Equal Ever After by Lynne Featherstone [here on amazon]
This is the book of the story of the same-sex marriage bill. Think of it as kinda the book of the film. Everything you remember, a couple of subplots you totally missed, and some explanations of bits you didn’t quite understand at the time. It’s told by the junior minister who piloted the bill into law, so this is pretty much the definitive insider behind-the-scenes tale.
Same-sex marriage had been mooted for a long time, but this story picks up the plot just before the 2010 General Election with PinkNews interviewing the major party leaders and asking what they thought of same-sex marriage. They were each at least not hostile to the cause, and so when unexpectedly thrust from third-party spokesperson to junior minister Lynne saw the opportunity to push something through and plug one of the big remaining gaps in LGB equality legislation.
There are fights inside and outside government, between the coalition parties and with the opposition, and exploration of what a minister can and can’t get away with. By relating the pressures for and against we are shown where the large, well-funded but poorly directed anti campaign C4M shot itself in the foot. The rise and fall of the prospect of changing UK civil partnership law is woven into this tale as well.
It’s a well-paced story, and even having followed the bill quite closely – read each press release, watched many hours of Commons and Lords debates – there were still plenty of things in the book I didn’t know about or had only been able to guess at during the long legislative process.
“These homosexuals will be sorry they started this,” declares a representative of the Evangelical Alliance early on, convinced that marriage will be a step too far that alienates the general public. Yet once things are forced to a vote in the Lords the heart goes out of the anti campaign; they fight almost to the end but after the first vote on a wrecking amendment they know they will lose by a country mile.
You’ll probably enjoy the Lords debate exploring whether Baroness Stowell could marry George Clooney and what would happen if either of them then jumped into bed with Lord Alli.
It’s remarkably generous in sharing around the credit for what was achieved, but being told from a Westminster bubble it sadly blanks out the parallel stories in Northern Ireland and Scotland completely. There’s the odd mistake but in the round the story is being told soon enough after the fact for myth and forgetfulness not to creep in. As books go it’s a little bit niche, but at the same time a great telling of how we got very near equality in marriage just when we were least expecting it.
Toby by Fox Emerson [here on amazon]
Toby is the third book from Fox Emerson and is the story of the titular character and his escapades as a bisexual sex worker in Barcelona. Toby from the outset isn’t a likeable character but as the story progresses you find out that he acts like he does because of a troubled childhood and abuse. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour but does go some way to explaining it. He is a heavy drug user so consider this if that is a trigger for you. He has the dilemma of who to date when he finds himself drawn to Ariana, an American designer on holiday in Spain but also to Jakob, a Danish chemical engineer.
Most of the book is believable at a stretch but the couple of scenes involving Ariana when she goes back to her hotel room and the hospital afterwards are completely inconceivable. If you experienced that in real life (no spoilers here) then there is no way that you would be casually talking about meeting up for drinks in the future as if nothing had happened.
I’m a writer of fan fiction and I know that it can be hard to write sex scenes without resorting to clichés and trite descriptions of genitals and what the characters are doing with said genitals but Fox doesn’t seem to try to avoid this. Perhaps this is the vibe to the story that Fox was going for, but I prefer my sex scenes written without cliché and more accurately. At times I found myself thinking “no, that just wouldn’t work like that!” which meant that the enjoyment I got from reading the book was mainly through my increasing incredulity as the story progressed.
All in all Fox has written a readable story but I couldn’t get past the fact that the only character with any depth, and therefore likeable, was Jakob. The idea for the story is good but it hasn’t been executed well here, which is a shame.