The best engaging novels with nuanced and interesting LGBTQ2+ characters who might or might not fall in love

Clifford Henderson Author Of Perfect Little World
By Clifford Henderson

Who am I?

Being an out lesbian isn't my sole identity. I'm a writer of five award-winning novels, an improv artist, and co-founder of an improv school—and I’m even more than that. I wake up in the morning, brush my teeth, make myself a cup of tea, like to cook, like to walk, and adore reading—especially fiction. And while I am madly in love with my partner of 30 years (wife of 5) it's just one aspect of my life. My point being, LGBTQ2+ people do more than “be gay”. I like books that reflect this. I love a writer who crafts beautiful sentences, constructs imaginative stories, and provides me with endings I didn’t see coming.

I wrote...

Perfect Little World

By Clifford Henderson,

Book cover of Perfect Little World

What is my book about?

Portland, Oregon, 1989: Lucy Mustin, living somewhat happily, pumping out wedding cakes for starry-eyed heterosexuals while she, a lesbian, can’t legally marry, is called upon to travel to Santa Cruz to help her autistic sister, Alice, care for their Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother. She knew the call was coming sooner or later. She’d just hoped it would be later. Mother issues. The possibility that resolution might be lost to dementia is a heartbreak she doesn’t feel like feeling. 

Santa Cruz, California, one week later: a trip to the family bakery collides with the Loma Prieta 7.1 Earthquake, and the sisters are trapped below ground. There, Alice reminds Lucy of an unthinkable promise she made to their mother many years ago, a promise she plans to keep.

The books I picked & why

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By Sarah Waters,

Book cover of Affinity

Why this book?

This historical novel set in Victorian England is, in my opinion, a winter read. Grab a blanket, find a cozy couch, set yourself up with a cup of tea, and dive into Affinity. The tale it tells is twisted, and will have you wondering, How in the hell is this all going to resolve? I especially enjoyed it because I worked as a visiting artist in a women’s prison, and I can tell you, the relationship between inmate and visitor is complicated. The novel also deals with social status, which I love. Is it a love story? Decide for yourself.

The Company Daughters

By Samantha Rajaram,

Book cover of The Company Daughters

Why this book?

The Company Daughters was a great read and serves as a reminder that lesbians have been around forever, or at least since the 1600s when the story takes place. (Ha!) This is a love story, but a complicated one. Two Amsterdam women from wildly different circumstances are forced to sign on to be “company daughters” (aka brides of male settlers) in the Dutch outpost of Batavia in the East Indies. The women fall in love, yes, but their love involves renegotiating their original relationship: servant and mistress. I love tales that involve social status, especially when circumstances force it to change. What complicated beings we are! Seriously, I couldn’t put The Company Daughters down.

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig,

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Why this book?

I loved this novel! The protagonist, Nora, isn’t gay herself, but she has a gay brother who is central to the intriguing tale. Nora’s journey from suicidal to grateful is a balm for the spirit. It’s funny, tender, and high concept. Matt Haig creates a wrinkle in time whereby Nora can see what might have been had she made different choices. I’ve never been suicidal, but I sure have made some choices where, in retrospect, I’ve wonder, What if I hadn’t…? or, What if I had…? The Midnight Library really stuck with me and made me think, but not so much that it hurt my brain. It also made me wish I had a gay brother.

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub,

Book cover of All Adults Here

Why this book?

All Adults Here is a summer read—when you just want something light. It’s a family drama, which I always enjoy, and always seem to write about myself. Plus, its protagonist, Astrid Strick, who, at sixty-eight, comes out to her family as bisexual, makes me really happy. I mean, older people have sexual needs too! There’s also a lovely transgendered character, her son. Really, the book is about inclusivity, and that’s a theme that always sings for me. And Emma Straub is just a beautiful writer.

The Copper Egg

By Catherine Friend,

Book cover of The Copper Egg

Why this book?

I love books that take me to other worlds, and The Copper Egg does not disappoint. Peru! As the heroine searches for a lost treasure, the readers get to learn all about ancient Peru. It’s a great adventure and so well researched. It had me Googling the web to learn more. There is also a fun romance and a dastardly villain. Think Indiana Jones goes LGBTQ2+. What’s not to like? 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in LGBTQ topics and characters, parenting, and decision making?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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