If you’ve literally never been to this site or its associated Tumblr before, you might not know that I am a huuuuge fan of Santino Hassell and his fantastic Five Boroughs series of m/m Romances, so, lemme set that record “straight” (heh) – I am a huuuuge fan of Santino Hassell and this wonderfully written, emotional, inclusive, hot-as-hell series, and I’m thrilled to have him on the site today in honor of the release of its fifth book, Concourse. It’s a sexy new friends-to-lovers romance that can be read independently of the earlier books, although I promise you are seriously missing out if you skip over the others.
Here to talk about Concourse and five of his fave friends-to-lovers Romances, please welcome Santino Hassell!
It’s no secret that I love the friends-to-lovers trope. In Five Boroughs, my queer romance series set in NYC, mostly every relationship has initially stemmed from friendship or a strong bond. Concourse, my newest standalone novel in the series, is not much different.
Ashton Townsend, a former model loved by the paparazzi falls for his best friend (who also happens to be the son of his former nanny) Valdrin Leka. They’ve supported each other emotionally in a friendship that has spanned over a decade, which gives them a solid foundation to overcome all the barriers I threw at them in the book.
The bedrock of friendship, no matter how long, is the perfect jumping off point for a romance, so here are my top five recs for queer romance novels where a strong connection came first:
Roller Girl by Vanessa North is one of the most uplifting stories I’ve read in a long while. Not just because of the romance itself, but because the characters are surrounded by supportive people. There are already strong friendships built into the story, so when Tina and Joe connect, it’s one of many positive relationships, which is excellent. Once Tina joins Joe’s roller derby team, camaraderie and attraction leads to sex hidden from their teammates, but I’ll let you pick up the book before I tell you more.
Goodbye Paradise by Sarina Bowen is the story of two boys who were raised in a cult. That’s right. A cult. They’ve barely experienced the outside world and the only source of joy in Josh’s small world has always been his best friend, Caleb. He kept his feelings a secret for years until they eventually escape the cult and run away together. It’s only then that their strong friendship blossoms into romance and even then, it’s a very slow burn. Their priority is always preserving their friendship as they get through the difficult transition from cult-world to the real world, together.
Where We Left Off by Roan Parrish is a great tale of a connection that blossomed over a long period of time. We first meet Will and Leo in the first book of the Middle of Somewhere series when Leo is a teenager still figuring out who he wants to be, and Will is the surly ex-boyfriend of one of the main characters. The transition to kid-sorta mentor, to crush-sorta friend, to the third book when Leo is older and wanting to pursue a romantic relationship, is spectacular.
Bend or Break by Amy Jo Cousins is a series full of awesome tales of people who forge strong bonds leading to intense physical and romantic relationships. Off Campus, the first book, will always be my favorite, because of the emotional support Tom and Reese give each other as Tom hides from an infamous scandal and Reese recovers from a traumatic assault. However, The Girl Next Door is a close second. You first meet Steph and Cash in book 1, and you instantly grow to love them both. Steph is a queer confident badass, and Cash is the dudebro you just want to hug because he is so damn sweet and likeable. Pick up this series!
Housemates by Jay Northcote is a series packed full of friends-to-lovers stories. What I really love about this series is that the characters are always wary of messing up their friendships because of the value they place on them. The friendship dynamics of everyone in the house is very realistic, and you come to love all the characters. Again—check out this whole series! You won’t regret it.
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.
Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
Bonus: Tumbling by Caela Carter has a lesbian POV (YA, Olympic gymnastics), although there is no romance, and theYou Know Who Girls series by Annameekee Hesik (basketball) has f/f romance and a lesbian protag but is not a Romance by definition
If you shop for f/f Romance a decent amount, you’ve probably noticed that it tends to be waaaay pricier than m/m or m/f, so, in yet another round of helping you queer up your shelves (or your Kindle) on a budget, here are ten f/f Romances (NA and up; you can find YA here) that are all under five bucks (with thanks to Vanessa North for the help and the inspiration!):
I have to open this post with my utter shame that Roller Girl(releasing July 25, 2016) is my first Vanessa North novel, but it definitely won’t be my last. (Though that should confirm for you that despite being the third in a series, this book can totally be read on its own.) I just simply could not resist the lure of f/f centered around roller derby and featuring a trans protag. I mean, hi, I’m only human. Anyway, the book turned out to be super cute and also feature some quality dirty talk, which is approximately my favorite thing in Romance, and I’m dying to have more trans books follow in its fluffy footsteps. (And, PS, it also happens to have a starred review from Publishers Weekly.)
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama”
Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.