Flinging It by G Benson is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and possibly the best lesbian romance I’ve read in 2016. It plays with typical lesfic conventions, or occasionally ignores them entirely, resulting in a fresh take on a popular genre.
Frazer is the head midwife at a hospital in Perth, Australia, whose biggest headache is her stubborn boss, Alec. Thanks to his lack of interest, she can’t get a program to support at-risk parents off the ground, despite extensive planning and adjustments to the proposal and budget. She may not be a fan of his standoffish wife, Cora, who is also a social worker at the hospital, but it’s only when she works with her on revising the program proposal that it finally gets approved.
Cora is deeply unhappy and has been for a long time, keeping to herself so no one knows how bad her marriage really is. She only has one friend and realizes how lonely she is when she starts spending time with Frazer. A night of too much booze leads to the one thing neither of them expected: an affair in the workplace. But they’ve agreed that it’s only sex and not a romantic relationship, so why can’t they just be friends?
It’s difficult to know how to talk about characters in a story that revolves around cheating. Can I admit that I liked them, even as they chose to behave unethically? Because not only did I like Frazer and Cora, I loved them.
Frazer is still smarting from the end of her last serious relationship and has vowed to never have a workplace relationship again. Cora is miserable, in an emotionally abusive marriage, but in denial about exactly how bad it is. They know that having a sexual relationship isn’t fair to Alec, and sticking with the rules of being “friends with benefits” doesn’t stop deep feelings from blossoming. Each woman grows over the course of the book thanks to finally making choices for themselves, therapy, and being surrounded by supportive people, so that their happily ever after comes from a healthy place.
Alec is horrible, but he isn’t a cartoonish villain either. He’s controlling, he gaslights Cora so she questions her own memory and judgement, and he uses guilt as a favourite tactic. And yet he occasionally shows glimmers of the man Cora fell in love with a decade ago. Husbands or ex-husbands in lesfic are often one-dimensional, so I was glad to see Alec is a fully formed, if unlikeable, character.
My other favourite character is Jack, a pregnant trans boy who is the first patient in Frazer and Cora’s program. It would have been easy to turn him into a cardboard cutout, only there to highlight social issues like queer youth homelessness or pregnancy for trans boys and men, but we get to know him well enough that I was fully invested in his journey, including the choice he made for his baby.
The Writing Style
G Benson’s writing is masterfully good. As with All the Little Moments, Flinging It tackles heavy subject matter in a way that isn’t overwhelmingly angsty or depressing and is actually very funny at times. The story is well plotted, the pacing is perfect and I found myself fully invested even when I wasn’t comfortable with how Cora and Frazer were handling their relationship.
Particularly noteworthy is that Benson plays with the typical conventions of the lesbian romance genre (and in the case of a big one, ignores it entirely) so that, much like in some of Karin Kallmaker’s stories, it ends up being so much more but delivers that same satisfied feeling by the end. Given where things ended in the main story, I was so glad she included an epilogue. It was perfectly appropriate to the rest of the book, but it wrapped everything up better than a drawn-out main story ending would have.
So many pros for this book. Both leads are women of colour. It has excellent representation across the entire LGBT spectrum, and the care provided to Jack is a great example of the kind of trans-inclusive reproductive healthcare we need more of. It also does such a good job of showing how subtle emotional abuse can be that it just may help some readers recognize it in their own lives.
Now I need to get a little spoilery, so feel free to skip to the Cons.
Flinging It shows a surprisingly nuanced take on cheating. Frazer and Cora know that what they’re doing is wrong, and the author never gives them a pass for their behaviour. Instead, she shows that their situation is very messy and complicated, to the point that I questioned whether they would even remain friends, despite knowing that it’s a romance novel and, therefore, has a happy ending.
More than any of those, I loved how Benson handles Cora’s bisexual awakening, avoiding the more negative tropes sometimes seen in lesfic. She doesn’t cheat because bisexual people are fickle and she doesn’t leave her husband because men are evil or she’s unconsciously been a lesbian all along. She slowly figures it out and the moment when she truly understands she’s bisexual is realistic and gratifying to see.
Some readers won’t be able to get past the cheating premise. I would urge you to try it anyway because it’s such a good, beautiful book that it’s well worth the read.
Get this book. Get it today, read it and then come talk to me about it because I need to gush with someone.
Excerpt from Flinging It by G Benson
Slightly stumbling steps took her out of the taxi, and she clung to the open door, sifting through her bag with one hand to find some cash. It didn’t really surprise her when Frazer appeared on the other side of the door.
“I’ll walk you up.”
“That’s really not necessary.” Cora stood up straight and turned, her feet catching on the curb. She recovered nicely but looked up to see Frazer staring at her, one eyebrow raised. With a sigh, Cora gave in. “Fine. Walk with me if you must.”
As close as a shadow, Frazer walked behind her, and Cora didn’t entirely manage to hide her groan at the sight of her own porch steps. Crickets that were chirping loudly fell silent as she all but stomped up the stairs. Her intention had been to go quietly, not wanting to wake up Alec, but she found, with a touch of vindictiveness, that she hoped he did wake up. If she had to suffer a hangover at work the next day, he could be sleep deprived. Successfully, she scaled the stairs and turned in front of the door, hands on her hips like a triumphant superhero.
“See? I was fine.”
“You tripped four times.”
“But did I fall, Frazer?”
Teeth flashed white in the gloom as Frazer chuckled. “True.” She held her hands up in peace, swaying a little. “You are victorious.”
“I always am.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9783955336820
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
G Benson Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Flinging It by G Benson. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.