Heidi Cullinan

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!

Cat’s Best Romance Reads in 2017 but Published Prior

I read a ton this year. I refuse to look at the number of books. I don’t do Reading Challenges but if I did I would be EMPRESS of ALL. lol  It is fair to say I didn’t binge watch much (though I managed GLOW one fine summer day), you could find me when not adulting and connecting to the fam and friends and animals, reading

My beloved has an autoimmune disease that had us starting the year with open heart surgery and so it went.  I could but won’t list all the “things” that have happened in the last two year  to me and mine and in the world that would make any stress test tracking my levels break. It been a year. Several actually.   I am doing well though. Most days.

I am very blessed. I am loved and love. I have a job I enjoy and find meaningful. I have a wonderful support system, shelter, food, pets and safety.  Oh, and books.

I highly encourage self care through reading. Here is the good medicine I found in Happily Ever Afters this year after missing their original publication date.

My lists are never in any particular order! That would add undo stress. 🙂

 Far From Home by Lorelie Brown 

This is stunning book. We are deep in the heroine’s perspective. I love a healing romance and this one is with a Marriage of Con as well.  My Review!

My name is Rachel. I’m straight . . . I think. I also have a mountain of student loans and a smart mouth. I wasn’t serious when I told Pari Sadashiv I’d marry her. It was only party banter! Except Pari needs a green card, and she’s willing to give me a breather from drowning in debt.

My off-the-cuff idea might not be so terrible. We get along as friends. She’s really romantically cautious, which I find heartbreaking. She deserves someone to laugh with. She’s kind. And calm. And gorgeous. A couple of years with her actually sounds pretty good. If some of Pari’s kindness and calm rubs off on me, that’d be a bonus, because I’m a mess—anorexia is not a pretty word—and my little ways of keeping control of myself, of the world, aren’t working anymore.

And if I slip up, Pari will see my cracks. Then I’ll crack. Which means I gotta get out, quick, before I fall in love with my wife.

 Unraveling Josh by Edie Danford  A completely new to me author. A really great romance with amazing character development. My Review! 

When the crown prince of bad boys hooks up with his former high school crush, he’s after just one kind of happy ending.

Nick McQueen just scored the perfect hookup—Ellery College ski champion, Joshua Pahlke. What better way for Nick to prove his transformation from high school loser to sexy sinner? He’ll gift golden-boy Josh with the hottest, dirtiest sex of his life and then leave him begging for more.

But his definition of happiness is about to change…

Josh needs to blow off steam. He’s spent years pushing himself in academics and sports, but nagging injuries and career doubts have him craving a new challenge. Nick might be the key—he sure as hell turns Josh’s crank. Josh eagerly rises to the task of winning over moody-broody Nick. But when new love and old secrets change the rules of their game, “winning” takes on a whole new meaning.

A Seal Upon Your Heartby Pepper Pace I love the complexity of this romance and the thoughtful look into like after immigration from such horror. My Review!

Jane used to have a different name, a different life—but that was before she was rescued from the refugee camp after the Rwandan genocide and brought to the convent to be raised. Now she is being dismissed, told to go out into the world. But how does she do that when all she knows is the convent?
Sometimes she wants to scream, I am a child of Africa! And sometimes she wants to dream about a love that will save her from her loneliness…but mostly she wants to fit in.

Tim Singleton lost his wife to breast cancer less than a year ago and yet the pain and anger is still fresh in his mind. He hates the sympathetic looks from his colleagues and tolerates the invitations from friends with their good intentions. When Corrine died, so did Tim’s faith…so when he received the call from the convent that his wife had focused her charitable endeavors, Tim isn’t quite sure why he agreed to help the young African girl with a job.

She didn’t quite fit in with the others at the law firm that wore thousand dollar Chanel suits while her clothes were picked with care from the donation bin at the church. At nearly six feet tall, the shy girl tried to become invisible in the hectic world around her. But if her ill-fitting clothes didn’t draw attention to her, then it was a beauty that couldn’t be hidden so easily.

Soon Jane sees Tim as not only her benefactor, but her one true love. But can Tim finally open up and allow someone else to touch his heart? Can he forget their difference in race and age? And more importantly, would being with him mean the loss of her innocence?

Documenting Light  by EE Ottoman  I love the romances that Brain Mill Press is putting out. This books features great writing about non cis characters which I am so happy to read but my favorite parts of the book along with the love story are the deep nerdy history dives particularly investigating how we think about history or historical objects. My Review!

you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you are 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.

 Midwinter Night’s Dream by Eli Easton Midsummer Nights Dream is my favorite Shakespeare play so this retelling had me at hello but match to the excellent craft of Eli Easton’s love story, it will be a favorite for a long time. Review to come. 

Micah is the hippest, most chill guy on campus. But when he gets the hottest kiss of his life from a cute guy during a game of ‘spin the bottle’, Micah’s cool turns into a puddle of anxious goo. Sure, Micah’s always been a little bi-curious, but he never thought he’d pursue a guy, much less a guy who doesn’t seem to be interested in getting caught.
Leo is passionate about two things: gay rights activism and acting. He stays focused and in control, and he never, ever, dates straight guys. When a chance spin of a bottle at a party has him locking lips with Micah Springfield, president of the Delts, dread-headed, serial-dating, straight Micah, Leo is determined to forget about it, no matter how incendiary the sparks or how gorgeous Micah may be.

Leo has bigger problems. His senior project is directing Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream just before the Christmas break. When his venue cancels at the last minute, Micah offers the use of his parent’s barn in rural Pennsylvania. Leo’s play may be saved, but what about his heart? Between Micah’s sweet lips, his family’s welcoming arms, and a devious bulldog who is determined to play Puck, Leo may find himself falling under the spell of Christmas magic.

Too Stupid to Live (Romancelandia Book 1)  by Anne Tenino  This book made me laugh. It has so much fun with the romance novel and we get an amazing hero in Sam. Comfort read! My Review!

It isn’t true love until someone gets hurt.

Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.

Until he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now — possibly — ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.

Until he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong…can they?

The Weight Of It All by N.R. Walker Another funny book but a wonderful Plain Joe hero and grand banter. So good! My Review!

After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.
He joins a gym.
Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.
As Reed tortures Henry with things like diet and exercise, Henry enamours Reed with recipes and laughter. As the friendship lines start to blur, Henry is convinced there’s no way Thor-like Reed could ever be interested in a guy like him.

 

A Rational Arrangement   by L. Rowyn Great world building, a heroine to admire, and wonderful poly love story. My Review!

“But these are vital aspects of marriage. If one cannot discuss them, what’s the use in meeting at all? It’s like trying to decide what you’ll have for dinner without mentioning food.”

Wisteria Vasilver does wish to marry. Truly. But though she lives in Paradise, arranging a match is full of traps and pitfalls for the unwary … or perhaps just for her.

Nikola Striker, Lord of Fireholt, expects he’ll wed — someday. But not now, and never to a rich icicle of a woman like Miss Vasilver. No matter how much his parents might want the match, or his house might need her dowry. Besides, he has his own problems — most of them people who need his help as a mind-healer.

Lord Justin Comfrey, Viscount of Comfrey, would be more than happy to help Striker with his financial troubles, and not just to ensure that Miss Vasilver’s dowry doesn’t tempt Striker into marriage. If only he could find some way to make his proud, stubborn friend accept the money!

Can three people of such different temperaments ever find their way to a more perfect Paradise?

How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune  The levels of delights this book brought me can’t be measure. Every detail adds more and more complexity to what is a comic romance with all sorts of layers, meta fun, and just perfect romance. And there is a ferret. Review to come,

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt Book 1) by Heidi Cullinan A classic so skillfully writing, such a grand romance, you will read it over and over. My Review!

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The young man with a double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey–and he has autism.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When Jeremey’s untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility.

As Jeremey and Emmet find their feet at The Roosevelt, they begin to believe they can be loved for the men they are beyond their disabilities. But before they can trust enough to fall head over heels, they must trust their own convictions that friendship is a healing force and love can overcome any obstacle.

Honorable Mentions!

The Perfect Fit by Jenna Sutton

For Real (Spires)  by Alexis Hall

In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish
Power Play by Avon Gale

All Note Long  by Annabeth Albert

Point Shot Trilogy Box Set  by V. L. Locey 

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan  and‎ Marie Sexton 

Brandon Mills versus the V-Card by J.A. Rock  and‎ Lisa Henry 

 

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton 5 Star Review!

   Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton 5 Stars!

Sometimes family chooses you.

At forty, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro is still afraid to admit he might be gay—even to himself. It’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, it’s getting harder to ignore what he really wants.

Vinnie attempts some self-exploration in Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek, Trey agrees to let Vinnie court him and see if he truly belongs on this side of the fence—though Trey intends to keep his virginity intact.

It seems like a solid plan, but nothing is simple when family is involved. When Vinnie’s family finds out about their relationship, the situation is sticky enough, but when Trey’s mother goes critical, Vinnie and Trey must decide whose happiness is most important—their families’ or their own.

 

Review

Wow. This love story knocked my socks off. The writing is amazing and the character development is wonderful.

Vinnie and Trey are both suffering and lonely. They are also both full of love and honor.

I don’t really love romances about characters coming into their sexuality as Vinnie is in this book but this love story is so well done because that is only one thing that is going on and it makes since that Vinnie has suppressed this part of himself.

Trey and Vinnie both have complicated lives. Trey is stuck in an isolated cycle with his family.

There is a great deal of suffering about things we can not change in this tale but there is so much hope in risk and love.

The dating is just wonderful and so is the happily ever after.

A reread for sure. So, glad it was rereleased.

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!

Short Stay (Love Lessons, #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan 4 Star Review

Review:

Short Stay (Love Lessons) - Heidi Cullinan

Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

 

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

 

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his–and Elijah’s–life.

 

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas–it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

 

Review

 

At first I was reluctant to read this short story with Baz and Elijah because I wanted no more drama for them.

I am glad I did. This is a wonderful New Year’s Eve romance that puts all the whipped cream and cherries on their happily ever after.

They struggle through self esteem, chronic pain, and lack of communication issues but they learn how to be a unit. 

There are ton of easter eggs in here for Cullian’s other series.

It is a great big romantic time.

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1599416/short-stay-love-lessons-3-5-by-heidi-cullinan-4-star-review

Let It Snow (Minnesota Christmas Book 1) Heidi Cullinan Review

   Let It Snowby Heidi Cullinan 3.5 Stars! 

The weather outside is frightful, but this Minnesota Northwoods cabin is getting pretty hot.

Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to get lost in Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS felt otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up.

Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack—once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s come home to Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. But as the northwinds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Could the man who won’t live in the country and the man who won’t go back to the city truly find a home together? Because the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other.

 

Review

I had a lot of fun reading this Christmas Romance because Frankie is a delight. He is kind and funny.

Marcus worked my nerves a bit as he stays gruff and grumpy a bit too long and it takes forever for him to see clear of his cheating ex.

Frankie is big hearted and takes risks. All the snowbound fun is great and good look in to North Minnesota culture.

While, I thought Marcus’s friends were a bit over the top, I am wishing them luck with other people in love.

Love Lessons (Love Lessons, #1) by Heidi Cullinan 4 Star Review

Review:

Love Lessons: Love Lessons Series, Book 1 - Heidi Cullinan, Iggy Toma

Love doesn’t come with a syllabus.

Kelly Davidson has waited forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he realizes finding Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus. Worst of all, he’s landed gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.

Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view. As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his fear that love was never meant to last.

 

Review

 

 am pretty convinced that Heidi Cullinan can’t write a bad book,.

This is a lovely New Adult romance with a shy hero and and a not shy hero. The hero with the chip on his shoulder ends up being super nurturing and kind. The shy hero ends up being mega sexy.

I love this romance which looks at intimacy and falling in love along with the real dramas of becoming a grown up. 

Good stuff!

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1581422/love-lessons-love-lessons-1-by-heidi-cullinan

Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan 5 Star Review

Review:

Antisocial - Heidi Cullinan

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.

 

Review

While I love the romance in this in this book, the discussion of art is so powerful, it often steals the show.

 

This romance is a slow burn and not just because one of the heroes is asexual. The fall in love is really pretty magical as they take down wall after wall for each other.

 

It is also a very well done New Adult with the kinds of conflict that have to do with finding new understanding of your family of origins and becoming your fuller self.

 

The setting is compelling as the circle of friends that builds and the mythology contained in the manga and an exploration of toxic masculinity from all parts of the policatal spectrum that is explored.

 

The writing is lyrical and lovely and while the pace might be too slow for some, it really worked for me.

 

At the heart of this book is the love story which is all about intimacy.

 

So very good!

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1597181/antisocial-by-heidi-cullinan-5-star-review

Second Hand (Tucker Springs, #2) by Heidi Cullinan and, Marie Sexton Review

Review:

Second Hand - Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton

Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.

 

Review

 

I love EL and the dog. I love his crush and his pursuit of Paul and his dedication to family.

Paul is depressed, non self reflective, and clueless but he is sweet and kind and figures things out.

I like that Paul is working class and money is a thing. His ex girlfriend is awful but his mom is great.

This is a lovely romance with a great cast of characters. Very good read!

 

 

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1572416/second-hand-tucker-springs-2-by-heidi-cullinan-and-marie-sexton-review

Carry the Ocean (The Roosevelt, #1) by Heidi Cullinan 5 Star Review

    Carry the Ocean  by Heidi Cullinan 5 Stars! 

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The young man with a double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he has autism.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When Jeremey’s untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility.

As Jeremey and Emmet find their feet at The Roosevelt, they begin to believe they can be loved for the men they are beyond their disabilities. But before they can trust enough to fall head over heels, they must trust their own convictions that friendship is a healing force and love can overcome any obstacle.

 

Review

I love this book. Sitting down to write this review, I just want to go and read it again.

Each character is complex, human and complete. They inhabit a full world. The writing is beautiful and dialogue compelling.

The details weave together in wonderful layer upon layer to create a love story with all the kinds of love.

This is not a light hearted romance but the ache here is really just the ache of being human.

As a disabled person, I really valued to discussion of adaptations, modification, and normality that are part and parcel of living in with a different t body, chemistry and/or mind that the majority.

Depression and anxiety are explored here better than I have ever read. They are part of the character but not all of him. And while there are things that are common to people with this disorder, the understanding that he is unique is clear as well.

The exploration of autism is just as powerfully done. I love that fact that even though the autistic hero seems outwardly more disabled, it is the more “normal” hero that is newer to journey of living with his disability rather than around it.

I love the layers of the parental reaction to this very young couple. The romance told in alternating points of very is beautiful. The writer shows the difficult of the relationship and its joy.

My favorite part of the book aside from the characters is the therapy sessions. Both heroes go and the parents.

I wish everyone had support like this to shine the light on love and self acceptance and the pain of being human. And the science of it all. So good.

I highly recommend this book for the romance and everything else.