A Memoir of Medical Bias—Bless the Blood: A Cancer Memoir by Walela Nehanda

the cover of Bless the Blood

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Bless The Blood: A Cancer Memoir is a striking book that gets under your skin and stays there for days afterward. Though billed as a YA book, the writing and story hold a depth of feeling and insight that will engage far older readers, too. Hospitals, homes, intimate relationships and even one’s own skin are explored as sites playing host to complex histories. Framed by references to Cynthia Parker Ohene and Audre Lorde, Walela Nehanda threads a poetics of class, race and gender that shows how those constructs tangibly mediate who has access to certain spaces and their attendant expectations of care.

There is wisdom in Nehanda’s depiction of the ways relationships function as spaces for the people in them. And inversely, how spaces are shaped by the connections people make there. Some books really get to the heart of that old saying “a house is not a home”—this is one of the few that goes further by suggesting that a body isn’t always a home, either.

Teeming with generational trauma and an aching love-hunger that breaks through in paragraphs and poems about sickness, recovery, affection, intimacy, and history, this is a book that refuses to be reducible to inspiration porn. There is a lot of unvarnished pain here: it beats and seeps and leaps out of the page, sinking into the sorest parts of anyone who has ever found themselves at odds with their body, anyone who has ever felt the acute violence of having their bodies treated as alienable. 

But these recollections are accompanied by memories of healing and true connection that remind me of one of my favorite aspects of queer media: the defiance of portraying communal moments of revelry and unapologetic joy. These moments offer a small antidote to the seemingly incessant indignities Nehanda encounters in trying to access care through institutions that diminish compassion into a sort of charity contingent on the seeker’s performance of acceptable respectable acquiescence to unjust norms. It is a keenly relevant story, and only becoming more so as the conversation and activism around medical bias gains momentum.

The book’s archetypal figures and icons are also from a media moment that younger readers (I’m including twenty-somethings in this), will find timely. Close readers might be left wondering why there is more “prestige” in the exploits of long-dead hellenics than Captain American or Black Panther—and how our insistence on pretending that the former are more universal than the latter only goes to show how deeply those stories have been decontextualized in service of modern myths about what is “natural” or just.

I will admit fully that I am very partial to this sort of mythic deconstruction. I appreciate authors who staunchly refuse the opiate of presumed objectivity and instead fiercely reckon with the implicit messages and specificity of our shared stories. There is a passion in these pages that I found refreshing, and which I hope this review does justice to.

Who Will Enjoy This: People who thought The Remedy was poignant, timely and want to read more deeply personal stories about the struggles of accessing care (both medical and otherwise) as a gender-expansive person of color (here, a Black person in America). People who enjoy memoirs in verse, or poetry about the poet’s relationship with their body and others. People who think “formalism” is another word for “limitation”. People who enjoy science fiction metaphors for biomedical ideas.

(Seriously, Nehanda’s description of leukemia and their body as a besieged planet is all I’ve been talking about to anyone who will listen for the past week)

Who Might Think Twice: If you’re currently dealing with healthcare bias and difficulties of your own, this book will either reassure you that you are not alone or leave you emotionally exhausted. Your miles may vary. Nehanda pulls no punches in either their remembrances of or their viscerally unflinching depiction of their pain.

A Queer Take on Dragon Riding: So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole

the cover of So Let Them Burn

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So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole is a Jamaican-inspired YA fantasy. I would like to thank the publisher Little, Brown Young Readers for sending the Lesbrary a review copy. I enjoyed this book a lot, and think it’s a great addition to the genre.

There’s a whole unseen YA novel that happens before So Let Them Burn even starts. The island of San Irie is fighting the Langley Empire for it’s freedom, a chance prayer makes a child the Chosen One of the gods, and there’s a quest to restore the rightful queen – raised in the countryside unknowing of her real identity – to the throne. So Let Them Burn starts after the war is over and San Irie has won independence, and it looks at what happens afterwards, when you have an overpowered teenaged hero and a young queen and no more war to focus on.

Faron Vincent is overpowered, short-tempered, and, most of all, bored. She’s back at home with her family and back in school because no one wants to give a child, even a gods-touched one, a position in the government. And they shouldn’t, because she’s still a child, with a child’s self-centered outlook. During the war, when there was short term goals and fighting to focus on, Faron excelled and was needed as the only weapon against the Langley Empire’s dragon riders. But now, with no battles left to fight, she’s too impatient to learn diplomacy but she’s seen too much to slot back into her old life.

When the Queen decides to hold a diplomatic conference to show their neighbors how well things are going and rub the Langley Empire’s nose in its defeat, she summons Faron and her sister to the capital as part of a show of strength. I found Faron to be not very likeable but still hugely interesting. She’s a character out of place, as her powers, temper, and arrogance probably served her well during a war time situation but now lead to her crashing about like a bull in a china shop. She doesn’t understand any political subtleties and feels that her presence at the conference is like being a show pony doing tricks, but she’s also the type of person to summon her god power to help her win a school yard race. She’s truly a girl who grew up during a war and has the trauma and combat experience to go with it, but she has literally no other life experience to balance that out, leaving her off balance and out of place in this new world she helped create. It was extremely interesting to me to see this take on a “Chosen One” experience after the fact; I thought it was clever and very well done.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic conference goes sideways as Faron’s sister Elara inadvertently bonds with a Langlish dragon and is forced to return to Langley for training. Stuck in Langlish Dragon School, Elara is surrounded by people who hate her and what she represents. She is also walking a tightrope between learning useful intelligence to send back to San Irie and figuring out why exactly Dragon Rider command seemed to especially want her there. She’s also learning to be a dragon rider until her sister back home can figure out how to break the bond. Langlish dragons have two riders, and as time goes on, Elara and her other rider Signey have to figure out how to deal with their growing feelings for each other.

I found Elara’s chapters the most interesting part of the story, because she goes to the school determined to hate everyone, and there’s a lot of people that hate and look down on her, but she slowly finds other people she can sympathize with, because San Irie wasn’t the only country that the Langlish had colonized. Signey also opens up about her own family history, and the two girls slowly realize they have more in common than they think. Signey slowly changes from the enemy to a friend and maybe more. Just as Faron turns the Chosen One trope into a new angle, Elara’s dragon school training takes a common YA conceit and looks at it from a different, and queerer, viewpoint.

In conclusion, So Let Them Burn is a YA fantasy novel with a lot to offer. Not only does it start at a different point in the story than a more typical novel might have started, it takes several YA tropes and gives them a fresh viewpoint. If you’re looking for queer YA fantasy with something new to say, this is a good book to put on your list.

Colonialism and Revolution in Fantasy France: The Faithless by C. L. Clark

the cover of The Faithless

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When I finished The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, I wasn’t sure I was going to continue with the series. It was brilliant, yes: thought-provoking and gut-wrenching, with commentary on colonialism and a passionate, doomed F/F romantic subplot. The strengths of the book, though—the bleakness that reflects the real-life horrors of living through war, occupation, and revolution; the fallible characters making mistakes with devastating consequences; the complexity of the depiction of colonialism—were exactly what made it difficult to read. I wasn’t sure I would be able to read another thousand pages of that between the next two books of the trilogy. By the time The Faithless came out, though, I felt ready to dive in again. And I was surprised to find that book two had everything I loved in book one, but with a lot more fun.

To be clear, this is still a story about empire and power struggles, with deaths and high stakes. But while book one took place mostly on the battlefield, book two is more about court politics in a country reminiscent of France. The power difference between Luca and Touraine is still there, but Touraine has more leverage.

It’s also interesting to see Touraine struggle with trying to figure out where she belongs: the country she was raised in as a child soldier, or the country she was born in and is trying to fight for? She feels outside of both, and is developing her own sense of identity now that she has more space to make her own decisions.

The relationship between Luca and Touraine is more of a focus, and the pining here is unmatched! It also feels more fun to read because there isn’t such a huge power disparity between them. I’m still not sure if they’re good together, but of course I was rooting for them to sleep together anyway. Also, Sabine—who has a friends-with-benefits situation with Luca—really steals the show. Her flirting with both of them and calling out their sexual tension is always fun to read.

This is still the Magic of the Lost series, so there’s a dark undercurrent underneath. Touraine is dealing with PTSD after her near death experience—something I rarely see in fantasy, even though of course you would be traumatized after something like that. The peace between Balladaire and Qazal is tenuous, and the conditions of their agreement are being bitterly fought over, which threatens to throw them back into combat at any moment. Violent revolution looms. Luca is looking for any sort of advantage to seize the throne—and finds that power comes with a price she isn’t sure she’s willing to pay.

I’m so glad I continued with this series. I appreciated the writing, plot, and characterization just as much as the first book, but I found it a much easier read—it probably helps that I’m now familiar with this world and these characters. It’s a rare second book in a trilogy that I like even better than the first. I’m excited to read the final book in the series when it comes out!

A Genre-Defying Queer Black Memoir: The Black Period by Hafizah Augustus Geter

the cover of The Black Period

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In 2023, I was a judge for the Nonfiction category of the Lambda Literary Awards. One of the books I read—the one that ended up winning for the category—was The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin. This is a brilliant, expansive book that I don’t feel qualified to really speak about, because there are so many layers going on in this narrative.

Geter is a poet, and you absolutely tell in this memoir. There are so many shining lines—”Safer to be accepted than loved, I thought.”—even when describing seemingly inconsequential details, like, “Even though she laughed constantly, it was like every laugh took her by surprise.”

This book is an embodiment of the idea that the personal is political. While this is in some senses a memoir, it’s also much broader than that. Geter traces back how her life is connected to all that came before it: her disability is connected to her parents’ health problems, which are connected to the racism at the foundation of the United States.

This is why The Black Period doesn’t fit neatly into the memoir category: it’s also a history book, and a collection of essays about art criticism and Afrofuturist thought, and it’s also about the connected struggles of Indigenous and Black people in the United States. Oh, and it includes original artwork from her father, a well-respected artist in his own right.

I can’t believe this book, which has won multiple awards and made several “best of” lists, is still so underread, even now that it’s available in paperback. This would be a fascinating book to read in a group, or to study in a class. I need you all to go out and read it so we can talk about it together. It’s one I can’t stop thinking about.

All The Pretty Girls Read Sapphic Stories: More Readalikes for Reneé Rapp’s Snow Angel

the album cover of Snow Angel

If you have Reneé Rapp’s album Snow Angel playing on repeat, these are the sapphic books you need to read! Pick up the one that matches your favorite song, or get the whole stack if it’s too hard to pick. You can get a copy of any of these titles from your local bookstore or library, or you can get a copy through Bookshop. Click here for Part One! 

“Pretty Girls”

the cover of Girls Like Girls

In the p.m., all the pretty girls/They have a couple drinks, all the pretty girls/So now, they wanna kiss all the pretty girls/They got to have a taste of a pretty girl

Pretty Girls is a song for people who keep falling for “straight” girls, and a celebration of those exploring their sexuality, even if it feels frustratingly drawn out to the other person. In the same vein, Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko, inspired by the sapphic anthem of the early aughts, follows the story of Coley and Sonya, two teenage girls in rural Oregon who each find themselves falling for the other girl. This lyrical debut novel fills out the gaps in the plot to Kiyoko’s music video, but balances the overall sweetness of the summertime romance with an exploration of grief and what it means to be out in today’s society. I think Pretty Girls would fit in beautifully during the summer romance montages that Girls Like Girls lays out.

“Tummy Hurts”

the cover of she is a haunting

Now my tummy hurts, he’s in love with her/But for what it’s worth, they’d make beautiful babies/And raise ’em up to be a couple of/Fucking monsters, like their mother and their father

In Tummy Hurts, Rapp explores a past relationship through an analysis of heartbreak, grief, and bittersweet predictions of the continuing cycle of unhealthy relationships. This song contradicts and supports the exploration through using a childlike imagery of an upset stomach and the consequences of an unhealthy romance. If you are looking for a book that explores being haunted by a past relationship or dysfunctional relationships, I would recommend reading She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran. In this horror young adult novel, Jade is visiting her estranged father and her only goal is to end the five-week visit with the college money he has promised her—but only if she can seem straight, Vietnamese, and American enough. However, Jade can’t ignore the effects of colonization on the house or a ghost bride’s warnings to not eat anything. She is a Haunting explores the concept of places being haunted by dysfunctional family dynamics, just as “Tummy Hurts” explores the haunting of a romantic relationship.

“I Wish”

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers cover

I wish I could still see the world through those eyes/Could still see the colors, but they’re not as clear or as bright/Oh, the older we get, the colors they change/Yeah, hair turns to gray, but the blue’s here to stay/So I wish, I wish

“I Wish” is the Pisces moon of Snow Angel, with Rapp singing about how she wished she didn’t know about death as a concept. This sweet ballad mourns the loss of an important figure and the resultant loss of innocence in the world around her. Similarly, Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers explores themes of existential dread, fear of not living up to people’s expectations, and a loss of innocence once you grow up. Twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes to Vegas to celebrate getting her PhD in astronomy, but accidentally ends up getting drunkenly married to a strange woman from New York. This triggers a rush of questions about herself, including why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled in her life, and Grace flees home to move in with her unfamiliar wife. Honey Girl is a story about self-growth, finding queer community, and taking a journey towards better mental health, and it honestly made me cry as much as I Wish did the first time I listened to it.

“Willow”

the cover of Even Though I Knew the End

Don’t cry, don’t cry, Willow/I’ll cry, Willow/Willow/I’ll cry for you

Willow is another sad ballad, in which Renee talks to her younger self (metaphorically) under a willow tree, and tries to reassure them that everything will be alright. This concept of wanting to take away someone’s pain, regardless of your own, made me think of one of my favorite novellas, Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk. Elena Brandt is the hardboiled detective of mystery noire past, with her private eye set up in a magical 1930’s Chicago, and a lady love waiting in the wings for her. However, Elena’s days are numbered and she decides to spend the last of them with said lady love, Edith. Just as she is about to leave the city, a potential client offers her $1,000 to find the White City Vampire, Chicago’s most notorious serial killer. To sweeten the pot, the client offers something more precious—the chance to grow old with Edith. As Elena dives into the affairs of Chicago’s divine monsters to secure a future with the love of her life, she learns that nothing is as she thought it was. If you want a read that will capture your mind and heart for an afternoon, then grab a copy of C. L. Polk’s Even Though I Knew the End. 

“23”

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann cover

But tomorrow I turn twenty-three/And it feels like everyone hates me/So, how old do you have to be/To live so young and careless?/My wish is that I cared less/At twenty-three

Finally, 23 explores the emotional turmoil and questioning that can come with turning twenty-three years old. Rapp’s lingering lyrics ask why she doesn’t feel like she has been succeeding in life, especially when compared to society’s expectations and assumptions about her career. By the end of the song, Rapp expresses the hope that she can grow into herself as a person and learn to love herself more by her next birthday. In the same vein, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kahn is about a nineteen Black year old college student named Alice, whose summer was going to be perfect until her girlfriend broke up with her for being asexual. Alice had planned on remaining single as to never experience being rejected for her sexuality again, but then she meets Takumi, and Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood. A huge theme in Alice’s story is that of figuring out what you want to do and/or be as opposed to what your family and friends (or society) expects from you, whether it is about your sexuality or career choices. I think Alice would be wistfully listening to 23 right before the climatic third act, as she contemplates what to do.

Chloe (they/he) is a public librarian in Baltimore, who identifies as Indigenous, autistic, and panromantic demisexual. They enjoy reading queer literature for any age group, as well as fantasy, contemporary, and romance. In their spare time, they act in local community theaters, play D&D, and are halfway through their MLiS program. You can find them on Goodreads, Twitter, or Instagram.

The Audacity of a Point of View: Opinions by Roxane Gay

the cover of Opinions

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In Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People’s Business, Roxane Gay (she/her), author of New York Times bestsellers Bad Feminist and Hunger, delivers an expertly curated collection of her opinion writing on a host of different topics from approximately 2013 to 2023, or what she describes as a “decade of massive social upheaval.” 

At the outset, I acknowledge that me sharing my opinions about Gay’s Opinions where she shares her opinions is confusing and meta. Stick with me anyway!

Opinions is timely and thought-provoking. It consists of sixty-six pieces separated into seven sections: Identity/Politics, The Matter of Black Lives, Civic Responsibilities, For the Culture, Man Problems, Minding Other Folks’ Business, and Solicited Advice. Each section contains several relevant pieces in order of original publication date. I really appreciated the way the book was organized because it set the tone for each piece before I read it and allowed me to experience the evolution of Gay’s thought process over several years. I also loved that each piece was between two and nine pages. It made the process of reading and absorbing each of Gay’s opinions much more manageable.

Opinions is provocative; Gay pulls no punches. Some of my favorite titles included: “No One Is Coming to Save Us from Trump’s Racism”; “You’re Disillusioned. That’s Fine. Vote Anyway.”; “I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction”; and “I Thought Men Might Do Better Than This”. But Gay doesn’t just pen witty titles—her writing style is sharp and insightful. In “Cops Don’t Belong at Pride”, she discusses the history of Pride and her opinion that law enforcement should respect the boundaries of the LGBTQ community and not attend. In “Why I Can’t Forgive Dylan Roof”, Gay opines that Black people forgive because they need to survive and asserts that some acts are so terrible, they are beyond forgiving. In “Can I Enjoy Art but Denounce the Artist”, Gay weighs in on the longstanding debate of whether we should support the work of artists who behave badly.

Gay is bisexual and Haitian. As a fellow queer woman of color, I was so proud to read this book! Although I do not agree with every view Gay espouses, I respect her deeply as a pillar in the LGBTQ community and feel incredibly empowered by her audaciousness. Opinions is an engaging and worthwhile read that you can sit with and reflect upon over time.

If you want to get a flavor for Gay’s writing style, check her out on Twitter, where she shares her 280-character point of view on anything and everything, and on Goodreads, where she succinctly reviews her own books, as well as books from other authors.

Trigger warnings for all of the subjects of social upheaval in the last decade, including: child sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, abortion, police brutality, mass murder, school shootings, racism, homophobia, and misogyny.

Raquel R. Rivera (she/her/ella) is a Latina lawyer and lady lover from New Jersey. She is in a lifelong love affair with books and earned countless free personal pan pizzas from the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program as a kid to prove it.

Healing Through a Haunting: The Fall That Saved Us by Tamara Jerée

the cover of The Fall That Saved Us

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The author’s content notes, which also apply to this review: “While Cassiel’s story is focused on healing, heavier themes of trauma and shame are explored to give context to the protagonist’s journey. Please consider the major content notes: cutting scars, brief self-harm ideation, discussion of an eating disorder, family emotional abuse, and a manipulative mother. This book contains sexual content and is only intended for adult readers.”

The first time I learned about Tamara Jerée’s The Fall That Saved Us, I was sold. A sapphic paranormal romance with a protagonist who runs a bookstore and heals from trauma? That sounded like the perfect way to ring in October. I’m happy to say that not only did it meet my expectations, but it became a favorite of the year.

Cassiel has cut off ties with her divine family of demon hunters, other than her sister, with whom she now has a complicated relationship. She has spent the last three years living in the ordinary world for the first time, trying to establish a life independent of the oppressive rules of her mother, Gabriel. She runs a bookstore and is friends with Ana, a witch with a coffee shop. Still, she won’t fully open up even to Ana, and she has struggled to integrate into society or unpack her internalized shame, as she was raised to avoid pleasure of any kind.

Though Cassiel is laying low, she attracts the attention of the succubus Avitue, who has been ordered to steal Cassiel’s soul. Avitue haunts Cassiel, attempting seduction through gifts and shared dreams. But by the time the two meet face-to-face, Avitue has realized that Cassiel is more than meets the eye, as someone who has been harmed by her family and is trying to escape the life of a demon hunter. Ordinarily, a confrontation between a succubus and an angel’s descendant ends in violence, but they both exercise restraint. This gives them enough pause that they develop a tentative trust and a less tentative chemistry. When Cassiel’s family gets involved at the same time that Avitue’s superiors apply pressure, they must team up to navigate these threats while also navigating their feelings.      

A whirlwind romance with a succubus pushes Cassiel out of her comfort zone in more ways than one, forcing her to confront the idea that demons are more complex than her family claimed and allowing her to embrace sensuality for the first time. Initially, going against her conditioning makes her recoil. However, Avitue understands that it’s important for Cassiel to push herself toward new ground on her own terms. When she falls, Avitue is there to catch her.                  

As an immortal succubus who fell millennia ago, Avitue is chaotic, morally grey, and distant from humanity. She is electrifyingly charismatic and doesn’t mind wielding this as a tool. However, coming into contact with Cassiel forces her to question her own assumptions about their natures. From the start, Avitue cares for and refuses to hurt Cassiel. Their developing relationship involves all of the negotiation and communication that this sort of dynamic requires, without shying away from the darker aspects of Avitue’s life.  

The theme of healing from trauma, especially religious trauma and familial abuse, stood out to me the most. Cassiel is reclaiming her own body, her own divinity, and her own experience with the world. As she explores all of the things she was denied, she finds that rather than being cut off from her power as her mother had claimed, she is actually growing more fully into herself. The narrative is a celebration of love, warmth, and tenderness, and an indictment of forcing people to sacrifice parts of themselves in order to fit into narrow boxes. 

This book understands that healing is not linear. Cassiel has already spent years living out in the world, but she still hides herself away from it, and she relapses into shame when she experiences attraction, enjoys food, or tries to wear nice clothing. Because she has people who genuinely care about her, she is able to pick herself back up when she falls. Healing may not be a straight path, but time marches onward, and so does she.

As someone who hasn’t read a lot of paranormal romance, the pacing of some books can require adjusted expectations, with characters who’ve only known each other a short time falling in literally eternal love. However, I realize this is a genre convention borne of the combination of high-octane plots and immortal characters, and that this type of story asks for suspension of disbelief. What’s important is that I bought into these particular characters’ dynamic given their circumstances. The story calls for a breathless intensity that the book delivers on. I was also impressed with the layered ending, as the book’s complex conflicts weren’t wrapped up in a tidy bow after one event. 

An additional note that made this nonbinary reader happy: while the synopsis refers to both characters as women, Avitue doesn’t feel a connection with the concept of gender due to her experiences as a succubus. Being nonbinary doesn’t require any specific pronouns or presentation, so I was glad to read about a femme-presenting character who uses she/her pronouns and does not identify with gender.  

The Fall That Saved Us is haunting yet hopeful, with lush writing and aching devotion in every line. If that’s how you’d like to experience your fall, there’s still time to pick this one up before Halloween.

Emory Rose is a lover of the written word, especially all things whimsical, fantastical, and romantic. They regularly participate in National Novel Writing Month as well as NYC Midnight’s fiction writing challenges. They are fueled by sapphic novellas and chocolate.

A Supernatural Noir Novella About Love at All Costs: Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk

the cover of Even Though I Knew the End

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What would you give up everything for? If you knew you were doomed, would you keep fighting?

In fewer than 140 pages, the award-winning Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk posits these questions with a heroine whose love and determination propel her through a fast-paced investigation to catch a killer and save her soul.

Ten years ago, Helen Brandt sold her soul to the devil to revive her brother from an accident that claimed her whole family. He’s not exactly grateful to be yanked from paradise by the sister who’s been branded a warlock, but in the meantime, Helen has met the love of her life in a lesbian bar and made a living as a mystic in 1940s Chicago. Just before Helen reaches her expiration date, she’s given one last mission, with the reward being the return of her soul. While her ultimate fate is still eternal damnation, if she catches an infamous serial killer, she can live out the rest of her mortal life with Edith Jarosky.

To say more would be saying too much, but rest assured this is a story that builds on itself until the end. My favorite novellas work in perfect choreography, with no paragraph wasted and every storytelling element woven together around a central ribbon. To me, Even Though I Knew the End is one such novella. Rich in atmosphere and with a poignant thematic core, it is paced to keep the reader achingly aware of the protagonist’s countdown clock as the stakes of her mission only increase.  

Helen is an intensely devoted, driven, and charismatic protagonist. The natural affection between her and Edith makes their relationship heartwarming. As revelations about Edith come to light, I do wish she got more of a chance to shine with her own contributions, especially as she is Helen’s driving force. The couple are shown to work together in perfect harmony, and I would have loved to see their teamwork demonstrated more, as well as have Edith’s character explored. 

Two other characters stood out to me in particular. Without getting into spoilers, if you enjoy powerful, charismatic (and not-so-charismatic) beings in your supernatural fiction, this cast will be for you. Edith’s complicated relationship with her brother rounds out the dynamics. With a smoky atmosphere evoked in pointed descriptions, even though I know the end, this is a book I would happily revisit.

A note on the worldbuilding: This is set in a world with nonbinary angels, where being gay will not condemn you, but warlock deals and sacrilege will.

Other content warnings include death and violence as well as references to period-typical homophobia, sexism, ableism, institutionalization, and conversion therapy. 

Emory Rose is a lover of the written word, especially all things whimsical, fantastical, and romantic. They regularly participate in National Novel Writing Month as well as NYC Midnight’s fiction writing challenges. They are fueled by sapphic novellas and chocolate.

A Celebration of Unlikable Women: Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

the cover of Difficult Women

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This is a fascinating collection of stories about messy, flawed people. This book definitely challenged me to think about how I “relate” to characters that are not meant to be particularly good people. Specifically, women who aren’t written as likable.

The women in these stories aren’t broken down into simple saints and sinners. They’re just imperfect human beings. No one is good or bad, they are just, as Eleanor Shellstrop would put it, medium people. I appreciated the boundaries Gay pushes in how we think and relate to women and female characters.

In “Water, All Its Weight,” the story follows a woman named Bianca who at first appearance seems what the world considers normal. Soon though, it showcases her life unfolding with a series of rain clouds and water spots that appear to follow her everywhere. This metaphor shows how depression and mental illness make a woman hard to deal with.

The titular story “Difficult Women” takes on a taxonomical approach. Gay lays out the various types of difficult women that exist, from Loose Women and who they look up to — “never her mother” — to Frigid Women and how they became that way. Each category unveils the constant impossible dichotomies expected of women.

“Baby Arm,” tells the story of a woman who seems to take joy and pleasure out of pain, a topic often considered taboo. But Gay tells it in such a mundane way, it makes scenes like rough sex and fight club sound like a Tuesday night grocery run. What’s most interesting though is that the main character never reveals her name, but her two lovers, a man named Gus and a woman named Tate, do. There’s a sort of self-dehumanization that happens with a character who gets off on violence and inappropriate behavior.

In a collection of stories about women told from the perspective of women characters, “Requiem for a Heart” stands out. It’s the story of a stone thrower who takes on a glass wife and has glass children. Everything about their lives is told from his perspective, emphasizing how the male gaze often shapes the narrative of a woman’s life. In this story, the stone thrower is also portrayed as having a mistress, a flesh and blood woman who he handles more recklessly. Although he loves his glass wife, with her he has to be more careful and sees everything. It shows how no matter how “perfect” a woman may be, she will still be held responsible for his careless behavior, as it’s this perceived fragility that makes the man turn his desires toward another.

Not every story in this collection features sapphic or queer characters, but several do. Although, it’s hard to say when none of the characters ever plainly state their sexuality, as that is not the point in these stories. But even when it’s not the focus, there are hints of sapphic desire from a few of the women in these stories, like in “In the Event of My Father’s Death,” where the main character shows admiration for her father’s mistress.

Gay knows how to weave metaphors in a fantastical way that never feels magical or paranormal, but the imagery certainly dips into the genre of speculative fiction. She goes back and forth between subtle moments that make you dig for the message and blatantly shouts, “Yes, this is a feminist story!”

If you’re interested in more of Roxane Gay’s writing, you can also check out Danika’s review and my review of her memoir Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

Reading Black Joy: 27 F/F Romances by Black Authors

a collage of the covers listed with the text Reading Black Joy: F/F Romances by Black Authors

Many Black authors have spoken about the difficulties of being pigeon-holed by the publishing industry into writing only about Black trauma. While learning about racism, both historical and present day, is crucial, there is so much more to read from Black authors than that.

June always brings a deluge of recommendations of LGBTQ books, but often this coverage is very white, especially outside of kidlit and YA lists. In this list, I want to highlight some of the Black authors writing adult F/F romance novels. For specifically queer Black romances (where both the protagonist and the love interest are Black), check out Katrina Jackson’s excellent Twitter thread.

I am just featuring one or two titles from each author, but many of these authors have multiple queer Black romances, so make sure to click through and check out their other titles! These are the publishers’ descriptions.

the cover of Can't Let Her Go

Can’t Let Her Go by Kianna Alexander

Peaches Monroe and Jamie Hunt are core members of their Texas friend squad and have so much in common. They’re successful at their careers in personal care. They take Austin’s “Keep It Weird” vibe to heart, each leaning into their own unique talents and sense of style. And they’re both ready to go on to even bigger things. Is pushing past the boundaries of friendship into something deeper one of them? The red-hot fantasy is there…but so is real life.

Jamie’s college dreams will take her far from her hometown. She’s already road-tripping to possibilities from San Antonio to Houston. And Peaches has obligations of her own. Not only is she planning to expand her business, but she’s taking care of her family after her mother’s passing, leaving her overwhelmed and under pressure.

No matter how perfect Jamie and Peaches are for each other, is this the right time for romance? Finding their true selves comes first. Only then can they hope to pursue a future of lasting love―together.

the cover of Can't Resist Her

Can’t Resist Her by Kianna Alexander

After years away from home, Summer Graves is back in Austin, Texas, to accept a new teaching position. Of all the changes to the old neighborhood, the most dispiriting one is the slated demolition of the high school her grandmother founded. There’s no way she can let developers destroy her memories and her family legacy. But the challenge stirs memories of another kind.

On the architectural team revitalizing the neighborhood, hometown girl Aiko Holt is all about progress. Then she sees Summer again. Some things never change.

Neither can forget the kiss they shared at their senior-year dance. Neither can back down from her unwavering beliefs about what’s right for the neighborhood.

For now, the only thing Summer and Aiko are willing to give in to is a heat that still burns. But can two women with so much passion—for what once was and what could be—agree to disagree long enough to fall in love?

Breaking Jaie by S. Renée Bess cover

Breaking Jaie by S. Renée Bess

Twenty-eight-year-old Ph.D. candidate Jaie Baxter is supremely confident about three things:
She will become a noted writer.
She’ll win the prestigious Adamson Prize.
And she can have any woman who grabs her attention.

But Jaie’s arrogance begins to slip away the day she meets Terez Overton, a woman whose ethnicity matches hers, but whose background is the exact opposite.

Dawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle cover

Dawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle

Nia Ellis is grief stricken when, Pat, her mentor passes away. At the funeral, Nia is blindsided by Pat’s deep-seated secret, which sparks feelings of betrayal. Weeks after the funeral, Nia is still figuring out how to handle her wavering emotions and the unexplained secret– until the opportunity for answers forces her to step outside of her comfort zone. Nia believes she is in control of her guarded emotions when sidetracked by curiosity and thrust into a battle zone with Pat’s sisters.

Romance was the least of Nia’s concerns until a fling matures and challenges her lingering insecurities. Nia learns there is a thin line between love and hate when former relationships and loyalties are lost in her circle of friends. In the end, she realizes that Pat’s secret was a blessing in disguise.

the cover of Once Ghosted, Twice Shy

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

the cover of That Could Be Enough

That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

This is an angsty but fluffy F/F novella with a happy ending for both of our intrepid heroines.

21 Questions by Mason Dixon cover

21 Questions by Mason Dixon

Kenya Davis’s ability to find the perfect employee is unparalleled. Her ability to find the perfect mate? Not so much. After she takes a chance on speed dating, she finds herself with not one but two chances to find true love. But with her spotty romantic track record, how can she be sure which woman is Miss Right and which is only Miss Right Now?

Simone Bailey works as a bartender at one of the hottest nightclubs in South Beach, has more female attention than she knows what to do with, and spends her spare time following her musical ambitions. Then she meets Kenya Davis. After her initial attempt to charm her way into Kenya’s heart fails, she resolves to reach her ultimate destination one question at a time.

the cover of Love's Divine

Love’s Divine by Ava Freeman

On a whim, Genesis Malone decides to book a solo trip to the island of Barbados. A sunny beach vacation sounds like the perfect way to renew her spirit after a heartbreaking divorce. The trip takes an unexpected turn when she meets a woman who could be just what she needs to move on. That is if her heart, and the universe, will let her.

Zuri Baker seems to have it all but what she really wants is someone to share her life with. When she meets Genesis, she is intrigued by her quiet nature and longs to get to know her better. Too bad her on-again off-again girlfriend isn’t willing to let her go quite so easily.

When they return to their regular lives and find themselves in the midst of exes, not quite exes, and work drama, will they be able to hold onto what matters most; each other?

Midtown by Alix B. Golden cover

Midtown by Alix B. Golden

Midtown, the center of everything gay in Atlanta, GA. Friends from FAMU live together, work together, and sleep together.

Eva Daniels, aka Ed, has a pretty girlfriend, works for herself, and has plenty of love in her life. She floats on Cloud Nine, until she catches her girlfriend cheating. Taylor Collins is the blonde haired blue eyed All American girl with a strong appetite for beautiful girls. While her heart is committed to Ed, her body is not. Keikou Satou, Ki is what the ladies call her. Looks can be deceiving though, because Ki really only has eyes for one woman. Brie Allen isn’t looking for Miss Right, she’d settle for Miss Right now if they are skilled in the bedroom. Will the love of a good woman be enough to make her settle down? Ashley Johnson can’t turn down the opportunity to bail a friend out of a tough spot. What will her friends think about her newly discovered sexuality? And what will one friend think when she confesses her love?

What happens when 5 same sex loving friends co-habitat? Visit Midtown and find out!

When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon cover

When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon

How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love?

Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl.

Suddenly convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. When she does not find the reconciliation she had hoped for, she dives into a new relationship with Noema, an outspoken artist. She feels completely vindicated until she makes the awful discovery that this too, has been more fantasy than the real love she desires.

Dee’s quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.

the cover of D'Vaughn and Kriss Plan a Wedding

D’Vaughn and Kriss Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins

Instant I Do could be Kris Zavala’s big break. She’s right on the cusp of really making it as an influencer, so a stint on reality TV is the perfect chance to elevate her brand. And $100,000 wouldn’t hurt, either.

D’Vaughn Miller is just trying to break out of her shell. She’s sort of neglected to come out to her mom for years, so a big splashy fake wedding is just the excuse she needs.

All they have to do is convince their friends and family they’re getting married in six weeks. If anyone guesses they’re not for real, they’re out. Selling their chemistry on camera is surprisingly easy, and it’s still there when no one else is watching, which is an unexpected bonus. Winning this competition is going to be a piece of wedding cake.   

But each week of the competition brings new challenges, and soon the prize money’s not the only thing at stake. A reality show isn’t the best place to create a solid foundation, and their fake wedding might just derail their relationship before it even starts.

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins cover

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins

Can two women who only want to be loved, find a home in each other when the world around them is moving too fast for them to settle down?

Growing up in an intolerant town, Latrisha Martin was used to shrinking the most important parts of herself. She hid her loneliness within a busy life and kept the yearning in her heart tucked away from those closest to her. Just as the façade became too heavy to maintain, Trisha received wise words from a strange woman that helped redirect her life’s journey. On a whim, she relocates to Houston, and while adjusting to a new normal, she finds that those desires she’d once hidden begin to manifest in ways she never imagined.

With her star attached to a rocket ship, Xenobia Cooper was quickly transforming from a locally known talent into a name known in households across the nation. Viewed as an overnight success to many, the only thing that the veteran of the Houston underground music scene hadn’t prepared for was living a life without someone to come home to at the end of the day. A reckless tweet sent out in the middle of the night brings an influx of women with stars in their eyes, but they all lack the key component that Xeno is looking for. A chance encounter after her largest show to date and she’s convinced that those things she’d hoped for are just within her grasp.

Being Hospitable by Meka James cover

Being Hospitable by Meka James

Some houseguests are more enticing than others…

Kiki Jenkins knows that opening her home to her best friend’s younger sister means giving up some solitude. What she doesn’t expect is for her new roommate to become temptation in the form of novelty panties and flirty innuendos. But Charley is off limits…for several reasons.

Charley Graham wants to be seen as more than her brother’s little sister. And she wants Kiki to do the seeing. Her new internship provides the perfect opportunity. Plan in motion, she’s not going to let their close living quarters go to waste.

The arrangement is supposed to be temporary, but as they grow closer a permanent change of address might be in order.

the cover of Fall Into You

Fall Into You by Georgina Kiersten

Imari Haines has had it with the gossip. The whole town is acting like she’s their very own Runaway Bride. A plus-size, black version of Julia Roberts that left a perfectly nice boy at the altar.

Her family is no exception. Her mother won’t stop making passive-aggressive comments.

Exhausted by this charged atmosphere, a boss that doesn’t appreciate her, and the never-ending town rumors, Imari makes a bold decision. Come autumn, she moves to Appeley (a small town in Hill Country) and never looks back.

In Appeley, for the first time ever, Imari feels welcome, happy, and unapologetically herself. She tries new things, makes brand-new friends and, while attending the fall apple festival, she accidentally bumps into a very familiar face…

Cassidy Martinez was her childhood best friend and partner in crime. Now, she has grown into a stunning, confident woman, and Imari can’t help noticing.

Should she take a risk?

Can the two of them pick up where they left off, or is being friends not going to be enough this time around?

Sips of Her cover

Sips of Her by Karmen Lee

Julie Kim’s life was supposed to be simple. Falling for the gorgeous barista with the enigmatic smile was not part of the plan.

Cameran Davis loves love and her coffee shop, Love & Lattes, reflects that. But, she’s starting to wonder if maybe happily ever after isn’t in the cards.

A surprise run-in culminates in a ruse leading to acknowledging feelings and steamy nights. When things get real, will they fight for a chance at happiness or go their separate ways?

Goslyn County by A.M. McKnight cover

Goslyn County by A.M. McKnight

A mostly black community with its roots in farming, Goslyn, Virginia lay just south of the State’s Capital. The once small, close-knit county had grown rapidly in the past two decades and boasted a population of just over fifty thousand. But the county’s crime stats had grown as well, and the latest offenses included several break-ins and rumors of a meth lab. Time had brought many changes, and many of the longtime folks of Goslyn no longer recognized their community and longed for days gone by.

Goslyn PD Detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston loves her family and friends and shows it through her sense of humor. Just like her neighbors, she too worries about the recent events, and it’s her job to find out who’s behind the crime spree.

While investigating three burglaries, Olivia meets IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries who is pursuing a tax fraud suspect. Their cases are connected, and both soon discover they have much in common, personally and professionally.

the cover of A Girl Like Me

A Girl Like Me by J. Nichole

Lo made her feel like nobody had ever made her feel.

That smile made Skylar feel like she was wrapped in a warm hug, like she was secure.

She was inspired, motivated to move out of her comfort zone.

With just one look from Lo, Skylar felt like the sexiest woman alive.

Lo was proving to be the love Skylar hadn’t realized she deserved.

But there was only one thing Skylar didn’t expect —  Lo, was a girl like her.

The EXchange by Nikki Rashan cover

The EXchange by Nikki Rashan

Can exes be friends? The answer to this question is tested and revealed in The EXchange, the third installment in the story of Kyla. When readers first met Kyla, she was a confused young woman struggling with her sexuality. By the time we met her again, she was a loose philanderer, bed-hopping in her search for love. She found it with the beautiful, no-nonsense Asia. After nine years of solid commitment, Kyla is bored with the monotony and simplicity of their day-to-day relationship. She soon finds the excitement she craves, but not in the right place. Angie, her ex turned longtime friend, is single again, and she’s ready and willing to fill the void Kyla feels. Will Kyla trade the stability she has with Asia for the passion she’s been missing?

the cover of Masquerade

Masquerade by Anne Shade

Harlem, New York, 1925 is a mecca of cultural and creative freedom, where masquerade drag balls are all the rage and the music, dancing, and loose prohibition laws unite people from all walks of life.

Dinah Hampton came to Harlem for better opportunities for her family but ends up working as a nightclub chorus girl to help make ends meet. Among the nightlife and danger, she finds love in the most unexpected way.

When a scandal rocks Celine Montre’s family and sends them fleeing from New Orleans to Harlem, the gorgeous Dinah Hampton helps her to discover that there’s more to life, and love, than she ever thought possible.

When a notorious gangster sets her sights on seducing Celine, Dinah and Celine are forced to risk their hearts, and lives, for love.

Full Circle by Skyy cover

Full Circle by Skyy

It’s been two years since Lena decided to take time away from drama to find herself and focus on her child.

But the present finds her staring at images of Denise, the one who got away.

Will Lena finally move on to someone new, or go after the one she’s wanted all along?

the cover of The Frenemy Zone

The Frenemy Zone by Yolanda Wallace

Olly Smith-Nakamura had it all until an unexpected financial setback forces her dads to leave their idyllic life in San Francisco behind in search of a fresh start. Relocating to a small West Virginia town where families like hers are considered an anomaly was not how she planned to spend her senior year of high school. Her grandmother tries to sell her on the merits of her new home, but she just sees more reasons to leave than to stay.

No one knows Ariel Hall has a secret. No one except the BFF who broke her heart. Sharing her truth isn’t on her agenda because unless she’s throwing strikes on the softball field, she prefers to fly under the radar. Olly Smith-Nakamura is everything she’s not: out, proud, and in your face. They don’t get along at all. So why does kissing her seem like more fun than butting heads?

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace cover

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace

Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.

Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.

Soul to Keep by Rebekah Weatherspoon cover

Soul to Keep by Rebekah Weatherspoon

College junior Jill Babineux knows where her priorities lie. Between a full course load, her blood pledge to feed a certain vampire, and all the community service hours she’s got to log with her sisters in Alpha Beta Omega Sorority, the last thing on her mind is finding love, especially with an immortal.

Which works out just fine for Miyoko “Tokyo” Hayashi who’s been so busy enjoying her wild days and even kinkier nights, she’s never had a reason to speak to the tiny know-it-all. But after a random run-in and a few carefully plotted encounters, Miyoko learns that there’s more to the sorority’s least favorite member.

Miyoko never thought she’d actually start to like the girl, let alone love her, but when true evil comes for Jill, Miyoko finds herself willing to do anything to protect her. Anything.

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon cover

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

Drawing the Line by K.D. Williamson cover

Drawing the Line by KD Williamson

Pediatric resident Dr. Dani Russell is focused on her career and there’s no room for anything else since her last relationship crashed and burned. She’s seen as standoffish and cold to everyone except her patients and her best friend Rick. That’s just fine with her.

Detective Rebecca Wells, newly appointed to Atlanta’s Juvenile Missing Person Unit, is a woman in a state of flux and on a mission to fix her unsatisfying personal life. That means reaching out to her ex, Dani, to make amends. But after sizing up the once warm, friendly woman she loved, Rebecca can’t believe how unrecognizable she now is or how hurt she is.
Is it too late for them? Has too much time passed to make things right?

An enemies-to-lovers, second-chance lesbian romance that’s powerful, sizzling, thought-provoking, and everything in between.

A Drop in the Ocean by Nikki Winter cover

A Drop in the Ocean by Nikki Winter

It was a small lie, really. Nearly white because of how minuscule she intended it to be. And yet Kairo Maftah’s small, nearly white, very minuscule lie had managed to turn into something large and pink and pachyderm shaped in silhouette. One might’ve asked how and she might’ve been inclined to say, “Oh, my knob of a younger brother has taken it upon himself to get tied in a matrimonial union with my ex-girlfriend who I really shouldn’t call names—but I do it anyway because what the f$&@?!—and I may have roped my best friend into playing my newest love interest at their ceremony because I don’t want to look pathetic and alone and Audrey Hart, that’s my best friend, is such an amazing person that she’s agreed to spend a couple weeks of her vacation days here in Queensland convincing everyone we’re in love. But she kind of doesn’t know I really am in love with’er so I have to pretend I know how to function on a basic human level past grunts and happy sighs when she’s around. Did you get all of that? I hope so because I really don’t feel like repeating it.” That would have been a ridiculous response to that question right? Right?

the cover of Femme Like Her

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde

Naomi lives an almost idyllic life in Jamaica. She has a daughter who adores her, a close-knit community that looks out for its own, and paradise as her playground. But she secretly longs for the touch of other women. It is a longing she finally gets to satisfy during a trip into the tourist heart of Jamaica. When she surrenders to the seduction of a compelling stranger, however, she is savagely transformed into Belle, a ruthless beast whose hungers know no bounds.

Now Belle is part of a vampire clan, reveling in an existence that lays bare the dark hungers within every soul. Part of her hates her new world, but another part glories in it and in the explosive sexual connection she shares with the powerful head of the clan. But as magical as her new world is, it also has its dangers. Dangers that threaten the people she loves.

Bonus Bisexual Black M/F Books

If you’re looking for Black queer women romances in general, check out these M/F Black romances about bi+ women!

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert cover

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Pink Slip by Katrina Jackson cover

Pink Slip (The Spies Who Loved Her #1) by Katrina Jackson

Kierra was a poor poet looking for a job while she worked toward her dream of becoming a published poet. One day she accidentally becomes the personal assistant to married spies. For the last three years she’s lusted after them, not very secretively, until finally she decides it’s time to move on with her life and gives her notice.

During her last week of work, her bosses whisk her away to Serbia for a top secret mission that only she can help them complete. And in the middle of dispatching a European dictator, Kierra and her bosses give in to their deepest desires.

Pink Slip is the first in an erotic/suspense/spy/comedy series that wonders what James Bond’s receptionist’s life might have been like. If James Bond had a wife and they both wanted to shag the receptionist. But the dirty American version of that. And all of the possible entanglements in between.

Something Like Love by Christine C. Jones cover

Something Like Love by Christina C. Jones

Eddie is arrogant, quite vain and slick at the mouth – or simply confident, discerning, and unafraid to speak his mind, if you ask him. Astrid is annoyingly perky, unpolished, and a little delusional about Eddie’s attraction to her – or, according to her, energetic, authentic, and absolutely spot on about the driving factor of a certain local tattoo artist’s “hatred” of her.

Undeniable attraction.

They may think they’re opposite, but have more in common than they think. For both of them, finding a connection that is deeper than surface-level is rare. Someone they can learn from, grow with, someone who can show them things they haven’t seen before and feel things they’ve never felt, with anyone.

No labels, no boxes.

Just…maybe… something like love.

This is far from a complete list! Check out the Sistahs on the Shelf Romance tag for more Black lesbian romance, and Katrina Jackson’s twitter thread for more queer Black romance.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2020.

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