AfterEllen’s Summer of Love: “Forever and a Knight” by Bridget Essex

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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. Read them here.

For those who fantasize about a version of Game of Thrones in which women like Brienne of Tarth are the norm rather than novelty, Bridget Essex has written two romance novels set in a world of female knights. Even better, Essex’s knights exclusively date other women.

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Forever and a Knight is the second in the series, but can be read on its own. The beginning of the book introduces us to a straight-talking Boston radio disc jockey named Josie who is skeptically mocking callers who are reporting sightings of supernatural activity. Josie is established as a tough cookie who only believes in things that can be explained. She alludes to past girlfriends but is single and focusing on her career, a career that becomes threatened when she learns that funding is being pulled for her station and she may be out of a job.

Josie’s voice is consistent and confident, so much so that I found myself wondering how much of the author was creeping into the voice of her protagonist; at times the prose feels almost colloquial. The story is told from Josie’s first-person perspective and the reader is never left wondering where she stands on any topic; this is a particularly opinionated heroine.

As the crescendo of an already distressing day at work, Josie falls through a portal while doing laundry in the basement of her apartment building, and lands on another planet. She also lands, quite literally, on top of a handsome woman in armor, named Attis. In my own mind, I envisioned one of the USA FIFA players in chainmail.

As outspoken and brash as Josie is, Attis is in equal and opposite measure mysterious and stoic. At first, the two women seem to be opposites, except for a mutual love of ladies. They embark on a journey to seek out advice on how Josie might be able to return to her own world. In the process, they fall in love, although we are only privy to the details of Josie’s side of the feelings, which remain unrequited deep into the book.

I’m not terribly well versed in the romance genre, but I was expecting more overt physicality and sex scenes. This is a sweet tale of love and overcoming the fear of vulnerability. We learn that Attis is coping with the death of her last partner, whose demise she takes the burden of responsibility for. There is richness to the characters’ dynamic, but I did not expect a romance novel to be so chaste. The characters don’t share a first kiss until long past page 100, and until after Josie has realized her love for Attis. There are plenty of meaningful stares, angsty emotions around whether Josie’s feelings for Attis are reciprocated, and sexual tension between Josie and Attis, as well as other knights they meet on their travels, but there is far more physical contact described between Josie and her cat (who followed her through the portal) than there is between any two women in the book. Perhaps this is fitting given that both the book’s dedication and prologue reveal that the author’s cat passed away during the process of writing this novel, and the kitty character is in part homage to her late,beloved pet.

I enjoyed how the characters challenge one another; Attis and the world she lives in force Josie to stretch her understanding and assumptions about what is “real,” while Josie’s abrupt entrance into Attis’s life make her confront what it would mean to fall in love again, after loss. Forever and a Knight was a fun foray into a modern and medieval crossover world.

You can buy Forever and a Knight on Bridget Essex’s site, your local bookseller or Amazon.