genderqueer

Uncovering Ray (Ellery College, #1) by Edie Danford Review

   Uncovering Ray (Ellery College Book 1) by Edie Danford 3 Stars!

Hey, man-you a chick or a dude? Dealing with the same old boring question is a downer for college drop-out Ray Fayette, especially when it’s asked by the low-tipping, over-privileged students at the Ellery Diner. When six-foot-five, muscle-bound straight arrow Wyatt Kelly publicly smacks down a fellow frat brother for caveman behavior, Ray’s interest is sparked. Wyatt’s not-so-subtle attraction sparks a few other things too. But getting to know Wyatt proves dangerous. His sexy smiles and smart questions slide under even Ray’s prickliest defenses. Worse, his academic mentor happens to be Ray’s ex-stepfather, the dictatorial jerk who just kicked Ray out of his house. Again.

Wyatt suggests a housing arrangement that has surprising appeal–there’s space available at his frat house–but he’s unaware just how complicated Ray’s “identity issues” are. Ellery College kicked out Ray for a reason–a reason that could deep-six Wyatt’s academic career and Ray’s newly hopeful heart.

Review

 like so many things about this romance and then so much frustrates me.

Ray and Wyatt are wonderful together and I love Danford writing. We get a tender falling in love between complex characters. The issues of being genderqueer or fluid are interestingly addressed. You will want Ray and Wyatt to be happy and they are in the next book in the series and in moments in this one.

However, Ray doesn’t share vital parts of background and history and this makes the falling love less believable because Ray is so secretive. The reasons are understandable but it goes on too long and we get outside conflict and never deal with the very real relationship conflict that would have made this a a truly great romance. I wanted Wyatt’s point of view.

And the book ends too quickly without the emotionial intimacy and couple time I want with my romance.

Freak (The F-Word, #2) by E. Davies Review

   Freak (F-Word) (Volume 2) by E. Davies 3.5 Stars! 

We dated for a hot second five years ago. Things have changed.”

Five years ago, Zeph met River. The timing couldn’t have been worse. An orphan with something to prove and the ghosts of his past breathing down his neck, Zeph took the offer from a pro MMA gym to live and train in the Midwest. River let him go easily. If it was a convenient excuse to escape emotional intimacy, neither of them had to admit it. Until now.

Drag queen and makeup artist River isn’t easily fazed, but meeting Zeph on his home turf throws him for a loop. Something about Zeph still gets under his skin. And River’s next job, a drag show in L.A. and Vegas, will require a security guy to look after the performers. Who better than a tattooed mixed martial artist who still gives him smoldering looks?

It doesn’t take long for them to fall together. They’re opposite as can be, but dating for ten days wasn’t long enough the first time around. Another ten days could get it out of their systems… but are they fighting for or with each other? It’s easy to get hard. It’s hard to be easy. Vulnerability is off the table, until the table turns. How long do you have to have known a guy to put your life into his hands?

Review

 I am not usually a big fan of second chance romances but this one between Zeph and River really works.

They dated years ago intensely but briefly. Zeph left to fight MMA.

River and Zeph are opposites and yet treat each other with care and value. Zeph’s is a pretty troubled soul but he is kind.

This is a very sexy romance with emotionial impact. Great heroes!

 

Flaunt (The F-Word, #1) by E. Davies Review

  Flaunt (F-Word Book 1) by E. Davies 3 Stars! 

Moving to the suburbs of L.A. was supposed to give Nic Montero a fresh start. After escaping his family, coming out as a gay trans man, and excelling in computer programming out of desperation to get financially stable or die, everything should be easy. But joining gay culture now, post-transition, feels impossible… until he runs into the force of nature that is Kyle. Everything Nic isn’t, Kyle embodies. Green hair, garters and cut-off shorts, sports jerseys, and all, brash Kyle is the most gorgeous man he’s ever laid eyes on, and he pulls Nic headlong into the center of his world. If only Nic felt like enough for a man like Kyle.

“One-night stands are my only option.”

Loud, loving, and too much for most men to handle, Kyle Everett catches eyes and occasionally scorn… even at his job at the local HIV charity, Plus. His days and nights are spent at work, his precious spare moments spent with his son, Kevin, when it’s his turn to co-parent, or his best friend, drag queen River. He only has money or time for cheap flings, but the lanky otter who walks into his life makes Kyle want to hold him for longer than a night. He knows what it’s like for Nic to be without a family, but he isn’t brave enough to let this man into his life… until his charity is targeted by bigots, and Nic’s there for him.

“I’ll stay with you if you’re brave enough to be you.”

Nic spent his twenties avoiding family and even his own femininity, but his yearning is impossible to ignore. Kyle’s used to flying solo, but Nic offers him safety and fills gaps in his life he never realized existed and now can’t stand. Living in close proximity, they can’t run from their attraction, but they’re each used to being rejected, with the emotional scars to prove it. Can two men who feel like they’re not enough and too much find something just right?

Review

There is a lot to like about this book (the romance and the characters) and then a bit that leaves me unfulfilled (the side plot and some of Kyle’s choices)

I love the opposites attract romance in Kyle and Nic as well as the exploration of the complexities of gender. The little reveals along the way and the flirting and heat between the heroes is great.

Kyle reasons for not wanting a relationship are not very believable and he waits too long to tell Nic about his son and co parenting. The hate crime plot needs to be unraveled a bit more.

However, the core of the book, the love story, is very good.

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!

Danced Close (Portland Heat, #6) by Annabeth Albert Review

  Danced Close (Portland Heat Book 6) by Annabeth Albert 4 Stars!

Newly clean and sober, Todd’s taken a shine to his job at Portland’s most talked about bakery. It’s not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn’t try to hide his attraction to Kendall’s elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past.

For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he’s grown to love. But he’s still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels.  Turns out taking the lead for once isn’t a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart . . .

 

Review

I love this series and it is best read in order to enjoy it to the fullest.

I really don’t want this to be the last book in the series. I like this world of small business a great deal.

This romance takes on addiction, recovery, and gender but does so with a light and lovely touch.

Both heros has a lot of growing to do and it is a pleasure to witness their individual journeys as will as there one as a couple.

I enjoyed the dancing in this book the most. I love the sneaky skills of the younger hero.

Very good.

Wallflower by Heidi Belleau Review

 Wallflower (Rear Entrance Video Book 2) by Heidi Belleau

4 Stars! 

This gamer geek has a pretty little secret.

Art student and MMORPG addict Robert Ng has always been a loner, but he’s recently made it his goal to make more (IRL) friends. Which is how he winds up working nights at Rear Entrance Video, shilling sketchy porn and blowup dolls as a favor to his roommate. The longer he works there, though, the more he realizes he’ll never be truly happy until he becomes the person he is online: his female persona, Bobby.

Bobby is cuter and funnier than Rob is, and a thousand times more popular with boys. Becoming Bobby IRL presents its own set of challenges, though . . . especially when you’re sitting on the fence between two genders, only one of which has caught the attention of your seriously cute customer/classmate.

Dylan Ford is a six-foot Inuit comic book artist who always says what’s on his mind, and screw anyone who doesn’t like it. As rough as he appears, though, Dylan has a soft spot for Rob. But will out-and-proud Dylan still want Rob if he’s not all man?

Review

This was a angsty New Adult Romance where we along with both heroes are trying to figure out exactly what is going on in terms of gender identity.

The heroes are great and though this book looks carefully at a range of “issues” from indigenous adoption, asian immigration, sex shops, gender binaries, art, these discussions are well woven into the fabric of the characters lives.

Dylan is charming and charing. Bobby/Rob is more snarky and guarded but comes into his own.

This is a very New Adult Romance so I am not sure how long the Happily will last but I am glad they found each other.

Documenting Light by EE Ottoman Review

4.5 Stars!

If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you’re supposed to be here?

When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.

Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.

Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.

As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.

Review

This is rich romance filled with nerdy historical details of Upstate New York, queer history, and reading the text of photographs.

It is moving looking at falling in love between two working class people–one a trans man and one gender queered person not yet out.

There is angst and the ties of family and work in the middle of this winter. The writing is lyrical and academic and tender.

The love story hopeful but realistic. Very good!

4.5!