Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: To Love and To Cherish edited by Beth Wylde and Lara Zielinsky

Reviewed by Victor Banis
Published by LoveYouDivine Press
Anthology, Various Authors, edited by Beth Wylde and Lara Zielinsky
Available in e-book and print format from

I confess, when the idea first came up, of my writing a review for a collection of lesbian love stories, that I had some reservations—not about reading the stories, I felt sure simply by looking at the names of the authors that they would be of a high quality, but rather about my ability to do this important collection justice. I say important because all of the stories were donated by the authors, and all of the proceeds from the book are donated to Marriage Equality USA "which continues the fight in courtrooms around the country to secure civil marriage rights for GLBTQ couples across the U.S." So, important indeed, and surely, I thought, above my pay grade.

Of course, I had no sooner started reading than I realized the fallacy in my thinking. "Lesbian love stories" is, really, the wrong label to paste on this wonderful collection. They are love stories, pure and simple, and love doesn't know the difference. Which is, of course, the whole point of the project. Two women may make love differently from what two men or a man and a woman may do, but it is the height of absurdity to suppose that they don't love the same.

Love is what it is. Some abuse it, some shun it, and not a few have made careers of it, of one sort or another. Centuries of poets and philosophers have tried to define it. Unfortunately, we live in an age that tries to confine it. None of these efforts, it seems to me, have met with unqualified success. Outlaw love as you will, you cannot stop it from springing up in the human heart. There is nothing in the perusal of history to suggest that any social context, whether flagrantly liberal or crushingly priggish has ever significantly changed the numbers of those who are attracted to members of their own sex, though they may be more or less open about it according to the dictates of their society.

The idea of same sex love as somehow unnatural is another absurdity. We know now that same sex couples are commonplace throughout nature, in species too numerous to list here. Most animals don't attach much importance to it. Only humans seek to suppress it. Sadly, in this country, there are those who actively push to keep it outside the sanctity of marriage.

Well, this is a mighty push back, and as exuberant a statement on the beauty of woman to woman love as one is likely to find. There are fourteen heartfelt stories included in the anthology, too many for me to attempt to review them individually. They represent fourteen different points of view and are of varying degrees of erotic intensity—okay, saying it plainly, some of them surely do sizzle.

Setting the parameters, as it were, are two unique stories: Allison Wonderland pens a charming tale, The Felicity of Domesticity, of two little girls who knew already as children that they were destined to be wed. And in This Magic, Meg Leigh gives us a haunting and all too rare glimpse from an older sister's point of view, as she looks back through the mists of time at the love she knew.

But I don't mean to suggest that anything in between those two extremes is at all inferior. The characters here are a wonderfully divergent bunch of women--butch, femme, elegant, folksy, angry and serene, struggling to define their relationships, to come to terms with themselves and with family, and to explore their unique sexuality. The stories are charming, sad, sexy, slapstick funny. There are tales of paganism and wiccan and Native American rituals and the perils of cooking for those who can't, quite. There's hardly a taste in reading or a style in writing that isn't well represented here and I can confidently assure the reader who invests in a copy that she or he will close this book knowing that the money was well spent.

An excellent tribute to a genre, a gender, a lifestyle, and a welcome addition to the literature of love. Well done, all.

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