Tag Archives: Duet Books

New Releases: June 2017

Cottonmouths by Kelly J. Ford (6th)

9781510719156_p0_v1_s192x300This was Drear’s Bluff. Nothing bad happened here. People didn’t disappear.

College was supposed to be an escape for Emily Skinner. But after failing out of school, she’s left with no choice but to return to her small hometown in the Ozarks, a place run on gossip and good Christian values.

She’s not alone. Emily’s former best friend—and childhood crush—Jody Monroe is back with a baby. Emily can’t resist the opportunity to reconnect, despite the uncomfortable way things ended between them and her mom’s disapproval of their friendship. When Emily stumbles upon a meth lab on Jody’s property, she realizes just how far they’ve both fallen.

Emily intends to keep her distance from Jody, but when she’s kicked out of her house with no money and nowhere to go, a paying job as Jody’s live-in babysitter is hard to pass up. As they grow closer, Emily glimpses a future for the first time since coming home. She dismisses her worries; the meth is a means to an end. And besides, for Emily, Jody is the real drug.

But when Emily’s role in Jody’s business turns dangerous, her choices reveal grave consequences. As the lies pile up, Emily will learn just how far Jody is willing to go to save her own skin—and how much Emily herself has risked for the love of someone who may never truly love her back.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker (6th)

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father’s science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix—now thirteen—won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it’s business as usual—time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Perfect Ten by L. Philips (6th)

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It’s been two years since Sam broke up with the only other eligible gay guy in his high school, so to say he’s been going through a romantic drought is the understatement of the decade. But when Meg, his ex-Catholic-turned-Wiccan best friend, suggests performing a love spell, Sam is just desperate enough to try. He crafts a list of ten traits he wants in a boyfriend and burns it in a cemetery at midnight on Friday the 13th.

Enter three seemingly perfect guys, all in pursuit of Sam. There’s Gus, the suave French exchange student; Jamie, the sweet and shy artist; and Travis, the guitar-playing tattooed enigma. Even Sam’s ex-boyfriend Landon might want another chance.

But does a Perfect Ten even exist?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Tash Hearts Tolstoy, by Kathryn Ormsbee (6th)

29414576After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar bloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Grrrls on the Side by Carrie Pack (8th)

The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.

At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka (13th)

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Powell’s * IndieBound * iBooks

Oversight by Santino Hassell (26th)

This is book 2 in the Community series. Synopsis contains spoilers for book 1. 

Holden Payne has it all . . . or so he thinks. As heir to the founder of the Community—an organization that finds, protects, and manages psychics—he’s rich, powerful, and treated like royalty. But after a series of disappearances and murders rock the Community, he’s branded the fall guy for the scandal and saddled with a babysitter.

Sixtus Rossi is a broad-shouldered, tattooed lumbersexual with a man-bun and a steely gaze. He’s also an Invulnerable—supposedly impervious to both psychic abilities and Holden’s charms. It’s a claim Holden takes as a challenge. Especially if sleeping with Six may help him learn whether the Community had more to do with the disappearances than they claimed.

As Holden uncovers the truth, he also finds himself getting in deep with the man sent to watch him. His plan to seduce Six for information leads to a connection so intense that some of Six’s shields come crashing down. And with that comes a frightening realization: Holden has to either stand by the Community that has given him everything, or abandon his old life to protect the people he loves.

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New Releases: May 2017

Concourse by Santino Hassell (1st)

30364779Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelope himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks

The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker (1st)

With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel’s been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.

But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni’s vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.

Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.

But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline’s freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel’s heart…

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * iBooks * Kobo

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (2nd)

howtomakeawishAll seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate (2nd)

noteworthyIt’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Notes on a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (2nd)*

*Release is of a new translation of the Chinese

Set in the post-martial-law era of 1990s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon.

Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman who is alternately hot and cold toward her, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes the devil-may-care, rich-kid-turned-criminal Meng Sheng and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover Chu Kuang, as well as the bored, mischievous overachiever Tun Tun and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend Zhi Rou.

Buy it: Amazon

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (4th)

32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Buy it: Amazon * Book Depository * Wordery * Interlude

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (9th)

31449227Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

It’s Not Like it’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (9th)

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Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (16th)

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Rough Patch by Nicole Markotić (16th)

31944911When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (22nd)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to come up with new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Add it on Goodreads

The Wrong Woman by Cass Lennox (22nd)

As an independent filmmaker, Katie Cherry is used to difficult shoots—but a band’s music video in a tiny lesbian bar is proving worse than most. Stress-busting, expectation-free sex with Zay, the calm, gorgeous bartender, seems just the ticket. But then she and Zay discover the band’s lead singer beaten into a coma in the bar bathroom. They need an alibi, but playing girlfriends is a role Katie’s never excelled at, so she can’t see this ending well.

Zay Fahed-Smith finally getting her life back together after her junkie ex broke it apart. She’s working part-time while pursuing her dream of being a lawyer, and definitely keeping things chill on the girls front. Of course, that’s when a crime happens in her bar and her ex shows up wanting to try again. “Dating” Katie seems like the best way for Zay to keep her head down and teach her ex a lesson.

Except pretty soon, the charade begins to feel less and less like acting. And when the attacker turns his attentions toward Katie, they have to cut through the lies to discover what’s real.

Buy it: Amazon

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer (29th)

33976926Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.

Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.

They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.

Buy it: Amazon

Excerpt from Julia Ember’s F/F YA Little Mermaid Retelling The Seafarer’s Kiss!

Title: The Seafarer’s Kiss
Publisher: Interlude Press (Duet)
Date: May 4 2017
32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
*****

I’d never been particularly pious, but praying to Loki before the ceremony had seemed to help. Or at least, it had eased my anxiety even if the god of lies had had nothing to do with the ceremony’s outcome. I didn’t like the idea of adopting the trickster as my patron god, but if ever I needed a trick or two, it was now. The words of a remembered prayer tumbled from my lips. Everything inside me felt too frozen to make up my own plea.

Blue light shimmered against the back wall of my cave. It was pale and strangely electric and reminded me of watching lightning strike the sea from fifteen arm-lengths below. I swam to my crevice’s mouth. Peering out into the gray water, I squinted at the source of the strange glow. The light became so intense I had to look away. It radiated from a little ball I could hardly see. All of a sudden, it blinked and dimmed. A green and yellow sea turtle glided toward me. The electric blue light glowed from his eye sockets, and he stared right at me. A shiver ran up my back, and my blood cooled.

Above me, the patter of hail echoed through the ocean, followed by the crack of thunder. I wondered if I should scream for help. Was stress making me imagine things? Sea turtles couldn’t survive here, could they? With their cold blood, they needed the summer currents to survive. I shook my head to clear the image, blinked, but the turtle still swam toward me. If I screamed and there was no turtle, the king would think I was losing my mind, and I’d have less chance of defending myself against the things Havamal could say. Plus, I didn’t want to wake Mama. I took a deep breath. My heart felt raw and exposed, blistered and stinging, like a wound cleansed with ocean salt. I wasn’t ready to talk to her.

The turtle drifted peacefully toward me, like a moving lullaby propelled by the tide. The creature’s bright eyes dimmed further, and it cocked its head, winking at me as it coasted through a school of silver fish. Then it began to paddle rapidly; its thick flippers pumped faster and faster until its whole body became a green blur. Overhead, the hail and thunder intensified—almost as if Thor himself surfed across the waves. A bolt of lightning struck the sea and a fiery purple and yellow aurora of fiery diffused over the waves.

When I looked up toward the lights, the turtle slammed into me, knocking me back into the cave. Before I could scream, a hand covered my mouth: a hand that was pink, warm, and strangely dry.

The creature spun me around to face them. Their turtle shell had transformed into a billowing cloak of sparkling greens and golds. Caribou antlers covered with strips of fur stuck out on either side of a silver helmet; each antler was tall enough to scrape the ceiling of my little cave. Blue, electric light emanated from their very skin. A sea snake the color of dying coral wound about their waist. Their form was slim and elegant, androgynous. High cheekbones and pursed midnight-blue lips set off hooded, bright eyes, deep-set in their chiseled face.

I wanted desperately to swim away from them, to hide behind my kelp curtain, but they gripped my shoulders so hard I could feel bruises forming under my scales.

“Do you know who I am?” they demanded, raising a turquoise eyebrow.

The blue light shining from them made my scales glow as if I lay under the sun. A bubble of dry air formed in the ice cave and expanded until it filled the space. A warm feeling crept up from the tip of my tail, even while my stomach sank in fear. The horns reminded me of images from our legends that had been carved into the ice sculptures decorating our central hall. The statues in the hall had frozen their stories into our collective memories.

I swallowed. I was seeing the same face I’d seen every day since I was a child, engraved above me in the dining hall.

“You’re Loki,” I whispered. Why would the trickster god choose to help me? This was only the second time in my life I’d prayed to them. From everything I’d heard about Loki, my situation should have amused them. Maybe they were here to taunt me, to mock me for praying to them concerning a ceremony I didn’t care about and wasting whatever favor my birth season entitled me to.

They nodded, but their eyes never left my face.

“Are you here to mock me?” I asked, my voice trembling. It wasn’t a polite thing to ask a god, but after what I’d been through today, I didn’t have energy left for courtesy.

Laughing, Loki shook their great horned head. Their cackle was high and cruel, but then their eyes softened into something that seemed like affection. That look of care on their pale face was even more terrifying. They rested their warm hand on my back. I imagined their nails filled with poisonous venom and pulled away to avoid getting their toxin on my scales.

But Loki only smiled. “I’ve been watching you for a while, Ersel. It’s not normal for your kind to interact so closely with the human world. You’re curious and intelligent and you don’t follow orders like a sheep. I value all those things.”

I didn’t know what a sheep was, but I nodded at the compliment nonetheless. Their fingers played with the edges of their blue eyebrow. “I want to make a deal with you.”

My scales stood up on my back. Whenever the storytellers talked about Loki, they cautioned against making deals with the god. I cursed myself for carelessness, for letting Havamal follow me. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, maybe I wouldn’t have to decide between angering the god standing in front of me or doing what all our legends warned against: making a deal with the being who invented the lie.

 

*****

Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/collections/the-seafarers-kiss-by-julia-ember

Exóticos: The Badass Drag Queens of Lucha Libre – a Guest Post by Luchador Author Erin Finnegan

Today on the site, please welcome Erin Finnegan, author of Luchador, an m/m Contemporary NA about a guy named Gabriel who becomes enthralled with the lucha libre, which releases today. (Buy links at the end of the post! And you can read the blurb and add it to your TBR here.) To learn more about the lucha libre, read on!

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Scroll down to find purchase links for Luchador!

Grab a seat for the Sunday evening lucha libre matches at Arena México and you get a great show: Cheap and abundant Victoria beer flows; laser lights blaze; heavy metal blasts at ear-splitting levels; and bikini-clad ring girls ignite the testosterone-fueled weekly wrestling event.

It isn’t the first place people would look for an LGBTQ crowd in Mexico City—and they’d be wrong, especially if an exótico is on the fight card.

In the macho world of traditional lucha libre, exótico luchadores are flamboyant, gay, and out.

They have also become heroes of sorts in Mexico City’s LGBTQ community, to the extent that they have been credited with helping to advance Mexico’s equal rights movement. (While portions of the conservative country still fight marriage equality battles, the federal district of Mexico City approved marriage for all in 2010, five years before the US Supreme Court paved the way for nationwide marriage equality.)

The exóticos represent something not commonly found in professional sports, even “performance sports” such as lucha libre—an arena where gay athletes perform openly with their straight peers. As exótico luchadores like Cassandro and Pimpinela Escarlata gained fame on the lucha libre circuit, empresas found themselves with a new legion of dedicated, rainbow flag-waving fans.

Exóticos are the flamboyant and brutal drag queens of lucha libre, dressed in bedazzled leotards, skirts, and glittery makeup instead of luchador’s traditional tights and mask. They flirt with the refs, bump and grind to dancehall music, and are as likely to attack an opponent with a kiss as with a flying scizzors kick to the neck.

And this is where their story gets complicated, and why I was drawn to this world as the central conflict in my new book, Luchador. Because in lucha libre, gay is welcome to play—but it is often played for laughs.

It isn’t a simple matter of the costumes or makeup. Exóticos are the vamps of the ring, and they play to a crowd that is at once imploring them to attack their opponents or the referees with besos (kisses), while at the same time taunting them with homophobic slurs.

Máximo Sexy, one of the few exóticos who identifies as straight, has said that he decided to wrestle as a gay character for the money. His signature move is the kiss, meant to distract his competitor, and the skirted singlet he wears in the ring is often topped by a t-shirt that says, “KISS ME”. The moment he enters the arena, fans cheer, ¡Beso! ¡Beso! ¡Beso!”

Other exóticos like Cassandro—gay men who wrestle as campy characters—call their stage personas liberating and inspirational.

This is the issue for Luchador protagonist Gabriel Romero, a rising young star in Mexico City’s professional lucha circuit who is committed to being open about his sexuality both in and outside of the ring without trapping himself in a role that he does not identify with. Respectful of lucha’s traditions, he is also wary of the stereotypes it promotes.

The counterpoint to Gabriel is his mentor, Miguel, a successful exótico nearing the end of his career, who views his colorful ring character of La Rosa as a valuable outlet. He also believes that embracing lucha’s traditions have helped him get ahead as both a wrestler and a businessman.

Exóticos in lucha libre date back to the 1940s, when luchadores dressed as dandies handed flowers to female fans and preened as they entered the ring. Today, exóticos are far more sexualized—and athletic.

Do not mistake these luchadores for clowns. Their approach may be camp. Their secret weapon may be the beso planted on a supposedly unsuspecting opponent or referee. But they’re also skilled wrestlers who take down opponents with lucha libre’s signature acrobatic moves: flying scizzor kicks, spinning tornillos, and planchas.

Last winter, I had a chance to watch Cassandro wrestle at Lucha Va Voom, a Los Angeles-based burlesque-meets-lucha show. Lucha Va Voom should not be mistaken for the lucha libre of Arena México or Arena Coliseo. It is abbreviated, and even more showey than the lucha of the Sunday afternoon shows broadcast across Mexico and the US.

Cassandro demonstrated the skills that have earned him championship belts: high kicks, spins, and a swan dive from a balcony that—it was later reported—resulted in a cracked rib.

Though their technical skills can be overshadowed by their characters and costumes, exóticos fight with the same strength and finesse as other top luchadores.

As Miguel tells Gabriel, exóticos’ costumes may be loud, but their actions in the ring speak louder than any Lycra or glitter.

“We give people hope. … We’re not just entertainment. We give people something to rally for, and against. Lucha’s been a part of politics and our social order, always has been,” he said. “Do you know how many men have come up to me after a match and thanked me? How many kids have said we’ve given them courage to come out? We may not be your picture of the perfect postmodern gay or whatever your generation calls it, but we paved the road for you with our glitter and makeup.”

***
Buy Luchador

Interlude * Amazon * B&N * iBooks * ARe * Kobo * Smashwords * Indiebound

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1408250364231Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. A lifelong sports fan and occasional sports writer, she has had to dive out of the way of flying luchadores at matches in both the US and Mexico. Luchador was recently named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016. Erin’s debut novel, Sotto Voce, received a PW starred review and a Foreword Reviews Indiefab Silver Book of the Year Award.

Connect with author Erin Finnegan at Erin-Finnegan.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/ErinGoFinnegan and on Twitter at @eringofinnegan.