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A+ Ships: Wes and Nash, MR. MARCH NAMES THE STARS

A+ Ships is an irregular feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.


Our post today comes from Tabitha. This book sounds awesome and I look forward to checking it out. Thank you, Tabitha! 

Book cover, black feather quill in ink pot over an aquamarine background, text reads Mr. March names the Stars, Rivka Aarons-Hughes
Click for Goodreads

Wes loves his life traveling the Pagan festival circuit, but he loved it more when he wasn’t harangued by women a little too fond of his picture in a popular charity calendar—a calendar that mucked up his bio by stating that he’s single, but leaving out that he’s not straight.

Wes’s appeals to the company to change the bio come to nothing until Nash, a lawyer from the company, shows up and promises to do all he can to fix the problem. But though Wes quickly grows fond of Nash, and the interest seems mutual, the calendar problem shows no signs of being fixed…

Poor Wes didn’t know what he was in for when he posed for Silver Grove Publishing’s annual charity calendar. Whoever wrote his bio incorrectly implied that he’s straight, and ever since the calendar came out, he’s been approached by interested women at every Pagan festival he’s attended. After hearing about Wes’s plight, Nash, an attorney with Silver Grove, promises to fix the mistake. Because Wes doesn’t have regular phone or internet access, Nash agrees to write letters to Wes to keep him updated, which leads to the two writing back and forth regularly.

I’m not a big romance reader, but I enjoyed following the development of Wes and Nash’s relationship. Here’s why…

Two Aces!

Wes doesn’t tell most people that he’s ace; it’s easier to just say he’s gay. But when Nash mentions being asexual, Wes realizes he’s found a kindred spirit. They have a fun “oh, you’re an ace Pagan too?” moment and eagerly discuss sex-normativity and intersectional identities (Nash also being black, panromantic, and a trans man). Later, Wes is hanging out shirtless, which Nash doesn’t notice until Wes points it out. Wes appreciates this: “After several weeks of aggressive ogling, being around someone who didn’t notice how much skin he was showing was a balm to his frayed nerves.” And when Nash notes, “most gay cis men aren’t interested in dating me once they realize I have… nonstandard plumbing”, Wes responds, “First off, we’re ace, so the state of your plumbing won’t be a high priority, right?”

Friendship

Wes and Nash’s relationship could have easily flickered out after their initial meeting, especially without an easy way to stay in touch, but they’re both willing to put in the effort to get to know each other. After a few months of corresponding, Wes realizes that Nash is the first friend (besides his sibling) that he’s had in a long time. While many fictional romantic relationships are based on physical or romantic attraction, with friendship not factoring in much, I always prefer romances where a friendship comes first—so I appreciated that Wes and Nash build up a bond before Wes realizes there’s a romantic component to his feelings.

Communication

I’m also not a fan of fictional romances beginning with a big romantic gesture or a kiss, instead of the two people involved actually talking about their feelings and what they want. In this story, though, once Wes recognizes his romantic interest, he tells Nash he’d like to date him. Nash expresses some concerns related to past dating issues, but Wes quickly puts them to rest, and they agree to start dating. Another moment of good communication between them is when, earlier that day, Wes asks Nash’s permission before hugging him. And when they run into issues, it’s sitting down and talking things out that gets them back on level ground.

Check out MR. MARCH NAMES THE STARS on Amazon

 

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A+ Ships Classic: Holmes and Watson

A+ Ships is an irregular feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.


Our post today comes from Eileen (see her blog here), writing about one of my favorite A+ Ships ever. Thank you, Eileen! 

I decided Sherlock Holmes was asexual well before I knew the word.  He was always reliable in his devotion to his work (notwithstanding the adaptations that throw a girlfriend at him in a pitiful attempt to convince me of his heterosexuality) and in his disinterest in the rest of humanity, with the exception of his (intimate) friend Watson.  As my vocabulary improved, I decided Holmes was a repulsed asexual—not only did he not experience sexual attraction, he was thoroughly disgusted by the idea of engaging in sexual activity.  Why did I decide that?  Because.

But what of his romantic inclinations, if any?  There are literally hundreds of versions of Holmes floating around, and I interpret each of the ones I’ve seen slightly differently.  For this post I’ll focus on the original literary version of Holmes and Watson, who I choose to view as being romantically, though not sexually, involved.

There’s no proof that they were in a relationship, of course, and most of the signals that would be interpreted as evidence of such could be just a product of the time period.  For example, Holmes and Watson hold hands rather a lot, but that’s because Victorian and Edwardian men didn’t have the concept of ‘no homo’ hanging over them.  Male friends were very affectionate, which may or may not explain why Holmes felt comfortable demanding Watson’s assistance with an exclamation of ‘Quick, man, if you love me!’ in The Dying Detective.

Then again, Holmes never did quite fit into anyone’s standards.  Who knows why he ever did anything?  That’s part of his enduring appeal.  And like I said: there’s no actual proof Holmes and Watson leaned that way… and there’s no proof they didn’t.

In A Study in Scarlet, Watson says he’s staying at ‘a private hotel in the Strand.’  The Strand is a street in the West End, which was Victorian London’s most popular cruising ground for men looking for sex with men.  Theaters, music halls, bars, and—you guessed it—hotels in this area were all places where those in the know could go for a little late-night entertainment.

(Following up on that point, Holmes and Watson returned to the Strand at least once that I can remember.  In The Illustrious Client, they have dinner at Simpson’s.  Assuming it hasn’t moved since 1902, Simpson’s was/is next door to the Savoy, another one of those hotels I was telling you about.)

Right nearby—a mere stone’s throw from Mycroft Holmes’ Diogenes Club, in fact—was St. James’ Park, where cash-strapped soldiers and former soldiers were known to hang out every night in the hopes of picking up an upper-class gentleman.  As a result, according to historian Ruth Goodman, the image of a soldier became one of several contemporary gay stereotypes.  John Watson, as anyone familiar with the character knows, was himself a cash-strapped former soldier, which is what caused him to cross paths with Holmes in the first place.  In other words, even if Watson was not a sex worker (though he very well could have been), he certainly fits the profile and others may have suspected him of being such.

Speaking of Victorian gay stereotypes, Holmes fits the bill as well.  He is described as a clean-shaven ‘bohemian’ bachelor who lives in the heart of London.  Such men were viewed with mild suspicion by the rest of society, particularly in the late 1890s.  As Cook pointed out, ‘bohemian’ basically became a euphemism for ‘sodomite’ during the Oscar Wilde trials, and clean-shaven men were looked on as less masculine than those with beards and moustaches.

I freely admit that my reading of the characters is all headcanon.  Not everyone who visited a hotel in the West End in Victorian England was there for sex, and not every London bachelor without a beard liked dudes ‘that way.’  Still, it is very hard to say anything ‘for certain’ about Holmes or his cases: Arthur Conan Doyle is notorious for not giving a darn about continuity errors, most of the original tales are limited to Watson’s viewpoint, and both Holmes and Watson admit Watson fudged some details.

TL;DR every element of the original stories can be taken with as much or as little salt as you like.  If you don’t feel like shipping them, that is a perfectly legitimate and cool way to read the text.  But if you DO feel like shipping them, romantically or otherwise, just put the stories back into their historical context and you’ll find a surprising amount of circumstantial evidence to back you up.

 

Further reading

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/08/24/the-history-and-nature-of-man-friendships/

How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman

London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1884-1914 by Matt Cook

 

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A+ Ships: Raesinia and Sothe, THE SHADOW THRONE

A+ Ships is a bi-weekly feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.


 

23398889Book two in The Shadow Campaigns, the “epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict” (Library Journal) from the author of The Thousand Names

The King of the Vordan is on his deathbed. Soon his daughter, Raesinia will be the first Queen Regnant in centuries—and a target for those who seek to control her. The most dangerous is Duke Orlanko, Minister of Information, and master of the secret police. He is the most feared man in the kingdom, and he knows an arcane secret that puts Raesinia completely at his mercy.

But Raesinia has found unlikely allies in the returning war hero Janus bet Vhalnich, and his loyal deputies, Captain Marcus d’Ivoire and Lieutenant Winter Ihernglass. As Marcus and Winter struggle to find their places in the home they never thought they would see again, they help Janus and Raesinia set in motion events that could shatter Orlanko’s powers, but perhaps at the price of throwing the nation into chaos. But with the people suffering under the Duke’s tyranny, they intend to protect the kingdom with every power they can command, earthly or otherwise.

Last year I read The Thousand Names and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Winter Ihernglass was a canon lesbian. That (as it usually does) made me extra attached to an already very enjoyable book, and I was excited to read the sequel. My main ship for The Shadow Throne is non-canon, though, at least in the way I think of it.

I read Raesinia as aromantic asexual. This is never explicitly stated, but there’s evidence for it. Her plot line involves sneaking out of the palace and pretending to be a University student, using this disguise to stir up the citizenry against Duke Orlanko. One of the members of her cabal, Ben, has an unrequited crush on her, which she sees as problematic both for the security of the group, but also because she doesn’t know how to handle it:

“If he ever managed to spit it out–Then what? Break his heart, and risk him leaving the group? That didn’t sound like Ben, but Raesinia didn’t have much experience when it came to men and romance. Or else…play along? How? That possibility was just a blur in her mind, a vaguely unthinkable gap. I don’t think I could fake love well enough to fool him.

It would have been easier for all concerned if she had actually fallen in love with him. She wasn’t certain she was still capable of that, though.”

The “still” in the last line refers to a magical binding placed on her several years before, when she was deathly ill, that grants her a sort of immortality by not only healing her, but preventing her from aging and even becoming drunk. She wonders if the binding views love as an illness, and says she “wouldn’t mind that, on the whole.”

The only other time anything vaguely romantic crosses Raesinia’s mind is when she’s contemplating possible marriages now that she’s Queen, appraising both Janus and Marcus as potential matches. Her assessment is based on personality, loyalty, and monarchal competence, though, with “handsome enough” as an afterthought.

Sothe is Raesinia’s maidservant and a former assassin for Orlanko, and is both Raesinia’s protector and her closest friend and confidante. She never gets a point-of-view chapter, and she’s a fairly stoic character, but her dedication to Raesinia and Raesinia alone is clear, and Raesinia herself is very attached to Sothe. During a period in which Sothe’s whereabouts and wellbeing are unknown, Raesinia thinks of her frequently, “throat thicken[ing]” with worry. When Sothe finally reappears, Raesinia throws herself forward to embrace her, “heedless of her dress and her dignity.”

I’m feeling a major connection here.

What I love about this ship is that while Raesinia has other friends, it’s clear that her relationship with Sothe is on another level entirely. She worries about her more even than her best friend from the cabal, despite Sothe’s obvious skill at protecting herself, and values Sothe as a companion as much as anything else. I’d love to see the beginning of their relationship–why Sothe left Orlanko’s ranks, and how she came to protect the princess, and how the princess came to trust her so much.

In the meantime, they are on my list of fave aromantic ace ships.

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A+ Ships: Guerline and Theodor, FROM UNDER THE MOUNTAIN

A+ Ships is a bi-weekly feature celebrating relationships in fiction between characters that fall along the asexual spectrum. For more information, see the A+ Ships FAQ.


I’m very excited to kick off this new feature, and I figured the best way to do so would be to talk about one of my favorite pairings in my new novel, From Under the Mountain. FUTM is a high fantasy novel about a nineteen year old girl, Guerline, who becomes empress after her entire family dies; she must keep her empire from tearing itself apart in a civil war between humans and witches, and protect it from an ancient evil seeking revenge for four thousand years of imprisonment.

Guerline, the protagonist, has spent most of her life isolated from everyone except her companion, Eva. This was honestly preferable to her, given her family–her father was at best stern, her mother resentful, and her brother Alcander, as the heir, developed an inflated sense of his own importance. Guerline has always been uncomfortable with being noticed, because being noticed usually meant something bad. She is a demisexual lesbian.

Theodor Warren is Guerline’s Lord Engineer, her advisor on matters of infrastructure and civil planning. He is northern-born, and, at 28, the youngest person ever appointed to the imperial council (he got the job at 23). Like most northerners, he values solitude and quiet. This was how he met Guerline–by accidentally discovering some of her hiding places in the palace. He is (like me!) a panromantic asexual.

Romantically speaking, From Under the Mountain focuses on Guerline’s relationship with her non-ace companion, Eva. But there’s heavy implication that Theodor is in love with the empress. Before her parents died, he was one of the few councilors who spoke to her and treated her like someone worth noticing, but always oh so gently–he’s so sensitive to her emotions and knows what to say and when to say it. Once she’s empress, he makes sure he’s available to help her because he knows how difficult the transition will be for her. And his loyalty is absolute.

Up until her parents die, Guerline is forbidden to have lovers or relationships because to them, her value is in her future marriage prospects. With that in mind, it’s understandable that her newfound freedom to pursue relationships focuses exclusively on Eva; but Theodor’s devotion does not go unnoticed. When everything starts to fall apart, and Guerline’s doubting everything, she never doubts Theodor. Her love for him is not quite romantic, but it is true and meaningful.

I think it’s so important for Guerline to have this kind of love in her life, because once she becomes empress, so many of her relationships become transactional in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of way, or it’s simply others demanding that Guerline fix everything because she’s the empress now and she has that power. While Guerline and Theodor’s relationship is about supporting each other, they do it for the sake of the other person, not so that they can extract something or earn something later. More importantly, there’s no pressure on either of them to go beyond their comfort level merely for the sake of the other person.

What I love about this ship is the implicitness of it. There’s one moment where it almost comes out, but the rest of the time, it’s something that is just felt when they’re together: that these are two people who care deeply for one another. They know it, and you know it, without either of them having to say a word or make any physical signs of it, except perhaps when their eyes find each other across a room. And as the author, I have the added joy of knowing this to be a lasting connection that only grows stronger. 😉

Have you read From Under the Mountain? Do you ship it? Comment below!