by Sharon Maria Bidwell
Fantasy/ F/F- bisexual
Tressa, the Swithin Queen, doesn't always manage to act as a lady should. Her marriage is one of duty, though not without love. Even so, Markis, her husband, is happy for her to try a softer, feminine touch, if it means that Tressa finally finds true love. Meira is half Swithin and even though she's a great healer, some look upon her heritage with suspicion. Still, she's stronger than that; what others think of her has never mattered...so why is it suddenly important to her that Tressa looks at her with love? Why does she want to protect Tressa even if it means possibly failing to do the right thing? Will the nation be able to stand up to the two women? Even more importantly, how will Tressa and Meira manage their dominant natures between the sheets?
A Queen’s Move is one of those books that’s hard to write a review for. While I didn’t hate this book, I didn’t love it either. Something was missing for me in both the love story and the general cohesiveness of the several story lines going on, but there were some things that I enjoyed about it.
Tressa is the Swithin Queen by marriage. The Swithin are a race of socially enlightened people who honor the rights both men and women equally. Sexually the Swithin are very open and have no judgments about gender preferences, only that it’s OK to love whomever you love. They’re also very powerful in this universe and so they hold much sway.
Tressa was born to the king of the Azulite, a race of people who are dominated by men. Women have absolutely no rights at all, are not allowed to even think for themselves and are forced to be completely subservient to men. Tressa escaped being forced into marriage by running away and marrying the king of Swithin, Markis. While their marriage is one of convenience---Markis is a gay man with two partners--- they do have a mutual love and respect for each other. So when Tressa expresses her desire to be with a woman, he supports her.
Tressa wants to go back to her home country to try and open them up and enlighten them on the errors of their archaic ways and takes Meira with her for support. Meira was born of parents of two races. Because of her parents intermarrying from two warring races, they were slaughtered and Meira was raised as a slave basically, being abused both sexually and mentally. She’s now a healer and Tressa is in love with her, although Tressa is reluctant express that to Meira. Meira feels this attraction but is reticent and doesn’t want to get emotionally involved. It’s only when they are jailed together by the Azulite that they do something about what they feel.
There are several issues I had with this book. The main problem for me was the lack of oomph or juice in this story. I got bored quite often and really pushed myself to keep reading this book. To be fair, I will chalk some of it up to my mood. However, there were some concrete problems that I can identify as to why this book didn’t quite pop for me.
Unfortunately, this book starts out really slow and doesn’t get much better until the very end. In the first chapter there’s hardly any dialogue and it’s about Tressa and Meira basically ignoring each other or being perfunctory on their way to Tressa’s homeland. While they are busy not talking, Tressa’s inner dialogue goes on and on though, explaining the back story of this Swithin world, which bored and confused me since until that point, I had no investment in the current story or the characters.
Another issue; I felt no heat between Tressa and Meira. Tressa supposedly has it really bad for Meira. And Meira is attracted to Tressa, but likes to keep her distance and acts rather cool with Tressa. When Meira, who is bisexual, finally seduces Tressa, Tressa retracts from Meira, suddenly fearing and wondering if she really can be with a woman since she has no experience.
I felt these constant reservations going on between the two and didn’t really believe that they want or need each other badly enough. In the end when they do finally open up to each other totally, it’s rather bland as they discuss rationally, rather than passionately act out, their feelings for each other.
Then there was problem in which I felt that the focus of this story was not very clear. It wasn’t completely about Meira and Tressa’s love story as there were other story lines going on. There’s a major story line of Tressa’s brother being in love with a woman who loves another woman in a society where that is strictly forbidden and Tressa trying to help him. I thought that this part might be used as an excuse for Meira and Tressa to get closer, and they do to a degree.
Again though, there was no passion that came from that for Tressa and Meira; it was all about the brother and the relationship between his love Kiana and Helsa. I actually felt more passion going on between Kiana and Helsa. Probably because they are doomed living in a place that they can be killed for being together, unlike Meira and Tressa who are free to love in Swithin territory and don’t have to fight for their love.
Another story thread running through this book was Tressa going home with this idealistic idea of trying to change the attitudes of her people. The Azulites are written as so misogynistic that it was clear to me right from the beginning that Tressa doesn’t even have a chance and that she’s basically got her head in the clouds chasing windmills. I really didn’t get why she thought she could change a whole nation’s way of thinking just like that. So that part of the story was unbelievable to me and felt contrived as an excuse to throw all these characters together.
Within this I felt there was too much of an underlying general social statement going on about the persecution of women and homosexuals by men, which negatively colored things for me.
On a positive note, I do admit that I liked the contrast of the Azulite race being so anti women with the Swithin being so open and conscientious as a people. It did make for some good conflict in this story. And I felt this world in general to be an interesting backdrop for character growth and the concept itself is unique.
The sex scenes between the women were also nicely written. And the story did pick up with some major action at the end, which I think helped my overall opinion of this story. I think if you like fantasy this book might appeal to you. As a f/f love story I wish it had more passion to it, which I think was possible due to the cultural and racial differences.
Sex rating: Wet panties: f/f. fairly graphic sexual language and scenarios, minor anal. Barely described fisting.
For another review, which might help you better understand this book: Rainbow Reviews.