Lesbian Romance

I’ve reviewed gay romance twice, and we certainly have snarked our share of gay romance covers, but it has been brought to my attention that we have not asked the Bitchery for Lesbian Romance Recommendations.

So – what lesbian romances burn your carpet?

Personally, I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read any. It’s not a deliberate slight; I just haven’t come across any romances wherein the protagonists were women. Back when I was a member of BooksFree, I had Pembroke Park on my request list for ages, but it never became available in the year-plus time I was a member. I was bummed when I finally discontinued service that I’d never borrowed that particular book.

Online, I’ve seen a few recommendations, including books by Sarah Waters, but I have seen more discussion about romance readers enjoying gay romance than I have about lesbian romance.

So, I have to ask the Bitchery for a Good Shit vs. Shit to Avoid List: Lesbian romance recommendations? Historical? Contemporary? What’s on your keeper pile from the Sapphic protagonist set?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    KSA says:

    I’m really curious about this one. I keep hearing how readers and writers are so hot for m/m stories but, personally, they just don’t do it for me. I queried my editor about a f/f sci-fi romance and she said ‘go for it’ so that’s on The Plan for 2007…BUT, considering that I can’t seem to find much e-press f/f, does that mean there will be no readers for any little tidbit I submit?
    Verification: moved39. Moved to write, indeed!

  2. 2
    Ellen says:

    I’m currently reading Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, which I think is going in the f/f romance direction, though it’s advertised as a fantasy so I really don’t know. It’s fun, though. (The fact that I share a first name with Kushner is pure coincidence.)

  3. 3
    Emily says:

    Sarah Waters is my only recommendation that I can think of.
    Femmeslash runs rampant in the fanfiction I read, noticably less than ManSlash, but that could be due to the relationships in the canon. Stories with solid female relationships at the centre might be more likely to find a femmeslash-writing fanbase. My fandoms…just…lots of manfriends and intense loyalty.

    Aside from that, I can only think of movies like Imagine Me & You and Fucking Ã…mÃ¥l. Which…there seems to be no fictional counterpart for these films, sadly.

  4. 4
    BevQB says:

    I know Phaze is actively seeking F/F. Merry Phillips just sold them a F/F/M and they seem very enthusiastic about it.

    Frankly, though, F/F or F/F/M just doesn’t work much for me. I can appreciate a beautiful woman’s body in much the same way as I can appreciate a sunset or a beautiful horse, but it just doesn’t trip any of my triggers.

    I think that it’s the DIFFERENCES between a man’s body and mine that makes them so much more interesting and enticing.

    In my day (gawd, did I really just say that?!) both male and female homosexuality was something to be scorned and ridiculed. It seems that there is more of a sense of freedom today to explore bisexuality.

    I wonder if F/F is a common fantasy or maybe curiosity for someone who is in her 20’s and still exploring her sexuality. If so, I also wonder why there aren’t more (or any) F/F or F/F/M books out there aimed at this age range.

    Chick-lit (clit-lick?) lesbians? Debbie Does Darla? Thelma and Louise and Natalie?

  5. 5
    Cynthia says:

    Just came back from RWA conference in Miami Florida and have the opportunity to chat with an editor from Ellora’s Cave (We were in the bar having drinks, so not pitching, just yaking). This was the exact topic of conversation I brought up to her. I have a number of friends who write M/M homoerotica. One of the guys at the breakfast table that morning had mentioned that he had written an F/F story. I asked her if there was a market for F/F.
    Her reply – other than publishers that target directly to the Lesbian market, the answer is no. In fact, Ellora’s Cave has just posted new guidelines and they will no accept any F/F stories. They do not sell.
    M/M is a whole ‘nother story. VERY hot hot hot.

  6. 6
    Madd says:

    It’s sad. I wouldn’t mind reading f/f, if the story was good, but I haven’t come across any romances that were f/f. I’ve read several fantasy/sci-fi books that contained f/f relationships, but no romance.

  7. 7
    Keziah Hill says:

    There’s lesbian fiction out there but not much lesbian romance. Jolie du Pre writes some although it might be seen as erotica. I’ve written some (shameless self promotion – at eXtasy and Forbidden Publications) but every one tells me there’s no market for it. But there must be other women like me out there who’s sexual orientation is kind of queer (although nowadays it tends to go toward a good book and gardening) and who likes lesbian and bisexual romance. I don’t like f/f/m when the second f is merely a toy thing of the primary het relationship. OK that’s not true, if it’s hot it’s hot, but I want the women to have a solid loving relationship. And the sex has to be hot not just a wishy washy “she’s so soft” silliness. I like my women to go for it. But I haven’t seem it in romance, or erotic romance only in erotica. The Best of Lesbian Erotica anthologies are good.
    Torquere Press does some lesbian fiction but I don’t think it’s particularly romance oriented.
    There’s also Bella Books http://www.bellabooks.com/
    but a little far away to access for me in Oz.

    I wish a trend would start.

    I think a lot of women are turned off or suspicious of f/f erotica or erotic romance because they associate it with porn ie something for a male audience. But I came into my erotic flowering (just had to get that in) at a time when lesbianism was seen as empowering for women (which carried it’s own set of pc problems). So I’ve always seen sex between women and fiction that explores the relationships between women as positive and necessary rather than a morsel for men.

  8. 8
    KSA says:

    Interesting feedback, Cynthia. I dunno though. I mean, I consider myself pretty average in my romance preferences and I would *love* to read an action f/f space opera. Guess the only way I’m going to get that is to write one! And I’m not in my 20s, so it’s not like I’m experimenting/exploring my burgeoning sexuality. (Been there, done that, got the lube tube). Hey, Keziah, maybe we can start a trend? :)
    How about this: I consider this a personal challenge! I *will* submit an f/f erotic space opera novella to *someone* by the end of this year. Bug me around September if anyone remembers! ;)
    If you build the world and write the sex, they will *ahem* come. Thanks for the topic, Sarah & Candy!

  9. 9
    Danielle says:

    Woohoo, this is my first Bitchery post!  Wild applause for me.

    Firstly, as a brief intro, I am a voracious reader of romance novels: historicals, fantasy, contemporary, even m/m- you name it.  If it has a brooding hero and some bodice ripping, count me in.  I am also a lesbian and have been happily married to my wonderful wife for 7 years.  That being said, I have tried on numerous occassions to read lesbian fiction or romance.  I have been very disappointed on the whole, with rare exception.  I do enjoy Sarah Waters, but Naiad press, a lesbian publisher given to shamltz, is all that fills the shelves of the lesbian sections. 

    Now, I haven’t read any of the newer fiction, so maybe there is hope.  I have started reading m/m ebooks from places like Torquere, and really enjoyed them.  Maybe I should branch out and try some new ones.  I would love to hear any good recommendations!

    On a side note, thanks for such a great website.  I love reading such a hysterical and refreshing look at the novels I love, and love to hate!

  10. 10
    Bactria says:

    Interesting that there’s so little when it seems to be a growing area in detective fiction. I’ve read one decent book and it might be a little old, but it was Curious Wine by Katherine Forrest.

  11. 11
    Miranda says:

    In the romance/mystery genre, Sarah Dreher Stoner Mactavish series is very good. There is a strong romance between Stoner and Gwen, whom she meets in the first book.

    Barbara Wilson’s Pam Nilson series is good. The Dog Collar Murders is one of my favorites.

    JM Redmann’s Micky Knight series is more one-night-stand hard boiled lesbian gumshoe than romance, but still good.

  12. 12
    dl says:

    I read alot, and not nnecessarily mainstream titles. But, rarely come across f/f stories. 

    If it’s well written, I can really enjoy m/m or m/m/f…probably because I find men sexually attractive and therefore can understand (identify) others who find them sexually attractive.  I’m an avid people watcher, and although I might find another woman attractive, I do not find them sexually attractive…like BevL, not happening for me.

    So, no recommendations from me…and probably no buying either (unless its recommended by many SBs as fabulous).

  13. 13
    Jen says:

    I would love to read some lesbian romance novels.  The only lesbian I can think of in my romance novels was a next door neighbor.  Actually, I consider myself bisexual, and I think it would be much hotter to read f/f than m/m.  Not that I have anything against gay romance novels, and I would even read some if they were at my library, but I just can’t identify with and be interested in the sexuality of people without my basic plumbing.  Its just… nice, and pretty to watch/imagine, but I can’t pretend they are my orgasms, if that makes sense.  And that is why I like reading about women with men or women with women, I can identify with (at least the one) woman and transfer her orgasms to me.

  14. 14
    Weirdlet says:

    Mmh… I can’t think of any specific lesbian romances, but if you’ll accept some reaching, you might want to check out Terry Pratchett’s “Monstrous Regiment”, which has one mentioned pairing and plenty of faint hints that fans have expanded upon, though the book itself is not focused on romance.

  15. 15
    Darlene says:

    The only specifically lesbian romance I’ve read is Pembroke Park, and it was interesting, but I admit I haven’t been motivated to seek out more.  But then, I don’t read much m/m stuff either.  I’m just a vanilla sort of reader.

  16. 16
    Nat says:

    The only lesbian romances that I know about are written for teens, so there’s not much in the way of sex in them. It is curious that while m/m stories do so well, f/f don’t. If given a preference, I’d be more apt to read a good f/f book than the other way around.

  17. 17
    Marty says:

    Hmm for romantic lesbian books the only ones I can think of are from Japanese manga like Revolutionary Girl Utena
    and Sailor Moon.  For fiction Sarah Waters is good, other than that there are no specific romace titles, they are mostly mystery and sci-fi books.

  18. 18
    Keziah Hill says:

    How about this: I consider this a personal challenge! I *will* submit an f/f erotic space opera novella to *someone* by the end of this year. Bug me around September if anyone remembers!
    I want to read that! I’ll remind you KSA

    I do enjoy Sarah Waters, but Naiad press, a lesbian publisher given to shamltz, is all that fills the shelves of the lesbian sections.
    They’re so earnest aren’t they? Although if memory serves me correctly they did publish Pat Califia years ago.

    Its just… nice, and pretty to watch/imagine, but I can’t pretend they are my orgasms, if that makes sense.  And that is why I like reading about women with men or women with women, I can identify with (at least the one) woman and transfer her orgasms to me.
    That’s exactly why lots of m/m doesn’t do much for me. I have to fantasize myself into the exchange somehow. I can’t do that with two men having sex no matter how gorgeous they are.

  19. 19
    DS says:

    Patience and Sarah, a historic and not particularly erotic novel was published by Fawcett in the 70’s.  I remember an early Amanda Quick with a lesbian aunt.  And I’ve been listening to an audio Victorian mystery where the heroine’s sister is openly (within the family)lesbian.

    However, I have noticed that lesbian writers who deal with romantic relationships tend to write about m/m.  The Front Runner and subsequent books by that author, Mary Renault’s novels set in Ancient Greece or her contemporary (WWII) novel The Charioteer.  She wrote a novel about a lesbian relationship called the Middlea Mist that ends unhappily unlike her m/m books. 

    The ancient Greek ideal of m/m relationship actually appears to be the western ideal in lots of hetero romances.  (The other great ideal of western romance—the Courtly Love tradition appears to be anathema to a lot of modern romance readers.) 

    Naiad Press if often derided as the

  20. 20
    DS says:

    Oops meant to say that Naiad Press has often been derided as the Harlequin of lesbian romance.

  21. 21
    rebyj says:

    As a straight fan of the L word I’d read some lesbian romantic fiction. After 3 years of skinny rich gorgeous lesbians on the show i’m curious as to how lesbians would be portrayed in a romance. i mean dont any of them have cellulite? love handles, saggy boobs???

    Are lesbians really that promiscuous? do their relationships really just last one season? Errrrr… 6 months? LOL The oldest, most out of shape one on there is cybill shepard for goodness sakes..she’s a 50 somethin yr old supermodel!!

    Tongue in cheek questions but seriously, i’ve read some m/m romances but simply have never SEEN any f/f romances around.

    A lesbian romance would be perfect PMS week when I HATE MEN … let him see what i’m reading and start sweatin!!

  22. 22
    December says:

    I think this is a shame and have for some time, because I think f/f scenes are hot.

    I’m not a lesbian, I’m not even bisexual (I did kiss a girl once, on a dare, and it was like kissing my own child, nothing remotely sexual about it at all), but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading or writing them. I’m not a big fan of some other sexual practices either but it still turns me on to read or write them.

    I’ve wondered if it isn’t, as Keziah said, something to do with a distaste for those insatiable porn stars, or if it’s a discomfort with the idea that liking f/f scenes might mean you would want to try being with a woman, or what…but I do wish I was able to, say, write a f/f/m menage story, or some straight f/f erotica. I don’t know that I could write a whole lesbian romance, but I’d love to spice my work up a bit with something a little different.

    I just sold a book to EC—a vamp romance—which insludes a short f/f scene done at the bad guys’ house, for their entertainment. I don’t know if I’ll be asked to cut it or if its inclusion will up the sex rating of the book, which other than that is plentiful but fairly vanilla. There’s not even any real anal in it (aside from a finger here and there).

    I guess we’ll wait and see…

  23. 23
    Nora Roberts says:

    Does it count that I was plagiarized in a lesbian romance novel? So I kinda read one—hmm, kinda wrote one, inadvertantly.

  24. 24
    closetcrafter says:

    Hasn’t anyone read Lifemask by Emma Donohue (sp?)?  The relationship was very well done. I’m not gay, but I identified strongly with the depth of feeling the characters had for each other. Its not the only relationship described in the book, but I thought it was great.

  25. 25
    Marianne McA says:

    Don’t read any erotic romance, but I’d have no more problem reading a f/f romance than reading a m/m romance. I imagine Jen is right, and in some ways it would be a more involving read. (And on occasion a m/m romance as written by a female author will strike me as implausible – a bit too much fantasy in it, or something.) 
    So it’s not that I wouldn’t, it’s just that they haven’t come my way.

    The only one I tried was Coyote Sky by Gerri Hall. I was trawling for new authors, and her books were high up the Amazon Romance bestseller list, and were uniformly five starred, so she seemed worth a try.
    I didn’t get as far as the romance – I just found the thing unreadable, so I couldn’t personally recommend her.

  26. 26
    Kimber says:

    Oh come on, I can’t believe no one has yet mentioned the Lynne Cheney lesbian romance, “Sisters.”

  27. 27
    dl says:

    Love you Nora!

    So…is there no market, or nobody filling the market?

  28. 28
    Teddy Pig says:

    The few I have read have been eeeeeeeh.

    M/M must be more interesting or something.
    F/F seems to bring out the blah.

  29. 29
    Esme says:

    First post ever! Very exciting!

    Had to chime in to give out some names for lesbian romance… then realized I don’t know any lesbian romance. I’m a big, big fan of same-sex relationships/smut in fiction, but pretty much the only fiction is literary mainstream:

    -Jeanette Winterson (all of her stuff)

    -Sarah Waters (loved “Fingersmith” and “Tipping the Velvet,” just hated “Affinity.”)

    -Emma Donoghue (“Kissing the Witch” was one of my favorite books as a teen, “Hood” was pretty excellent, etc.)

    -Nevada Barr’s “Bittersweet.” Don’t know how many people here read mysteries, but Nevada Barr’s pretty big in that field, and “Bittersweet” is an interesting departure for her.

    -Dorothy Allison’s semi-famous “Bastard out of Carolina.”

    -Rita Mae Brown’s “Rubyufruit Jungle.”

    Actually, this list isn’t very helpful b/c it’s all mainstream fiction. I can’t think of any f/f romance at all. I do know that other genres (SF&F) have a fair smattering of f/f stories, but that’s it.

    I do know that when I was younger I devoured every f/f work I could get my hands on (along with tons and tons of traditional romance novels). I doubt I’m the only one (especially reading other people’s comments here), so I think there could definitely be a market for it. I know that every time I come across a same-sex pairing in Science Fiction or Fantasy, I get a thrill and devour the book.

    However, the internet and fanfic have pretty much satisfied my same-sex “cravings” (yuck). Now, when I want a hot f/f romance/smut story, I just look it up on the web. Same goes for m/m fic, which I am a BIG fan of. But despite that, I’d really like some well-written, professional f/f fiction.

    Anyhow, there’s my two cents. Love the website! Love the comments!

  30. 30
    Joan says:

    Like Danielle, I’m a longtime lesbian, and I tried and tried to think of a lesbian romance that I would recommend. All I could think of was “Memory Board” by Jane Rule, which features an older female couple (I don’t remember what age exactly), one of whom suffers from severe memory problems. I don’t think there was any sex at all.

    Back in the late ‘80s I read a romance about two women who met working in a factory during WWII. One was very butch and the other femme. It was terribly sweet. I think it was called “A Good Woman is Hard to Find” or maybe “For the Love of a Good Woman” (not Alice Munro’s), but I can’t find reference to it using Google.

    Abigail Padgett wrote a good mystery called “Blue,” but there’s not a huge romance element to it.

    Kim Harrison’s awesomely good series featuring Rachel Morgan (starts with “Dead Witch Walking”) has a female vampire who’s in love with the Rachel, but in the ones I’ve read so far, it’s totally unrequited (frustrating!).

    I wrote a polyamorous lesbian romance for the National Novel Writing Month challenge in 2005. I have to say, for a first novel written in 30 days, it really sucks wind. The concept was good, but the execution was shoddy, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to see the light of day.

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