Sheena is joined by Heather Rose Jones to discuss the list that was released on TheLesbianReview.com – TLR’s 55 Most Reread Books. In this episode, Heather talks about her selection of books.
The Covert Captain by Jeannelle M Ferreira
Publisher Indie Author
Audio Narrated by Violet Dixon
Nathaniel Fleming, veteran of Waterloo, falls in love with his Major’s spinster sister, Harriet. But Nathaniel is not what he seems, and before the wedding, the truth will out…
Eleanor Charlotte Fleming, forgotten daughter of a minor baronet, stakes her life on a deception and makes her name—if not her fortune—on the battlefield.
Her war at an end, she returns to England as Captain Nathaniel Fleming and wants nothing more than peace, quiet, and the company of horses. Instead, Captain Fleming meets Harriet. Harriet has averted the calamity of matrimony for a decade, cares little for the cut of her gowns, and is really rather clever. Falling in love is not a turn of the cards either of them expected.
Harriet accepts Captain Fleming, but will she accept Eleanor? Along the way, there are ballrooms, stillrooms, mollyhouses, society intrigue, and sundering circumstance.
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That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole
Audio Narrated by Karen Chilton
Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all costs. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy – as did her own previous heartbreaks.
When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.
Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love – or for what happens when it’s not enough.
This is an angsty but fluffy F/F novella with a happy ending for both of our intrepid heroines.
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We also talk about
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Publisher Brilliance Audio
Audio Narrated by Justine Eyre
Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin’s London school, is left in poverty when her father dies, but is later rescued by a mysterious benefactor…
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US, Canada, Germany and Italy
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Transcript for Today’s Show
Please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.
welcome you are listening to a special episode of TLRs podcast in the series we are talking to the reviewers who brought you tlrs 55 most reread books each episode breaks down the list into specific favorites for that reviewer you can find more reviews and based of lists on the lesbian review.com today I’m joined by Heather Rose Jones author extraordinaire and reviewer part-time at TLR Heather thank you so much for joining me today I’m delighted okay so let’s talk about rereading books it’s such an interesting phenomenon for me because I can’t quite pinpoint why I keep returning to certain books so what is it for you that keeps you coming back for me and I had I had this panic attack when as disabled what are my favorite rereads with lesbian characters because I’m not sure that I have actually reread that many of them yet but for me a reread is a book where it’s it’s the ritual of experiencing this story so it’s not discovering this story but it’s it’s like going on a rollercoaster ride that you go on all the time and you know every single curve and every single old drop and everything as opposed to going on a rollercoaster ride where it’s your first time on that particular piece of equipment and you have no idea what’s going to happen so I want a reread to be I want it to be something that makes me feel a particular thing I want to feel now maybe maybe that’s a feel-good thing maybe it’s the catharsis of seeing a character go through awful things and then you know come out happy and triumphant at the end and that’s an interesting point because the book that I have reread most frequently across my life it’s it’s my ritual comfort read is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s a little princess which might seem like a bit of an odd book for me to pick but the the moral arc the the plot structure of that book is a girl who is she’s a nice person she’s she’s a nice person but she’s highly privileged she has a loving father she has more money than she knows what to do with everything has always come easily to her and then it all falls apart and then her father loses all those his money and he dies and she’s turned from a privileged you know boarding school girl into a servant and she goes through awful times and through it all she really a good person and she continues being a good person for other people and struggling with with her own reactions and experiences and then in the end of the book because this is fiction she is rewarded by finding a new surrogate father figure and it turns out that all of her father’s monthly wasn’t lost after all and she is again even more rich than she was before and now she can turn around and do nice things for her friends who stuck by her through the dark days and it’s the the moral structure of that story is what I need sometimes when you know when I’m tired when life is awful when things aren’t going right when I feel that virtue won’t be rewarded and it reminds me that at least in fiction fiction but virtue will be reported so that’s the sort of thing I’m looking for in a reread is something where it can remind me of things that I want to be true that’s perfect I actually completely get what you mean yeah okay so you’ve got two books on the rereads list and do you want to take us through them okay so the first book on my list is Janelle and Ferrara’s the covert captain or a marriage of equals which is the first lesbian Regency romance that I encountered that hit the the sticking points that I look for in a Regency of romance and I want to say it’s it’s not a perfect book and and I’m willing to say this out because I’ve said this directly to the author that we have become friends since I’ve read it there are issues with point of view there’s some issues with structure there are certain scenes that I felt you know would have been done better to be cut but overall the book has it hits those points of what I want to be true about life the the that you can go through hell in war and come out the other end and find somebody who will complete you you know you can enter an entirely new world of experience and find that it’s exactly where you’re going to be at home the idea that you know so the the second woman’s brother the the army captain that he can find his way through his prejudices to say you know what’s important is that my sister is happy and more than that it’s not just the structure of the plot in this case but the writing is just very solid it describes historical things it describes the setting it describes the the thoughts and the characters in ways that feel very emotionally true to me and as a historian that completes that feel historically true to me for the most part and that’s one of the things that I look for in historical fiction is that I that as a as an amateur historian myself I’m not reading this book and constantly thinking no wrong wrong it didn’t happen that way people weren’t like that that’s just wrong you know so that ruins a allegedly historical book for me and and the cover captain absolutely avoids that the author is very solid on getting the historical setting right and then that allows me to enjoy the rest of the book and the writing itself I mean I said I you know I had some issues without point of view was handled but that’s a technical thing technical bits in writing can be improved but there’s a certain essential core of how you handle words how you handle language that if an author’s got it they’ve got it you can learn it but it takes a lot of work and it’s it’s very similar to what I I tell people that my job my day job which is writing investigation reports our failures in industrial production which seems like an odd thing to compare to fiction but when we’re hiring people what I say is if you give me a person who can think and can write I could teach them biotech you give me a person who knows biotech inside and out but they can’t think and they can’t write and I could not do a thing with them and I think a lot of the same thing goes for writing fiction that if somebody has the core mechanics of how to express themselves well in language you can teach them things like grammar and punctuation and point of view but if something doesn’t have that that instinct for it sneaks the wrong word if they don’t have that talent and that developed skill for writing beautiful language that’s a very hard thing to teach or to learn so so one of the things I love about the cover captain is that genell has that that talent for just writing beautiful passages for for making you feel the story rather than having somebody explain to you what the story is and that that is another part of what goes into enabling me to just experience the story structure as an enjoyable experience without you know tripping over the book as it were I totally agree with you the thing is if you’re so immersed in the story and feeling so much because the author is taking you there you actually don’t even pay that much attention well I don’t anyway so like the missing comma or the preposition at the end of the sentence or whatever it is that’s because I’m so drawn in yeah and for me it it’s if the writing is beautiful I don’t notice the writing if the writing is clunky then I’m constantly aware of the writing and that’s that’s just a big thing for me and and you know once I’ve noticed that writing is beautiful then I could sit down and analyze it’s like here’s what they’re doing here is how they’re doing it these this is what I love about this writing but I deal when I’m when I’m just reading the story for a story it should be flowing through me it should not be like it bowing and introducing itself to me and saying hi I am beautiful writing I completely get it so for for people who don’t know what the story is about you want to just give a quick overview yeah sure so this is your well I don’t even want to say it’s a typical Regency romance but its original oh man so you’ve got a woman who has been in disguise as a man in the English army during the Napoleonic Wars and who has formed a intensely deep friendship bond with her commanding officer and now the bar is over and and she is you know on half pay because not on active duty and essentially being a houseguest for commanding officer and meets his sister who is this you know she’s she’s older she’s you know quote on the Shelf unquote which by the way that’s why I picked the phrase on the shelf for one of my podcast episodes she yes oh she’s expected no longer to be marriage a bowl and and she is not interested in marriage and it comes out eventually in the back story is that she had three older sisters who all got married all got pregnant and all died in childbirth and she is terrified of what being married might do it also comes out eventually in the back story that she has also had romantic affairs with women in boarding school and she knows her way around the you know the FF thing and that all this comes out eventually so you don’t know what going in as far as you know she is you know this this naive woman who is simply responding to a you know dashing romantic and you know marginally tragic a army officer who has this actually come out of Waterloo with PTSD which is very well portrayed yeah a realistic way without using an anachronistic language which which I love anyway so so the two of them start falling in love and on the officers on the army retirees side you know she is you know well aware that falling in love means possibly risking revealing her secret and on the the the sisters side it is you know she had sworn off marriage she thought she was gonna like you know she was done with that she just settled in for being an old maid all her life and now it’s like is this somebody she loves enough to risk what she thinks marriage means and from there the plot goes through the usual cycles of you know attraction and omitting the attraction and barriers being thrown in the way and the barriers are multiple they are misunderstandings miscommunications they are slowly rebuilding trust they are you know the unfortunate scene of revealing the the disguised woman’s underlying gender and and then working through the social reaction and and several other structural barriers you know it’s it’s it’s chock-full it is a steeplechase of barriers to leap over and hurdle before you get to the happily ever after ending and and it is very well structured in that sense that you know you keep thinking you’re almost there and then something new gets thrown in I did want to say one thing that I thought the the aspect of the gender disguise was handled fairly well there was you know some admission that you know there are other other experiences of gender disguise that people might have in this world and the main character is always fairly clearly internally female that she had chosen this this route for some specific pragmatic reasons to get away from home to leave her old life behind it is this is one of the places where the the the point of view handling becomes a bit ambiguous because it isn’t always clear who is thinking in what genders but but overall I thought it was handled very nicely anyway so so yes and in the end they have a happily ever after and they get married and and the you know the the army veteran he is going to continue living as a man for the rest of her life but she accepts that and that’s just part of the whole package and that’s that’s very true to history you know there were couples like that where you know people went through their entire lives without their friends and neighbors realizing that both bodies underneath were female in structure it’s also available in audio narrated by violet Dixon and I loved the audio book I actually preferred the audio book to the text book because reading it I found like the language is very dense for me but if I had somebody in erasing it to me it was great I didn’t have a problem at all so I’m not I’m not here that I don’t you know submerse myself in in the dense kind of historical language but loved it completely agree this is a great book thank you for being an awesome listen and supporting tilt the channel that brings you all the podcasts you want to hear you’re listening to talk find more podcasts on the Lisbon talk-show calm okay hey there what is your next one so my second book I loved for very many of the same reasons this is Alyssa Cole’s that could be enough which is a novella it originally was written as part of a trio of novellas inspired by the musical Hamilton and telling the stories of marginalized people around the Revolutionary War era and her particular one is about a two black women one of them is a secretary to mrs. Hamilton this is well after Hamilton’s death when mrs. Hamilton is gathering up interviews with people who knew Hamilton to put together the comprehensive biography of his life so mercy is mrs. Hamilton’s secretary and is taking down interviewed notes for her and one of the people who comes to tell stories about Hamilton’s time in the Army is Andromeda whose grandfather fought under Hamilton and she is a dressmaker in New York City and the two of them mercy and Andromeda it’s like sparks fly but again very much like in the covert captain they’ve got emotional barriers to you know to immediately admitting their attraction so mercy has a background where she has had romantic relationships with women before and in every single case they left her for a conventional life and marriage to a man and basically told her you know you’reyou’re a dreamer you’re being silly you know this will never work you know give up and be conventional and so she has kind of shut down all of her emotions and said you know I will I will never in love again I will just you know put my foot in front of the other and get through life and Andromeda is very free-spirited and open with her life she’s a very urban person and living in an environment where unconventional lives are a little bit more taken you know accepted and so she is attracted to Mercy but first sees her as sort of a challenge it’s like you know can I get a reaction out of this woman you know she’s clearly so you know stick up her ass uptight and and yet I can tell she’s attracted to me and I want to make her admit it and through various interactions so the the the interview isn’t done and so mercy has to go into New York to finish the interview with Andromeda excuse me and they interact some more in Andromeda you know takes her around on a tour of some of the neighborhoods that she hangs out in and you know starts getting it to open up and they are definitely falling for each other and then we throw in a couple of you know again structural barriers to cause misunderstandings and heartbreak and and draw out the conclusion until they finally in fact you know and move in together and have happily ever after so what I loved about this book is again well first of all masterful language ELISA Cole is a really talented writer and and the writing is as smooth as well aged brandy and again the historical grounding is is very very solid historical stories are wonderful Issa’s specialties she’s got an entire series set in the American Civil War she’s got stories said in the American Revolutionary War and she says she has done her ground work and she knows she knows the territory and and she is just perfect at laying it out for you without a lot of CC look how much research I’ve done which is you know one of the faults that can show up in historical fiction so again it is the the smoothness of the language context you know I I’m going to be swimming in this beautiful language and not even notice it and the structure of the story where there are not idiot plot points where like if they’d only talked they would get through this and it’s funny because I have seen other readers comment that the misunderstanding where mercy reads something a personal paper of Andromeda’s and thinks that andromeda is engaged to marry a man and thinks that she’s been lied to and and the same thing is gonna happen all over again and you know okay this is the end of it it’s like you know fooled me once but but never never again and so she shuts down and and just to go away this is off and I have seen other readers say well but that is an idiot plot point you know why did why not talk why not just open up and say you know look I saw this this piece of paper and I shouldn’t have read it but I did and can you explain this to me and the thing is for me Mercy’s reaction was completely expected and normal where it’s like if you have been kicked in the teeth multiple times before and you see that boot coming towards your mouth again you know what you’re gonna say oh wait maybe you were just doing ballet in front of me and it made sense to me it is the reaction I would have had in Mercy’s place and that is why it felt so right to me and and why I enjoyed that as a romantic you know barrier because the way they came through it the way they they did eventually work past it and come back together again felt so much more real to me because that reaction was very real to me so let’s see I absolutely loved how Alyssa handled the racial aspects of the story that they are very foregrounded without being you know artificially the appointed end and of course Alyssa Cole is black herself and most of her stories are about characters of color in historic situations and so this is this is like you know Hearst her rep for Jam and she does it very very well and I really love seeing that kind of diversity in the romance market especially the historic romance market yeah great a great book okay so if listeners are listening to this and they decide you know hey that sounds like exactly the kind of person I want to follow because she’s got all these great recommendations we can they find you online well the best one-stop shop to find me online is my website which is al Pena comm ALP ia after the invented country that my novels are set in and I am very active on Twitter I am present but not quite as active on Facebook I find that Facebook I use Facebook more for for personal friends you know face-to-face friends and I’m present in the book spaces but they don’t work well for me as a place to be an author yeah I have a blog and if you really want to learn more about me and my writing and what I’m working on and everything I’m doing and my research then read my blog which is on my website and I have a podcast which is the lesbian historic motif podcast which is presenting things from my historic research and talking about ffs historical fiction and I will add links in the show notes to all of the places you can find Heather online in case you wondering hey thank you so much for joining me today well thank you for inviting me on to talk about some of my views thank you for tuning in to the special TLR podcast series where we have been chatting about our favorite rereads to support the work TLR and tilt ado please make sure to use our by links for amazon or become a patron using our by links gives us a small commission on purchases you make on amazon within 24 hours of clicking the link becoming a patron means you get exclusive content