This episode of The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast with Heather Rose Jones features Book Appreciation with Olivia Waite
In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured author will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting.
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In this episode we talk about these books:
The Ladies’ Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.
Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.
While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?
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Proper English by KJ Charles
A shooting party at the Earl of Witton’s remote country house is a high treat for champion shot Patricia Merton—until unexpected guests turn the social atmosphere dangerously sour.
That’s not Pat’s biggest problem. She’s visiting her old friend, the Earl’s heir Jimmy Yoxall—but she wants to spend a lot more time with Jimmy’s fiancée. The irrepressible Miss Fenella Carruth, with her laughing eyes and lush curves, is the most glorious woman Pat’s ever met, and it quickly becomes impossible to remember why she needs to stay at arm’s length.
But while the women’s attraction grows, the tensions at Rodington Court get worse. Affairs, secrets, betrayals, and blackmail come to light. And when a body is discovered with a knife between the shoulderblades, it’s going to take Pat and Fen’s combined talents to prevent the murderer destroying all their lives.
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Spring Flowering by Farah Mendlesohn
Everything changes for Ann Gray when her father dies and her closest friend Jane marries and moves away. Ann must give up the independence and purpose she found as mistress of her father’s parsonage in the country, and move to her uncle and aunt’s new-style house in the growing city of Birmingham. The friendship of Ann’s cousins – especially the mathematically inclined Louisa – is some compensation for freedoms curtailed. But soon Ann must consider two very different proposals, either of which will bring yet more change. Should she return to her village home as wife of the new parson Mr. Morden? Or become companion to the rather deliciously unsettling widow Mrs. King…?
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A Thin Bright Line by Lucy Jane Bledsoe
At the height of the Cold War, Lucybelle Bledsoe is offered a job seemingly too good to pass up. However, there are risks. Her scientific knowledge and editorial skills are unparalleled, but her personal life might not withstand government scrutiny.
Leaving behind the wreckage of a relationship, Lucybelle finds solace in working for the visionary scientist who is extracting the first-ever polar ice cores. The lucidity of ice is calming and beautiful. But the joyful pangs of a new love clash with the impossible compromises of queer life. If exposed, she could lose everything she holds dear.
Based on the hidden life of the author’s aunt and namesake, A Thin Bright Line is a love story set amid Cold War intrigue, the origins of climate research, and the nascent civil rights movement. Poignant, brilliant, and moving, it reminds us to act on what we love, not just wish for it.
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Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
Links to Olivia Waite Online
please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.
[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with a lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment last week we had Olivia wait on the show to talk about her new novel the ladies guide to celestial mechanics this week she joins us again to talk about some books with queer women and historic settings that she’s particularly enjoyed welcome back Olivia so what’s the first title you want to talk about well I think the first one when I talk I want to talk about is the most recent one I read and it’s KJ Charles’s proper English and I know you had KJ Charles on an earlier episode of this I’m sure you brought this up but I think a lot of us have been I don’t think it’s a lot of people are writing Cossacks right now either mm-hmm yeah this this lovely country house party and there’s a lot of people you really like and there’s one person that everybody really hates and you spend a good chunk of the book going gosh when is he gonna bite it mm-hmm meanwhile you have this lovely sweet like romance between these two women who are so different mm-hmm and it was such delight watching them learn to like appreciate one another and that’s one of my favorite things in romance is when a pair of characters sinks the absolute world of the other person and is like how could I possibly ever measure up that particular dynamic always just lights my heart up the mutual admiration society thing just yeah I think I love that trope because it’s what I always secretly hoped would happen for me that somebody would finally appreciate me and love me that’s the dream yeah and that’s why it’s so popular exactly yeah and that’s man that’s such a it’s such a simple dream and you want everybody to find that like you know life and in fiction but fiction is so much easier to give to give to people yeah yeah okay what’s next well next is I think probably one of the most grounded historical FF romances I’ve ever read which is Farah Mendelssohn’s spring wakening haha and it’s a very classic structure it’s a single POV so it’s very very georgette Heyer in the sense that you don’t quite know what the other love interest is thinking all the time mm-hmm but it’s historical romance in oh it’s a manufacturing town in England but it’s like a Button Factory owners niece and she’s just lost her father and the opening is just so heartbreaking and gorgeous and it’s about her losing her father it’s just it’s the one book where and it’s a very early scene that so it’s not much of a spoiler but they they kill off the dog and it’s beautiful oh my gosh you can break any rule in fiction like it would normally hate this and it’s so careful and poetic and wonderful and I’m like I’m in the hands of a wonderful author and then she moves to Manchester with her uncle and his family and and it’s one of those where there’s like you know somebody she really likes and then there’s somebody who’s attractive and dangerous since the one of those like slight love triangle kinds but it’s just so it’s so concrete and you can feel like you’re in the math of the city at the time and that’s it was wonderful and I just felt like I was living and breathing right there in the best way and one of the things I loved about that novel is because the the protagonist has a very close friend that she has had a romantic and sexual relationship with who has now married and moved away and it’s so utterly normalized as part of her life history right yeah and and I love those details because yeah we can see in the history in the literature the romantic side of that sort of friendship and then just extending it that little bit and saying well of course they were also making out yeah like you know kissing feels pretty good wanna do it and and also that space of given given the legal obligations like the I remember the end of that book there’s there’s a solution that come to that’s just so refreshing and wonderful and and it’s a thing that people did all the time in real Looby you don’t see a lot of in fiction and there’s kind of this truism especially coming from like a mainstream romance perspective there’s this idea that if you can’t legally marry someone what’s the point of the relationship and even in m-f romances i was always kind of interested in the ones where my marriage wasn’t an option for whatever reason or a lot of people are very like anti any eight contact outside of marriage is cheating and romancing if you’re married to some guy and he’s off somewhere and you’re not sure if he’s alive and take you know what are you gonna do you gotta live your life here like the crumbling estate you’re trying to think that the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk-show the convention panel discussion that I desperately want to see and especially participate in someday is talking about what does happily-ever-after mean for queer historical romance you know we’ve got this as you say this trope 4mf romances that you know marriage is the thing that indicates you’ve reached you know the end of the story and and they’re they’re happy ever after now but you know for for same-sex couples that has only very recently been an option for happily ever after so what are ways of constructing the HEA that don’t rely you know even necessarily on marriage analogues and and and the other part of it that I’d love to see discussed is how is it different for male couples in history and female couples in history yeah which are which are very different challenges yeah you know in terms of female couples you had you know the ladies of Lang : uh who just were a couple essentially and everybody knew about it and like the government paid them a stipend hmm and they were visited by artists and writers and every oh yeah there’s two ladies who were living together and people still debate well do we think this was a sexual relationship do we think this was a romantic and I’m like in some sense that doesn’t matter it could have they could have been doing anything they wanted or not woohoo and the important thing like it matters less what we think and what people attend but they had the option you live as though they were a married couple and have people treat them as a married couple because a married couple yeah and you see things like you know and Lister and the idea that they did have a sort of marriage ceremony you read Peter Ackroyd’s queer City mystery came out recently which is it definitely is really wide-ranging so it kind of skips over this whole ocean of history but he’s got really good footnotes and he’s got amazing anecdotes and it just lights up the right really part of my brain but one of the things he talks about was how many records we have of church men like vicars and preach and priests and pastors and writing oh this couple came asking me to marry them but I could tell that they were both women so I said no and they went away and that’s the end of the story those are just the ones he spotted some women probably snuck off to a nearby parish wrote down some names in a register and then pretended like they were legally married because they for all intents and purposes were uh-huh and this so on the one hand yeah moving away from this idea that marriage is necessary is important but also saying well just because it wasn’t technically legal didn’t mean people weren’t trying to like trying to take control of some of that meeting for themselves even they felt they deserved it yeah you see fake marriages being performed at the Molly houses in 17th century London like you know they would it was real huge like parties and marrying multiple couples like people and people would get arrested for performing these images so like I know I think it just makes it gives me faith in that your repressive ility of it all yeah and that’s something that I think we definitely need more of in these in these times that we’re living in yes so any more books you want to talk about well there one book that is on my TBR but I haven’t had a chance to read yet but I’m super excited about and I definitely want to see more people know about this and more people talking about this it’s a book called the thin bright line by Lucy Jane Bledsoe uh-huh and it’s a novel and I don’t think it’s a romance again I haven’t read it yet it’s a historical novel that she wrote when she discovered her aunt who was queer was also a spy in the Arctic uh-huh and I’m like that’s all I need to know purchase and it’s just I’m really I’m really kind of enthralled by that idea of the Cold War and the early movements for queer liberation things like the Mattachine society coupled with spycraft and cryptography and and this idea of secret messages hidden in plain sight mm-hmm and and of course the Arctic which is just endlessly fascinating I just didn’t want to kind of boost that book’s profile a little bit more yeah as one’s like my other interviewees mentioned that as well I think maybe it was Ellen Klages who mentioned it but I’m not positive so yes definitely well I will put links to all those books in the show notes and thank you so much Olivia for sharing some of your favorite books with us oh well thank you for having me Heather this is a wonderful wonderful time I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on itunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music]