Book Title: The Queering
Author and Publisher: Brooke Skipstone
Cover Artist: Cherie Chapman
Release Date: January 19, 2023
Genre: Contemporary F/F Romance, Historical F/F Romance, YA LGBTQ+
Tropes: Friends to lovers, Coming of age
Themes: Coming out, finding love late in life
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 92 000 words/ 318 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.
Editor's Pick Booklife Reviews: A fast-paced yet thoughtful romance of coming out and finding love in later life in Alaska
5 Star Clarion Reviews: A riveting novel . . . about love, courage, and solidarity
NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone.
Not for almost fifty years.
Taylor Baird MacKenzie, a long-term substitute teacher in Clear, Alaska, knew her secret had already begun to unravel. Brooke wrote novels about lesbian liberation, fierce coming-of-age stories full of high family drama. Her readers probably pictured an author in her thirties with tattoos and a gender-fluid appearance.
Certainly not a seventy-year-old grandmother with long, thick hair—still more brown than gray—wearing lined leggings and an oversized hoodie that covered her butt. And unhappily married to the same man for over forty years.
Much too old and too obviously straight to be writing such novels.
Soon, everyone would know the truth--she was the author Brooke Skipstone. How big would the shockwave be?
Taylor had long feared the repercussions and kept her pen name secret. What would her kids say? And her grandkids, who hardly knew her because she lived so far from them. And saw them even less than usual because of Covid. At times the thought of discovery had seared her guts, but the liberation of writing what she wanted, revealing the characters living in her mind and the love and pain in her heart, had become her main reason for existence.
While at her keyboard, Taylor lost herself in her secret world—vibrant, passionate, full of laughter and turmoil and utter joy. Not like her real world of silence and numbing isolation, where she couldn’t talk about what mattered most to her.
Keeping the source of her greatest happiness a secret had suffocated her life.
Taylor stood at her classroom door before her last class of the day, while students thumbed phones and talked as they sat at a picnic table in the center of the Commons area. The same kind of table she and Brooke sat at in the spring of 1973.
Soon after Taylor’s college roommate and fellow theatre major, Brooke Tobolovsky turned twenty-one, Brooke changed her last name. Though she didn’t have the internet to check, she said she had never heard of anyone named Skipstone, so claimed it for herself. She thought it sounded cool. Much better for the stage and screen. Besides, she’d always hated the sound of Tobolovsky.
Regardless of her name, no one could ever forget her. Long, thick, cinnamon-colored hair; high forehead; deep-set blue eyes; and the biggest smile Taylor had ever seen. She could play Lady Macbeth just as easily as Juliet and belt out a song like a combination of Cher and Stevie Nicks. She was the natural lead, while Taylor was the utility player—competent actress, writer, composer, and organizational queen.
Once all the legal papers were complete, they celebrated with a pitcher of beer at The Hangout a few blocks from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. They sat at a picnic table under canvas stretched between oak trees, blocking the March sun. Brooke carved her new name on the bench as they pushed flip-flops through pea gravel and peanut shells.
“Does this mean I can’t call you Tobo anymore?” Taylor laughed and snorted beer.
Brooke scoffed with a quick flash of her eyes, “I’ve put a curse on that name, as you can see. Say it at your peril.” She cocked an eyebrow.
Taylor coughed this time, spewing beer on her shirt.
“I always knew you couldn’t hold your liquor.” Brooke wiped Taylor’s chin with a napkin.
“That word will never cross my lips again.”
“Which word?” Brooke teased. Her tongue peeked out the side of her mouth as she dabbed the snot from Taylor’s upper lip. “Hmm?”
Flashing a smile, Taylor said, “From now on, you’ll be BS to me. Nothing but BS.”
Brooke narrowed her eyes and tightened her mouth. “You’d better be referring to Brooke Skipstone.”
Taylor raised her hands and cocked her head in a perfect expression of amused innocence. “Certainly.” She tried to swallow the guffaw rising from her gut. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
They stared at each other for three seconds, each holding her pose until Brooke broke into a smile. “That’s BS and you know it.”
Taylor’s guffaw erupted, and in their laughter-filled haze, they both knocked their glasses to the ground. No matter. They drank from the pitcher and later started a burping contest. Taylor conceded when Brooke burped the chorus of “I Am Woman,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd of hippie students and locals that had gathered around them. The girls walked home, Taylor’s arm around her friend’s neck; Brooke’s around the other’s waist.
They were known as B&T because they were inseparable. They’d shared the ground floor of a small rental house since sophomore year but spent most of their time acting, hanging lights, building sets, and running shows at the Owens Art Center. If one of them wasn’t around the other, people would invariably ask, “Where’s ___?” with a little frown and gasp.
Taylor wrote and directed plays and musicals mainly for teens, while Brooke snagged major acting roles every year. Taylor was involved in every one of Brooke’s shows, while Brooke sang and acted in each of Taylor’s studio productions.
They were two promising women, determined to make their own way in the world and support each other’s careers in theatre—Brooke as an actress at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and Taylor as a drama teacher at a private school in a nearby city. After breaking up with their casual boyfriends and graduating in 1974, they headed west in a very used VW Camper Bus adorned with painted flowers to cover the rust.
They loved each other completely as friends and had only become lovers two days before Brooke’s death.
About the Author
Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award-winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
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