First of all, HOW GORGEOUS ARE THESE COVERS?! Olivia Waite is working some magic with these, and I genuinely love them.
For a while, sapphic romances were really hard to find. Publishers thought they wouldn't sell, so there weren't many on shelves, especially as adult romances and not queer coming out stories. Luckily, we are starting to see a real growth in women-loving-women stories across all genres, and I for one can't wait to see even more.
Olivia Waite's Feminine Pursuit series is set in Regency England. But without the dukes, and with a focus on women who are so committed and passionate not only to one another but to their own professions, hobbies, and crafts. One of the things I really love about Olivia's writing (beside the fact that her prose is gorgeous) is how much each character has a specific interest that is really developed as part of her character arc.
In The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, Lucy is so knowledgeable and passionate about mathematics and astronomy that, not only does the Countess of Moth hire her to translate a French astronomical text, Lucy actually works on writing an astronomy guide that is basic enough for the lay person to understand and appreciate without being condescending, pedantic, or meant for children. Meanwhile, the Countess of Moth, who was stifled by her deceased husband, has a marvelous talent for embroidery, which is presented as the artwork it is.
In The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows, Agatha runs a printing press that becomes infested by a colony of bees. As such, she meets Penelope, a married woman with a love and talent for beekeeping. They form a deep friendship long before their relationship blossoms into something more. The way Olivia writes friendship between women--this is something I love seeing in any book and any genre, and it really delivers in this entire series.
Hellion's Waltz features Maddie, a woman in need of one big heist to fund the weavers' union for good, and Sophie, whose family recently lost their piano shop to a con man. Once more, Olivia really gets into the intricacies of piano making and silk weaving, all while weaving together the story of this unlikely pair.
I was really lucky to watch a panel on Bisexual and Pansexual Romance moderated by Olivia Waite last month, and she brought up something really interesting about writing sapphic characters in Regency England. By writing women loving women, she eliminated the need for chaperones over the characters. They're able to be alone and have frank conversations and darling moments that MF romance can't really do in the same time period. It also eliminates that plot point which doesn't often work for me in historicals of "we must marry to preserve her honor because we were caught alone together once".
These books are surprisingly spicier than I expected. There's really only one big smut scene per book, and they aren't particularly graphic, but they are wonderfully written, and they are explicit (not fade to black or purple prose). In fact, one of these features a particular toy made of walnut, which made for quite an interesting scene.
Have you read any of these? Do you have any other favorite sapphic historicals?