One thing that makes the Mrs. Hawking series unique is that we not only have a queer protagonist, she is of a kind you very rarely see represented– our hero is an asexual aromantic, and it’s very important to the conception of her character.
A large part of her story is the difficulties she faces in maneuvering through a world that has no understanding of asexuality. The social expectations surrounding her provide constant challenge– the way she has no inclination toward romantic love, the stranglehold she found in the obligation of marriage, and not only the inability to reciprocate the Colonel’s feelings for her, but even to relate to them. She herself doesn’t have a word for it, only the sense that she is different from most others, and perhaps even beyond their understanding, even those who work hardest to grow closest to her.
While love and romance can be fun threads to explore, and our story deals with them in the form of Nathaniel’s marriage and Mary’s developing relationships, it also takes some of the emphasis on romance as the only kind of truly significant relationship. The most important connections in the story are unconventional and not easily defined– not as simple and clear cut as parent and child, or simply friends, but complicated by familial love, the bonds between teammates, and the relationship between mentor and protege. Mary’s role as Mrs. Hawking’s student makes the girl the most important person in her life, while Mrs. Hawking s not simply Nathaniel’s aunt, but an important figure of authority and approval whose validation he desperately craves. And while there is no romance between Mary and Nathaniel, the intense struggles they weather together make an unbreakable friendship between them.
I enjoy the chance to explore some of the more unexpected bonds that can form between people, and demonstrate that romances are not the only important connections in people’s lives. I think Mrs. Hawking’s asexuality helps not only represent a subgroup that is not often present in fiction, it helps redshift the focus to the wider spectrum of meaningful human relationships.