Today on the site I’m excited to reveal a very dashing cover for the upcoming Contemporary m/m Romance Hard Sell by Hudson Lin, which releases May 25, 2021 from Carina Adores! It stars two Asian-Canadian men bonded by their mutual love for Wei, Tobin’s big brother and Danny’s best friend, and follows what happens when they meet again in the boardroom after a one-night stand… Here’s the official story:
Danny Ip walks into every boardroom with a plan. His plan for struggling tech company WesTec is to acquire it, shut it down, and squeeze the last remaining revenue out of it for his Jade Harbour Capital portfolio. But he didn’t expect his best friend’s younger brother—the hottest one-night stand he ever had—to be there.
Tobin Lok has always thought the world of Danny. He’s funny, warm, attractive—and totally out of Tobin’s league. Now, pitted against Danny at work, Tobin might finally get a chance to prove he’s more than just Wei’s little brother.
It takes a lot to get under Danny’s skin, but Tobin is all grown up in a way Danny can’t ignore. Now, with a promising patent on the line and the stakes higher than ever, all he can think about is getting Tobin back into his bed—and into his life for good.
If only explaining their relationship to Wei could be so easy…
And here’s the brutally suave cover, designed by Victor Cheng!
Hudson Lin was raised by conservative immigrant parents and grew up straddling two cultures with oftentimes conflicting perspectives on life. Instead of conforming to either, she has sought to find a third way that brings together the positive elements of both.
Having spent much of her life on the outside looking in, Lin likes to write stories about outsiders who fight to carve out their place in society, and overcome everyday challenges to find love and happily ever afters. Her books are diverse romances featuring queer and disabled people of color.
When not getting lost in a good story, Lin hosts a podcast, interviews queer people of color, and coaches aspiring authors.
You know those cover designs that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Well this is one of them, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the re-design of Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine, rereleasing* on December 1! (Yes, that’s next week!) Here’s the story:
At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.
A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.
Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.
*Handmade Holidays was originally published by NineStar Press in 2017
‘Nathan Burgoine is a tall queer guy who writes mostly shorter queer fictions, though novels do happen. He tends to write fiction with a dash of the speculative, usually contemporary, and always with queer characters. He’s published dozens of short stories, and released his first collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, a series of interconnected short fiction pieces tell a story greater than the sum of its parts.
At the novella length of things, ‘Nathan tends to write queer romance, including his wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey gay romance In Memoriam, a trio of holiday-themed romances: Handmade Holidays (chosen family), Faux Ho Ho (fake boyfriend), and the upcoming Village Fool (an April Fools’ Day prank gone wrong). He also co-wrote Saving the Date with Angela S. Stone, as part of the 1Night Stand series, a romance which explores surviving and thriving after a hate crime.
His first speculative fiction novel, Light (think a gay superhero, only not very good at it yet), was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks (a teen boy with a tendency to plan out his whole live has to scrap his plans when he develops a teleportation problem), was a finalist for the YA Prix Aurora Award. His other two novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul (vampires, wizards, and demons, oh my!), are contemporary urban fantasies set in Ottawa.
‘Nathan lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his husband and his rescued husky. You can find him online at nathanburgoine.com.
Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome author Lilah Suzanne to celebrate the release of their newest, a contemporary f/f Romance called Tack & Jibe that releases from Interlude Press today. Here’s a little more on the book!
Raised on a small island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Willa Rogers has a picture-perfect nautical life: hanging out at the beach with her friends, living in a cozy seaside cottage, working at a sailing store, and running a hugely popular sailing Instagram. It’s so convincing that her overzealous online followers register her to compete in the High Seas, a televised national sailing championship.
Too bad Willa doesn’t actually know how to sail.
Desperate to protect her carefully curated life, Willa tracks down four-time High Seas champion Lane Cordova, and begs her for a crash course in sailing before the race begins. But Lane’s mastery of the water is matched only by Willa’s ineptitude—and her growing crush on Lane isn’t helping matters. When the competition threatens to go awry and take her idealized life with it, Willa has to figure out if she can save her reputation from sinking while taking a chance on love.
The shopping center when you first come into town features a gas station-slash-Italian grocery store, an eyebrow threading studio that is also, somehow, a U-haul rental center, and next to that, a vape store. This a town that was put on the map in the 1800s thanks to a railroad stop and a natural spring that locals claimed had healing powers— a spring that has since dried up and a train depot that is now a brewery. The rows of brick buildings branded with historical marker placards are occupied by shiny new stores: a juice bar, a coffee roaster, an artisanal chocolate cafe, even more breweries. There’s a new library; an expanded town hall; and a newly-opened art center. The art center, with its white-washed facade and picture windows, sits in the center of downtown, around the corner and across the street from a gun store that boasts over 6,000 guns in stock. It’s a complicated place; a town in flux, but from what to what I’m not quite sure. A rural small-town turned suburban enclave for certain, but just as transplants from colder places north of the Mason-Dixon bring more progressive views, an undercurrent of conformity remains.
The suburbs, like much of the South, is not a place to make waves.
It’s fitting, I suppose, that the first story I’ve set in North Carolina is about a character who struggles with the desire to be someone else, somewhere else. Someone who feels as if they must contort and misrepresent themselves in an effort to fit in and who, in a pretty straightforward metaphor for wanting to get the heck out of dodge, dreams of literally sailing away and never coming back. And yet.
And yet, there’s this tug of home. This is the place that’s shaped them. That’s shaped me. Isn’t this odd little town part of who I am? Won’t it always be? Could I really leave, even if I wanted to? Do I want to? Wherever you go there you are… This is the push-pull at the center of Tack & Jibe, a story that asks a lot of questions about authenticity and truth and finding yourself when you aren’t in a place–literally or metaphorically–to explore that fully.
In truth, I didn’t even realize I was writing these themes in Tack & Jibe until I was well into the editorial process. It was one of those oh, that’s what I was working through here, moments. I am several books and short stories in to a writing career and just now am I writing about the state where I’ve spent most of my life. Just now am I really exploring the complicated relationship I have to home and self and identity and loving a place that doesn’t always love me back. Why? Maybe I just needed time. Maybe I needed to write about other things first. Maybe I just didn’t feel like it. Maybe, like Willa and Lane in Tack & Jibe, I needed to know I could leave if I wanted to. And maybe I do, even if it’s only in a story. But maybe I don’t.
This is what I love about North Carolina: The accent, the sweet tea, the barbeque, the mild winters, the pine forests, the mountains, the beaches, the way people smile and say, “hey!” and genuinely welcome you to their home and heart even when they don’t know you all that well, not really. How people surprise you by being open and loving when you’ve come expect the opposite. Here’s what I don’t love: How change is still slow to come and hard-fought, the gut punch of realizing you don’t belong somewhere after all, knowing there are parts of you that you have to hide, knowing you aren’t safe, knowing that if they knew really knew you, they wouldn’t welcome you into their home and heart. Not really.
I don’t have answers to any of the questions or conflicts I ask in the book nor do I in real life. Like the town I currently reside in, perhaps I’m in flux. I’ve left home before and I probably will again. For now I’m here because, well, because I am. I’m happy though, and in the book, Willa ends up happy. But Tack & Jibe is a rare story where I didn’t neatly wrap up all the loose ends, which troubled me at first until I realized there exists the possibility of multiple happily-ever-afters unspooling from the place where the story finishes. For a lot of us, a sense of home and a sense of who we are is complicated. And for me, for Willa, for Lane, for a lot of people, it probably always will be. Ultimately, that’s what the story is really about. Well, that and sailing.
And romance, of course.
Lilah Suzanne is a queer author of bestselling and award-winning romantic fiction. Their 2018 novel Jilted was named a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and a Foreword INDIES Award, and won a Bisexual Book Award for romantic fiction. Their critically acclaimed Spotlight series included the Amazon #1 bestseller Broken Records, along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored the romantic comedy Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story Halfway Home, from the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.
Today on the site we’re welcoming Erin McLellan, author of Bottle Rocket, the third book in the So Over the Holidays series, which released on June 15. Bottle Rocket is an erotic contemporary m/f Romance with a bi male MC, and you can read a little more about here before we move on to the guest post!
Freshly single Rosie Holiday is on the hunt for passion and excitement. This leads her to Leo Whittaker—a bad boy who waltzed out of town, and her life, thirteen years ago. Leo isn’t the type to stick around, but Rosie’s not going to let a no-strings opportunity pass her by.
When a business trip sends Leo back to his hometown, the last thing he expects is for his first love to hand him a list of scorching-hot escapades and a deadline. He’s happy to help Rosie discover her bossy side in the bedroom. Or in a fireworks stand. Or at a Fourth of July barbecue.
Their chemistry burns bright and fast, but what tore them apart years ago is still between them. They are polar opposites. A reserved kindergarten teacher and an irreverent artist. A nester and a wanderer. It will take a spark of imagination and a lot of love to keep their second-chance romance from flaming out.
I write queer contemporary romance, all of which is fairly steamy. But of the eight books I’ve written, the only ones that are erotic romances are the So Over the Holidays series, which includes my most recent release, Bottle Rocket.
Erotic romance is romance in which the emotional conflict and plot hinges on the sexual or erotic journey of the main characters. I like to say that in erotic romance if you remove the sex or intimate scenes, the plot no longer makes sense. It’s integral.
Around two years ago, I decided to write something fluffy. All my books up to that point had been fairly angsty. I love those books, but I needed some joyfulness in my life. I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling. Rom-coms and low-angst books are experiencing a bit of a Renaissance right now in adult romance, and I believe this is due to readers wanting happiness in light of some of the heartbreak in our world. But I can only speak for myself. I needed to write something fun. I needed to write something that made me happy.
Enter erotic romance from stage left.
The So Over the Holiday series came to be because of that need. The books in the series are queer erotic romances in which the main characters embark on erotic journeys that are joyful, fun, kink positive, and life changing. I started by writing a sex-toy-selling bisexual heroine who is brash, sarcastic, and sex positive and a hero who is sweet in the streets but nasty in the sheets (Sasha and Perry from Stocking Stuffers). Then I wrote a gay lingerie-loving hero who is fabulous but a little lost and a pansexual workaholic who is completely enamored by his partner (Benji and William from Candy Hearts).
Bottle Rocket, my new release, follows Rosie Holiday, a reserved kindergarten teacher, on a summer journey of self-actualization. She’s recently divorced and has realized that so many of her interests and hobbies were dictated by her ex. She has no idea who she really is, and this extends to her sex life. She has been missing out and intends to take life by the horns and fix it. In walks the hero, Leo, who is a bisexual erotic artist and absolute bad boy. Even better, Leo and Rosie had a secret love affair thirteen years before, so this is their second chance to reconnect.
Leo offers to help Rosie work through a checklist of sexcapades. Their sexy times ultimately lead her to the realization that she enjoys being dominant and in control in bed. Leo is more than happy to be bossed around. Rosie’s femdom breakthrough is revealed through joy, humor, heart, and kindness.
When I started writing these erotic romances, it was important to me that I approached them with joy and kindness in my heart. It felt radical to me to write these journeys of sexual self-discovery without angst, not because other authors haven’t done it before—they have—but because I hadn’t.
Growing up, I didn’t have much of a sex education (hello, public school in Oklahoma) and didn’t truly understand sex positivity until I was well into adulthood. I’ve had to educate myself, and I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had to discover sex and kink positivity and grow in that understanding on my own. Being an avid romance reader has certainly helped my on my own journey. To me, Bottle Rocket feels like a culmination of that education and the joy I’ve found in that education. I hope to continue to grow, to write sex positive queer romance, to create characters who are joyful in their sexuality, and to find radical happiness in the fluffiness.
I have loved writing heroines who own how much they enjoy sex and sex toys and kink. I have loved writing heroes who are totally in awe of their partners and always game to get a little dirty. I’ve loved writing holidays full of big found families, lots of tropes, silly puns, corny humor, and repurposed clichés. It was more fun than I’ve ever had writing romance.
Lastly, and on a personal note—I finished writing Bottle Rocket in March of 2020. I discuss this in an Author’s Note at the end of the book. I wrote it while dealing with the same grief, anxiety, fear, illness, and isolation that so many of us have felt in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being able to write Rosie and Leo as they find joy in their kinkiness, sexuality, and compatibility gave me joy when I needed it the most. I hope it brings you joy as well.
Erin McLellan is the author of the Farm College, So Over the Holidays, and Storm Chasers series. She enjoys writing happily ever afters that are earthy, emotional, quirky, humorous, and very sexy. Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska and spends her time dreaming up queer contemporary romances set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.
One of the most popular requests on the LGBTQReads Tumblr is for recommendations for m/m trans Romance, and I’m so thrilled to have an author of the world’s newest here to talk about it, and specifically about sexuality in it. Freedom by E. Davies releases today, so let’s take a look at the book and then get right into the author’s guest post!
Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But Henry’s junk does.
Agoraphobe Jaden shouldn’t have let his big brother put a ticket in a blind date raffle for him. He wasn’t expecting to win. And certainly not an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous stranger—and his total opposite, a hunky wilderness guide.
Henry’s excited to meet a guy he clicks with, having finally finished bottom surgery. He’s been living stealth as the man he is for years, but he’s growing tired of hiding his past. Jaden not only accepts him, he captivates Henry, who resolves to be courageous and vulnerable in the rest of his life.
Back home in Denver, Henry starts to take pride in reconnecting with the trans community, while Jaden pushes himself out of his comfort zone. But freedom always comes at a price. Can they take the plunge into their wide open future together?
Transition is most visibly about embodiment—but it goes so much further than this simplified explanation. In seeking a better way of physically being, we’re also embarking on a journey of hope. Transition has forced me to believe in who I can be, and to strive to embrace that potential joy, even when those around me didn’t understand; that process has been the most powerful, life-affirming experience of my life.
I’ve been on this journey for over eight years now. A lot has changed, to say the least. And yet, despite massive increases in visibility and public awareness, and the associated risks and opportunities, the progress is uneven. Visibility rarely means education, and it’s hard to find facts on many aspects of transition and trans life. One of those areas is bottom surgery options for trans men, and another is trans men’s sexuality. Where those areas intersect, it’s often impossible to find facts without seeking out one-on-one conversations—which is not always possible or practical.
This is obviously aggravated by the current campaigns to stigmatize trans men’s surgeries. The abuse associated with trans bodies leads to many of us talking only behind closed doors—which is what transphobic factions want, so that they can control the conversation… and in doing so, our very hopes and dreams. Even when you do encounter information, it tends to be dry surgical factsheets that don’t really relate to everyday life. What will it feel like to actually interact with this different body in sex, while getting dressed, or in the bath? These questions tend to get overlooked in favor of the important decisions on surgeons, optimal healing, and so on. When you’re caught up in the required treadmill of waiting, chasing referrals, fighting for your rights, preparing for outcomes, and more, it’s hard to imagine the minutia of the “after”.
That’s where fiction can come in.
For cis authors, trans lives are often most interesting at their most raw: coming out, starting hormones, getting top surgery. But the focus on trans men in earlier stages of their journeys, the comparatively more easily-available information, and persistent myths and stigmas around gay trans men’s sexuality, means that romance featuring trans men tends to place them before or without bottom surgery.
When I started writing trans characters in MM romance, the questions I strove to answer in my fiction were much like those in the rest of my life: What does trans life actually look like after the moments that tend to be in the spotlight?
In answer, I’ve worked to create stories with a variety of trans men: James in Grind is struggling with debt from top surgery and has no interest in the further surgeries currently available, but packs and enjoys frot; Nic in Flaunt has had meta and is both ready to reembrace his femininity, and exploring his options for phallo now; Jake in Forever is boldly toppy, and would like a hysterectomy but wants to bear a child first. Each character tends to subvert some readers’ expectations, and each reflects an equally valid trans life.
In Freedom, I finally wrote a trans character who is post-phallo (all stages), having dated men before and during transition, but who hasn’t hooked up since then. He also has a complicated relationship with transness, having lived stealth for some years and found it liberating at first, only to feel like it began to encroach upon his freedom instead.
The conversations I wrote in Freedom came from a place of wanting to explore this different possible relationship to transness—post-dysphoria, if you like. Post-transition as a concept seems wobblier than it did when I started writing the book, and when I set out on this surgical journey myself. Nowadays, I think my relationship to myself, my past, and my community will keep on evolving for many years to come.
Throughout all my stories, I hope to show that transition is an ongoing process and series of choices, and there is no one-size-fits-all narrative. Above all, I want trans readers to see that romance can find you at any point in this journey; that they—and we—are loveable and loved no matter what. We can be as open and out or as stealth and private as we wish. Trans men are not an obscure fetish, nor are we desired only post-transition, or only desired by certain sexualities or genders, or any of the other myths. I tend to write pairings of cis gay men and trans gay men, simply because they’ve been the most common in my life experience. Even this fact often surprises people! Plenty of cis gay men do date, fuck, love, befriend, and desire trans men. If that simple fact can’t make it to any broader cultural awareness, there’s certainly an uphill battle about the complicated choices we make regarding our bodies.
When I was preparing for lower surgery, the vast majority of people in my life had no idea what was involved, what the options were, or even that it was possible to have a real, satisfying sex life—either before or after surgery! In particular, cis gay culture at the moment seems to have very little idea how to address our existence, and gay fiction often reflects that confusion and uncertainty. Yet trans men have been dating cis gay men (as well as people of all genders and sexualities) for as long as people have been around! Within broader society, there’s very few portrayals of our bodies, whether we opt for bottom surgery or not.
There seems to be an odd dichotomy of thought: either we must desperately desire surgery (leaving no space for those who are happy without it), or we must reject it, as “natural bottoms” (a deeply transphobic concept that is startlingly pervasive). If we do choose surgery, either it’s “the surgery” that grants us, overnight, a cis penis—a misunderstanding that can create painfully dysphoric interactions with friends and lovers. Or, on the other hand, we’re doomed to life with no satisfactory options.
Where’s the room for reality: that our options are broad, our outcomes not always certain but certainly not hopeless, and our lives not necessarily centered on this one narrow aspect of our selves? That the results can be more than satisfactory, and huge strides in techniques have been made, yet outdated myths tend to circulate more widely than fact? That despite this, there are huge strides in advocacy, information, and aftercare that must be made to protect and uplift us?
Better still, where’s the room for fantasy: that we can set aside all our reality for an afternoon and just enjoy a story? That we can have a perfectly wonderful sex life where the differences between our junk and the expectations placed on cis guy’s are minimal, or even celebrated? This is what was so deeply enjoyable about writing Freedom—having Jaden simply accept Henry’s body, embrace the advantages, and focus on learning what makes Henry, specifically, feel good. It’s not a fantasy that’s so far away from real life. In my experience, that’s how relationships tend to work, yet we often aren’t granted this fantasy on the page. Sensual moments are often used for predictable narrative tension, as if we can’t simply exist, fuck, and love it.
Not that there isn’t a place for those stories—trans lives are messy, real, and diverse. Even within Freedom, with my optimistic outlook and aims, there are moments where Henry struggles to remember that his learned habits about his body are outdated now.
Romance books are a tremendous place to explore how our many lives and loves can look. The diversity in trans bodies and lack of education regarding them can throw off readers sometimes. But that very lack of expectation is also an opportunity! Because no person should be expected to enjoy or desire sex, to fit naturally into any role, or to be interested in any particular sex act, gender, or person. Yet too many norms of society are structured around these rigid, artificial ideals.
In rewriting the rules of expectation, trans people can show a path to sexual liberation for all. At the end of the day, sex—between fictional characters or in real life—ought to be about finding what each person involved desires, and looking for the points of intersection where both (or more) can find what they want and need.
One thing’s for certain: sex, sexuality, and transness isn’t neat and tidy, but it is full of hope and possibility. And that’s something that will never grow old.
Since 2013, E. Davies has crafted feel-good stories of men in love–stories that are brimming with hope, found families, and realistic guys next door getting their modern fairytale endings. As for hobbies: rescuing bees, dancing badly, traipsing through meadows, and studying photos of cute guys for research totally count, right?
I’m really thrilled to have Katrina Jackson back on the site today for this beautiful essay on finding queer Black love in literature. I asked her to write it after seeing her Twitter threads about it, and I’m so grateful that she did. You can see more about Kat and her books here, but frankly, I’m antsy to get to the post, so, onward!
I didn’t start reading romance with any kind of intention until I was an adult, but I have loved love stories my entire life, especially Black love stories. There was something about seeing movies with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and realizing that they had spent decades sharing their passion for art and activism with one another, that made my heart swell. It still does. I’ve also always loved queer love stories for as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t understand that I loved queer love stories for the same reasons I loved Black love stories: I was searching for depictions of love that reflected pieces of myself. I was searching for something that felt like a little slice of me on the big and small screens.
The first DVD I bought was The Color Purple. It was one of those old-school DVDs where the movie was split between two discs with those cheap plastic covers. I cherished that DVD, because once it was mine, I could watch that scene of Celie and Shug’s tentative kiss – with the juke joint providing a muffled backdrop – whenever I wanted. And I wanted to watch it over and over and over again. I felt similarly engrossed, years later as I watched the climax of Moonlight. I was a puddle of happy, relieved tears as the tumult of Chiron’s life culminates in this hardened, resilient man sitting across a diner table, staring at his childhood love with softness and warmth in his eyes. These two scenes, among so many others, spoke to that quietest part of my heart and the longing many of us hold to look at someone we love and feel fully and completely seen and loved for all that we are.
I turned to romance books while getting my master’s degree. I was in the depths of one of the worst depressive episodes of my adult life. Every day I received messages from professors and other students, that I did not belong, and I dreamt about abandoning the program and running home to the places and people who loved me. I didn’t leave, but I did start reading romance. Finding love stories that centered people who looked like me made the world feel much less alone and allowed me to start down a years-long road to fully identifying as bisexual, even though I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight. It took a little work to find queer stories with Black people, but once I found one, I found more and more and more.
The point I’m trying to make is that I have looked for Black queer love stories for most of my life and I have found them! They have buoyed me when I was at my lowest, when life seemed bleak and when looking at the news made my entire body hurt so much that I spent days in bed mourning.
So you can imagine how much it hurt when, in the midst of the most recent cluster of stories about American police officers killing Black people like Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I saw bookish twitter accounts – some I follow, some I don’t – begin recommending books by Black authors that refused to recognize the full breadth of Black life and humanity. Romance accounts, specifically, were so cavalier in their lists that many recommended books by non-Black authors who wrote Black characters, sometimes problematically, because they didn’t read much romance by Black authors, but refused to cede space to reviewers and readers who did. Across the board, I watched romance outlets, writers, reviewers and readers, recommend books that focused on white characters, books filled with anti-Black stereotypes, and on top of all that many patently ignored queer Black authors and books with queer Black characters.
While I don’t particularly agree with recommending fiction in a moment where people need to confront the depths of their anti-blackness and begin to consider the realities of global white supremacy, watching romance readers who imagined themselves as supportive of diversity, erase (queer) Black people (authors and characters) dug deep in my chest. It sent the message that people like me and the characters I write don’t actually matter, even while people were putting the hashtag in their bios. It was an erasure that struck a painful chord because it reminded me that the people and stories I love – who are the center of my life – are so easily forgotten and ignored.
I love Black people. I love queer Black people and QPOC. They don’t just matter to me, they are precious. I would not be alive today without them. I would not be writing without them. And I would not have the solace of these stories on the days when I still can’t get out of bed because everything hurts. At least with the stories that Black authors have written, my heart doesn’t have to hurt nearly as much, because it is so full of love for queer Black people.
Unfortunately, even when I’m depressed, I have a near obsessive desire to catalog books, so I took to twitter to begin a thread of queer romance written by Black authors. I began with books I love by authors I respect and appreciate and asked for recommendations. What I found in this process was instructive in many ways. I made a few caveats for recommendations that might have seemed random at the time but were not. I asked that the author identify as Black, since I’d seen so many outlets recommending non-Black authors. It mattered to me that if the response to Black murder was to uplift Black authors, that those authors better be Black and stand firm in their blackness. I wanted to focus specifically on adult romance because the YA book community had rallied their recommendations firmly behind Black authors (trans, cis, queer and het). It was exciting to watch and frustrating to compare to the adult romance community.
The other critical requirement was that the books feature Black characters and all the love interests should be Black or other people of color. Again, this was not arbitrary. Romance, like other literary genres, is steeped in white supremacist narratives. It is not just that so many traditionally published romance authors are white, it is that the foundation of the genre is based on whiteness as the norm. The tropes and story structures and even the Happily Ever After (the only requirement of romance literature) have been defined by a white default, even when some of the characters are people of color.
The proliferation of romance stories (traditionally published, indie and self-pub) that peddle in anti-Black, homophobic, transphobic, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is alarming, but not new. What feels new are the ways in which so many of these books are classified as “diverse” and “inclusive” even when they are not. So when I asked that all the recommendations focus on Black and POC characters, it was because I wanted to create a list of queer romances that rejected the white supremacist narrative in romance that centers whiteness, that demands white love interests and requires a translation of queer love between characters of color for white audiences. I wanted to find books by Black authors who, hopefully, wrote for readers of color.
What I found in this process was a mixed bag, as much of life is. On the downside, I found that I spent hours of my day clarifying fairly clear instructions, asking readers to verify that the authors and characters were Black and POC. I found that some people were disinterested in the idea of queer Black people and QPOC loving one another. I found that readers, writers and reviewers – many who jumped at the chance to make recommendation lists themselves – had become comfortable ignoring blackness. They considered it incidental or a box to check on the list of diversity brownie points. They were perfectly fine to tokenize Black authors and characters but were never challenged to consider why.
But the other, far better, thing I discovered was the wealth of queer romance written by Black authors. There was Black Romance and IR, polyamorous, m/m, and even the apparently elusive f/f romance. There were so many bisexual and pansexual characters! I found contemporary and historical and paranormal and urban. Certainly, there is room to grow in many areas, for instance so far there is only one trans Black romance recommendation (noted below) and ace spectrum representation is similarly lacking. In this moment, I choose to celebrate that the few books we have exist, but I hope for more.
There were many highs and lows in this process. I won’t pretend that I didn’t often wish I hadn’t decided to field the barrage of twitter notifications in a moment when I really should have given myself peace and quiet. Self-care is a thing I’m working on, especially now. But for all the new books and authors I and others discovered, I’ve decided that the exercise was worth it.
Below are a sample of books that emerged in the conversation, some I’ve read, some I’ve moved up my TBR and some I’m waiting impatiently to be released. These are books that remind me of the things that were true at the beginning of this all. I love being Black with every cell in my body. This is not incidental to me. And queer Black people are still PRECIOUS and CRUCIAL to my life and well-being.
For even more recommendations put together by Katrina, check out this list on Goodreads! (Blogger’s Note: Please do not add to this list anything that does not fit the above-stated requirements or I may do a murder.)
Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.
She’s super active on twitter. Follow her: @katrinajax
*All links are affiliate, bringing a small percentage of each purchase back to the site (Amz = Amazon | Bks = Bookshop)
I’m so delighted to welcome back Kris Ripper to the site, this time for a cover reveal of zir most delightful-looking male/nonbinary Romance, The Love Study, which releases from Carina Press on September 28, 2020! Here’s the story:
What happens when the search for the perfect date goes perfectly wrong?
Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.
And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.
When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.
The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.
Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.
And now, the adorable cover, designed by Dandelion Design!
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and zir pronouns are ze/zir. Kris shares a converted garage with a kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.