The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich is historical fantasy set in nineteenth century Lowell, Massachusetts, which at the time was a factory town full of textile mills. Many of the workers in those mills were young, single women. Mill workers Judith and Hannah are using magic to help them lead a strike for better conditions, using methods that absolutely strengthen the novella’s representations of solidarity, female relationships, and the evils of capitalism. I give bonus points to the author for making sure to show how the textile barons in the north were irredeemably intertwined with enslaving cotton-growers in the south. Here is a post on the author’s blog with a list of some research reading, including the classic The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist.
The Devil in the Details by James D. Macdonald and Debra Doyle, a story linked to The Apocalypse Door, a wryly noir spy universe featuring a modern Knight Templar, Peter Crossman, and Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Action Executive of the Poor Clares. The voice is pitch-perfect for vintage noir, which to me makes it hilarious.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, while cutting a little close to the bone with its political plot, was a lovely romance between the son of America’s first female president (elected in 2016) and the grandson of the queen of England. Alex believes he can’t stand Prince Henry, who was rude to him at their first meeting, but that changes, and by the time their texting turns to heartfelt emails, I was fully invested in them finding a way to be together. I liked that the challenges they face are more than simply a prince coming out as gay and a president’s son as bisexual. Henry’s loss of his father to pancreatic cancer is still affecting him and his relationships within his family years later, while Alex’s Mexican-American father, a senator, and Alex’s hero, gay Mexican-American senator Rafael Luna, offer different perspectives on the life in politics Alex wants, particularly for those who are not white. Plus, Henry’s friend Pez, sister Bea, Alex’s sister June, and June and Alex’s friend Nora, granddaughter of the vice president, are all terrific characters; June and Nora in particular are a huge part of the story, given that Alex is the point of view character. It was fun!
No Misunderstandings by eretria for murron and auburnnothenna is an intense look at the relationships between Peggy Carter, Bucky Barnes, and Steve Rogers. There’s romance and sex, but there’s also some backstory for Peggy, and more focus on painting her relationship with Bucky than I usually see; meanwhile, Steve gets nuanced characterization as well. It’s set during WWII, and knowing what canonically lies ahead for the three of them lends a melancholy beauty to their closeness and intimacy.
Never Leave A Trace by copperbadge is a fantasy AU of White Collar with some very cool worldbuilding. The story was rewritten as an original novel, Trace by Sam Starbuck, which I’d like to check out.
Bodyguard by Sholio for scioscribe is a Netflix Iron Fist AU in which The Hand assigns Colleen Wing to be Ward Meachum’s bodyguard, to protect him from the Iron Fist. Nothing really goes as planned. I love Ward’s point of view; in that show, he is living in a completely different reality from everyone else, and this story reveals that. Ward and Colleen were my favorite characters in that miniseries, so I would have happily read a whole alternate series branching off from this story.
I really liked Red, White, and Royal Blue as well. I also liked her second book. Good writer.