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Monday, May 7, 2012

A highway woman and a dashing queer hero, who cross dresses? Bring it on!

How exciting to be blogging on “Guys Like Romance, Too”, when I am here to shamelessly promote a F/F book, with very few guys in the story at all. Thank you for allowing this trespass! It’s great to be here as part of your month dwelling on the “L” of GLBT.
My newest novel, The Locket and the Flintlock, will be released by Bold Strokes Books in May, and will be available as both a print book and ebook from Bold Strokes and also in all good bookstores and online. 

It’s a historical romance, and here’s the blurb:

Will the masked outlaw who stole Lucia’s locket also claim her heart?

When Miss Lucia Foxe is robbed by a band of shadowy highwaymen, she does not realize this frightening event will change her life forever. Her brave quest to retrieve her stolen locket brings her into close contact with the thieves and their dashing and fearless masked leader, Len Hawkins. But there is more to Len than meets the eye. Beneath the robber’s mask lies a woman who, in her heart, is not really so very different from Lucia.

As their unlikely love grows against the backdrop of the poverty and violent protest of Regency England, Lucia learns how much more there is to the world than her upbringing has taught her. Len flirts with death every day, and eventually, an attempt at exacting revenge on her cruel father threatens to snatch her from Lucia’s arms. Will Len survive her encounter with death and avoid the retribution of the agents of justice? And can respectable gentlewoman Lucia love Len enough to sacrifice everything she knows?

So why is The Locket and the Flintlock a purely historical romance? Partly because I’m a history geek, obsessed with the Regency period. I had to use all my latent knowledge somewhere. But more than that, I was increasingly aware that a queer romance was enough to sustain a historical novel. When I wrote my first novel, I wasn’t sure. Lesbians are virtually invisible before the twentieth century, so wouldn’t writing a historical story solely about them seem a little inauthentic? Not just about them, but a story in which they are not seen as tragically flawed figures or the eccentric outsiders. How do you celebrate a queer love story in a setting in which queer love stories were not celebrated and were actually frowned upon, yet still create a convincing novel? 

Turns out, it’s easier than I thought. GLBT people have always existed. Admittedly, they couldn’t be open about their sexuality, but they were always there. And they were always lusting after each other, feeling the first flush of passion, the joy and excitement of growing love. They were having hot sex and sharing tender intimacy. We just don’t have their stories because they were not recorded for us. But fiction can redress that to some extent. By writing historically, I like to imagine that I am breathing colour and life into romantic stories that could have happened. I am bringing the GLBT people of the past into the spotlight and suggesting what might have happened. I aim to be historically authentic, but I explore the possibilities.

My story features a highway woman. A dashing queer hero, who cross dresses, and sweeps the heroine off her feet. It seems a little like a contrivance to create the masculine character we might expect of a historical romance. But there were female highway robbers. History records at least two in England—Joan Bracey and Moll Cutpurse—who dressed in male attire and robbed the roads at night. History would not record a lesbian love story involving such women. But who’s to say there couldn’t have been one?

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a big reader of genre romance. I never aimed to be a romance writer. However, when it comes to adding colour to the past and shining a light on GLBT lives from the mists of time, I find romance to be one of the most useful and vibrant of genres.

“Wear the cloak,” Len said, moving towards Lucia slightly.
“I should have expected nothing more.” Len’s words were almost muttered to herself. Lucia baulked at the disappointment Len made no attempt to hide.
 “What do you mean by that?” Her words were sharp with humiliation and hostility, her own disappointment. She had thought Len had developed a sort of respect for her, that there was something in common between them. Now it lay in tatters and Lucia’s skin prickled with anger.
“I mean what I say. I clearly expected too much of you. You have been sheltered, cosseted your whole life, in a way I never was. I thought there was something the same about us, but I was wrong. You are simply acting out a drama. I will not be a player in your performance any longer.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are not what I thought you to be.” At her statement, Lucia felt a growing hollowness in the pit of her stomach. Len was not done yet. “And I think you should return to your home tomorrow, where you will not be sullied by keeping company with immoral creatures such as we are.”
“I will not.” Though her head told her Len was right, Lucia could not persuade her stubborn heart which seemed to ache with every hard beat. “You know nothing of what I am.”
Len did not reply quickly. Instead, she moved towards Lucia, threatening. She seemed a much larger presence in the shadowy room than Lucia. As she moved, shortening the distance between them, she seemed also to compress the air between their two bodies, air thick with tension and anger, and force it through Lucia’s very skin and into her body until her blood seemed to boil. She began to tremble and her face burned. She heard her pulse throbbing and her breathing grow uneven. Yet Lucia did not recognize what she felt as either fear or anger. This was something else. A new emotion she had never known before. Len leaned forward until her face was close to Lucia’s. “You will do as I say,” she said quietly.
“I will not,” Lucia said, in a tremulous whisper. “I am not one of your men.”
“You wish to keep immoral company after all?” Len’s voice was a whisper too, not hostile, yet not friendly. Her eyes reflected the light of the lantern, but it was difficult to make out the exact expression of her features.
Lucia swallowed heavily. “I wish to remain with you.” The confession made her almost dizzy.
“With thieves and frame-breakers?”
“With you.”
Len’s tone softened as she went on. “Yet you choose ignorance of what I do in the dark hours of the night?”
“I am not ignorant of it.”
“You do not approve of it.” Len was so close, Lucia felt her warm breath on her own face.
“It frightens me.”
“Life can be a frightening thing. But do you feel the thrill it brings?”
“Yes,” Lucia murmured, hot tears of something like shame pricking her eyes. The tension between them mounted further. Lucia knew something was going to happen but did not know what. Then for an instant, Len’s lips met Lucia’s.

 This is my third novel, but my first that is purely historical. My first, Truths, was a historical story entwined with the contemporary story, both demonstrating the ways in which women’s love for each other can be healing, renewing and exciting. 

Two women, Elizabeth and Jen, separated by two hundred years, but inescapably connected. Will the echoes of the past be enough to save Jen as she begins to discover her truth?
In 1808 Elizabeth Cooper, found guilty as a thief, is sentenced to hang and thrown into prison, the convicted women with whom she shares her gloomy cell the only solace she will have until the day of her execution. In gentle Gilly Stevens she finds the strength and comfort of a growing intimacy. As the horrors of the prison threaten to overwhelm her, Elizabeth and Gilly must soon fight to ensure Elizabeth’s innocence, her truth, can survive into the future.
In 2008 Jen is a costumed tour guide, the prison where Elizabeth Cooper was imprisoned now an atmospheric museum. Jen’s work relating its horrors distracts her from the confusion of her personal life. Then she encounters Aly, an intriguing, confident photographer, who seems to change everything. Jen is determined not to deny her truth any longer and to finally reach for happiness, but, as the shadows within the high prison walls lengthen and seem to warn her of the threat, she is in more danger than she realizes.

My second, Ghosts of Winter, told a contemporary lesbian love story, with short, colourful vignettes allowing glimpses into the past, and of the loves of past GLBT couples including two repressed Victorian lesbians, a conflicted pair of gay men in the eighteenth century, and a bisexual flapper in the 1920s. I loved weaving together the historical and the modern, exploring the continuity of queer love over the centuries.
Can Ros Wynne, who has lost everything she thought defined her, find her true life—and her true love—surrounded by the lingering history of the once-grand Winter Manor?
When Ros unexpectedly inherits Winter Manor on the condition that she oversee the restoration of the remote and dilapidated house, it seems the perfect place for her to retreat from her recently failed relationship, the death of her mother, and the loss of her job. But Winter Manor is not entirely at rest. The echoes of its past reach forward into the present, and Ros’s life is perceptibly shaped by the lives—and loves—of the people who inhabited those rooms and corridors in the centuries before her.
Then Anna arrives. The architect—with her designer clothes, hot car, and air of supreme professionalism—is at first an unwelcome, if necessary, intrusion. But as Ros learns Anna’s truths, she finds solace from her past losses in their developing intimacy. And when their love is threatened, Ros must decide whether her own ghosts will forever define her, or if she can embrace her life for what it is—past, present, and future.

The Locket and the Flintlock, Truths, and Ghosts of Winter all available now at the Bold Strokes Books Store! 


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