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PRIDE WEEK: Hidden Gems from Joan/Sarah, John, and Sunita

If you’re interested in reading one of the books mentioned below, post in the comments with your own overlooked LGBT romance (or why you’re interested in reading one of these, if you don’t yet have a favorite), and you’ll be entered to win. Giveaway ends at 4AM EDT on Monday.

For our last giveaway post during Pride Week, we thought it would be fun to list what we’re calling Hidden Gems, i.e., romances that fly under the radar but deserve more attention and a wider readership. Some of these are books we’ve personally talked about a lot but which don’t seem to be that well-known, while others come from smaller presses or didn’t get the publicity and marketing push others received. Needless to say, these are entirely idiosyncratic lists, but we can talk your ear off about why they’re here!

John’s Hidden Gems:

This is the most recent book I’ve read, and it’s probably one of my new favorites.  It’s a contemporary novel that splendidly chronicles a loving relationship between a struggling artist and his slightly older boyfriend, as well as the floundering relationship between said struggling teen artist and his best friend.  It’s well-written, angst-y, and managed to really impress me without how the final product came together.  The ending is actually an HEA for the couple, and people who are fans of more emotionally challenging reads will appreciate the level of care the author had in dealing with relationships, while also managing to touch a bit on AIDs and what it means to the current generation.

Single-handedly one of my Top Five Romances of All Time.  Tamara Allen writes a love story that is so beautiful and fluid in its execution.  She doesn’t follow normal m/m romance conventions, either.  There is no open door sex.  Her couple rarely shares more than a heated kiss in their passionate moments.  Yet, it is probably one of the most romantic and tense reads I’ve experienced.  Her characters are human, and her historical setting is a joy to read.  [Sunita: If John hadn't picked this I would have.]

Patrick Ryan’s book is one of the books I love to recommend, but with some reservation.  I enjoyed the story, and the fact that he takes the YA vampire craze and makes fun of it is enjoyable.  The book itself is dual-perspective between a set of twins, both of whom are finding their lives to be upset by a kid staying at their house for a few weeks who seems to be vampire-like.  The protagonists can get frustrating, the plot can be predictable, but the heart of this book does show a gay romance.  The male twin is out and proud, and he talks about sexual experiences and his odd attraction to this boy in a way that makes it so easy to read.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s a book I think more people should know about.

  • YA Contemporary/Paranormal:  Hero by Perry Moore

Perry Moore’s YA novel is a contemporary story and a paranormal story in one package.  It involves an alternate universe with superheros, and the main character himself has a father who is a famous hero.  The novel is in part about the character struggling with his identity as a person with superpowers, but also in finding his sexual identity.  The pacing could get pandering, and the world itself doesn’t go much beyond the general superhero stereotypes, but it’s an enjoyable read.  The romance isn’t very developed, but it’s cute.

Sarah’s Hidden Gems:

I’ve reviewed this one. It’s worth buying the entire book for this story. It’s got so many layers, which is miraculous, considering it’s a short. The characters grow and change, both in the past and the present. Their love for each other is palpable, but fraught with loss and sacrifice.

The perfect book. Hardly “hidden,” but it needs to be mentioned.

Yes, a self-published book, but I promise you won’t regret it. Patrick is a bisexual entertainment reporter. Jordan is a brilliant screenwriter and the heir to a Hollywood dynasty and no one knows who his father is. They fall in love, but Patrick is forever tempted by the lure of figuring out and revealing who Jordan’s father is, thereby betraying Jordan. These characters grow and mature and I love how there are no easy answers and they have to understand and forgive. And it’s HOT.

  • Contemporary: Love Ahead (both stories), by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Two long novellas. One about a construction foreman who has a huge crush on one of his workers. They work hard to establish a relationship but the imbalance of emotional attachment gets in the way. Lovely groveling at the end but the end is slightly too short. The second story is about two long-haul truckers who connect and fall in love by CB and then cell phone, all the while meeting each other for random hookups without realizing who the other one is. Brilliantly done. Love these characters. Ironically, the ending goes on a bit too long.

I’ve reviewed this little gem, but it deserves another mention. Category-style power differential between the male characters, but still wonderfully-done romantic “fantasy.”

I can’t say enough good things about this story. It’s brilliantly done. Liam and Joe have been together for 10 years, but got together after Joe date-rapes Liam when they’re both too high to figure out exactly what’s happening. Joe’s deserved guilt is letting this destroy their relationship but he’s desperately trying to hold on. It works in the end, without diminishing the violence of the start of everything. Perfect perfect PERFECT story.

Sunita’s Hidden Gems: 

A gritty, angsty, multicultural m/m mystery-romance. Set in  a Los Angeles Riley clearly knows well, it features all kinds of elements I don’t usually like: an amnesia plot, lovers who aren’t particularly nice to each other, lovers who lie. But it’s a wonderful book. Riley is a terrific writer and I have no idea why she isn’t more widely discussed. This is also the 1st book of two featuring a closeted cop and his long-suffering love interest; the second book, Death By Misfortune, is different in tone, setting, and storyline, but it is also very good.

Ginn Hale is one of the best writers in the genre when it comes to worldbuilding. Her first novel, Wicked Gentleman, has been widely reviewed, including here at DA by Janine. This book and its sequel are less well known. It is a fantasy set in a boy’s school, and it straddles the line between older YA and adult. The characterizations are excellent, the writing is top-notch, and the world sucks you in from the first chapter. And the print and e-editions, by Blind Eye Books, are beautiful.

This book does so many things that are on my don’t-usually-like list, and yet I’ve read it twice and recommended it over and over again. It features a hierarchical workplace relationship, a D/s theme, and alternating POVs that take a while to get used to. Set in a hospital, the protagonists are doctor/teacher and resident/student. A big chunk of the book is about hospital politics. And it’s great. Cairo is another criminally under-publicized writer. I just wish she’d write more and faster.

  • Contemporary Romance: Harper Fox, Various books

We’ve reviewed a number of Fox’s works here: Life After Joe, Driftwood, “Nine Lights Over Edinburgh.” So I can’t really say she’s a Hidden Gem at DA. But like my other choices, she deserves a much wider readership than word of mouth suggests she has (if I’m wrong, feel free to tell me in the comments!). Which book you would like best will depend on your own tastes; Sarah’s favorites and mine are different, for example. But they are all worth reading, including The Salisbury Key, which I promise to review this summer. No one in the genre is better than Fox at creating atmosphere and context. So go read the reviews and excerpts and pick the one that sounds most appealing to you. You can’t go wrong.

So those are ours. Tell us yours in the comments!

 

Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

30 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 11:20:42

    OMG, I have read and loved almost all of your favorite guys, the only writer who I do not feel as much love for as you do is KA Mitchell, but not because I think she is a bad writer, I just like less sex in my stories than what usually is in hers, so hers are hit or miss for me. I loved her recent one though (Bad company?)

    I loved Tamara Allen’s works LOVE. As much as I love Whistling in the Dark, and I adore it, I think her recent one The Only Gold is my favorite now out of all of hers, although I love Downtime. And I wish Ginn Hale wrote many times as fast as she does, although then her works will probably not be as amazing :) Have you read her novella in Tackle anthology? I thought it was terrific, but Wicked gentlemen and Lord of White hell are definitely my favorites.

    I have to say that Darshian Tales by Ann Sommerville is probably one of my “hidden” favorites, and I loved a lot of her works actually including “Remastering Jerna”

    What else? Oh yes, Steve Kluger “Almost like being in love” is on my top five favorites of all time.

    I loved “Amor en retrogrado” by Am Riley, but I thought that everything she did was awesome, Sunita have you read her latest one “Death by Misfortune”? I thought it was great.

    I think the only two I have not read and would love to read out of what you mentioned is :

    Off the record by Mathew Haldelman – time

    or

    With or without you by Brian Farrey

    Thanks so much guys

  2. Becky
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:42:56

    @Sirius: Have you seen Hale’s Rifter serial? 10 installments, one a month, that started in March. I haven’t jumped in and subscribed yet, but everyone I’ve talked to is absolutely cuckoo about it.

  3. Lindsey
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:53:55

    I’ll definitely have to second my love of Force of Law and No Souvenirs, though I don’t think either of them fly under the radar, they’re both such excellent books that they deserve a mention. I’m currently reading Bad Company, and I’m not incredibly fond of it, but I think that’s because I really like Nate, and think he deserves better than Kellan.

    Off the Record and Bad Case of Loving You both sound like they’re right up my alley, though I’m sure I would happily devour any of the books up there.

  4. Sirius
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:12:45

    @Becky:

    Yes of course I did :). I call it “exercising my will” exercise I am playing upon myself because it is VERY VERY hard for me to stay away from anything Ginn Hale writes and I wonder whether I will cave in before the ending or not, it is just I hate cliffhangers and will prefer to read all of it together.

  5. Steven
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:16:08

    I would LOVE to read Off the Record, Force of Law, or No Souvineers but honestly all of these books sound fantastic. Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philanderer is a bisexual regency romance I feel in love with when I studied romance novels in college. The hero is a total a-hole but he does a decent job of redeeming himself in the end. Great read by a new author!

  6. Stephanie K.
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:28:55

    I’d like to read Hero by Perry Moore. I first saw a review for it on the Book Smugglers website and the whole superheroes aspect sounds really interesting.

  7. Joder
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 15:32:28

    All these books sound amazingly good! I’ve read Life After Joe and loved the intensity of emotions and would love to read more Harper Fox. I’ve heard so many good things about Harper’s other books.

  8. hapax
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 16:38:34

    Since one of the things I love about m/m is the lack of weird power dynamics, I am strangely intrigued by the description of FORCE OF LAW.

    So many of the other titles on this post I’ve already read and loved!

    My hidden gem: ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND ADVERTISING or really anything by Lenore Black — I think of her as sort of the Julie James of m/m, and that’s high praise indeed. ALL’S FAIR is my favorite because one of the heroes is such a genuine high-maintenance egotistical hyperactive jerk, and yet I fell for him right along with the other (a bit too-perfect) hero.

  9. Corina
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 17:03:46

    Oooh! The only two of these I’ve read are No Souvenirs and Force of Law, the first of which I adored, and the second I liked quite a bit, and I’d love to win any of the others. I don’t think any of the GLBT romances I’ve read would qualify as hidden gems, since I’m pretty sure they’ve either been reviewed favorably here on DA or are by authors who have been favorably reviewed. I’ve only recently expanded my romance reading horizons beyond straight f/m plots, and now that I have I can’t seem to get enough. I’ve already downloaded a ton of samples of books recommended here during pride week. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. RachelT
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 18:11:49

    I’ve read most of these and would endorse them – Bad Case of Loving You & all the Harper fox books (the Salisbury Key was stunning) stand out.

    A hidden gem I would add is ‘Back Where He Started’ by Jay Quinn. This is the stiry of a young man who becomes ‘mum’ to his lover’s children, only to be abandoned by his lover (but not his family) after 20
    years. Many women will identify with his struggle to look for work with little previous experience of this, create himself and his family a new home and eventually find a new love. This is a beautiful book.( Unfortunately, I don’t think it is in ebook format).

  11. Sunita
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 23:46:41

    Thanks so much for these recommendations! This week has wreaked havoc on my TBR pile, but in a good way.

    I do indeed have The Rifter in my TBR. I bought and read Part I and immediately subscribed to the whole thing. I’m purposely behind right now, so that I can read a bunch in one swoop. Schedules willing, Janine and I will be reviewing what has been released so far in the not too distant future.

  12. Merrian
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 00:46:43

    I have read just about all the books mentioned in the post, not the ‘Love Ahead’ stories though so I will put up my hand for those :) I love AM Riley’s and Ginn Hale’s books too.

    I think a couple of my unsung favourites are Jeff Pearce’s ‘Buddha on the Road’ and Andrea Speed’s ‘Infected’ series about Roan and his husbands Paris and Dylan. You have to read the series because it is about Paris’ death and Roan’s life afterwards.

  13. Kaetrin
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 02:01:27

    Love Ahead or Amour in Retrogrado both look good – as does Whistling in the Dark. I’ve read many of the m/m romances recommended this week – many of them were as a result of DA recommendations but these are new to me.

    I loved and can thoroughly recommend:-
    James Buchanan Taking the Odds series,
    Faith & Fidelity by Tere Michaels,
    One Real Thing by Diane Fox and Anah Crow,
    Rhianne Aile’s The One That Got Away,
    A Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowan,
    Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley,
    Keeping Promise Rock by Amy Lane,
    Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch and
    Marie Sexton’s Coda Series (especially Strawberries for Dessert).

    I also recently read a really funny sexy short story called “We’re Both Straight Right?” by Jamie Fessenden (it’s a Dreamspinner Press title). So add that to the list as well! :)

  14. laundry
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 11:03:15

    I downloaded Love Ahead this morning for a Sunday read and must admit that I’m quite disappointed. The construction foreman story is almost an exact copy of a fanfiction I read a while back. The names have been changed, but not much else. I’m sure this is just a case of the author adapting a previously-written story into something more marketable but it’s still rather annoying.

  15. Robin F
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 11:48:23

    I’ve read many of these, and I love K.A. Mitchell, I think her Hot Ticket is a lot of fun. Of the above books listed: Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen sounds amazing.

  16. Patricia
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 12:13:13

    This is entirely off topic but I live in New York I was in tears when I opened my newspaper Saturday morning and saw that our disfunctional legislature finally did the right thing and removed the barriers to same sex marriage. I have been married for 25 years and consider it a fundamental right of gay and straight people. I am proud of my state and my opinion of our governor has shot up.

  17. Jacqueline
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 13:19:40

    My top underrated books

    Great Restorations by Libby
    Too Soon for Love by Kimberly Gardner
    Acquainted with the Night by Tymber Dalton
    At Piper’s Point by Ethan Day
    When Irish Eyes are Sparkling by Tom Collins
    Note in the Margin by Isabelle Rowen

  18. Lynn S.
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 14:21:21

    Despite a few editing problems, Force of Law is a great read. It has all the best elements of a Harlequin Presents and I felt like Morrow was channeling Susan Napier which, believe me, is a great thing to do. Hope she writes more category style books.

    Several of your hidden gems are tempting me, but I’d really like to try Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen.

  19. Charming
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 14:21:48

    Here is one I liked a lot and haven’t seen discussed: Faster Than the Speed of Light, by Lucius Parhelion. It is about trying to do science during the McCarthy era, and of course our guys are gay as well. As I recall, there isn’t much open door sex.

  20. Sirius
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 16:04:53

    @Charming:

    I really liked Faster Than the Speed of Light, I thought this one was awesome, thanks for mentioning it.

  21. Melanie
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 18:11:56

    I have no recommendations to offer, but I’d love to read “Whistling in the Dark.” I’ve heard such good things about it, and I really like stories set in the 1910s-to-1930s era.

  22. eta_o
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 19:07:22

    “Off the Record” sounds intriguing and will be added to my TBR list.

  23. Kariodi
    Jun 26, 2011 @ 20:10:14

    I loved Force of Law. I really enjoyed Truthful Change by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow.

  24. Jessica
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 00:49:52

    These all sound great! Whistling in the Dark is particularly right up my alley.

  25. cs
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 10:08:41

    Definitely going to check out those YA recommendations from John. I loved all the books Sunita recommended, they’re some of my all-time favourites.

    Thought I’d recommend some paperback books:

    Adagio by Chris Owens – lovely coming of age book. I’m sure 99% of hardcore M/M readers have also read her Bareback and Natural Disaster books. Brilliant stuff.

    The Rainbow series from Alex Sanchez is also brilliant.

    All Through the Night by Suzanne Brockmann is also a favourite.

    Sweet Lips by Mel Smith, I loved this one too. The author actually donated free books of this, to readers who weren’t sure if they wanted to buy it. I was one of them, and I loved it.

    The Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates. A very hard book to read – but amazing nonetheless. Not for the faint of hearts.

    Angela Fiddlers Master of the Line series is also amazing. If you like your vampires.

    Sharon Maria Bidwell’s Snow Angel and sequel Angel Heart are also brilliant. Also a lovely lady to boot.

    The Psycop series from Jordan Castillo Price. Brilliant writing and also seems like a great person.

    Lastly, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger probably the most beautiful love story I have ever read.

  26. Sunita
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 12:26:06

    @laundry: Oh, sorry it didn’t work for you! I know the feeling.

    There is a lot of variation in m/m, as in mainstream romance, and I’ve found that there are books everyone loves that I don’t. I read a lot of excerpts, just to get a sense of the voice and approach. I’m so appreciative of retailers and publishers who offer them.

  27. Vera
    Jun 27, 2011 @ 20:27:17

    I love m/m romance and I’m surprised no one has yet rec’d God Eaters by Jesse Haijek (sorry if someone did I missed it). Fantastic world, great plot and lovely romance.

  28. Merrian
    Jun 28, 2011 @ 07:12:42

    Another hidden gem – I have just finished Amber Green’s ‘Khyber Run’ and loved it very much. An ‘A’ read for me. The world building in this contemproary novel is very good and the language through which the story is told as well. It is a poignant story about war and tolerance and loss and coming home and in the end love. It is also represents faith and its meanings very well.

  29. cs
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 14:19:06

    @Vera: I don’t read fantasy stories at all. I’m pretty much a contemporary reader, but I’ll keep that on my TBR list.

  30. cs
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 14:21:11

    @Merrian: That’s a new(ish) release from Amber Green isn’t it? I’ve read a book of hers before, and didn’t really like it all that much. But hey based on one book isn’t enough to full judge an authors work. I’ll add that to the TBR list too. Thanks!

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