Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

The Joy in Writing Erotic Romance: a Guest Post by Bottle Rocket Author Erin McLellan

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.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

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.

4 New June eBooks for Under $5!

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (m/m historical romance, $3.99)

Just Like That by Cole McCade (m/m contemporary romance, $4.99)

Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (f/f historical romance, $4.99)

Freedom by E. Davies (trans m/cis m contemporary romance, $4.99)

Links are Amazon affiliate, which earn a small percentage for the site with each purchase.

Trans Embodiment: Sexuality in Cis/Trans M/M Romance, a Guest Post by Freedom Author E. Davies

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?

Buy it: Amazon 

And here’s the post!

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?

Finding Queer Black Love in Literature: a Guest Post by Katrina Jackson

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.

Stud Representation!

Interracial Romance w/QPOC

F/F Romance

M/M Romance

Polyamory FTW!

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)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Love Study by Kris Ripper

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!

Preorder: B&N | Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Google

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.

New Releases: June 2020

All Amazon, Indiebound, and Bookshop links are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links brings a small percentage of income back to the site, so please do!

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (1st)

This is the UK release. It will be released in the US on July 19.

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

Buy it: The Book Depository | Bookshop

The Groom Will Keep His Name by Matt Ortile (2nd)

A riotous collection of “witty and captivating” (Bitch Magazine) essays by a gay Filipino immigrant in America learning that everything is about sex–and sex is about power

When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home.

As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (2nd)

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than “I like you a great deal.”

Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo

If We Were Us by K.L. Waither (2nd)

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider (2nd)

In Southern California, no one lives more than thirty miles from the nearest fault line. Sasha Bloom is standing right on top of one when her world literally crumbles around her. With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents.

Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards.

And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His.

Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and he growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.

But being friends with Lily might lead somewhere new. Is Sasha willing to stop being the girl everyone expects and let the girl beneath the surface breath through?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert (2nd)

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (2nd)

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (2nd)

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

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Swan Song by Lisa Alther (9th)

Dr. Jessie Drake, in her mid-sixties, following the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her partner of twenty years, has fled the Vermont life she has known for decades.

In an effort to escape the oppressive constancy of grief, she accepts a job from an old flame from her residency in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, and agrees to assist Ben as the ship’s doctor on a British liner. Jessie boards in Hong Kong, and, as the Amphitrite sails throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, cruise ship antics ensue. Jessie is lulled back into a long-ago romance with the ship’s co-doctor, and both she and her new/old beau become enmeshed with the ship’s lead (female) singer/entertainer. Among the passengers who fling socialized behavior aside on the high seas: a former Florida beauty queen (Miss Florida Power and Light) on a second honeymoon with her husband, as she causes high-velocity scandal, while juggling onboard affairs with a suicidal golf pro, and a defrocked priest hired as one of the liner’s gentleman hosts, until she vanishes–poof!–from the ship off the coast of Portugal . . . As the ship sails through the Gulf of Aden and into a possible hijacking by Somali pirates, Jessie retreats into her lover’s journals, written during her final months, journals filled with sketches of potential characters, observations on life and love–as well as drafts of a long new poem in progress, “Swan Song,” that seems to be about being in love with someone else, someone new. As Jessie’s grief turns to suspicion about the woman she thought she knew so well, her illumination of the poem’s meaning begins to lift the constraints of the past and make clear the way toward the future.

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The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (9th)

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She definitely doesn’t believe in happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name. She wouldn’t be in a care home with early onset dementia, a condition Saoirse may one day develop herself. So Saoirse isn’t looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point.

But Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole. They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall.

It would be the perfect plan . . . if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love for real.

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You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, ill. by Julie Maroh (9th)

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?

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Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine (9th)

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

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Belladonna by Anbara Salam (9th)

Isabella is beautiful, inscrutable, and popular. Her best friend, Bridget, keeps quietly to the fringes of their Connecticut Catholic school, watching everything and everyone, but most especially Isabella.

In 1957, when the girls graduate, they land coveted spots at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Pentila in northern Italy, a prestigious art history school on the grounds of a silent convent. There, free of her claustrophobic home and the town that will always see her and her Egyptian mother as outsiders, Bridget discovers she can reinvent herself as anyone she desires… perhaps even someone Isabella could desire in return.

But as that glittering year goes on, Bridget begins to suspect Isabella is keeping a secret from her, one that will change the course of their lives forever.

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The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (16th)

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.

Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

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Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (16th)


This is the sequel to Who is Vera Kelly?

When ex-CIA agent Vera Kelly loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day, she reluctantly goes into business as a private detective. Heartbroken and cash-strapped, she takes a case that dredges up dark memories and attracts dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape. Before it’s over, she’ll chase a lost child through foster care and follow a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean. Forever looking over her shoulder, she nearly misses what’s right in front of her: her own desire for home, connection, and a new romance at the local bar.

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The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (16th)

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

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I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (16th)

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

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Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (22nd)

When Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George arrives in Wales after serving as a veterinarian in the Great War, she doesn’t come alone. With her is her former captain’s beloved warhorse, which she promised to return to him—and a series of recurring nightmares that torment both her heart and her soul. She wants only to complete her task, then find refuge with her family, but when Nell meets the captain’s eldest daughter, all that changes.

Beatrice Hughes is resigned to life as the dutiful daughter. Her mother grieves for the sons she lost to war; the care of the household and remaining siblings falls to Beatrice, and she manages it with a practical efficiency. But when a beautiful stranger shows up with her father’s horse, practicality is the last thing on her mind.

Despite the differences in their social standing, Beatrice and Nell give in to their unlikely attraction, finding love where they least expect it. But not everything in the captain’s house is as it seems. When Beatrice’s mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nell must overcome her preconceptions to help Beatrice, however she’s able. Together they must find out what really happened that stormy night in the village, before everything Beatrice loves is lost—including Nell.

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The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee (23rd)

52768177Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold.

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.

The Sullivan Sisters is an unforgettable novel about the ghosts of the past, the power of connection, and the bonds of sisterhood.

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Lot Six by David Adjmi (23rd)

Brooklyn, 1970s. Born into the ruins of a Syrian Jewish family that once had it all, David is painfully displaced. Trapped in an insular religious community that excludes him and a family coming apart at the seams, he is plunged into suicidal depression by the age of eight. Through adolescence, David tries to suppress his homosexual feelings and fit in, but when pushed to the breaking point, he makes the bold decision to cut off his family, erase his past, and leave everything he knows behind. There’s only one problem: who should he be? Bouncing between identities he steals from the pages of fashion magazines, tomes of philosophy, sitcoms and foreign films, and practically everyone he meets–from Rastafarians to French preppies–David begins to piece together an entirely new adult self. But is this the foundation for a life, or just a kind of quicksand?

Moving from the glamour and dysfunction of 1970s Brooklyn, to the sybaritic materialism of Reagan’s 1980s to post-9/11 New York, Lot Six offers a quintessentially American tale of an outsider striving to reshape himself in the funhouse mirror of American culture. Adjmi’s memoir is a genre bending Künstlerroman in the spirit of Charles Dickens and Alison Bechdel, a portrait of the artist in the throes of a life and death crisis of identity. Raw and lyrical, and written in gleaming prose that veers effortlessly between hilarity and heartbreak, Lot Six charts Adjmi’s search for belonging, identity, and what it takes to be an artist in America.

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Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (23rd)

Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

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Freedom by E. Davies (26th)

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?

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Just Like That by Cole McCade (30th)

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

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In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (30th)

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

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Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (30th)

Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.

Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | Indiebound | Kobo

New May eBooks Under $5!

Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles (m/m historical romance, $3.99)

Starcrossed by Allie Therin (m/m historical fantasy romance, $4.99)

The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron (f/f contemporary romance, $4.99)

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon (m/m contemporary romance, $4.99)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Hugs & Quiches by Candace Harper

If there’s one thing I love in a romance, it’s food. If there’s another, it’s puns. And if there’s another, it’s competition. So you can imagine my ridiculous delight at getting to reveal the cover for Candace Harper’s Hugs & Quiches, a contemporary foodie f/f (bi/lesbian) romance releasing August 22, 2020!

Starting over was meant to be a new beginning.

Though for Zoe Cooper and Amelia Hughes, it’s the very first step toward their happy ending.

It’s been a year since Zoe Cooper packed up her daughter and fled her abusive husband with only the clothes on her back. But life as a waitress, food blogger, and “roommate” to her supportive mother has turned into a holding pattern, and her dream of launching her own catering company and cooking school feels like just another fairy tale ending–when she’s no Cinderella.

Until the newest cooking competition comes to town, and suddenly magic just might be at Zoe’s fingertips with the chance to audition for Heating Up the Kitchen.

If only she can beat Amelia.

Fresh out of a disastrous relationship and determined to prove her ex wrong, Amelia’s got a chip on her shoulder and is ready for a grudge match in the kitchen. When she locks horns with Amelia, there’s more steaming than their buns as the two competitive young chefs vie for the top spot on the show…

…and the top spot in each others’ hearts.

There’s more cooking in this kitchen than the food, and romance is on the menu. When hatred turns to heat and threatens to boil over, their rivalry might just end in disaster.

Or Zoe and Amelia might just find the future they need in each other–in between stolen hugs and quiches.

And here’s the searing cover, designed by Ceilie Simkiss!

Preorder on Amazon!

Candace Harper is a queer, neurodivergent woman living with her partner, two cats and a dog in the PNW. She’s known for being the overly enthusiastic about silly things and as the mom friend.  She writes queer fiction as much and in as many genres as she can manage, both under this name and as Ceillie Simkiss.

New Release Spotlight: Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Jordan Collins doesn’t need a man.

What he needs is for his favorite author to release another one of her sexy supernatural novels and more people to sign up for the romance book club that he fears is slowly and steadily losing its steam. He also needs for the new employee at his local bookstore to stop making fun of him for reading things meant for “grandmas.”

The very last thing he needs is for that same employee, Rex Bailey, to waltz into his living room and ask to join Meet Cute Club. Despite his immediate thoughts—like laughing in his face and telling him to kick rocks—Jordan decides that if he wants this club to continue thriving, he can’t turn away any new members. Not even ones like Rex, who somehow manage to be both frustratingly obnoxious and breathtakingly handsome.

As Jordan and Rex team up to bring the club back from the ashes, Jordan soon discovers that Rex might not be the arrogant troll he made himself out to be, and that, like with all things in life, maybe he was wrong to judge a book by its cover.

Buy it: Amazon

3 New April eBooks Under $5!

Sugar Summer by Hannah Moskowitz (f/f YA contemporary romance, $3.99)

Inked with a Kiss by Jennie Davids (f/f contemporary romance, $3.99)

Three to Love by Rebel Carter (m/m/f historical romance, $3.99)

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