Today on the site we have Honeymoon for One author Rachel Bowdler, talking about the importance of queer characters in festive romance fiction! But before we get to the post, here’s a little more info on Honeymoon for One, which released yesterday from Embla/Bonnier Books UK in ebook and audio!
A cancelled engagement. A non-refundable honeymoon. A Christmas Robin will never forget.
Robin Ellis has had a year she’d like to forget. She’s tired, overworked and most definitely not ready to spend the holidays with her rowdy family in Manchester. So when she discovers she forgot to cancel her honeymoon she sees this as the perfect opportunity to get away; it’s time to relax and embrace adventure!
The last thing she expects is to clash with standoffish ski instructor Neve. But despite their rocky start these two unlikely people can’t help but fall for each other under the starry Canadian skies.
They know that holiday romances don’t last, and Robin has had her heart broken one too many times before, but can they overcome the distance between them and find a happily ever after together?
Buy it: Amazon
And here’s the post!
Despite the growing number of LGBTQ+ books being published in recent years, it’s sometimes difficult to find the words ‘queer’ and ‘festive romance’ in the same sentence — or ‘inclusive’ in general. You only have to browse holiday romance titles to see many variations of similar books and movies, most of which entail a romance between a city woman and a small-town man, or vice versa, who find a love of Christmas (and each other — insert ‘awws’ here) together. I enjoy cosy Hallmark-esque stories as much as anyone (you’ll find the Christmas24 channel turned on from November 1st in my house) but, as a queer person, I can’t pretend as though it isn’t a little bit disheartening to see the lack of diversity in this genre. Before we get into it, let’s talk about why we love festive romance.
My favourite thing about the genre is the sense of magic that comes with the winter season. Both the magical, snowy, fairy-lit backdrop of the setting and the sense of togetherness that comes with celebrating only bolsters the already uplifting romance. We get a happy ending, but now there are pretty lights everywhere, lots of cinnamon-spiced baked goods, and there is white stuff falling from the sky too! What more could you ask for?
Really, then, when it comes down to it, what makes the genre special is the added sense of joy: the joy of community and family, the joy of decorating, the joy of getting to wear big coats and jumpers, the possibility of a ‘Christmas miracle’ and of course, presents!
So why is it important to go beyond the average white heterosexual cisgender couple who are always very cute but never very queer? Because, to put it simply, queer people deserve to feel the same joy that straight people have always been granted without question. I read the Vintage anthology 100 Queer Poems by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan recently, and McMillan’s introduction, which discusses his own experience with queer works, included a line I can’t get out of my head: ‘I saw for the first time that who I was might be worthy of poetry, worthy of literature.’ This is important for queer readers of any genre — that sense of seeing yourself in another character, another book, another piece of art. Being told ‘this is for you, because you deserve to be seen and heard!’
With romance especially, when we are given queer characters, we’re told that we’re worthy of our happy endings. We’re worthy of love. We’re worthy of cheerful stories, not just the traumatic ones that are usually spotlighted in mass media. Even now, when you search for sapphic films, the majority of the ones you’ll find are historical pieces — as though we still exist in that hidden, restricted, uncomfortable space, unable to break into the open. When you think of more recent times, Happiest Season (2020) featuring Kristen Stewart comes to mind: a wonderful, hilarious movie, but the main character is outed without consent and the entire plot focuses on Harper being in the closet, not yet comfortable to be herself or be romantic with her partner in front of her family. Which, of course, will always be an important story to tell, but when are we allowed to just be?
That’s why I wrote Honeymoon For One, and that’s why we desperately need even more queer festive romance books, now and always. Because straight couples have never needed to earn the right to a happy ending, and neither should we. Our holidays should be joyful. We should feel included in the most wonderful time of the year — yet in so many subtle ways, we aren’t, and that lack of representation only causes more confusion and loneliness for those still figuring themselves out. Our sexuality does not have to be an obstacle or a cause for conflict. It can, and should, be celebrated.
The queer festive romance genre is one big ‘hi, you deserve to be kissed under the mistletoe, too!’ to our community. A warm hug. A sign that our stories don’t always have to be sad ones, and that we’re entitled to the same wonderful romance and joy that straight people have always been allowed freely. The power of a happy ending should never be exclusive to one group of people. I truly hope that we get more of that in the coming years, and I’m so grateful to authors who have already spread that message to their readers.
Rachel Bowdler is a freelance writer, editor, and sometimes photographer from the UK. She spends most of her time away with the faeries. When she is not putting off writing by scrolling through Twitter and binge-watching sitcoms, you can find her walking her dog, painting, and passionately crying about her favourite fictional characters. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @RachelBowdler.
One thought on “The Importance of Queer Characters in Festive Romance Fiction: a Guest Post by Honeymoon for One Author Rachel Bowdler”
While I’m really pro more queer representation, as a queer Jewish person it makes me rather sad to have this labeled as “festive” and then just be about Christmas. A lot of Christmas stories are really exclusive of people who don’t celebrate the holiday, as people who don’t celebrate Christmas are often vilified, presented as unkind, or portrayed as Grinches without heart or compassion. This blog post is written as if everyone is super into Christmas. Christmas is not the generic or universal holiday, and saying it is plays into exclusionary practices. Honestly it is so hard to avoid Christmas-themed stuff this time of year (IT’S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING) even among queer media.
Maybe you could say something like “queer Christmas books” or actually talk about queer holiday books that aren’t just about Christmas, or at least recognize that not “everyone” celebrates Christmas.
I don’t feel included in the happiest time of year.
PS Chanukah is not that important of a Jewish holiday