AfterEllen’s Summer of Love: “The Diplomat” by Sophia French

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Every Friday through September, we’ll be posting a review of a lesbian/bi-themed romance novel as part of our Summer of Love. Miss the first few? Read them here.

In Sophia French’s The Diplomat, we follow the brilliant and dashing Rema, her nation’s first and only female diplomat. Gifted, gorgeous and dressed in trousers, a fact that shocks men and delights the women of nearly every kingdom, Rema is tasked by her emperor to travel to Danosha, a kingdom that has fallen on hard times. Plagued by war with a neighboring kingdom, Danosha could use a helping hand—but it will come at a very high cost. Rema’s boss, the Emperor Ormun, is a cruel and brutal leader and what he wants in return for assistance with the battle is Danosha’s princess, Elise. Considering Ormun already has 19 wives and a reputation as a sadistic SOB, this is not a pleasant prospect for anyone. 

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Yet, duty and the desire to save an entire kingdom presses Rema on, who is nothing like her boss. When she actually meets Elise, her unpleasant task becomes all the more difficult as sparks fly immediately between herself and the fiery, funny princess. In many places in the book, Elise is described as being plus sized and curvy which is a pretty awesome and uncommon thing for a romance novel. She also is a gifted enchantress, which adds a nice layer of mysticism to the novel. Elise isn’t a helpless damsel, even if the culture around her (not to mention her family) tries to make her one. Elise is fully aware of a woman’s worth in her kingdom, and being a pawn in war is not something she takes sitting down.

Rema is gifted with something than many women in her land (think Westeros) do not have: power. She uses it well and wisely, but she starts to reveal the cracks in her stoic demeanor when it comes to Elsie, who she aims to protect at all cost.

The book is divided into two parts and is quite lengthy for a romance. It’s full of rich details, smart writing and interesting characters and grabs your attention right from the start. Even the supporting characters get their chance to shine—like Yorin, who manages the castle and becomes friends with Rema and Loric, the sweet and funny young prince who is devoted to his older sister. And, of course, there’s Jalaya, Rema’s best friend back home and frequent lover, whose devotion to Rema adds an interesting element to the book.

The Diplomat feels much more like an adventure or fantasy novel than a straight up romance, which makes it a great book to start off with if you are interested in exploring the genre. I was particularly impressed that this was author Sophia French’s debut novel.

Whether you like your romance wrapped up in an epic story, or your action adventure with a dash of romance, then I recommend spending some time with The Diplomat.

The Diplomat is available now from Bella Books

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