It’s sometimes hard to find good historical fiction/romance novels in the WLW niche. In the past few months though, we have been lucky to have several exceptional LGBTQ+ historical fiction novels published, and with Cathy Dunnell’s debut novel Beulah Lodge, we now have the chance to read even more stories.
This novel takes place in Victorian England during the 1870’s. It is told in the first person POV through the eyes of the main character, Ruth Mallowes. Ruth has gone to visit her aunt at Beulah Lodge in the North Yorkshire moors, a very different and solitary place compared to the London parish Ruth lived in with her father before his death. Ruth is only supposed to be at Beulah Lodge for a short while as her fiancé travels to India to prepare for the missionary life they will lead after they marry. Ruth’s life plans are about to change drastically though, especially after she meets Eliza Chambers, her aunt’s housemaid.
This novel seems to be written fairly true to life for the time period, especially through the different characters’ thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Ruth’s slow realization of what society expects from her and what her heart desires is truly well written. Add in her religious upbringing in her father’s parish, the promises made to her fiancé, and the added vitriol of her aunt’s strict religious views and Ruth finds herself facing what could be some harsh realities. The character of Eliza fits well into the plot since she is the opposite in many ways to Ruth, but the chemistry is truly amazing between the two. This is the perfect example of a financial/class disparity genre. The time period and the remote moor setting only add to the psychological thrill of the story.
I do want to give a bit of a warning for some readers. This story has a subtheme of religion running through it. I know that some LGBTQ+ folks have a problem reading things with religious references. I just want everyone to be aware religion is often mentioned in this novel. It also affects how certain characters act.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I’m also quite impressed that this is the author’s debut novel. I will certainly be looking for more of her work in the future.
I received an ARC from NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for an honest review.