The four genres of lesbian fiction – No.2: Chic-to-chic lit

This category of fiction starts something like this:


Susan answered the doorbell; a half drunk cup of coffee in her hand. “Hello?”

“Hello. You rang for a plumber?”

Susan looked at the young woman in the stained hoodie and dark blue working trousers, realising too late that she was carry a toolbox.

“Sorry, yes.”

“I know. People still expect a bloke. I’m Karen.”

“Come in.”

Karen smiled and stepped across the threshold. She paused in the hallway waiting for Susan to close the door.

“It’s through here.”

As Karen passed through to the kitchen, she took in the hall’s decor. It was bright, clean, and modern, but managed to retain something of the original character of the Victorian house. The floor tiles and woodwork were, without doubt, contemporary with the original build. Photographs of Susan and, what Karen took to be, her husband and children hung on the wall of the staircase.

“You’ve got a lovely home.”

Susan threw a smile over her shoulder.

The narrow corridor beside the staircase opened into a large, family kitchen. Residue from breakfast, presumably left by the children as they fled to school, littered the worktop by the sink. Beside the island in the centre of the cooking area, was a new dishwasher, still in its plastic wrapping.

“It was delivered yesterday and I’m already sick of falling over it.”

Karen smiled. “They’ve not put it in a very helpful place, have they?”

“My husband took delivery.” Susan said no more as if that was explanation enough.

“Well, I’m sure I can get it out of your way without too much trouble. Let’s take a look.”

Karen worked the old dishwasher forward from its hole in the run of cupboards. Whoever installed it ten or twelve years ago had not been overly generous with the length of hose on the rear of the machine. Karen was left with a gap of approximately three inches in which to work the old hoses loose and free the dishwasher completely.

As Karen hooked a wrench out of her toolbox, she said: “It’s lucky I have small hands.”

“It must come in useful in your line of work.”

Susan, sipping her coffee, watched Karen wriggle the hoses free inch by inch.

“I’m sorry. Can I get you a cup of tea?”

Karen grinned. “Coffee would be fantastic.”

By the time Karen had got the hoses off, Susan had brewed a cafetiere and poured a mug for Karen. Karen stopped what she was doing and took it gratefully.

“What made you want to become a plumber?”


Susan appears to have it all: professional husband, two children doing well at school, and a beautiful home, but something is missing. When Karen turns up, Susan begins to realise that her life has, over the last twenty years, been subsumed by her family’s lives. Karen encourages Susan to join her salsa class, get a job, and express her individuality.

Karen is the lesbian who takes men on at their own game and on her terms. Rebelling against labels and the stereotypes associated with her job, Karen is not butch, but a strong and independent woman who does what she does because she enjoys it.

At some point, Karen will open up a whole new way of loving for Susan that will be better than anything Susan has experienced with Steve, her husband. Susan will then have to decide whether it is what she wants or whether Steve, the children, and her home are more important.

The story then hangs on Steve’s reaction when he discovers his wife’s affair. If he is a bastard and threatens Susan with violence, lawyers, or disclosure to the village, it is a fairly safe bet that Karen will end the novel with a ready-made family. If he realises that, for the first time in their relationship Susan is happy and he must endeavour to find a way to reconnect with her, Karen might find that she has been merely a milestone on the road to Susan’s rehabilitation.

Examples of this genre of novel include “Desert of the Heart” by Jane Rule, “A Village Affair” by Joanna Trollope, “Artist’s Dream” by Gerri Hill, “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” by Georgia Beers.

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