Categories
Reviews

It’s Queer Romance Month!

It’s October 30Subgenre-badge-2015th, and I just found out October is Queer Romance Month.

Why queer romance, you ask? For one thing, maybe if novels like this had existed when I was a kid, my own struggles with sexuality and gender expression might have been a little less tortured. (I read all of the Tarzan series as a teenager; imagine if somewhere along the way the Ape Man had taken a male lover. Huh, attraction to both men and women can be a thing.)

Also, it turns out I have something of an allergy to the traditional, hetero romance genre. Something about those alpha males with their washboard abs and their masterful ways that I just can’t relate to (that previous mention of Tarzan aside). It seems I can only tolerate Cecilia Grant, with her male characters who are as conflicted as I am, especially in A Gentleman Undone. Or Jane Austen, whose male characters seem mostly afterthoughts to her novels’ main concerns, Darcy and his non-canonical swimming scene notwithstanding. But whether it’s two men or two women getting together, in queer romance those concerns fall by the wayside.

So, without further ado, some of my favorite queer romances, only one strictly in the romance genre, and the others ecstatically straddling genre boundaries.

Categories
Fiction The Highwayman

Teaser Tuesday: An Evening at the Theatre

Apparently it’s Teaser Tuesday (also the first day of meteorological fall here in the northern hemisphere). So here are a few paragraphs from about a third of the way through Daring and Decorum: A Highwayman Novel. Elizabeth (the narrator) and her friend Rebecca are watching a performance of As You Like It at the Theatre Royal in Bath. Dora Jordan, playing Rosalind, was one of the most popular English actresses of the late 18th/early 19th centuries.


portrait of Dora Jordan
Dora Jordan as Rosalind, from the cover of Claire Tomalin’s biography

I was surprised when Mrs. Jordan received an ovation on her first entrance, for I had never before seen a star of the stage; when I turned to Rebecca, she assured me it was quite regular. But when Rosalind entered as Ganymede, “suited all points like a man” and exhibiting “a swashing and a martial outside,” the play nearly came to a halt as the audience murmured and some even gasped. She wore knee breeches that fit her legs like the fingers of a glove, and ankle-high shoes instead of boots, the better to show off the sensuous curves of her calves outlined in the snuggest of silk stockings. Her hair extended just to her collar, making her seem even more like a boy, yet there was also something feminine about her, so that we could never forget that underneath Ganymede’s dress was the woman, Rosalind.

The effect of seeing a woman arrayed in such garb, and strutting about the stage in the wide-legged stance of a man, is such as I can hardly describe. Many others in the audience must have felt the same, for the men leaned forward in their seats, and the fans of the women beat the air all the faster. I too found myself craning my neck for a better look, and felt flushed. Only Rebecca seemed unaffected, leaning back in her seat with just a hint of a smile and an appraising look in her eye. Then she turned to me. “Well? Is she everything you expected?”

Categories
The Highwayman

The Highwayman’s Quarry – Celia’s Role in As You Like It

(One in an occasional series of posts on the background material for my novel, Daring and Decorum.)

As You Like It
Poor Celia, left forlorn when her BFF goes off with Orlando. (That’s her beneath the green arrow.) (Screenshot from HBO.)

There’s an incredible tracking shot in Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 film adaptation of As You Like It that perfectly sums up my feelings about the character of Celia and the treatment she receives from the pen of The Bard. It happens in Act III Scene ii, the one in which Celia and Rosalind (dressed as Ganymede) first encounter Orlando in the Forest of Arden.

The shot begins on a boardwalk crossing a wetland. Rosalind (Bryce Dallas Howard) has just told Celia (Romola Garai), “I will speak to him like a saucy lackey, and under that habit play the knave with him.” Rosalind and Orlando (David Oyelowo) proceed along the boardwalk, leaving Celia trailing behind as they trade quips about time and the love notes Orlando has been pinning to the trees. Celia seems to suffer from the fatigue she felt when she and Rosalind first came to the forest, or maybe she’s just appalled at her friend’s behavior. The camera loses track of her for a while as Orlando and Rosalind step onto dry land, but we soon get another glimpse of her in the background, now sitting on the boardwalk. Orlando and Ros circle around the wetland, then stop to face each other as they enter into their bargain, in which Orlando will pretend that Ganymede is Rosalind, and woo her in that guise. The pair stand far enough apart that in the far background between them we see poor Celia, now just an infinitesimal dot.

Yes, brilliant, Mr. Branagh! The blocking highlights the problematic nature of this scene (which leaves Celia with nothing to do for 130 lines of other characters’ dialogue) and also the problematic nature of Celia and Rosalind’s relationship.