ICYMI, Shakespeare reimaginings are my jam, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for Lauren Emily Whalen’s Take Her Down, a queer YA Julius Caesar retelling set at a cutthroat magnet school that releases on the Ides of March! (That’s March 15, 2022, although if you preorder from Bold Strokes Books, you can get it in your hands two weeks early!)
In this queer YA retelling of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, stakes at Augustus Magnet School are cutthroat, scheming is creative, and loyalty is ever-changing.
Overnight, Bronwyn St. James goes from junior class queen to daughter of an imprisoned felon, and she lands in the care of her aunt and younger cousin Cass, a competitive cheerleader who Bronwyn barely knows. Life gets worse when her ex-best friend, the always-cool Jude Cuthbert, ostracizes Bronwyn from the queer social elite for dating a boy, Porter Kendrick.
Bronwyn and Jude are both running for student body president, and that means war. But after Bronwyn, Porter, and Cass share a video of Jude in a compromising position, Jude suddenly goes missing. No one has seen her for weeks and it might be all Bronwyn’s fault.
Will Jude ever be found? Or will Bronwyn finally have to reckon with what she’s won―and what she’s lost?
Content Advisory: Depictions of sexual assault.
And here’s the on-point cover, done by Inkspiral Design!
Lauren Emily Whalen is the author of three books for young adults, including TWO WINTERS, a queer YA reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, available everywhere September 14. Lauren is a freelance writer, professional performer, and very amateur aerialist who is an unabashed devotee of the Bard. She lives in Chicago with her cat, Versace, and an apartment full of books. Say hello at laurenemilywrites.com.
All Kaeri Hawen wants is a peaceful life in the Lower Terrace. No more collecting debts. No more breaking kneecaps.
But then the Boss’s loose cannon of a son massacres a dozen rival gangsters with a single pull of the trigger. Kaeri’s quiet retirement is off the menu—for now. If she wants out of her life of crime, she’ll have to stop Kasper and his devilish weapon first.
Maria Cantabile is a clever young noblewoman with a knack for tinkering and a devastating right cross. She’s descended into the Lower Terrace to retrieve two precious possessions: her delinquent little sister, and the stolen prototype of her reciprocating repeater carbine.
Kaeri knows just where to find both—the girl and the gun sit in Kasper’s greedy, bloodied hands.
The deadly noblewoman and the gold-hearted gangster will have to work together to stop a city-wide bloodbath. They’ll have to break their own rules, and betray their own families. They’ll have to risk falling in love. Do they have what it takes to save the Lower Terrace, and save each other?
Being the kid abducted by crazy old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.
When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either crazier than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.
Now every door is an accident waiting to happen—especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen.
Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide.
It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.
Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.
Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.
Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.
But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.
On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.
They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.
During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.
“Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree” by Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.
“True North” by Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.
“Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille” by Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.
“Halfway Home” by Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.
“Shelved” by Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.
The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.
At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.
To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.
If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.
The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.
Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive, and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.
Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.
Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is.
Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.
Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.
Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.
Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.
Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.
Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.
How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?
(Note: this is a sequel to a non-LGBTQ book, and contains f/f romance)
Accountant and financial advisor Lacey Chamberlain doesn’t consider herself a control freak. She’s merely a planner—orderly, neat, and content in her tidy little life. When a marketing firm moves into the empty office next door, the loud-music-playing, stinky-food-ordering, kickball-in-the-hall staff make Lacey crazy.
Marketing expert Alicia Wright is spontaneous, flies by the seat of her pants, and lives in the moment—all the things Lacey is not. She’s also gorgeous, thoughtful, and seems determined to make Lacey like her.
They say opposites attract, but for how long? And is that really a good idea?
Miniature artist Ian Meyers has one week to rebuild his damaged set. Needing help, he goes to End o’ Earth, the local comic and gaming shop. Owner Simon Derry pushes all of Ian’s buttons, and he also has steady hands and the skills Ian needs.
Before they can even grab a beer, Ian meets Lydia Derry, Simon’s wife. If Ian had any interest in women, he’d suggest a threesome, but then Simon explains that he and Lydia are polyamorous, and if Ian wants Simon, neither of them will complain. If anything, Lydia encourages the relationship.
Ian’s all in, and it’s fantastic working with Simon to piece together his set and then take each other apart at night. His friendship with Lydia grows too. The only problem is, the more time he spends with Simon, the more he wants everything Simon already has with Lydia: A house. A cat. A commitment. So Ian runs, and shatters the trust he has with them both—right when they need him the most. Piecing their relationships back together might prove harder than a smashed set.
These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.
This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.
A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.
(Note: this is not an LGBTQ anthology, but a significant number of the contributions are. Representation includes but is not limited to lesbian, bisexual, genderqueer, and polyamorous.)
Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.
When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known. Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma. Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.
His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.
Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.
So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?
Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them.
Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.
Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.
Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.
At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.
Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?
The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.
When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…
Sara Walker’s life is going nowhere fast: she has a job she enjoys but doesn’t love, friends who are too busy to hang out with her, and no boyfriend in sight. Then a phone call on a lonely Friday night changes everything, and suddenly she’s spending her weekends with Laura. Newly single and openly bisexual, Laura makes Sara think decidedly not-straight thoughts.
Laura Murphy, with her red hair, freckles, and killer curves, is any guy’s wet dream. But Laura’s done with guys for now, and it’s Sara who can’t stop dreaming about her. When Sara finally gives in to the curiosity, Laura blows her mind and pushes her further than she’s ever gone before.
But Laura makes it very clear that this is only a rebound fling, and she’s still planning to move to California. She’s more than happy to tie Sara up, but she’s not ready to be tied down. If Sara wants to keep her, she’s going to have to work hard to convince Laura that New York is worth staying for . . . and so is she.
Bonus: Tumbling by Caela Carter has a lesbian POV (YA, Olympic gymnastics), although there is no romance, and theYou Know Who Girls series by Annameekee Hesik (basketball) has f/f romance and a lesbian protag but is not a Romance by definition
If you read f/f NA/Romance, it’s pretty impossible not to know Rebekah Weatherspoon, but how well do you really know Rebekah Weatherspoon? (Also, not to brag, but I just got to see her on several panels at RT and she was freaking fantastic; if you ever get the opportunity to hear her panel somewhere, DO IT.) How could I not beg to pick the brain behind not only a seriously epic collection of diverse romance, but the entire #WoCInRomance site? (PS she also had a new release just this past weekend: check out So Right, the sequel to So Sweet, which share a bi heroine in an m/f relationship!)
I usually avoid asking authors about their inspiration because I know it gets asked to death, but you have a paranormal lesbian sorority series, and I’m sorry but I must know where the idea for that came from. Must.
Ha! I don’t know where the idea came from, I remember exactly where I was when the idea came to me. I was driving down Wilshire Blvd and I hit the intersection at New Hampshire Ave (I’m from New Hampshire, you see). The idea popped into my head and I remember thinking this is so ridiculous and over the top I’ll be kicking myself if I don’t run with it. So I did.
You’re one of very few writers of f/f NA, and bless you for it. What have been the biggest challenges and awesome moments of publishing it?
Honestly, I don’t see any challenges. I think a lot of my work is outside of the mainstream. I write a lot of women of color and being a woman of color I face the same challenges walking down the street or going to the bank. It’s just another day.
What’s a particularly conscious choice you’ve made in your representation?
I’ve made the choice to write women of color, particularly young black women. I feel like young women of color (tween-25) almost NEVER seen themselves on screen or in literature. And if they are screen they are sometimes played by an adult. I love Arden Cho something fierce, but she was like 28 when she started playing a 17-year-old on Teen Wolf. I know that sort of thing messes with the teen mind. In writing NA, I wanted to give younger women a most realistic portrayal of themselves. Even if there are vampires involved.
What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Oh man, I really have to think. When I was growing up none of the LGBTQ terms were in my vocabulary. My parents just had friends that were married to other women, but they didn’t tell me they were lesbians so I didn’t have the words for it. BUT I think Ricky on My So-Called Life stuck with me. Ricky was gay and out and Latino and living in a mostly white town, but he was also so cool. I remember really wishing that Ricky could find his own happiness outside of Angela and her family. I’m sure he’d have it by now.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Uh, there’s a lot of racism. That kinda sucks. Also a lot of different flavors of misogyny and transmisogny and transphobia that sneak in. When I came out I remember being really excited and then extra bummed that a lot of what I was seeing in the straight/cis community was presenting in every aspect of the LGBTQIAP+ community as well including our literature.
What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?
A lot less of the crud I mentioned before with the bigotry, etc. and I NEED more queer New Adult reads, and I would sell my grandma for more erotic queer lit of every kind. Queer erotic fairy tales, queer erotic sports romances, queer erotic romantic comedies. Make ’em queer, and sweet, and extra porny.
What’s up next for you?
Self-pub wise, after I wrap up the Sugar Baby series in the fall I’ll be working on some space lesbian erotic romance. There’s not enough erotic romance in space, featuring lesbians.
Ain’t that the truth. You can buy any and all (preferably all) of Rebekah’s books here! (If you’re a Kindle person like I am, I’ll make that even easier here.)