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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why


By Sarah Waters,

Book cover of Affinity

Why did I love 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.

By Sarah Waters,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Affinity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Affinity is the work of an intense and atmospheric imagination . . . Sarah Waters is such an interesting writer, a kind of feminist Dickens' Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Daily Telegraph

Set in and around the women's prison at Milbank in the 1870s, Affinity is an eerie and utterly compelling ghost story, a complex and intriguing literary mystery and a poignant love story with an unexpected twist in the tale. Following the death of her father, Margaret Prior has decided to pursue some 'good work' with the lady criminals of one of London's most notorious gaols. Surrounded by prisoners, murderers and common…

The Company Daughters

By Samantha Rajaram,

Book cover of The Company Daughters

Why did I love 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.

By Samantha Rajaram,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Company Daughters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

‘Blew my mind… so magically written and most of all that it is based on true events… a hard-hitting, soul-crushing book… I loved every moment of it… immersive, heart-wrenching, I feel emotional writing this review.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Wanted: Company Daughters. Virtuous young ladies to become the brides of industrious settlers in a foreign land. The Company will pay the cost of the lady’s dowry and travel. Returns not permitted, orphans preferred.

Amsterdam, 1620. Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Having run away from a violent father, her days are spent searching for work…

Book cover of The Midnight Library

Why did I love 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.

By Matt Haig,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Midnight Library as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling WORLDWIDE phenomenon

Winner of the Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction | A Good Morning America Book Club Pick | Independent (London) Ten Best Books of the Year

"A feel-good book guaranteed to lift your spirits."-The Washington Post

The dazzling reader-favorite about the choices that go into a life well lived, from the acclaimed author of How To Stop Time and The Comfort Book.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of…

All Adults Here

By Emma Straub,

Book cover of All Adults Here

Why did I love 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.

By Emma Straub,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All Adults Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'A wonderful read' Elizabeth Strout
'Literary sunshine' New York Times
'A gorgeous and witty storyteller' Elizabeth Gilbert, author of City of Girls
'The world will love it' Ann Patchett

The instant New York Times BESTSELLER

After Astrid Strick - a widowed, 68-year-old mother of three living in upstate New York - witnesses an accident, she resolves to live more honestly. Starting with the mistakes she made in raising her family.

But are her kids, tangled in their own messy adult lives, really ready to…

The Copper Egg

By Catherine Friend,

Book cover of The Copper Egg

Why did I love 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? 

By Catherine Friend,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Copper Egg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ancient Chimú believed their people came from three eggs: the rulers from a gold egg, their wives from a silver, and the workers from a copper egg.

Archaeologist Claire Adams receives a mysterious package that lures her to Peru in search of a treasure-filled tomb. She must find the tomb before looters do. She’s helped in her quest by old friends and by a strange connection to an ancient copper egg. Claire’s ex, Sochi Castillo, has her own plans for the tomb. She has two jobs—one within the law, one considerably outside it. If Claire finds the treasure first,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about LGBTQ topics and characters, parenting, and decision making.

LGBTQ Topics And Characters Explore 790 books about LGBTQ topics and characters
Parenting Explore 303 books about parenting
Decision Making Explore 71 books about decision making

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Good Omens, Rebecca, and Never Let Me Go if you like this list.