There are two weeks left to shop for Christmas, which means you’re probably thinking about it quite a bit. If you’re done, congratulations—in my experience of retail, you’re ahead of the curve. If you’re well on your way, don’t panic. Two weeks can be more than enough time. And if you’ve not yet started, well, you’ve still got two weeks, but if you haven’t started because you’ve got zero ideas, maybe I can help.
Buying a gift for an LGBT friend for the holidays—especially if they’re not someone who has a family to go home to—is a huge thing. I had friends who adopted me into their holidays year after year, and it made that time of year bearable. Truly. So if you’ve got that rainbow-lovin’ friend, and you want to tuck something wonderful in some shiny paper to make their season a wee bit brighter, allow me to give you some suggestions. I’m quite lucky to be published myself with Bold Strokes Books, which means that I get to sneak-peek many of their books a month or so before release, and many of the titles I’m about to suggest were found that way.
Shall we begin?
If you’ve got a lady in your life who loves the ladies in her life, this year I fell whole-heartedly in love with Melissa Brayden‘s Soho Loft series. I listened to the first two on audio, and am anxiously awaiting the third. These are light, perfectly-paced romances with a great set of women who, as a quartet, run a boutique advertising firm in New York. Bonus points for including a wonderfully written bisexual character in Samantha.
If your lady who loves ladies is the kind with a sly sense of humour who always takes you by surprise with that timely bon-mot, then you need to get her The One that Got Away by Carol Rosenfeld. This book invoked instant nostalgia for me—as soon as I’d read it I wanted to read it again for the first time. It’s full of that sly humour and genuine clever wit I so admire in those blessed enough to possess it.
If the lady in your life likes other ladies and also likes things a little kinky, a little paranormal, or wants to see some characters of colour, then your next stop on your gift giving journey is Rebekah Weatherspoon. The Fling is super-sexy (and again, awesome bisexual content!), At Her Feet has the best role-playing and submissive characters I’ve ever read, and the Vampire Sorority Sisters series is paranormal reinvented (and super-sexy).
For the fellas who dig the fellas, if you’ve got someone in love with the speculative fiction side of the world, you need look no further than That Door is a Mischief by the brilliant Alex Jeffers. These tales of Liam, a fairy (who is unlike any fairy I’ve ever read, and I mean that as the highest compliment) are in turns amusing, moving, inspiring and heart-breaking. This book lives on my “place of honour”shelf.
If your guy into guys loves a good mystery, then look no further than the works of Greg Herren. The most recent Herren I’ve read was The Orion Mask, which has Herren’s signature “the place is as much a character as those who live and breathe” and is a darkly satisfying gothic romance of a mystery. Any of Greg Herren’s mystery series are worth noting—if your reader likes mysteries a bit dark, then go with the Chanse MacLeod books, but if your reader wants funnier and lighter (and sexier!) then move to the Scotty Bradley series.
Now, if your gay boy is more of a gay bear, a big’n’burly sort who maybe won’t connect as well with the twinkier fare found in many books, fear not. There’s a whole press just for him! Bear Bones Books is an imprint of Lethe Press specifically devoted to the ursine queer. If said big’n’burly fellow is at all rough-and-tumble, I’d be remiss not to mention Jeff Mann, who covers some pretty edgy and dark kink in Fog, moves into one of the best (and at times, bestial) takes on vampires I’ve read with his Desire & Devour collection, where a Scottish vampire drinks plenty of blood, dishes out plenty of vengeance, and has plenty of fun with other big’n’burly blokes. And this year, I also had the sublime joy of reading Mann’s latest poetry book, Rebels, which is not just wonderfully written, but beautifully illustrated. If you have a fan of poetry—especially a fan who also has a love of history, or the South—this book is perfect. Ditto A Romantic Mann, which is some of the finest poetry I’ve read.
The bisexual can be a bit of a unicorn in fiction, though I’ve mentioned a few up there with the ladies-loving-ladies that can easily reflect a bisexual reader. In fact, I see quite a bit of bi fiction with women, which is awesome, but less so for the guys. I can, however, recommend Bi Guys, a collection edited by Ron Suresha, a tireless force for Bi Male visibility. Any of his bi-themed books are worth checking out, seriously, and if you want something a bit more smexy for pal, then wrap up a copy of Bi Guys: The Deliciousness of His Sex, which Suresha edited under one of the many different versions of his name that helps delineate just how smexy the content will be.
I also bumped into a ménage book this year by the lovely (and funny as heck) Kayleigh Malcolm, Unconditional Devotion, which not only has two delicious men, but a lady who has a brilliant characterization of depression that I found so well handled and so rare to find in romance that I wanted to stand up and applaud. This looks like the start of a series, too, so I have high hopes for revisiting.
Now, if bisexual fiction is hard to find, trans fiction can be a painful exercise in frustration. However, I’ve had some great luck this year, and I pass it on to you! Dena Hankins has brought some nuanced and deftly handled trans and genderqueer characters to the literary world with two books thus far: Blue Water Dreams (a gentler romance) and Heart of the Liliko’i (much smexier, but still lovely). You can tell Dena is a world traveller (Dena lives life on the sea, for crying out loud!) and the settings shine through the page as much as the characters.
For the kinkier among those looking for genderqueer and trans books, look no further than Sassafras Lowrey. From a fantastic retelling of Peter Pan myth through an urban youth-runaway squatting lens in Lost Boi to a group of kids making their own family in Roving Pack, Lowrey hits all the right notes for those of us who dealt with family who were less than supportive (to put it mildly). Finding stories that actually tell your story is huge.
Now, I’ve spoken mostly from the point of view of buying books for adults today, and I’ll be back tomorrow to do the same for queer young adults.
What have been your favourite LGBT books you discovered this year (or any year)? What are your go-to books to give as presents? I’d love to hear.