Time of Grace // bittersweet lesbian romance set in the 1920s

I found “Time of Grace” on Amazon, for 99 cents, via BookBub. The cover wasn’t particularly tantalizing, but the idea of a historical romance between two women reeled me in. I seldom see historical romances featuring women-loving-women (WLW) characters, so I decided to give it a shot. The majority of the lesbian romance books available for Kindle, that aren’t the same price of physical books, tend to fall under the erotic genre and feel as though they were written for the male gaze — thus porny. I’m always nervous about such romance novels about WLW being like this, so I approached “Time of Grace” with caution.

Time of GraceTime of Grace by Gabriella West
Published by Self-published, Wolfhound Press on 15 October, 2013
Genre: Feminism, Fiction, Historical fiction, Lesbian fiction, LGBTQ+, New adult, Romance
# pages: 272
Source: Amazon
Rating: ★★★

Caroline goes from England to Ireland in 1916 to work as a governess, but beautiful Grace opens her eyes to worlds she's never imagined — and their friendship blossoms into romance threatened by the approaching Easter Rising.

We need to talk about the editing

According to what reviews I glimpsed before purchasing this book, “Time of Grace” was Gabriella West’s first novel. She’s since published other novels, but one of the things that peeved me most is that, however amazing the book is, too many typos takes me out of the book. What’s worse is when the typos not only thrust me from the pages, but make me have to work the imaginary logic puzzle to sort out what was supposed to take place of the typo. Most of the typos are in the first half of the book, which baffles me — they’re usually in the last half, because it’s easier to slack off there. Her publisher, Wolfhound Press, should have been more careful of the typos regardless of when it was originally published (2002).

Books featuring heterosexual relationships, and white people, tend to have fewer typos. It’s a gross kind of privilege, as if to say to minorities, “Here are books with characters like you. #SorryNotSorry that we didn’t proof them as carefully. Take what you can get.”

I’m well aware of everyone bearing flaws, and I’ve the wisdom to know the difference between accidents and lazy editing. “Time of Grace” was so lazily edited that I cannot even.

Feeling the feels on a personal level

Except for a few particular circumstances related to that time period, including the current events, the titular love interest felt so deeply reminiscent of my first that I had a huge pit in my stomach about where “Time of Grace” was heading. It is because of this that I loathe Grace and am unable to respect her. In my situation, I experienced emotional abuse that scarred me for life.

The dynamic between the two women is one of those complicated, women-must-compete-with-each-other stereotypes, with classism on top. Both women need to grow personally and develop the maturity required to carry on a healthy relationship — it’s such a train wreck, these two. Caroline wants more than what Grace is willing to give.

The stereotypical ideology that women cannot be friends with each other because they’re always in competition, because one needs to feel inferior and the other superior — this archaic aspect is perhaps what perturbs me the most.

Love and war is, like, the worst combo ever.

The Easter Rising plot fuels these characters’ lives, rather than the characters themselves fueling the plot. All the issues the two women face are amplified because of the uprising, thanks to Grace’s part in it — which means, unfortunately, that the war trumps love.

It’s not a bad thing, it’s just…it reminds me a bit of when authors decide to take the English vs. Native Americans’ war against each other and try to create romance from it — Pocahontas, for example.

Because the war fuels the plot, thus causing Caroline to do what she does for a love she cannot have, I cannot fathom bearing any respect towards her. She’s too much of a hypocrite with this particular, ongoing action as the result of her love that leads me to say, over and over again, What a foolish girl! (Pun intended.)

It’s like watching a horror movie and, as always, the naive female characters decide to scope out the chilling situation with zero protections that few females would actually do in reality, and you just want to scream at them for being so stupid. Like, call 911!

However, the romance pans out as expected for wlw during 1915-1927.

“Time of Grace” had me thinking loads of Anne with an E’s Josephine, who never married and shared a bed with her best friend.

I expected less of a happy ending, hoping for a bittersweet one instead, but West wrapped the story up quite pleasantly, providing a few surprises along the way. I felt thrust into the experience of being a wlw in a strange country at war with my home country, and I truly got to learn quite a bit about Irish history that I likely wouldn’t have even ventured into. Much historical fiction illustrates that of England’s, with some being about the formation of the United States, so as much as it was uncomfortable to be dropped into a strange land during wartime, it was a vivid, vicarious experience that I’m uncertain could have won the battle against what other historical fiction I’ve read — Many Sparrows would be a close second.

Every now and then I come across Kindle books I actually like, and they’re like coming up for air even though I didn’t know I was drowning.

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