5 queer romances that will get you through spring fever
Because we all need a little more love (and fictional drama) in our lives.
I was weaned on romance novels. My mother had every book that Danielle Steele ever wrote, and I would spend summers under shady trees gorging on them. One summer, my mother wanted to encourage my reading habits, so we made something of a game of my literary compulsion. Before breakfast each day, I would read the first chapter of a new romance novel and during our meal I would make my predictions for what would happen and who the leading lady would end up in bed with along the way.
By the end of that summer, I had an almost 100% accuracy rate at plot prediction. Unfortunately, being a prodigy at predicting formulaic chick lit isn’t a particularly valuable skill. And as I matured and got in touch with my queerness, the books lost their appeal. The predictability that I once found comforting began to feel stifling and a bit hopeless — there was simply no kind of love in those novels that I wanted for myself or could see myself in.
It wasn't until the pandemic that I decided to revisit the genre. Honestly, I didn’t have much hope. I figured that queer romance would just be rainbowashed versions of the status quo. Sure, there’s some of that out there, but not only did I discover that I am still totally here for formulaic fiction (provided that it includes LGBTQ+ folx and POC), I found that LGBTQ+ love stories often deliver more than sex and love — they give us much-needed models for the future of queer love. This list is for anyone who might need a renewed sense of romantic hope after our winter of discontent.
Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters
Detransition Baby is, arguably, one of the most groundbreaking books of the year. It centers around the lives of Ames, Katrina, and Reese — three people trying to figure out what it means for TGNC people to make a nontraditional family. It’s not quite a love story, but it’s not not a love story, either. Detransition Baby drops like a lovebomb to remind you that queer love and family are possible, even if they can be a bit messy.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
One Last Stop is a paranormal romance about August, a bisexual Brooklyn millennial who meets Jane, a hot punk butch who thinks it’s 1982, on the subway. These women find a way to be together despite the supernatural odds against them and their totally different experiences of queerness. A lot of queer stories either casually assume the cultural acceptance of queerness or are totally plotted around subverting the heteronormative status quo. Instead, One Last Stop shows what can happen when we acknowledge — and fall in love with — the struggle and the progress queers have made.
How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole
How to Find a Princess is a queer twist on the — now somewhat cliche — romantic search for an African princess written by the author of bestseller When No One Is Watching. Yes, some of the plotlines are predictable and a bit incredible, but the smoldering tension between the Makeda and Beznaria, the two Black women at the heart of this story, makes the wild ride more than worth it. How To Find a Princess lets you disappear into an escapist fairytale in which the queen finds the woman of her dreams.
Under The Whispering Door by TJ Klune
Under the Whispering Door is a story about Wallace, a dead bisexual man who finds the love of his life after death. In life, Wallace was an uptight twink attorney but his experiences with Hugo, the dreadlocked psychopomp charged with ushering him into the next phase of existence, changed him. The clearly fantastical nature of this book makes it no less believable. Under The Whispering Door artfully renders the intensity of romantic longing and leaves you with a sigh of relief.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
The Charm Offensive is a textbook meet-cute that goes totally off the rails. Dev Deshpande is the handler for a reality TV show who falls in love with the bachelor himself. Obviously, there’s tons of drama, but it’s intertwined with subtle and important conversations about things that never seem to make it into romance novels. Cochrun handles mental illness and asexuality with deft humanity and The Charm Offensive makes it really seem like love is accessible to all.