Category Archives: LGBT+

Review: The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green

This book was obtained via NetGalley.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because this book is short and sweet.



The village of Styesville has a dragon problem, and is in need of a knight in shining armor to save the day. What they get instead, however, is a strange traveler in a green cloak, and it soon becomes clear that they might have more problems than a rampaging dragon.

This story is part of a collection known as “Solitary Travelers” which features asexual and/or aromantic protagonists. Another reason I picked it up was due to the striking cover. I can never stress enough that a pretty cover will attract readers and first impressions definitely do matter.

It’s difficult to talk about this story because it’s so short. It’s around 50 pages long. I’d consider it more of a novella. Suffice it to say that it’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: There’s a village with a dragon problem and someone needs to solve it. The few characters there are don’t have a lot of depth, most outside of the two main characters could be summed up in one or two words, but the thing is, I don’t think this sort of story requires a lot of character depth, although it’s always nice. The world of this story is intriguing. It’s the sort of world I’d like to see explored in a novel, with magical academies and an interesting take on dragons, where the author would have more time to flesh out the world and its characters.

If this story has one major flaw I felt like it was a bit too long-winded at times and I think a few pages of content could have been cut and it wouldn’t have hurt the story. Yes Louisa rattling off what the inn has for supper establishes that she’s a bit of a scatterbrain, but it felt as if the monologue wore out its welcome half a paragraph ago. There was also a bit of a tendency to repeat information. This is a common thing that happens to new authors, in my experience.

In terms of diversity, the major characters are an asexual woman of color and a lesbian. Dragons are stated to not have a sex and only adopt genders out of curiosity, otherwise the minor characters seem pretty homogeneous: white and straight as far as I know. In a large novel with a cast of thousands, this would be an issue, but the cast seems just right for the kind of story being told.

In terms of potential triggers, there’s a description of a bloody sheep carcass, a shotgun wedding, and talk of romance “fixing” the ace and lesbian leads (although in the latter case, it’s because the family believes that she’s been cursed by a dragon).

All things considered, The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green is a typical “queer” story. The sort of coming-out story you’ve probably seen before. Still, typical does not mean bad, and I absolutely recommend it if you like asexual protagonists and/or dragons, especially queer dragons.

The Eldermaid is Now Available!


My very first novel, The Eldermaid, is now available for purchase via the Createspace store and on Kindle.

Purchase the paperback.

Purchase on Kindle.

Once, it is said, the Powers—the five deities who rule over Love, War, Knowledge, Nature, and Death—walked the land.

But now They are gone, entrusting the guardianship of the world to the many spirits that live in it. These spirits of flame and sea, of tree and metal and storm form bonds with chosen humans, strengthening humanity’s ties with the land.

In this world, bereft of the Powers that created it, a young girl bonds with a spirit of the elder tree. All is not right with the world, however; and it will be up to these two companions to survive an invisible war of conflicting ideologies in which politics, religion, love, and jealousy are major players.

The Eldermaid is a coming-of-age tale about friendship, political wrangling, religion, absent deities, strange spirit companions, and badass queer ladies.

Includes the bonus story “The Genesis of House Hilluck”.

The Eldermaid was a NaNoWriMo 2012 winner.

Please feel free to pass this around to whomever might be interested.

Review: Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature

It’s International Women’s Day and what better way to mark it than to review a book that’s all about how all your favourite writers have written femslash for the past thousand years?

In Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature, Emma Donoghue examines how desire between women has been portrayed: from Ovid to Shakespeare to pulp fiction and Rubyfruit Jungle, Donoghue shows that authors have been writing about desire between women in various forms for ages. The book is divided into six main sections:

Travesties: Cross-dressing (whether by a woman or a man) causes the “accident” of same-sex desire

Inseparables: Two passionate friends defy the forces trying to part them.

Rivals: A woman and a man compete for a woman’s heart.

Monsters: A wicked woman tries to seduce and destroy an innocent one.

Detection: The discovery of a crime turns out to be a discovery of same-sex desire.

Out: A woman’s life is changed by the realization that she loves her own sex.

The book also includes pages of notes, a bibliography (separated into primary and secondary sources), a recommended reading list, and an index.

This book covers a lot of ground and quotes a ton of sources (some Donoghue translated herself from French) and it’s written in a very accessible style. This is not a dry academic tome, it’s a very open, friendly, and informative book. Even the typeface (a variant of Garamond) was selected for being “clear and open” with “elegance and precision”.

Honestly, this is one of those books where a review can’t really do it justice. One thing I loved about this book was the sheer number of “surprises” contained therein. If you think that the man always wins the affection of the woman in “Rivals” plots, you would be wrong. Some older stories are surprisingly modern, such as the epic poem Ide and Olive (c. 1311, translated into English in 1534) where Ide cross-dresses and ends up marrying Lady Olive, who even after discovering that she is a woman, proclaims that they are “wedded together” and it’s only until the last minute that a (literal) deus ex machina happens and Ide becomes a man, thus giving readers a more “palatable” ending. Other texts leave the reader with the impression that the creators were being very tongue-in-cheek as they dismissed the idea that their work was about women loving other women. It’s these little surprises, these things that I was honestly not expecting to find, that really make this book great.

I also like how Donoghue chooses to discuss this trend in literature in relatively neutral terms. Note that the subtitle of the book says “desire between women”, for the most part, Donoghue chooses to discuss relationships between women that may or may not be romantic or sexual in nature, and she chooses the term “same-sex desire” to speak of the varieties of relationships between women where many scholars use an exhaustive dictionary of terms (“romantic friendship”, “lesbian love” etc.) making the book more open and inclusive in general.

As far as complaints and/or criticisms, the focus of the book is Western literature and so it’s mostly white men writing about women who love other women (although works people of colour, queer women, and queer women of colour are also included as a matter of course). There’s a little on transgender readings of particular stories but not a whole lot. I also feel that I should mention that while there are some surprising happy endings in this book, considering how heavily censored same-sex relationships were until recently, there are dramatic death scenes, murders, suicides, the occasional rape, and often the impression that the creators figured that if they needed to follow a convention and kill off their same-sex couple, they might as well make their exit as dramatic and flashy as possible.

As I said before, there’s no way I can do justice to this book with just the one review. Suffice it to say that if you are at all interested in this topic, you need this book in your library. Even if you aren’t a literature snob (like myself, I swear I have like an allergy to anything that isn’t genre fiction) you should still pick this one up, because it’s great.

Introducing the Tales of Shift!

Fine, I’ll spill my news.

So I’ve been talking with friends and thinking about stuff and wanting something I’ve written to be published like, right now.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at writing erotica ever since I told myself that I could do better than E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey, so I started writing Fur and Scale, which is a story about lesbian shapeshifters in love and is set in the same universe as my Splicer serial. Originally, I was just going to post it here and let everyone beg me for more stories.

But, as I said, I’m tired of not having any income coming my way. As much as I would love to just keep writing for free, I have to draw the line somewhere.

Thus, the Tales of Shift, a series of short stories set in the shapeshifter-dominated city of Shift, of which Fur and Scale is the first. I plan on writing a bunch of stories which will be available in ebook format at low cost, and then collecting them all in an anthology that will probably be available as both paperback and ebook. The anthology will also include a bonus story or two and, I don’t know, what do other authors include in their extras? Point is, I want to make it worth your while to buy the whole thing, but also give you the option to buy the individual stories (I’m also planning on offering them for free on Kindle at times if they’ll let me).

Also, I will say right now that all my stories will be DRM-free, because I hate DRM and I trust my customers. and DRM sucks.

And now some questions!

How do the Tales of Shift relate to the Splicer?

The Ta;es of Shift are set in the same universe but in an entirely different city. You will not need to have read any of my other stories to enjoy this one.

How many stories are you planning on writing?

At this point I’m aiming for five, because five is a nice number.

What genre are these stories?

Fur and Scale is, shall we say, my experimenting with erotica, although perhaps it would be better termed “slightly explicit romance”. The other stories may or may not follow this pattern, but they are definitely more about teh sexytiems than The Splicer.

Will there be queer characters?

Yes, all of the protagonists will be some flavour of queer, for minor characters and antagonists, assume they are queer until further notice.

When you say “shapeshifter” do you mean “werewolf”?

No, for starters, werecreatures and shapeshifters are slightly different in this universe, but I’m trying to move away from werewolves in general and have lots of different animals. Also, Shift might not be as diverse (species-wise) as St. Cyprian, but some other non-humans make their homes there.

How are you planning on distributing these stories?

I’ve chosen to put Fur and Scale in the Kindle KDP Select program, which means that it will be exclusively on Kindle for 90 days and it will be available in the Kindle library (where I believe you can get it for free). After that period, I can make it available elsewhere if there’s demand for it. (I don’t anticipate there being a lot of demand.)

What is Fur and Scale about, exactly?

Fur and Scale is about a chipmunk shapeshifter who somehow ends up being invited to the Dragon Princess’ birthday party (Western dragons are still so feudal). There will be dragons, innovative safer sex methods, and possibly cake.

Is this….you know….that kind of erotica?

The City of Shift has strict laws regarding…erm….”mating” between shifters, between shifters and regular humans, and between shifters and other species. The Tales of Shift series will mostly be about humans who happen to turn into animals engaging in loving, consensual sex with other humans who occasionally turn into animals, in human form, and sometimes deities, or other species like Fae or Demons will get in on the action, and they all tend to take humanoid forms. (Animal-headed deities are exempt from the laws governing animal forms.)

Will this affect any of your other writing?

Yes, I will continue to give you free stories that you can read for free on my blog.

If anyone has any other questions, please feel free to ask in the comments or via my ask box on tumblr. I’ll let you know when Fur and Scale is out.

“Just Friends”

[Trigger warning: homophobia]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something that wasn’t VIDEO GAMES YAY!, a review, or tumblr shenanigans, so let’s talk about queer issues, shall we? Specifically, I want to talk about the “just friends” thing.

I’m currently in the process of writing chapter six of The Tithe-Boy but I wrote up rough character sketches while I was working on part four. One of the characters you will meet in chapter six is Lord Danik, who is very good friends with Lord Fulgaris, and by “very good friends” I mean that they share food and occasionally cuddle a bit.

However, Lord Fulgaris and Lord Danik are not lovers, they are very good friends who come from a culture where good friends can do things that we would term “intimate” with each other without anyone assuming that they’re lovers (and, to be honest, no one would really care if they were). I should take the time here to say that both of them have quite active sex lives (and Lord Fulgaris, as you’ve seen if you’ve read my Tithe-Boy stuff, has a healthy, kinky, and queer relationship with Ser Karios)–just not with each other.

Although, I personally would not object to a Fulgaris/Danik slash fic, not that anyone’s ever going to write slash fics about my characters.

Anyways, that’s how I roll with my characters, but much of the “just friends” idiocy occurs within slash fandom or, (more broadly, within fandoms whenever someone even suggests that a character might be anything but heterosexual and cis.

As much as I have issues with slash fandom, and as problematic as queer relationships as written by heterosexuals tend to be (though not always), there is definitely a place for slashy works in queer culture, especially given the dearth of queer representation in media. It’s important for us queer folks to write our own stories, create our own awesome headcanons, and take familiar characters and imagine that they…,go through the same things we do.

But, inevitably, there will be those who are uncomfortable with even the slightest suggestion that one of their beloved characters is anything but heterosexual and cisgender. This is where the “just friends” thing comes into play.

The “just friends” thing can be rendered thusly:

“But X and Y are just friends! Two people of the same sex can be friends without being gay/lesbian!”

Leaving aside the implicit assumption that being gay or lesbian is undesirable, I don’t think anyone would argue the basic point. Of course two people can be very good friends without also being involved with each other. In some cultures, it’s perfectly acceptable for two men to hold hands or two women to share a bed, and no one cares (these are the examples that are trotted out over and over again, so I’m using them).

I don’t know of anyone who would argue otherwise, but I mean, why can’t that same couple be “more than friends”?

Oh, right, homophobia.

So, while I think that it is important not to assume that things like holding hands is OMG GAY!  (because, as we all know, there’s more to being queer than physical/sexual aspects) and to portray close friendships, I also find this “just friends” thing to be particularly annoying and silencing. especially when you have people saying that real life same-sex couples are just “lifelong friends” or some bullshit like that.

In short, this is one of those things that can be pretty harmful in the wrong hands, on the other, yeah, we need characters who are friends and characters who are friends with benefits and characters who are best friends and lovers and all different ways of exploring intimacy and relationships and such. But, on the other hand, with so few amazing queer characters in the media (not just side characters, I’m talking main characters) we kind of need more than “just friends”.

“Gay Gods” and “Lesbian Goddesses”

Or “Why Sexual Orientation Doesn’t Matter”…

So I discovered this wonderful button that lets me look at my site’s stats, and one of the search terms that popped up is “is freya a lesbian goddess?”

Today I received a question from an anonymous asker who hopefully won’t mind if I quote them:

“What are your thoughts about bisexuality in modern heathenism? Are there particular Vanir whom a bisexual heathen may be better able to relate to, than others?”

(BTW, my tumblr is here:

So I think it’s time to address this question.

The long and short of it is, the idea of “gay gods” and “lesbian goddesses” is about as silly to me as the idea that there are “straight gods” and “straight goddesses”.

What I mean by this is that deities definitely appear to have their preferences. There are deities who are (at the very least) bisexual as we moderns would understand it, but the thing is, sexual orientation wasn’t really a thing until modern times. In many societies, as long as you “did your duty” and had children, you could have lovers “on the side” and no one would give a fuck.

If you were a man, at least. It’s difficult to find a lot of material on lesbians in pre-modern societies (though depending on where and when you’re looking, you might have better luck). In kyriarchical societies, men just don’t care about what women are doing unless they’re doing something particularly transgressive (like dressing up in men’s clothing). These are just broad brush strokes that obviously don’t account for time and place.

I think there is definitely a misconception among some that the phrase “gay/queer god” somehow means that I think the deity can only be worshiped by gay or bisexual men. Such people usually say “Well, I’m straight and I worship X.”

Seriously, this line of reasoning is just silly.

By the same token, it’s also silly to claim that certain deities can’t be worshiped by queer folks because of something stupid like “deity X is too manly” (as if all gay/bi men are effeminate). This opinion was expressed by a well-known Heathen author who I believe has since retracted those comments.

Deities will choose whoever they want. It doesn’t matter if that person is gay, het, bi, genderqueer, intersex, or any other orientation or gender identity. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t particular deities that LGBT+s might feel an affinity towards (Loki, f0r instance, seems to have a lot of queer followers) but that doesn’t mean you, as an LGBT+ person, is limited to a list of deities the community defines as “queer friendly”.

Your relationship with any deity is between you and that deity.

Although, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that even the most heteronormative deity is secretly flying a rainbow flag in their bedroom.

Queer Myths, Part 1

As part of an Assignment and as a balm for all the butthurt, here is something I wrote today about Freyr discovering love for the first time.

I want to make it clear that THIS IS NOT BASED ON UPG, MINE OR ANYONE ELSE’S UPG. I guess you could call this a “new myth” or “queer writerly musings” or “religious fanfic” or whatever. Please excuse all the historical inaccuracies, awkward dialogue (it just kind of came to me) and anything else I might have screwed up. As usual, I just finished this, so it’s raw, unedited, blah blah blah.

Please enjoy!

First Love

In the days of Freyr’s youth, when it seemed the skies were bluer, and the ocean endless, when grain grew taller, as golden as the sun, and the stars seemed so far away.

That was when he first fell in love.

His name was Falki Orvarson, skilled in use of the sword and bow. A great warrior in the making, they all said, like his father, and his father’s father.

But, Falki did not have a taste for battle, he did not yearn for it, for the blood and death and glory as other men did, nor did have a taste for poetry, as the skalds, or the quiet, honest work of the farmer. Falki did not know where he belonged. His mother, Dalla, tut tutted and imagined he would grow out of it.

But Falki did not, days and days and weeks passed, and he grew restless. “I must find a purpose,” he said to himself.

He threw himself into his swordplay, say in and day out, drew the bow until his arms ached, ran until his legs cried out in protest, until he collapsed, spent.

The god found him in a field of golden grain. For the longest while, the god stood, staring down at the young man, feeling something the like he had never felt before in his chest. An ache, the strangest thing.

Falki sat up, eyes widening at the sight of the young god. “Who are you?!” He demanded.

“I am the grain in the fields,” said Freyr.

(At this point, you will forgive Falki for thinking the god was a little mad.)

“Who are you? Who are you really?” asked Falki.

Freyr remembered then that he was not among the alfar, and that humans used different names for themselves.

“Call me Ingvi,” he said, offering the man his hand to help him up.

“Ingvi,” the name felt strange on Falki’s tongue, sweet like honey, harsh like sunlight. “My name is Falki. My father is Orvar Battle-Valiant.”

“What are you doing here, Falki Orvarson?”

“I am searching for a purpose,” said Falki.

Freyr did not really understand the concept of a purpose, for he just was, but he nodded and smiled, and his smile was like the moon on a clear night.

Falki felt something stirring in his chest.

They walked together, mortal and god, and as they walked, they shared things with each other. Falki bragged of his prowess with sword and bow, Freyr taught him how to take honey straight from a hive.

“But, won’t the bees sting you?” he asked, watching as Freyr reached into the nest.

“The bees are my friends,” he answered, presenting him with a honeycomb. “See? Eat.”

So they ate together, the god and the man, and then they renewed their exchange, Falki telling Freyr of his life, of his mother cooking at the fire, of his father’s tales of blood and death and glory.

And Freyr listened, and said. “You do not care for such things?”

“I care for my family, and for the land we’ve settled,” said Falki.

Freyr was puzzled by this, for the ways of mortals are not the ways of gods, but the two parted amicably, vowing to meet again on the morrow.

On the morrow, and the next day, and the day after that, Falki returned to the field, where Freyr waited, and they talked for a long time. Freyr took Falki’s hand and showed him things hidden from the eyes of mortals, the insects crawling under a rock, the small fish in a pool of water, the delicate whorls on a stone, a shell. Falki told Freyr of his sister, Alfdis, who was to be married soon, and as they talked, Freyr felt a great swelling in his chest, and it grew and it grew until it was an ache, a hunger, longing.

And there amid the grain, the god kissed the warrior, and his kiss was like soft rain falling upon the fields, like the first ray of warming sunlight after a long winter.

That day, and the day after, and the day after that, they shared more kisses, soft ones, as light as a butterfly’s touch, as hot as the sun, as maddening as the rays of the moon, ‘til at last they lay together in the fields, man and god, and the Earth sighed as they cried out in shared pleasure.

At last, they rose from the fields, shaking the remnants of golden wheat from their hair.

They continued in this way, desiring each other, when, one day, Falki said “I have to go.”

“Where?” Freyr asked.

Falki turned to gaze at the horizon. “Battle,” he said, as if that explained everything, and perhaps it did, and he looked at the young god, and there was fear in his eyes. “Ingvi, I’m afraid.”

And Freyr took him in his arms, and when they parted in the evening, he went to speak with his Sister.

Falki lay dying of a great wound to the gut, his innards arrayed before him like dice from a dice cup. He had fought bravely, but it was not enough, it would never be enough, against men who craved blood and death and glory….

Falki opened his eyes. There was Ingvi, staring down at him, like that first day in the field of grain.

“Who are you, Ingvi? Who are you really?”He asked.

“I am the Lord of the Dead,” said Freyr.



My epilogue to the story is that Freyr takes Falki to his hall and gives him a cushy job. They have lots of sex, and then Gerda comes along and she’s, you know, cool with Falki. Maybe he’s buddies with Skirnir, I don’t know, make up your own headcanon.

So, I knew Falki’s name began with F, I literally just picked the first interesting sounding “F” name I could find that didn’t have “Frey-” in it.

Why does Freyr have that chat with Freyja if he says he’s Lord of the Dead? Because he doesn’t want to take the chance that Odin will snatch him up. He’s not a very good warrior anyways, but he is GOING TO PULL STRINGS, DAMMIT!

Why does [insert inconsistency here]? because a wizard did it, and my sole research for this was the Viking Answer Lady. This isn’t a head-story, this is a heart-story.


I Woke Up This Morning….

….to a province that now has an out lesbian as a premier.

Oh wait, let me rephrase that: The liberals have elected a woman with years of experience as a cabinet minister with a background in mediation as premier, who happens to be a lesbian.


Oh, and I should also report that it’s currently 2:35 and the Apocalypse hasn’t hit yet, just like it didn’t hit when we legalized same-sex marriage, and winter’s been mild-ish this year, so I don’t think Ragnarok’s coming either.



I Might Have an Obsession with Arthurian Legends….

So I saw this book called “Gawain and the Green Lady” which is, I’m assuming, like Gawain and the Green Knight, only…with a Green Lady, and they’re in love and stuff, and I was like: “I should write a story about Gawain falling for the Green Knight,” and then I was like “Why should I stop there?”

I could write a whole short story collection.

I could call it….

“Queer in King Arthur’s Court”



Review: The Privilege of the Sword

I know I said I wouldn’t do another review for a bit, but…..


*ahem* I mean, please proceed immediately to your favourite purveyor of literary indulgences and purchase this delectable volume.

Okay, that didn’t come out quite right. Here, I’ll say it without the bad attempt at purple prose: BUY THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW!

It seems that everywhere I look, people are comparing various fantasy novels to Ellen Kushner’s works. The most recent one I read was Kari Sperring’s Living With Ghosts, which I hated (for various reasons). But then I saw a glowing review of this book on Good Lesbian Books (link to review, BEWARE: contains spoilers) and decided that, well, better late than never to check out Kushner’s novels.

But before I get into the book itself (which is awesome) a little background. The Privilege of the Sword (hereafter abbreviated as PotS) is a next-generation sequel to Kushner’s first novel Swordspoint (and set before The Fall of the Kings). I hadn’t read either of the books before this one, so the story is self-contained enough that a new reader can understand it, but with enough direct references to Swordspoint that the interested reader might want to pick it up before reading this one). Kushner is best known for writing in what has been called “mannerpunk” or “fantasy of manners”. In short, this is a fantasy novel for people who don’t like fantasy (more specifically, who like more politicking and less magic). You won’t find anyone slinging magic around in this book at all. In fact, if you changed some of the place names, this could probably pass for historical fiction that’s just reeeeally inventive. This was one of the reasons I wanted to read this book–I wanted to see if a fantasy novel without magic could manage to hold my interest (and no, Kushiel’s Dart does not count, because the world isn’t completely devoid of magic).

PotS  is the story of Katherine, a country girl (who is nonetheless versed in the rules of civilized society, A.K.A the city) who is sent for by her uncle, Duke Tremontaine (known as the Mad Duke) to learn swordplay in exchange for forgetting about debts owed to him. The book follows Katherine (and a few other characters, more on them later) on a journey of self-discovery, with secrets and scandals aplenty.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, yes, it’s a coming-of-age tale, one of the oldest ones in the book, but one thing I really liked about this book was the way it neatly subverts your expectations. You might, as I did, imagine that Katherine is the sort of heroine who is sick to death of her boring life in the country and yearns for excitement, only to take to the sword as if she were born wearing one. You know the kind of heroine I’m talking about.

Katherine is not that heroine.

At the beginning of the book, all she wants is what every girl raised in her restrictive society wants: to make a good match, marry, and start having children. When she learns that her uncle wishes for her to take up the sword (including dressing in men’s clothing), she doesn’t get excited, she’s scandalized. Women just don’t do that sort of thing. The reader gets to watch her gradual transformation from scandalized to accepting of her strange role in society, and (most importantly) it doesn’t feel forced, it just feels like another part of growing up.

But Katherine’s story is just one thread of the web of plots that Kushner weaves. The book also follows Alec, the Mad Duke Tremontaine (some may recognize him from Swordspoint) whose story is no less important (and, in some ways, perhaps more important) than Katherine’s. At the beginning of the book, the Mad Duke’s personality is hard to pin down. Is he mad, or is he merely pretending to be mad in order to appear non-threatening, or is it somewhat of both? He’s a very interesting character with more secrets than WikiLeaks. Oh, here, just see for yourself with this quote from the book:

‘Nice try,’ the duke was smiling with the pleasure undoing a knotty problem gave him. ‘But a couple more questions, asked of you independently, and your whole story would unravel. You see”–he crouched down so he wasn’t towering over us–“it’s not street dirt, for one thing; it’s whitewash and garden mud. Your palms are scratched, and this is Robertson gingerbread, with the cinnamon, and that is not sold on the street.’ (p. 201)


Anyways, the third character whom we see a lot of is Artemisia Fitz-Levi, who, like Katherine, has aspirations of finding a noble husband and giving him heirs. For now, what you need to know about her is that she attends a lot of parties and has many “Upper Class Problems”.

Half the fun of this book is watching the characters deal with the demands of Society. In a nutshell, Society is very restrictive. As a “proper” woman, you are expected to marry (a man) and have children and to rely on your male relatives for protection, those same male relatives are expected to defend *their* honor (it’s all but said that women have no honor of their own) when a member of their family is threatened. In the old days, matters of honor were settled by swordfights by trained swordsmen that nobles would keep on retainer, but has since fallen out of fashion somewhat (as you might expect, this is a huge part of the novel). Oh, and homosexuality is scandalous, but no one much cares if you have money and power (especially if you are a man, who generally have more freedom to pursue other men discreetly–or openly, if you have a reputation as the sort of person who enjoys a good scandal).

Actually, let’s devote some time to talking about the sexual aspects of the book.
For starters, most of the characters are bisexual, and when I say bisexual, I don’t mean “I had a fling with a member of the same sex once, but now I’m completely heterosexual” I mean characters spend equal amounts of time with (and even prefer) their same gender partners to their opposite gender ones.

And there is at least one gay character.

That might not seem like such a big deal, but seeing as many settings where “everyone is bi” usually just make everyone bisexual (no exceptions) the fact that there is a character who is specifically referred to as someone who has never liked women is significant. Oh, and yes, there are heterosexual pairings in this book, but most of them are SO. FUCKING. ADORABLE. that you will forget about the bits that each partner has.

Notice how I said most of them….

*sighs* I wish I didn’t have to do this, everyone. I wish everyone could read this book and not have to risk being triggered by it, but I told myself I’d be honest about this, so the next bit may be triggery (re: rape)for some.

In case you didn’t see that:

[trigger warning: rape]

Okay, so basically what happens is that Artemisia is raped at a party. Wait! Wait! I know what you’re thinking. “Let me guess, they mention it once and then they drop it, right?”

Fortunately, I’m happy to report that the incident is definitely not dropped and Artemisia behaves in a way that I would expect the survivor of such a traumatic experience to react. She cries, she rages, before all this, she was engaged to marry the man, but now she is adamant that she will not marry him despite the wealth and prestige he could bring to her family–a family who, btw, is completely ignorant of what actually happened, and attributes her sudden change in demeanor to pre-wedding jitters. Why doesn’t she tell them the truth? Embarrassment, the perception that she’s “damaged goods” (and no one in Society wants “damaged goods”).

What I really like about this plot is while Artemisia is technically powerless to move against her rapist, she isn’t a passive victim. She smuggles letters (written as if they were two characters from a popular book who are in love) to Katherine (who immediately appoints herself defender of Artemisia’s honor and vows to kill her rapist if Artemisia’s family doesn’t kill him first) and is, as I said, absolutely adamant that she refuses to marry such a monster. You’re free to see this as lesbian subtext or simply two friends looking out for each other.

One other incident of note involves a character who had a really rough childhood (involving, yes, things of a sexual nature) who is obviously still affected by it (so much so that he’s actually triggered by something he witnesses in a brothel, and needs a moment to puke his guts out).

There are other sexual situations, but they’re the kinds of scenes where you know exactly what’s going on but it’s not explicit (hence why some feel the book is appropriate for young adults) and delivered in Katherine’s matter-of-fact way of speaking “The duke’s room was full of naked people….”) that they actually become humourous rather than dramatic. I’d say more on this but then I’d be venturing too close to spoiler territory. Her reaction to feeling desire for the first time is absolutely priceless, as are her reactions to almost anything sexual (apart from the rape, which is definitely not played for laughs). After all, she is a young teenager, and she hasn’t had much exposure to things of a sexual nature.

In short, this book is awesome, and if you can handle the problematic aspects I mentioned above, I’d encourage you to pick this up. I’m definitely getting her other books now.