by Paisley Smith
Nov. 16, 2010
Historical (Civil War time)/ Lesbian/bi
Short Novel- word count UK
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The Civil War has torn Belle Holloway’s world apart. Left to manage her Georgia plantation with little help, she is exasperated when the Union Army adds to her burden by leaving a wounded soldier behind. But upon closer examination, Belle is shocked to discover the soldier is actually a beguiling woman.
Clad in male attire, stubborn, brash Alice O’Malley awakens a passion in Belle she never knew existed. Alice dominates Belle’s lonely existence with taboo pleasures and erotic escape. Soon Belle realizes she is more than willing to submit her body and her heart to the woman whose strength and compassion she admires -- until those very attributes prove to be the catalyst that could destroy their newfound love.
I’ve read all of Paisley Smiths f/f books so far and I’ve enjoyed all of them. So picking up this one was a no-brainer. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. Moreover, the time period Beguiled is set in-- late 1800’s-- coupled with one of my favorite scenarios--- a woman passing herself off as a man— made this a yummy and favorite book.
While overall I really enjoyed this book, there were a few niggling things that bugged me. I’ll get to that first so I can get to what I loved.
There were a few inconsistencies that pulled me out of the story here and there or made me wonder. At one point Alice thinks to herself:
Alice knew from Belle’s passionate reaction that she would go all the way with her, and the knowledge that the prim, proper southern lady would spread her legs for another woman drove Alice mad with desire.
Her mouth went cotton dry at the thought of Belle lifting all those frilly petticoats and then beckoning her to touch her—taste her. Alice tried to swallow but couldn’t. She’d seen the look of desire in Belle’s eyes. The curiosity to explore, to not only be touched but to touch as well.
First, Belle comes across as tough, efficient and competent right from the get go. She reacts to horrific events that would make even a more hardened person flinch, with aplomb. I didn’t see any of what I thought would be an uptight, prim and proper, gentile southern belle woman in her characterization that would make Alice hot on that level. Maybe if Alice had met Belle before the war it would have been the case.
And also, again, due to the ravages of war, of Belle needing to do all the house work and tend to repairs and the animals, I didn’t picture her in frilly petticoats either. I pictured her more in tattered and dirty older dresses.
That was another inconsistency that I felt as well. Belle tells Alice when they are talking about their lives, that she had a great education and learned several languages, that their slaves were taught to read, that she basically lived the life typical to a woman of her station as the daughter of a plantation owner, meaning, she was a lady living a life of ease and refinement. But there was nothing in the way she spoke,or acted that gave that impression even if the current circumstances required her to adapt to a harsher life. I would think she’d still react according to her background and upbringing even if she did adapt.
Alice also uses fuck and said at one point:
“I don’t suppose I’ve made figuring this shit out easier for you.”
Shit and fuck? I know people said those words at that time, but I guess I always think of ladies at that time not using such words, even if Alice was in the Union Army pretending to be a man and she did come from a poor childhood in Boston. Belle is not shocked at all of Alice talking like that, like that’s the kind of language she’s always heard from women or men even.
Another question I had was that it seemed that the Union soldiers of Alice’s troupe knew she was a woman dressing as a man acted as if it were normal. Does anyone know if that’s so that it was accepted? I know women did serve, but it was only if they could really pass themselves off as a man. I would think once they knew she was a woman, they would have dumped her or worse. And in fact they did, but only because she was wounded at the time.
Now that I’ve said those things, none of them changed the way I felt about this story. Alice and Belle are very real and colorful characters. I suppose that Belle in an earlier time might have balked at such advances from Alice, but in her new situation and life, it seemed on par with the changes in her life.
Belle is a strong woman and she deals with the trials of war and her life without freaking or acting put upon. She’s lost just about everything. She’s so intrigued and impressed by Alice dressing and acting like a man and fighting in the war; Alice is like no woman she’s ever known and this attracts her.
Some might question her really going for it with Alice when she didn’t know if her husband was still alive or not, but I wasn’t bothered by that. Mainly because there really wasn’t much discussion about her relationship with her husband before he went off to war. Outside of some inconsistencies in character, I loved Belle as a character. She's got fortitude and doesn't shy away from much.
Alice is also an intriguing character. She grew up poorer than poor and had nothing left to lose by leaving her family and Boston. She’s definitely a lesbian and having been disowned by her family for being “different” she joins the army. And she gets away with it for a long time, at least until she’s wounded and left at Belle’s.
Alice pretty much seduces Belle and Belle doesn’t resist. Not only that, but Belle is all over that. She even gets into it asking Alice for more. This is one of the best parts of this story, these two women go at it with nary a real conflict. Of course, Belle wonders about being with a woman, thinking it’s wrong, but wondering how wrong what she feels could be? And Alice, while having her fears about falling in love with a woman who is married and whose missing husband could return, follows her feelings anyway.
The conflict in this case comes from outside actually in the form of bushwhackers and other sundry soldier types floating in and out making life harder. This draws them together even more.
The sex is pretty hot and nicely written with a touch of D/s going on, which added a bit more spice to their interactions. I thought the characters, while not getting too much of their backgrounds, were well fleshed out and the general plot line kept this story entertaining. I got a good feel for the time period and how it would have been. Overall, it’s a good read.
I definitely recommend Beguiled if you’re in the mood for period f/f and one with a sweet/spicy love story.
Heat level- 5- fairly graphic sexual scenarios. Interesting dildo use.