Tag Archives: QPoC

TBRainbow Alert: 2020 YA Starring QTIPoC, Part II

For Part I, click here. Titles whose pub dates have been bumped to the second half of the year have been reposted here with their new dates.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (July 7th)

CinderellaisDead_cov_revealIt’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

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

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (July 7th)

51182650. sx318 sy475 There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

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

Court of Lions by Somaiya Daud (August 4th)

This is the sequel to Mirage

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

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

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram (August 25th)

Darius Kellner is having a bit of a year. Since his trip to Iran this past spring, a lot has changed. He’s getting along with his dad, and his best friend Sohrab is only a Skype call away. Between his first boyfriend, Landon, his varsity soccer practices, and his internship at his favorite tea shop, Darius is feeling pretty okay. Like he finally knows what it means to be Darius Kellner.

Then, of course, everything changes. Darius’s grandmothers are in town for a long visit while his dad is gone on business, and Darius isn’t sure whether they even like him. The internship isn’t what Darius thought it would be, and now he doesn’t know about turning tea into his career. He was sure he liked Landon, but when he starts hanging out with Chip–soccer teammate and best friend of Trent Bolger, epic bully–well, he’s just not so sure about Landon anymore, either.

Darius thought he knew exactly who he was and what he wanted, but maybe he was wrong. Maybe he deserves better.

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

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger (August 25th)

elatsoe+shadowImagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family.

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

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (September 1st)

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

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

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters (September 8th)

Comic book geek Wesley Hudson excels at two things: slacking off at his job and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local used bookstore, is threatened when a coffeeshop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his annoying brother needs wedding planning advice. When all three problems converge, Wes comes face-to-face with the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.

Now, confronted with reality, can Wes balance saving the bookstore and his strained sibling relationship? Can he win the heart of his crush, too?

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

Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro (September 15th)

Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

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

Miss Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore and Tehlor Kay Mejia (September 22nd)

There hasn’t been a winner of the Miss Meteor beauty pageant who looks like Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla in all its history. But that’s not the only reason Lita wants to enter the contest, or why her ex-best friend Chicky wants to help her. The road to becoming Miss Meteor isn’t about being perfect; it’s about sharing who you are with the world—and loving the parts of yourself no one else understands. So to pull off the unlikeliest underdog story in pageant history, Lita and Chicky are going to have to forget the past and imagine a future where girls like them are more than enough—they are everything.

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

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh (September 22nd)

43699419. sy475 Every Body Looking is a heavily autobiographical novel of a young woman’s struggle to carve a place for herself–for her black female body–in a world of deeply conflicting messages.

Told entirely in verse, Ada’s story encompasses her earliest memories as a child, including her abuse at the hands of a young cousin, her mother’s rejection and descent into addiction, and her father’s attempts to create a home for his American daughter more like the one he knew in Nigeria.

The present-tense of the book is Ada’s first year at Howard University in Washington D.C., where she must finally confront the fundamental conflict between who her family says she should be and what her body tells her she must be.

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

Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells (October 13th)

This is the sequel to Shatter the Sky

Let them burn.

Maren’s world was shattered when her girlfriend Kaia was abducted by the Aurati. After a daring rescue, they’ve finally been reunited, but Maren’s life is still in pieces: Kaia seems more like a stranger than the lover Maren knew back home; Naava, the mother of all dragons, has retreated into seclusion to recover from her wounds, leaving Maren at a loss for how to set the rest of the dragons free; and worst of all, her friend Sev has been captured by the emperor’s Talons.

As a prisoner of Zefed, Sev finds himself entangled in a treacherous game of court politics. With more people joining the rebellion, whispers of a rogue dragon mistress spreading, and escape seeming less likely with each passing day, Sev knows that it won’t be long before the emperor decides to make an example of him. If he’s to survive, he’ll have to strike first—or hope Maren reaches him in time.

With the final battle for Zefed looming, Maren must set aside her fears, draw upon all she’s learned about her dragon touched abilities, and face her destiny once and for all. But when the fighting is over and the smoke clears, who will be left standing?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Porter Square Books

This is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi (October 13th)

Imogen is a Lebanese-Palestinian Muslim lesbian

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

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

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo (October 20th)

After Corazon’s mother catches her kissing her older female teacher, Corazon is sent to the Philippines to live with a half brother she barely knows. There she learns more about loss and love than she could have ever imagined.

Corazon Tagubio is an outcast at her Catholic school. She’s attending on scholarship, she keeps to herself, and her crush on her teacher Ms. Holden doesn’t help anything. At home, Cory’s less-than-perfect grades disappoint her mom and dad, who are already working overtime to support her distant half brother in the Philippines.

When an accident leaves her dad comatose, Cory feels like Ms. Holden is the only person who really sees her. But when a crush turns into something more and the secret gets out, Cory is sent to her half brother. She’s not prepared to face a stranger in an unfamiliar place, but she begins to discover how the country that shaped her past might also change her future.

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

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins (November 10th)

What would you do if you had to spend the next 15 days with your lifelong crush?

Felipe gets it — he’s fat. Not chubby. Not big-boned. Fat. And he doesn’t need anyone to remind him, which is, of course, what everyone does. That’s why he’s been waiting for this moment ever since the school year began: school break. Finally, he’ll be able to spend some time far away from school and the classmates who tease him incessantly. His plans include catching up on his favorite TV shows, finishing his to-be-read pile, and watching YouTube tutorials on skills he’ll never actually put into practice.

But things get a little out of hand when Felipe’s mom informs him that Caio, the neighbor kid from apartment 57, will be spending the next 15 days with them while his parents are on vacation. Felipe is distraught because A) he’s had a crush on Caio since, well, forever, and B) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to entertain his neighbor for two full weeks.

Suddenly, the days ahead of him that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) end up bringing a whirlwind of feelings, forcing Felipe to dive head-first into every unresolved issue he has had with himself — but maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to win over Caio, too.

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

Fave Five: Memoirs by Queer Black Authors

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me by Janet Mock

Officer Clemmons by François S. Clemmons

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

Bonus: These are all Adult, but for a YA memoir-essay collection, try All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson.

Finding Queer Black Love in Literature: a Guest Post by Katrina Jackson

I’m really thrilled to have Katrina Jackson back on the site today for this beautiful essay on finding queer Black love in literature. I asked her to write it after seeing her Twitter threads about it, and I’m so grateful that she did. You can see more about Kat and her books here, but frankly, I’m antsy to get to the post, so, onward!

***

I didn’t start reading romance with any kind of intention until I was an adult, but I have loved love stories my entire life, especially Black love stories. There was something about seeing movies with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and realizing that they had spent decades sharing their passion for art and activism with one another, that made my heart swell. It still does. I’ve also always loved queer love stories for as long as I can remember, even when I didn’t understand that I loved queer love stories for the same reasons I loved Black love stories: I was searching for depictions of love that reflected pieces of myself. I was searching for something that felt like a little slice of me on the big and small screens.

The first DVD I bought was The Color Purple. It was one of those old-school DVDs where the movie was split between two discs with those cheap plastic covers. I cherished that DVD, because once it was mine, I could watch that scene of Celie and Shug’s tentative kiss – with the juke joint providing a muffled backdrop – whenever I wanted. And I wanted to watch it over and over and over again. I felt similarly engrossed, years later as I watched the climax of Moonlight. I was a puddle of happy, relieved tears as the tumult of Chiron’s life culminates in this hardened, resilient man sitting across a diner table, staring at his childhood love with softness and warmth in his eyes. These two scenes, among so many others, spoke to that quietest part of my heart and the longing many of us hold to look at someone we love and feel fully and completely seen and loved for all that we are.

I turned to romance books while getting my master’s degree. I was in the depths of one of the worst depressive episodes of my adult life. Every day I received messages from professors and other students, that I did not belong, and I dreamt about abandoning the program and running home to the places and people who loved me. I didn’t leave, but I did start reading romance. Finding love stories that centered people who looked like me made the world feel much less alone and allowed me to start down a years-long road to fully identifying as bisexual, even though I’ve always known that I wasn’t straight. It took a little work to find queer stories with Black people, but once I found one, I found more and more and more.

The point I’m trying to make is that I have looked for Black queer love stories for most of my life and I have found them! They have buoyed me when I was at my lowest, when life seemed bleak and when looking at the news made my entire body hurt so much that I spent days in bed mourning.

So you can imagine how much it hurt when, in the midst of the most recent cluster of stories about American police officers killing Black people like Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I saw bookish twitter accounts – some I follow, some I don’t – begin recommending books by Black authors that refused to recognize the full breadth of Black life and humanity. Romance accounts, specifically, were so cavalier in their lists that many recommended books by non-Black authors who wrote Black characters, sometimes problematically, because they didn’t read much romance by Black authors, but refused to cede space to reviewers and readers who did. Across the board, I watched romance outlets, writers, reviewers and readers, recommend books that focused on white characters, books filled with anti-Black stereotypes, and on top of all that many patently ignored queer Black authors and books with queer Black characters.

While I don’t particularly agree with recommending fiction in a moment where people need to confront the depths of their anti-blackness and begin to consider the realities of global white supremacy, watching romance readers who imagined themselves as supportive of diversity, erase (queer) Black people (authors and characters) dug deep in my chest. It sent the message that people like me and the characters I write don’t actually matter, even while people were putting the hashtag in their bios. It was an erasure that struck a painful chord because it reminded me that the people and stories I love – who are the center of my life – are so easily forgotten and ignored.

I love Black people. I love queer Black people and QPOC. They don’t just matter to me, they are precious. I would not be alive today without them. I would not be writing without them. And I would not have the solace of these stories on the days when I still can’t get out of bed because everything hurts. At least with the stories that Black authors have written, my heart doesn’t have to hurt nearly as much, because it is so full of love for queer Black people.

Unfortunately, even when I’m depressed, I have a near obsessive desire to catalog books, so I took to twitter to begin a thread of queer romance written by Black authors. I began with books I love by authors I respect and appreciate and asked for recommendations. What I found in this process was instructive in many ways. I made a few caveats for recommendations that might have seemed random at the time but were not. I asked that the author identify as Black, since I’d seen so many outlets recommending non-Black authors. It mattered to me that if the response to Black murder was to uplift Black authors, that those authors better be Black and stand firm in their blackness. I wanted to focus specifically on adult romance because the YA book community had rallied their recommendations firmly behind Black authors (trans, cis, queer and het). It was exciting to watch and frustrating to compare to the adult romance community.

The other critical requirement was that the books feature Black characters and all the love interests should be Black or other people of color. Again, this was not arbitrary. Romance, like other literary genres, is steeped in white supremacist narratives. It is not just that so many traditionally published romance authors are white, it is that the foundation of the genre is based on whiteness as the norm. The tropes and story structures and even the Happily Ever After (the only requirement of romance literature) have been defined by a white default, even when some of the characters are people of color.

The proliferation of romance stories (traditionally published, indie and self-pub) that peddle in anti-Black, homophobic, transphobic, racist and xenophobic stereotypes is alarming, but not new. What feels new are the ways in which so many of these books are classified as “diverse” and “inclusive” even when they are not. So when I asked that all the recommendations focus on Black and POC characters, it was because I wanted to create a list of queer romances that rejected the white supremacist narrative in romance that centers whiteness, that demands white love interests and requires a translation of queer love between characters of color for white audiences. I wanted to find books by Black authors who, hopefully, wrote for readers of color.

What I found in this process was a mixed bag, as much of life is. On the downside, I found that I spent hours of my day clarifying fairly clear instructions, asking readers to verify that the authors and characters were Black and POC. I found that some people were disinterested in the idea of queer Black people and QPOC loving one another. I found that readers, writers and reviewers – many who jumped at the chance to make recommendation lists themselves – had become comfortable ignoring blackness. They considered it incidental or a box to check on the list of diversity brownie points. They were perfectly fine to tokenize Black authors and characters but were never challenged to consider why.

But the other, far better, thing I discovered was the wealth of queer romance written by Black authors. There was Black Romance and IR, polyamorous, m/m, and even the apparently elusive f/f romance. There were so many bisexual and pansexual characters! I found contemporary and historical and paranormal and urban. Certainly, there is room to grow in many areas, for instance so far there is only one trans Black romance recommendation (noted below) and ace spectrum representation is similarly lacking. In this moment, I choose to celebrate that the few books we have exist, but I hope for more.

There were many highs and lows in this process. I won’t pretend that I didn’t often wish I hadn’t decided to field the barrage of twitter notifications in a moment when I really should have given myself peace and quiet. Self-care is a thing I’m working on, especially now. But for all the new books and authors I and others discovered, I’ve decided that the exercise was worth it.

Below are a sample of books that emerged in the conversation, some I’ve read, some I’ve moved up my TBR and some I’m waiting impatiently to be released. These are books that remind me of the things that were true at the beginning of this all. I love being Black with every cell in my body. This is not incidental to me. And queer Black people are still PRECIOUS and CRUCIAL to my life and well-being.

Stud Representation!

Interracial Romance w/QPOC

F/F Romance

M/M Romance

Polyamory FTW!

For even more recommendations put together by Katrina, check out this list on Goodreads! (Blogger’s Note: Please do not add to this list anything that does not fit the above-stated requirements or I may do a murder.)

***

Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.

She’s super active on twitter. Follow her: @katrinajax

*All links are affiliate, bringing a small percentage of each purchase back to the site (Amz = Amazon | Bks = Bookshop)

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar

You know those covers that are just so badass you barely even need to know what it’s inside to know you need it? But then you see what’s inside and you know you need it? I present to you today exhibit A, in the form of Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar, which is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series and releases on September 5, 2020. Here’s a little more about it:

In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.

Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams

And here is the glorious cover, painted by Odera Igbokwe and designed by dave ring!

Pre-order Stone and Steel here!

Eboni Dunbar is a queer, black woman who writes queer and black speculative fiction. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner.  She received her BA from Macalester College and her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. She is a VONA Alum, an associate editor for PodCastle, an acquiring editor for FIYAH Literary Magazine and a freelance reviewer. Her work can be found in FIYAH, Drabblecast, Anathema: Spec from the margins and Nightlight Podcast. She can be found online at www.ebonidunbar.com and on Twitter as @sugoionna87.

Her novella Stone and Steel is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series.

New Releases: June 2020

All Amazon, Indiebound, and Bookshop links are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links brings a small percentage of income back to the site, so please do!

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (1st)

This is the UK release. It will be released in the US on July 19.

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

Buy it: The Book Depository | Bookshop

The Groom Will Keep His Name by Matt Ortile (2nd)

A riotous collection of “witty and captivating” (Bitch Magazine) essays by a gay Filipino immigrant in America learning that everything is about sex–and sex is about power

When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home.

As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.

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

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (2nd)

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than “I like you a great deal.”

Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

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

If We Were Us by K.L. Waither (2nd)

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider (2nd)

In Southern California, no one lives more than thirty miles from the nearest fault line. Sasha Bloom is standing right on top of one when her world literally crumbles around her. With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents.

Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards.

And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His.

Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and he growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.

But being friends with Lily might lead somewhere new. Is Sasha willing to stop being the girl everyone expects and let the girl beneath the surface breath through?

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

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert (2nd)

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

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

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (2nd)

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

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

Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (2nd)

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

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

Swan Song by Lisa Alther (9th)

Dr. Jessie Drake, in her mid-sixties, following the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her partner of twenty years, has fled the Vermont life she has known for decades.

In an effort to escape the oppressive constancy of grief, she accepts a job from an old flame from her residency in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, and agrees to assist Ben as the ship’s doctor on a British liner. Jessie boards in Hong Kong, and, as the Amphitrite sails throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, cruise ship antics ensue. Jessie is lulled back into a long-ago romance with the ship’s co-doctor, and both she and her new/old beau become enmeshed with the ship’s lead (female) singer/entertainer. Among the passengers who fling socialized behavior aside on the high seas: a former Florida beauty queen (Miss Florida Power and Light) on a second honeymoon with her husband, as she causes high-velocity scandal, while juggling onboard affairs with a suicidal golf pro, and a defrocked priest hired as one of the liner’s gentleman hosts, until she vanishes–poof!–from the ship off the coast of Portugal . . . As the ship sails through the Gulf of Aden and into a possible hijacking by Somali pirates, Jessie retreats into her lover’s journals, written during her final months, journals filled with sketches of potential characters, observations on life and love–as well as drafts of a long new poem in progress, “Swan Song,” that seems to be about being in love with someone else, someone new. As Jessie’s grief turns to suspicion about the woman she thought she knew so well, her illumination of the poem’s meaning begins to lift the constraints of the past and make clear the way toward the future.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (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: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, ill. by Julie Maroh (9th)

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine (9th)

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Belladonna by Anbara Salam (9th)

Isabella is beautiful, inscrutable, and popular. Her best friend, Bridget, keeps quietly to the fringes of their Connecticut Catholic school, watching everything and everyone, but most especially Isabella.

In 1957, when the girls graduate, they land coveted spots at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Pentila in northern Italy, a prestigious art history school on the grounds of a silent convent. There, free of her claustrophobic home and the town that will always see her and her Egyptian mother as outsiders, Bridget discovers she can reinvent herself as anyone she desires… perhaps even someone Isabella could desire in return.

But as that glittering year goes on, Bridget begins to suspect Isabella is keeping a secret from her, one that will change the course of their lives forever.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (16th)

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.

Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

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

Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (16th)


This is the sequel to Who is Vera Kelly?

When ex-CIA agent Vera Kelly loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day, she reluctantly goes into business as a private detective. Heartbroken and cash-strapped, she takes a case that dredges up dark memories and attracts dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape. Before it’s over, she’ll chase a lost child through foster care and follow a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean. Forever looking over her shoulder, she nearly misses what’s right in front of her: her own desire for home, connection, and a new romance at the local bar.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (16th)

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (16th)

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

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

Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (22nd)

When Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George arrives in Wales after serving as a veterinarian in the Great War, she doesn’t come alone. With her is her former captain’s beloved warhorse, which she promised to return to him—and a series of recurring nightmares that torment both her heart and her soul. She wants only to complete her task, then find refuge with her family, but when Nell meets the captain’s eldest daughter, all that changes.

Beatrice Hughes is resigned to life as the dutiful daughter. Her mother grieves for the sons she lost to war; the care of the household and remaining siblings falls to Beatrice, and she manages it with a practical efficiency. But when a beautiful stranger shows up with her father’s horse, practicality is the last thing on her mind.

Despite the differences in their social standing, Beatrice and Nell give in to their unlikely attraction, finding love where they least expect it. But not everything in the captain’s house is as it seems. When Beatrice’s mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nell must overcome her preconceptions to help Beatrice, however she’s able. Together they must find out what really happened that stormy night in the village, before everything Beatrice loves is lost—including Nell.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee (23rd)

52768177Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold.

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.

The Sullivan Sisters is an unforgettable novel about the ghosts of the past, the power of connection, and the bonds of sisterhood.

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

Lot Six by David Adjmi (23rd)

Brooklyn, 1970s. Born into the ruins of a Syrian Jewish family that once had it all, David is painfully displaced. Trapped in an insular religious community that excludes him and a family coming apart at the seams, he is plunged into suicidal depression by the age of eight. Through adolescence, David tries to suppress his homosexual feelings and fit in, but when pushed to the breaking point, he makes the bold decision to cut off his family, erase his past, and leave everything he knows behind. There’s only one problem: who should he be? Bouncing between identities he steals from the pages of fashion magazines, tomes of philosophy, sitcoms and foreign films, and practically everyone he meets–from Rastafarians to French preppies–David begins to piece together an entirely new adult self. But is this the foundation for a life, or just a kind of quicksand?

Moving from the glamour and dysfunction of 1970s Brooklyn, to the sybaritic materialism of Reagan’s 1980s to post-9/11 New York, Lot Six offers a quintessentially American tale of an outsider striving to reshape himself in the funhouse mirror of American culture. Adjmi’s memoir is a genre bending Künstlerroman in the spirit of Charles Dickens and Alison Bechdel, a portrait of the artist in the throes of a life and death crisis of identity. Raw and lyrical, and written in gleaming prose that veers effortlessly between hilarity and heartbreak, Lot Six charts Adjmi’s search for belonging, identity, and what it takes to be an artist in America.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (23rd)

Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

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

Freedom by E. Davies (26th)

Agoraphobe Jaden shouldn’t have let his big brother put a ticket in a blind date raffle for him. He wasn’t expecting to win. And certainly not an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous stranger—and his total opposite, a hunky wilderness guide.

Henry’s excited to meet a guy he clicks with, having finally finished bottom surgery. He’s been living stealth as the man he is for years, but he’s growing tired of hiding his past. Jaden not only accepts him, he captivates Henry, who resolves to be courageous and vulnerable in the rest of his life.

Back home in Denver, Henry starts to take pride in reconnecting with the trans community, while Jaden pushes himself out of his comfort zone. But freedom always comes at a price. Can they take the plunge into their wide open future together?

Buy it: Amazon

Just Like That by Cole McCade (30th)

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (30th)

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

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

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (30th)

Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.

Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.

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

New Release Spotlight: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Clever, funny, romantic, and empowering, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (Scholastic, June 1) is just so much of what makes both Contemporary YA and YA Romance great. (And yes, it is an f/f Romance!) The second I finished reading it I wanted to pass my ARC around like candy, and while maybe that kind of sharing isn’t the best idea these days, I definitely recommend getting your hands on your own as soon as you can!

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

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

Fave Fave: M/M Romances with Black MCs

Work for It by Talia Hibbert

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

Bang & Burn by Katrina Jackson

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

Kitten by Jack Harbon

Bonus: These are all adult, but in YA, definitely check out By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery, The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode, and How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters!

Double Bonus: Coming up in May, Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon!

Black History Month 2020

This is an annual feature that runs a little differently from the rest on LGBTQReads, as the post builds on itself each year and new titles/sections are added with asterisks. These books are all queer titles by Black authors, the vast majority of which star Black main characters. (Obviously this isn’t remotely exhaustive.)

Sites

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

Books

*=new additions this year

Middle-Grade

Young Adult

NA/Adult Contemporary

NA/Adult (Speculative)

Comics/Graphic Novels*

Memoirs*

Poetry*

Featured Authors

Discussion Posts

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!

Better Know an Author: Katrina Jackson

I am so excited to welcome to the site today Katrina Jackson, author of some of the hottest queer books on shelves right now and master of polyam romance (among other things)! If you’re not already familiar with her work, do yourself a favor and keep reading; your TBR is about to explode. And if you are, keep reading anyway, because she’s brilliant and talented and only just getting started!

You are such a prolific author, I’m barely sure where to begin, but let’s start with the series that first put you on my radar, which is Welcome to Sea Port. What do you think makes small towns such a perfect setting for romance, and what about Sea Port is particularly special to you and your characters?

I think the thing people like about small town romances are the communities around the protagonists; people who are as invested in the central romance as the readers, the quirky characters and a small cozy world that feels like an idealistic throwback to when everyone knew too much about their neighbors.

I’m not from a small town, so I’ve never related to the idea of “coming home” but I have lots of family members who came from or still live in small Southern towns and that’s what I wanted to create in Sea Port, especially a small town full of Black southerners. I wanted Sea Port to feel like a place where the characters could recreate themselves – a storyline people often reserve for big cities.

I love the way you rattle a bit the image of what makes a small town romance, kicking the series off with a steamy book about a throuple. For you is that more playing with the unexpected, or writing what you think should be more expected in life?

It’s a little bit of both. There’s a perception that small towns are racially homogeneous – usually white – and conservative. The former isn’t true at all and that conservatism isn’t monolithic either, so I wanted to play with that. I wanted to create a small town that was diverse (and with a diverse history), even though it’s primarily Black, and over time I wanted to illustrate how conservative ideas don’t play out along the fault lines we might expect.

I wasn’t planning a series when I wrote From Scratch, but when I had the idea for Mary I knew she was the kind of character who’d move to a small town and see it as an opportunity to have all the things she’d denied herself in her previous life. So when she meets two men she’s attracted to – men she never would have met elsewhere – she didn’t want to limit herself and neither do they. And while there’s a bit of a bump around their relationship in that book, what I’m trying to tease out over the series is that the pushback isn’t actually because they’re in a polyamorous relationship, it’s because they’re new in town.

Who’s your favorite character in the whole Sea Port gang and why?

Knox, hands down. There are some characters coming in future books that I love a lot, but Knox is the character who reminds me of people I love; people with really tragic backgrounds who’ve refused to let that define their futures. He’s charming and funny and sincere and just wants to love and be loved. And in the triad between Knox, Mary and Santos, Knox is the person the other two would fight anyone to protect because he’s so strong and also so soft. I feel the same about him.

Of course, we must discuss the The Spies Who Loved Her series, which is just unbearably fun and hottttttt. It also structurally operates in a cool fashion, with books taking on different couples and then returning to them later, and sometimes being set simultaneously. Can you give us a little rundown on the queer relationships in that series and how you manage to balance so much action with, uh, so much action?

This series started as a fever dream (literally) during a hot summer day and sometimes I still feel like that when I sit down to write in that world. And I think the tangled web of their relationships illustrates that!

Most of the characters in the series are queer. In Pink Slip, Monica and Lane are a married couple of spies, both bisexual and polyamorous. They’re in love with their bi personal assistant, Kierra. Kierra’s best friend and roommate Maya is also bi and she ends up in a relationship with Kenny, another spy and straight (Private Eye and His Only Valentine). Kenny’s best friend Chante is a pansexual hacker and in love with Asif, who’s also pansexual and a spy (Under Covers, forthcoming). Chante’s childhood best friend is another hacker, Caleb, and he’ll eventually end up with a somber DEA agent, Lamont – both gay – who’s Kenny’s former partner (Bang & Burn and Brush Contact, forthcoming). In New Year, New We, Monica, Lane and Kierra have a steamy foursome with a bi spy named Carlisle, whose spy partner is the male main character in the last book of the series and his HEA will be with a queer Black trans woman.

Just a whole bunch of queer people (of color) saving the world!

I don’t know that I always balance the action with the action as well as I’d like, but the web of relationships is my real focus. I love over the top spy movies like the James Bond movies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, where everything seems ridiculous, fast paced and fun and that’s the kind of vibe I’m going for in all the books, but with way more sex. In each book I try to set up a story that gives the characters ample time to tease each other (and whoever’s lucky enough to be nearby) sexually, but with a hint of danger.

You’ve also got the Erotic Accommodations series, which includes your newest queer release, Neighborly, and really takes the work you do with established relationships mixing it up to the next level. Obviously there’s no one right way to be polyam, but do you see different responses from readers to the different ways you depict it? Do you have a particular grouping that clicks with you the most when writing?

I do see different responses for different relationships, but I don’t know what to make of those responses or expectations. I think a lot of people like From Scratch because Knox and Santos are also sexually involved, which I imagine is related to the popularity of m/m romances. And I think because of that story or those expectations, people expected Calvin and Stephen to have sex in Neighborly, but the story I was telling was always centered on Tasha and Heaven.

I think in mixed gender polyam romances different sets of readers want different things: some want everyone to have sex, some want a heroine centered story (reverse h*rem) and some want to make sure the “swords cross.” No story can appease everyone, so I try not to bother. What I want to do is create realistic relationships that are complex and simple at the same time. Polyamorous relationships might seem more complicated because there are more people involved, but in Neighborly there’s so little conflict because the female main characters have supportive straight male partners who just want them to be happy. Stephen and Tasha have also been in an open relationship for years, so their role is really to help usher Calvin and Heaven into this new phase of their partnership. None of this has to be that complicated if everyone is open and honest, and most of my characters thus far are. (Although I do have plans for future books, where characters have to work toward that openness, which is realistic as well.)

There’s no particular grouping that clicks with me right now, I’ll read anything, but in 2018/2019 it seemed hard to find wlw in polyam romances, especially woc, and I wanted to see more of that. That very personal desire gave me the ideas for Pink Slip and Private Eye.

Obviously it’s a very rocky time right now in Romance publishing, but it’s also obviously been a rocky path for Romance authors of color. What do you wish more people understood about what it’s like to be a Black woman writing Romance about queer people of color?

I wish so much. I wish people wouldn’t erase qpoc when writing about queer romance, characters and authors. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in relationships with one another. I wish queer white authors would get queer people of color to sensitivity read their books because our experiences are not the same as queer white people. I also wish people understood that qpoc aren’t a monolith either. I wish there were more romances with qpoc in platonic community with one another instead of being siloed in primarily white spaces. I wish people would check their racist biases when writing communities of color in queer romances. I wish it was easier for me to read queer romances without worrying the story might harm me or someone in my community.

I get a lot of requests for polyamorous romance, but I rarely see more than a handful of new titles per year. What are some titles you recommend?

I always have more books on my tbr than I know what to do with but these are some I’ve read, have been waiting for the right mood to read, or am eagerly awaiting.

What’s your earliest memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in media, for better or for worse?

I have vivid emotional memories of watching Armistead Maupin’s Tales of a City on PBS as a kid. I’m also from Northern California, so it felt personal to me then and still does. I also loved The Color Purple. Even though it was years before I understood that Alice Walker is a lesbian and that much of the queerness had been edited out of the story for the movie adaptation, even as a kid I understood Shug and Celie’s relationship for what it was and it made me feel seen.

What’s up next for you?

This year I’m working on finishing the Love At Last trilogy. The second book is One More Valentine (a divorced couple reunited, straight m/f) and Just Another Pride, a love story between childhood acquaintances, two qmoc, who meet again by chance and fall in love.

I’m also working on the next books in the Welcome to Sea Port (Back for More, straight m/f) and The Spies Who Loved Her series (Under Covers, pan m/pan f).

Cannot wait! You can find all of Katrina’s books here, so go grab yourself a treat or three!

***

Katrina is a college professor by day who writes romances by weekend when her cats allow. She writes high heat, diverse and mostly queer erotic romances and erotica. She also likes sleep, salt-and-pepper beards, and sunshine.

I’m super active on twitter. Follow me: @katrinajax

Fave Five: Poetry by Queer Black Authors

Homie by Danez Smith

Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri

trigger by Venus Selenite

When the Only Light is Fire by Saeed Jones

Reacquainted With Life by KOKUMỌ

The Black Unicorn by Audre Lord

(Yeah, it’s six. Fight me.)