Happily-Ever-Afters for All of Us to Read by Ana Coqui

The older I get and the more romance I read, the less satisfied I become with romance novels set in uniformly white cis het worlds. While once I might have been thrilled to see the sassy gay best-friend, I’m more likely to side-eye it now.  I want the LGBT characters I encounter to be fully realized characters, not accessories. I want them to be the hero or heroine.  I want stories that are fuller and look like the world I live in, where diversity isn’t just a check-box and people aren’t just one thing.

Growing up, I didn’t have too hard of time finding stories I could connect with. Most stories were not about girls like me, but with a little imagination, I could re-write them just enough so I could see myself in them.  But many are not as privileged as me, and finding stories with HEAs that could even remotely fit their lives and their identities has been a great deal harder.

A few years ago, a close and beloved family member came out to me as Transgender. Since then, she has been forging her own happily-ever-after.  Her wife has loved her through it all, standing as proudly by her side now as she did on their wedding day 15 years ago, and they can say their love is stronger now because it is more honest and open than ever before.

I want to see more love stories like theirs in romance. When I read romance I look for stories that expand my view of love, that highlight a common desire for acceptance, comfort, and companionship across time, space, & cultures. But despite reading in a wide variety of romance’s sub-genres for years I stayed away from reading M/M because I was worried about the appropriation and the hijacking of marginalized people’s stories for the consumption of cis het readers.  While that’s still a concern, I finally realized my avoidance of M/M, lesbian & trans romance was in the end more about me and my failure to see them as stories that had something to say to me too.

In my family member’s coming-out-letter, she talked about why it had taken her so long to come out and come to terms with her gender identity. There had never been any visible transgender people that she could identify with in her community. Trans fictional characters were just as rare. Growing up she had not seen an HEA for someone like her, and neither had I. Although I had LGBT people in my family growing up, I had no picture of what an HEA for them meant. Their stories were never talked about openly. That silence and absence hurt me and it hurt countless number of young LGBT people.

We all need the stories of Queer people finding love and living happily ever after. We all need our stories told. Queer stories have expanded my view of love and they challenge, comfort and lift us all up.


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Ana’s Queer Romance Recommendations

I am only getting started reading Queer romance, but these are some of my favorites:

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies) by KJ Charles: (Historical paranormal fantasy). Lucien Vaudry returns to England after his hated father and brother’s deaths, only to nearly die himself, compelled by a horrible curse to try to take his own life.  Stephen Day, a magician with a great grievance against the Vaudrys reluctantly saves him. Together they work to untangle the origins of the curse, all while falling very inconveniently in love.

Great relationship dynamics in this book. The heroes comes from vastly different social and economic classes and have had very different life experiences. They have to overcome much to be together, and as the sequels show, they face very different consequences as result of their love.  The world building is exquisite, as is the richness of the relationships.

Glitterland by Alexis Hall: (Contemporary).  Depressed and self-destructive, Ash Winters goes home from a friend’s party at a club with a total stranger.  The next morning he leaves in an abrupt and uncaring way, filled with self-disgust.  Darian Taylor, however, doesn’t forget him so easily.

This was my first M/M romance, and I was blown away by it. I love the complexity of Ash’s feelings and how he grows to love Darian and accept Darian’s love in return, despite feeling completely unworthy of it. I loved how his view of Darian slowly changes, expanding to see the beautiful, genuine person Darian is.

Beyond Jealousy by Kit Rocha: (Dystopian SFR) The O’Kanes celebrate pleasure and love without shame, but Rachel, Cruz, and Ace have long danced around each other, attracted but scared by the bonds that tie them together and how those bonds could tear them all apart.

Kit Rocha’s dystopian erotic romance series always pairs scorching sex with deep emotional complications.  I loved how all three of them need to learn how to acknowledge each other’s love in order to claim each other.

Bound with Love by Megan Mulry: (Historical Romance) Nora and Vanessa have loved and supported each other for decades, together raising Vanessa’s children and pursuing joint artist endeavors.  But unexpected news threatens to unsettle their happy life, and forces them to face up to some of the difficult choices they made at the start of their relationship.

A fascinating relationship in trouble story. I loved how Mulry alternated between 1790 & 1810, showing us the development of Nora and Vanessa’s relationship and how their love has grown, how it has matured over the decades, and how it must change again to face new challenges.


About Ana Coqui

anacoquiA lifelong genre reader, Ana grew up reading fantasy, sci-fi & mystery novels in Puerto Rico. Ana discovered comics in college before finally wandering into the Romance section after bawling through one too many YA dystopian novels.

A recovering English and History double major, Ana is now a school librarian, mother of two geeky girls and a pastor’s wife in Rochester, NY. When she is not reading romance or writing reviews, she is knitting or planning her next trip.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • This is actually something I’ve started paying more attention to. I think someone somewhere, in a forum maybe, mentioned it and I was like, ‘Yeah, your right. The LGBTQ+ characters often don’t get a HEA (especially outside of romance, where it’s expected) and if they do it’s often conditional, only being allowed after some horrible sacrifice on their part.’ I referred to them as the Red Shirts of literature recently. And what’s been seen can’t be unseen. Now that I’m aware of this, every unhappy ending feels more significant than the last. I have a hard time look at them as individual, as opposed to part of a trend, any more. I’m hoping that this changes soon.

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