CS Poe

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!

Best Contemporary Romance Novels of 2017

I had another grand year reading Contemporary Romance. I read more Queer Romance this year than ever before as well.

These are my top Contemporary Romance reads that were published in 2017.

Please let me know if you loved any of these books and if I missed your favorite!

 

My lists are never in any order.

 

 A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses Book 3) by Laura Florand.

Florand makes my list almost every year for a reason. This book contains the best proposal scene I have ever read. My cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. My Review!

Childhood friends.
Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. She’d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.

Lifelong enemies.
Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didn’t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldn’t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.

Or the perfect match?
They’d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?

Who’d Have Thought  by G Benson Marriage of Con romance at its finest with amazing heroines. My Review!

Top neurosurgeon Samantha Thomson needs to get married fast and is tightlipped as to why. And with over $200,000 on offer to tie the knot, no questions asked, cash-strapped ER nurse Hayden Pérez isn’t about to demand answers. The deal is only for a year of marriage, but Hayden’s going into it knowing it will be a nightmare. Sam is complicated, rude, kind of cold, and someone Hayden barely tolerates at work, let alone wants to marry. The hardest part is that Hayden has to convince everyone around them that they’re madly in love and that racing down the aisle together is all they’ve ever wanted. What could possibly go wrong?

 

Dating-ish (Knitting in the City Book 6)  by Penny Reid Wonderful exploration of connection and funny too! My Review!

There are three things you need to know about Marie Harris: 1) She’s fed up with online dating, 2) She’s so fed up, she’s willing to forego the annoyance and consider more creative alternatives, and 3) She knows how to knit.
After the most bizarre and irritating first date in the history of humankind, Marie is looking for an alternative to men. With the help of her friends, she quickly identifies a few possibilities:

Need a cuddle? Use a professional cuddler. Need affirmation? Get yourself a life coach. Need an orgasm? Try orgasm meditation! Why does she need the hassle of a romantic partner when she can meet all her needs with paid services?
But then her irritating date resurfaces. And he’s not at all the person she thought he was. And he suggests a different—and crazier—solution to her dilemma . . .

As everyone knows (or will soon come to realize), traditional relations between humans are a thing of the past. Robots are our future. And if robots are our future, then why do we need other people at all?

Infamous by Jenny Holiday  An amazing friends to lovers, rock star and a doctor romance set in Canada. My Review!

ll that up-and-coming musician Jesse Jamison has ever wanted is to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a gossip website nearly catches him kissing someone who isn’t his famous girlfriend—and also isn’t a girl—he considers the near miss a wake-up call. There’s a lot riding on his image as the super-straight rocker, and if he wants to realize his dreams, he’ll need to toe the line. Luckily, he’s into women too. Problem solved.

After a decade pretending to be his ex’s roommate, pediatrician Hunter Wyatt is done hiding. He might not know how to date in the Grindr world, how to make friends in a strange city, or whether his new job in Toronto is a mistake. But he does know that no one is worth the closet. Not even the world’s sexiest rock star.

As Jesse’s charity work at Hunter’s hospital brings the two closer together, a bromance develops. Soon, Hunter is all Jesse can think about. But when it comes down to a choice between Hunter and his career, he’s not sure he’s brave enough to follow his heart.

Bonfires by Amy Lane Heroes just don’t get better than Larx. A great love story with two older heroes and really singing to power of the work that schools do.  Review to Come!

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

  Just Say Yes (Escape to New Zealand Book 10) by Rosalind James

Moving and romantic, this series is just getting stronger a great  Sports romance.

Kevin McNicholl may be a brutal force on the rugby field, but off the field, the star New Zealand All Black is a famously nice guy. His new tenant, though, arouses more than his protective side. She sets him on fire. Pity he’s evicting her.

Every woman deserves her dreams. Chloe Donaldson can’t afford dreams, though, so she’s given them up. Marriage, her ballet career, and now, her beautiful tower apartment with its view of the sea. Her new landlord is kicking her out, along with her three-year-old son, Zavy.

She should hate him. But when a man looks at you like that, it’s so easy to lose your focus.

Madly: A New York Novel (The New York Trilogy Series Book 2) by Ruthie Knox. Ruthie Knox is an amazing writer and this thoughtful romance set in New York has everything. My Review!

Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.

Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

Rock Chick Reawakening by Kristen Ashley Long await story of Daisy and Marcus wonderfully rendered. My Review!

A prequel to Kristen’s Rock Chick series, Rock Chick Reawakening shares the tale of the devastating event that nearly broke Daisy, an event that set Marcus Sloan—one of Denver’s most respected businessmen and one of the Denver underground’s most feared crime bosses—into finally making his move to win the heart of the woman who stole his.

 

 

 

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan A New Adult Romance with and asexual hero and so steeped in the love of art it blooms in joy. My Review!

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten college to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

 Small Change by Roan Parrish Amazing Characters. Amazing Writing. Wonderful Romance. Loved this couple and the thoughtful address of bisexuality and being a women in a “male” profession. My Review!

Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had–the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wanted to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing–truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable–this fight, she can’t win on her own.

 

Honorable Mentions!

Color of You by CS Poe

Paint the Stars (Free Fall Book 3) by Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn

Wrecking Ball  by P. Dangelico
Starting from Scratch  
by Jay Northcote

Rim Shot by  Skylar M Cates

Illegal Contact by  Santino Hassell

There are lots of great Contemporary Romance Novels I just didn’t get a chance to read in 2017. Let me know your favorites!