By Lucy J. Madison
Age doesn’t have to be a factor in finding a happily ever after. Statistics show that roughly 55% of people fall in love for the first time between the ages of 15 and 18 (IllicitEncounters), and there are plenty of romance novels that focus on a character’s first love.
We’ve all read about 20-and-30-somethings who fall head-over-heels for the wrong person, who rush into things (something lesbians never do, wink) and struggle to make sense of why she didn’t say “I love you” back without hesitation.
Mainstream romances have begun to shift away from the stories about young, blossoming characters with the perfect age, job, and body who find their ideal mate for that storybook happily-ever-after (hello Hallmark movies), and lesbian fiction is following suit. Now, we are beginning to see more stories about mature women finding love. Remember, avid readers of lesbian fiction are aging, too, and they want to read stories about women like them. A quick search on Goodreads highlights 92 titles featuring at least one older lesbian character.
Love stories with older characters highlight experiences outside of the bounds of first-love, and that’s precisely what makes these stories so compelling. Because most of us who’ve fallen in love once or twice, and had our hearts broken, know that powerful, true love often comes after we’ve learned a slew of painful and challenging lessons about ourselves and what we need, want, and deserve from a partner. Love stories with older characters tend to focus less on perfection and center more in imperfection.
Lesbian love stories like Chris Paynter’s Survived by Her Longtime Companion, House of Cards by Nat Burns, Waltzing at Midnight by Robbi McCoy, or even The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith all feature love stories between mature women, showing that older women are multi-dimensional. These stories open up new avenues for lesbian romances, widening the circle for more lesbians to feel included and represented.
In an era where people stay active longer, where 40 is the new 20, it’s logical to see more lesbian romances that showcase two older women falling in love later in life after they’ve already had other experiences and multiple relationships, after their bodies are less than perfect, and their desires go beyond the physical.
As a lesbian romance author, I can show the complexity of real people in real scenarios who are experiencing passion, love, and desire in a space where it’s entirely unexpected. I can remind older women that they can still find love, no matter their age. But most of all, I enjoy telling stories about people who are who they are. They’re past the point of experimentation, of finding out what they should do or what kind of person they are. They’re settled, and in some ways, incredibly stubborn. Telling stories about women who allowing love to break through those barriers is incredibly rewarding.
In my new book, A Recipe for Love: A Lesbian Culinary Romance, Danika Russo is 55, newly retired from a 30-year career as a mail carrier, and she’s stuck in a rut. After putting her own needs on hold to care for her terminally ill partner and her unloving father, Danika isn’t sure what to do next.
Her best friend Natalie suggests making a list of things she has always wanted to do. Stepping outside her comfort zone, self-deprecating Danika opts for taking an Italian cooking class, not knowing that she will both impress the appreciative chef with her tasting skills and meet a mysterious younger woman there, Finn Gerard, who will capture her heart and teach her the recipe for love.
Because, after all, the recipe for love can indeed be found at any age whatsoever.
Lucy J. Madison is a novelist, poet, screenwriter, and ghostwriter. Her short stories, articles, and poems have appeared in dozens of literary magazines and publications nationwide. A Recipe for Love: A Lesbian Culinary Romance is her third novel. She resides in shoreline Connecticut and Provincetown, MA. www.lucyjmadison.com. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @lucyjmadison.