Title: Magic and Romance
Author: Niamh Murphy
Genre: LGBT, romance, historical, adventure, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal
Fresh off of reading Mask of the Highwaywoman and falling in love with that novel, I decided to give a go to more Niamh Murphy’s work (and not to mention, she’s also a really nice lady on top of it), and I decided on reading her recent short story collection next. Magic and Romance is a collection of short stories from Murphy, with stories ranging from contemporary fiction to fantasy based around Arthurian Legend. It is very much a eclectic mix of work, and to be honest, some stories were excellent, while others fell short.
In Rhythm: A contemporary piece to start off the collection, based around a pair of ballroom dancers and an upcoming championship. A very fun start to the collection, and an enjoyable bit of fluff. Not to mention, Ruby sounds quite stunning. It reminded me of a lesbian styled “Hallmark movie,” but it was very a delightful little piece.
Enthralled: A paranormal short, and my absolute favorite in the collection. Sapphic vampires are a weakness of mine, so of course, I’m going to be drawn to it. But, it was to me, the best of the entire collection. The pacing was spot-on and had a great, heavy tension to it. I also loved the theme of not being able to let go, and the uncertainty of it all. The final sentence in the story packed a punch. A damned good story and the highlight of this collection.
Is She?: Another contemporary and yet again, very fluffy and fun. Claire’s naivety was adorable, and I loved the shout-out to the movie, But I’m a Cheerleader. Also, yet again, Jasmine, the object of Claire’s interest sounded lovely.
The Lady Edris and the Kingdom in Cave: A fantasy story based around Arthurian Legend, and the story I feel a bit mixed about. I did love it a lot. Lady knights, mythology, fantasy, I love these things, but my problem is I really felt that this story needed to be a bit longer. I wanted some more development, more padding out. I wanted to get to know Lady Edris, Linette and the Witch Queen more. I just wanted more. I’d love to see this story get the novel treatment and be expanded. It would make a dynamite lesbian fantasy-romance novel.
Reason to Stay: A contemporary YA short, and for me, the weakest in the collection. But I may not be the best judge of this, to be fair. I’m not much on contemporary YA, no matter the subject matter. So, I’ll leave it at that.
Mask of the Highwaywoman: The short story that inspired the novel. I really loved the novel, so it was nice to see a bit of background with it.
The Black Hound: A gothic short story based around werewolves. My problems with this one is the same problems I had with The Lady Edris and the Kingdom in a Cave. It really needed to be expanded. I didn’t really connect with the characters and with how short it was, it felt convoluted. I did love the atmosphere, though.
Delicious: A contemporary piece to close out the collection, and makes sense, since it started with contemporary. For me, the story didn’t interest me much (might be my own personal bias), but I really loved the moment when Nadia asked Charlotte if she wanted “her to be her resolution.” It was a nice way to close out the story.
So, for me, Magic and Romance had its hits and misses for me, but short story collections work that way for me. Overall, it felt like taking a look at the author’s earlier works and seeing the roots that they planted for themselves. I love getting to see that, and what the book carried a lot of, was potential. This author has a lot of potential and I am excited to follow her works.
Author: Niamh Murphy
Genre: LGBT, romance, fairy tale retelling (Hansel and Gretel)
I’m also reviewing Gretel as well, since I read that after Magic and Romance, and since it’s a short piece, I’m including it as part of this review. Gretel is a retelling of the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, and after reading it, it was one of the best LGBT fairy tale retellings I’ve ever read, and also a really good retelling in general. It was one of those short works that just delighted me, put a huge smile on my face after reading it, and will probably be re-reading it again in the near future.
The characterization of Gretel was so wonderful. One of the great things about fairy tale retellings, is that fairy tales feature stock characters. With them being stock characters, they lack personalities of their own and work more as a plot function than anything. So, when doing your own take on one of these classic stories, you get to fill-in-the-blanks. Not going to lie, yours truly here loves writing fairy tale retellings of my own. But with Gretel, I loved her. I rooted for her, and seeing her own personal strength grow through out the story, was rewarding.
Also, I loved the Witch. I’m not going to say too much, as to not give too much away, but the Witch falls into a lot of my favorite character tropes, and I walked away from it loving her to pieces. Wild witchy women with a strong connection to nature, these women make me happy. The relationship that grows between the two women is sweet and wonderful, and I am deeply impressed that the relationship had that much depth in a story with such a short length. Gretel and the witch stole my heart.
One thing I’ve grown to love about this writer’s work is her sense of atmosphere. The deep, dark woods where the witch lived and the unique place where her cottage was located felt so real, while reading it about it. I love that. Murphy has this real nice appreciation in her works with nature and surroundings, and I really connect to that. Lush, green, rustic, wild spaces, it draws me in. Sometimes, I do look at setting and ambiance as its own character in a piece of fiction, and they become my favorite characters. I really loved it here.
Then, lastly, how the story came together in the end, and the final sentence. I won’t spoil anything, but yet again, the last sentence packed a punch.
Just a wonderful read, and a great retelling.