Hello bookworms! This week is Valentine’s week, and as such I thought I’d make a list of some of my favorite books with romantic elements specifically between LGBT+ characters! This is not a complete list of romantic LGBT+ rep that I’ve read, but it touches on a few books I hope some of you will be interested in reading!
1. Ash by Malinda Lo
Ash is a retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Set in a fictional land where Fae and Elves used to be widely believed in, but where a form of science is spreading fast, Ash focuses on Aisling, a young girl growing up under the teachings of her mother, who still follows many of the old ways. When her mother passes away, Aisling’s father remarries and then too falls ill and passes away leaving Aisling in the care of her stepmother, a resentful and unhappy woman. Due to her father’s “debts” Aisling is relegated to the role of servant so that her stepmother can reduce her household staff. As Aisling, nicknamed Ash, fulfills her duties she also dreams of something else, something magical.
In Ash’s world, there doesn’t appear to be any problem with couples of the same gender, or at least so it seems as this never crosses Ash’s mind as a problem. To avoid giving spoilers, I will move on to Ash’s “sexuality.” As befits a fantasy world, sexuality is not addressed as explicitly as it would be in a modern set novel. Ash demonstrates an inclination towards multiple gender presentations, so as a bisexual woman I projected bisexuality onto her when I read. However, any sexuality attracted to multiple genders/presentations would be appropriate for Ash!
2. Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Hunting Prince Dracula is the second in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco. The series follows Audrey-Rose, an unusual young lady in England who is attempting to pursue a career in anatomy and autopsy. The second installment takes place at a school of anatomy that happens to be located within a castle once owned by the infamous Vlad Tepes. As unusual events transpire, Audrey-Rose is introduced to our representational couple in question. Minor spoilers ahead!
Though not main characters, Daciana and Illeana are wonderful characters. I loved both of them even before they were revealed to be a lesbian couple. Of course, once they were “found out” by our main character, I was immediately invested in their relationship and their badassery. Though they don’t take center stage in this novel, the representation was unexpected and at the same time did not feel forced. And frankly, I’m always pleased by unexpected LGBT+ rep.
3. Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a fairy tale retelling. But by god did this one blow me out of the water. A short novella, Cinder Ella could’ve been several hundred more pages long, I wanted to read so much more of it! Cinder Ella focuses on Ella, a young woman who, you guessed it, lives with a wicked stepmother who treats her as a servant. Ella struggles with her identity, her stepmother, and her desire to be out in the world in a ballgown.
Ella is a trans woman, whose identity is dismissed by her stepmother. By the end of the novella, she grows in her own and embraces her identity. She is also attracted to women, and thus her love interest is a woman in the story. Additionally, Ella is black, adding another level of intersectionality to the book.
4. Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron
We’ve all done it: hypothesized with our best friends what it would be like to marry each other, give up the search, and just settle down. Well, this story presents just that. Lo, struggling financially, has only one available option. Her inheritance from her grandmother would solve her problems for now, but she has to be married in order to claim it. Meanwhile her best friend Cara needs money to pay for grad school. So, they decide to get married to claim the money, live together, and pretend to be in a relationship to satisfy the estate lawyers.
Lo begins the story attracted to women, and by the end of it (no surprises here) Cara is as well. The whole story is playing on the trope of “fake married becomes real married” as Lo and Cara have to navigate learning how to fake love, maintaining their already close friendship, and all the cuddly cozy situations that come with it. This is exactly the story you think it’s going to be, and it’s delightful.
5. The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis
The Gods of Tango is another book that is not romantic in nature, but features romance. It is set in Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Leda, an Italian youth, is fascinated by the family violin that can only be passed from man to man. Leda possess this violin as a wedding present upon arrival in Buenos Aires, where instead of a husband Leda finds grief and just enough money to be sent back to Italy… Or to start a new life as Dante. Dante becomes a master violinist playing in tango groups in the night clubs of Buenos Aires.
Within the complex understanding of a different time, Dante is by all appearances a trans man. He is attracted to women, but as a man, and prefers to live life as a man to the very end. The identity shift from Leda to Dante takes up much of the novel, but by the end there is blooming romance with another musician that ends on a beautiful and loving note.
And there we have it bookworms! Five books with LGBT+ romance elements! I also specifically only chose stories in which the romance ends positively (though I have not finished Maniscalco’s series, I have not heard anything online about the characters ending on a sour note). I hope you enjoyed these recs and check some of them out!