Hi, so I loved this book, thanks for reading.
I know reviews don’t work that way, so I’ll try harder.
Without sounding like a Lily Maxton fangirl, she was the reason I was looking forward to this book. I’ve read two of her books in the Townsend series and adored them, so I felt in moderately safe hands. And now, ‘moderately safe hands’ feels lacking. I loved A Lady’s Desire.
The premise is that Winifred Wakefield has been widowed and she goes to live with her husband’s relatives, which includes her former best friend, Lady Sarah Lark. The friendship fell apart after Win married because that was when Sarah realized how she felt about Win. And now, they are living together trying to figure out how to be around each other now that their friendship is broken.
What I loved most is that the book shows how friendships between queer women can be complicated because when we discuss romantic relationships, so many of the things we mention as important are things that make up a strong friendship. And if you add a society where you have no examples that your feelings for your friend could be something other than platonic, how do you parse out what exactly is happening? Maxton navigates that so well in A Lady’s Desire. Sarah makes a mess of it, Win is confused, Sarah is confused, and it felt so natural.
Add to that the discussion of the role of upper class women in Regency Britain. Win had to marry because her family’s financial situation was precarious. As a widow living on the kindness of her husband’s uncle, she knows that she has to find a new husband because there is no other security offered to her. And Sarah has resisted the pressure to marry for years, but what she wants does not match her parents’ expectations for her. I don’t want to spoil things, but the novella explores how these women are unprepared for a world outside the privileged one they’ve inhabited, how in some ways they are only fit for marriage.
And in some ways, this book feels like Maxton was listening in on private conversations I’ve had about what I want in a historical now, and the sort of f/f historical romance I want to read. But no one’s a botanist or geologist, so she didn’t listen in on that conversation. There’s a strong exploration of power dynamics, queer relationships, and a world that ignores relationships between queer women. I’m sort of in love.
I want to say more, but spoilers. But when you read it, please come find me because I have at least two more things I want to discuss.
Here’s my complaint, though: it could have been longer. I could have read more of Win and Sarah in a novel-length story, but this is not to say that it needed to be longer, just that I would have really enjoyed it. And really, I want Maxton to write more f/f because this was probably my favorite f/f romance this year. (I’m debating if this was my favorite historical this year, the other contender is also a Maxton; so there you go, I’m probably a fangirl.)
Content warnings: familial rejection, maybe a hint of homophobia (but not really)