. 

I don’t want to say the book is only bad things, there are good moments, but it is a product of its time. It had to be negative to even make it to press.

Spring Fire played such a massively important role in showing that there was a market for books like these when the editor who took this book to print was sure that there wasn’t. Spring Fire was the first. First ever published lesbian pulp fiction novel. Sure it might not be the happiest story, but god damn it if it isn’t so fucking important.

Spring Fire is the reason we have the genre of lesbian fiction in the first place. 

Trigger warnings: sexual assault/rape, homophobia, mental ableism (the whole being institutionalized thing)

You can find it here.

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The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend by Mabel Maney

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[Edit: Originally published May 5, 2016]

I finally got around to reading book two of the Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless books. This one’s a little heavier than the other two. It’s still an adventure, but now we’re dealing the murder of Carson Clue (Nancy’s father) that was mentioned but not discussed in The Case of the Not-So-Nice-Nurse.

Housekeeper Hannah Gruel confessed to the murder initially, but then Nancy comes out with the truth. That she murdered her father. Now here’s where it gets heavy, and also introduces the trigger warning for this book. It is revealed that Nancy’s father molested her and this is why she murdered him. It’s never called rape or sexual assault, and it’s only really talked around and implied until the scene of the murder trial. Even then it’s not more explicitly stated than “He forced me to do things.” 

It’s dealt with well, I’ll give the book that. But for a book that is relatively lighthearted in all other respects, it was kind of a heavy plot. 

On top of that all, we have Cherry and Nancy’s relationship on the rocks, Nancy’s a flirt when she’s drunk and she’s been drinking a lot. Their friends, Midge and Velma, are having a hard time too, but they’re sorted out and married by the end of the book. You see Midge was mistaken for Frank Hardly (one of the Hardly boys of A Ghost in the Closet). 

Surrounding all this heaviness however, the book does strive to keep the same light tone as the other two. There’s an eventful road trip. Jewel thieves. A teenager who’s striving to be an amateur geologist. And more lesbians than you’ve ever seen in a single novel. Cops, mechanics, nurses, school teachers, they’re all lesbians. It’s great.

There was also a frankly wonderful discussion of menstruation, which I thought was absolutely fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book where menstruation’s even been hinted at before, but there’s several discussions of it in the book. 

Another thing that caught my attention in this book was the discussion of butch versus femme lesbians. I thought it was very interesting, but as I am a trans man not a lesbian, it’s not my place to weigh in on that dynamic. I will leave that to the lesbian readership of the book.

Book can be found here.

Related reviews: The Case of the Not-so-Nice Nurse and A Ghost in the Closet

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A Ghost in the Closet by Mabel Maney

[Edit: Originally published on March 26, 2016]

Book three of three of the Cherry Aimless and Nancy Clue books. (I know I haven’t reviewed two yet, but I was able to get my hands on book three first so).

Our favorite Nurse Cherry Aimless is back again with Nancy Clue and pals, but this time, due to the events of “The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend” (book two) Cherry is caught in a love triangle between girl detective Nancy Clue and the dashing Officer Jackie, who’s been assisting them on cases. Which girl will win the affections of our favorite RN?

The troupe of girls are joined in their adventure by Joe and Frank Hardly. This time there after an awful dognapper (he’s kidnapping poodles!) who may or may not have also kidnapped the Hardly Boys’ parents. And just how do the Russians fit into this? There’s lots of adventure, including, a scuba search at the bottom of a lake and going undercover at a sanitarium.

Which dovetails into my warning for this review. Nancy and Cherry have to go undercover and infiltrate a sanitarium, and well, it’s the 1950s. There are a few slurs that get used as well as discussion of practices of the time period. There are parts that I found made me a touch uneasy, but for the most part it’s very tame. This isn’t a dark book, it’s light and fun, but I am aware that this content matter could potentially be upsetting for some people.

Overall the book is a bundle of fun and camp. Everything’s more dramatic than it should be yet the book is upbeat and fun. Definitely a refreshing read in the midst all the Bury Your Gays trope awfulness that’s been happening. Every gets a happy ending.

The book can be found on Amazon here.

Related reviews: The Case of the Not-so-Nice Nurse and The Case of the Good-for-Nothing Girlfriend

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The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse by Mabel Maney

Image of the book "The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse" by Mabel Maney. A Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless Mystery.

[Edit: Originally published on March 21,  2016.]

In a rollicking parody of the Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew books. Maney brings us the characters of Cherry Aimless and Nancy Clue and the mystery that brings them together. 

Kidnapping, intrigue, lesbians. It’s cheesy and funny and here’s the clincher. No one dies. The worst that happens is the maiming of a poor defenseless teddy bear. And our lesbian heroines? They get their happily ever after, and by that I mean they go on to solve more mysteries together, because of course what else would these two girl detectives do. Settle down and have a quiet life? I don’t think so. 

The book starts with Nurse Cherry Aimless going to visit her aunt for a vacation from her big-city hospital job, where the seed of intrigue has already been sown with a mystery patient who has amnesia. However, she arrives at her aunt’s only to find that she’s been kidnapped! Cherry, with the help of some new made friends and her heroine (and crush) Nancy Clue, has to untangle the winding thread of mystery. 

The first of three books, “The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse” is absolutely delightful. The most fun book I’ve read in a while. 

You can find it on Amazon here.

Related reviews: The Case of the Good-for-Nothing Girlfriend and A Ghost in the Closet