Best Lesbian Romance 2010 – Radclyffe, ed. (Cleis Press)

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There is a fine line between romance and erotica, and it’seven finer in GLBT fiction where many stories intended as one cross into the other. The trip-line can be any number of things: word choice, a too-cavalier setup, characters who aren’t depicted with enough depth, or any number of other factors.

An anthology is an opportunity for readers to sample writers, to get a brief “bedtime” story, or the story short enough to consume in a single sitting, satisfying a taste before the rest of life must intrude.There is a danger of claiming “best” if something really much better has been seen in the genre. Some of the definition is strictly in the eye of the reader.That’s not to say that some of the more erotica stories weren’t quality, just perhaps should’ve  been slid over to Cleis’ other project, Best Lesbian Erotica.

Best of Lesbian Romance 2010, which is the latest in this annual series from Cleis Press, has many things going for it: well-known authors, several short, tight stories, and a popular editor. A number of stories, in this reviewer’s opinion, do cross the line from romance into erotica: first-time encounters that are less about courtship and romance than about steaminess between new duelists. There are some brief visits with popular novelists’ characters in short form, and some that seem to be brief looks at longer stories.

There are however, some truly romantic gems in this collection that an aficionado of the genre shouldn’t miss adding to her collection:

The romance grows slowly, encompassing much more than just the emotions between two women in Jacqueline Applebee’s “I Never Thought of Love”. The beauty of this one is the subtlety, the realization of how the relationship with Caitlin and working at all its aspects, has brought Jenny what she never thought she’d have… a family.

In the silent-support and enduring understanding romance department, it’s hard to beat Andrea Dale’s historical “Queens Up”. The setting of the American West is cleanly crafted and the time period of Westward Expansion accurate. The women, Josephine and Margaret, are depicted with the determination and intelligence to work within the “big picture” of society ‘s expectations. There’s no blow-up women’s lib single moment, so frequent in stories set in historical times, just a strong current of thinking fast on their feet that brings these women alive.

In the prove-me-wrong department, Dalia Craig’s “The Last Dance” is a first-time meeting story that brilliantly develops into one of the most enduringly romantic. Each moment of dialogue in the first meeting between Danielle and Helena shows the characters to have the stuff of great romance in the making: matching humors, intelligence, and perspective.

Authors in this collection: Evan Morra, Anna Meadows, Sommer Marsden, Cheyenne Blue, Sacchi Green, Pamela Smiley, Hannah Quinn, Erin O’Riordan, Jacqueline Applebee, Renèe Strider, Kris Adams, Andrea Dale, Nell Stark & Trinity Tam, Shannon Dargue, Dalia Craig, Radclyffe.

Reviewed by Lara Zielinsky, www.lzfiction.net

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