The best books on queer historical romance

Who am I?

As a queer author I’ve been extremely pleased with the amount of queer stories that are now available. I love books that make me feel, I get lost in their worlds and stories. I’ve been drawn to books with darker themes, ones that leave me sad for days. Those are the stories that stick with me. Ones that leave me crying, aching for the characters. That is what I set out to do with my book. I wanted to take a story everyone knew and give it new life. To tug on heartstrings and invite readers into the world that used to exist only in my head.      


I wrote...

Antique Roman

By Syd Neben,

Book cover of Antique Roman

What is my book about?

Antique Roman is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, told through Horatio’s eyes, and is much more than a tragedy. It's also a love story about who the handsome and dashing Prince of Denmark finds himself drawn to the quiet, introverted Horatio while at university in Wittenberg. Slowly but surely, Hamlet helps the guarded Horatio see his own true value and shows him who love can bring light to life.  

Hamlet receives word that his father, the King, has died. He must return to Elsinore in Denmark to comfort the grieving Queen. Horatio soon follows and they find the royal court mired in mystery and betrayal. Told mostly in modern English, this novel offering readers an easy-to-understand version of the Bard’s Hamlet that still captures its flavor and mastery. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

If We Were Villains

By M. L. Rio,

Book cover of If We Were Villains

Why this book?

If Were Villains is an extraordinarily rare novel that I adore. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It follows seven students attending their senior year at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Oliver Marks essentially lives in a bubble where he lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps nothing but Shakespeare. He and his friends dance a fine line between fiction and reality, often getting lost in the characters they play. As they get wrapped up in the world of Julius Caesar, bloody and mired in betrayal, fiction becomes reality when one of the seven dies. Oliver is left to defend his friends and is forced to confront what he’d do for the one he loves. This book is dark and twisted, a murder mystery that packs a punch.       

If We Were Villains

By M. L. Rio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked If We Were Villains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends - a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago. As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off - villain, hero, tyrant, temptress - though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary…


The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller,

Book cover of The Song of Achilles

Why this book?

This book heavily inspired me to write my own novel. The Song of Achilles is a queer retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus from The Illiad. I am a fan of The Iliad and The Odyssey, but this book blew me out of the water. It took a classic story and flipped it on its head. The love that Achilles and Patroclus shared touched my heart, and I was left thinking about this book for months after I finished it. Patroclus makes for an interesting narrator, giving us a glimpse of the war on Troy from a new angle. I laughed, I cried, and wondered where this book had been my whole life. It is beautifully written, heartbreaking and absolutely stunning. I can’t recommend it enough.     

The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**OVER 1.5 MILLION COPIES SOLD**
**A 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION, FEATURING A NEW FOREWORD BY THE AUTHOR**

WINNER OF THE ORANGE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
THE INTERNATIONAL SENSATION
A SUNDAY TIMES AND NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'Captivating' DONNA TARTT
'I loved it' J K ROWLING
'Ravishingly vivid' EMMA DONOGHUE

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms…


Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Why this book?

When I first picked up this book I was not expecting to be so deeply affected by it. Set in Paris in the 1950s, Giovanni’s Room follows David as he struggles with his own inner torments. He is caught between duty and desire when he meets Giovanni at a bar. With a fiancée in Spain and a father waiting back home in the States, David is forced to choose. Hella with her bold confidence and promise of normal, public life, or Giovanni and his many mysteries, passions, and suffocating love. My heart ached for David and Giovanni alike, their story doomed to walk a dark path. Another heart-wrenching story, but one that should not be missed.    

Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Giovanni's Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened - while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy.

United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love's endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love,…


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz,

Book cover of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Why this book?

This book, along with its recently published sequel, are beautifully crafted stories. Ari first meets Dante in the summer. Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim and from there an unlikely friendship blooms. Ari with his quiet moods and his desire to remain invisible, and Dante, quick to love with his large personality and confidence. Their bond runs deeper over the summer and they are both faced with what they truly want, and how to live in a world that won’t accept them. I love both of these books, how Ari and Dante lift the other up, and how unafraid they are to face the world if they have each other. Their growth and struggles feel so real, making these incredibly powerful books.       

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Printz Honor Book is a "tender, honest exploration of identity" (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When they meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the two loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special kind of friendship--the kind of friendship that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through their friendship that Ari and Dante will learn…


Slippery Creatures

By KJ Charles,

Book cover of Slippery Creatures

Why this book?

I actually found this series through Tiktok and immediately fell in love with it. Slippery Creatures is the first in the series and it sets up the tenuous relationship between Wil Darling and Kim Secretan. After the Great War, Will inherits his uncle’s bookshop, and the attention of a criminal gang and the War Office. Both demand information Will has never heard of before. Will then meets Kim, who seems sociable and helpful, but there is more to Secretan than meets the eye. As the series continues the relationship between Will and Kim grows as they battle gangs and Kim’s own family. This series is quirky and fun and I just adore it. Will and Kim’s character arcs are beautifully paced and satisfying. I highly recommend this series.       

Slippery Creatures

By KJ Charles,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Slippery Creatures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing...until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else. Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger. And then…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gay men, brothers, and murder?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gay men, brothers, and murder.

Gay Men Explore 54 books about gay men
Brothers Explore 67 books about brothers
Murder Explore 497 books about murder

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Glamour Boys, Alan Turing, and Norse Mythology if you like this list.