If you're in the US like I am, Thanksgiving is celebrated tomorrow and I thought I would share some Thanksgiving romances in case you're looking for something to enjoy over the weekend (or to escape into if family gets to be too much...).
Happy Halloween, my darlings! If you're celebrating, I hope you have a delightfully spooky day filled with the best treats. I'm going to do my best to contribute by bringing you some more paranormal book recs. Today, I have some ghost romances for you. These fall into two categories: stories in which the love interest is a ghost and stories in which there are ghosts (some as antagonists and some not).
I'm taking a break from posting paranormal recs this week (stay tuned for more on Halloween, though, and you can find my witch recs here and my vampire recs here) because it's Asexual Awareness Week, and I want to mark it with some book recommendations. These books all have characters (mostly main characters) on the asexuality spectrum. You can also check out this collection of ace spec books—I haven't read all of them, but I'll be taking a look too and a couple of mine are included.
I'm continuing my paranormal book recs this week with some vampire romances. There isn't anything scary here—like I said last week, I love spooky and atmospheric and paranormal, but I don't do horror. I don't seek out vampire books the way I do witch books, but I don't avoid them either and I read a ton of paranormal. And I've read/watched a bunch of vampire stories over the years—Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles books in high school (and the movie—I haven't seen the new television show yet, but I've heard it's fantastic, so it's on my list), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both movie and show, and later on some of Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake books and a few of Lynsay Sands's Argeneau series, and the Twilight series as well. Here are some of my favorite vampire romances that I come back to often:
It's October and my favorite time of year, and I've thrown myself into all the cozy things—cooking and baking favorite fall recipes with lots of pumpkin and butternut squash and apples and soups, fall decorations and candles, happily pulling out the sweaters and tights and boots. I also love that it's spooky season. I'm not into horror or anything too scary, but I do love my books to be witchy or otherwise paranormal this time of year (or just cozy autumn reads), so I thought I would do a few book rec posts this month. I'm writing this one while drinking apple cinnamon herbal tea out of my witch mug and eating a pumpkin muffin.
Today, I have a list of witchy (mostly romance) books for you. I have always loved witch stories in books or other media from reruns of Bewitched when I was a kid through Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch to reading The Witching Hour and the other Mayfair Witches books when I was fourteen or so to Practical Magic, which is still one of my favorite movies (and maybe the only time I've ever said the movie is better than the book), and of course Nora Roberts's various witch series. I'm currently in the beginning stages of writing a witch series of my own and putting the love of those stories to use. I'll share more about that when I can, but for now, here's my list for you (which took ages to narrow down).
It's Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th-October 15th), and I thought I would share some book recs. There are so many fantastic books by latinx authors, and it was difficult to narrow the list down to a handful to share! Please let me know what your favorites are—we can all grow our (already massive) TBR lists.
Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (F/F contemporary holiday romance): I know it's the wrong time of year for a Christmas romance, but I just love this one, so I'm sharing it anyway. Set at a baking competition in Scotland (see, right there, a big reason I was hooked!), two Dominican bakers with very different life experiences have to work together to win and end up falling for each other along the way.
Spellbound by Allie Therin (M/M historical fantasy): This 1920s-set historical fantasy (I don't know why I've really started to look for fantasy set during this time period, but I have) is the beginning of the Magic in Manhattan series. It combines fantastic characters, a sweet romance, intriguing world building, and a fun have-to-save-the-world plot.
Heart Haunt Havoc by Freydis Moon (Queer horror/romance novella): Full disclosure, I am not at all into horror and this novella rode the line of almost too creepy for me but not quite. I really enjoyed the romance between the trans exorcist called by a nonbinary brujo to help rid their house of a haunting and the gothic atmosphere. Probably a fantastic read as we get into spooky season!
The Sunbearer Trials by Aiden Thomas (YA fantasy): Pitched as Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games, The Sunbearer Trials was a fun book filled with Mexican mythology, adventure, and friendship with a delightful trans main character. I'm very much looking forward to the second book in the duology.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (YA fantasy): Labyrinth Lost is the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas series. Alex is incredibly powerful, but she hates magic. So she does a spell to take away her power, but it goes wrong and her family disappears, becoming trapped in another world. Alex has to travel there (shades of Alice in Wonderland/Narnia) to save them.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (Queer YA fantasy): I found it difficult to choose which of McLemore's books to list here, but finally went with Wild Beauty, which was the first of their books I read. It's also incredibly beautiful, just lovely writing and imagery and an exploration of family and loss and love. For generations, the Nomeolvides women have cared for the gardens of La Pradera—gorgeous gardens that amaze all who see them. They also hide the secret that anyone they love too deeply vanishes.
This year has been flying by! Somehow I blinked and it's already July. Does anyone else feel like the year is just speeding along? I had big plans for my reading last month, and as usual, they didn't come to fruition. But I did read some books I want to tell you about:
White Trash Warlock by David R Slayton (Urban fantasy with M/M romance): From the title, it feels like this book is going to be lighthearted, but it's definitely serious in tone and deals with issues of poverty and family trouble. Adam hasn't seen his brother or mother since they had him committed when he was a teenager because he could hear voices. The voices were actually spirits, but his family either didn't believe in his magic or didn't want to deal with it. He checked himself out as soon as he turned eighteen and has been living with a great-aunt with the same gifts as he has in her trailer, working odd jobs ever since. Then his brother calls Adam because his wife is under the influence of a spirit and Adam is the only one he knows who might be able to help. The world building is solid and interesting and the family grievances real and compelling. A great beginning to a series I will be continuing.
High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson (Fantasy with F/F romance): Lana is a brilliant scribe, who also believes herself to be absolutely charming with the ladies. While doing a favor for a fellow scribe, she angers a fairy and is sent to be a scribe at Low Parliament as a punishment. Once there, she finds things are not well and all of Parliament will be drowned if the members can't begin to agree. I'm a little torn about this novella. On the one hand, it was fun and quirky. On the other, I was so confused with the lack of world building. Fairies seem to be overlords of humans in this world, but not rulers really. There was a war at some point in the past that led to this situation and also the rules around Parliament. Also, there are only women in this world, but it's never mentioned why. It is a novella, and the length may account for the lack of world building. But I could have used a bit more. If you can ignore the questions and just go with it, as I said, it's a fun little novella.
Gateway Catastrophe by Louisa Masters (M/M paranormal romance): This was an excellent end to the Ghostly Guardians series, though I am sorry to see the series end (though I am excited to see that there is going to be a spin-off series, especially since it seems that it will involve some intriguing characters introduced in this book). While each book in the series follows a new couple and romance, the overall story carries from book to book, so definitely start this series from the beginning. The paranormal storyline is suspenseful and interesting, the characters and relationships are likable and relatable, and ghosts inhabiting the estate are hilarious.
Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen (Queer historical mystery): Lavender House is described as "Knives Out with a queer historical twist" and I can definitely see the comparison in this noir-ish mystery. In 1952 San Francisco, Andy has been fired from the police force after being caught in a raid at a gay bar. He lost his apartment and is drinking and contemplating suicide when Pearl finds him. She tells him her wife has been murdered and she needs him—a gay investigator—to find out who did it. Andy is introduced to the residents of Lavender House, people who have built a place and a family in which they can be themselves without worrying what the outside world would think of their sexualities or relationships. The mystery is satisfyingly twisty. I suspected who might have done it, but then thought maybe I was wrong several times. I also really loved the characters, Andy especially, and I'm so looking forward to the next book in the series when it comes out in the fall.
Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore (YA trans historical romance): Self-Made Boys is a remix of The Great Gatsby, part of a series of classics remixed to be told from the perspective of marginalized identities. Nicolas Caraveo is a young Latino trans man from the Midwest who is a whiz with math. His cousin Daisy persuades his parents to let him move to New York to take a job he's been offered on Wall Street. When he arrives, he finds that Daisy has remade herself and is passing for white to be accepted in society and become engage to Tom (because, as she says, if she has to marry, she's going to do it in a way that benefits her and allows her to help her family). Nick soon meets his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby, who throws lavish parties that bewilder Nick and is also trans. Jay has made himself into someone he hopes Daisy, his lost love, can be with, and Nick agrees to help him get her back, but falls for Jay himself in the process. I love this remix and how Nick's Latinx heritage and trans identity affect his perspective and the course of the story.
What have you read and loved lately?
I had planned more of these posts, but time got away from me, as it so often seems to. I wanted to get in one more before the end of Pride Month to give you a few more book recs (find my first post here and my second post here). Today, I'm giving you some recs for fantasy romance, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and SF romance. I probably could've done a post on each of those (which might have been the plan...), so even though I limited myself this is a long post.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree: In this cozy fantasy, battle-weary orc Viv decides to hang up her sword and open a coffee shop in a city that's never heard of coffee. The plot is gentle as she works to build her shop and make a home for herself and as she meets people and builds a family too. There's also a sweet F/F romance winding through the background.
So This is Ever After by FT Lukens: Arek is the chosen one of a prophecy that states he and his friends will save the kingdom from its evil ruler, but this book isn't about that. It begins as the prophecy is fulfilled. Arek is convinced to become king until the rightful heir is found—but he finds out there is no rightful heir and magic prevents him from renouncing the crown. And the magic also requires him to marry. He's been in love with his best friend for ages but doesn't think Matt loves him back, so he tries to find someone else to marry. It's a fun and funny and sweet stand alone.
In the Ravenous Dark by AM Strickland: Blood mage Rovan has been hiding her magic for her whole life because if people knew, she would be bound to a spirit who would control her, but her magic is discovered when she saves someone and she is forced to the palace where she is bound to a spirit and thrust into the politics and intrigue of the country. This book is far more serious than the last I listed but it has wonderful characters who learn to trust each other and become family as they incite a rebellion among both the living and the dead. Rovan is pansexual here and falls in love with both the sexy ghost she is bound to and a princess.
The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinka: In this YA fantasy, every year a boy is sacrificed to keep the tide from swallowing the island city. Lina is certain that this year her brother is going to be sacrificed. She asks the boy she secretly loves for help saving her brother, but it is the boy she loves who is taken. Lina goes to the Witch Queen Eva to trade herself for him. Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved and has sworn she won't make that mistake, that she will do what she has to to save her city, but she and Lina spend time together and begin to fall in love, even as the dark tide rises. I loved the atmosphere of this book—the island city felt a little fairy tale, a little Venetian, dark and beautiful.
Payback's a Witch by Lana Harper: I love a good witchy paranormal romance, and this (and the books that follow in the series) is one. Emmy ran from Thistle Grove to escape her lackluster magic and live a normal life away from the families of witches that founded the town and continue to inhabit is hundreds of years later. She only returns to fulfill a family obligation and plans to leave immediately after. She doesn't expect to join in a revenge pact, to learn more about herself, her family, and the magic of Thistle Grove, and to fall for Talia, another witch. It's a delightful book with lots of fall vibes and a good introduction to the world, which gets expanded on as we meet other people in the following books. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke: This paranormal romance/mystery is the beginning of a series that has become a favorite of mine. Wes is a not-ghost. He was dead but a witch brought him back, just not all the way. He's spent decades using his ghost-like abilities to retrieve items for clients. Only this time he witnesses a murder, which brings him back into the orbit of his ex, Hudson, who is now a vampire. It's such a fun book. I enjoyed the mystery and the second chance romance, and the building of a chosen family. Wes is also demisexual, and it's always great to find representation that's handled well.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas: Yadriel is a trans boy whose traditional Latinx family has a difficult time accepting that he can be a brujo. To prove that he is, he summons a ghost. He means to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin to set him free, but he gets a different ghost entirely—Julian, the school bad boy. And Julian isn't going to accept death quietly. He wants to find out what happened to him. The mystery and magic are both great, but the characters are the stars here. I adored this book.
Hunter of Demons by Jordan L. Hawk: In this first book in the SPECTR series, while trying to find the demon who killed his brother, Caleb is possessed by Gray, a drakul (sort of a vampire). Exorcist John is sent to remove Gray and finds out that, though he is a powerful exorcist, this is beyond him. The three main characters and the relationship that develops between them over the course of the series is wonderful, and the world building is fantastic.
The Last Sun by KD Edwards: This is the first book in the Tarot Sequence and I binged all the books that are out in a ridiculously short amount of time. I don't read much urban fantasy—I'm always looking for more romance and more character development. While I would have loved more page time for the romance in this series (because it's wonderful), I adore the characters and their dynamic with each other and the found family they build through these books. As the series continued, the world building deepened and plot twists popped up, and very much need to know how certain things are going to be resolved!
Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell: I adored this SF romance with an arranged marriage trope! When Imperial Prince Taam suddenly dies, his widower, Jainan, is rushed into another marriage with his husband's cousin Prince Kiem for political reasons. Then, it comes to light that Taam's death might have been murder and Jainin is a suspect. Kiem and Jainin have to learn to trust each other so they can solve the murder and avert an interplanetary war, all while falling in love with each other.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: I'm not entirely sure how to describe this book or the series it begins. Someone described it to me when it was released as lesbian necromancers in space. And, yes, that is part of it. It's a combination of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery. It has great characters and dialogue and interesting world building. And everything is put together is intriguing ways. And each book in the series so far is completely different from the last. This book introduces us to Gideon—who is dramatic and unashamed about checking out pretty girls and such a fun character. Gideon is made to be the cavalier to the Ninth House's heir who has been summoned, along with the heirs of all the houses to take part in trials by the emperor. What follows is sort of a locked room mystery with murder and puzzles and danger.
And since I write fantasy romance, I'm going to have to mention mine. The Chronicles of Tournai is a series of books revolving around the royal family of the principality of Tournai and their secrets and magic. Each book is a stand alone romance, but characters reappear in each book. If you want to start at the beginning, pick up The Prince's Consort, a prince/commoner romance. If you like dragon shifters, you can jump in with The Dragon's Devotion or The Envoy's Honor, or if you're looking for something extremely cozy (though none of my books are particularly high angst), try The Merchant's Love. For opposites attract plus spies and intrigue, you want The Artist's Masquerade. For opposites attract with some forced proximity, check out The Sorcerer's Guardian. For opposites attract with an age gap, take a look at The Spymaster's Secret. (Opposites attract is fun to write!)
My other series is Elemental Magicae, the two books in which should be read in order. A Dance of Water and Air starts with a prince being told he must marry the queen of a neighboring country in an arranged marriage. Only when he arrives, everything is very strange and he ends up falling in love with the queen's brother instead. When he's accused of trying to assassinate the queen, they flee, trying to save themselves and two kingdoms from danger.
In my first pride recs post this month, I recommended several queer historical romances, but while I was putting that list together, I kept coming across books that were historicals but also had magic of some kind involved. And since I love historical fantasy romances, I thought they deserved their own post (once again, I had to cut myself off ruthlessly, since there are a bunch of these I love and the list was getting unwieldy).
The Magpie Lord by KJ Charlies: I adore this book. I adore the whole series it begins, and I wish I could just leave this there and tell you to go read it, though I would be doing that with a bunch of books and I suppose that wouldn't be of much use to you... *sigh* Set in a Victorian world in which magic exists but most people don't know, this book brings us Lucien, the younger son of an earl who had been exiled to China as a young man because his father hated him (and unbeknownst to him, the descendant of a powerful magical practitioner called the Magpie Lord). He's only returned to England now because his father and older brother have died and he has to deal with the estate. But he finds himself repeatedly trying to kill himself. Which, it turns out, is caused by magic. Stephen shows up to deal with it—grudgingly because Lucien's horrible father and brother ruined the lives of his parents. But there's much more going on than they realize at first. Everything about this is delightful. The characters, the romance and the tension between Lucien and Stephen, the dialogue and the magic.
Widdershins by Jordan L Hawk: Whyborne is a philologist living a quiet, lonely life, translating dead languages in his basement office of the Ladysmith Museum in Widdershins, Massachusetts, where is only friend is the museum's lady archeologist (Christine is fantastic). Everything changes when a private investigator comes to him for help deciphering a code. They are flung into a world of magic, monsters, and secret societies that only deepens as we move through each book of the series. Whyborne and Griffin's relationship and its progression through the books is lovely, and so is the deepening of the bonds between the found family that grow throughout the series.
A Marvellous Light and A Restless Truth by Freya Marske: The first two books in The Last Binding trilogy are both wonderful, though quite different from each other (and I eagerly and impatiently await the third book, which will be out later this year...). It's Edwardian England and magic is real, though most don't know about it. Robin stumbles into knowledge of magic accidentally and also into danger and mystery. He and Edwin have no choice but to work together, and of course end up falling in love in a lovely romance. The second book, A Restless Truth, gives us an utter romp on an ocean liner carrying Robin's sister Maud from New York back to England. She joined in Robin and Edwin's cause and went to New York to find someone for them. But now there's a murder and a missing item (and a rude parrot) on a ship. Maud finds allies, including the mysterious Violet. (Seriously, I want book three now.)
A Master of Djinn by P Djèlí Clark: Clark reimagines Egypt as a country that threw off colonial oppression and became a world power with the help of the djinn and their magic. It's 1912 as this story begins, and Fatma is an agent for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, who, with her new partner Hadia, has to investigate a mystery with massive implications. I had so much fun reading this story. The characters are fantastic, the mystery is twisty, and the fantasy/steampunk-ish world is intriguing. There's also an F/F romance that, while not the focus of the story, is important and easy to get invested in.
Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch: Soren, Lord Thornby, has been trapped on his father's isolated estate for a year—he isn't locked up, but he can't leave and he's beginning to think he's going insane. John, an industrial magician, arrives at the estate to do a favor for a friend—determine if Thornby is tormenting his stepmother with magic. He discovers something else entirely. This book is a frequent reread of mine. I love the magic system, which is unique and intriguing and layered. The characters are all intriguing as well, and the relationship between Soren and John is wonderful. They're so prickly with each other, until they aren't anymore. Really lovely and deeply emotional.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo: I know I said romances in my intro, but this isn't one. I'll just put that out there, so no one gets the wrong idea. It is a gorgeously written reimagining of The Great Gatsby told from the perspective of Jordan, in this version a queer Asian woman who had been adopted by a wealthy white family as a child. The story is fairly faithful to the original but the change in point of view and the addition of magic create something new.
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh: Tobias is tied to Greenhollow Wood, and has been for a long time. He lives a quiet life there and doesn't dwell on what brought him there. Then Henry Silver moves into Greenhollow Hall, and his curiosity begins to dredge up past secrets. This is a dreamy, sumptuous novella that draws on folklore to imbue the forest with magic. The romance between Tobias and Silver is sweet and emotional. And there's a follow up that I need to read because I absolutely wanted more.
Do you have any favorites?
I know everyone recommends books during Pride Month, but I'm going to do it too because I love talking about books and sharing books I've enjoyed. While staring at my bookcases and Kindle library and audiobook library and feeling slightly overwhelmed (but also loving the sight of all those books...), I decided to split up my recs by genre and give you a few posts this month. First up is historical romance, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. (Do not ask me how difficult narrowing the list down was or how many books are waiting for me to read!)
The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite: This book is a lovely F/F Regency romance between two women who have been scarred by past relationships. It's a slow burn, full of care and passion. It's also a depiction of women's strength and kindness and support of one another, and an exploration of the value of art and craft and traditional women's work, along science and women's contributions to it and how they were so often ignored or stolen. The other two books in the Feminine Pursuits series--The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows and The Hellion's Waltz—are both excellent as well.
That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole: That Could Be Enough is only about a hundred pages, but it is a beautiful, gentle romance between two Black women in the post-Revolutionary War United States. Mercy is the secretary/lady's maid to Eliza Hamilton, and Andromeda is a dressmaker in New York. They are very much opposites, but they find what they need in each other with much yearning along the way.
Think of England by KJ Charles: Okay, so, it was extremely difficult to pick a KJ Charles to highlight because I love so many of her books. Ultimately, I went with Think of England because it is a favorite of mine and because it's set in the Edwardian period, which is different from other books I have on this list. Stoic, manly ex-Army captain Archie Curtia goes to a remote country house party to find out if the malfunctioning guns that injured him and killed his friends were the product of sabotage. There, he meets Daniel DaSilva, a femme Jewish poet who is also a secret agent there to investigate a blackmail scheme. They clash, then work together, then fall for each other (and I will never stop wishing there were more books about these two!). The book has a fantastic plot and wonderful characters, two of which, Pat and Fen, have their story told in the prequel Proper English, which is also delightful. Charles's Will Darling Adventures are set in the same world about twenty years later and have some fun character crossovers.
Introducing Mr. Winterbourne by Joanna Chambers: I almost picked Joanna Chambers's Enlightenment series, a wonderful Scotland-set historical romance series, to talk about, but I just adore this novella too much. Adam Freeman is a wealthy mill owner used to being looked down upon by aristocratic society in Regency England, but when his younger brother becomes engaged to the daughter of an aristocratic society, he agrees to be introduced to society by Lysander Winterbourne. This begins with a slight enemies to lovers cast, as Adam believes Lysander will treat him as others have, but it's just lovely as they begin to get know each other. My only complaint at the time was that it ended, but now there's more in this series, so I can't complain anymore.
Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian: The Page & Sommers books are probably my favorite Cat Sebastian books (anyone know if there are going to be more of them? because I would very much enjoy that), though I have a hard time picking favorites of anything. These two books, of which Hither, Page is the first, are a mix of Agatha Christie-esque mystery and mm romance set in a post-WWII English village. James is a country doctor with what we would call PTSD from the war, who has escaped into the life of a country doctor. Leo is a spy and secret agent and has been for most of his life, but is now jaded and wondering why he's doing it. They meet because of a murder in the village. The mystery is excellent, the characters are all fully realized, and the romance is a wonderful, gentle slow burn with a warm, cozy feel to it.
The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley: One more Regency romance for you! This one is an absolute romp of a f/nb (Tommy seems nonbinary from the text anyway) romance between Tommy, a master of disguise who only wants to be loved and accepted for who she is, and Philippa, a demisexual bluestocking with wealthy, overbearing parents who want her to make the best marriage possible (despite what she wants). The romance between the two is delightful, with lots of banter and fun but also heartfelt moments. The mystery/heist part of the novel was also lots of fun. This is the second book in the series, but I read it without reading the previous book first and was perfectly fine.
Do you have any favorite LGBTQ historical romances?
Antonia is a writer and a reader and a copy editor/proofreader. She loves books, travel, art, photography, baking, pasta, and shoes.