Welcome to the 2022 edition of the Queer Fiction Blog!
We are three librarians who enjoy reading and reviewing LGBTQ+ fiction for all ages. More specifically, who are we and what new books are we looking forward to in 2022? Allison is the Children's Librarian for the Brighton Branch and she is looking forward to reading I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston. Jordan is a Reader Services Librarian at the Central Library and is looking forward to reading Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly. Veronica is the Reader Services Specialist at the Central Library and she is looking forward to reading The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri (Burning Kingdoms #2) and The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian (The Queer Principles of Kit Webb #2).
To start the year off, our January reviews include two young Mexican-American men continuing their relationship begun in another book, two Psycops in love battling creepy ghosts, and siblings on the hunt for riches in marriage.
These titles may be available in other formats or languages. Check our catalog for availability.
We hope you find something to start your year off in the right book. Happy Reading!
Title/Author: Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Summary: Aristotle and Dante continue their journey to manhood in this achingly romantic, tender tale set against the backdrop of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s America. In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys fell in love. Now they must learn what it means to stay in love—and to build their relationship in a world that doesn't seem to want them to exist.
Series/Standalone: Aristotle and Dante #2
Genre/Sub-genre: Young Adult
Book Format: Print
Length: 516 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Content Warnings: Homophobia, death of a parent (on page), transphobia
Well-written/Editor Needed: Mixed
Would I Recommend: Yes
Personal thoughts: I’m going to start this review by getting my unpopular opinion out of the way: I did not think the original book, reviewed in June 2020, needed a sequel! While I understand why people wanted to see more of Ari and Dante and their love, I was always very satisfied with how the first book ended. I was hesitant to read this one because Ari and Dante have such a special place in my heart and I wasn’t sure that a sequel would allow me to still enjoy them the way that I have for years. I was mostly wrong, for which I am grateful.
Waters picks up right where Universe leaves off, with Ari and Dante having newly admitted their feelings for one another. Waters is mostly about them navigating this new relationship in a world that seems designed to keep them apart. They’re seniors at different high schools looking to attend colleges nowhere near each other in addition to larger problems such as their identities as border town Mexican-American gay men and the AIDS epidemic that is sweeping the country.
Their families are immediately supportive of their relationship, while also hyper-conscious of what this will mean for them going forward. The unconditional love from their families was implied in the first book, but it was nice to see it in action in this one. A tad unrealistically, everyone that Ari and Dante tell about their relationship is supportive and willing to keep their secret. While I was happy that we didn’t have to go through the trauma of Ari and Dante being rejected by the people they love, it did read a bit like a fantasy-version of the 80’s. There is also a moment where Ari goes to confront his incarcerated brother only to find out that he killed a trans woman. This inclusion of violence after the love and support we are shown by Ari’s family and friends was shocking and felt slightly unnecessary.
I did, however, love the glimpse into Ari’s friendships and school-life. I really enjoyed getting to see the ways that he grew over his summer with Dante and the way that he was becoming an adult. I cherished more time with Ari and Dante as they tried to figure out how to navigate this new aspect of their relationship. I am deeply thankful for the way Ari began to appreciate those around him and allowed us to see more sides to characters only mentioned in the first book. It was easy to slip back into Ari and Dante’s world and, up until the last 30 pages or so, my love for their love only grew. While I’m satisfied with this book, I think I’ll always think of it as something separate from the original.
Title/Author: Among the Living (PsyCop #1) by Jordan Castillo Price
Summary: Victor Bayne, the psychic half of a PsyCop team, hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic from an adjacent precinct, and it seems like his dubious luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer surfaces who can change his appearance to match any witness’ idea of the world’s hottest guy.
Series/Standalone: Psycop Series #1-12 and short story collections, ongoing
Genre/Sub-genre: Romantic Paranormal Mystery
Book Format: eBook (The audiobooks are fantastic and I absolutely love the narrator, Gomez Pugh, who does a great voice for Vic. However, they are only available via Audible, which does not sell audiobooks to libraries. If you’re interested in the audiobooks, you’ll have to purchase them yourself.)
Length: The first few books are novella length and the later books are full novels.
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Content Warnings: Ghosts and scary dead things
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Would I Recommend?: YES
Personal thoughts: This series (one of my favorites of all time) is creepy, romantic, and mysterious. It keeps me on the edge of my seat every time I pick up one of the books, whether it’s my first read or I’ve read it a dozen times already. Book twelve, Other Half, came out in 2021 and includes a momentous occasion for the two main characters, Victor Bayne and Jacob Marks, so it seemed like a great opportunity for me to take some time and revisit the entire series before reading the latest installment. Doing so allowed me to really take in the scope of the series so far and see Vic grow and change for the better in a very realistic and natural way as he learns more about himself, his abilities, and his past.
Vic is one of the most relatable fictional cops I’ve ever known. His scowl is notorious and he freely admits (at least internally, to the reader) he has almost no clue how his mediumship abilities actually work. Jacob is a rock beside him, but even Jacob has his moments of uncertainty, keeping him realistic even with his brains and brawn and good looks. Each of the side characters are well drawn out and I miss seeing them in later books when they have to leave. The mysteries are super creepy and keep me guessing all the way to the end. The world-building is realistic and believable with modern day Chicago as the setting for a world where psychics are well known and regulated by a secret government agency.
I should mention that while this series often gets marked as m/m romance, it is technically not a romance. There is no doubt from the first moment Jacob thrusts his tongue down Vic’s throat in the beginning of the first book, Among the Living, that the two of them will be together until the end of time. That said, their relationship is always sexy and there are graphic sex scenes in every book, though they do start to taper off some in the later books as life and murder cases get in the way.
I can’t wait for the next book, but I’m gonna miss Vic and Jacob until then. I’m really curious to see where Jordan goes with this series! See all the books in the series here, including her collections of short stories: Psycop Series: 14 Books by Jordan Castillo Price
Title/Author/Artist: The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles
Summary: Robin and Marianne Loxleigh are charming and unpretentious, welcomed everywhere by London high society even though they make no claims to extraordinary wealth or blue blood. They're also accomplished liars in search of one thing only: a spouse with enough money to keep them from ever having to worry again. When Robin sets his sights on orphaned heiress Alice Fenwick, her uncle is suspicious...but the more he investigates the suspected fortune-hunter, the more he finds he (reluctantly) likes him.
Genre/Sub-genre: Historical romance
Book Format: Print
Length: 244 pages
LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay
Content Warnings: None, really, aside from a general awareness of how financial pressures constrain people's freedom and force them (especially women) into marriages or other sexual arrangements that they might not consent to otherwise.
Well-written/Editor Needed: Well-written
Would I Recommend?: Yes, especially if you're in the mood for a fluffy happily-ever-after.
Personal thoughts: After mentioning KJ Charles's outsize impact on m/m historical and fantasy romance market over the last ten years in my review of A Marvellous Light, I thought I should really review one of her latest to let you know she's still in the game! Similar to her 2018 book, Band Sinister, reviewed in February 2019, The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting is an obvious homage to Georgette Heyer minus the prejudice. Fans of the cross-dressing, swashbuckling siblings Robin and Prudence in The Masqueraders will find plenty to love in Robin and Marianne! Where Charles really shines (and where Heyer inevitably falls short) is in recognizing the societal prejudices that force people into their roles. Whether they would be cast as a heroine or a villain in a conventional Regency romance, all anyone wants is freedom! Freedom to make their own choices, to control their own money, to live without fear of starvation or arrest.
This is a deeply fluffy romance in which nothing bad happens to anyone. Even the actual villain suffers nothing worse than public humiliation. Still, the awareness of how different the stakes are for Sir John and for Robin (and his sister) permeates the book. KJ Charles lovingly defuses the tension this causes for their relationship as Robin vocally and repeatedly asserts his right to consent when Sir John hesitates out of fear that he may have coerced him. It's a beautiful, twofold learning moment, and I was so grateful to see it on the page. Likewise, I was delighted that the parallel thread of Marianne's romance (spoiler alert) does NOT end in happily-ever-after, and instead her triumph is finding a way to be happy and comfortable without a husband. The climactic scene made me want to stand up and cheer.
If you, like me, are tired and frightened by current events and just want a warm hug of a book, I strongly recommend The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting! It's a perfect book for the long cold Boston winter nights.