In Victorian England, Nancy Astley loved going to the music hall in nearby Canterbury. Soon a male impersonator called Kitty Butler starts performing there and completely entrances Nancy. When Nancy goes backstage to meet Kitty, it seems the attraction is mutual, especially when Kitty asks Nancy to come to London with her to be her dresser. It takes awhile to blossom, but the romance between the two is sweet, until, of course, it isn’t. Nancy finds herself on her own in London and makes some questionable decisions for the sake of survival (and fun) until she finally ends up on the doorstep of an austere socialist.
While I’m sure the history is fudged a bit for the sake of plot, it’s still fun to see all the different aspects of lesbian culture that Nancy encounters throughout the book, from the music halls to the upper classes to the working classes. Sometimes I rooted for Nancy, other times I wanted to shake her and ask why she was being such an idiot, which makes for a compelling character. All the characters came vividly to life in this book and I found myself wanting to know more about each of them. I listened to the audio book, narrated by Juanita McMahon, who does an excellent job giving voice to the wide variety of characters in this book. If you’re looking for a queer historical romance novel, Tipping the Velvet is a great place to start.
Review by Jessica A.