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he 2014 Lambda Literary
Prize for Lesbian Romance
was won by British author
Andrea Bramhall for her
novel Clean Slate, pub-
lished by Bold Strokes Books. It marks
a wonderful resurgence in British les-fic
over the last couple of years.
The U.K . has a proud tradition of
women writers, going back to Jane Aus-
ten, the Brontës, and George Eliot. Who
knows which, if any, had hidden Sap-
phic tendencies. From the early 20th
century we see the emergence of lesbian
writer Radclyffe Hall, bisexual Virginia
Woolf, and the 70s and 80s were golden
eras with The Women’s Press, Silver
Moon, and Virago imprints. But since
that time, the strength and depth have
faded. We do have some well-known and
award-winning lesbian authors who have
crossed into the mainstream—Jeanette
Winterson, Val McDermid, Sarah Waters,
Manda Scott—all of whom have written
f/f and m/f stories. But until recently, the
les-fic shelf has seemed bare.
It may be that the death of the women’s
presses in the U.K . stymied young authors,
and the growth of fan fiction and indie
publishing allowed them a voice. But now,
many British authors have been picked
up by publishers in the States; prominent
among them is Bold Strokes Books.
Some of these women are writing ex-
ceedingly good books. Bramhall’s Clean
Slate is one of them: A romance full of
emotional suspense, it deals with how seri-
ous issues such as abuse, and abandonment
affect our relationships, but with a lightness
of touch and flicker of humour to sweeten
the read. Her latest novel, Nightingale, is a
stunning exploration of how arranged or
forced marriages can damage the lives of
Muslim women in the West and follows
one victim of abduction back to Pakistan
and to a life of imprisonment and abuse.
Amy Dunne’s Secret Lies is a finalist for
a Goldie Award (from the Golden Crown
Literary Society) in the Young Adult
category. On the one hand, it is a tale of
emerging lesbian love; on the other, it is a
serious exploration of abuse and self-harm,
and the impact they can have on young
girls’ personal and public lives.
Clare Ashton produces exquisitely writ-
ten novels. Her first two were slightly dark
and unusual romances; her third and lat-
est, That Certain Something (Breezy Tree
Press), offers the best of British rom-com,
revealing a particular social landscape
in the style of an Ealing comedy, with
a wonderful ensemble cast and a joyful
sense of timing, pace, and style.
In The Girl with the Treasure Chest (Vil-
lage Books), Veronica Fearon has produced
a gritty, hard, and demanding first novel
exploring the dark side of London gangs.
The twist is that not only is the main char-
acter a boi—she is the gang boss.
Cari Hunter’s three novels are all excit-
ing and well-crafted action/thrillers. Each
one is different in terms of setting and
plot: In Snowbound, she creates for us a
hostage situation in England; in Desola-
tion Point, a thrilling chase through the
North Cascades in Washington; and in
Tumbledown, an FBI-led pursuit across
Maine. All are from Bold Strokes Books.
The list goes on, signaling the emer-
gence of many wonderful women writers
and a growing sense of community. It’s a
delight to have British lesbians creating
such good books, and Bramhall’s Lambda
win just confirms that judges in the U.S.
are becoming aware of them as well. So
branch out, support the community, and
explore the works of today’s great British
writers. You’ll be glad you did.
The U.K. turns the page in lesbian fiction.
BY SUE FIDLER
The Best of British Reads
22 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
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