Review of Rogue Passion

Rogue Passion (anthology). 2018.

Rogue PassionRogue Passion is the fifth book in a series of collections of resistance romance.

Rogue Passion (2 f/f, 2 m/m, 3 m/f stories) is more queer than some of the previous collections, containing four stories with queer MCs. It has two stories by authors of color; two of the previous collections had two stories by authors of color, and two had one story by an author of color.

The activism described in the stories had a range to it, including activism related to elected officials, policy work, non-profit work, fundraising, protests, journalism, cultural activism through art, individual movement towards change, working within institutions, and community based activism.

This collection of romances is a mixed bag, as most anthologies are. My experience of this book was more dramatically split than with prior anthologies in this series. There was one story I thought was amazingly wonderful, three stories I adored, and three that really didn’t work for me.

I am marking the stories that do not include sex with three asterisks.***

A few stories that I especially enjoyed:

“Fight Fire with Fire” by Sionna Fox (f/f) blew me away. It was beautiful, nuanced, deeply characterized, full of glorious details about art and creativity and curating art exhibits. It was delightfully insistently queer in a way that just took my breath away and felt so intensely resonant. It made me cry, I felt so much for these characters, felt so held by the story. While I might usually be wary of the only non-binary character being the subject of a posthumous art retrospective and the grief of their cis best friend, this actually worked for me in this particular story. It felt like Rian was deeply characterized too, was honored as an artist and as a friend, by the MCs, and by the story. The lampshading of the circumstances of Rian’s death in order to make a political point didn’t even bug me as a non-binary reader. I loved the fat rep to pieces, it was truly wonderful and felt so real and resonant for me as a queer fat activist. I was rooting for them as a couple so hard, and was cheering when they got to their happy ending. It’s worth it to buy the collection for this story alone. This is a new-to-me author and I will definitely be checking out Fox’s backlist.

Representation

  • Queer fat femme woman MC
  • Butch lesbian MC
  • Non-binary secondary character (who is not alive in the timeline of the story but quite central in a lot of ways)

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to trans antagonism and cissexism in medical care leading to the death of a non-binary person from a treatable disease because of doctor avoidance due to the way they would be treated at the doctor. References to fat oppression and anti-fat bigotry. References to anti-queer and anti-trans bigotry and in particular a censorship campaign based on them. References to anti-trans bigotry from family members and misgendering from family members in death and burial. Sex on the page. 

“Nature’s Heart” by KD Fisher (m/m) is a lovely romance between a lawyer working for an enviromental activist agency and a member of a coalition that is bringing a lawsuit to stop a pipeline from being built. It had all this pining crushy sweetness to it because it would be unethical to begin a relationship while Max is one of Harry’s clients. I liked the depiction of social anxiety, and enjoyed the way they were all awkward because they were so into each other. This is a new-to-me author and I will be checking out her other work when it gets published.

Representation

  • Gay MC with social anxiety
  • Gay MC
  • Queer woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to fear of deportation, anti-immigrant policies. References to environmental racism. Depiction of social anxiety. Alcohol use. Sex on the page.

“The Suit and the Doll” by Zoey Castile (m/f) I enjoyed the writing in this romance about a woman who works admissions at a strip club and a man who is struggling with his conscience about his work for a land developer. They are both at a place where they feel stuck, and want to change things about their life, and I really liked how the connection between them is rooted in honesty and that meant not fixing their stuckness through their connection, but finding a bit more hope. This story feels like it’s perfectly suited to the length, though it’s left on a potentially happy for now rather than an established HFN.

Representation

  • Latinx woman MC
  • Latinx woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. References to being a customer at a strip club, and working at a strip club. 

 

“The Girl in the Picture” by Chelsea M. Cameron (f/f) is a light, fluffy romance between a reporter and a woman who becomes famous after a photo is taken of her at a protest. It has a fated instalove vibe but is really more like instalike and insta-attraction. I liked it, enjoyed the characters and their nervous dance around each other, though I wanted a bit more dialogue, a bit deeper characterization and wanted a bit more about the MCs activism.***

Representation

  • Queer woman MC
  • Queer Asian American woman MC
  • Queer non-binary demigirl author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to an altercation with SWAT during a protest. Reference to an injury leading to an ER visit.

 

 

 

Stories that didn’t work for me:

“Taking Aim” by Jeanette Grey (m/f) This was gripping, I could not put it down. The characterization was lovely, I fell really hard for the heroine, in particular. The romance arc was well paced (til the end), and deeply compelling, but this romance really shone in the heroine’s personal arc around her activism.

I had trouble with the resolution, which felt both too quick and too easy, and in the end I really wasn’t rooting for the hero and the heroine to be together as a couple; it didn’t feel earned, or right for the heroine, and the grand gesture just didn’t sit well for me as the thing that won the day.

I struggled deeply with the political message of the story, given the information disclosed at the end and the actual ending. From my perspective as a white reader, this did not seem to be a situation that could have an HEA. (highlight to read) The hero turns out to be a white Republican man who voted for Trump and helped elect a conservative anti gun control Republican politician. This is a late reveal in the story and felt like it was an impossible to overcome obstacle. There was no HEA I could see getting to whatever grand gesture he might make, he was basically a white dude who spent his career supporting a politician owned by the gun lobby who voted for a racist president targeting immigrants and thought that was okay. The heroine is a second generation Chinese American woman whose grandparents fled the Cultural Revolution and who was victimized in a school shooting. Yes they now agree on gun control, and he has quit his job, but how can there be a happy ending to a resistance romance here?  

Representation

  • Chinese American woman MC with PTSD
  • Biracial Chinese American woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to school shootings, gun violence. References to PTSD reactions including nightmares. References to fleeing China during the Cultural Revolution. The hero turns out to be a white Republican man who voted for Trump and helped elect a conservative anti gun control Republican politician. Sex on the page. 

“A Safe Place” by Rebecca Vaughn (m/m) I have mixed feelings about this story; it felt raw and like it had too much immediate trauma to be held in the length of the story. It begins with a one-two punch of a queer character grappling with having been sexually harassed and experiencing retaliation after reporting it, and him dealing with the imminent threat of being queer bashed by frat boys. That’s a lot of trauma and bigotry for a short story to hold, before this rather sweet long-term crush that turns into a romance plot even really begins.

The romance plot begins with a “can I hide in your store to get away from bashers” meet-cute, which was difficult to stomach. Other than that, I enjoyed the romance arc. I liked their shyness and crushiness, the way they talked about art, the activism in the artistic installation, loved how the story held the intensity of NA romance so well. I was rooting for them as a couple.

As a reader who is queer survivor of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and queer bigotry, I feel that these difficult subjects didn’t get the attention in the story that they needed. And the bashing threat felt like a cheap plot device to create the meet-cute, which is disrespectful towards queer folks who have experienced this sort of violence. I wish the story hadn’t included the bashing element, so there would be more room to grapple with the #MeToo aspect of the story, more attention to integrating the tone so it felt less jarring to go from the traumatic elements to the sweetness of the romance, and more room to go a bit deeper on the characterization of the love interest.

Representation

  • Queer man survivor MC with PTSD
  • Queer man MC

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Description of and references to sexual harassment in the past. References to PTSD reactions including flashbacks. Retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Anti queer bigotry, street harassment and threat of queer bashing, MC in imminent peril. Sex on the page.

“Schooling Her” by Robin Lovett (m/f) This was my least favorite of the stories in the collection. It’s a contemporary m/f erotic romance between a white woman who is headmistress at a private school and a Black man who is a dean that works closely with her, and their efforts to put forward an equal pay measure at the school. The activism bits were my favorite aspect of the story; I liked witnessing them working together. I struggled with the erotic moments, especially after the moment where someone makes a racist hypersexualizing and exoticizing remark to the heroine. The way she handled it made me uncomfortable as a white reader, both because it felt like something she should have more directly challenged as racist sexual harassment, and because it felt like this moment that was mostly about marking the heroine as a “good” white person in contrast to a “bad” white person. It was especially troubling given that this racist remark was the place where the text first clearly identifies the hero as Black (there is a description of his skin color earlier, during the first sex scene, which also made me uncomfortable). The resolution of the romantic conflict strained credulity, and was at odds with the way they both were presented as very competent, which made the ending less satisfying to me.

Representation

  • Black man MC

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Racist hypersexualization and exoticization. Sexual relationship between a boss and an employee. Cissexism. Sex on the page. 

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from one of the authors
  • I have had contact with a few of the authors on Twitter.

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Relevant Reviews:

  • Review of Rogue Acts, another collection in this series
  • Review of Rogue Hearts, another collection in this series
  • Review of Double Exposure, another f/f romance novella by Chelsea M Cameron
  • Review of Second Chance, another f/f romance novella by Chelsea M Cameron
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