A wonderful lesbian romance that takes place on the Titanic, Her Maiden Voyage by Rachel Maldonado, was just released earlier this year.
The protagonist of the story, Marie Antoinette Michaels, earns her passage on the Titanic to escape from England, where she is at the mercy of her controlling husband. Boarding the ill-fated ship to start a new life, Antoinette is a first class passenger. While departing Southampton, she meets Evelyn Chambers, a third class traveler with a moody husband and baby son. The two young women feel a pull to each other and become friends. Over the course of the voyage, Evelyn and Antoinette explore the ship and acknowledge their feelings for each other. Then the ship hits the iceberg. If Antoinette and Evelyn survive the voyage, can they live together in a time when homosexuality was not accepted?
Her Maiden Voyage is now one of my favorite lesbian books. The characters of Antoinette and Evelyn balance each other out so well: serious, down-to-earth Antoinette and plucky, playful Evelyn forge a strong bond. As they get to know each other better, the women begin to confide their deep secrets and longings. Antoinette wants to be a writer, and Evelyn wants to someday own a boutique, and they encourage each other’s dreams and to pursue what they want. Their love for each other is genuine and pure. The characters do have shortcomings, but that doesn’t detract from the story at all.
Another thing that made this novel really good was how in depth Maldonado went into describing the amenities and activities the Titanic had, and how the two women explored so much of it. There were squash courts, swimming pools, promenades, cafes, and more. It was fun to read about Antoinette’s exploits on the ship. I was not aware that there was so much to do on the Titanic! As the story progresses, Evelyn and Antoinette play squash, chess, swim races in the pool, dine in First Class, among other adventures. It was interesting to watch these characters explore and interact with other people, often in a joking fashion. The story had some good humorous moments, and the two women said some funny and cute things to each other.
The novel doesn’t center entirely around the night the Titanic sank, so is not packed with action and intensity like the famous movie, Titanic. Some readers may find the sinking in this book to be anti-climactic or glossed over, but it really wasn’t the point of the story. The point is two young women in love who want to create a life together. Personally, I thought the author handled the Titanic disaster well. She showed how many of the passengers were not fully aware of the situation, and how they wouldn’t know of the high cost of lives until later.
Her Maiden Voyage seems to mean more than just the first and only voyage of the Titanic, it also seems to represent Antoinette and Evelyn on their journey to acknowledge their love for each other. The title was a symbolic touch to the novel, and the story itself is beautiful. It’s a new take on lesbians in history, on a topic that no one really has done before, making it a groundbreaking and riveting novel.