Recs, Reviews

FF Friday: By Any Other Name

By Any Other Name by Natasha West

This is a lesbian Romeo & Juliet riff, it’s funny and adorkable, and I loved it. 😀

It has some grammar issues, especially in the early chapters, but I don’t really mind them – it’s the same as the way you can enjoy a fanfic that’s full of sincere feelings but maybe not quite as polished as it could be. That is EXACTLY what this book feels like. It’s funny, sincere, and full of vivid characters, and it feels very much as if it’s written from the heart, poured out onto the page in the way of a fanfic that the author was really enjoying writing. It’s light, breezy, and above all, fun. I loved spending time with these characters and would happily read other books involving other family members.

The protagonists, Casey and Lane, are two girls from feuding families in a small British town who meet without knowing the other’s identity and then discover that their families are longtime enemies. The romance is sweet and convincing, with some hilarious yet plausible mishaps (in one of my favorite bits, while trying to wake Casey by throwing pebbles at her window, Lane first wakes up Casey’s pesky younger sister and then, when Casey opens her window at exactly the wrong moment, pastes her in the face with a rock instead). Also, there are matchmaking sheep.

And the family feud is fantastic – it’s hilarious and frustrating in equal measure, and the entire cast of both families are convincing as a bunch of hardheaded weirdos who have hated each other for as long as anyone can remember without any of them actually being bad or unlikable people.

I had a certain suspension-of-disbelief issue with the two protagonists not recognizing each other on sight, given how intimately their families appear to be tangled together, but I’m willing to forgive that because the rest of the book is just so much fun. I’ll definitely be looking up other books by this author, because well-done lesbian romcom is not exactly a genre flowing over with options, and this was really delightful.

Other People's Fiction, Recs, Reviews

FF Friday: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

(F/F Friday is a project recently started by Rachel Manija Brown, described thusly: “Every Friday, review, recommend, or discuss an FF book, short story, or other work.” There is also a community on Dreamwidth.)

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

I read this because of a recent rec at [community profile] fffriday and really liked it! It’s set in San Francisco, mostly in the early 1940s, with some fantasy elements, but mostly historical fiction strongly grounded in the city’s early lesbian scene. (I’ve been researching SF for something I’m writing under a different pen name that has a few chapters in the city in an earlier decade, and research materials or even fiction set in SF in the first few decades of the past century is really hard to come by, so that was one reason why I wanted to read this — just to get a better feel for an early San Francisco. And it didn’t disappoint; the sense of place is really strong.)

Romance is typically rather formulaic (for a good reason, obviously!), but with this one I really couldn’t figure out where it was going, or even who the focus couple was going to be at first. It was twisty and surprising, and the entire cast of characters were very vivid and believable, especially given how many of them there are and that it’s only a novella-length space to develop them in. Definitely recommended if you like historical fiction. (Though it doesn’t sugar-coat the historical era either, just fyi; it’s an optimistic book and is a romance with an HEA, but there’s some pretty rough stuff getting there, so if you’re looking for pure light escapism this might not be the thing.)

Other People's Fiction, Recs, Reviews

FF Friday: The Cage by A.M. Dellamonica

F/F Friday is a project recently started by Rachel Manija Brown, described thusly: “Every Friday, review, recommend, or discuss an FF book, short story, or other work.” There is also a community on Dreamwidth.

So I’m going to rec a really delightful lesbian werewolf novelette that is available for free online: The Cage by A.M. Dellamonica!

Jude, the narrator, is a contractor (in the carpentry sense) with a broken-woman problem and a string of fix-upper ex-girlfriends. So of course she falls for another one, Paige, a single mom who is raising an adorable baby. A perfectly normal baby. Nothing weird about this baby, no-ma’am. Oh, by the way, she needs to hire Jude to help her soundproof her basement and put cage bars on the windows. For … a band. That is recording in her basement. And trashed the place last full moon. Yep, that’s totally it.

So basically this is a story about how the Vancouver lesbian community comes together to help raise a baby werewolf, and two slightly broken people start to fix each other up. It’s cute and sweet and funny, with a great sense of place and interesting worldbuilding — the story is set shortly after werewolves were revealed to humanity for the first time, and the antagonist is a self-proclaimed Buffy-type werewolf hunter who is a serial killer from the point of view of the werewolves. The characters were a lot of fun (Paige is a bit flatter, but I absolutely loved Jude’s narrative voice) and I loved the sense of community in the story. Sometimes it takes a village (of lesbians and other social misfits in the queer community) to raise a baby werewolf!

(Note: My posts show up as posted by Lauren Esker. That’s also me, using a different pen name – it just has to do with my WordPress settings. I can’t find a way, yet, to switch between WordPress identities under the same account.)