Melanie's Reviews > A Lesson in Thorns

A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone
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really liked it
bookshelves: adult, contemporary, erotic-scenes, romance, read-in-2019, buddy-reads, lgbtqiap, paloma, sapphic

[EDIT:] Yes, I did drop my rating to four stars. I emailed the author and she was very kind and very respectful, but she did confirm that all six of these characters are for sure bi "but not deeply tied to their labels" for this entire series. I’m going to be probably a little too real with you, but this has been a really rough Pride for me in the book world. In my real life, I am so lucky to be accepted and supported as a pansexual and panromantic woman, but the book world constantly makes me feel like I’m a lesser version of bi and I can’t take it any longer. The fact that I am forced to try so very hard to see myself in literature, to force myself in cutouts that apparently weren’t made for me, and just knowing that authors could so easily give me a breadcrumb of representation without having to do any work what so ever, yet here I am crying over a romance book that refuses to acknowledge my queer existence once again. I’m just tired friends, and I’m fed up, and I can’t believe that I’ve still only read the word pansexual on page in about ten books for my entire life, when I read and review 100+ books a year. I’m sick of being erased, I’m sick of being not enough, and I can’t wait for the day when pan kids don’t have to figure out what pansexual and panromantic mean in their 20’s, because the book world proves over and over that we aren’t worth the representation and that bisexual and biromantic should always be the default for multiple gender attraction characters.

“Thornchapel knows my name and the crooked corners of my heart, and it wants me to make promises that I'm going to keep.”

Okay, I’m just going to be real with you all, if you love The Secret History, If We Were Villains, and/or Strange Grace, but wish they were all more sexually explicit? Then this is the book for you. This book is a love letter to polyamory, without ever using the word. This is f/f, m/m, m/f, and a whole lot of sexual group scenes. The atmosphere of all three of those books are the same, and a work of magic that most writers cannot craft, but Sierra Simone delivers and gave me a story that I’ve been waiting for what feels like my whole life for.

This is ownvoices for the queer representation and the narcolepsy representation. I only recall the word bisexual used once by one character (Beckett), but besides that bisexual or pansexual is never used on page (even though, if pansexual is used on page in book two, you will hear me screaming all the way from Vegas, this I swear), but all six characters express sexual attraction to multiple genders, and the author is bisexual. I have seen reviews that state all six characters are bi, but I just believe in my heart that there is no way that all six MGA (multiple gender attraction) characters are bisexual, I’m sorry. And if so, that’s not too inclusive and my pan-self wouldn’t want to read it, to be real honest with you all.

A Lesson in Thorns is a story that follows six characters who stayed at a remote manor, that is falling down, but is filled with secrets, called Thornchapel when they were young. The prologue of this book (which I really recommend you read on Amazon) shows them in the run-down chapel on the estate, where they are performing a fake marriage. And unexpectedly, the bride ends up marrying two grooms. Yet, the actual story starts out many years later, where all six of them are adults, but they all have returned to Thornchapel for one reason or another.

“I want him to be mine. Or I want to deny him the right to ever call me his. I want to heal him and I want to hurt him. All because of one broken kiss.”

Auden - The heir. Pan or bi, and owner of Thornchapel.

Prosperpina/Poe - The dreamer. Pan or bi, narcoleptic, total submissive, and just took a job at Thornchapel in the library, but she is secretly trying to figure out what happened to her mother after a mysterious note is sent to her.

Becket - The priest. Bisexual, and living his life for God.

Rebecca - The genius. Pan or bi, Black, and the Dom of my dreams.

Delphine - The socialite. Pan or bi, plus-sized, Instagram famous, and engaged to Auden.

St. Sebastian - The saint. Pan or bi, biracial (white and Mexican), and feels like he ruins all the lives that he touches.

“he wanted to shelter them from the rain and force them to kneel in the mud too, and he didn’t know what it meant or why it was happening”

And when these six characters get together, and get to re-know each other, secrets unfold and lives change. Even though Poe is the main character, each of these individuals feels completely fleshed out, and each are on their own personal journeys toward happiness, even if the road is very bumpy to get there.

But this is ultimately a book about finding yourself and your acceptance and happiness, even if it feels like your life has already been decided for you, regardless of your wishes and wants. It also showcases the importance of friendships and romantic relationships, and how sometimes those lines can blur, and sometimes they don’t, but sometimes they become something more. Also, I am just really into polyamorous stories right now, and I think that this one is really beautifully done, especially with the chilling atmosphere that leaves so much mystery in the air. This story is truly has so many compelling elements, it was just impossible to put down.

I also want to briefly mention that I really love and value the discussion this book has about the concept of virginity, and what a stupid pedestal so many people place it on. Also, how virginity (and losing it) can mean so much more than a penis going inside a vagina. I really loved how this book handled that, and I love how it completely shattered the stereotype of what it means to lose your virginity. Be still, my queer heart.

Overall, I just love Sierra Simone and I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from her, but A Lesson in Thorns is for sure my favorite. This is such an inclusive novel, from race, sexuality, and social and economic standings. This book also talks about reclaiming your body after someone takes a piece of it, while also discussing that there are so many ways to heal from loss and hurt. And I just think it is so wonderfully done, on top of being one of the sexiest things I’ve read all year. Like, I will never be the same after that spin the bottle scene, holy shit. But I absolutely cannot wait to read Feast of Sparks this summer.

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Content and trigger warnings talk of rape and assault in the past, abandonment, and loss of a loved one.

I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

Buddy read with Riley, Jane, & Paloma! ❤
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Reading Progress

April 11, 2019 – Shelved
April 11, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 11, 2019 – Shelved as: adult
April 11, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary
April 11, 2019 – Shelved as: erotic-scenes
April 11, 2019 – Shelved as: romance
June 5, 2019 – Started Reading
June 5, 2019 – Shelved as: read-in-2019
June 5, 2019 – Shelved as: buddy-reads
June 9, 2019 – Finished Reading
June 11, 2019 – Shelved as: lgbtqiap
June 25, 2019 – Shelved as: paloma
July 14, 2020 – Shelved as: sapphic

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)

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message 1: by Ola (new)

Ola (The Reading Witch) OMG THAT COVER!!
I don't know if I'd rather be her or be with her.
My queer heart is shaking.

message 2: by Navessa (new)

Navessa Hard agree.

message 3: by NabihaForever (new)

NabihaForever not kiding?!

jordan I read this the week it came out and I’m STILL thinking about it every single day. Currently my favorite read of 2019.

message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kim The cover is, by far, the only good thing about this book. I really hope you’ll enjoy this more than I did, but I felt like the entire story made absolutely no sense at all. Everything felt forced and very, VERY convenient. But I am in the minority here so who knows 😊

message 6: by Beatrice (new) - added it

Beatrice Masaluñga Update me if this one is good!

Chelsea Humphrey Oo I'm eyeing whether or not to buy this one... LMK!

Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰ I AM SO EXCITED TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS!!! <3


message 10: by Aoife - Bookish_Babbling (last edited Jun 20, 2019 12:41AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Aoife - Bookish_Babbling Fab review as always!
I am so bad at trying to wrangle my thoughts into a coherent review that i admire yours even more 😊

I am sort of on the fence about this, I liked a lot of the same things you did, I just didn't love them. :(
The representation & understanding friendships are awesome and deff part of what I liked about this book - but at the same time I felt the friendships were too rushed/accepting after so long apart considering (to my understanding) they had really only spent the one summer all together as children before...I haz conflicted feelz! 😭

Maybe because I am not used to reading this type of book I (1) need to alter my expectations of how character time works in these romance/smutty worlds?
Which means that maybe (2) I need to read more of these types of novels? 😈

The fact that book two is rumoured to be from Saint's PoV might convince me to pick it up - what a precious cinnamon roll

Chelsea (HeartBreakers Bookclub) Can't wait to read this! Just bought it.

message 12: by Christy (new) - added it

Christy I just picked up the audio <3

message 13: by Tomasz Wasik (new)

Tomasz Wasik Good review @ @


Madison Mary thank you for the update babe

message 15: by may ➹ (last edited Jun 20, 2019 01:41PM) (new)

may ➹ god, I’m so sorry that you’re facing all this pain and erasure, especially in a month meant to celebrate you and your beautiful identity. I love you so so much and you are more than enough as you are <3

message 16: by Penny (new) - added it

Penny Preach my gurl! <333 I love you to death and freakin' pisses me off that we don't see more queer spectrum characters in books

Leigh Kramer I think that's a completely fair reaction. We read books through the lens of our own experiences. I loved this one but I'm coming at it from a different lens. And at the same time, I hear you and I see you. I'm going to go through my book list and send you titles of any romances I've read with pansexual characters.

message 18: by Maryanne (new)

Maryanne I feel you and I'm sorry you are going through this. I know that if I /ever/ find a character in a book that represents me I will probably scream. Too many books out there for such little representation.

message 19: by Caitlin (new) - added it

Caitlin H I want to read this, based on your review, but at the same time, the update makes me sad. Pan hugs, if you want them. ♡ Maybe someday soon we'll see pansexuality represented in media...

Melanie (TBR and Beyond) I want there to be a day where I can give people an actual list of books with on the page pansexual representation. Right now, I have to not include my own identity on Pride challenges because there just isn't enough titles. It's so disheartening.

Keep preaching though girl - you do such amazing things for the community and I'm so grateful for your voice.

Aoife - Bookish_Babbling *hugs*

So much love winging it's way to you from Europe, I am so sorry to read the update on this review. My heart hurts and I shall try to share any books I stumble upon that tick these boxes if/when I find them.

message 22: by Elle (new)

Elle (ellexamines) 💜💜💜💜💜💜

message 23: by Rui (new)

Rui Melanie, I've been a fan of you for a while and I just wanted to say that you're not alone, despite what gatekeepers may think. <3 Also, there's a soon-to-be-released book called "Loki: Where Mischief Lies" by Mackenzie Lee that features a canonly pansexual Loki!! I haven't read it yet but I have high hopes since she's one of my favorite authors

message 24: by Ola (new)

Ola (The Reading Witch) I honestly don't want to support this author anymore so I won't buy nor read this book even if I was looking forward to it.
I love you Melanie and you are so damn valid and awesome, you have the right to identify as whatever you want and no one has the right to make you and your sexuality feel wrong/unimportant. Stay strong babe🖤xx

Kathy I love you so much, and am so sorry that this pride month has been such a downer for you. 🌸📒💙

Melanie I'm too emotional to respond to you all, but thank you all so much for seeing me, and supporting me, and just being the best friends that I could ever ask for. You all make me feel so very blessed, and I am forever and eternally grateful for each of you. Happy reading and happy Pride, friends. 💖xx

message 27: by carmen (new)

carmen i really don't want to come off as attacking anyone, but i think it's so strange that most people wouldn't automatically lower their rating if a book starred only straight people, but when there are too many Priviledged Bisexuals y'all are straight up boycotting it and saying you'll never support the author. like, don't see that you're just saying that you will cancel a book if there are several bi people? can you take a minute to reflect on why you think this is progressive, and not exactly the same message as your regular right wing biphobe? it's so insidious to claim bi rep is stealing from others when it is so necessary

message 28: by Melanie (last edited Jun 21, 2019 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melanie carmen wrote: "i really don't want to come off as attacking anyone, but i think it's so strange that most people wouldn't automatically lower their rating if a book starred only straight people, but when there ar..."

I'm not sure what review you read, but I never would say "privileged bisexuals", nor would i cancel an author... i have book two on my tbr, i think you need to take a fucking second, re read my review, check yourself and your privilege. Especially throwing out words like "right wing" and "insidious". Big fucking yikes @ you and this hot take.

and just in case you missed it, this is my fucking review, and i can rate any book however the fuck i want. (especially when it is not fucking inclusive and makes me feel erased.)

message 29: by Hussaya (new)

Hussaya I always support you Melanie!!! Love

message 30: by H (new)

H D carmen wrote: "i really don't want to come off as attacking anyone, but i think it's so strange that most people wouldn't automatically lower their rating if a book starred only straight people, but when there ar..."

First off, she never said that it was stealing from anyone??

Second, why do people always do this 'I don't mean to...' and then do exactly that??? You literally painted her in the same fucking shade as someone who actually hates queer people??? Have you lost your mind?

Third, since you wanna hand time-outs to people for thinking purposes, I wonder why you didn't stop to think how it would feel to have someone come in and tell you you're wrong to be hurt when something you loved and thought could represent you is definitively confirmed to shut you out??? Who raised you?? You coulda sat there, shook your damn head and kept it scrolling rather than trying to tone police someone's pain.

message 31: by may ➹ (new)

may ➹ carmen wrote: "i really don't want to come off as attacking anyone, but i think it's so strange that most people wouldn't automatically lower their rating if a book starred only straight people, but when there ar..."

hey Carmen, this is really not a good look. this comment just shows that you didn’t actually read what Melanie wrote, erasing her pain and voice even more. there’s a distinct difference between wanting to “cancel a book if there are several bi people” (which Mel never said or implied) and feeling hurt when a book doesn’t explicitly say it has several bi people, you think it might be able to represent you, and it turns out it doesn’t. Melanie was brave enough to be vulnerable and open about how she felt hurt, and since you’re clearly not listening to what she has to say, maybe pay attention to her words before commenting and contributing to her pain

message 32: by Gillian (new)

Gillian Melanie, I just want to say, I have loved your reviews since before I started following you on Goodreads! I have found that your opinions and ratings always coincide with mine. And while i haven't read "a lesson in thorns" (yet) I really appreciate your honest and raw review. I also respect the fact that you are open about the reasoning why you decided to lower the rating; because you are right, and also because you have every right to review and rate a book however you like. I think it's important for you to express your honest opinion about how the book made you feel as a pansexual because it provides others who may see your review who also are pan to have a better idea of what the book includes and let's them decide if it's something they want to read. Either way, just wanted to say I support you in this review! ❤️

Abigayil I am actually kind of sad myself that this book isn't what I thought it was. I would have definitely pegged them (most of them) as pansexual myself and almost appreciated it more for that fact...and I am a straight, heterosexual woman. So if it hurt me to find that the characters are strictly bi, then I can only imagine how this impacted someone such as yourself who is looking for some kind of representation in media. We'll get to that point some day I hope. Still a good book though and a great review :) I NEED book two like I need, NOW.

message 34: by Tonya (new) - added it

Tonya (Rustic Book Reviews) I left you a message on your website. I don't see it there but I really hope you got it about this post!! Thank you!

Elena C So I haven’t read this yet but I’ve heard there’s a lowkey polyamorous situation going on between the MC and 2 guys. It made me wonder... the author is bisexual and all the characters are bi, I wonder why she didn’t make the “polyamorous” relationship between Poe, one guy and one girl. Why the MC and 2 guys? In they case couldn’t there have been a female threesome at least? 😩 For a book with all bi characters written by a bi author, I’m kind of disappointed there wasn’t as much of a sapphic focus in the story...

Elena C in that case*

Klarisa I just read a short story collection on the theme of pride and it neglected to highlight pansexual, intersex, and ace/aro people like me. I feel similar frustrations, girl. Keep being vocal about this <3

message 38: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I’ve identified as bisexual for a while, simply because it seems the most straightforward label for “feels romantic attraction to anyone I like”. But whenever I hear someone explain the pansexual/bisexual differences I become confused because the differences vary from person to person and several bi/pan people themselves don’t know the definitive difference. What is your personal differentiation that leads to you seeing bi and pan as completely different labels?

message 39: by Emily (new)

Emily Hello Melanie! I am currently reading Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, and it made me think of this review because one of the characters in it is openly pansexual! I just thought you might want to know of a good book (so far!) with pansexual rep :)

Mel (Epic Reading) Im a 36 year old female. I’ve always been attracted to all/any gender. When I was a teenager pansexual was not a ‘thing’. There were only three options in the world I was taught: straight, gay and bi. As I never cared what the gender was of a person I was attracted to I have long identified as bisexual.
These days I struggle as I’ve been fighting a long time for people to understand that while my life partner is a man that doesn’t make me straight. To try and explain a new definition of another word sounds exhausting to me after all this time of struggling to explain bisexuality to people. I never excluded other gender options in my mind; but it wasn’t until I was 20 that I first met and understood a transgender person so “other gender definitions” just wasn’t a thing for me as a teenager when I was defining myself.
I tell you this if only to say that a lot of people say bisexual but mean pansexual. I realize that is unlikely to be of any comfort to you. And that’s okay. I just wanted to indicate why for many people older than the millenial generation we have used one word for a long time and it’s difficult to identify with a new word.
Not sure if that makes sense but just wanted to share my perspective that sometimes the use of certain words is because of generation and comfort (and not because anyone is trying to exclude anyone).

message 41: by Izzy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Izzy Oh, fuck off. Imagine unironically lowering your rating for a book bc a character wasn't your specific type of queer. The biphobia jumps out out of you, like most pans I guess.

message 42: by O'Colemain (new)

O'Colemain I’m going to preface this by say please don’t bite my head off: I don’t understand what the problem is. The definition of bisexual is being attracted to both sexes, the definition of pansexual is being attracted to any sex or “gender” (which is actually a term for words and grammar) but gender has now basically replaced the word sex in modern speech, so since there are only two sexes (yes there are people that identify as the opposite sex but there are still only two) what is the difference in the words? It is essentially the same thing.
Obviously for you and others there is a difference but what is it?

message 43: by Kristina (new)

Kristina If I were an author after this type of response I would never include lgbt characters in my book ever. Someone is inclusive and then gets bashed for not having "the right type of gay", you privileged biphobic baby, shame on you

message 44: by Maiya (new)

Maiya As someone who writes as well you have to remember that authors dont owe readers anything. Not in representation nor in a happy ending. Most people write the stories they want to write. It sucks that you felt let down and you also have a right to rate the story however you want. But at the same time you come off really entitled. The author could be a bisexual woman herself or just wanted to write about the bisexual experience. Representation is nice and always great, but you should want to write that. Not something to be shoehorned. It's been a year since you reviewed this I hope you found the book you were looking for. It's easy to read and review but it's even harder to write an entire book your passionate about.

message 45: by Perry (new)

Perry Jones I feel you with the rep in books friend. I'ma 15 year old gay African american teenager and i look for so much rep in adult romances and every romance their seems to be is a straight romance like really it's 2020 step up your game.

message 46: by Giselle (new) - added it

Giselle 'bisexual rep written by a bisexual woman is pan erasure' is not a take I expected to see, but here we are. Big fucking yikes.

message 47: by Maddie (new) - added it

Maddie Great review! I do think though that you shouldn’t change your rating because of the sexualities of the characters. But I also agree that there needs to be more pan representation.

message 48: by Vi (new) - added it

Vi It's a misconception that the bi in bisexuality refers to the binary of two genders, but rather the binary of attraction to my gender and not my gender. Even the Bisexual Manifesto which was penned some 30 years ago never said that bisexuality means attraction to only two genders. Imo, whether someone identifies as bisexual or pan is a personal thing, and implying that bisexuality is transphobic is bi-erasure.

Having said that, I completely understand how upsetting it is to not feel represented, because even the terminology on paper means something. I personally wouldn't take off a star just because I don't feel represented, but ratings are personal and I respect that that's how you feel. Your feelings are absolutely valid.

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