I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…
Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.
As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?
Release date: July 28th
🐝 I was really looking forward to this sequel ever since reading The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics and it met all expectations.
Agatha and Penelope immediately seemed like real people to me, their different experiences and personalities made them come to life right away. They are both sapphic women in their 40s (Penelope is a lesbian and Agatha bi or pan) and I just want to say that as a younger queer reader it’s so good to see older protagonists, especially when it comes to sapphic relationships.
While I remember The Lady’s Guide to be a faster romance, this one was very slow burn and I find it was well developed and not unnecessarily dragged for the sake of building up tension. It made sense for them to get together when they did and not sooner, and there was plenty of sapphic yearning and pining.
The presence of queer people (other than the main characters) in historical times was already given some space in the first book but here it was further developed with many side characters that are either currently in a same sex relationship or are canonically queer. Even the other characters, aside from the antagonists, are perfectly accepting of queerness and fully acknowledge these queer relationships in their romantic and sexual nature instead of glossing over them as “good friends”. Since this was my favorite thing in the first book I’m really, really happy about how this aspect was further developed and always present especially in the second half of the book.
The historical context of England of that time was pretty much lost on me so I did miss a lot of the references and kind of had to skim the plot because I didn’t care too much about it, but even without a lot of context the book was still enjoyable and if I had been more confused I could’ve certainly done some research of my own to understand it better, but the fact that I didn’t feel compelled to do it meant that it was fine (also that I’m lazy, but I’m not here to review myself).
Overall if you enjoyed the first book this has a different relationship dynamic and different themes but similar vibes and, just as that one, it reads as social and cultural commentary on top of a beautiful romance. It follows different characters aside for a few cameos so it can be read as a standalone and I highly recommend it if you’re into sapphic romances where they’re both on the slightly older side and if you think bees are cute and important 🐝