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Marianne Ratcliffe’s TOP 5 Sapphic Books of 2023

Top 5 Reads of 2023 Graphic
Get ready to add books to your TBR pile!

As the end of the year draws near, we have one question we want to ask book lovers the world over. What were your top 5 sapphic reads of 2023?

Luckily our readers like to share! We look forward to passing along these recommendations to you daily into the new year.

It’s not too late to submit your own top reads and get in on the fun. Click here for the form. Our only rules are that authors may not submit their own books and your list needs to be new-to-you books that were read (not necessarily published) in 2023.

Here are Marianne Ratcliffe’s top sapphic reads of 2023:

1. Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue

A must for Gentleman Jack fans, and a great example of historical fiction. Rich in detail, the Regency boarding school setting is beautifully evoked. Fifteen-year old Anne Lister leaps off the page – utterly compelling, a force of nature, but Donoghue is not afraid to explore her darker side too. A poignant tale of adolescent love, of flying too close to the sun.

2. Meeting Millie by Clare Ashton

In my opinion, this is Ashton’s best book to date. Full of wit and humour, the main characters are adorable and some of the side characters so wonderful they (almost) steal the show (Virginia is an absolute treat). But there is depth here too, in the way Ashton walks the tightrope of the friends to lovers trope, never denying the importance of true friendship, but slowly bringing in a sizzling sexual chemistry that demands to be satisfied. Will become a classic of the lesfic genre.

3. Consecrated Ground by Virginia Black

Urban Fantasy at its finest. There are so many layers to this book, which uses metaphor and allegory to explore deeper themes of home, racism and belonging, all whilst entertaining the reader with a cracking good yarn, including plenty of high-stakes drama and breathless action. It’s also a great example of how to write a first book in a series – a complete story in itself, but with tantalizing nods to future struggles, and introducing complex characters we really care about. If you are looking to add more books by PoC authors to your list, this is a great place to start.

4. The Language of Roses by Heather Rose Jones

A Beauty and the Beast retelling, but unlike any other you will have read. Remarkable for its timeless prose – gorgeously lyrical and full of potent imagery. There is romance, but I wouldn’t call it a love story. The ending will keep you guessing, but fits perfectly with all that went before.

5. The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell

A cosy mystery set in 1912, an established “chalk and cheese” lesbian couple turn to crime solving. The mystery has plenty of twists and turns, but what I particularly loved was the relationship between Ada and Louisa, which felt more realistic than many in sapphic fiction. At times they annoy the heck out of each other, but the depth of their love always pulls them through. Louisa is asexual and this is explored in a sensitive and informative way.

More about the books:

About Marianne Ratcliffe

I am a published author of historical sapphic fiction, inspired by classic English literature. In my books, I try to capture the feel and language of books written in the 18th-19th century, but with lesbians in leading roles, and bringing a modern sensibility to themes of gender, race and disability. All my books are (very!) slow burn, closed-door, with HEAs. Basically, I’m aiming for Jane Austen/Anne Bronte vibes, only sapphic.

Find Marianne here.

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