Audra North

Best LGBTQA+ Romances of 2017

I have already featured many of the wonderful books published this year with LGBTQA+ characters on my other Best of 2017 lists.

However, I did such a massive read of books with queer characters this year that I have some more really amazing books to recommend to you as must reads.

I avoided a great deal of LGBTQA+ romance in the past (only reading maybe two or three a year)  because of my discomfort with the objectification of gay male sexuality by heterosexual women for heterosexual women’s consumption. Male Male being called a genre instead of a sexual or romantic pairing bothered me and the rise of the popularity of Male Male out of slash fiction didn’t feel right either. The stated reasons some straight women liked the reading about or writing about two (or three)  heroes seemed misogynistic to me as well. (See the thread following this interview of some women writers penning gay romance from All About Romance in 2014.) Also, as in the larger LGBTQA+ community, gay men are at the center of queer romance reinforced power dynamics of whose voice matters in not good ways.

As bisexual (maybe pansexual, this term wasn’t in common use in the 1990’s when I was figuring out my sexual identity) cis woman married many years to a  cis male heterosexual partner, I have been “out” for a long time and active in my queer community at different levels. But bi  erasure is a thing and as any LGBTQA+ person knows coming out again and again is exhausting and the phobias within our own community painful. Go figure that hands down one of my favorite books of the year was Roan Parrish’s Small Change with a bisexual foul mouthed heroine and an amazing bearded sweetie pie hero.

So, what changed? Why did I start reading LGBTQA+ in such large numbers this year? Partly, I think, its because the writers of LGBTQA+ shifted and became more diverse themselves and then more diverse in the characters in the last few years. Male, transgender, bisexual, asexual, authors started publishing in larger numbers or at least in a a more visible way. Authors also found their way to writing these romances from a wider variety of paths and thus the kinds of plots and styles increased. I also did a ton of queer theory reading along side these romance books because I am a big old knowledge nerd and had a ton fun of fun learning ideas that have come to prominence since I last spent time studying the subject. I particularly loved discussions around  romantic orientation and the fine work of the Asexual Visibility  and Education Network.

I started out my reading glom with bisexual, lesbian, gender fluid, transgender, and asexual characters.  I, then, followed these authors into their other books which often had more common male male gay pairings. I liked the chance to explore new relationship dynamics and plots. I love finding new to me writers.  I became curious about the “classics” and read those.  I found so many thoughtful and gifted writers. My concerns still linger and I have stumbled into books and writers that are a huge NOPE for me but that happens in any pairing and sub genres (don’t get me started on Nazi “heroes”).

I think the election and the utter threat to my community day after day, policy after policy, tweet after tweet, is what ultimately compelled me to make a commitment to really go all in with LGBTQA+  characters in romance.  I wanted to do anything I could to lend my support emotionially and financially to those of us under threat and I wanted to do it in a hopeful proactive way.  I wanted not to erased.  Also, I needed to find a place of safety, power, acceptance and love for my LGBTQA+ community and in my romance community. So, I sought comfort in happily ever after and the joy of love and being loved.

So many, many books were bought and loved.

Here are some of my favorite LGBTQA+ Romances published in 2017.

My lists are never in any particular order.

Heart Stop by Radclyffe A great procedural and romance. My Review!

Jay “Flash” Reynolds has a brilliant future as a trauma surgeon until a truck on a rainy night changes her life. Assistant chief medical examiner Olivia Price is more at ease with the dead than the living―at least the dead never lie. All she needs to do is listen to their stories. What she doesn’t need is a surly new resident who would rather be somewhere else.

Two women, one with a damaged body, the other a damaged spirit, challenge each other to dare to live again.

 

 

Deep Edge (Harrisburg Railers Book 3) bRJ Scott  & V.L. Locey  Ice Skating and Hockey romance. Great series! My review to come. 

Trent Hanson is a figure skating phenom adored by millions around the world. His whole life has been dedicated to the sport he loves even when the sport – and his own family – have turned against him. From the playground to the Olympics to his parent’s living room, Trent has fought against bullies and homophobes to be the out and proud gay man he is. But the constant fighting has left Trent tired, lonely, and skittish. All those fears will have to be shelved though when he’s hired to spend the summer working with the Harrisburg Railers ice hockey team. Who would have guessed that the man fate has decided to pair him off with is Dieter Lehmann, all-around sex god and a man who seems to have everything to prove and doesn’t care who he hurts to get what he wants.

Dieter has spent too many years languishing in the minors, and a secret addiction to prescription painkillers means his career is in a downward spiral. His ex is blackmailing him, and he’s close to walking away from it all. But when he’s called up in the run for the Stanley Cup to cover injuries he has a taste of what it’s like playing in the NHL, and he realizes that a place on the Railers’ roster is what he wants more than anything. More than listening to his heart, and even more than caring for the infuriating figure skater who gets under his skin. When he crosses the line to get what he wants, he knows he has lost his way. He has to change, but is it too late for both his career and any chance he might have at love?

Block and Strike by Kelly Jensen Compelling look at biphobia and starting over. My review to come.

Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.

Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.

Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.

Rim Shot by  Skylar M Cates Must read New Adult Sports Romance! My review to come!

Can college roommates go from friends to lovers?

Kyle: I’m confident that with hard work, my position as point guard can carry me from rural Indiana to the NBA. I also know I’m attracted to guys, but admitting it might disappoint my father, who is all I have in this world. I have big dreams, so I’ll stay in the closet. As long as my life remains scandal-free, I have a shot.

Micah: My large family can’t spare the money to help with my education, but that won’t stop me from studying medicine. I needed to get out of the house I was sharing with my ex before I went insane. Luckily, I heard about a guy looking for a roommate. Living with a straight jock won’t be easy, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Color of You by CS Poe Witty and lyrical. A great romance. My review to come!

Bowen Merlin— yes, that’s his real name—accepts a position in the quaint town of Lancaster, New Hampshire, as the high school band director. He leaves New York City for the snowy countryside of New England just in time for the holidays. With class, homework, after-school activities, and a surprise Christmas concert to plan and rehearse, Bowen is plenty busy. And since he’s never had much luck with romance, factoring in time to find Mr. Right isn’t a priority….

Until he meets the proprietor of Snowy Ridge Apple Orchard, Felix Hansen. Suddenly, true love seems like a possibility for the first time in Bowen’s life. The two are a perfect match and fill the skipped beats of each other’s hearts. But as wonderful as Felix seems, he’s harboring scars that could end their budding relationship when someone in town goes to great lengths to sabotage their careers.

If Bowen is to survive the holidays, he’ll need to lean on old friends and new, convince Felix he’s worth any hardship, and prove they can come out of the catastrophe stronger if they do so together.

Starting from Scratch  by Jay Northcote  Wonderful New Adult romance with a sweet and hot love story. My review!

Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

At Attention (Out of Uniform)  by Annabeth Albert  A great series! This is a wonderful age difference military romance,  My review!

Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he’s lucky a friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay. He’s surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete’s body. Apollo’s widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up.

It’s been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it’s time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he’s all man now—an adult who’s fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo’s muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can’t afford to fall for that guy. He’s determined to hold out for someone who’s able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.

Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he’d expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what’s more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life.

Illegal Contact by  Santino Hassell A great sports romance with compelling characters! My Review! 

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

Back Piece (Skin Deep Inc.) by L.A. Witt   Great shy hero military romance. My Review!

Colin Spencer is a tattoo artist with a past he’d prefer to keep a secret. Actually, he has a few secrets that he’d rather people didn’t know about, which is why Colin doesn’t do commitment. But when a shy sailor approaches him at the gym, Colin finds this guy pushing all his buttons.

Growing up in a conservative family, then escaping with the Navy, Daniel Moore is an unsure virgin who feels like he can’t share his true self with anyone. Seeing Colin—and his tattoos—at the gym are the sign Daniel needs to finally get those tattoos he’s always wanted, and maybe try his hand at flirting.

As Colin and Daniel spend more time together, their awkward hesitations turn into a deep passion neither expected. But with both men harboring secrets, will their relationship be able to survive their insecurities and become something beautiful?

Coach’s Challenge by Avon Gale This is such a great series. Wonderful romance between a coach and a player.  My Review!

It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds that the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression. And it only gets worse when Shane’s rough good looks give Troy inappropriate thoughts about a member of his team, even if Shane’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon and with a team that doesn’t trust him, the coach, or each other. Despite his determination to not get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

Amazing Books on My Other Lists Already!

Great Romance Novels with People of Color Leads or by People of Color 2017

#WeNeedDiverseBooks  I made a commitment this year to read more romance by people of color and with people of color in the lead.  Check out The Ripped Bodice’s Report on Racial Diversity in Romance to see why.

I already read a whole lot  of racially diverse romance because this what my world looks like  and I like to see it on the page but I made it goal this year to be deliberate about my reading choices and increase those numbers even more. Hopefully through my blog and reviews, you will find some amazing new writers to enjoy.

These are just the best written in 2017  I read that didn’t land on my other Best of Lists. I read so very very much this year as a self soothe and as a result I found a bounty of stunningly good books.

My lists are never in any particular order.

Citywide : A Five Boroughs Novella Collection by Santino Hassell This collection is best read if you love this series already but the writing is great, the characters fully embodied and the love smoking hot.

A record-breaking heat wave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

A Hope Divided (The Loyal League) by Alyssa Cole  Fair to say Cole is an expert at her craft. I am not even reading historical much right now and I couldn’t wait to read this one. The historical detail, the love story, the writing is all at the very top of the genre. 

The Civil War has turned neighbor against neighbor—but for one scientist spy and her philosopher soldier, war could bind them together . . . 
 
For all of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother’s traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her—until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie’s home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.
 
Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.
 
When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie’s freedom on the line,  she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love—and freedom—before they ever cross state lines.

Paint the Stars (Free Fall Book 3)  by Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn I love me a grumpy hero and Ezra is very dreamy that way. This is a great opposites attract romance full of art and love between two heroes with very different sexualities.

Ezra Greene has made a pretty decent life for himself. He has a nice apartment and spends his days doing the one thing he’s always loved—creating art. Despite being somewhat of a grumpy recluse, he’s even made a few loyal friends. When he takes a side job painting a mural at a local holistic center, he can’t help being curious about a certain friendly and self-assured yoga instructor, even if he doesn’t buy into any of that Zen crap. His holier-than-thou family already tried fitting him inside a box, and he swore he’d never be molded into anybody’s belief system again.

For Daevonte Randall, adulthood has worked out pretty well. He’s close to his parents and lives with an awesome roommate. He’s content with weekend hookups, teaching yoga, and taking college courses. What he doesn’t expect is to be so intrigued by the brooding and reserved painter he’s been tasked to stay after hours with at the center. Something fascinates him about Ezra, even after Daevonte’s attempts at flirting gets him friend-zoned on the spot.

As weeks pass, Ezra and Dae get to know each other, and soon their friendship catches fire. But Ezra’s been burned pretty badly before so trust and intimacy has to be earned. Daevonte feels up to the task, but it proves difficult as Ezra continues to keep his emotions in check. Dae’s only willing to wait so long, and when they’re dealt a surprising blow, Ezra needs to decide if love is worth the risk, that is…if it’s not too late.

Never Enough (Dirtshine Book 1) by Roxie Noir This very over the top man nipple cover contains a really excellent contemporary Rock Star romance with dealing with recovery and pretend relationship theme candy. The heroine is wonderful. 

I’ve been clean for months, but my record company’s not satisfied. Apparently it isn’t enough to only kick a heroin addiction – they’re insisting that I find a girlfriend as well.

If I don’t, they pull Dirtshine’s massive record deal.

It’s supposed to show that I’ve changed my ways, that I’ve turned over a new leaf, all that rubbish. But I’ve had it with suit-wearing wankers telling me what I’m to do, so I’m on the verge of telling them to go f*ck themselves.

And then she shows up.

Marisol locks me out of my own concert by accident. She’s wearing a suit at a rock show, searching for her lost law school textbook, has no idea who I am…

…and for the first time in years, I’m hooked.

She’s smart, driven, and utterly gorgeous. The sort of girl who earnestly believes in following the rules and hates when others don’t.

I’m a huge rock star, recovering addict, and general f*ckup.

Our relationship is for show, and that’s all. But with every smile, every laugh, and every breathtaking glance at her curves, I want her more.

Two months is all we agreed to. But it’s never going to be enough.

 

Wanted, a Gentleman by K.J. Charles  Utterly charming. A road romance for the ages. Great chemistry to be savored between the heroes.

WANTED, A GENTLEMAN

Or, Virtue Over-Rated

the grand romance of

Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love

* * *

Act the First:

the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling

Act the Second:

a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)

featuring

a speedy Carriage

sundry rustic Inns

a private Bed-chamber

* * *

In the course of which are presented

Romance, Revenge, and Redemption

Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires

the particulars of which are too numerous to impart

Trust Me (Paris Nights Book 3)  by Laura Florand This book’s reading got pushed back because it was too close to the terrorist attacks in France for me. I am so glad I read this thoughtful and powerful romance about the aftermath of such and event. Florand’s writing, as always, is unparalleled, mixing in the light and the darkness perfectly.

She’s nobody’s damsel in distress…
Top Parisian pastry chef Lina Farah is used to fighting for her success. But when a violent attack shatters her security, she needs a new tactic to battle her dragons. What better way to banish the monsters under her bed than by inviting a sexy SEAL to tangle the sheets?

He’s a professional dragon slayer…
Elite operative Jake Adams has never stayed in one place long enough to form a lasting relationship. Lina’s fire and beauty tempt him to give her the hot affair she craves. But her spirit and courage make him long for more. Can he convince a woman seeking forgetfulness to dream of ever after…with him?

  Finding Your Feet (Toronto Connections Book 2) by Cass Lennox   A great circle of friends New Adult romance featuring the T and A in LGBTQA… A and T? A wonderful slow burn. This is a romance that stayed me with. 

While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though — he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.

Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.

Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.

Midlife Crisis by Audra North I was beyond thrilled to see that North had written a romance with gay heroes and the fact they were over 40 was a extra bonus.  North writers lovely character driven romance and this one is a joy. Plus, there is a nice look at an historically African American town in Texas for the history and culture nerds like me. 

Cam McGhee grew up like any other small-town Texas farm boy: he played football, went to church every Sunday, and married his high school sweetheart. But thirty-five years after he said “I do,” Cam finds himself nursing a beer in a gay bar, thinking about what might have been.

Dave Montoya is confident, self-assured, and cautiously single. But when he meets shy, uncertain, and clearly-still-not-out Cam in a coffee shop in Austin, his reservations about getting seriously involved again disappear. Cam is everything he’s looking for in a partner . . . almost, anyway.

No matter how much Dave wants him, and how good they are together, Cam can’t bring himself to openly embrace the life he was meant to live. After all, when his secret finally gets out, he faces the very real possibility of losing everything that kept him going for the first fifty years of his life, just like he’s feared for so long. But with a little faith—and a lot of love—his dream of living fully, truly, as himself might finally be within reach.

Bring the Heat (Dragon Kin Book 9 by G.A. Aiken  The irrepressible GA Aiken/Shelly Laurenston! Auto buy for kickass heroines and snarky fun filled action.

HE SAYS . . .

I, Aidan the Divine, am, well divine. My name was given to me by the Dragon Queen herself! I’m a delight! Cheerful. Charming. And a mighty warrior who is extremely handsome with a very large and well-hidden hoard of gold. I am also royal born, despite the fact that most in my family are horrendous beings that don’t deserve to live. And yet, Branwen the Awful—a low-born, no less—either tells me to shut up or, worse, ignores me completely.

SHE SAYS . . .

I’ll admit, I ignore Aidan the Divine because it annoys him. A lot. But, we have so much to do right now, I can’t worry about why he keeps staring at me, or why he always sits so close, or why he keeps looking at me like he’s thinking about kissing me. We have our nations to save and no time for such bloody foolishness . . . no matter how good Aidan looks or how long his spiked tail is. Because if we’re going to win this war before it destroys everything we love, we’ll have to face our enemies together, side by side and without distractions. But if we make it out alive, who knows what the future will hold.

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata This is a quieter book from Zapata but very moving in parts. If you like falling in love via letters, this is a great read for you. 

Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.

The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.

Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.

What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy.

 

Books I purchased but can’t haven’t had a chance to read yet! 

There are more! Check out my other Best of 2017 lists!