Friday Feature & Giveaway: Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden

Last night I saw Wicked on stage for the first time (the touring company, and it was fabulous!). Of course I had read it, have long since learned the soundtrack by heart, and had seen practically the entire show in the form of various YouTube clips. But it’s never quite the same as seeing it live…and when I did, my girlfriend and I kept looking at each other and whispering “is it just me, or…?”

Turns out Wicked is suuuper queer, y’all! At least the show I saw was chock full of homoerotic subtext (and it wasn’t just me). The heroines held hands, clung together, gazed into each others’ eyes as they sang about their importance to one another, and couldn’t bear it when they had to part. They shared much more stage time with one another (and frankly, much more chemistry) than with the dude they were both supposed to be in love with. And the ending isn’t happy in large part because the two female leads can’t end up together (I hope this isn’t a spoiler for you; I think we all know that Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West do not end up together…except in the scads of fan fic that must exist about them).

What most of the largely straight audience probably saw, of course, was just two ladies who were first enemies, then very close friends. Just gals being pals. Doing whatever girls do when they’re friends. Don’t you always hold hands and sing intense duets with your bestie about how together you could be the greatest pair the world has ever seen, and how you’ve changed one anothers’ lives for the better?

Odds are you don’t! But people are so accustomed to assuming that if no man appears to be involved, there is no sex involved, that my girlfriend and I are generally able to hold hands and giggle into each other’s ears all we like in public and nobody bats an eye (we are both cis, and neither of us presents as butch, which probably contributes to our flying under the radar). If two guys do stuff like that, every active gaydar in the room starts to ping. But people assume that women* are for men, and that even if women actively engage in behaviors with one another that are romantically coded, they are just “close friends” [*side note: I’m largely talking about cis folks, here, because that is my particular lane, and because the play in question has two cis female main characters].

Being bisexual, I’m used to my orientation being invisible (I’d dated women a few times, but I was married to a guy for 13 years, so a lot of people who knew me had no idea I was queer until recently). But until I was in a long-term relationship with a woman, I didn’t realize how invisible even fairly open lesbianism can be. And it makes me wonder how much real-life f/f has been completely missed by historians and cultural anthropologists simply because of this phallocentric, heteronormative viewpoint?

We know a certain amount of this has taken place. “Boston marriages” and so forth. I think it’s also probable the queer implications in Wicked were deliberate. Gregory Maguire, author of the source book, is gay, and the book included more overt implications that Glinda and Elphaba were not merely friends. Winnie Holzman, who wrote the Tony-nominated book for the musical, also wrote for the TV shows thirtysomething and Once and Again, both of which featured LGBTQ characters. If the f/f romantic subtext in Wicked was put there on purpose, of course, it’s all the more remarkable (if predictable) that it has gone unnoticed by most. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by lesbians or by theater scholars, I hasten to add.

Even if you don’t view it through a queer lens, Wicked is very obviously a love story between two women (and, almost peripherally, a dude; in the end, which I won’t spoil for you, there is a strong sense that the only one getting his top choice of partner is the dude). The nature of that love is open to speculation and interpretation, but I can only see it as a beautifully queer and strongly feminist story.

Lesbians and bisexual women have been around as long as people have, but too often their stories are simply overlooked. The default assumption in this heteronormative society is that it just isn’t a romance unless there is a man involved (or more specifically, a penis; I hesitate to make that distinction because some might assume I’m being trans-exclusionary here, but I’m not. I think for very many people, the important factor is penetration by a penis regardless of how the person it is attached to identifies…as if penises had magical properties, and “real” sex can’t occur without one. Hence the frequent willingness to assume any romantically coded activity by two apparent men means they must be homosexual, while two cis women can practically fuck in the street and people will still say they’re just “close friends” or “experimenting” or “doing it for the attention”).

Lesbians and bisexual women have been around as long as people have. Where are all their love stories? I suspect they are all around us, and have been all along, hidden in plain sight. Visible only to people who are open to that possibility.

I’m seeing so much more f/f romance this year than I’ve ever seen, that I sort of have my fingers crossed that f/f will be the new “it” thing in romance. And if having more books with f/f HEAs leads to even a little more heightened awareness in the general public, that will be a good thing…so I’m happy to be doing my part!

Title: Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden
This title is part of the Escape universe.
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Lesbian, Erotic, BDSM, Romance
Length: 178 pages/Word Count: 47,600


Drusilla Stasevich wants to leave the past behind and start the next chapter of her life. Returning to her hometown to open her dream kink club, Escape, seems like the perfect solution. But it can be tricky making dreams come true—especially when the person you want to share them with isn’t around anymore.

Amie Templeton is no stranger to tough times. She’s learned to make it on her own, and doesn’t do relationships outside the kink world. When her ex Dru moves back to town, old feelings surface. But that’s fine, right, since Dru has just opened the hottest new kink club in town?

Dru and Amie want to get the distracting spark between them out of their systems. Instead, their intense play sessions fan that spark into a flame. As if Dru didn’t have enough on her plate, an anonymous saboteur threatens to push her new club out of business. It will take the help of everybody at Escape to set things right again, and a lot of trust for Dru and Amie to start working toward a new life together.

Add to Goodreads.

Purchase Link: Riptide Publishing

Author Bio

Delphine Dryden probably should have gone ahead and become an English professor like she planned. Instead, she took a detour through law school, another detour through the wonderful world of working in special education, and took an extra fifteen years to end up where she belonged: writing kinky romances.

Del’s writing has earned an Award of Excellence and Reviewers’ Choice Award from Romantic Times Book Reviews, an EPIC Award, and a Colorado Romance Writers’ Award of Excellence. When not writing or editing, she can be found binge-watching television shows, playing tabletop games, and tweeting to excess.

Author Links: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Tumblr * Pinterest * Instagram * Goodreads * Newsletter Signup


To celebrate the release of Top to Bottom, one lucky person will win an ebook package of Dom Around the Corner and The Unicorn, plus a $5 Amazon gift certificate. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 23, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour and don’t forget to leave your contact info.

For the duration of the tour, Del is also giving away paperback copies of her steampunk books Scarlet Devices and Gilded Lily. Contact her via her website’s contact page, put your favorite mythical beast in the subject line and your name and address in the body. Limit to 20 people total, or until the tour ends.

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Filed under Blog Tour, Contest, Friday Feature

5 Responses to Friday Feature & Giveaway: Top to Bottom by Delphine Dryden

  1. Trix

    It is weird that gender is still so binary to so many people. I really thought the 21st century would be different!


  2. Angie Malone

    I agree that women are able to be more affectionate with one another without people questioning it. I think their are more love stories out there than anyone knows about!


  3. Kim

    Look forward to reading.
    Kimlrkim [at] aol [dot] com

  4. Meghan

    This looks interesting! Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Katherine

    I would read more f/f romance if it were more relationship and less erotica than I have encountered so far. My taste in m/m romance is the same – more relationship, less erotica – but I have been more successful finding that combination in m/m.

    Thank you for the diversity in romances you review and for this essay inspired by Wicked. Now it makes sense, the great fondness a coworker has for Wicked. I tried to read the book once and got bogged down in the dozens of named characters, seemingly anyone ever mentioned in an Oz book. I might give the play a try due to your review.