Happy Pride! Top ten queer romances by POC authors

Here’s the deal. My two kids are college age, and they’re both the kind of bright, assertive young people who are gathering all over this country to demonstrate against police brutality and in support of #BlackLivesMatter. So far neither has been arrested or caught in any violence, but there have been some scary moments.

You know, I never did think to put, “Mom, I’m at a demonstration for farm workers rights and the Nazis are here and they have guns” on my short list of desired text messages.

So what do I do when the world is burning? I read romance. And how should we celebrate Pride in the year of our Lord 2020?

How about a list of novels featuring queer characters of all kinds by POC authors!

Some of these are old favorites, and some are new discoveries, and I hope you’ll find a story our two that you love, even as they draw you outside of your normal routine….

Jude LucensBehind these Doors

Behind These Doors: Radical Proposals Book 1

This books is AMAZING. It’s an award-winning polyamorous Edwardian romance that’s had incredible reviews and is just so, so good. Behind These Doors is grounded in both emotional truth and historical fact, where the harsh realities of the time period amplify the story’s sweetness and heart.

Buy Links for Behind These Doors


Holly TrentThe Plot Twist series

Holley Trent has created this fantastic trilogy of polyamorous romances that explore the ways men and women love each other. Each book features different characters and different romantic pairings, and if there’s a common theme, it’s that joy can be found in unexpected ways.


Atom YangThe Red Envelope

Cover of Red Envelope depicting a young, handsome Asian man in a suit, leaning against a wall and gazing toward to the viewer.

Red Envelope is short but lovely, and it proved to me how good own-voices stories can be. Atom Yang’s eye for detail elevated the story and made it one I remember.

Buy Link for Red Envelope
(It’s in KU!)

Cover of Tea at the End of the World depicting a handsome, young Asian man partially submerged in a white liquid with his eyes closed and face, neck, and chest above the liquid.
Haven’t read this one yet but OMG the cover!!!

Adriana HerreraDreamers Series

True confessions: I have three of these on my kindle but haven’t read them yet. I will, though! I’ve heard so many, many good things about them. Here’s a peak at the author’s blurb for the series:

The Dreamers series follows best friends— Nesto, Camilo, Patrice and Juan Pablo. Four Afro-Latinx men who came up together in the South Bronx, as they chase after their dreams and get unapologetic happy endings.

The Dreamer Series on Goodreads


Courtney MilanMrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

cover for Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure, an elderly woman in a blue dress with the houses of Parliament in the background

This book! I’m not quite as old as Bertrice and Violetta, but oh did they resonate for me. I laughed and I cried and I fell a little bit in love with their story. Courtney’s known for writing m/f romance, but she has a couple of stories with queer characters that are definitely worth checking out.

Buy links for Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure


Cole McCade/XenShatterproof

SHATTERPROOF: Remastered Edition: The DISSONANT Universe: Countdown -3 by [Xen]

I gotta be honest. Xen/Cole McCade is an excellent wordsmith, whether he’s writing freaky dark stuff as Xen or contemporary romance as Cole. I haven’t yet dared Shatterproof, though my writing partner Irene loved it. She also really liked The Whites of their Eyes: A collection of queer horror, also by Xen. My taste runs closer to His Cocky Valet, book 1 in Cole’s Undue Arrogance series. See? There’s something for everyone!

His Cocky Valet (Undue Arrogance Book 1) by [Cole McCade]

Buy link for Shatterproof
Buy link for His Cocky Valet
They’re both in KU!


Alyssa ColeOnce Ghosted, Twice Shy

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5)

This book intrigues me. It’s the only f/f story in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, and the cover is just so very good. Alyssa’s known for her m/f contemporary romances and especially for her Loyal League series of historical romances, which, hey, I’m a history nerd, so they’re totally my thing.

Her award-winning Loyal League series – An Extraordinary Union, A Hope Divided, and An Unconditional Freedom – are set in the Civil War era South. The characters in these m/f romances are black, and they’re strong and they’re real, and they find love.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy on Goodreads


Talia HibbertWork for It

Work for It by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert’s another author who’s better known for writing m/f romance. She has such enthusiastic fans that I was jazzed when I heard she’d written an m/m romance. But see, I do this thing where I’ll catch the buzz when a book is coming out and I’ll get all excited and preorder it and then when it finally releases I won’t want to read it because I don’t want to spoil the anticipation. Or thereabouts. Anywhoodle, I’ve had Work for It on my kindle since its release day and between that gorgeous cover and all the great reviews, I really do need to bump it to the top of the pile.

Find Work for It on Goodreads


CL PolkWitchmark

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle Book 1) by [C. L. Polk]

Witchmark is a historical fantasy, and while it’s not technically a romance- romance, there’s a queer love story in an amongst the magic. Here’s a snippet from an enthusiastic review:

“Polk has created an amazing new world with hints of Edwardian glamour, sizzling secrets, and forbidden love that crescendos to a cinematic finish. WITCHMARK is a can’t-miss debut that will enchant readers.” 
—Booklist, starred review

Find Witchmark on Goodreads


Rebekah WeatherspoonTreasure

Rebekah Weatherspoon writes romance and erotic romance and kink. She’s also something of a fireball on twitter (@RdotSpoon), and she organizes WOC in Romance, a website that’s dedicated to promoting books by authors of color. (You can also support WOCIR on Patreon to help them get the word out.) I’ve heard Rebekah speak at a couple of conferences, and while she’s written a number of f/f stories, for this post I wanted to highlight Treasure because her in-person enthusiasm for the book made me want to read it!

Find Treasure on Goodreads


Bonus

Tom & LorenzoLegendary Children

Legendary Children by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez

This is not a romance (oops!). As the subtitle says, it’s an examination of the first decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the last century of queer life. Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez are two of my very favorite bloggers, and at Tom&Lorenzo.com they go about judging celebrity fashion, television, and life in general with a healthy mix of take-no-bullshit and give-credit-where-its-due. They’ve been writing about RuPaul since Drag Race started, and in Legendary Children they bring wit and insight and compassion to this serious look at queer history that manages to be both informative and very, very funny. Highly recommend!

Legendary Children on Penguin/Random House


If you want to keep going, look for books by Avril Ashton, Riley Hart, Robin Covington, Ada Maria Soto, or Jude Sierra. You can find even more rec’s on this master list from the POC Queer Romance Authors Community

And….if you’re around and about, here’s a list of black-owned bookstores for you to support, compiled by Brain Mill Press:
Brain Lair Books, South Bend, IN
Cafe Con Libros, Brooklyn, NY
A Different Booklist, Toronto, ON
The Dock Bookshop, Fort Worth, TX
EsoWon Books, Los Angeles, CA
EyeSeeMe, University City, MO – children’s books
Frugal Bookstore, Boston, MA
Harriet’s Bookshop, Philadelphia, PA
The Lit. Bar, Bronx, NY
Loyalty Bookstore, Washington, DC
Pyramid Books, Little Rock, AK
Semicolon, Chicago, IL
Sister’s Uptown Bookstore, New York, NY
Source Booksellers, Detroit, MI – nonfiction
Uncle Bobbies Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, PA

A Sexy Cycle: The Normalizing Power of Erotica

venice, romance, italy, blue
Image by Gnuckx, used under CC license.

Last week, fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland wrote about this being the golden age of smut. She of course referred to erotica, and described it (very aptly) as romance without the fade to black.

No curtains drawn, no blurry watercolors to be found. Erotica takes you not just into the bedroom, but underneath the sheets with the protagonists. It’s no secret that erotica has existed for a long time. Kristin wrote about how this golden age has come to be, and as I read her post and chatted with her about it, we both realized there was more to say on the subject.

50 Shades of Grey has been credited with bringing kink out of the closet. Detractors (myself included to an extent) will remark that its story is far from a normal, healthy BDSM relationship. Safewords ignored, consent in the titular shades of grey when it’s something that ought to be black and white, stalkerish behavior, and abusive red flags are all reasons I agree with that — but I will give it credit for one major, major thing: its normalizing power. Because of its success, many other authors have followed in its wake. My new rave is one Kristin already mentioned, Abigail Barnette’s The Boss trilogy. For me, that series is what 50 Shades wanted to be — Barnette created characters who have their issues but who deeply love and respect one another, for whom consent is first priority, and whose kinks are not acted out in an abusive manner. Also, her characters have lives and goals, friends and families and all the nuance that comes with them.

Erotica as a genre is something I’ve come to love. Over the past few months, I’ve read Mina Vaughn’s How To series featuring the elusive Dommes (or FemDoms) in a market saturated by male Dominants. Her books are often funny and lighthearted, but they depict BDSM in a down-to-earth way that gets me coming back for more. Tamara Mataya writes books with women who know what they want. I was fortunate enough to get a sneaky beta peek at her newest project, also centered in the BDSM world, and lemme just say — you want to keep an eye on her. I’ve also been reading Sylvia Day, Tiffany Reisz, and Amanda Byrne — all women to watch.

One thing that has struck me about the erotica genre is the power it has. It not only can erm…move you in unexpected ways…but in a world fraught with sexual shame and dichotomies and Madonna-whore complexes, erotica is a refreshing look at what things could be. Today I wanted to look at how erotica could very well change the world.

1. Turning Shame to Sex Positivism

Women especially are taught from an early age that our bodies don’t belong to us. “Don’t wear that; people will think you’re a [slut, whore, easy, tramp, floozy].” “She’s asking for it in that.” “Aren’t you just a pretty little princess?” “Don’t touch yourself! Dirty!” It’s reinforced in myriad ways through a culture that objectifies women’s bodies. Even Meghan Trainor’s smash hit All About That Bass is centered around the message that having curves is good because boys like women with booties. Not because your body is right and perfect as it is just because it is — but because of how men relate to it. It took a whole bunch of listens for me to put my finger on what bothered me about it, and since then it’s lost a bit of its empowering punch for me, also because of some backhanded jabs at women who happen to be slender. “And no I won’t be no stick figure, silicone Barbie doll…..I’m bringing booty back, go on and tell them skinny bitches that/Naw, I’m just playin’ I know y’all think you’re fat.”

There’s been enough shame, thank you. Let’s agree that all body types are worthy and that no matter what you look like, you’re a fucking 10 just because you’re YOU.

Erotica has the power to depict sexual relationships in a way that is positive and reverent — even when it gets right down to the sweat, the fluids, and the tumescent members. (Heyo, 10 Things I Hate About You)

In erotica, women are allowed to own their sexuality, to be the sexual instigators, and to be the ones with the higher sex drives. For me, reading stories where that was the case was more true to my own experience in several of my past relationships, and if I’m any indication, that can be a massively validating thing for any reader.

Sex positivism is something I long to see more of in the world and in fiction, and erotica not only allows for it, but it celebrates it. Stories have power to change the way we think. Seeing a protagonist take ownership of her body, her sexuality, and her desire can make others feel good about doing the same.

2. Exploring Kink

When even basic “vanilla” sexuality is colored with the marker of shame, exploring other proclivities can be even scarier for people. Erotica is a glorious safe space. As Kristin mentioned, with the advent of e-readers, anyone can read anything anywhere without the fear of someone scoffing at the cover or calling them out.

Beyond that, erotica is a place where readers can live vicariously through protagonists who might be into things we’ve never tried. From light bondage to caning, fisting to anal play, erotica is a safe space to engage with ideas and see how they can play out. One of the most awesome things about erotica for me has been to see writers who ensure they are depicting kink in a way that celebrates the kinkster code of Safe, Sane, and Consensual. (Or, alternatively, Risk-Aware Consensual Kink.) This means erotica writers who don’t shy from condoms and other barrier methods, who frankly discuss risks, and do it all with flair that makes even escapism something to emulate in real life.

Even if you don’t want to rush out and buy canes and spreader bars, beyond all else, erotica is a safe zone. You can pull the pages up to your chin and learn more about what you like without any pressure to actually try it until you’re ready. And bonus — unlike in pornography, you don’t have to worry about any chance of humans being exploited.*

Another major tenet of erotica’s magic is communication — especially in kinky erotica, I love seeing partners who make sure they speak their needs, use their safewords when necessary, and check in with each other to ensure that things ARE safe, sane, and consensual. It’s beautiful. Even for those who are not kink-inclined, there are many lessons to be learned from that.

3. Normalization

Finally, erotica has enormous normalizing power.

One of the biggest landmarks in the study of human sexuality was Alfred Kinsey’s reports on human sexual behavior. His studies took taboos to task and revealed that many things that had been seen as abnormal or overly risque were, in fact, incredibly commonplace. Masturbation, homoerotic feelings, female desire — his study shone light into previously darkened corners of how humans behaved in bed (or wherever else they happened to get their grind on). It created a conversation out of the realities of human sexuality, and that conversation helped lay the groundwork for the sexual revolution.

Erotica has that same power. Depicting female masturbation, fun with toys, kink, etc. — all of those things allow readers to see themselves on the page. By depicting equal, consensual, communicative relationships all across the spectra of kinks and and vanilla lovin’, erotica can show us something to aspire to in our own personal lives.

What do you think about the genre? How has erotica taught you about yourself, if you don’t mind sharing?

 

 

*I’m generally porn-positive, but I’m incredibly cognizant that there is always a chance that, especially in the jungles of free internet stuff, there could be some serious exploitation issues. This is one reason I advocate paying for it; you can generally find out from pay sites how their actors are treated, etc. Plus, compensating people for their work is good.