Ready to dive into an inclusive romance story? Looking to mix up your usual reading material? Whew child, it’s getting steamy in here! We’ve got a list of the top 10 absolute best LGBTQ romance novels we could get our hands on and put them in a list just for you. Now romance comes in all shapes and sizes, but for LGBTQ readers, it’s nice to get a little representation. Plus, these stories are engaging for any reader!
The number one stand out for us is Cleanness by Garth Greenwell. Cleanness has a compelling story with complex, relatable characters. It’s beautifully written with prose that's on par with classic literature. And it’s part of a series to boot! Keep reading for more of our favorites and a buying guide.
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Table of Contents
Romance is and always has been one of the most popular genres, which means that the genre is absolutely full of novels that just might not be to your liking. To help you choose, we've broken down how to pick a perfect romance book for you. (If only romance was always that easy!)
Romance can be written a number of different ways. The first thing you want is to figure out whether you want a hot, steamy love affair between two lustful protagonists or something a bit more tame, like a YA novel about a complex protagonist coming to terms with their sexuality.
Romance stories also have other aspects to consider, like the tone. Some involve upbeat humor and a fresh take on the happily-ever-after trope. These novels often have the romance front and center to keep you hooked and move the plot forward. Others involve a more introspective or even somber tone as the protagonist struggles to find love.
Then there's perspective. If you're someone trying to understand or trying to come to terms with a gender or sexuality, you can go for a book that offers a lot of first-person perspective from characters living with that identity. It can also give you insight into how they react internally to others' perceptions of them.
Contemporary romance almost always means modern love stories. These stories are typically set anytime after World War II. A contemporary romance will appeal to those of us that want love stories with relevant societal issues and everyday characters.
Contemporary novels often involve mature themes and may involve heavy subject matter, especially if it's set in the pre-2000's era when many different sexualities were widely considered taboo. It can give you insight into what has changed since then and what hasn't. You should check out our number one on the list if this sounds like the kind of water you want to dip your toe in!
Step back into the halls of high school with a young adult romance novel. Most YA novels are extremely character-driven, which is perfect for those of us that get attached to the characters we read about. They also tend to be set in contemporary times, so some of the issues that characters go through will be more relatable.
While the themes in YA novels can be just as heavy as their adult counterparts, they're usually handled in a more light-hearted tone and often have a happily-ever-after ending. If you want a faster-paced read, this is usually the way to go.
If you're the kind of reader who loves a romance story with a dash of tension, then a romantic suspense novel might be for you. They have a faster pace with unpredictable twists and turns.
While the romance in these stories might not be quite as hot and heavy as some others, they can still bring tears to your eyes. Romance suspense novels keep you passionately invested in the fate of the lovers and even the fate of the world.
While it might be stating the obvious a bit, the length and format of a book can play a huge role in whether or not you decide to purchase it. Here's what we think you should consider.
These days you have your choice of story medium. If you don't have the time to sit down and crack open a book or sit down with your eReader, then consider an audiobook alternative. An audiobook is excellent if you're stuck in a car all day or if you just like to multitask.
You can get most novels on audiobook, but listener beware! A steamy, lust-filled romance novel should probably be paired with a good set of headphones unless you want everyone around you to hear what the characters are saying in their most private moments.
Unfortunately, most of us don't have time to read a 300,000-word masterpiece no matter how beautifully written it may be.
Getting immersed in a book is wonderful, but there's nothing worse than being ripped out of a story to do something else. Consider how much time you have to read and weigh it against the number of pages in the novel. Faster paced, light-hearted stories are great for that 30-minute lunch break or just before bed.
It’s great to find an author that feels like they’re writing the story just for you. But, sometimes stepping outside of your literary comfort zone can be one of the best choices you can make.
For example, do you normally only read authors who write slow southern romance? Then check out a quick read about a busy city slicker to mix it up and keep your reading material fresh. Better yet, look for authors that share the same gender or sexuality as their characters if you want it to be extra-relatable.
Do you find yourself falling in love with characters and settings easily? Do you often reread romance novels to try to recapture the feeling of the first time the protagonists kissed?
Then be on the lookout for a romance series. That way, by the time you leave the lush world of the romance in one volume, you know there’s so much more to enjoy before you let the characters go. Just keep in mind that you might have to wait a while for the next installment!
There are plenty of readers who absolutely obsess over great romance novels. Find out what others are saying about the newest romance books to help hone in on the perfect novel for you.
There are plenty of platforms, like Goodreads, or Instagram hashtags, like #bookstagram, you can explore. Romance readers use these tools so they can converge and discuss the fates of their favorite helplessly romantic characters and stories!
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Beautiful Prose, a Foreign Land, and Hot & Steamy Romance
You Should See Me In A Crown
A Delightfully Upbeat and Witty Read
When Katie Met Cassidy
Check Out This Irresistible and Fast-Paced Story
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
Take a Humorous Peek into the Memoirs of a Trans Teen Discovering Self-Care
Only Mostly Devastated: a Novel
Complex Characters, Broad Representation, and a Compelling Story
Leap Into The Life of a Lovelorn Celebrity and His Accidental Crush
Something to Talk About
Step Into the Shoes of a Hollywood Star and Discover Love Beneath the Lights
Felix Ever After
The Life of a Trans Teenager Who Wears Their Heart on Their Sleeve
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali
A Sweet, Heartwarming Tale About True Love and Coming Out to Religious Parents
The Music of What Happens
Delve Into the Lives of Two Lovers Struggling to Find Their Way
This tender first-person romance by Garth Greenwell takes place in Bulgaria. It's perfect for readers familiar with Shadows of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Cleanness depicts the saga of an American teacher living abroad coming to terms with the loss of love. The Victorian beauty and emotion-wrenching sentences make this novel a must-read.
Some readers had an issue with the level of pretension and graphic sex scenes. Others enjoyed witnessing the protagonist's internal struggle and journey into sexual explorations. Plus, readers found the protagonist relatable. Overall, themes of change and awakening are wonderfully intertwined in this romance novel.
You Should See Me in a Crown was written by self-described eternal Midwesterner Leah Johnson. Follow the high school adventures of Liz Lighty, a queer black girl navigating high school while discovering her own sexual identity.
This quick read and upbeat YA novel is written in the first person for added suspense, and a lot of care has gone into writing each character as an individual. You won’t find any filler chapters in this passionately-written ode to coming-of-age and being unique.
Now we don’t want to give away too much about this enlightening, feel-good novel, but readers call this book an emotional roller coaster with sweeping highs and lows. It’s been described as cute and intensely relatable even by those who don’t normally pick out YA fiction.
However, some readers found the subject matter to be portrayed in a way that felt a little shallow. Readers also wanted an epilogue to help round out the ending. Overall, however, it’s an excellent read for those looking for a refreshing take on YA and what it means to be in love.
Written by Camille Perry, an editor for Cosmopolitan, this fast-paced novel is not afraid to jump between points of view when it serves the story. This novel excels at throwing you into the action. Gone are the days of pages and pages of prologue. Thanks to the pacing, When Katie Met Cassidy is the definition of a page-turner.
Jump in and join witty and relatably insecure Katie on her journey through the corporate world, heartbreak, and self-discovery. It’s a classic tale of opposites attracting but in a blunt, reflective manner that draws into question the standards imposed on women in the corporate legal world.
Some readers did call into questions the clichés it reinforces and its lack of focus on bisexuality. Overall the story is a quick and fun read for those who love character-driven stories and challenging themes.
For the most part, readers have hailed this novel as an oasis in a desert of queer fiction. The characters are three dimensional and inspiring. It’s also been applauded for its realistic depiction of coming out to parents and the way it handles the burgeoning relationship between Katie and Cassidy.
This insightful novel is as much romance as it is a memoir. It lets the readers come in close to one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking stories you'll read this year.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story revolves around Tobia's childhood, first love, and journey into self-actualization. It balances serious topics with a sense of humor that will leave you smiling. Plus, readers of any gender will be able to relate to Tobia's struggle with self-acceptance.
Some readers took issue with the memoir format of storytelling. However, most reviewers praise the novel's ability to cultivate and challenge the reader's perceptions of gender identity. Readers say this thought-provoking novel is a must-read for both LGBTQ people and allies alike!
This charming YA novel by Sophie Gonzales cements itself as a modern classic thanks to its fascinating characters, excellent writing, and fully developed story.
Follow Ollie as he ends the best summer of his young life with his new crush, Will. But when things go awry and Ollie has to move across the country, what will become of the new couple? They end up meeting again unexpectedly, but Ollie is surprised at Will's personality at school.
Some readers called out the story for its similarities to the movie Grease. However, many thought that this spectacular novel shines thanks to its feel-good story and witty dialogue. Plus, reviewers loved Ollie and found him very relatable.
This hilarious and sexy romance novel will keep you laughing and on the edge of your seat the entire ride. Step into the life of Luc O' Donnell, the son of a rockstar, who needs a seemingly normal relationship to satisfy his father, the press, and the public.
Enter Oliver Blackwood. Together they start a fake relationship that has the potential for much, much more. While there's plenty of humor in this story, there's also a lot of real feelings and touching moments.
There is distaste from some reviewers for the toxic relationship of the main characters, and some thought the pacing was slow.
However, many readers applauded the novel for its wit and internal monologues. It wastes no time on filler, and every character is well-rounded and engaging. If you love humor and smart writing, this novel will feel right at home.
Something to Talk About gives a look into the lives of Jo, a Hollywood icon, and Emma, her assistant. They have a scandalous love affair and slowly discover their feelings for each other over the course of the story.
A few readers called into question the pacing and predictable outcome of the story. However, many readers enjoyed the slow build of their relationship.
Overall this novel is great for readers who enjoy romance set against glitz, glamour, and high fashion. Readers praise the sweet characters and how the plot touches on current social issues. Plus, many reviewers said they couldn't put this book down!
This YA novel by Kacen Callender chronicles the story of Felix Love, a gay, black, trans kid on a journey to find love and come to terms with his complex identity. Humorously written and light-hearted, Felix Ever After lets the characters and communities speak for themselves.
Some readers didn't like the amount of profanity and felt that the middle of the story was slow. However, many readers loved Felix and found his story incredibly moving.
The novel is written for those that can relate to having a marginalized identity and enjoy off-beat, funny writing. Plus, reviewers say that the book deals with serious topics without feeling overly heavy.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Kahn is an exciting addition to any LGBTQ reading list. This romantic gem is full of wisdom, humor, and drama.
Rukhsana Ali is in love with her girlfriend, Ariana, but Rukhsana's mother has no idea her daughter is a lesbian. Rukhsana doesn't know how to tell her mother or father about who she really is.
Critical readers are quick to point out what they consider a lackluster ending and occasionally uneven pacing thorough the novel.
However, many reviewers find the main character relatable and love the rawness of the story. The greatest parts of this romantic drama are the well-written characters, cultural insights, and stellar plot.
Meet Max and Jordan, polar opposites growing up in the '80s. The two are at the start of adulthood and madly in love. However, they both have complicated home lives and haven't quite figured out how to go after what they want.
This deep, poetic novel is sure to draw you in. Although, some readers state they mistook the book for being YA and were shocked by the mature themes and situations.
A majority of readers left rave reviews because of the emotional core of the novel that's sure to tug on your heartstrings. Readers felt like the characters were very genuine and appreciated the author's masterful writing.
Do you enjoy other genres and exploring new types of stories? Add some of our favorite novels to your reading list!
No. 1: Garth Greenwell｜Cleanness
No. 2: Leah Johnson｜You Should See Me In A Crown
No. 3: Camille Perri｜When Katie Met Cassidy
No. 4: Jacob Tobia｜Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story
No. 5: Sophie Gonzales｜Only Mostly Devastated: a Novel
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