Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Pride Week

PRIDE WEEK: Summary, Thanks, and Wrapup

PRIDE WEEK: Summary, Thanks, and Wrapup

Don’t forget, the Hidden Gems giveaway is still open through 4am EDT Monday. Go comment for a chance to win the book of your choice from the list!


 

Over the last few years, DA has reviewed an increasing number of LGBTQ romance novels. But we review a lot of books, and sometimes a specific subgenre can get swamped in the larger universe of reviews and other posts. Pride Week gave us the opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ romance, to remind readers that these reviews are an important part of what we do here, and to highlight what we consider especially good books in the genre.

When we were putting together the slate of posts, we weren’t really sure how the week would turn out. Now that we’ve finished, we can definitely say that it’s been great fun for John, Jill, Joan/Sarah and me. And as enjoyable as writing the posts was, reading your comments and suggestions has been the real bonus. Many thanks to all the readers, commenters, and authors who enriched the week’s discussions!

We had five posts in which we told you our favorite books in different areas of the genre and you responded with additional suggestions of your own:

Monday: Joan/Sarah discussed her top three BDSM romances

Wednesday: John discussed his top three YA novels

Thursday: Jill reviewed a terrific new f/f novel

Friday: I discussed my top three Contemporary m/m romances

Saturday: John, Joan/Sarah and I listed our Hidden Gems, books we think should get wider recognition.

Each of these posts has dozens of comments in which readers talk about their own favorite books in these categories. There’s something for everyone. I thought I was pretty well informed on what was out there in my preferred areas, and yet I’ve added at least a dozen more. And I’m compiling an even longer list of books in areas I haven’t ventured much into yet, like f/f and YA.

In addition to these recommendation posts, Joan/Sarah kicked off a lively discussion on the absence of book awards that include all LGBTQ romance authors and what the solutions might be. Jill interviewed several f/f and lesbian romance authors and bloggers about how to write authentic characters. And Jayne reviewed If the Walls Could Talk 2, a lesbian-themed film in her weekly Friday film review (how could I have overlooked a movie with Vanessa Redgrave, Marian Seldes, and Michelle Williams?). If you didn’t get a chance to read all the posts and you’re interested in the genre, click on the links to go back and catch up. And if you want to find more of DA’s LGBTQ reviews, use tags like m/m, f/f, or a DA reviewer or romance author’s name to pull up everything that’s available. For example, if you’re new to Josh Lanyon’s books, Jayne reviewed the first two volumes of the Adrien English series way back in 2008. Looking for short stories? Janine has written detailed reviews of  two collections, one m/m and one f/f, from Blind Eye Books.

We envisioned Pride Week as a way to celebrate what we consider the best writing about LGBTQ relationships in our favorite genre, romance, and to help both long-time readers and those new to the subgenre to find books they would enjoy. It’s not a substitute for real-world activism and participation, any more than reading about romance is a substitute for real-world engagement. But in this week of landmark legislation, there’s something both appropriate and satisfying about reading a novel about same-sex relationships that ends happily.

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

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!