For a long time, when you thought about romance novels, you couldn’t help but picture Fabio’s flowing mane, or your mother’s secret stash of Jackie Collins. But when Fifty Shades of Grey came around, it did more than just titillate the masses—it opened the door for romance and erotica novels to make their way into the mainstream. It was finally OK to get absorbed in (and turned on) by a book, and feel no shame. (Well, digital readers didn’t hurt either.)
Now romance novels make up a healthy chunk of new book sales, and it’s about time. There are publishing houses that specialize in LGBTQ romance like Bold Strokes and Bella Books, and consistently put out high quality, engaging and addictive novels and short stories.
Want to sink your teeth into a juicy romance? Here are a few to get you started. (Most of the books are available in both e-format and paperback.)
Waiting in the Wings by Melissa Brayden (Bold Strokes Books)
Melissa Brayden is one of my favorite lesbian romance writers, and in the short time she’s been publishing with Bold Strokes (only since 2011) her books have been consistently excellent and engaging. Waiting in the Wings is actually her first book, and I consider it her best. It’s a story of a showmance between two young musical theatre actresses, and the inevitable complications that arise when love and ambition come head to head. Sexy, funny and all around enjoyable.
A Knight to Remember by Bridget Essex (Rose and Star Press)
Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? This book brings the modern world and fantasy together in a really lovely way. Holly is a librarian, much more comfortable with her nose pressed in a book than anywhere else. Everything changes when a warrior woman named Virago and a dangerous beast, escape from her favorite fantasy novel and into her world. This book is entirely charming, and you’d be hard pressed to find a sexier or more dashing heroine that Virago. Also, nice cover art!
Silver Wings by H.P. Munro (self-published)
If you are a sucker for period pieces, then you will like Silver Wings. Set during WWII, the story focuses on the brave women of the W.A.S.P program. While training to fly military missions, sparks fly between civilian pilot Lily Rivera and stuntwoman Helen Richmond. I especially like this book because, in addition to having two solid leads, the supporting characters are well-drawn. It’s also quite evident that a lot of research went into making this novel as rich and authentic as possible.
The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer (Bookouture)
This book managed to get a spot in our Book Club earlier this year, and I can see why. While the characters do have the most romancey of names (Kendall and Payton, of course) their relationship is the stuff modern romance novels are made of. Best friends who fall in love under extraordinary circumstance. Kendall is a young and wildly successful actress, who invites her longtime BFF Kendall to live with her in LA. Longing glances, misunderstandings and passionate confessions ensue.