Book: Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic
Authors: Various, Edited by JoSelle Vanderhofft and Catherine Lundoff
Publisher: Flyleaf Press
Magic is many things to many people. Some see it as the ultimate test of good versus evil, white versus black, us against them. To others, it is an art that graces some more finely than others. Some see magic as a vocation, a trade that services a much wider Community. To many, it is a religious calling. And, to most of the rest, magic is a scientific pursuit based on principles far outside the defined, comfortable realm of logic and reason.
Me, I see magic as a sketchy guy in an ill-fitting tux with a pigeon in his pants.
In Hellebore and Rue, JoSelle Vanderhooft and Catherline Lundoff offer readers a tidy little collection of short stories focused on lesbian witches, magicians, and voodoo priestesses. The foundation of the volume is the magic, in all its myriad forms. We are introduced to emerging feelings, new and old loves, and romances that could not withstand the test of time. At times, we wonder who the antagonist really is, or get a hint of juicy things off page. The key, however, is the magic and only the magic. The stories don’t stray far into distracting romance, whodunit or frisky erotica.
I give the editors credit for resisting the urge to slip any of these little happy pills into the readers’ proverbial glass of milk – it would have completely changed the feel and the flavor of the volume.
Hellebore and Rue consists of twelve short stories from both new and recognized authors, and is a quick read at 187 pages. The shorts include:
"Counterbalance” by Ruth Sorrell
“Trouble Arrived” by C.B. Calsing
“Personal Demons” by Jean Marie Ward
“The Windskimmer” by Connie Wilkins
“Sky Lit Bargains” by Kelly A. Harmon
“Gloam” by Quinn Smythwood
“Witches Have Cats” by Juliet Kemp
“D is for Delicious” by Steve Berman
“And Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness” by Lisa Nohealani Morton
“Bridges and Lullabies” by Rrain Prior
“Thin Spun” by Sunny Moraine
“A State of Panic” by Rachel Green
The beauty of anthologies is that there’s usually a little something for everyone and every taste. This holds true for Hellebore and Rue. For my money, I got the biggest kick out of C.B. Calsing’s “Trouble Arrived”, a good old-fashioned voodoo two-step; “Sky Lit Bargins” by Kelly A. Harmon, the only story that really had the chops to become a book and make me want more; and Juliet Kemp’s “Witches Have Cats”, because what’s not to love about a doggy familiar named Jasper rolling in thyme?
There’s more to Hellebore and Rue than it’s individual stories, though. The editors did a commendable job in selecting well-written pieces that cover a wide range of magic themes, yet flow seamlessly from one to the next. The cover art is creative, evocative, and beautiful, and the internal design adds to rather than detracts from the overall flow and style of the volume. I found that most of the authors chose to present their stories in a more lyrical style than through standard prose. And, while this might not appeal to all readers, I strongly suspect that those interested in the subject matter won’t care one bit. After all, there’s very little “standard” about magic, in any of its definitions.
If you’re a fan of speculative fiction, and more specifically lesbians practicing magic, Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic deserves a special little spot on your bookshelf. I’m giving it a 4.8 out of 6 on the Rainbow Scale.