It’s almost summer and you know what that means: time for the gay beach! Essential accessories: your favorite bikini, the best SPF (gotta protect that skin!), and, of course, a good book to devour between dips in the water. Whether it’s a battered paperback, a library hardcover, or the next selection on your Kindle, a fun beach read is as essential as a fabulous pair of sunglasses. Here are ten queer-love novels–everything from historical to fantasy to young adult, all written by women and nonbinary individuals–to make you smile and, who knows, maybe start a conversation with the cutie two towels down!
A lesbian historical romance between a widowed countess and an ambitious astronomer: why have you not preordered this yet? When Lucy’s secret lover marries a man, the heartbroken intellectual finds refuge in translating a French astronomy text that could change the entire field. She does it in the arms of her benefactor, the wealthy Catherine, who believes that Lucy has the mind of a genius. Out June 26th, Olivia Waite’s 18th-century girl-girl love story has it all: feminism, science, allies in the unlikeliest of places, and fighting the patriarchy through studying the stars.
What to do when you’re the high-powered assistant to a now-engaged African royal and you spot the beautiful woman who broke your heart seven months ago? Jumping between past and present, this lesbian novella by celebrated black romance author Alyssa Cole chronicles the romance of dapper Likotsi and the one that got away: Haitian-American jewelry designer Fabiola. They stroll through hidden pockets of NYC, trying to figure out what went wrong and what went very, very right. Both women are fabulous, their chemistry is off the charts, and the sex is positively hawt.
The marriage of convenience is a much-loved romance novel trope; now, queer non-binary author Chelsea M. Cameron gives this old tale a super-gay twist. Lo is down on her luck. Recently unemployed, she owes rent and needs to fix her car, but there might be a solution—if she gets married, she can claim an inheritance and make her money problems disappear. Lo’s equally broke childhood bestie Cara desperately wants to go to grad school. You can see where this is going. Cameron’s writing is delightfully frothy, and this novel is both sexy and sweet.
Camille Perri struck literary gold with her bestselling debut “The Assistants,” and she followed it up with a lesbian rom-com—hooray! Recently-dumped Katie, a Kentucky native all alone in the big city, meets New Yorker Cassidy, whose wit is as sharp as her taste in suits. Cassidy introduces Katie to gay bar culture, and, soon, a close friendship becomes something much more. Upon its release last summer, the book became a sensation, garnering positive reviews from Out, Vogue and Us Weekly. When the paperback is out in June, it’ll be a beach-bag staple!
Bi is beautiful, and romance-erotica legend Rachel Kramer Bussel is a believer. This collection of saucy stories features all kinds of couplings (and groups), from crushes on fellow exotic dancers to polyamorous married folks finally getting it on with a mutual crush. My personal favorites are the quirky “Operetta” (complete with a reimagined lesbian “Pirates of Penzance”) and “1 Percent Adaptable”, where an American fitness guru is putty in the delicate hands of a sensual Frenchwoman. Finding bisexual representation anywhere can be a real challenge, but editor Bussel, who is bi herself, has your back.
This YA gives you two stories for the price of one! High school senior Abby, still reeling from a breakup with her girlfriend, dives into her thesis project on 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. In the actual 1950s, Janet prepares for college and lives for discreet encounters with her best friend Marie—all the while secretly writing a lesbian pulp novel. Abby and Janet’s narratives run parallel to one another and eventually intersect in unexpected ways. Bestselling author Robin Talley’s fable is a love letter to queer girls everywhere, and the genre where so many found themselves.
Did you see “Carol?” This summer, go back to where it all began! Patricia Highsmith originally penned this novel under the pseudonym Claire Morgan. Written from the point of view of Therese, a wannabe set designer forced to work in a department store, “The Price of Salt” delves into her relationship with rich housewife Carol, who stops in to buy a doll for her young daughter. The late Highsmith also wrote “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Salt” has just as much rich prose while deftly exploring the nuances of both female characters.
This isn’t a romance per se but an ode to the queer community that often becomes family. Andrea escapes her Midwestern, Catholic, and closeted upbringing for the anything-goes atmosphere of Portland, but when girlfriend Flynn puts her through a humiliating breakup, Andrea finds refuge in a secret affair that has unexpected and permanent consequences. A story of finding your people and leaning on them (sometimes when you’d rather do anything but), Stray City is all about the love: for yourself, your partner, your child, and your world.
Lesbian cartoonist Tillie Walden hit the ground running “Spinning,” her memoir about figure skating and queer identity. Walden’s gifts for storytelling and breathtaking visuals are on full display in “On a Sunbeam.” The graphic novel tells a love story between two girls in boarding school, running parallel to their encounter years later, as part of a team that rebuilds broken structures in space. “On a Sunbeam” is about second chances and hope; happy endings are never beyond our reach.
This YA romance adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” follows two couples, including the camp directors’s daughter Hana and her longtime crush, Claudia. Hana struggles with mental illness and Claudia is exploring her own gay identity, and a summer romance seems like a perfect solution to both. Hana and Claudia’s story has all the sweet smooches and starry encounters of first love, but when fellow counselor John decides to sabotage everything, will a misunderstanding tear them apart? Queer author Molly Booth will awaken your teen nostalgia and make you go “awwww.”