disguised or living as a man

Disguised or living as a man (Sapphic Reading Challenge #33)

This week’s category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge features books about main characters who are either women who disguise themselves as men out of necessity or genderqueer people who were assigned female at birth but might identify as nonbinary or as trans men (even though the book might not use those terms since most books on this list are historical romances).   Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge If you are only discovering the Sapphic Reading Challenge now, the good news is you can still join! It’s a year-long challenge, so it runs until December 31, …

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sapphic steampunk fantasy

Sapphic steampunk fantasy or gaslamp fantasy (Book Unicorn #8)

Have you ever heard of steampunk fantasy? What about gaslamp fantasy? If you haven’t, don’t worry about it–I’m about to introduce you to this rare genre in this month’s Book Unicorn category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge. 

Steampunk fantasy and gaslamp fantasy are both subgenres of speculative fiction (or, to be more specific, of science fiction). The books usually take place in a Victorian-style setting, which gives them a historical flair (think bustle skirts, bowler hats, and goggles). Basically, they are alternate history that explores what would happen if technology and science had developed in a different way, never moving beyond steam power. There’s usually modern or fantastical technology such as time machines or robots, but it’s all steam-powered.

While steampunk centers around alternate developments in technology, gaslamp fantasy adds supernatural or magical elements.

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body-positive book

Sapphic body-positive books (Sapphic Reading Challenge #32)

This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge category features body-positive books that celebrate women of all sizes and shapes, e.g., a plus-sized protagonist.

The romance novel industry has a reputation for abiding by Hollywood’s standard of beauty. It’s rare to find plus-size characters in f/f romance novels (or any romance, for that matter). Most of the main characters are portrayed as slim, with perfectly sized breasts, and if they are a bit chubby, their goal in the story is probably to lose weight.

So let’s break with that tradition and search out diversity when it comes to how the main characters look. 

By the way, body positivity includes not just fat or plus-sized characters; it also refers to characters who are skinny or flat-chested such as Eliza from Wrong Number, Right Woman or who otherwise deviate from society’s beauty standards.

I hope that going forward, there’ll be more body positivity in romance novels and that women of all shapes and sizes will find themselves represented in a positive way.

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sapphic friends-to-lovers romance novel

Sapphic friends-to-lovers romance novels (Sapphic Reading Challenge #31)

This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge post features sapphic friends-to-lovers romance novels.

For some reason, there are not a lot of true friends-to-lovers romances out there, which is weird, because so many same-sex couples start out as friends (85%, according to a study I recently read!).

Important definition: In a friends-to-lovers romance, the two main characters are already friends (sometimes best friends or childhood friends) at the beginning of the book. If they are strangers who meet at the beginning of the book, then become friends before becoming lovers, it’s not a friends-to-lovers romance in the narrower sense of the word. 

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sapphic mystery novels

Sapphic mystery novels (Sapphic Reading Challenge #30)

This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge features sapphic mystery novels–a novel in which the plot revolves around a murder or another crime that needs to be solved. 

Mystery novels with a queer female crime-solving badass have a strong tradition. Even before I discovered romance novels between women, I was reading mainstream-published books featuring lesbian detectives such as the Kate Martinelli series by Laurie King and the Kate Delafield series by Katherine V. Forrest or private investigators such as the Lauren Laurano series by Sandra Scoppettone. 

I’ve included some of these classics along with more recently published mystery novels. 

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character rocks a power suit

Character rocks a power suit (Sapphic Reading Challenge #28)

This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge features books with a main character who rocks a power suit.

Nowadays, women’s business attire is a little more casual and leaves room for individuality, but if the main character works in certain professions–as a lawyer, CEO, executive, or politician, for example–she might still be regularly seen wearing a pantsuit or a skirt suit, looking self-assured and in control. 

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nonbinary character

Nonbinary character (Book Unicorn #7)

It’s Nonbinary Awareness Week, so what better time to celebrate books with nonbinary characters?

Nonbinary people still don’t get to see themselves represented in books, but there are some great books featuring nonbinary protagonists.

What does nonbinary mean?

Nonbinary is an umbrella term for gender identities that fall outside of the gender binary. Nonbinary people—sometimes called Enby (from NB)—don’t identify as male or female (at least not exclusively or all the time).

Under that umbrella fall a wide range of experiences: Some nonbinary people don’t feel they have a gender, while others move back and forth between feeling male and feeling female or have two genders at the same time. Check out the Nonbinary Wiki for more details on different nonbinary identities.

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