As a romance reviewer, I talk a lot. My basic job in the romance space is to be free with my opinions, thoughts and recommendations. They don’t always have to be authoritative. There are times when mutual exploration is better. And respect for others’ opinions is always important. But basically, my role is to read, consider and write what I think in the service of helping others pick books they might like.
Queer Romance Month last year then was a change of pace for me. I think I left…two comments? Maybe three? And honestly, it was at least one too many for me, a basically heterosexualish, white, cisgendered woman. I suspect that there are those who will disagree with me, but while in general I occupy a middling sort of place of privilege in the world overall, within the romance community, it places me squarely at the top of the heap for no reason that I deserve. The easy rapport and immediate acceptance I’ve experienced in the last 18 months has a bit to do with personality, education and experience, but an overwhelming amount to the commonalities that had influential folks looking at me and saying, “This person is like us. We will welcome her into the fold.” My experience is not, unfortunately, everyone’s experience.
So last year I read every single post on the QRM site and a lot of the other posts that got pushed out to other blogs, watched as conversations unfolded on Twitter, and made friends with people I never would have met otherwise. I laughed with Andi Marquette. I cried with E.E. Ottoman. I nodded with Amy Jo Cousins and Isobel Carr. I baked a cake, which got a lot of embarrassing accolades for what was basically the equivalent of carrying a watermelon in the face of the hard emotional and organizational work going on throughout the month.
Resolving to mostly listen during last year’s celebration was a relief to me, honestly. Rather than struggling with what to say in the face of so many beautiful, difficult, joyful, inspiring, thought-provoking stories, I could sit back and learn. But even that is an expression of privilege. I have nothing to advocate for in this space for myself. It costs me nothing besides a bit of discomfort from being made explicitly aware of my own overwhelming ignorance in the face of what others experience and a whole lot of gratitude to everyone who was and is willing to share their stories in such an open, genuine, heart-felt way. Everyone will have their own way of processing, absorbing and reflecting the messages of the posts this month and that’s good. Listening more than talking is what feels right for me, but I don’t expect that to be the case for everyone.
I still don’t have a lot I think I can contribute to the discussions that will take place during Queer Romance Month except to bear witness, amplify voices that aren’t often heard in our community and, uh, buy books. Which I did a lot of last year. I’ve spent the last year reading romance by writers like Andi Marquette, Kim Dare, Cat Montmorency, KJ Charles, Amy Jo Cousins, Alexis Hall, E.E. Ottoman, J.A. Rock, Lisa Henry and others I was introduced to via QRM or by people I met during QRM. I have fallen in love with the stories and characters these people have written. So, um, just be prepared for your book budget to scream and cry.
What it comes down to is that the best thing I can say this month, and maybe the only thing I will say, is happy birthday, Queer Romance Month. I hope you toddle along for many years to come. And hope you see ever greater love, warmth and acceptance for the stories everyone, and I do mean everyone, has inside them.
Elisabeth’s Queer Romance Recommendations
Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins features older guy Jay and younger guy Devin navigating the mire of online dating. It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s free!
Winter’s Bees by E.E. Ottoman, two friends get maneuvered into a marriage of convenience they’re each convinced the other doesn’t want. It’s a very romantic story, lovingly told.
All You Can Eat by Andi Marquette and R.G. Emanuelle, lesbian foodie romance and erotica anthology has a little something for everyone. Some stories are sweet, some are hot. All are very well done and include a recipe!
About Elisabeth Lane
Elisabeth Lane lives in the Washington, DC suburbs with her husband and their dog. She spent nearly 15 years in marketing before quitting to become a full-time housewife. She matches the romance novels she reads with a recipe from her personal archives or just makes up a new one. She loves to experiment in the kitchen, go ballroom dancing and spend lots of time in thrift stores looking for mid-century modern pottery to add to her collection. Read more about her and her adventures pairing romance novels with food at cookupromance.com.