Genre: Paranormal Romance
Queer Rep: Bisexuality
It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a modern ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits.
Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.
I will start out by saying that I found out about this book via an LGBT+ twitter thread, where the author was advertising it. This definitely warped my view of the novella, as I was expecting some witchy lesbians, gay men, enbies, etc. NOW DON’T PANIC–I KNOW BI AND PAN PEOPLE ARE EQUALLY QUEER… I am pan. We are valid. The issue wasn’t that one of the characters was bi, the issue was that I was over halfway through the novella before we are given any evidence that he is. And then, when that evidence does arrive… well.
It left a lot to be desired. But more on that later.
After getting 30% or so through the book with no queer rep, I looked into it and realized I’d made an error of judgement. My mistake. I was perfectly happy reading an M/F, I just wished I had gone in knowing they would be the stars of the show. I want more bi and pan characters in the world, so this suited me just fine.
Until it didn’t.
The plot had a lot of potential. The blurb is really such a great hook, and made me super excited to read. You get a sense of the characters right away, but it takes a while for things to feel like they’re really rolling forward. And I have to be honest and say my enjoyment was hamstringed a bit by the writing.
There are POV switches within paragraphs. Not following a page break, or a chapter break. One sentence Rhys will be thinking about how beautiful Moira is, and the next will be Moira thinking about Rhys.
This always throws me off-kilter. I was taught very explicitly not to do this (my editors flag me if my characters are even too aware of their own faces). I know this was a self-published piece; there was no editor there to help the author, and things like this get missed. But it was often enough that my forgiveness couldn’t completely overshadow my distaste.
There was also some cliché phrasing and prose—predictable lines and such—but the story was starting to build toward something interesting, so I didn’t care that much.
But then it stagnates. The “psychic ex and secret society” bit doesn’t come in until well over the 50% point, and finally, finally, we have confirmation that the husband is bi. Aha! My promised queer rep!
It is unfortunate that the psychic ex David is also a massive asshole. I told myself to get over it—women are painted as the villains encroaching on the MC’s lives all the time in queer fiction. But then it’s all used to reach the climax, and [spoiler] in that climax we learn that Moira is biphobic, actually.
“I don’t like that you’re bisexual. I never have.”
That’s an exact quote. [/spoiler]
For people who didn’t want to read the spoiler, biphobia suddenly rears its ugly head. And that is not the shit I signed up for.
Even more what I did not sign up for, is that the biphobia is just glossed over—like it’s normal, like it’s fine. I’m sorry, those words hurt. I have heard them. If the author was going for a “mean things happen to queer people, that’s just life” angle, okay (even though I purposefully avoid fiction that does that). But then to not even address that biphobia as awful or harmful?? To literally have the bi MC start rooting around their study in the middle of this revelation as if those words don’t bother him at all??
Imagine advertising this on LGBT+ twitter to LGBT+ people, and then having your only queer rep be the demonization of a gay or bi man and then biphobic nonsense.
Honestly what the hell.
The characters started out strong, then slowly ruined themselves. I know this novella was supposed to be about learning to have open communication and honesty in a relationship, but man were these two insufferable. They were petty, and foolish, and kept making stupid mistakes and assumptions. Not to mention these two were married for… I don’t even remember how long… and built so much of it on lies. You guys need more than a few summoning circles and hot sex. Maybe try counseling.
I don’t know, it was fine.
I’m obviously still mad about the biphobia. In fact, the more I think about it, the more upset I become. I really… I don’t know. I really think S. T. Gibson could have something good. She builds good characters in an interesting urban world. I just wish she hadn’t done that with it.
P.S. Quick shoutout to whoever designs her covers (I can’t find their name anywhere). They are gorgeous.
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