To me, what makes a fictional romance compelling is if the author makes you want the characters to get together as badly as they do themselves. Not to want it for their sake, just because it’ll make them happy, but because you want it. An author who can make you feel that tingle of anticipation, of yearning, of ‘if this is only subtext, then dammit, I’m gonna need fan art.’ Of course, we’re reading romance, so it’s not subtext at all. We get our happy endings and our cravings satisfied.
But what makes a fictional romance even more fun for me is when I find myself crushing on one of the characters, right alongside their fictional love interest. Let’s not kid ourselves — to go back to one of my old ’ships: Inara and Kaylee are cute together — that old soul/young soul vibe — but the startling, breathtaking hotness of Morena Baccarin certainly helped reel me in.
So which fictional ladies in published F/F literature are on my crush list? In no particular order:
FRANKIE BELLISARIO in Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler, a college romance about the party girl who falls for the YA-reading bookworm. She does what she wants and enjoys it — not in a ‘hurting people’ way, but in a ‘God gave us bodies to have fun with them’ way. (My wording, not hers.) I wish I could be all spiritual and say that was all, but let’s face it, I am so entirely dazzled by the rose tattoos on her cleavage. You know what, though? That’s okay. Acknowledging the positivity of physical attraction is an important part of reclaiming sapphic identity. Not every woman who loves women experiences it, but when it’s there, it is okay. [Find the book.]
DRUSILLA from Promises, Promises by L-J Baker, a high fantasy parody of LotR and D&D. Dare I say a lesbian Siegfried? Which is even more awesome because the cover made her Black. She’s presented as totally irrational in her heroism, even deluded, optimist, hitting on a princess, declaring she’s a princess herself in hiding — yet of course she and the other lesbians on the quest with her are able to win the day. I just loved her fearlessness and the way she stuck to her guns rather than buckling to the eyerolls of the other characters. [Find the book.]
MILLIE from Lunaside by J. L. Douglas, a teenage lesbian love triangle set at summer camp. She’s the interloper in the main character’s relationship, and I was drawn in by her romantic gloom. Millie’s also a brunette with pale skin, drawn stocky in the artwork, and I guess I have a type. She’s getting a book of her own this November, Own Goal. When the author, who is a good friend, warned me in jest that Millie was ‘doing better’ in the second book, I reassured her that I didn’t want my Sad Brunettes to stay sad — there’s just something appealing about someone who knows what it’s like to feel vulnerable. I’m drawn to the wounded bird, but I am also drawn to the healed bird, maybe because I know what it’s like to be both. [Find the book.]
LISA in Karin Kallmaker’s Warming Trend, a suspenseful lesbian romance about scandal and dirty dealings in the world of glacier science. The main character is nursing an incredible hurt that the story of the book helps resolve, and her friend Lisa’s irreverent humor was one of my favorite things about the book. As I said in my review at the link above, she speaks her mind and is the type of person who clownishly acts like Xena when she goes on her first glacier hiking expedition. [Find the book.]
EVELYN from RoAnna Sylver’s hopeful dystopian superhero thriller, Chameleon Moon. I think this is more of a platonic crush (a squish?) but that feels appropriate, given this author. Evelyn is a trans woman with supersonic singing powers, but surprisingly (if you know me) what I love about her isn’t the music connection, it’s her overwhelming protective and big sister-flavored optimism. She is damn invested in making sure the people around her don’t fall into despair. She was the thing that stuck with me the most about the book.
What about QUEEN SHULAMIT, tiny lesbian monarch and star of all my novels? She’s a bookworm, and if she were real and lived in modern times, she’d be an avid consumer of lesbian fiction.
Shulamit is fascinated and drawn to women with powerful personalities, women who command respect and attention, competent women. After all, she had a crush on the Biblical Queen Esther as a child. So my natural first pick would be Barbara, from Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery and its sequels, and probably her love interest Margerit, as well. Barbara is a trained bodyguard adept in both politics and swordplay, and Margerit is a scholar and a magical holy woman, who stands up for women’s rights to study.
I think Shulamit would love these books as much as I do. I think she’d like Barbara more in the beginning of the series, and as Margerit grows into her mission in life, she’d get more and more appealing to Shulamit. I also think she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would develop a crush on Anna even though Anna is straight, because Anna is Jewish like she is, and Shulamit, especially circa age 19–20, has plenty of room for lots of crushes. (Shulamit’s partner, Aviva, on the other hand, would fall head over heels for Antuniet. Such intellect, such single-minded drive!)
I think Shulamit would also love reading about Kadrian, the warrior priestess in Merry Shannon’s Prayer of the Handmaiden. Someone who has both faith and love of women, and is also a brave defender of her people, is guaranteed to pique her interest.
If Shulamit reached for erotica, I think she’d find Pilar from Rebekah Weatherspoon’s At Her Feet really appealing. I don’t think Shulamit would necessarily go for the age play aspect literally in her real life, but I think she’d enjoy reading about the nurturing part of Pilar’s domination, as well as her voluptuous, larger body.
So, tell me! Which fictional ladies of lesbian/bi/pan literature make your heart beat a little faster, make you blush if you’d meet them in real life, make you swoon? Or what about your characters — if they were real, and reading these books, which characters would they have crushes on?
A plot is underway to destroy the thriving agriculture that keeps Perach prosperous and happy, and Queen Shulamit is shocked to discover that the straight princess she had crushed on as a 16-year-old might have something to do with it.