Romance is for all, and as LGBT Pride Month comes to a close, four superb novels remind readers that love is love.
A Gentleman’s Position (Loveswept), by K.J. Charles is a fascinating examination of social and class lines in Regency England, when gay men and women were required to keep their sexuality secret for fear of imprisonment or death. For four years, Lord Richard Vane has been obsessed with his remarkable valet, David Cyprian. Not just an attendant with sartorial savvy, David is also an expert fixer, able to make nearly any scandal or political problem disappear. As skilled as he may be, however, David remains a member of Richard’s staff, and therefore untouchable — until one evening, when David and Richard cannot resist each other. The realities of class, societal mores and politics heighten the tension in this emotional, deeply romantic look at the remarkable lengths we will go for love.
Vanessa North’s Roller Girl (Riptide) is a beautiful look at female relationships in their myriad forms. When Tina Durham, a newly divorced trans woman, wakes to a flood in her kitchen, she never expects the plumber she calls to be a woman who will change her life. Joanne (Joe) Delario is more than an attractive handyperson — she’s also the captain of a roller derby team seeking new members. Tina is eager for a way to be close to Joe but even more eager for the new female friendships roller derby promises . Tina and Joe struggle to resist each other romantically and, once they give in to their attraction, struggle to keep their relationship under wraps. Tina and Joe’s love story is romantic and sexy, but it is the tribe of female supporting characters that glitters here.
In Fast Connection (self-published, e-book) by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell, Dominic Costigan returns from eight years of military service, searching for a place for himself in his home town. Determined to explore his interest in men, Dominic heads for Grindr and meets Luke Rawlings, who, like Dominic, is bisexual. Luke is a divorced father who is committed to keeping romantic relationships separate from his day-to-day life. This, of course, is not so simple. A former Marine, Luke understands Dominic’s need to start over better than anyone. As their relationship intensifies, it becomes more and more difficult for them to keep it secret. The story is erotic and at times intensely honest, as both men struggle to reconcile desire with responsibility.
A complex, poignant look at modern love, loneliness and sexual identity, Alexis Hall’s For Real (Riptide) is one of the best romance novels of the last year. At nearly 40, surgeon Laurence (Laurie) Dalziel is reeling from the end of a decade-long relationship. Against his better judgment, the submissive Laurie finds himself at a BDSM club, where he stumbles upon the much younger Toby Finch. What ensues is a romance that subverts many of the genre’s expectations — with age, experience, money and pedigree, it is Laurie who holds much of the power at the start of the book, despite Toby’s dominant identity. “For Real” is affecting, with none of the over-the-top plotlines that can cloud erotic romance. This is the story of two real, wounded people who should not match and, somehow, are utterly perfect for one another.
Sarah MacLean reviews romance monthly for The Washington Post and is the author, most recently, of “The Rogue Not Taken.”