Queer Lit Review: April 2024

Hello and welcome to the April 2024 edition of the Queer Lit Review blog! This month we have two debutantes distracting themselves from seeking husbands, two spies searching for those trying to bring down the kingdom, and a doctor and a painter coming together to live and love.

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Happy Reading!

Title/Author: Don't Want You Like a Best Friend by Emma Alban  

Reviewer: Allison 

Summary: A queer Victorian romance in which two debutantes distract themselves from having to seek husbands by setting up their widowed parents, and instead find their perfect match in each other. 

Winter Reading Challenge Region: Americas/United States

Series/Standalone: Series 

Genre/Sub-Genre: Romance 

Book Format: eBook 

Length: 393 pages 

LGBTQ+ Orientation: Sapphic 

HEA/HFN:  Yes 

Content Warnings: References to domestic abuse 

Ratio of Sex/Plot: 90% plot / 10% sex 

Well-Written/Editor Needed: Well-written but could have been shorter 

Would I Recommend it?: Yes 

Personal Thoughts: I am going to have some unpopular thoughts about this book in places, but overall it was a fun read! Let’s get into it.  

I first heard about this book because I follow the artist (whose art I am low-key obsessed with) who did the cover on Instagram and she posted about it. Great cover art, sapphics in Victorian time, and a Taylor Swift lyric as a title? A trifecta of things that appeal to me, really, which is why I was so disappointed that this was such a middle of the road read for me.  

There was something about main character Gwen that didn’t work for me. There’s nothing wrong with her writing or characterization, she just isn’t the type of character that I resonate with. I found her a bit petulant and a bit pushy, simplifying complicated situations to suit her whims, even when others called her out on it. I think that her character would have worked better for me if she already knew that she liked girls; her behavior in combination with being in the closet just felt at odds.  

Beth, on the other hand, worked better for me. Her journey to self-discovery and struggle with the weight of the societal expectations on her shoulders made more sense within the narrative and made for a more compelling sense of growth. While at times her demureness was frustrating, it fit into the overall story in a better way than Gwen. I think, in a lot of ways, what it came down to for me was that Beth was approaching things pragmatically and Gwen was a dreamer who refused to meet Beth halfway while they worked to figure things out. I do think this book would have benefitted from staying in one point-of-view (Beth’s) the whole time. 

If I’m being totally honest, the relationship that was most interesting to me in this book were their parents, who the two girls were trying to set up so that they wouldn’t have to marry and instead could spend their days together (even before they realized their feelings for each other were romantic). Their parents were a second chance romance with plenty of baggage, snarky remarks, and longing glances. I do feel that the parents' relationship pulled focus quite often.  

This was fun, but it wasn’t necessarily good, if you know what I mean. I would absolutely recommend it, but it wouldn’t make any of my best-of lists. 

Title/Author:  Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling

Reviewer:  Jordan

Summary:  Rescued from prison by a stranger who turns out to be a spy, young Alec of Kerry, who was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, becomes the spy’s apprentice. The two become embroiled in a plot for the throne that turns out to be more unpredictable than either of them could have anticipated.

Series/Standalone:  Nightrunner #1

Genre/Sub-Genre:  Fantasy

Book Format: eBook

Length:  479 pages

LGBTQ+ Orientation:  Gay

Content Warnings:  Mentions of torture and gore

Well-Written/Editor Needed:  Well-written!

Would I Recommend?:  YES

Personal thoughts:  I know, I know, I’m extremely late to the party! (This book was first published in 1996!) I’ve had many friends recommend this series to me over the years and I’m now finally getting to it. I really enjoyed the first book. The writing drew me in and the world building was fabulous and rich in just the right amount of details. Right away Alec is discussing the merit of two different bow makers showing the depth of the world in just a few lines. I also appreciated how easy it was to understand who was who and what was going on. It helped that Alec is new to the city Seregil lives in and we learn everything just as he does.

I loved the equality in this story and how it’s handled in an understated way. We see women in many different roles, from Queen and Army General down to homemaker. Queer relationships, mostly gay and lesbian that I’ve seen so far, are commonly accepted. There’s a light district with color coded lights so you know where to go for what you’re looking for! It is also mentioned that several characters have darker skin. Over all, this is a fantasy series that’s on the progressive side for its time period.

The two main characters are Alec, 16 years old and somewhat newly orphaned by his father, and Seregil, an older rogue, spy, noble, and failed wizard who can’t tell Alec everything about himself for obvious reasons.  The two spend a lot of time rescuing each other and becoming very good friends. There are hints that Seregil likes men and likes Alec and there are hints that Alec might like men, but this is a slow-burn romance where nothing actually happens between them within the first book. With the rather large age gap between them, that’s probably a good thing for now!  

The plot gets twisty, as plots involving spies usually do, and you should be aware that it continues in the next book. Most of the plot is wrapped up, but there are some big strings left hanging at the end. In other words, your mileage may very as to whether or not you can put this one down and pick up something else before you start book 2. The nice thing about this series is that it has only 7 books and the last one came out in 2014, so if you prefer waiting for the final book to get published before you start a series, you’re in luck with this one! Here’s a list of the books in reading order on Goodreads.

Title/Author: Learning to Feel by N.R. Walker

Reviewer: Logan

Summary: Resigned to living a sexless, loveless life, Doctor Nathan Tierney knows something is missing. In a rash decision, he leaves his all-consuming job at Mass General Hospital, to be the small-town doctor in Belfast, Maine. With the job comes a house, and with the house comes a handyman-painter. Trent Jamieson, a nomadic artist, and his dog Bentley, are offered free accommodation for the few weeks he fixes up the hospital-owned house.

Nathan is transfixed by this free-spirited, undeniably gorgeous man. Confused but amazed to feel any kind of attraction - much less to a man - Nathan convinces himself to put aside any preconceived ideas, and allows himself to just feel.

As their attraction for each other grows, one man learns to live, the other learns to love. But just who is teaching who?

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Genre/Sub-Genre: MM Romance

Book Format: eAudiobook

Length: 8hrs // 290pg

LGBTQ+ Orientation: Gay // Demisexual (implied not explicitly stated)


Content Warnings: Homophobic estranged family

Ratio of Sex/Plot: There is a fair amount of sex but there is more plot/emotional intimacy than detailed sex scenes. 

Well-Written/Editor Needed: No extensive editing needed. 

Would I Recommend it?: Absolutely! I gave it 5 stars. 

Personal Thoughts: I am not an emotional person but I did indeed cry reading this. *SPOILERS*

Nathan’s supportive family, and the sheer amount of acceptance, support, and overall care is touching. The emotional connection between Nathan and Trent is beautiful. Their loving, healing, and supporting each other makes one yearn for that kind of connection. Also the dog is a main character and Bentley deserves all the jammy toast he could wish for. I’m not sure if it was just that I too am demi and relate so strongly to Nathan at the beginning of the book but the whole story warms my guarded little heart.