I read books by and about LGBTQ+ characters all year round (because they’re awesome!), so you’ll see such titles worked into many of my posts. Since it’s pride month, though, I’ve been focusing even more intentionally on queer reads and wanted to share some of my recent finds with you in the spirit of celebration. Happy Pride!

Reverb by Anna Zabo

Mish is the bass player in a band, and her bandmates are her family. They’ve put in the work for years and are now seeing success and fame, but that all comes with a dark side. After threatening messages appear on social media that target Mish specifically, the band hires David, a military veteran and security expert who is also a trans man, to keep Mish and her bandmates safe. What David didn’t count on is falling for the woman he’s supposed to be protecting (bodyguard trope, anyone?), and he definitely didn’t expect to feel like the band could be his safe haven too. The book maybe could have been shorter with less repetitive inner monologue-ing, but the found family/total acceptance gooeyness made me really happy.

The True Queen by Zen Cho

If you haven’t read Sorcerer to the Crown, you should definitely read that first before jumping into The True Queen, not because the books can’t stand alone, but because they’re both so delightful you owe it to yourself to read them both. (We named our cat, Prunie, after Prunella Gentleman from Sorcerer to the Crown!) In this follow-up novel, Muna and Sakti are sisters who washed up on a beach with no memory of where they came from. They’re taken in by a powerful magician, but even her magic can’t restore their memories. When Sakti starts fading away before Muna’s eyes, the sisters undertake a dangerous journey through Fairy to England, where they hope the Sorceress Royal will be able to help them. Cho is a lovely writer, and the fantasy world she’s created is one I love getting lost in.

The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang

Everything in this novella was totally new to me--the Asian-inspired fantasy world, the way characters conceive of gender, the rules of Tensorate magic, everything--and thus it stretched my focus. I found myself having to go back and reread sections, especially in the first half, but eventually my brain snapped like a rubber band and I settled into the story. I was listening to the audio version of a traditionally Western, patriarchal fantasy at the same time as reading this book in print, and it makes me want more fantasy novels like this that challenge Western patterns and tropes, that don't start from the same set of tired assumptions that white people must be central, that men must be in charge, that queer people either don't exist or exist only to be punished.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I haven't read very many fantasy/mystery mashups, but now I want to scent them all out like a hound dog because this was a fabulous reading experience. I loved the setting of a private school for mages paired with Ivy, the adult outsider narrator, because frankly I can only take so much teenage drama. This way you get the fun setting but the angsty bullshit is filtered through a snarky, tough-but-damaged-inside PI who is not going to be drawn in by the schoolkid shenanigans (or is she?). Tons of heart here, too, with complicated sister feels and reflections on how life is versus how it could have been.

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy

A literary mystery set in a girls' boarding school in India in the '70s. Lots of pot and acid, a queer romance, and all kinds of secrets and intrigue. You get the perspective of a young teacher who becomes a suspect in a murder, as well as a bright student who sees more than she truly understands. Perhaps a bit overlong for me at 500 pages, but if you're looking for the quiet, creeping kind of mystery instead of the flash-bang kind, this will be your speed.

Heat Stroke by Tessa Bailey

All the feels! Tessa Bailey writes instantly recognizable characters--she gives you a few carefully chosen details and you're immediately on board. This is a male/male romance between two lifeguards. Marcus is a CrossFit enthusiast with dreams of opening a juice bar, and Jamie is a high school teacher who helps out at the family’s bar during the summer. I loved Jamie and Marcus so much! They complement each other so well, and Marcus is the most lovable, Andy Dwyer-style "fine but simple" hero. And then Jamie is so smart and sweet and caring...! Ugh. I just loved this. Would definitely reread when I need a pick-me-up.

Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I'm not usually one for vampire stories, but I also didn't think I'd be into the male nanny trope and Rebekah Weatherspoon convinced me otherwise, so I decided what the heck, I'll give vampire sorority sisters a chance. And credit where credit is due: the plot surprised me a couple of times, and the politics and power dynamics between all the undead ladies were more layered and complex than I expected. It's also smoking hot, and the physical connection between Camila and Ginger is central to the story. I will say, having read some of Weatherspoon's other books, this one is her first novel and she's definitely honed her craft since it was published.

Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian

A small-town historical mystery à la Agatha Christie with a charming romance between a WWII veteran doctor and a spy who never lets anyone get too close and doesn't know how much he wants a true home until his job brings him to a sleepy village to investigate the murder of a charwoman. The best part of this book is the quirky but lovable cast of characters, from the harried, unkempt vicar's wife, to the two elderly spinsters who took in an apparently orphaned teenage eccentric, to the two leads themselves, whose connection is immediate but necessarily postponed due to, well, murder. I was lucky enough to visit the Cotswolds last year, and picturing the characters inhabiting one of the picturesque towns we walked through--even if they were investigating a suspicious death--was great fun.

AuthorTaryn Pierson

Looking for a few light and funny reads for your beach bag this summer? There’s no better mood booster than a good rom-com! These six romantic comedies bring the laughs AND the love.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

I’d heard Tessa Dare was funny, but this was just a ding-dang delight. The kind of romance where the characters are having so much fun, you find yourself having fun right along with them. A seamstress shows up on a duke’s doorstep demanding payment for a wedding dress she made for his fiancée—except the fiancée dumped the duke, and the seamstress is wearing the dress in question in hopes of…I don’t know, startling payment out of the unsuspecting man? Instead she inspires a crazy notion: the duke needs an heir, and therefore a wife, and he thinks, why not just marry this gal who conveniently showed up in a wedding dress? Don’t ask too many questions, don’t analyze whether the plucky, sweet, sex-positive heroine is anachronistic—just go with it, and you’ll have as great a time with this book as I did.

Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

You wouldn’t think a romance starring a woman who works in her family’s Indian restaurant and a member of a biker gang would be particularly funny, but Suleikha Snyder works some kind of magic to perfectly blend serious issues with snarky banter. Pinky is a character you can’t help but love, and her chemistry with Trucker is off the charts. I lose patience quickly with characters who claim they can’t be together for dumb reasons, but there is one very serious reason keeping these two apart, and I appreciated how Snyder dealt with it.

Every Road to You by Phyllis Bourne

The very definition of a comfort read--uptight hero who needs to loosen up but is also really sweet about taking care of the people in his life, business powerhouse heroine who needs to learn to stand up to misbehaving family members, and a granny with a bucket list seizing the day on the back of a Harley. If you’re a fan of road trip romances, forced proximity, or enemies to lovers, you will find all those tropes and more here. For when you need a warm hug as much as you need a good book.

Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

I love a confident, sexy plus-size heroine! Natalie is the kind of person who says whatever she’s thinking, and she’s thinking some outrageous shit. She’s usually the one to leave the guys tongue-tied, but the hottie dairy farmer at the farmer’s market short-circuits her brain and renders her incapable of speech, much less flirtation. When a mutual friend introduces them, Natalie finally steels herself to go after what she wants. But if she wants a future with her farmer, she’s going to have to decide if that includes a whole herd of cows.

Band Sinister by K.J. Charles

I’m utterly charmed! An uptight country mouse finds himself stranded at the home of an infamous rake due to his sister’s untimely accident. The siblings have heard rumors that would light your hair on fire about what goes on at Rookwood Hall, and now it seems they are to have an unwitting front row seat for the madness and debauchery, which may or may not be as publicized. Humorous but heartwarming story about finding your people and learning to live life on your own terms.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

The much-anticipated follow-up to The Kiss Quotient, but for my money this one’s even better. Khai is on the autism spectrum and has been told his whole life that he doesn’t have feelings. He lives a quiet, regimented life and avoids connections with people outside of a handful of friends and family. His mother, thinking he needs a push to find love, goes to Vietnam to find him a wife and brings back Esme, who was working as a cleaner at a hotel to support herself and her daughter. Esme is terrified to leave her child and fly to an unknown country, and she receives a decidedly lukewarm welcome when Khai’s mother presents her as his bride. Still, she’s determined to win him over, and some sweet moments and funny misunderstandings ensue. Don't miss the Author's Note at the end--I don't think I've ever before managed to read an entire book and not get choked up until the afterword.

AuthorTaryn Pierson