Tag Archives: f/f

Authors in Conversation: Auriane Desombre and Sonia Hartl

I’m tickled to have two utterly delightful authors on the site today: Auriane Desombre, author of debut contemporary f/f YA romance I Think I Love You (which just released yesterday with Underlined!) and Sonia Hartl, whose f/f YA vampire romance The Lost Girls releases September 14th from Page Street! They’re here together today to chat about their books, other faves, and more! Take it away, Auriane and Sonia!

SONIA: Hello! I’m Sonia Hartl, author of the upcoming f/f paranormal romance The Lost Girls (think John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay). It will be out on September 14th with Page Street. I’m thrilled to be in conversation with one of my best friends, Auriane Desombre, whose f/f romcom I Think I Love You will be out on March 2nd with Underlined! It’s a hilarious and heart warming queer take on both Emma and Much Ado, and I love it with my whole heart. I’ve read this book a few times now and I’m so excited for the rest of the world to experience the joy of falling into an Auriane story.

(Buy I Think I Love You from the LGBTQReads Bookshop)

Auriane, I love so many scenes in I Think I Love You, what was the first one that felt fully formed in your mind before you wrote it?

AURIANE: A lot of the banter felt fully formed going into the first draft! The witty back-and-forths in Much Ado About Nothing have always been my favorite parts of the play, so I was definitely most excited about incorporating that element into my modern take. There’s also a scene between Emma and Sophia at the first film competition screening, where they let themselves get more vulnerable with each other for the first time. That scene has changed a lot since the first draft (as you know, the film competition didn’t even exist until you told me I had to add a plot during the Pitch Wars mentorship!), but the vulnerable moments in that scene have been in my head since the beginning.

John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay” will never not be my favorite pitch for a book. I can’t wait for this one! What was your favorite part of turning that incredible premise into a first draft?

SONIA: I think my favorite part was building that bond between the girls who had all given up their mortality for this guy. Friendship is such a complex and satisfying relationship to write, especially with these girls who should’ve been enemies (according to societal expectations anyway), and I think allowing these characters to find the humanity in each other as they learn how to forgive themselves is where the heart of The Lost Girls beats strongest.

(Preorder The Lost Girls from the LGBTQReads Bookshop!)

And speaking of girls who are/should be enemies, I love how well you balanced Emma’s optimism and Sophia’s pessimism in  I Think I Love You. Which girl do you relate to more? Or does that change depending on the day?

AURIANE: I definitely relate to both of them! As a rom com writer, I obviously see myself in Emma’s love of all things romance, and I’m always rooting for a happily ever after. That said, I agree with Sophia’s view that friendships are just as important as romantic love. I’m also more of a Sophia when it comes to grand gestures and rom com finales—Emma might live for a grand gesture, but I always love the quieter, more matter-of-fact declarations the best.

The friendships in The Lost Girls are some of my favorite parts of the book, and the relationships in the main friend group are to die for (Get it? A vampire joke!). I’m also fully obsessed with the world your characters live in. What was the most challenging part of creating your own twist on vampire folklore?

SONIA: I think the most challenging part was creating something new, while also being cognizant that vampires are beloved and also come with certain expectations. I enjoyed playing with known tropes, but I took a few risks too that I wasn’t always sure would resonate with readers. Ultimately, I’m very proud of the story I told, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if what I saw in my head was translating on paper.

In I Think I Love You, you have such an incredible secondary cast! What is your favorite part about writing friend groups?

AURIANE: Yay for big friend groups! I loved fleshing out all of the characters and making sure they each had an arc of their own. Since the friend group in I Think I Love You is so big (and so messy, always in each others’ business), I had a lot of fun thinking through the different relationships the individual characters have with each other within the group, and how that affects the dynamic as a whole. This friend group in particular made that process extra fun because of all the scheming and matchmaking they get up to!

The Lost Girls has such a rich cast too, and I fell deep in love with the vampire girl squad. Which character was your favorite to write? Which do you relate to the most?

SONIA: My favorite character to write was Ida, because she’s such a grumpy cynic, but also has an incredibly soft center, and I loved peeling back her layers. As for who I relate to the most, my main character Holly and her love interest Parker are the two characters who have the most pieces of me in them. There are some things I’ll only ever be able to say through characters I create, and Holly and Parker both allowed me to drain some of the poison from old wounds.

You do enemies to lovers so well (and the grumpy/sunshine dynamic is perfection), what are your favorite romance tropes? Which one haven’t you written yet that you’d like to try?

AURIANE: Enemies-to-lovers is by far my favorite! I love the banter that fits into the beginning of the trope, and all the little moments that crack a rivalry and turn it into romance are so delicious. Aside from that, I’m always a sucker for some fake dating (which is one of the many reasons I’m obsessed with your debut, Have a Little Faith in Me!). Gooiest of brownie points to any book that combines the two!

In terms of tropes I’d like to try, the greatest tragedy of my writer life is that I have yet to work in a “there’s only one bed” scenario into any of my projects! That’s definitely a situation I’d love to play with at some point in a future manuscript.

I am obsessed with every single bit of the world in your book and your take on vampires. What is your favorite worldbuilding detail?

SONIA: I think my favorite worldbuilding detail started when I was doing some research on object memory, and how holding objects allows people to recall things in more vivid detail than sight, sound, or smell. I can’t really explain it without getting into what heirlooms are and their significance in The Lost Girls, so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed playing with the psychology behind object memory.

I love how funny and warm your book is, and the way it makes me smile every time I read it! What are some of your favorite queer romcoms?

AURIANE: I have so many! Some recent favorites include She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, and The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth.

Speaking of favorite f/f books, The Lost Girls is so important in so many ways. What are you hoping readers will get out of this fabulous book?

SONIA: What I hope readers will get out of this book most is that regret is too heavy a burden to carry, and it’s okay to share it with other people and let it go. It’s okay to walk away from people who hurt you. It’s never too late to forgive yourself for mistakes. And you deserve to love and be loved, always, freely, and without demand.

AURIANE: That’s such a wonderful message! This book has my whole heart, and I can’t wait for it to capture readers’ hearts too. I’m counting down the days until I can hold my copy!

***

Auriane is a middle school teacher and freelance editor. She holds an MA in English Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing for Children & Young Adults. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Sammy, who is a certified bad boy. I Think I Love You is her debut novel.

Sonia Hartl is the author of The Lost Girls, Not Your #Lovestory, and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s also the author of an adult romcom, Heartbreak for Hire (Gallery). When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys playing board games with her family, attempting to keep her garden alive, or looking up craft projects she’ll never get around to completing on Pinterest. She’s a member of SCBWI and was the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two daughters.

New Release Spotlight: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Oh, how I love this book. Let me count the ways! A) It’s perfect on the coming-of-age front, B) it has found family in multiple iterations, C) it has a Black lesbian heroine in STEM from a military background that I know anyone who was an overachieving child (and especially those pushed by parents) will identify with, more and more so the closer you get to Grace’s identity, and D) the romance is so. Freaking. Cute. It’s not what you’re picturing when you think “Got married while drunk in Vegas” but it’s such a great take on it that you are not gonna be mad about it!

Honey Girl releases February 23 from Park Row Books, so please make good use of those buy links below to preorder!

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

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

The Gastronomy of A Curse of Roses: a Guest Post by Diana Pinguicha

I’m so excited to welcome A Curse of Roses author Diana Pinguicha back to the site today to celebrate the release of her debut, and to discuss the delicious food in it! The f/f YA fantasy just released yesterday from Entangled Teen, and if you click on the title above, you can check out the first two chapters right here on LGBTQReads. Already read and loved them? Then read on to learn about its culinary delights!

Disclaimer: I love food. I’ve always loved cooking, and baking, and some of my best memories are with my grandma Nini, who was an out-of-this-world cook. I still think she had some sort of magic in her, because every dish she touched came out delicious. She was also notoriously bad about writing down her recipes, because, well… she didn’t follow any, not really. Portuguese people don’t do measuring cups, or instructions when cooking—we just throw stuff in with confidence and whatever happens, happens.

And, in true grandmother fashion, she’d feed me until I dropped. Much to my mom’s chagrin, since I was obese as a child, and whenever I went to my nana’s I’d come back much heavier than when she dropped me off. I believe Nana’s overfeeding came from the fact that she, much like the rest of my family, starved during the dictatorship, and once she had access to food, she saw no reason not to overindulge. There would be times when I’d cry because I wasn’t supposed to be eating so much. But my nana always made me feel at ease about my weight and appetite. She said, “Fat isn’t ugly, and you’re always so happy when you eat. So eat!”

That was another aspect of her that I thought was magical. She cared only for my happiness. She was the only one who never judged me for being “a difficult kid” and would always be kind to me, even when I wasn’t kind to myself. She was also the only person who would let me just be. If I wanted to be left alone in a corner to read, or play video games, she’d let me. If I wanted to hijack the kitchen to make desserts (which she did not like to make) she’d let me. Really, I don’t have enough words to express how much I love her and miss her, and how utterly good she was.

Now that my nana has passed, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to replicate what she’d serve me. The taste is still vivid in my memories, and if I close my eyes, I can remember what her chickpea stew tasted like, her ensopado, her migas. More than anything, I wanted to honor the memories of the food she made me, and because A CURSE OF ROSES takes place in Alentejo, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the gastronomy of my home region. I’ve mentioned above that people from my family largely starved during the dictatorship, and it’s true for a lot of Alentejo and other interior regions. The way Alentejanos had of making their food last was to add the stale bread they had lying around, and for that reason, a lot of our dishes include it. And since Isabel of Aragon’s miracle involved turning bread into roses—which was another great excuse to go all-in on Alentejo cuisine.

During my research, I also found that many Alentejo dishes have their origin with the Moors. The chickpea stew my nana made? A variation of what is now the Moroccan Harira. The broas? They’re a variation of the Arabic ghoribas. The Encharcada? It’s a variant of Qalb El Louz. The Almendrados? They’re remarkably like the Mlouwza. Which, at a time when people are trying to erase our Moor past, seemed very important for me to include.

So, the gastronomy in ACOR? It’s everything I grew up eating.

There’s açorda (which I stylized as assorda, since medieval serigraphy didn’t have the ç), which is an inexpensive dish that fed my family many a times, and that we make together every Christmas Eve at 3 am. All you need for it is garlic, cilantro, olive oil, stale bread, eggs, and boiling water. Eggs aren’t really mandatory, though. And, if you’re feeling fancy, you can add some fish such as cod.

Açorda à Alentejana

The chickpea stew (Cozido de Grão), which is made with chickpeas, and a lot of other vegetables, such as kale, carrots, and so on. It’s also usually cooked with meat, and my grandma did it with pork. When I was younger and had textural issues with all the different veggies, she’d also pass it through an immersion blender so I could eat it, and whenever my parents told her not to, she’d just give them a smile and say, “It’s two minutes of my time, and if this helps her eat better, I’m doing it.”

Pork is another big player in Alentejo gastronomy. I mention the slaughter season in ACOR, and it’s another thing I’ve lived with. Every February, my grandparents would slaughter a pig, and the neighbors would help them with several cuts, sausages, and so on. No part of the pig went to waste—not even the blood, which is used in some dishes and sausages. The things we made with a single pork would last us almost an entire year, and in older times, the chouriço, and the toucinho, and all that, would be used as something to trade for. It was also not uncommon to have a pig the entire neighborhood took care of, and then divided come slaughter. I do not miss that part of the year, and I haven’t eaten pork in over a decade—but it plays a huge part in our gastronomy, and so, I included it.

Then there is Migas, which is literally bread you throw into a pan, and then water until it breaks up. Some people will also add the fat that’s leftover from cooking the pork—but again, I don’t eat pork, so I actually use regular water and fry it in a bit of olive oil and garlic.

Conventual sweets also make an appearance. There’s Rala Bread (Pão de Rala), which is essentially, flour, sugar, and eggs. There are also Gadanhas, native to my hometown of Estremoz, and they’re based on eggs and almonds.

There’s another aspect I had to consider, and that was what kind of food would be available to you depending on social class. Commoners would be mostly vegetarian, save for the aforementioned pork days and the occasional chicken, or some animal they hunted, as commoners were allowed to hunt in their Lords’ lands in times where food was scarce. Hunting was also another way my family had to feed themselves during the dictatorship (and they kept ferrets solely for the purpose of hunting rabbits!) Meanwhile, the nobility would be gorging on everything, from wine and meats. Sweetwater fish are also part of Alentejo gastronomy, like the boga and the bordalo—fish that are slowly disappearing because of the pollution in our rivers.

There were other dishes I wanted to include, but couldn’t due to the fact that the ingredients were not native to Europe, and could not be realistically delivered. The Tomato Soup (Sopas de Tomate) was one, as were the pumpkin Dreams (Sonhos), and the Ensopado (because it requires potatoes), and the tomatada (that’s when you cook in a delicious tomato sauce—my nana learned to make that especially for me). I also could not include cod-based dishes, which was a shame, but alas. Hopefully there will be other books set in more modern times, where I can highlight those as well.

And I hope this blog post has piqued your curiosity in our humble Alentejo food! I promise it’s as delicious as it sounds!

***

Check out an excerpt and/or buy A Curse of Roses here!

***

Born in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana grew up in Estremoz, and now lives in Lisbon with two extremely fluffy cats and one amazing bearded dragon. A Computer Engineer graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico, she has worked in award-winning educational video games, but writing is where her heart always belonged. When she’s not working on her books, she can be found painting, immersed in books or video games, or walking around with her dragon.

New Releases: December 2020

The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley (1st)

Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather brings home a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.

With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world… and about herself.

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

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (1st)

A butch lesbian parolee. The pretty pansexual nurse who got away. Is this their second chance at a happily ever after?

Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic.

The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.

Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.

Except Vivi, here and now, doesn’t seem fine. And Finn couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t try to help.

Is fate offering Finn a second chance? Or is finding love as likely as finding a job with health insurance?

Buy it: Amazon

A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha (1st)

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine (1st)

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Buy it: Books2Read

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (1st)

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything. Lead actor need a breath mint? She’s on it. Understudy bust a seam? Mel’s sewing kit is at the ready. Not only is her Plan A foolproof, she’s got a Plan B, and a Plan C, because actors can be total fools.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! by Big Freedia (1st)

As the “undisputed ambassador” of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement, Big Freedia isn’t afraid to twerk, wiggle, and shake her way to self-confidence, and is encouraging her fans to do the same. In her engrossing memoir, Big Freedia tells the inside story of her path to fame, the peaks and valleys of her personal life, and the liberation that Bounce music brings to herself and every one of her fans who is searching for freedom.

Big Freedia immediately pulls us into the relationship between her personal life and her career as an artist; being a “twerking sissy” is not just a job, she says, but a salvation. A place to find solace. To escape from the battles she faced growing up in the worst neighborhood in New Orleans. To deal with losing loved ones to the violence on the streets, drug overdoses, and jail. To survive hurricane Katrina by living on her roof for two days with three adults and a child. To grapple with the difficulties and celebrate the joys of living.

In this eye-opening memoir that bursts with energy, you’ll learn the history of the Bounce movement and meet all of the colorful characters that pepper its music scene. With her own unique voice and unabashed enthusiasm, Big Freedia tells how she arrived at this defining moment in music, and how Bounce ultimately has allowed her to become her own version of diva, one booty-pop at a time.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

 

Secret Santa by Eli Wray (7th)

This is the third book in the A Very Enby Christmas companion series

When Dove plans a holiday threesome with their partner Sage, the event doesn’t quite go off without a hitch. Can they find the Christmas spirit again?

This book includes an all enby trans cast, and a committed hedonist couple inviting a third participant into consensual sexual activity.

Buy it: Amazon

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (8th)

This is a standalone sequel to The Empress of Salt and Fortune

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez (8th)

Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labor camps.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.

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

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde (8th)

Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.

But with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.

Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life crumble fast, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.

Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Yet a Stranger by Gregory Ashe (20th)

This is book 2 of the First Quarto

When Auggie Lopez returns to Wroxall College, he’s determined that his second year will be different from the chaos he faced as a freshman. He’s living in the Sigma Sigma house, he’s got a good group of friends, and his social media presence is growing. Meeting a hot older guy on move-in day is just the cherry on top. All he has to do now is avoid getting dragged into another murder.

That last part, though, turns out to be easier said than done, especially when Auggie’s ex-roommate, Orlando, asks for help. Orlando’s brother Cal has gone missing, and Orlando wants Auggie to find him.

Auggie knows he’ll need help, but recruiting his friend—and crush—Theo is not as straightforward as he expects. While Auggie was gone for the summer, Theo has started dating someone, and neither Theo nor Auggie knows how to handle the shift in their relationship.

Finding Orlando’s brother dead only makes their situation more complicated. Although the police are quick to write off the homicide as a drug deal gone wrong, Auggie and Theo aren’t so sure, and Orlando begs them to keep investigating. To learn the truth, Auggie and Theo will have to untangle a web of lies while keeping each other safe from a killer who is determined to stop them.

As Auggie and Theo dig deeper, they realize that Cal was a stranger even to the people who thought they knew him. And Auggie and Theo both begin to fear that they are also strangers to each other.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

From Archie to Zack by Vincent X Kirsch (29th)

“Archie loves Zack!”
“Zack loves Archie!”
Everyone said it was so.
But Archie hasn’t told Zack yet. And Zack hasn’t told Archie. They spend just about every minute together: walking to and from school, doing science and art projects, practicing for marching band, learning to ride bikes, and so much more.
Over the course of a few months, Archie tries to write a letter to Zack to tell him how he feels: “From A to Z.” None of his drafts sound quite right, so he hides them all away. One by one, Archie’s friends (Zelda, Zinnia, and Zuzella) find the letters . . . but they know exactly whom they’re meant for.
This new picture book from Vincent X. Kirsch celebrates young, queer love in a whimsical, kid-friendly way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

 

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: A Beautiful Doom by Laura Pohl

Today on the site I am so excited to reveal the cover of The Last 8 author Laura Pohl’s first book in her brand new series, The Grimrose Girls! A Beautiful Doom releases from Sourcebooks on August 3rd and features two f/f couples, a demi-bisexual lead, and an aroace lead, and if dark academia and fairytales are your jam, this is your next can’t-miss read. Check out the blurb:

The Descendants meets Pretty Little Liars in this story of four troubled friends, one murdered girl, and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed. Reimagined fairytale heroines must uncover connections to their ancient curses and forge their own paths… before it’s too late.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled Ariane’s death as a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events that no one could have predicted. As the girls retrace their friend’s final days, they discover a dark secret about Grimrose—Ariane wasn’t the first dead girl.

They soon learn that all the past murders are connected to ancient fairytale curses…and that their own fates are tied to the stories, dooming the girls to brutal and gruesome endings unless they can break the cycle for good.

And here’s the iconic cover, designed by Maggie Edkins and Nicole Hower!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We also have the first two chapters:
read on!

Chapter One

ELLA

The first day of school started with a funeral.

This was not, of course, the usual for the Grimrose Académie for Elite Students, whose student body mostly lived to their eighties, and went on to command corporate conglomerates or win Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes and other such trifles. Therefore, everyone was shocked, and whispers were heard in every corner of the castle, from the library tower to the girl’s bathroom on the fifth floor.

The whispers, especially, followed Eleanor Ashworth.

Ella gazed upward self-consciously, tightening her hand on the strap of her bag. “How long do you think this is going to last?”

Eleanor, known to her friends only as Ella, was a small girl of seventeen, with light blond hair cut to her chin and equally light brown eyes, reddened cheeks, freckles all over her face and arms, and clothes that had seen better days. The whispers had followed her before, but never with such commitment.

“A month, if we’re lucky.” Yuki, Ella’s best friend answered, a crease appearing in her ivory forehead.

“We won’t be,” Rory muttered, glaring at a group of younger girls who dared to dart eyes in their direction. “What the hell are you looking at?”

“You do realize that attracts even more attention, right?” Yuki said, raising an eyebrow.

“At least I’ll get a reason to fight,” Rory replied with a satisfied shrug.

The Grimrose Académie was exclusive not only in name, but also in reputation. Its location in Switzerland and the exorbitant prices ensured that only the richest and most powerful were able to attend. It sat on one of Alps’ most beautiful lakes and boasted a giant fairytale-like castle with four towers and white marble, gardens extending beyond the mountains that surrounded them, and a crystalline lake to complete the view.

Studying at Grimrose was a guarantee of your future. When you studied at Grimrose, nothing could ever go wrong.

Except that on the eve of the first day of school, one of the Académie’s most exceptional students had drowned in the lake.

For most students, it meant an uproar. For the Académie, it meant an open line for calling parents reassuring the safety of their children, and keeping the death out of the papers. Drowned in the lake besides the school, alone.

But for Ella, Yuki, and Rory, it wasn’t just another tragedy. Ariane Van Amstel had been their best friend.

Ella avoided the stares and the whispers, knowing all the students wanted to ask her the same questions. Had she been suicidal? Did she know how to swim? Did Ella know she was sad? And why hadn’t Ella helped her?

The last question was the worst, the reminder a sting.. How could she not know if one of her best friends had done the unthinkable? Ariane had been happy, daughter of a rich businessman from Holland and with a bright future ahead of her. Just like everyone in the Académie.

Well, everyone except Eleanor Ashworth.

The worst part about the stares was how they made her feel ashamed, because she ought to have done something. She should have acted. She should have saved her friend, because that’s what friends did.

Ella stepped forward in the cafeteria line, looking at their lonely table in the corner. Everyone else in the cafeteria was lively, friends gathering for the first time in three months, groups coming together with only happiness in their minds. But for them, the table was missing something. Stacie caught her looking wistfully at the popular table, and she gave the smallest nod to her stepsister.

Stacie and Silla, her twin stepsisters, belonged to Grimrose in a way that Ella couldn’t. They paid full tuition. Ella was the scholarship student.

In truth, Stacie and Silla owed their place to Ella. The Académie had personally invited her, but her stepmother ruled that she would go only as long as there had been openings for her two daughters. That had been five years ago. Sharon said if Ella wanted to go to an expensive school, she had to deserve it.

Rory slammed her tray on their table as they settled down. The table felt too big for them now. There was a space where Ariane was supposed to be, at the table she had chosen herself. It felt like a part of her was missing, and Ella could not find anything big enough to hide that absence.

The three girls sat in silence. Ella finished her lunch and opened her bag to pick a pair of knitting needles.

“Knitting already?” Rory asked, chewing with her mouth open.

“This is just…” Ella started. “I promised Ari. Couldn’t finish it because Sharon kept nagging me last week. So now I have to finish it before… before…”

She didn’t finish her sentence, letting out a frustrated breath. Ella knew she was ranting. That she was stuck in a loop. She had to finish her goodbye present. If she didn’t, then…

The good thing was that Ella’s brain could not imagine a consequence worse than the situation they were already in.

“The memorial is this afternoon,” Ella said. “I promised it. I’m doing it. Ella Ashworth doesn’t let her friends down.”

Not even if they were dead, she thought to herself.

Chapter Two

YUKI

Yuki Miyashiro waited for her friends in the garden.

She stood perfectly still as other students passed her, glancing at the tall lonely figure with ivory white skin and dark hair like a raven’s feathers that fell over her shoulders, turning their heads when they met the merciless black eyes.

The memorial was being held in the garden, the only place that could hold all the students, despite being inconveniently close to the lake where Ariane had drowned.

When Rory and Ella showed up, they went in silence together. The gardens were lush and covered in flowers and bright tones of green, the last touches of summer.

“You all right?” Ella asked, and for a moment, Yuki’s stomach twisted in guilt. She should be the one asking the question.

Ella had been her best friend since their first day of school, when Ella had declared Yuki’s shoes were the most beautiful she’d ever seen, and therefore both of them had to be friends. Only later Ella confessed that she didn’t like the shoes that much, but that she found complimenting people was always the best way to make friends.

Yuki wouldn’t know. She didn’t have a lot of friends.

“I’m all right,” Yuki answered, even though it was a lie.

Ella pulled her knitting from her bag. Ella always needed something to do with her hands. She took a deep breath, and Rory glanced at them both.

“You’ve been taking the pills?” Rory asked.

“Yeah,” Ella replied. “Wait, you think I haven’t?”

“That’s not what she said,” Yuki interrupted.

“I’ve been taking them.”

Rory looked at Yuki for reassurance, but Yuki could offer nothing. Ella had been diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety over a year ago, and it was still an adjustment..

It was a short walk. Every student was wearing their uniform, liberty blue skirts and pants, white shirts and silver ties and periwinkle blue blazers, a crowd of blue descending the path. The rain had stopped but the clouds had stayed, and the sky was gray like the mountaintops. Students started filling the front, but Yuki preferred the back.

Ariane’s parents were standing in the front row. There was no coffin—they would take the body home, sealed up so no one would ever see the bright red flaming head of hair, but there was a picture of her. Yuki avoided Ari’s eyes, and stared at the ground.

Ella had sat down almost immediately on the chair, and Yuki closed her eyes, but there were the whispers, talking of the bloated body, talking of Ariane drowning, her body sinking into the lake, and how they had found her, face up, barely recognizable. Accident. Suicide. Same thing. It didn’t matter. She was dead.

When Reyna Castilla stepped to the pulpit, Yuki was almost glad to hear her stepmother’s voice.

“It’s with great sorrow we are gathered here today,” she started. “One of our most promising students has been taken from us so abruptly. Ariane was a great student, and beloved by all. It’s difficult to describe how terrible her loss…”

Yuki tuned all of it out. Reyna didn’t know Ariane enough to truly understand what it meant to lose her. Her loss was pure, untainted by knowing and loving Ariane.

Yuki’s loss was not pure.

When she looked up, she saw another face in the crowd. Edric, Ariane’s ex-boyfriend. Only one week after he and Ari had broken up, he’d been with someone else. All over each other in the halls.

Yuki wished she could watch him choke.

To calm herself down, she recited the facts of the case to herself.

Ariane did not know how to swim. Ariane would not go near the lake at night. Ariane would not leave without saying goodbye. But there had been no foul play discovered.

Reyna’s eulogy ended, and Ari’s father took over the microphone, giving another thankful speech. All the students in the school were courteous enough to pretend they cared, even though Ariane did not belong with them.

She belonged to us.

Yuki’s heart beat faster in her chest.

The memorial dissolved little after that. Ella got up before any of them could stop her and walked decidedly over to Ariane’s parents. Yuki could almost hear what Ella was saying. She could imagine her words would be firm and kind. A flash of a smile from Ariane’s mother, a hug, Ella handing them the sweater she’d finished.

Someone else approached Yuki, and she turned to see her stepmother.

Reyna rarely looked tired, but today, Yuki could glimpse something raw in her, as if she’d lowered a barrier that wouldn’t be lowered again in the next hundred years.

Reyna didn’t look like she was old enough to be Yuki’s stepmother. Her medium brown skin was flawless, and her rich chocolate brown hair fell in generous waves over her shoulders. She dressed the part of the Headmistress at least, today a dark red dress that was both formal and elegant.

“Walk back with me?” Reyna asked, gesturing to the castle.

Yuki obeyed, as she always did. Perfect posture, walking calmly side by side. Their shoulders never touched. The silence stretched as they climbed.

“How are you doing?” Reyna asked at last, not unkindly.

Yuki did not answer for a moment. She knew what was expected of her. She’d seen the answer in Ella’s hands, in Ella’s gestures, in Ella’s words. She was supposed to be holding up, to accept her loss gracefully, to think of the others.

“Fine,” she answered curtly. “Just fine.”

Reyna paused as they climbed and Yuki was forced to stop her march.

“Yuki, one of your friends just died,” Reyna said. “I’m asking because I know you can’t be all right.”

“Well, I am.”

She spoke the words with such conviction that she almost felt like she could hear them ringing across the gardens, across the leaves and carried by the bird’s wings. I am. I am. I am.

She wouldn’t lose her composure. She was the headmistress’ stepdaughter, after all. Her behavior would always be examined first.

“I’ll ask the police to keep the questions to a minimum,” Reyna said, and Yuki took a deep breath, because she did not lose her composure, because she was always, always, the image of perfect, no matter what happened, and she was not going to lose her cool today. “It’s all routine.”

“It’s fine.”

“I’m just preparing you for what’s to come,” she said. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. I know how hard it must be.”

Except Reyna didn’t know.

She had no idea.

She could never have any idea at all, because Ariane was dead, and it was Yuki’s fault.

***

 

Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature. She is the author of THE LAST 8 duology, which won the International Latino Book Awards. Her next novel is A BEAUTIFUL DOOM, which opens the Grimrose Girls duology. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com),  and make sure to follow her on twitterinstagram, and pinterest.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Prize Money by Celeste Castro

Today on the site we’re getting a first look at the cover of Prize Money by Celeste Castro, a contemporary lesbian sports romance set on the professional rodeo circuit(!) that releases from Interlude Press on May 11, 2021! Here’s the story:

Eva Angeles is a professional barrel racer headed for her third world title when a competition mishap throws her in the path of an on-the-loose bull. She is saved from impending disaster by a tall, dark, and handsome bullfighter—a woman. Toma Rozene is an equestrian stuntwoman fresh off the set of a blockbuster film when a family emergency calls her home to help run the family business: rescuing fallen rodeo riders before blustering bulls and bucking broncos trample their dreams. Eva and Toma’s shared passions and competitive spirits make friendship easy, but, as their feelings deepen, they must decide if the divergent futures they seek will stand in the way of love.

And here’s the powerful cover by none other than C.B. Messer!

Add it on Goodreads

Celeste Castro, she/her, is an American Mexican, Own Voices author from small-town, rural Idaho, where most of her stories take place. She grew up with learning disabilities, though she always kept a journal. When she was a young adult, court-ordered volunteer work helped her find her way—community outreach. In 2009, she graduated from Seattle University with a Master of Public Administration. She began writing fiction in 2015. Her writing credits include HOMECOMING, Bella Books, 2017. LEX FILES, Bella Books, 2018. WE’VE GOT THE POWER, Brisk Press, 2018. THE TAKING, Bella Books, 2019, SAVE THE DATE, Bella Books 2021 and PRIZE MONEY, Interlude Press, 2021. In addition to fiction, she is a staff writer with Hispanecdotes, an online magazine for Latinx writers, where she publishes essays and poetry.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Stake Sauce, Arc 2: Everybody’s Missing (Somebody) by RoAnna Sylver

Just in time for spooky season, we’re thrilled to be revealing the cover of RoAnna Sylver’s newest release, the second arc of horror-paranormal romance mashup Stake Sauce, which is coming from Kraken Collective Books on Halloween!

Rep within includes: Polyamorous M/M, queerplatonic F/F, gray-ace and aro-spec MC, gay and bisexual dudes, lesbian and aroace ladies, physically disabled MC, trans MC, neurodivergent/mentally ill (autistic, PTSD, depression) MC, multiple fat love interests, nonbinary major characters, and you can find out more about the story here:

Act 2, In Which: Our friends, some old and some new, must awaken a powerful, centuries-old magical force – before an old enemy gets there first…

Life for Jude is finally getting back to normal – or as normal as it gets when your new boyfriend has fangs, your old maybe-boyfriend isn’t dead after all (and has even bigger fangs), and everyone’s scrambling to adjust their lives accordingly.

There’s enough to worry about without evil, ancient vampires closing in, preparing dark rituals, and threatening to undo everything Jude, Pixie, and their loved ones have built together. But as they’ve all seen, normal doesn’t tend to last for long. And it’s hard to shake the feeling that something’s missing.

But then, it seems like everybody’s missing somebody.

And here’s the cover, designed by the author!

Preorders come with the first Stake Sauce book and an exclusive bonus collection of short stories, so make good use of this link!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth

Whether or not you’ve already read and loved The Falling in Love Montage as much as I did, I know you need Ciara Smyth’s sophomore novel, Not My Problem, about an “angry teenage lesbian Olivia Pope” who falls in unexpected love while running a fixer business. Sounds to me like The Fixer meets Amelia Westlake and truly, what could be more epic?? It releases from HarperTeen on May 25, 2021, and we’ve got the cover! But first, the story:

Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.

But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.

Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.

And here’s the perfectly attitude-laced cover, with art by Spiros Halaris and designed by Catherine Lee and Jenna Stempel-Lobell!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository

Never Too Late: a Guest Post by Out on the Ice Author Kelly Farmer

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

Buy it: Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

Here’s the post, compliments of Kelly Farmer!

Hi there! I’m Kelly, and I’m bisexual.

Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have said that. Because I didn’t know. See, I discovered this in my early forties. Part of what helped me come to terms with this was writing my debut novel, Out on the Ice. There was some serious life imitating art going on.

I’d been a strong LGBTQIA+ ally forever. Positive representation in media and human rights have always mattered. I cheered on marriage equality with gusto for my friends and loved ones. But never, not once, did I feel anything close to identifying as a member of the community. Never had one of those “experimental phases” in college. So I went along as a straight girl up until 2018.

And then… I watched the United States Women’s National Hockey Team win that nail-biter Olympic gold medal game against Team Canada. It reminded me of the book I wrote years ago that featured a female goaltender. How much I enjoyed being immersed in that world. How I missed writing hockey stories (I was known as the girl who wrote “hockey books” long before it was popular). Sweet news bits came out about U.S. and Canadian female hockey players who, despite the fierce on-ice rivalry, had found love off the ice.

The story seeds started to get planted. Playing the “What if…” game is my favorite part of being a writer. I knew I wanted a story between a retired women’s hockey legend (Caro) and someone out and proud (Amy) to shake up the other’s quiet life. Sort of a melding of my old hockey stories and what I wanted to write about now. Amy declared she was bisexual because there wasn’t a lot of representation out there.

So the story percolated in my head, and something strange happened. I was thinking an awful lot about female/female romances. Reading stories about women athletes falling in love. Googling information about bisexuality. It felt so warm and fuzzy. It felt…right. Little flashes of ideas started coming to life. Not for my book—for myself. I was out for a sunny afternoon walk one day when a single thought popped into my head: What if I’m bisexual?

I remember smiling to myself. And then laughing, Oh my God, it figures. I don’t live life by “ordinary” conventions. Of course I’d fall under the greatly misunderstood bisexual umbrella. I chewed on this for weeks. Months. Did more Googling. More soul-searching. It made a lot of sense. I found guys attractive—that hadn’t changed. But there were some behaviors I’d never thought much about. I’ve always “admired” athletic women. (Haha—I sure admired Megan Rapinoe a lot.) I can’t sit in a chair like a normal person. (What, one leg flung over the side isn’t normal?) I’m always pointing and shooting finger guns at people. And really, Rachel Weisz in The Mummy is so adorable…

It sunk in, and I finally said it out loud to myself: “I’m bisexual.” I was 42. Never too late to live an authentic life! I really dug into book research that doubled as personal research. Learned about bi-erasure that bothered me so much, it became an important topic in Out on the Ice. Going on this journey with Caro and Amy helped me become more comfortable with the idea of finding love with another woman. Why not?

By the time I typed The End, I was really freaking proud. Proud of this book. Proud that I’d come to terms with who I am. And nervous but proud that when I was ready, I’d be able to join the community. It started slow and quiet, a little at a time. Privately to my parents and brother, then in little bits here and there. When I sold Out on the Ice this past February, I knew I wanted to make it known before my book launched. So I did, rather gloriously in social media posts this spring.

I am so, so lucky to be surrounded by fantastically supportive friends and family. I was anxious about coming out, but the one thing that gave me strength was knowing it wouldn’t be a big deal. That’s another thing that got incorporated into my manuscript: coming out stories are so varied. They can be simple, or beautiful, or painful, or just plain awful. I could really tap into the nervousness, the uncertainty, the feeling like you have a big secret, the huge relief once it’s out.

This book will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only because it’s my debut novel, but it’s also the debut of me in all my bisexual glory. That’s a pretty terrific combination.

* * *

Kelly Farmer (she/her) has been writing romance novels since junior high. In those days, they featured high school quarterbacks named Brad who drove Corvettes and gals with names like Desireé because her own name was rather plain. Her stories since then have ranged from historical and contemporary male/female romances to light women’s fiction to LGBTQ+ romance. One theme remains the same: everyone deserves to have a happy ending.

Kelly was a 2015 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance category. She is past president of the Chicago-North Romance Writers and is also a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

When not writing, she enjoys being outside in nature, quoting from 80’s movies, listening to all kinds of music, and petting every dog she comes in contact with. All of these show up in her books. She also watches a lot of documentaries to satisfy her hunger for random bits of trivia. Kelly lives in the Chicago suburbs, where she swears every winter is her last one there.

To connect with Kelly, talk about Schitt’s Creek and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and share photos of your adorable pets, please head over to: