Tag Archives: f/f

Fave Five: Second Chance F/F Romance

Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas (YA)

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

Once in a Lifetime by Harper Bliss

You’re My Kind by Clare Lydon

Second Chance by Chelsea M. Cameron

Bonus: Coming up in 2021, Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler (YA)

Fave Five: F/F Romances with Black MCs

Pink by KD Williamson

You Make Me Wanna by Nikki Rashan

Bliss by Fiona Zedde

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace

Small Town Secrets by Katrina Jackson

Bonus: These are all Adult, but in YA, check out The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus and the upcoming You Should See Me in a Crown and Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson!

Double Bonus: They’ve already been featured books on the site, so I wanted to highlight some other things, but obviously Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon and Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole.

 

14 Romance eBooks Under $5!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins (bi/lesbian f/f YA, $1.99)

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant (trans m/f paranormal, $1.99)

The Craft of Love by EE Ottoman (trans m/f historical, $1.99)

Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (f/f, $2.99)

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (bi/lesbian f/f YA, $2.99)

Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler (pan/lesbian f/f NA, $3.99)

Work for It by Talia Hibbert (m/m, $3.99)

Heart and Hand by Rebel Carter (m/m/f historical, $3.99)

Proper English by KJ Charles (f/f historical, $3.99)

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (bi/bi m/f, $4.99)

Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green (m/m YA, $4.99)

Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson (m/nb fantasy, $4.99)

Daddy by Jack Harbon (m/m, $4.99)

Christmas Inn Maine by Chelsea M. Cameron, (f/nb, $4.99)

Links are Amazon affiliate, earning a percentage of income for the site.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Takes on Cinderella

Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips

The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode

Cinders by Cara Malone

Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn

Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

Bonus: Coming up in July, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

 

New Release Spotlight: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

What happens when an orc priestess declines to sacrifice herself and instead runs off to learn the skills that will make her a master assassin and henchman to a powerful wizard? I suppose I could tell you, or you could just read this utterly fabulous fantasy, out today, that examines love vs. loyalty in a twisted adventure full of magic and slow-burn f/f romance. Doesn’t that sound better? Check it out:

The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Authors in Conversation: Linsey Miller and E. Latimer

2020 is the year for Sapphic YA fantasy, and I’m thrilled to have on the site two of its authors with new releases that are not to be missed! Linsey Miller’s first book after the Mask of Shadows duology is Belle Révolte, a French-inspired dual-POV about two girls who switch places so each can get her desired education, and it just released on February 4! E. Latimer’s first YA is Witches of Ash and Ruin, about a recently outed bisexual Irish witch named Dayna whose beloved coven is facing down a potential serial killer, and it comes out on March 3rd! But they can both describe their books way better than I can, so let’s let them get to it!

***

E: I’m so excited I get to do this interview with you! I absolutely loved Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars (is it okay if I think Sal is dreamy and have designated them one of my top fictional crushes? That’s normal, right?)

(Linsey: Sal would be thrilled to be considered dashing and dreamy after Rath laughing endlessly about their inability to rob Elise.)

E: For the past few months I feel like I’ve been seeing the gorgeous cover for Belle Révolte EVERYWHERE, and I was so excited to see Witches of Ash and Ruin on some of the same “anticipated” LGBTQ lists, so cool!

Belle Révolte came out February 4th. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Linsey: Sure! Belle Révolte is the story of two girls—Emilie des Marais and Annette Boucher—who are both unhappy in their lives. Because of the strict social hierarchies, neither of them is able to achieve their dreams. Noble girls are not allowed to study the magic required to by physicians because of the damaging effects it has on the boy, and Annette cannot afford to attend university to pursue the only magical career path available to her: life as a hack. Hacks are people able to use magic but not wealthy or noble enough to pursue higher education. They work as assistants to the rich so that they are worn down by the powerful magic they use in place of their employers.

So Emilie and Annette swap places. Annette takes Emilie’s place at finishing school to study magic and get an education, and Emilie attends university to become a physician’s hack and prove her worth. While at their respective schools, they both decide that the state of their nation is unsustainable and join a brewing rebellion.

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, the girls must work together and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to stop the fighting and save their nation.

I’m excited we both have a book coming out in the same year, and 2020 seems like an amazing year for YA fantasy. Your previous book, The Strange And Deadly Portraits Of Bryony Gray, was so atmospheric and fun! (It’s fine if I think of spooky books as fun, right? There’s something exciting about having to glance over your shoulder when reading.) I know Witches of Ash and Ruin is a completely different sort of book, but I can’t wait to see how the world comes alive in it.

Do you want to talk a bit about the world of Witches of Ash and Ruin and how you navigated creating a fantasy story within the real world?

E: I’ve always been very drawn to witchy women, both real and imaginary, so when the tag line of “rival covens have to come together to defeat a serial killer” popped into my head, I knew this was the perfect story for me, and that I had to write it.

The story is set in Ireland, because that’s the mythology I really wanted to delve into, but I actually think of the witches’ kitchen as the “heart” of the world, if that makes sense. It’s where they learn their craft, where they meet the other coven, and where they solve a lot of the mysteries in order to hunt down a killer.

Just like the rest of the story, the witch’s kitchen is a strange mash-up of fictional and real. I grew up homeschooling, which meant that I associated with a strange, eclectic bunch of people (other homeschoolers). One of the families I spent loads of time with was a lovely, chaotic family with nine children and a massive, disorderly kitchen where everything was hand built, knitted, patched, baked, sewn. It was all so rough-spun and homemade, and it was done with the utmost love. I don’t think I truly realized how special that place was until much later. In fact, I now realize it was a lot like the Weasleys’ kitchen in Harry Potter.

The farmhouse in Witches of Ash and Ruin is basically that house. The table the witches sit around was one I sat around every Tuesday.

Linsey: I love the idea of that kitchen. There are so many memories I have in my grandmother’s kitchen that I find fueling my writing too. Witches of Ash and Ruin also features a serial killer, which feels terrifying but also separate from those real-world inspirations. Did you base that off of anything in history, and what draws you to this marriage of our world and fantasy?

E: I’ve always had a fascination with serial killers, but the motivation was always something that bothered me. I love magical answers to mundane questions. So the question might be, “What kind of person kills multiple people, and why?” And the answer might just be, “Because he’s evil” or if you want to get more technical, something about the right combination of nature, nurture and a potential head injury.

But that’s kind of depressing. Not only that, it’s boring. I want to put a twist on it, and I want a reason that blows your mind, and makes you realize there’s more out there than you ever dreamed.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted there to be magic. I still do. If there isn’t any magic in the real world, I’ll slip it into the cracks. I’ll make it fit, so that people can uncover it and think, even for the most fleeting moment, This might be real. That’s the magic of blending reality with fantasy, it unlocks something in you as a reader and lets you glimpse the possibility of a bigger world.

Linsey: That’s really interesting. There are so many personal things, not all of them as tender as a warm kitchen or happy memories, we can associate with ourselves that putting them into books can be hard sometimes. Apart from the lighter dark topic of serial killers, how do you navigate the harder to discuss challenges and triumphs your characters face? Mental health in fantasy works can be difficult to explore sometimes because of the nature of the worlds. Do you take any steps to ensure you give it and your characters enough space on the page, and do you find writing about such personal experiences affects you?

E: It’s such a tricky thing to balance mental health depictions and a fantasy plotline, which is why I feel we don’t see much of it. You want to write that big magical battle where the characters are throwing spells back and forth, but you know if she has anxiety she’s probably going to be freaking out. But if you have her just sort of collapse in the middle of things, it’s all going to be over pretty quick.

Also, you can’t just have all the chapters dealing with the mental illness when you’ve got a serial killer to track down. I found it particularly tricky finding the balance for Dayna. With OCD, a completely accurate depiction would just be pages and pages of obsessions, just endless internal dialogue with her obsessing and checking and obsessing and checking, but honestly who wants to read that?

I had to try to pepper the obsession through here and there, and not have it completely take over the narration. It’s considerably pulled back from what it was to begin with. As for questions of how writing this affects me, the answer is “profoundly.” I’d write a scene with her OCD and then I’d have to step back for a bit and concentrate on a different part, and for some reason editing it was just as hard. It really did feel cathartic in the end though. I couldn’t even get through John Green’s Turtles all the Way Down, so to be able to step back and go, “I did it!” at the end of Witches of Ash and Ruin, well, it felt good.

And it meant writing Witches of Ash and Ruin was a deeply personal experience, and many of the character’s struggles and challenges surrounding her bisexuality, and with her mental illness (OCD) are directly inspired by reality. Do you take inspiration from your life, and if so, how does that effect the process of writing for you?

Linsey: I do. It can honestly make it really hard and challenging to put out there. Annette, especially, was hard for me to write at times because her inner narration is tinged with grief and her asexuality. I knew I wanted to create a world where Annette’s asexuality would make her feel like she’s giving into the power structures around her—women are traditionally calm, collected, and sometimes cold in the world of Belle Révolte—and so she questions if she’s actually asexual or just as she is supposed to be and missing something. It’s hard to get at the heart of that but also important.

It took me ages to figure out how Annette would verbalize her aceness, and that’s because I never really knew how to verbalize. So in a way, she is expressing my experiences for me. I hope it’s made me a better writer, but it has certainly made me a better me. It also feels less threatened to be able to do it in a dark fantasy world because the rules are different. Annette can go after her villains with abandon, which isn’t something we get to do too often in the real world. I think it’s why I’m drawn to dark fantasy. It’s cathartic in a way.

Even though the words tend to leave us once they’re off the page and writing them can be emotionally freeing, getting them there can still be very affecting. Do you have any advice for writers who may want to write about something personal but aren’t quite sure how to start?

E: Writing is a great way to work through things you’re dealing with or have dealt with in the past, but if you’re just starting out be sure to “check in” with yourself. Assess how you’re feeling, how it’s effecting your state of mind and mental health.

Keep in mind also, you may deal with different subjects in different ways. I have to go slow and take breaks if I’m writing about a trigger (OCD) but if I’m working through stuff I’ve been repressing, that’s making me angry, it kind of all comes out. Like rage-induced writing, it’s incredibly therapeutic. Better on the page than in your head.

I know that both Witches of Ash and Ruin and the Mask of Shadows duology explore themes of mental illness: OCD and PTSD. For me, writing about mental illness can be both challenging and rewarding, but I have to be careful with myself, and pay attention to how I’m feeling before I dive into writing a scene with (for example) a full-blown panic attack.

In Belle Révolte are there similar themes of mental illness? If so, what motivates you to explore this, and what is your experience with writing about it?

Linsey: There actually aren’t. For Sal, I found writing their experiences with PTSD and grief extremely challenging and upsetting even thought I was glad I did it in the end. Grief, neglect, and war come up in fantasy a lot, and when I was writing Sal’s story, that was something I didn’t want to shy away from. I wanted to make sure that Sal was on the road toward developing healthy habits by the end of the series and wasn’t made to feel lesser for their PTSD. Reading about trauma can be traumatic, so I wanted to make sure readers had a chance to recover with Sal on the page instead of having to assume it after the epilogue. But it was hard to write. In Belle Révolte, I didn’t feel like I would have the proper space to write it, and I sort of needed to give my mind a break.

It became more important for me to give other aspects of the book that page space, too.

E: In your Mask of Shadows duology you play with stepping outside of and challenging gender norms and expectations society has. Are there similar themes in Belle Révolte surrounding Emilie and her desire to be a physician? Can you tell us a little bit about why this is a recurring theme in your books, and what you’d like your readers to take away from this?

Linsey: There are some tangential themes. I have some pretty complicated feelings about gender, and on top of that, a lot of the books available to me as a child had female characters who could only be female in specific ways. Additionally, almost every world had a similar gender binary to ours and identical ways to present gender.

In Belle Révolte, I wanted to explore that in a way I was familiar with while also dissecting some of the inspirations of my past. Magic, like traits, clothing, and careers, is socially gendered, and Emilie has only ever pushed back against that aspect of her life. She doesn’t feel like she fits into the way her world tells her to be female, and so she does that thing that I think is relatable to some of us where she utterly rejects everything she is told she should be. I’ve always felt a bit odd in my own skin, and I wanted to write about a character navigating that same uncomfortableness without throwing other people under the bus.

Or carriage, I guess.

Annette likes things that are traditionally feminine in the world of Belle Révolte, as do many of the people Emilie meets, and it was important to me that Emilie personally hate those things for herself without projecting that hate to those things and the people who liked them.

Ultimately, I hope readers can take away that there’s no wrong way to be their gender. Women who love traditionally feminine things aren’t giving into the system, men who love those things aren’t less masculine, and non-binary folks shouldn’t have to present in some androgynous middle ground for their identity to be believed. We should all be able to live as we are, but I think we also have a responsibility to let others live as they are without considering their truth to be less.

Also—and this is something I always hope to live up to—that cis readers take away a willingness to protect the truths and lives of others since we have more social power. When we have power and say we want to help, we have to follow through.

At the same time, I like seeing happy endings in fantasy. We don’t get them in real life, sometimes, and reading about them can feel like hope. Writing about Annette’s experiences were hard but worth it.

I know that part of Dayna’s story is that she is outed as bisexual in her small, conservative town. Even though that’s something that a lot of people may experience, it’s not something we see often in YA fantasy. Were you writing to fill a void, and do you find that contemporary fantasy allows you to do things other genres may not in regards to writing to fill that void?

E: This is actually a great question. I find it really interesting that I’ve had a few people protest that Dayna is outed in the book, because I feel like this happens. All. The. Time. And not necessarily all at once, the way it happens to Dayna. It’s sort of like coming out by choice, and then having to come out and again and again and again. Being outed can happen that way too. I still remember a friend outing me. It was so casual, that’s what got me. She told a boyfriend, who I had just met. It was so off-hand, the way she said it, but it felt shocking to me, because that was something I’d just started sharing with my close friends. No one else knew.

It happened again later. Both times from a supposed friend who didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, both time I dealt with unpleasant reactions from others.

It was something I was angry about for a long time, and I tend to process a lot of my emotions by writing about them. I also think there’s a lack of books dealing with this that aren’t contemporary, which can leave genre readers sort of adrift.

I know that I never had queer YA growing up, both because my family is extremely religious and it wouldn’t have been allowed in the house, and because I didn’t really know such a thing existed. Years later, I’ve read almost everything I could get my hands on, but up until recently I didn’t seem to be able to find a lot of traditionally published books about bisexual girls, and even less about F/F relationships. I think we’re always on a quest to see ourselves in our fiction, and for me, not finding my reflection was discouraging. I know filling that void has been a big influence on the books I write.

What about you? What draws you to queer fiction and motivates you to write the identities you write about?

Linsey: Like you said, there’s a void. My favorite characters growing up, the ones I related to the most, were the ones I could believe were ace even if I didn’t have the words for it then. Their romances were almost devoid of lust or non-existent. I didn’t even think I would ever be in a romantic relationship as a child, so I clung to characters who felt the same as me. Tris from the Circle of Magic who pushed everyone away so that she wouldn’t be disappointed and Mel from Crown Duel felt closer to me than anyone else, and I want to do that for someone out there so that they feel less alone, except now I want to hopefully give them some words that feel like home. Found families and finding people who love you are very important to me in fiction, and I love reading and writing about characters finding a place where they are comfortable and respected, even if the characters don’t think they deserve that. Emilie is arrogant and a bit oblivious, and I wanted her to find her footing and grow without losing her ambition. Annette is kind but she can be shrewd. Belle Révolte has a bunch of angry people in it all coming together as a happy, angry family, and their anger isn’t dismissed.

Do you have any similar feelings about your characters, anger, and “unlikeable” female characters? Your characters have been described as “achingly real.” What do you think makes them real?

Likewise, relationships—platonic, familial, and romantic—seem to feature heavily in Witches of Ash and Ruin. Can you talk a bit about how you developed those and what sort of relationships readers will be able to enjoy?

E: There are actually a lot of angry characters in Witches of Ash and Ruin as well! Dayna is more on the chill side, but Meiner and Cora work through a lot of anger in the story. They don’t do anything that a male character would be labeled “unlikeable” for, but I’m almost sure one or both of them will get stamped with that. Honestly, male characters could probably run around punching babies, and as long as they’re halfway attractive, it’s fine. Female characters are unlikeable the moment they show a little anger, or do something slightly uncharitable. I think as readers we need to step back and take a good hard look at why that is, and what it is society has implanted in us that makes us think that way.

I think what makes the characters real in Witches, is that they are angry. And jealous, and competitive, and impulsive. Every last character is deeply flawed in some way, and all of them are morally grey at best. I think people are like that. They’re not black and white or good or evil, they’re just people.

I also love exploring relationships in fiction, all types. I think that’s what makes things so interesting. I want to see tension in families, chosen families who are tighter knit than “blood,” betrayals you never saw coming, and the type of friend who’s only question upon learning you’ve accidentally murdered someone is, “Want me to bring a shovel?”

I love genre fiction, but my favorite kind is filled with compelling relationships, both the good and the bad. And of course, I’m a terrible sucker for, “I hate you, but I also kind of want to lick your face,” type meet cutes. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers trope?

Ahem, speaking of lovers, Mask of Shadows will forever hold the record for one of my all-time favorite romances. Sal and Elise are precious cinnamon buns who must be protected at all costs. Their chemistry is so great, and I was literally giggling out loud as they flirted with one another. They’re just the right amount of sweet and mischievous, and Sal has that edge of “dangerousness” that makes you fan yourself just a bit, if you know what I mean.

Can you tell us a little bit about the romance/relationship in Belle Révolte and give us a hint about what we have to look forward to?

Linsey: Oh, my precious assassin. I am so glad.

The romance in Belle Révolte is a bit toned down. It’s not as steamy, I guess. Emilie and Annette both have romantic arcs, but they’re similar in that their romantic inclinations are very quiet. Romance sneaks up on them after they become comfortable with a person and learn to trust them.  Their romances are built on respect and trust, even if Emilie’s relationship with their future partner is a bit prickly at the start.

Their romances stem from friendships, and platonic love is something I deeply appreciate. Emilie, who doesn’t really know how to express love because no one’s expressed it to her in a way she recognizes, realizes she loves her friends slowly, and then that she romantically loves one of them. Annette, who’s been burned because of her aceness is a bit too hesitant to admit she’s romantically attracted to someone until after it’s brought up a few times by friends.

Whereas Sal and Elise met and sort of mutually went, “Hellooooooooo,” I wanted the Emilie and Annette to have quieter romances bolstered by their friendships and bonds.

E: Okay last question. You have to pick from Sal, Elise, Annette and Emilie in each of the four scenarios:

  • You’re stranded on a desert island and you need to survive for two weeks before help arrives.
  • You get drafted into the Hunger Games.
  • You have to go to an extremely fancy royal dinner party with strict dining rules, and negotiate for peace in your country. It’s imperative you don’t offend anyone, lest you lose your heads at the end of the night.
  • You’re on a strict deadline to write an entire novel and you have to co-write with someone.

Linsey:

  • My ever-helpful medical nerd Emilie.
  • Sal, though I feel like they would not need me at all and Snow should be very
  • Elise (but also maybe Annette, who I feel would get along very well and probably have more fun than me at a dinner party).
  • She is an excellent diviner, so hopefully she can just divine the future novel and dictate it to me.

And you’re not getting away without doing this as well. Who would be your savior in these scenarios: Dayna, Meiner, Cora or Reagan?

E:

  • I think Cora would probably eat me for sustenance, so I’m going to say Reagan. She knows the most spells and would probably be able to keep us alive.
  • It was between Cora and Meiner, but I suspect Cora might backstab me once everyone else was dead. Meiner would actually attempt to keep me alive, I think.
  • Dayna is literally the only one in the entire cast of characters who wouldn’t get our heads chopped off.
  • Reagan or Dayna. Probably Reagan, because I feel Dayna and I would be too neurotic together and wouldn’t get much writing done.

E: This was awesome, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in an interview. I am seriously SO pumped for Belle Révolte to come out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thanks Linsey!

Linsey: !!! Thank you AND thank you for chatting with me. I am so glad Witches of Ash and Ruin will be out in the world this year, and I can’t wait to read it.

***

Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas and has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience (undergrad) lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of Bookends Literary and has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut duology, containing Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars, was about a genderfluid thief out for revenge who fought their way through auditions to be the next royal assassin. Linsey can currently be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

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E. Latimer is a fantasy writer from Victoria, BC. Her middle grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray was published by Tundra Books, and was nominated for the 2019 Red Maple Fiction Award.

In her spare time, she writes books, makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively. You can find her on her website http://www.elatimer.com/ or over on twitter as @ELatimerWrites.

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Burgis, whose upcoming f/f fantasy romance novella, Moontangled, releases February 3rd from Five Fathoms Press and is set in her Harwood Spellbook series! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the story, so come see what it’s all about and then enjoy a sneak peek!

Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

Preorder: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | See All Stores

And here’s the excerpt!

Golden lights glimmered across the grass, lighting a sparkling path through the moonlight. Juliana, waiting with the others in the enspelled blackness of the garden beyond, held her breath as she watched Thornfell’s great doors open wide. Light streamed out from the foyer, and guests streamed out with it in a chattering, glittering crowd.

Of course she’d never glimpse Caroline among so many others and from this distance—

There.

She’d know that haughty head-tilt anywhere—and oh, that easy, confident glide, like a panther prowling across the grass. There was only one thing missing: the usual laughing, vibrant circle of friends and admirers that followed Caroline Fennell to every social event of note.

Her breath escaped in a sigh of pure relief. It would be so much easier to tempt her fiancée discreetly into the shadows without any close observers keeping watch on them. Was that—could that be why Caroline had come alone to a party, for once? If she, too, was hoping for convenient privacy…

Warmth blossomed in Juliana’s chest.

Behind her, Sujana whispered, “Ready…and…now!”

Magical fireworks showered above the grass beyond as the garden blazed into triumphant, golden life at the end of their path, a brightly-lit stage before the vast, dark woods that hulked beyond. An invisible symphony of strings, flutes, and drums filled the warm air, while victorious scenes from the nation’s past stretched across the night sky, flashing from one famous triumph to another in dazzling succession.

The crowd came to a gasping, breathless halt, every head tipping back to take in each glittering, vivid detail…

Every head except for one.

Caroline’s gaze fixed on Juliana across all the space between them—and held, as if no one and nothing else existed.

It was exactly the way she had looked at her that very first evening years ago, when the famous Miss Fennell had arrived as an invited guest to one of Juliana’s aunt’s crowded Winter Solstice house parties…and had looked straight through all the rising politicians and hopeful gentleman mages to where Juliana had stood in the shadows, hiding every passionate truth about herself for her own safety.

Caroline had seen her from the very beginning…and when Caroline looked at her like that, Juliana could almost believe that she really was as strong and as beautiful as Caroline claimed, no matter what her own aunt and father had always told her to the contrary.

She had vowed never to think about them again. She was free now, she was surrounded by friends, and Caroline still wanted her after all. The joy and relief of that was inexpressible.

She barely held herself back as the fireworks ended and Miss Harwood stepped into place between the visitors and the brightly-lit garden.

“Welcome to Thornfell College of Magic,” said their headmistress. “You are all invited to walk the garden paths—and, of course, join the dance!”

The lighted path across the grass shot outward at her words, until it formed a massive, golden dancefloor. Glasses of elven wine floated in mid-air at the sidelines, waiting.

The music shifted into a jaunty new tune. Miss Harwood reached for her tall, lean husband to lead the dance. Juliana’s fellow students surged forwards to join them—

And Juliana held Caroline’s gaze as she shifted, deliberately, out from among all of her friends to slip into the shadows.

She didn’t have to wait for long.

“Is it safe to steal a moment in private?” Caroline’s words ghosted through the darkness, sending shivers down the back of Juliana’s neck.

“This way,” Juliana whispered, and led Caroline into the woods.

***

Version 3
J. Samphire

Stephanie Burgis grew up in Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She writes wildly romantic historical fantasy for adults and fun adventure fantasy novels for kids, including Snowspelled and Thornbound (also in the Harwood Spellbook series) and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website.

Fave Five: Queer YA with MCs of Iranian/Persian Descent

If You Could Be Mine and Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi

Darius the Great is Not Okay and Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram

How it All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi

Bonus: Coming in May, Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is a bi fantasy based on Persian mythology

Rainbow heart

 

7 New December eBooks for Under $5

Collie Jolly by Leigh Landry (f/f, $2.99)

Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (f/f, $2.99)

Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West (f/f, $2.99)

Faux Ho Ho by Nathan Burgoine (m/m, $4.99)

Christmas Inn Maine by Chelsea M. Cameron (f/nb, $4.99)

This Will Kill That by Danielle K. Roux (f/f Dystopian, $4.99)

Tinsel by Kris Ripper (f/f, $4.99)

Links are Amazon Affiliate; using them provides a small percentage of income for the site.

 

Backlist Book of the Month: Under the Mistletoe by Everly James

‘Tis the season for winter holiday books! And okay yes, I never read these because they’re almost always about Christmas, which I don’t celebrate, but how damn cute does this one look? And the main character is an author! Which, okay, again a little biased but who really cares? Christmas is coming early this year and it’s coming with lesbians.

Samantha Evans, popular lesbian romance author, has writer’s block and a book due by New Year’s Eve. When she signs up for a writing retreat in an attempt to overcome her lack of creativity, she expects a single-occupancy cabin and plenty of silence for crafting her new book.

What she doesn’t expect is a roommate. A gorgeous, woman roommate.

Gia Torres is an aspiring novelist eager to break into the publishing world and leave her horrible day job as a barista behind. She travels to a Colorado retreat to finish her very first novel, not expecting to find beautiful Samantha waiting for her there.

The only problem? The two women hate each other.

How will they overcome their first impressions and let Christmas sparks fly?

Buy it: Amazon