"Love has been likened to psychosis, albeit mostly a pleasant one--making us forgo our ordinary caution and rationality, sometimes risking heartbreak and disappointment, in order to share our deepest selves. Romance is the vehicle of that insanity--seducing us, amazing us, and in the best of times, freeing us to become more than we have ever been before. As with love, the nature of romance changes as we change--as we risk, as we lose, as we grow, as we triumph."
The above quote from the introduction to Best Lesbian Romance 2010 by editor Radclyffe perfectly encompasses what this anthology is all about. It's an exploration of the romance that exists between two women, the love that surfaces out of any number of situations. The experience is different for each person, but the end result is the same. This anthology contains sixteen exceptional stories that explore the limitless possibilities when it comes to romance.
Young love is all encompassing and exciting, as women begin to explore feelings that have been denied or obsessions that are finally brought to light. "Coming Out Party" by Anna Meadows tells of a young girl who struggles with the realization of who she really wants to be her escort for the debutante ball. It showcases finding the courage to breakout of expected roles and being true to oneself. Wonderfully witty dialogue and humor throughout make this story a joy to read. "Soaked" by Erin O'Riordan finds Beck revealing her infatuation with popular Bailey in front of a classroom of fellow students. That brand of obsession can take over everything, soaking oneself to the core, and the story shows that beautifully.
Some of the stories deal with the abject heartbreak and devastation when a relationship ends, and how fate often provides a chance for new happiness when it's least expected. "Five" by Cheyenne Blue is a stunning tale of Tess who is nursing a broken heart after her partner of five years moves out. A girl at the local bagel shop, and changes connected to the number five, help Tess begin the healing process. This story captures so vividly that sense of being lost when a relationship ends, what the other person takes when they leave, and how it's necessary to reshape what is left behind in order to move on. In "Hard to Hate Her" by Kris Adams, we meet Carol who finds it difficult to dislike her ex-husband's new wife, Lily. This story highlights how love can be found in the most unexpected of places, and the hesitancy and wonder of Carol is realistically drawn.
On the flip side are stories that focus on the moment that women embrace the love that has been right in front of them the whole time. A college reunion in "The Only Girl I Want" by Sommer Marsden provides the chance for roommates to reconnect in unexpected ways. Stevie and Maryann are explosively hot together as they decimate Stevie's self-imposed celibacy and anyone who has adored another from afar will identify with the characters. "I Never Thought of Love" by Jacqueline Applebee tells of a woman with five children who breaks through the barrier her lover has created to protect her heart. The story wonderfully captures the emotional struggle when wanting to say those magical three words for the first time. "Girls and Their Cars" by Renée Strider finds Carole and Janis, two butch women who are competitive about everything and especially their cars, discovering their true feelings that shock not only themselves but those around them. The intriguing story shows that love doesn't always appear as we expect, but that doesn't make it any less powerful.
Romance is at its best when it comes in the description of a love and partnership that has grown and developed over time. In "When We Almost Met" by Evan Mora, a woman reflects on all the times she and her lover could have met over the years, and how they finally did meet. This is a beautiful expression of how we meet so many in our lives, but we only find forever when we are ready, and the story is filled with hope and happiness. "Firsts" by Hannah Quinn exquisitely describes the process and stages of a woman falling in love. The story focuses on the base emotions and reactions, and how the fascination with another is so totally all consuming in the best way possible. "Reclamation" by Nell Stark and Trinity Tam has a woman desperately trying to convince her newly turned vampire lover that they need to be together. This vampire tale has a unique twist being from the point of view of the unturned lover who yearns to have her partner close and to show her that the strong love they share can adapt to any change.
"The Letting Go" by Shannon Dargue describes love in a situation where it's all but indistinguishable. Jai is desperate to convince her wife Gwen that they shouldn't finalize their divorce, but first she must face how much pain her indiscretion has caused. The story is filled with raw emotions, and it skillfully describes the desperation and fear of loss and the struggle to mend what has been broken. "All In" by Radclyffe has Dr. Saxton Sinclair desperately missing her documentary filmmaker lover Jude. Their reunion is a moving tale filled with the desperation of love, the basic need for another in order to live. This story grips you from the very beginning and the emotions are gut wrenching and beautiful at the same time. "The Last Dance" by Dalia Craig introduces two women as they meet in 1958 at a party and end up taking a chance on love. The story drives to the heartfelt and moving ending, and shows that a lifetime can be built on a single moment of bravery.
Romance comes in all forms and some of the stories provide a look through unique settings and times. "The Outside Edge" by Sacchi Green perfectly entrenches itself in the world of figure skating as a skater yearns to be herself on the ice and to be with the one she loves. This powerful story shows a beautiful connection between two skaters, and their moves both on and off the ice are both sensuous and stunning. In "You Are a Full Moon Without Clouds" by Pamela Smiley, a woman shares her love of Chiang Mai with her new lover. The story parallels the woman's love of the city and its inhabitants with the new love she feels growing. "Queens Up" by Andrea Dale is the tale of Josephine who uses her skill at poker to undo her father's mistakes and reclaim a home for herself and Margaret. This clever historical tale flows beautifully with excellent characters and exceptional prose.
Each story approaches romance differently, but they all share a common theme of love and connection between women. Though the focus here is romance, there is still a healthy dose of erotic content as women answer their needs for one another in physical ways that are enticingly arousing. These seventeen authors have provided some of the best stories of romance that are deeply moving and engaging from beginning to end. Each story is just as wonderful and profound as the next, and any reader will easily find stories within the collection to connect with. I definitely recommend this anthology for any reader who enjoys stories of women in love and the romance that defines their lives.