Anyone who loves lesbian historical fiction is familiar with the queer literature icon that is Sarah Waters. Her novels The Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet have both been adapted for the screen by the BBC (both featuring award winning actress Sally Hawkins because why not) and are pretty popular and well known in the lesbian film community, while her novel The Little Stranger was adapted to for the big spring just last year as a critically acclaimed phsycological thriller.
Her novel The Paying Guests is thought to be one of her best, so I gave it a shot! At 570 pages, it seemed like quite the daunting task, but the novel read easily (and that’s coming from someone healing from a recent brain injury), and almost addictingly!!
Waters flexes both her lesbian romance and her phycological thriller muscles all at once while keeping with her favorite setting, historical England!
The novel surrounds an unmarried woman in her late twenties named Frances who lives with her mother in a wealthy old neighborhood in London. In recent years Frances has lost her brothers, her father, her servants, and her youth to the First World War. Now she and her mother, struggling to make ends meet, must become landladies of their own decaying home if they want to survive in a changed England.
They end up taking a young couple in as boarders, and as always with Waters, a forbidden romance ensues ;)
This novel has everything: 3+ lesbians, murder, scandal, secrets, flirting, rebellion, and well researched historical references.
And what did I personally think of it? I loved it!!!!!! As a dedicated lover of queer historical fiction, I loved it to the last page. The main draw for me wasn’t quite the murder as it was the romance, but the minimal steamy scenes still succeeded giving me exactly what I wanted. It’s a novel that is obviously written by a woman, about women, for women. Don’t waste your time of trash wlw content made by men that fetishizes women. Stick to Waters, and her authentic telling of a story that any queer woman can relate too, even if we aren’t in early 20th century England.