And I Darken & Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #1 and #2) by Kiersten White
Published by: Penguin Random House
Genre: Historical YA
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: What if Vlad the Impaler was actually a woman? What if a despot’s rise to power could be told sympathetically such that a reader could understand it? And maybe even root for said despot? This trilogy sets out with these questions in mind. People…the third and last book of the series, Bright We Burn, will be coming out in July. Read these and be ready for the conclusion of this dangerous and impeccably researched trilogy. Read More
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: Adventure? Check. Found family? Check. Falafel? Check. Diversity and complexity shared by retellings of Norse Mythology and the world that created it? Check, check, check! Read More
Openly Straight/Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg
Published by: Arthur A. Levine Books
Openly Straight: Amazon
Honestly Ben: Amazon
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: A duology about do-overs, labels, love, and seriously messing up. In that order. Featuring a once-and-future gay boy, an introverted jock-philosopher. In supporting roles, their friends, who range from tone-deaf cis-hets to a to one of the most endearing enbies I’ve met on the page. Read More
All the queer love stories
I value queer love stories. I’m here for a femme geek tripping up the stairs when she first sees her hot neighbour. I’m here for a bright-eyed city socialite trapped in a snowbound cabin with a gloriously competent hermit girl. I’m here for a fireman catching his breath to exchange flirty banter with a clothing designer or Olympic diving rivals growing to respect and then love one another. I’m here for a charmer of a non-binary person reconnecting with a love they thought they’d lost. I’m here for a trans guy realising the love he considered unrequited is so very not.
Like many queer folk with a soft spot for a love story, I grew up on straight romance.
Harry’s romantic New Year’s Eve speech to Sally in When Harry Met Sally is a lesson in knowing someone and loving all of them. The ball players of Love and Basketball share a fierce respect and growing understanding. When Monica tells Quincy “I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven, and the shit won’t go away,” we feel every part of her pain and hope. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s Kathleen says “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.” And we wanted it too. Even though we knew it all along.
Jane Austen, my oldest favourite, understands the small details of love and respect. Emma’s Mr. Knightley has known Emma all her life and chokes out “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”; Captain Wentworth pens a desperately romantic and reverent letter to his long-ago love Anne in Persuasion.
There are thousands on thousands of moments of straight romance. The best of it becomes a benchmark for love in real life.
There’s value in having benchmarks. It’s important to believe that you’re worth the dazzling awe of new love. It’s a sheer joy to experience that stomach-flipping heart-pausing moment when all feelings are laid bare. Even the fluffiest romance can make a person happy, and when time’s been spent on character, when respect is given to reality, then that same fluffy romance can make the whole world better.
It’s not just the romancey side of romance (The kissing part my kid closes his ten-year-old eyes for). Love stories tend to be kind to their characters. The stories are full of tiny human observations about how people think and move and what they do when they’re happy or sad or successful or frustrated. In them the ordinary becomes beautiful. Any dim view or grey room or commonplace person is suddenly bright and beautiful when a character is in love.
But it’s tough, because most of these wonderful stories are heterosexual. You can’t just replace Billy Crystal with Cher in your imagination. You can’t just replace Sanaa Lathan with Anthony Mackie. (Though both those movies sound amazing). So many love stories are inherently not queer, and they give us queer folk the idea that we can’t ask for something that magical, or wonderful, or silly, or forever.
There’s sometimes this sense that queerness is just about sex. That queer romance is primarily about exploring sexuality and people’s fantasies. And sure, often that exploration is fabulous and important and for some people just plain hot. There’s value in sex.
But I also want queer people to have touchstones for romance, to have all the huge sweet speeches, all the stomach twisting moments of new love. I want them to have the meet-cutes, the eyes-catching across a crowded room, the heart-flipping terrifying moments of falling head over heels for someone. I want the depth too, the rich characterisation and the big lives. I want the lonely hearts and the communities of queer folk laughing and living with one another. I want all the queer love stories. (I wish I could write all the queer love stories – But I’m going to have to leave the witty banter to other writers).
Queer romance is about giving queer characters happiness, giving them a place in the everyday world, giving them communities and dreams, and giving them a happily ever after.
My hope is that queer people can see themselves reflected in that happiness. That’s why I write queer love stories. They won’t change the world, except in all the ways they will.
About Pene Henson:
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the local LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time watching sports and gazing at the ocean with her wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. She received the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance for her first novel, Into the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) about surfers growing up on the North Shore of Oahu. Storm Season, about two women trapped in a remote Australian cabin, was published in 2017. She had a short story about WNBA players going home for Christmas in If The Fates Allow (Interlude Press, 2017) an anthology of queer holiday stories.
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Today fabulous romance writer and all around awesome human, Michelle Mankin, is on Binge on Books to share an excerpt from her upcoming novel, Oceanside. But! Before we get to that, let’s learn a little about this release that promises some of my favorites: rock stars, kick butt female musicians, and two people who might just be simply perfect for each other after all…
Oceanside by Michelle Mankin
Release date: April 10, 2018
About the book:
Rock star legend, Ashland Keys should be on top of the world, but the blond blue-eyed SoCal surfer is disillusioned with fame, done with drugs, bored with the groupies and sick of all the fake f*ckery.
A rising star, Fanny Bay is nominated for best original song in the same category as the Dirt Dogs band, but the novel redhead with the corkscrew curls and the slight Canadian accent would prefer to chart a course with a different destination.
Hollywood is not for her.
He’s full of regrets, darkness and secrets.
She’s full of hope and light and has mysteries of her own.
He’s her reserved hero.
She’s his gypsy rose.
He’s water. She’s fire. Together, they don’t make sense.
But he’s what she’s always wanted, and she just might be everything he needs.
“Ash,” I corrected. “My friends call me Ash.” My voice sounded gruff from the weight of the things I wanted to explore further with her. Things that I wouldn’t, couldn’t pursue. Bad timing to meet someone who so intrigued me if the test turned out the way I feared. And even if it didn’t, she was too young, too innocent. Not at all right for someone like me.
“Ash,” she repeated, my name sliding so easily between those recently wetted ruby red lips of hers. I imagined them wrapped around my shaft and knew I wouldn’t have turned her down if she had offered to do to me the things the groupie had. My cock was certainly interested in her. It didn’t care about timing or right and wrong. It was all about action.
“I’m sorry you got drawn into my mess,” she continued. “I think that under different circumstances we might have been friends. It’s difficult to find many of those in our profession. Genuine ones, I mean. But I think it’s better if we just go ahead and say goodbye right now.”
“How so?” The lust thundering through me made it difficult to focus, but I did get that she was giving me the brush off. And even though wisdom dictated that I take the hint—it was the logical thing to do after all given our differences—the alpha male in me said, ‘Fuck logic.’
“Because my stepfather wasn’t kidding around. He means what he says. You don’t want to be on his bad side. I don’t want you to be on his bad side. And that’s where you would end up if he thought you were a friend of mine.”
“Someone who steps in front of him when he’s twisting your arm and hurting you, you mean?”
Her eyes wide, she nodded.
“Well, fuck that bullshit.” My gaze grazed the red welt on her arm. “He’s the one who should be worried about getting on my bad side.”
She smiled at my vehement response and smiling she was more than just cute. She was a wrecking ball to my resolve, Prettier in person than in any of the videos I had seen of her and so enticing in that little yellow halter top with the tempting bow dangling between her shoulder blades. I imagined untying it and taking those pins out of her hair. What would those glorious red curls feel like around my…. No… I reined those thoughts back and settled for tracing her subtle curves with my gaze instead. No sex. Not with her. Not with anyone. Not for a while. Potentially not ever. I wouldn’t put anyone at risk if there was even a chance they would get infected. Ironic to be sure. Divine justice for my own irresponsible behavior over the years.
The familiar icy dread returning, I had to remind myself that no diagnosis had actually been made. I had momentarily forgotten my apprehension in her presence. That song of hers was so fucking full of hope it had me expecting a miracle. And that hope sprang from within her. She was the source. No wonder her star had risen so fast. Just a handful of minutes with her was all it had taken for me to realize it.
“I…I wasn’t expecting to run into you tonight.” Her eyes twinkled like stars emerging in the sky as the sun relinquished its hold on the day. “I had hoped to, sure, you know, since I love…your music so much.” A few more spirally crimson curls shivered free of their pins as her hands fluttered in front of her chest. “It’s just now that I’ve actually met you for real.” She gave me that utterly beguiling guileless look. “I’ll never be able to look at your picture the same way again.”
“No reason to settle for a photograph, Fanny. You have your things to do tonight, and I’ve got mine. But afterward, there are a lot of parties. I’m sure we can manage to bump into each other again. Maybe talk some more.” Unwise, Ashland. But yet doing the ‘whoever and whatever the fuck I wanted’ rock star entitlement thing was a hard habit to crush. I might not be able to take this where I wanted with her spread out on thesheets beneath me, but I wasn’t ready for whatever the hell this was to end yet, either. So shouldn’t I leave myself an opening? Acontingency plan? I had been walking around like a zombie. But what if the diagnosis wasn’t what I feared? What if I received favorable news? What then? Who then? As I continued to stare into those starlit eyes of hers, I felt something shift and lock into place that was startlingly certain. Her. If I had a future on the other side of this, I wanted that future to include her.
“There is a reason.” She shook her head. “Samuel Lesowski. My stepfather. You two didn’t exactly hit it off.”
“You’re an adult. He doesn’t have to know everything you do, does he?”
“No.” Her face brightening, she shook her head excitedly and more curls escaped.
“What do you say then? How about this? You be just you and I’ll be just me. A girl from Beverly Hills and a guy from the beach. None of the other stuff. It’s not important. I’ve got a hurdle I have to clear next week, but afterward I can come back to LA. We could meet somewhere.”
“I don’t know.” She captured and wrapped one of her curls around her finger while blinking uncertainly at me through the thick fringe of her crimson lashes.
“There’s a coffeehouse,” I plowed over her reservations. “The Cosmic Cup in Manhattan Beach. It’s by the water. Quiet. Close enough to where you live, but a fair enough distance from the bullshit of LA. How about Wednesday at ten o’clock?”
“But nothing. You wrote that song, ‘Tomorrow Today’, right? Make every moment count. I believe that. We can’t control time, but who says we can’t manipulate it. We bumped into each other tonight for a reason. Don’t you think we owe ourselves a chance to find out what that reason is?”
Pre-order it now:
Michelle Mankin is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Records series of novels.
Rock Stars. Romance. Redemption.
Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a BRUTAL STRENGTH centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock ‘n roll industry.
Things take a bit of an edgier, once upon a time turn with the TEMPEST series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome that may prevent them from ever getting there.
Rock stars, myths, and legends collide with paranormal romance in a totally mesmerizing way in the MAGIC series.
Catch the perfect wave with irresistible surfers in the ROCK STARS, SURF AND SECOND CHANCES series.
Romance and self-discovery, the FINDING ME series is a Tempest spin off with a more experienced but familiar cast of characters.
ROCK F*CK CLUB. One woman, ten rock stars. Is a woman’s sexuality hers to define or does a double standard remain?
When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock or NOLA funk music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Published by: Tor Teen
Format: Ebook and Audiobook
Reviewed by: Madison
What to Expect: An unlikely hero, conflicted villains, and a lot of secrets.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
I stumbled upon this book when looking for an audiobook for a long car ride. Following a week of the flu, this book has become my constant companion. I highly recommend for sick days and long car rides. First and foremost I love our heroine. Aurora is an unlikely heir. She doesn’t show a lick of magic to protect her kingdom and she is forced into hiding by her mother for the fear that someone may find out her secret. She is then arranged to marry with a brooding and dark prince named Cassius from the kingdom of Locke. Don’t get heart eyes on me yet. Carmack does an amazing job at stringing you along to trust this prince and then shatters your heart within the first few chapters. I am one of those readers who will always love the first romantic interest. It’s like I have some loyalty to them. This book was the exception.
Without giving too much away Aurora finds herself in the black market of magic and teams up with a group of magical hunters. What do they hunt? Storms. Aurora cleverly devises a plan to leave with them under the guise of her new identity, Roar. Roar is bold, unafraid, and relatable. The hunters are suspicious of her. This is not a “buddy buddy perfect friendship” kind of book. The relationships are complicated and they should be. Though this is set in a fictional world I found myself relating to a lot of the characters for their human flaws.
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: There is nothing I truly disliked. If I had to pick one thing I wish when Aurora transitioned to Roar there was a bit more awkwardness to it. Sometimes she felt so strong. She was sheltered for years. There is a description in the book that her servants were changed out so often they only knew what herbs to put in her bath. I think in the beginning when she trusted Cassius that showed this naive girl. But I wish it carried a bit more into that transition. It’s not a huge thing because there were awkward and naive moments throughout.
What you will love: The story is completely original. If you are looking for some high fantasy that you feel like you haven’t read before, this is it!The world the author built was quite lush and dynamic.
Madison is our newest reviewer here at Binge on Books! When not working on her own first novel, she loves reading YA & Fantasy and listening to podcasts.
You can get in touch with her on Twitter: @MPMarkerWrites
From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Published by: Self-published
Format: Kindle Unlimited Ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tropes and Themes: ice-skating romance, enemies-to-lovers, slow slow slooooow burn
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Judith
What to Expect: Slow burn queen, Mariana Zapata, is back with a brand new enemies-to-lovers look into the world of competitive figure skating. You can expect: snarky come-backs, one liners that will make you go, “oooooh”, a big boisterous close knit family, a tough as nails heroine, and the most insufferably hot hero you will ever meet. Read More