Petticoats and Promises by Penelope Friday
I may be out of the loop, but this is the first time I’ve ever read a Regency book with same-sex lovers. Sure, they mentioned the lifestyle in Lost in Austen, but only as a joke and plot device. To see an actual lesbian affair, treated with respect and reality in play was quite different. I was worried at first about how the author would handle the societal expectations and restrictions, but this book was a pleasant surprise.
Serena is a young girl very close to come-out age. Her BFF, Clara, is about to have her London season and Serena gets to go with her. However, when Serena’s dad runs into financial issues and can’t pay for Serena’s trip, the two girls are plunged into turmoil.
You see, Serena and Clara have a secret. They are in love with each other and the thought of being apart for a whole season inspires Clara to ask her disapproving mother if Serena can come along.
The girls travel to London and enjoy the season by going to balls and meeting other Debs. But living in the same house and experiencing the fun city life, proves too tantalizing. In a moment of overwhelming indulgence, they are caught kissing by Clara’s mom and are parted for good.
Serena is sent back home and spirals into a depression. She totally expects to never love again until she meets another woman who also loves women.
I really enjoyed this book and I think the way the author dealt with her parent reactions was interesting. I also liked how she explained what might have happened to a gay woman in those days. The decisions a woman might have to make in those days to keep her secret quiet and to be free to at least have children, are hard ones. I think this was a brave, inspirational story that needed to be told. I’m looking forward to checking out her other books soon.