The best feel-good historical romances for a pride-filled summer of LGBT reading

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a religion and family where being gay was most definitely more than frowned upon. Now as a queer author and parent (and former academic who studied queer lit and video games!), I’m thrilled to be bringing a “book baby” into the world during Pride Month that is pure historical romantic fantasy in which two women embrace who they are and one another. When I first started reading queer fiction, much of it was gritty and realistic, sure, but also extremely grim. I think we desperately need a balance of the grim and the gleeful and that is what I hope this little list gives you! Happy endings are possible in fiction and reality. Happy Pride Month, dear readers! 

I wrote...

The Bluestocking Beds Her Bride

By Fenna Edgewood,

Book cover of The Bluestocking Beds Her Bride

What is my book about?

Some call Fleur Warburton cold and hard-hearted. Even ruthless. Scarred by a traumatic past that destroyed her family, Fleur believes she has found the man ultimately responsible for her unhappy fate and is out for vengeance. But when the beautiful Lady Julia Pembroke gets in her way, Fleur is soon entangled in a scandal of a different sort. With Julia by her side, Fleur enters a world of tempestuous desires and rebellious hearts.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Tipping the Velvet

Fenna Edgewood Why did I love this book?

This book tops my list because it was the very first lesbian fiction I ever read and it is immensely memorable! I went on to binge-read all of the Sarah Waters I could get my hands on (and at that point I think she only had three books out). 

Tipping the Velvet is a coming-of-age-and-coming-out story of a working-class heroine in late Victorian London. Nan is a fantastic character and has a series of adventures ranging from the romantic to the titillating to the dark and tragic. Ultimately, however, there is a happy ending for Nan--and that's part of why I love the book so much. Queer folk need more happy endings and that's why this is a "feel good" book list! 

By Sarah Waters,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Tipping the Velvet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen.'

A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance set in the 'roaring' 1890s, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King on her journey from Whitstable oyster-girl to music-hall star to cross-dressing rentboy to East End 'tom'.

Book cover of A Little Light Mischief: A Turner Novella

Fenna Edgewood Why did I love this book?

A fantastic, quick-read of a novella featuring a class-difference romance between a lady's maid/thief and a prim and proper lady's companion. When the two women find themselves forced to share a room – and a bed! – things quickly become steamy. But there is more to the story than spice. Revenge upon a villain must be enacted. And of course, Alice and Molly must work to achieve their happy ever after. 

I loved my first foray into Cat Sebastian because it is pure historical fantasy, yes, but it's tingly, heart-warming wish-fulfillment of the best kind. We don't need more dead Dumbledores. We need stories that show queer love is possible and can win the day. Amiright?!

By Cat Sebastian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little Light Mischief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A seductive thief

Lady’s maid Molly Wilkins is done with thieving—and cheating and stabbing and all the rest of it. She’s determined to keep her hands to herself, so she really shouldn’t be tempted to seduce her employer’s prim and proper companion, Alice. But how can she resist when Alice can’t seem to keep her eyes off Molly?

Finds her own heart

For the first time in her life, Alice Stapleton has absolutely nothing to do. The only thing that seems to occupy her thoughts is a lady’s maid with a sharp tongue and a beautiful mouth. Her determination to…

Book cover of Under His Lover's Wing

Fenna Edgewood Why did I love this book?

When I first entered the heady world of Regency romance in January 2021 (yes, Bridgerton was the spark but I read the books first!), Merry Farmer soon became an instant inspiration. She writes M/M, F/F, and F/M historical romances and is one of the very few people who manage to write all three and have a beloved following. So, of course, I wanted to become an ARC reviewer for her and managed to snag some of the books in her After the War series, which follows a group of gay men returning back to England for a house party reunion after, you guessed it, the Napoleonic Wars. 

This is not the first installment in the series, but it’s the sweetest. Merry Farmer has created a loveable, enchanting hero in Declan Shelton, the reticent, odd young gamekeeper who draws the attention of Lord Spencer Brightling, a gruff and stern man who is actually hiding a secret wound. Declan is a wood sprite in human form who reminded me of Dicken from The Secret Garden. The outdoors and animal kingdom are his domain and he loves all wild things. But like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Declan is doomed to be the object of persecution and misunderstanding and he requires a strong and passionate defender. Enter Spencer! And that’s all I’ll say…

Book cover of The Perks of Loving a Wallflower

Fenna Edgewood Why did I love this book?

I just finished reading this book and if you love witty banter then run don’t walk to grab this. I think it may very well feature the very best banter I’ve yet to read in a historical romance. And the banter is not just between the two heroines! No, Erica Ridley has written in an entire Umbrella Academy-esque family of rogueish, rascally siblings who live double lives. On the one hand, they manage to be an accepted part of the Regency ton (good society) and on the other they’re more comfortable on the rough and tumble streets, doing daring feats of rescue and other good deeds.

Did I mention there are baby hedgehogs? And a mission to bring down the patriarchy?

By Erica Ridley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Perks of Loving a Wallflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a master of disguise, Thomasina Wynchester can be a polite young lady-or a bawdy old man. She'll do whatever it takes to solve the cases her family takes on. But when Tommy's beautiful new client turns out to be the highborn lady she's secretly smitten with, more than her mission is at stake . . .

Bluestocking Miss Philippa York doesn't believe in love. Her heart didn't pitter-patter when she was betrothed to a duke, nor did it break when he married someone else. All Philippa desires is to decode a centuries-old manuscript to keep a modern-day villain from…

Book cover of Lord John and the Private Matter

Fenna Edgewood Why did I love this book?

So, making this list has rather reminded me that there is a major dearth of queer books in historical romance. Especially of the happy variety—and it’s not a true romance if it doesn’t have an HEA.

I could easily have included The Song of Achilles or Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café or Patience and Sarah, but they wouldn’t have fit the Regency/Victorian time period I was aiming for and they also either have very hidden/obscured queerness (e.g. Fried Green Tomatoes) or no HEA (Song of Achilles, obvs).

I’m going with Lord John even though he’s Georgian era because 1) he has a happy and fulfilling life despite his One True Love ultimately being unrequited, 2) he has some great love affairs and adventures, and 3) best of all this is a series. And a series is almost as good as an HEA!

If you have enjoyed Outlander, I strongly urge you to give these a try. They’re part mystery, part war historical, but all of them feature Lord John’s trademark sophistication, charm, and dry wit.

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lord John and the Private Matter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Diana Gabaldon weaves a dazzling tale of history, intrigue, and suspense in this first novel featuring one of her most popular characters from the Outlander saga: Lord John Grey.
The year is 1757. On a clear morning in mid-June, Lord John Grey emerges from London’s Beefsteak Club, his mind in turmoil. A nobleman and a high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s army, Grey has just witnessed something shocking. But his efforts to avoid a scandal that might destroy his family are interrupted by something still more urgent: The Crown appoints him to investigate the brutal murder…

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The Pact

By Lisa Darcy,

Book cover of The Pact

Lisa Darcy Author Of The Pact

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Cat lover Traveler Reader Amateur tennis player Foodie

Lisa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Pact is a contemporary fiction novel about Australian sisters, Samantha and Annie, who are doubles tennis champions. This story amplifies the usual sibling issues and explores their professional partnership and personal relationships – similarities, differences, motivation, competition, abandonment, and grief – and how they each respond to the stress of constantly being under the media spotlight.

What happens when, at the pinnacle of fame, it all falls apart?

With dreams shattered and egos destroyed, how do they cope?

I have an older sister and although our rapport isn’t as dramatic, or as close, for that matter, I was able…

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