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:
- YA Contemporary: With or Without You by Brian Farrey
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.
- Adult Historical: Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen
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.]
- YA Contemporary: Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan
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:
- Historical: “Blessed Isle”, by Alex Beecroft
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.
- Contemporary: No Souvenirs, by K.A. Mitchell
The perfect book. Hardly “hidden,” but it needs to be mentioned.
- Contemporary: Off the Record, by Matthew Haldeman-Time
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.
- Category-style contemporary: Force of Law, by Jez Morrow
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.
- Contemporary Mystery-Romance: Amor en Retrogado by A.M. Riley
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.
- Fantasy: Lord of the White Hell, Book One, by Ginn Hale
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.
- Contemporary Romance: Bad Case of Loving You, by Laney Cairo
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!