Tag Archives: Lesbian

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Queen of All by Anya Josephs

Today on the site, we’re revealing an excerpt from the upcoming Queen of All by Anya Josephs, an #ownvoices YA fantasy with a plus-size lesbian protagonist releasing from Zenith Press on June 8th. Here’s the story:

Jena lives on her family’s struggling farm and in her beautiful friend Sisi’s shadow. She’s not interested in Sisi’s plans to uncover the Kingdom’s darkest secrets: the suppression of magic, and the crown prince’s systemic murder of those who practice it.

Jena only wants to keep a secret of her own—her changing feelings for Sisi. Yet when a letter arrives summoning Sisi to the royal Midwinter Ball, Jena has no choice but to follow her into a new world of mystery and danger.

Sisi falls into a perilous romance with the very crown prince she despises. Desperate to save her, Jena searches for answers in the halls of the palace and in the ancient texts of its library.

She discovers that the chance to save her friend, and their world, lies in her own ability to bring the magic back and embrace her own power.

And here’s the excerpt!

The most beautiful girl in any of the Four Corners of the Earth kicks me awake in the middle of the night.

Through my half-open eyes and by the light of the moon, I can see her perfectly sculpted face looming over mine. Her ruby-red lips, so entrancing that a passing bard once wrote a lengthy ode in their honor, blow hot air directly up my nose. The bard, for obvious reasons, did not mention the stench of her morning breath. As she begins to wake up, I cough, try to turn over, and fumble for our shared blanket with the intention of pulling it over my head and going back to sleep. It’s gone.

As I reluctantly blink my way awake, our bedroom comes into focus: the white-washed walls, the low rafters, the ladder down into the main room, the trunk where we keep our clothes, and then Sisi, grinning triumphantly, holding the blanket over her head.

“What do you want?”

“And good morning to you too, my beloved cousin,” she says, her dark-rose cheeks dimpling in an extremely winsome fashion. Most people can’t stay mad at beautiful Sisi for long. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of practice. I was still only a baby when Sisi and her brother came to live here, so for fourteen years, she and I have been making each other, and driving each other, mad.

“No, you see, morning happens after the nighttime. Which is what we’re having now. Nighttime. Morning is later.”

“Well technically, it’s after midnight. Thus, good morning.” She smiles at me again.

“And before dawn. Thus, good night.” I make another futile grab for the blanket, but Sisi has a good six inches of height on me and is quicker than I am even when I’m not drowsy from sleep. Defeated, I slump back against the frame of our bed. “Come on, you didn’t just wake me up in the middle of the night so that we could debate the finer points of timekeeping. Are you up to something? You already know I won’t want to be a part of it.”

“Listen.” She points down at the floor of our bedroom. Because we sleep up in the attic, I can just barely hear a low rumble of voices through the floorboards, coming from the main room below. “What are they doing awake at this hour? There must be something interesting going on.” Question and answer, all in one. As usual, I seem to be altogether unnecessary in this conversation Sisi is having with herself.

“Yes. I’m sure the price of grain has gone up fifteen milar a tonne, or something.”

“You have no spirit of adventure,” Sisi accuses.

“Another of my many faults.”

“Fine, then I’ll go by myself, and I shan’t tell you what I find.”

“Have fun. Do try not to get caught,” I advise.

She turns to face me fully, batting her long, dark eyelashes at me. It’s a trick that would certainly work on any of her many admirers among the local boys, but I’m immune to that kind of flattery. “Please, Jena? Sweet cousin, my dearest friend, it’ll be ever so much better if you just come with me.”

“Come where? Down the stairs? It’s not much of a valiant quest, even if I were inclined to be your brave companion.” After a moment’s thought, I add, “And I’m reasonably sure that I’m your only friend.”

But Sisi has no trouble continuing her conversation with herself, with or without input from me. “I’m sure you saw that carriage coming up the drive today?”

“No, it was a horse-drawn carriage!” Now, that’s a decent bit of news, I must admit. People around here use pushcarts, or occasionally mules and donkeys. Horses are unofficially reserved for the Numbered, as anyone without noble blood is unlikely to be able to afford their feed and upkeep. I carefully arrange my expression so Sisi won’t see that she’s caught my interest, but she continues on unabated. “Anyway, Aunt Mae might have said that, but I know for a fact that wasn’t the potter’s lad.”

“So Daren’s finally got himself fired, and the potter’s found someone new. I don’t see why that’s such a big deal.” The potter’s apprentice is famous around town for his clumsiness, and it would be no surprise to anyone if someone more suited to such a delicate profession replaced him. Daren is a good-hearted lad, as Aunt Mae always says, and he does works hard, but he likely breaks more pots carrying them in from the kiln than he sells in one piece. This is especially true when he delivers jugs for the cider press on our farm, since his infatuation with Sisi makes him nervous. Of course, everyone fancies Sisi—he’s not alone in that, just a little more hopeless than most.

“It wasn’t anyone from the potter’s. Nor anyone else from Leasane. It was a man around your father’s age. Better dressed, though, in some sort of gold-and-purple uniform. He gave Uncle Prinn a sheet of paper. I couldn’t quite see what was on it, but it was stamped with a golden seal and I’m sure it’s the Sign of the Three Powers itself. So, I can only assume that your father has been given a message from the Royal Court in the Capital. How often do you think a messenger from the King’s own home rides across half the Earth to seek out an apple farmer? And what could be in such a message?” She looks about ready to faint as she finishes her speech, her cheeks flushed with the effort of having so much to say so quickly.

I have to concede that this is indeed a good point—but I have a few good points of my own to make. “Sounds too good to be true. Which means it probably is. Perhaps this messenger just wanted a cup of cider and directions back to the High Road. If it was anything more than that, we’ll hear about it soon enough. In the meantime, why not go to bed? Or at least lie here and speculate so as to spare ourselves the inevitable results of snooping into what’s none of our business: we sneak out, we get caught, we get beaten, we get sent right back where we started no better off but for sore backsides.”

“You are becoming frightfully dull lately. Ever since that incident on market day—”

“Which was all your fault, I might add, though it was me who took all the blame. Here’s an idea, Jena, let’s not do our chores today! Oh, let’s steal the apple cart and ride it into town! It’ll be fun! We’ll meet boys! We’ll buy candies at the market! We won’t get caught! And when we do get caught, I certainly won’t run away home and pretend never to have left my sewing and not say a word when Jena’s getting thrashed for it!”

“Bruises heal. Unsatisfied curiosity never does.”

“I don’t know, I’m still a little sore—” To be honest, my feelings were hurt worse than my backside. Aunt Mae is strict, but she’d never thrash us so hard that bruises dealt out a week prior would still hurt. What stings isn’t the beating, now, as Sisi points out, healed and mostly forgotten. It’s the fact that I’d gotten one, and Sisi hadn’t. As usual, I get stuck taking all of the blame and the pain with Sisi getting away scot-free, since she’s too pretty and charming for anyone but me to stay angry with.

“A half hour, that’s all. Won’t you give your poor dear cousin, near to you as a sister, your closest kin in affection if not in blood, a half-hour’s worth of your rest, when I would wake a thousand night’s watching for you…”

I roll my eyes, but I must confess, even just to myself, that I do quite want to know what’s going on down in the kitchen. As usual, Sisi is, infuriatingly, right. “Just half an hour?”

“Thirty minutes, to the instant, she promises, smiling with all the innocence she can muster.

“Shake on it, you scoundrel. I can’t trust you.”

She spits in her hand and offers it to me, and I take it. Sometimes I think Sisi would not have made a very good Lady of a Numbered House, even if her brother had not left the Numbered for his unsuitable marriage with my cousin Merri. Sisi and I shake, and then she yanks me out of the bed by our joined hands.

Buy it: Amazon

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz

Today on the site I’m excited to be revealing the newest of longtime queer YA author Hannah Moskowitz! The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe is a contemporary f/f YA romance releasing from Entangled Teen on June 1, 2021, and you can learn more about it here:

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

She’s my best friend.

She’s the center of attention.

She is, without fail, the hottest girl in the room. Anytime. Anyplace.

She has freckles and dimples and bright green eyes, and with someone else’s energy she’d be adorable. But there is nothing cute about Ivy. She is ice and hot metal and electricity.

She is the girl who every lesbian wants, but she has never been with the same person twice. She’s one-of-a-kind but also predictable, so I will always be Andie, her best friend, never Andie, her girlfriend.

Then she meets Dot, and Ivy does something even I would have never guessed—she sees Dot another day. And another. And another.

Now my world is slowly going up in smoke, and no matter what I do, the flames grow higher. She lit that match without knowing who or what it would burn.

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

But falling in love wasn’t supposed to be one of them…unless it was with me.

And here’s the beautifully serene cover!

Cover illustration and design by Elizabeth Turner Stokes
Gold Marbling © VectorTwins/Shutterstock  

Preorder now: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo | Google

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got an excerpt, so you can get your first glimpse of the girls!

I leave with Ivy and Dot, spilling out of the club and toward the lot two blocks away where I left my car. We’re up on College Hill, and the street’s covered with Brown and RISD kids standing in line for cheap pizza or stumbling back to their dorms. Dot’s a little slow in her high heels, and she lags behind Ivy, who snarks to me, “Do you really think I didn’t make sure she wanted to come?”

“Can’t be too careful.”

“I can rescue my own damsels, thanks. Or is this interrogation thing a new role you provide?”

“What, you mean along with my taxi service? And only if they look like they were born during the Obama administration.”

Ivy glares at me and slows down to take Dot’s hand.

They get in the backseat together and are all over each other before I’ve even started the car. Christ. I roll my eyes and adjust the rearview mirror so I don’t have to look at them. “Yeah, you’re welcome for the ride,” I mumble to myself, wondering, like I always do, why the hell I always agree to do this shit. God, I don’t even agree. I volunteer.

I weave us around the college kids, down the hill into the lights of the city, and south to good old Elmwood, the neighborhood where Ivy and I have lived since we were little kids, making pillow forts and mixing nail polish colors and teaching each other how to kiss. Or I guess she taught me.

I don’t really wonder why I volunteer for this shit. I just wish I did.

Elmwood’s one of the shittier parts of the city, and part of me expects Dot to try to back out when she sees where we’re headed; she wouldn’t be the first prospective girl of Ivy’s to do it, and she doesn’t exactly look streetwise. But she doesn’t care, or maybe just doesn’t notice, with her face and hands otherwise occupied, feeling up my best friend in my backseat, and there’s no protest as I turn onto Ivy’s block. And then immediately stop, because her street is crowded with police cars, firefighters, and a bunch of people gathered on the sidewalk.

“Ivy,” I say.

“Mmm,” she says, her hands on Dot’s waist, their lips together.

“Ivy.”

She pulls away and shoots daggers at me in the rearview mirror. “What?”

            “Your house is on fire.”

There’s a second where none of us move, and then all three of us scramble out, leaving the cars open and beeping in protest as we run down the rest of the block, weaving through the crowd until we’re on the sidewalk. The shit hole formerly known as Ivy’s house is smoking pathetically, one wall completely gone and the others not much better, bits of charred roof and furniture strewn into the front lawn. The firefighters are packing up their equipment, ready to go.

Oh my God. Holy shit.

Somehow what comes out of my mouth is, “How many fucking times did your landlord say he was going to fix the wiring.”

“Oh my God,” Dot says. “Was anyone in there?”

I shake my head. “Her mom’s in Costa Rica. Fuck, Ives. You could have been in there.”

Ivy’s staring at the house, her eyes slightly narrowed like she’s trying to figure it out.

“Holy shit,” Dot says. She puts her hand on Ivy’s arm. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“She’s not okay,” I snap, because who the fuck is Dot to be here, to be part of this, to act like it really matters to her world whether this person she’s known for half an hour burned alive or not? “She could have died. If this had happened last night she would have been in there.”

“But I wasn’t,” Ivy says flatly.

“Still… God, all your shit. All your school stuff. Your clothes.” All the crafts we made when we were little, her half of the construction paper heart that says BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, though fuck if I’m about to say that in front of Dot. I take her hand. “Ivy…”

Ivy is still looking at her house like she’s making a decision, and I think about Dot’s face at the club when she was looking up at her. Two natural disasters in one night.

Ivy’s so fucking beautiful, in the streetlight and the smoke.

Her mouth quirks up into a smile. “Good,” she says quietly. “Good. Burn it all down.”

***

Hannah Moskowitz is the author of more than a dozen works for children and young adults, including Break, A History of Glitter and Blood, the 2013 Stonewall Honor Book Gone, Gone, Gone, and Sick Kids in Love. After a stint in New York, she’s happily back in Maryland.

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: 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

Backlist Book of the Month: In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

You may know In at the Deep End by Kate Davies as “Queer Bridget Jones,” and it definitely has those elements, but my deep love for this book about a woman realizing her sexual identity as a lesbian and embarking upon her first relationship with another woman is in its depiction of a toxic relationship that pushes all her boundaries. Don’t dive into the deep end of this one (sorry, I had to) without being aware that’s the true heart of the book, but for anyone else who struggles with toxicity in relationships and may need an eye-opener, I hope you love this one as much as I did!

Julia hasn’t had sex in three years. Her roommate has a boyfriend—and their sex noises are audible through the walls, maybe even throughout the neighborhood. Not to mention, she’s treading water in a dead-end job, her know-it-all therapist gives her advice she doesn’t ask for, and the men she is surrounded by are, to be polite, subpar. Enough is enough.

So when Julia gets invited to a warehouse party in a part of town where “trendy people who have lots of sex might go on a Friday night”—she readily accepts. Whom she meets there, however, is surprising: a conceptual artist, also a woman.

Julia’s sexual awakening begins; her new lesbian life, as she coins it, is exhilarating. She finds her tribe at queer swing dancing classes, and guided by her new lover Sam, she soon discovers London’s gay bars and BDSM clubs, and . . . the complexities of polyamory. Soon it becomes clear that Sam needs to call the shots, and Julia’s newfound liberation comes to bear a suspicious resemblance to entrapment . . .

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

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Hugs & Quiches by Candace Harper

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

Starting over was meant to be a new beginning.

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

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

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

If only she can beat Amelia.

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

…and the top spot in each others’ hearts.

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

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

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

Preorder on Amazon!

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

Inside an Anthology: Unspeakable ed. by Celine Frohn

Today on the site, we’re excited to welcome Celine Frohn, editor of Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, out now from Nyx Publishing! This speculative collection features a wide range of identities, including gay, lesbian, bi/pan, trans and non-binary, poly, and asexual characters. Check it out here and then learn a little more about the stories that make it up!

Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.

The anthology contains stories by Claire Hamilton Russell, Ally Kölzow, C. L., Lindsay King-Miller, Avery Kit Malone, Katalina Watt, Jude Reid, S.T. Gibson, Jenna MacDonald, Eliza Temple, Katie Young, Sam Hirst, Ryann Fletcher, Heather Valentine, Jen Glifort, E. Saxey, Anna Moon, and Mason Hawthorne.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Bookshop

***

Leadbitter House” by Mason Hawthorne

The haunted house as a metaphor is something that fascinates me. In “Leadbitter House”, the house is a proxy for the protagonist’s body, the struggles he faces throughout the story reflect a number of struggles that are common to transgender experiences. Elijah is confronted over and over by people who believe that his house must be arranged or decorated or treated in the way that they expect it to be, rather than how Elijah needs it to be, or who express outright disgust at it. The use of body horror elements in this story is another part of the gender narrative that I explore through my work. Often, it isn’t until other people read my writing and say “wow that’s body horror!” that I realise what effect the scenes I develop might have for someone who is not in my head. I try to make the ostensibly gory, horrific elements more about connection and exploration of the body, about intimacy and anxiety connected to bodily experience, in a way that uses the uncanny to interrogate that which is often assumed to be familiar and ‘normal’.

But besides all that, sometimes organ removal is fun!

***

“Laguna and the Engkanto” by Katalina Watt

My story ‘Laguna and the Engkanto’ takes place on a fictional island called Avelina and is inspired by Filipino folklore, specifically the engkanto: a mythical spirit of the environment. The engkanto in my story is genderless and similar to a siren or mermaid, acting as a catalyst for and symbol of sexual awakening. Laguna begins the story with a fear of the sea, and as she becomes more in tune with herself and her body, this transforms into a longing for it.

I wanted to explore the idea of queerness within the prism of a society which is highly spiritual in both the religious and folkloric sense. The characters are living under the shadow of colonialism which has brought, among other things, these new religious ideologies. Within this society and particularly for a young woman, the engkanto represents both sexual agency but also transgressive pleasure, and I wanted to play with the concept of queerness as it relates to these intersections within a culture.

***

“Brideprice” by S.T. Gibson

“Brideprice” is my love letter to the vampire novels and action fantasy movies like Van Helsing that got me through my teens. When I was first coming to terms with my own bisexuality, my desires felt monstrous, so stories of ravenous supernatural creatures pining away after maidens soothed me. I was enamored by the capricious, sensual, mysterious brides of D, who struck me as the perfect mix of maiden and monster, seducer and seducee. I wrote “Brideprice” to give them their own narrative voices, and to play up the queerness inherent in the source text. This undying family is re-imagined as a polyamorous unit of cis and trans men and women who simultaneously desire one another and compete with one another for power.

The Dracula myth is generally told from his perspective, or the perspective of his victims, but not the brides. “Brideprice” is my attempt to give agency back to the brides. This is why Dracula rarely speaks in the story and only exists filtered through the brides’ memories: he’s just the catalyst for their leap into immortality. Whether they’re trying to escape violence, bigotry, or poverty, he’s their dark door into a new world, but they’re the ones seizing agency and making that final choice.

***

“Homesick” by Sam Hirst

Writing has always been a means of exploring and expressing myself from those early days of pre-teen poetry with its paeans to blonde beauties right through the angsty self-repressing tragedies of my teens littered with sapphic ladies dying to save their beloved. Emerging from years of denial about who I was and ignorance about the words that existed to describe myself – asexual, sapphic, queer… I turned to writing to work out my confusions before I even knew what they were. And that’s where ‘Homesick’ comes from. It mixes the Gothic elements I’ve always loved – ghosts – and one of the intriguing riddles associated with – how the afterlife actually works – with an exploration of queer identity that I’ve often felt didn’t fit in any of the existing categories. Ghosts allow you to move away from the physical. Sexual attraction disappears from the world of my story, the way it is absent from my own life. Exploring life after death allowed me to imagine a world lived within sight of your past but not bound or determined by it. My ghosts are homesick because they haven’t found a home yet and my story is about them finding their way there – to the place and the people they belong with. In writing this story, I followed Marion and Sanan through a Gothic world that they made beautiful. It’s a story of hope in the end and I hope people read it that way.

***

“Lady of Letters; or, the Twenty-First Century Homunculus” by Heather Valentine

Lady of Letters came from an idea I’d been toying around with for a while about fake profiles and alternate accounts in the mid-2000s era of early social media. I’d played a few games that were either set in that era or touched on the ideas I was interested in – Cibele takes place in a fake MMORPG, and spoke to my experiences of playing Phantasy Star Universe while having arguments with my soon-to-be-ex high school boyfriend in the private chat; and Simulacra takes the idea of the sentient profile in a far more cosmic horror direction.

Seeing the call for stories for Unspeakable, I realised that the key to exploring these ideas on the page was the Gothic. Taking the genre’s sometimes-features of narratives framed through letters and recordings; the all-encompassing emotions its heightened settings allow its protagonists to have without that teenage shame of feeling too much; the idea of a ghostly romance, but making the spectre a digital one.

I think the way that classic Gothic writing explores and remembers is past is something we can use to explore our own much more recent history, as people and as communities.

***

“Hearteater” by Eliza Temple

Hearteater is a story about a woman who lives alone in a decaying manor house named Scarlet Hall. One dark and stormy night, a stranger named Kat turns up at the house looking for shelter. Lady Scarlet invites her inside, and they grow close, despite each insisting on their own monstrosity.

My initial idea for Hearteater was to explore how Gothic preoccupations with virginity would work when applied to queer sex, but literally none of that made it into the final draft because I got preoccupied by my own issues. Both Lady Scarlet and Kat refer to themselves as monsters throughout the text; they literally are, in the sense of being supernatural and nonhuman, but they also live in a heteronormative society which could consider them monstrous for not being attracted to men. When Kat comes to Scarlet Hall, both women find community in each other—not only are they both lesbians, but their respective supernatural powers complement each other. I wrote Hearteater at a time when I didn’t really have any friends who were also gay women, so the heart of the story is the joy and comfort that comes from finding someone like you, when before you were all alone.

***

“Taylor Hall” by Jen Glifort

I’ve always loved haunted houses—the dilapidated buildings, the secret passages, the unpredictability of a house’s temperament. But what if the house was benevolent, rather than threatening? I wanted to explore what it would be like to live in a haunted house that was devoted to its owner and wanted to help them.

I thought Taylor Hall would be the ideal environment for a character like Kit, who struggles with gender identity and all the insecurity that comes with it. I’ve questioned my own gender identity my whole life, and feel like I’ve only recently started coming to terms with that. In my experience, suppressing those feelings can cause them to express themselves in unexpected ways (although they’ve never resulted in my house misbehaving in the middle of the night). I wanted to see how something like having a crush on a new roommate could bring up those emotions for Kit.

Setting this story in a haunted house gave me a chance to play with the concept of home. I loved the idea of someone who found a loving, nurturing home that caters to their needs while still trying to find a home in themselves.

***

“The Dream Eater” by Anna Moon

What if an asexual person is faced with a succubus or incubus? That was my initial inspiration for “The Dream Eater”, where the ace protagonist, Dan, comes across a genderless entity that drains people’s life force. I wanted to write a story where asexuality and queerness allows the main character to relate to the supernatural in a different (and positive) way, and at the same time show an ace person in a happy relationship with an allosexual person (his girlfriend, Elise). The Gothic, and a threatening presence that looms in the space between dream and reality, seemed like the perfect lens through which to explore sexuality, identity, and what it means to be human.

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“The Ruin” by E. Saxey

“The Ruin” is a romance, with two guys falling in love through their shared interests: ruined buildings, end-of-the-world fiction, incredibly old poetry. These are also a few of my favourite things. I wanted to explore, through a love story, a nagging doubt I have: are these hobbies actually unsavoury? Is Ruinenlust – so fundamental to the Gothic – also fundamentally dodgy? I can tell myself that I’m interested in how people used to live, or how they’d survive in an apocalypse, but I spend a lot of time (imaginatively) in dark crumbling places. Maybe it’s the continuity of the human experience that delights me, but I suspect it’s the continuity of me, posing solo against the background of all these wonderful ruins.

So while I’m fond of both the characters in “The Ruin”, their relationship isn’t ideal. While the narrator’s interest in the end of the world is purely imaginative, his partner may have a more hands-on approach. Or is that just paranoia?

Happy (Upcoming) Lesbian Day of Visibility!

This post only includes books that were not featured in last year’s post. For even more visibly lesbian goodness, check that one out too!

Books to Buy Now

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

petrusbookTrinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Sugar Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Sugar Applebaum doesn’t hate the idea of spending a quiet summer at Sideling Springs, a sleepy Jewish resort in West Virginia, with her mother (who she adores) and her sister (who she does not), but she’s not exactly hyped about it. That is, until she crashes a staff party and meets Mara, the older, gorgeous, and acid-tongued dance instructor with very little patience for people with Sugar’s amount of privilege and supposed heterosexuality. But Mara’s dance partner, Tristan, is getting top surgery and can’t perform, and she needs a way to replace him without anyone noticing. Guess who’s the only volunteer?

Learning to look, dress, and, especially, dance like a boy means a lot of time with Mara, listening to her, arguing with her…touching her, and suddenly Sugar’s feeling things she thought were just in those sappy songs they have to dance to. But falling for a girl, especially one who doesn’t particularly seem to like her, was not in Sugar’s summer plans. What’s a girl to do?

SUGAR SUMMER is a lesbian retelling of the ’80s classic DIRTY DANCING, like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Amazon

The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore

Thana has a huge reputation to live up to as daughter of the Serpent, who rules over Ghadid’s secret clan of assassins. Opportunity to prove herself arrives when Thana accepts her first contract on Heru, a dangerous foreign diplomat with the ability to bind a person’s soul under his control.

She may be in over her head, especially when Heru is targeted by a rival sorcerer who sends hordes of the undead to attack them both. When Heru flees, Thana has no choice than to pursue him across the sands to the Empire that intends to capture Ghadid inside its iron grip.

A stranger in a strange city, Thana’s only ally is Mo, a healer who may be too noble for her own good. Meanwhile, otherworldly and political dangers lurk around every corner, and even more sinister plans are uncovered which could lead to worldwide devastation. Can Thana rise to the challenge—even if it means facing off against an ancient evil?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.

She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.

So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.

But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.

The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Back to September by Melissa Brayden

Hannah Shephard likes her life, her job, and her perfectly cozy apartment around the corner from her shop. She’s never been oneto take big risks and would much rather stay in on a Friday night with a warm cup of decaf and her favorite mystery novel, so why do her friends insist she needs more? Plus, Hannah has bigger problems to focus on. She’s in trouble. Well, her bookstore is, and if she doesn’t find a way to bring in some more cash, she’ll be closing the doors of A Likely Story for good.

When world famous romance novelist Parker Bristow accepts her request to come in for a signing, Hannah might finally be able to drum up some much-needed attention and save the shop. What she didn’t anticipate was an unexpected evening and a woman she wouldn’t soon forget. A real romance is off the table. Parker is flashy, sought after, and Hannah is just, well, Hannah. But for Parker, it seems like Hannah might be a safe place to fall. The question is, what kind of falling are they doing?

Buy it: Amazon

Music from Another World by Robin Talley

44786181. sy475 It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera

Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win , that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.

Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.

Buy it: Amazon

Inked With a Kiss by Jennie Davids

Tattoo artist Jamie Winston is used to caring for others. Between her assistant manager position at a tattoo parlor, single-parenting her twelve-year-old daughter and supporting her alcoholic parents, Jamie rarely prioritizes her own needs—unless Sierra Clark is in her chair. The bubbly younger woman somehow manages to make Jamie feel like the carefree teenager she never got to be, making anything seem possible.

For Sierra, time with Jamie is a much-needed escape. She takes her work as a social worker seriously, but with budget cuts threatening her job, there’s a lot riding on the fund-raiser she’s planning with Jamie. The fact that it means working closely with the sexy older tattooist is a bonus—a deliciously tempting bonus. Sierra isn’t one for relationships, but she’s never felt such a strong desire to mix business with pleasure.

Sizzling chemistry quickly erodes Jamie’s fears of being too old for Sierra, but navigating a romance with someone who’s at such a different stage in life is no easy task. They’ve each come to rely on themselves more than anyone else, but having a future together will mean letting their guards down and accepting each other as a safe place to fall.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Dirty London by Kelley York

All London Noble wanted out of her senior year of high school was anonymity. The complete opposite of Jasmine, her emotionally unstable baby sister, London has worked hard to stay out of the spotlight.

Then she discovers that Wade, one of the most popular guys in school, is gay like her and their new-found closeness based around their shared secret has half the student body convinced they’re hooking up…and a lot of girls aren’t happy about it. Now she’s been dubbed “Dirty London.” Rumors are flying about her inability to keep her clothes on, and London is pretty sure she’s developing a crush on the one girl who sees through it all.

If she could admit why stealing boyfriends is the last thing on her mind—not to mention find out what’s going on with Jasmine and her rapidly disappearing psych medications—her life would be a much brighter place. But if her and Wade’s truth gets out, and if she doesn’t find a way to help her sister, London faces losing a lot more than her obscurity.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Books to Preorder

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 12th)

Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled―but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.

As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling (May 19th)

Hannah Walsh just wants a normal life. It’s her senior year, so she should be focusing on classes, hanging out with her best friend, and flirting with her new girlfriend, Morgan. But it turns out surviving a murderous Witch Hunter doesn’t exactly qualify as a summer vacation, and now the rest of the Hunters seem more intent on destroying her magic than ever.

When Hannah learns the Hunters have gone nationwide, armed with a serum capable of taking out entire covens at once, she’s desperate to help. Now, with witches across the country losing the most important thing they have—their power—Hannah could be their best shot at finally defeating the Hunters. After all, she’s one of the only witches to escape a Hunter with her magic intact.

Or so everyone believes. Because as good as she is at faking it, doing even the smallest bit of magic leaves her in agony. The only person who can bring her comfort, who can make her power flourish, is Morgan. But Morgan’s magic is on the line, too, and if Hannah can’t figure out how to save her—and the rest of the Witches—she’ll lose everything she’s ever known. And as the Hunters get dangerously close to their final target, will all the Witches in Salem be enough to stop an enemy determined to destroy magic for good?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron (May 26th)

Iris Turner hightailed it out of Salty Cove, Maine, without so much as a backward glance. Which is why finding herself back in her hometown—in her childhood bedroom, no less—has the normally upbeat Iris feeling a bit down and out. Her spirits get a much-needed lift, though, at the sight of the sexy girl next door.

No one knows why Jude Wicks is back in Salty Cove, and that’s just how she likes it. Jude never imagined she’d be once again living in her parents’ house, never mind hauling lobster like a local. But the solitude is just what she needs—until Iris tempts her to open up.

A no-strings summer fling seems like the perfect distraction for both women. Jude rides a motorcycle, kisses hard and gives Iris the perfect distraction from her tangled mess of a life. But come September, Iris is still determined to get out of this zero-stoplight town.

That is, unless Jude can give her a reason to stay…

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner (May 26th)

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time–threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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

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

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

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

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

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite (July 28th)

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk.  Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis (September 15th)

When Hazel Stanczak was born, an interdimensional rift tore open near her family’s home, which prompted immediate government attention. They soon learned that if Hazel strayed too far, the rift would become volatile and fling things from other dimensions onto their front lawn—or it could swallow up their whole town. As a result, Hazel has never left her small Pennsylvania town, and the government agents garrisoned on her lawn make sure it stays that way. On her sixteenth birthday, though, the rift spins completely out of control. Hazel comes face-to-face with a surprise: a second Hazel. Then another. And another. Three other Hazels from three different dimensions! Now, for the first time, Hazel has to step into the world to learn about her connection to the rift—and how to close it. But is Hazel—even more than one of her—really capable of saving the world?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Books to Add to Your TBR

Lesbian Books Featured on the Site

 

Backlist Book of the Month: Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Do you know what is almost definitely missing from your life? A paranormal YA with two leads, one of whom is a genderqueer zombie and the other of whom is a lesbian werewolf, set in an increasingly unsettling police state and full of murder and mystery. Luckily, Hal Schrieve is here to help you fix that during these unsettling times with Out of Salem, which by the way was a National Book Award nominee for YA. Did I mention it has a fourteen-year-old protag, something we almost never get in YA now?? So yeah, check it out!

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve

Out of SalemWhen genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.

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

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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

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