Jonny Garza Villa’s Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is one of my all-time favorite gay YA romances, so I’m extra thrilled to be revealing the cover of their gorgeous new book on the site today! Ander and Santi Were Here is about a a nonbinary Mexican-American teen muralist who falls in love with an undocumented Mexican waiter at their family’s taqueria, and it releases April 11, 2023 from Wednesday Books! Here’s the official blurb:
Finding home. Falling in love. Fighting to belong.
The Santos Vista neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, is all Ander Lopez has ever known. The smell of pan dulce. The mixture of Spanish and English filling the streets. And, especially their job at their family’s taquería. It’s the place that has inspired Ander as a muralist, and, as they get ready to leave for art school, it’s all of these things that give them hesitancy. That give them the thought, are they ready to leave it all behind?
To keep Ander from becoming complacent during their gap year, their family “fires” them so they can transition from restaurant life to focusing on their murals and prepare for college. That is, until they meet Santiago Garcia, the hot new waiter. Falling for each other becomes as natural as breathing. Through Santi’s eyes, Ander starts to understand who they are and want to be as an artist, and Ander becomes Santi’s first steps toward making Santos Vista and the United States feel like home.
Until ICE agents come for Santi, and Ander realizes how fragile that sense of home is. How love can only hold on so long when the whole world is against them. And when, eventually, the world starts to win.
And here’s the stunning cover, designed by Kerri Resnick and illustrated by Max Reed!
Jonny Garza Villa (they/them) is an author of contemporary young adult literature with characters and settings inspired by their own Tejane, Chicane, and queer identities. Whatever the storyline, Jonny ultimately hopes Latines, and, more specifically, queer Mexican American young people will feel seen in their writing. Their debut YA novel Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun was a Pura Belpré Honor Book and a Kirkus Best YA Fiction of 2021 selection. When not writing, Jonny enjoys reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, visiting taquerías, listening to Selena, and caring for their many cacti children. They live in San Antonio.
I’m so delighted to welcome back Kris Ripper to the site, this time for a cover reveal of zir most delightful-looking male/nonbinary Romance, The Love Study, which releases from Carina Press on September 28, 2020! Here’s the story:
What happens when the search for the perfect date goes perfectly wrong?
Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.
And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.
When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.
The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.
Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.
And now, the adorable cover, designed by Dandelion Design!
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and zir pronouns are ze/zir. Kris shares a converted garage with a kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.
A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.
The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
“‘We were sun children chasing an eternal summer.’ This boisterous chronicle of a summer in Montauk sees a group of 20-something housemates who’ll grow to know, to love, and care for one another. They work hard during the week, party hard on weekends, and each will face heartthrob and heartbreak. A coming out story told with feeling and humor and above all with the razor-sharp skill of a delicate and highly gifted writer.” -Andre Aciman, New York Times bestselling author of Call Me by Your Name They call Montauk the end of the world, a spit of land jutting into the Atlantic. The house was a ramshackle split-level set on a hill, and each summer thirty one people would sleep between its thin walls and shag carpets. Against the moonlight the house’s octagonal roof resembled a bee’s nest. It was dubbed The Hive.
In 2013, John Glynn joined the share house. Packing his duffel for that first Memorial Day Weekend, he prayed for clarity. At 27, he was crippled by an all-encompassing loneliness, a feeling he had carried in his heart for as long as he could remember. John didn’t understand the loneliness. He just knew it was there. Like the moon gone dark.
OUT EAST is the portrait of a summer, of the Hive and the people who lived in it, and John’s own reckoning with a half-formed sense of self. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, The Hive was a center of gravity, a port of call, a home. Friendships, conflicts, secrets and epiphanies blossomed within this tightly woven friend group and came to define how they would live out the rest of their twenties and beyond. Blending the sand-strewn milieu of George Howe Colt’s The Big House, the radiant aching of Olivia Liang’s The Lonely City, OUT EAST is a keenly wrought story of love and transformation, longing and escape in our own contemporary moment.
When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.
But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.
At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.
The spellbinding tale of six queer witches forging their own paths, shrouded in the mist, magic, and secrets of the ancient California redwoods.
Danny didn’t know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill.
Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta’s tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you’re in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.
Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets I’ll Give You the Sun in an exhilarating and emotional novel about the growing relationship between two teen boys, told through the letters they write to one another.
Jonathan Hopkirk and Adam “Kurl” Kurlansky are partnered in English class, writing letters to one another in a weekly pen pal assignment. With each letter, the two begin to develop a friendship that eventually grows into love. But with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl struggle to overcome their conflicts and hold onto their relationship…and each other.
For Ari Silverman, the past has never really passed. After 20 years, the trauma from a childhood assault resurfaces as he grapples with the fate of his ex-husband, a colleague accused of sexually harassing a student. To gain perspective, Ari arranges to reconnect with his high school crush, Justin Jackson, a bold step which forces him to reflect on their relationship in the segregated suburbs of Detroit during the 1990s and the secrets they still share. An honest story about recovery and coping with both past and present, framed by the meteoric rise and fall of the band Nirvana and the wide-reaching scope of the #metoo movement, NIRVANA IS HERE explores issues of identity, race, sex, and family with both poignancy and unexpected humor. Deftly told intertwining stories with rich, real characters are reminiscent of the sensuality and haunting nostalgia of André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name blended with the raw emotion of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics.
Written by award-winning writer Aaron Hamburger, Nirvana Is Here is “a wonder of a book,” according to acclaimed novelist Lauren Grodstein (Our Short History). “As a Jewish Gen-Xer, the novel reminded me exactly of who I once was—and all that I still want to be. A brilliant accomplishment.”
This book is about the Stonewall Riots, a series of spontaneous, often violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBTQ+) community in reaction to a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The Riots are attributed as the spark that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement. The author describes American gay history leading up to the Riots, the Riots themselves, and the aftermath, and includes her interviews of people involved or witnesses, including a woman who was ten at the time. Profusely illustrated, the book includes contemporary photos, newspaper clippings, and other period objects. A timely and necessary read, The Stonewall Riots helps readers to understand the history and legacy of the LGBTQ+ movement.
Fresh out of college and back on his older sister’s couch, Kit expected his days to return to the way they’d always been. He anticipated spending his days perusing Netflix with one hand on the remote and the other in a box of pizza, but when he’s given the opportunity for a job at one of New York City’s newest advertising agencies, there’s no way he can turn the offer down. Unfortunately for Kit, this job might be more than he bargained for.
Not only does Roman – his handsome yet ruthless new boss – let his wandering eye linger just a little too long, Kit can’t seem to shake the feeling that the glitzy personal assistant gig he just landed might be a bit shadier than he imagined. Before he’s even able to make a reservation for Roman’s dinner at Le Bernardin, Kit’s professional and personal life become one, and he finds himself forced to somehow separate business from pleasure.
Easier said than done, especially when it’s his job to take care of Roman’s every need.
The white picket fence.
That life was never meant for him.
For years he’s been bouncing from city to city—from one cage fight to another.
That’s his outlet. That’s pain Erik can control.
But in Seattle, everything changed.
River’s an artist.
He’s a pretty boy.
He does yoga.
Someone so soft shouldn’t be intrigued by Erik’s rough edges.
His life was quiet. He had a simple routine.
Designing tattoos, avoiding drama. Well, mostly.
Then Erik comes along—scarred and dangerous, shrouded in mystery.
A mystery River can’t resist trying to solve.
Maybe a secret as dark as his own.
Neither of them expected a relationship so complicated, so intense.
Neither of them expected…each other.
Erik and River are both trying to escape a shadowed past.
But the thing about shadows is: the faster you run, the faster they chase you.
Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890–1918 ed. by Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey (1st)
In 1890, Rose Cleveland, sister of President Grover Cleveland, began writing to Evangeline Simpson, a wealthy widow who would become the second wife of Henry Whipple, Minnesota’s Episcopal bishop. The women corresponded across states and continents, discussing their advocacy and humanitarian work—and demonstrating their sexual attraction, romance, and partnership. In 1910, after Evangeline Whipple was again widowed, the two women sailed to Italy and began a life together.
The letters, most written in Cleveland’s dramatic, quirky style, guide readers through new love, heartbreak, and the rekindling of a committed relationship. Lillian Faderman’s foreword provides the context for same-sex relationships at the time. An introduction and annotations by editors Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey discuss the women’s social and political circles, and explain references to friends, family, and historical events.
After Rose Cleveland’s death, Evangeline Whipple described her as “my precious and adored life-long friend.” This collection, rare in its portrayal of nineteenth-century LGBTQ history, brings their poignant story back to life.
Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.
David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.
When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.
Much to her father’s dismay Lady Louisa Adele Kathryn Present is quite solidly on the shelf. She shows no interest in finding a husband after three long seasons of, well, not particularly trying.
She begins this season anew, somewhat jaded and uninterested in yet another season and the annoyance she’ll certainly face from her family when she remains with them, yet again.
But a single glance from one of the new set has her reeling— straight back into a potted palm.
Maitland Alice Elliot-Rigsby has trained to be the wife of a duchess.
Or perhaps a Viscount, an Earl at the very least. She has only her training — and a rather healthy dowry — to recommend her.
So when she catches the eye of a viscounts daughter her own mother is thrilled.
Louisa hasn’t ever trusted anyone the way she trusts Maitland and it frightens her, but how will they survive a world in which the both of them must marry?
Me, Myself, They: Life Beyond the Binary chronicles Joshua M. Ferguson’s extraordinary story of transformation to become the celebrated non-binary filmmaker, writer, and advocate for trans rights they are today. Beginning with their birth and early childhood years of gender creativity, Ferguson recounts the complex and often challenging evolution of their identity, including traumatizing experiences with gender conversion therapy, bullying, depression, sexual assault, and violent physical assault. But Ferguson’s story is above all about survival, empathy, and self-acceptance. By combining their personal reflections on what it feels like to never truly fit into the prescribed roles of girl or boy, woman or man, with an informed analysis of the ongoing shifts in contemporary attitudes towards sex and gender, Ferguson calls for recognition and respect for all trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people, and an inclusive understanding of the rich diversity of human identity. Through their honest and impassioned storytelling, we learn what it means to reclaim one’s identity and to live beyond the binary.
Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.
Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.
Regal romance abounds in this flirty, laugh-out-loud companion novel Royals, by New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins.
Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.
Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.
The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.
She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.
At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?
This second book in Rachel Hawkins’ fun, flirty Royals series brings a proud perspective to a classic romance.
Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.
Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
For sixteen years, Nate was the perfect son—the product of a no-nonsense upbringing and deep spiritual faith. Then he met Cam, who pushed him to break rules, dream, and accept himself. Conflicted, Nate began to push back. With each push, the boys became more entangled in each others’ worlds…but they also spiraled closer to their breaking points. And now all of it has fallen apart after a fistfight-turned-near-fatal-incident—one that’s left Nate with a stab wound and Cam in jail.
Now Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send his best friend to prison. The problem is, the real story of what happened between them isn’t as simple as anyone thinks. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam…and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart.
Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.
Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.
Fifteen-year-old Eleanor Fromme just chopped off all of her hair. How else should she cope after hearing that her bully, James, has taken his own life? When Eleanor’s English teacher suggests students write a letter to a person who would never read it to get their feelings out, Eleanor chooses James.
With each letter she writes, Eleanor discovers more about herself, even while trying to make sense of his death. And, with the help of a unique cast of characters, Eleanor not only learns what it means to be inside a body that does not quite match what she feels on the inside, but also comes to terms with her own mother’s mental illness.
Set against a 1993-era backdrop of grunge rock and riot grrrl bands, EVERYTHING GROWS depicts Eleanor’s extraordinary journey to solve the mystery within her and feel complete. Along the way, she loses and gains friends, rebuilds relationships with her family, and develops a system of support to help figure out the language of her queer identity.
An adaptation of Shaftesbury’s award-winning, groundbreaking queer vampire web series of the same name, Carmilla mixes the camp of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the snark of Veronica Mars, and the mysterious atmosphere of Welcome to Nightvale.
Newly escaped from the stifling boredom of a small town, college freshman Laura is ready to make the most of her first year at Silas University. But when her roommate, Betty, vanishes and a sarcastic, nocturnal philosophy student named Carmilla moves into Betty’s side of the room, Laura decides to play detective. Turns out Betty isn’t the first girl to go missing; she’s just the first girl not to come back. All over campus, girls have been vanishing, and they are completely changed when (or if) they return. Even more disturbing are the strange dreams they recount: smothering darkness, and a strange pale figure haunting their rooms. Dreams that Laura is starting to have herself.
As Laura closes in on the answers, tensions rise with Carmilla. Is this just a roommate relationship that isn’t working out, or does Carmilla know more than she’s letting on about the disappearances? What will Laura do if it turns out her roommate isn’t just selfish and insensitive, but completely inhuman? And what will she do with the feelings she’s starting to have for Carmilla?
Thelia isn’t in line to inherit the crown, but she’s been raised to take power however she can. She’s been friends with Princess Corene her whole life, and she’s scheming to marry Bayled, the heir to the throne. But her plans must change when an army of elves invades the kingdom.
Thelia, her cousin Parsival, and Corene become trapped in the castle. An elf warrior, Sapphire, may be Thelia’s only hope of escape, but Sapphire has plans of their own. Meanwhile, an ancient magic is awakening within the castle, with the power to destroy the whole kingdom. Can Thelia find a way to protect her future–and her life?
A young woman and her wife’s attempts to have a child unfold in this poetic tale that ebbs and flows like the sea.
After years of difficulty trying to have children, a young couple finally announces their pregnancy, only to have the most joyous day of their lives replaced with one of unexpected heartbreak. Their relationship is put to the test as they forge ahead, working together to rebuild themselves amidst the churning tumult of devastating loss, and ultimately facing the soul-crushing reality that they may never conceive a child of their own.
Based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience, coupled with soft, sometimes dreamlike illustrations by Carole Maurel, Waves is a deeply moving story that poignantly captures a woman’s exploration of her pain in order to rediscover hope.
In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.
Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”
Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masquerade grapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.
Seventeen-year-old internet video star Fit is on a mission to become famous at all costs. She shares her life with her fans through countless videos (always sporting some elaborate tinfoil accessory), and they love her for it. If she goes viral, maybe she can get out of her small casino town and the cramped apartment she shares with her brother and grandpa. But there’s one thing Fit’s fans don’t know about her: when Fit was three-years-old, her mother, suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her.
Now Fit’s mother, River, has been released from prison. Fit is outraged that River is moving in with the family, and it’s not long before Fit’s video followers realize something’s up and uncover her tragic past. But Fit soon realizes that the only thing her audience loves more than tragedy is a heartwarming tale of a family reunion. Is faking a relationship with River the key to all Fit’s dreams coming true?
I am so thrilled to have Lilah Suzanne on the site today with a guest post celebrating the release of Jilted, a fake-marriage rom com starring a bisexual cis male MC and a nonbinary LI! Before we get to the post about breaking down tropes, here’s a little more on the book:
Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting two weeks of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.
Tropes are important in romance novels; they serve as guiding light for readers who like certain things and want to know what they’re getting into, and also beneficial for writers as tropes are the pillars on which a story is built. But that doesn’t mean they should be sacrosanct.
I have a few random talents that are not only mostly useless, but also very unlikely to impress anyone at a party. I have great free throw form, which would be useful if I weren’t just a smidge over five feet tall. I have a knack for finding things—unless I’m the one who lost them in the first place. I’m also particularly skilled at untying knots. I remember sitting it front of my mom’s jewelry box as a kid, methodically working all the tiny knots out her necklace chains, finding all of the intricate ways the strands wound over around and through, eventually tugging them free. The key, I’ve discovered, is taking the time to understand the knots, the structure of them; you can’t pull at them too hard nor can you blindly yank at the tangled stands hoping something will come loose. Finesse. Respect. Patience. Also, yes this is how children entertained themselves pre-smartphones.
To go with the obvious metaphor here, I treat tropes in my writing the same way I did with those knotted necklace chains. I’m not looking to break beloved tropes apart completely or discard them in frustration. I’m more interested in pulling at the strands, seeing what I can untangle from the knot and make a trope my own. This is not because I think there’s something wrong with them, in fact, I love tropes. I find them fascinating. And I spend so much time taking them apart because I don’t have a smart phone. Kidding! I totally have one. I do it because it’s interesting and satisfying and, I think, forces me to be more thoughtful about my stories and characters as I’m creating them.
For the uninitiated: tropes are essentially commonly seen themes or devices in any given media type, or as TV Tropes, a wealth of delicious tropeyness, puts it: a storytelling shortcut of situations the audience will presumably recognize. In other words, a thing you see so often that it becomes A Thing. In romance novels, we love our forbidden love, enemies to lovers and friends to lovers. We’re crazy about our sexy billionaires, royal romances, sports romances, historical romance, bad boys/girls, opposites attract, love triangles, and fake relationships. And since I cut my proverbial writing teeth in fan-fiction, I’m also partial to tropes like coffeeshop/bakery romances, forced bed sharing (oh no there’s only one bed what will happen?) soulmates, and mutual pining, and I am sucker for a good domestic PWP fluff story. Now, who’s gonna find me a fluffy historical friends-to-lovers coffeeshop story? I’m waiting…
Of course, as much as we love tropes, they can be overdone. There has to be some suspense in a story. So, yes, there is bed sharing, but they didn’t get together after that? What if it was the opening salvo of two characters realizing they had work to do on themselves instead of on a relationship? What if it was just a desperate, momentary craving for companionship and not the beginning of something? What if it was? There’s space to play within a trope. Not dismantling it, just looking closely and tugging a few strands loose. Maybe it’s because of my time in fandom, where the entire point is to play within someone else’s boundaries, or maybe it’s because of my few useless talents (I’m also pretty okay at baking!) but whatever the reason I’m glad it’s made me stretch a bit as a writer.
We all love tropes because they’re comforting—which is probably the same reason I liked to go through my mom’s jewelry box—and in romance novels that’s doubly true. Romances themselves are comforting; full of swoony love interests and happy endings for all, and in fan fiction, too, where we can imagine a thousand different ways for the same two people to fall in love. And these days especially we can all use a little more warm and fuzzy—or hot and sexy—comfort.
Lilah Suzanne is the author of Amazon bestseller Broken Records, part of the Spotlight series along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story “Halfway Home,” which was featured in the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.
Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?
But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?
Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?
Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.
Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.
Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.
Seventeen-year-old Lizzie Borden has never been kissed. Polite but painfully shy, Lizzie prefers to stay in the kitchen, where she can dream of becoming a chef and escape her reality. With tyrannical parents who force her to work at the family’s B&B and her blackout episodes—a medical condition that has plagued her since her first menstrual cycle—Lizzie longs for a life of freedom, the time and space to just figure out who she is and what she wants.
Enter the effervescent, unpredictable Bridget Sullivan. Bridget has joined the B&B’s staff as the new maid, and Lizzie is instantly drawn to her artistic style and free spirit—even her Star Wars obsession is kind of cute. The two of them forge bonds that quickly turn into something that’s maybe more than friendship.
But when her parents try to restrain Lizzie from living the life she wants, it sparks something in her that she can’t quite figure out. Her blackout episodes start getting worse, her instincts less and less reliable. Lizzie is angry, certainly, but she also feels like she’s going mad…
Julie Nolan is a pretty average girl with pretty average problems. She’s been in love with her best friend, Lorelei, ever since they met in grade three. Only Lorelei doesn’t know about it — she’s too busy trying to set Julie up with Henry, her ex, who Julie finds, in a word, vapid.
But life gets more complicated when Julie comes home to find her mother insisting that her heart is gone. Pretty soon it becomes clear: Julie’s mom believes that she has died.
How is Julie supposed to navigate her first year of high school now, while she’s making midnight trips to the graveyard to cover her mother with dirt, lay flowers and make up eulogies? And why is Henry the only person Julie feels comfortable turning to? If she wants to get through this, Julie’s going to have to find the strength she never knew she had, and to learn how to listen to both her mom’s heart and her own.
Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.
May not be who you think…
Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.
But is who you need…
When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?
In this frank, funny and poignant book, transgender activist Juno Roche discusses sex, desire and dating with leading figures from the trans and non-binary community. Calling out prejudices and inspiring readers to explore their own concepts of intimacy and sexuality, the first-hand accounts celebrate the wonder and potential of trans bodies and push at the boundaries of how society views gender, sexuality and relationships. Empowering and necessary, this collection shows all trans people deserve to feel brave, beautiful and sexy.
Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.
It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?
But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.
April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.
Greetings! Are you in a desperate search for a completely delightful romance between a genderqueer main character and a trans guy love interest, both of whom have limb-related disabilities? Would you like to alternately smile your face off and clutch your heart for an hour or two? Well then, lemme introduce you to your next backlist read!
Jalen, lover of B-grade sci-fi movies, meets the far-too-handsome P in a cafe while deciding whether or not to skip uni again. When P invites them along to a double feature of Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon, Jalen can hardly believe that hot boys like bad sci-fi, too. But as their relationship progresses, Jalen realizes P leaves him wondering if they’re on the same page about what dating means, and if that’s what they’re doing.
All links are Amazon Affiliate links; proceeds go back into LGBTQReads.com. All works on this list are from 25-150 pages, for your quick-reading pleasure! (With thanks to the Tumblr Asker who inspired this post and the SFF novella post to come!)