Tag Archives: lgbtq

Three Quirky Modern Love Stories: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall, and Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches by Kate Scelsa

1 Jun

Romance novels often don’t get the respect they deserve. Just because there is a happily ever after doesn’t mean the stories are all the same. Here are three charmingly unique books which use fan fiction, true crime podcasts, and tarot cards to give unique spins to their couples’ romantic journeys.

Spoiler Alert
by Olivia Dade
Spoiler Alert feels a bit of wish fulfilment for anyone out there who has ever written fanfiction and dreamed that the actor or actress of their favorite TV show or movie might fall in love with them.  April Whittier is a successful geologist who likes to write fanfiction about a popular fantasy series.  When a picture of her cosplaying gets a negative comment on social media, the star of the show not only comes to her defense but asks her out on a date.  Complicating the situation is that Marcus Caster-Rupp isn’t just an actor, he is also a fellow fanfiction writer who has developed a secret online friendship with April.  I appreciate that Olivia Dade’s heroines aren’t the cookie cutter skinny girl on most romance books covers; April is beautiful, yes, but she also has lots of curves as does Robin who is written about in the next in the series All the Feels.

Murder Most Actual
by Alexis Hall

Murder Most Actual is a funny mystery novel that parodies Clue and will win over fans of the podcasters turned detective series Only Murders in the Building, but at its heart is the relationship between Hanna a corporate financier and her wife Liza, a true crime podcaster.  The two are near their breaking point, Liza’s new found success has led to them having less time together and their relationship has become strained.  A weekend at an exclusive Scottish hotel is Hanna’s attempt to try and patch up their relationship.  There is always something a little hard about watching a couple who was once head over heels in love hit a rough patch, but there is also something to me immensely satisfying to see them be able to work through their issues; happily ever after can happen, but sometimes it takes some work.  You can read another previous post I’ve done about Hall’s sweet romance Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake.

Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches
by Kate Scelsa

I had previously written a blog post about magical romances, but this book is less fantasy than about modern practitioners of witchcraft/neopaganism; perhaps the witches in the book have real powers, perhaps they just believe they do. Vividly set in Salem, Improbable Magic for Cynical Witches centers around Seventeen-year-old Eleanor who is coping with her mother’s chronic illness as well as the feeling of being an outcast. She works at a store that cashes in on the city’s historic ties to witchcraft, but isn’t a believer herself so doesn’t think much about a guide to tarot that arrives one day, until a beautiful girl named Pix and her friends show up at the store claiming to be real witches. I had made several visits to Salem when I lived in Boston for two years and the book felt very authentic to me from what I remember. I also liked the sweet way that Pix and Eleanor, both hurt from past relationships learned to trust each other. The interweaving of the tarot cards with the story was done in a fun and clever way. This book came out on May 31 and teens as well as adults will want to add it to there to be read lists. I received an advance copy of the book from NetGalley.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services

Two Terrific Reads for Coming Out Day with Strong LGBTQ Representation by TJ Klune: The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door

11 Oct

October 11 is Coming Out Day; a day that celebrates the ability for LGBTQ people to be open about their identities.  I wanted to pick an author who was not only proudly part of the community, but also one whose work had strong LGBTQ representation, and Lambda Literary Award Winner, TJ Klune, seemed the perfect choice.

The House in the Cerulean Sea
I picked up The House in the Cerulean Sea after it was recommended during a webinar about gentle reads, stories that lack graphic sex and violence and often have a theme of finding ones place in life.  Like a lot of us after 2020, I was in need of a book that was the equivalent of a friendly hug for my heart and the whimsical plot of the novel also sounded very much in my wheel house.  The book, however, was even better than I expected; probably one of my favorites of last year. 

The House in the Cerulean Sea tells the story of a very by the book middle aged case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth who is sent to an orphanage on an island in the middle of the sea where magical youths like a gnome and a wyvern live and flourish under the care of Arthur Parnassus, but Arthur is hiding secrets and as they unravel Linus questions his own views and choices. 

In a Nerd Daily Interview, Klune stated, “The found family trope is important to me, not just as a writer, but as a queer person. Queer people sometimes have to make families of their own because their real families don’t appreciate them as they should.” Love blossoms between Arthur and Linus, but the resonating messages about friendship, compassion, open-mindedness, belonging, and acceptance give it further resonance; though for those looking for a sweet m/m romance story, it is also a resounding success.

There is a satisfying ending, but I hope that Klune revisits some of the world he created in the future.

Under the Whispering Door
Under the Whispering Door came out this past month.  I was eagerly looking forward to it after my enjoyment of Klune’s previous work.  Under the Whispering Door bears several similarities to The House in the Cerulean Sea, the main character, a work obsessed lawyer, Wallace is similar to Linus in that he seems an unlikely protagonist for a novel, more likely in another work to be a small side character for comic relief or to be pushed aside for someone more dashing or heroic.   For me that is part of the charm of both stories, that Linus and Wallace journey shows their inner strengths and compassion, and it gives hope for all of us out there who feel on most days that we are decidedly average. 

The cast of the supporting characters in this one as well as quirky setting of a charming tea house, and the tender romance are also equally delightful.  As a tea fanatic myself, I’d love to be able to visit a tea shop like the one described in the novel with such a knowledgeable staff and tender scones. 

It is also always wonderful to see strong representation of not only gay, but also bisexual characters handled in such a nuanced manner with Wallace and Hugo.  In an interview with Syfi Wire when asked about having Wallace be confident in his bisexual identity, Klune stated “”I try to be as inclusive as possible.  So if I’m going to have a character be bisexual, it’s going to be damn well on-page that they’re bisexual.  It is going to be said out loud because that kind of representation it’s still not where it needs to be.  And it just feels like a lot of times when you read queer romance novels that instead of being on-page bisexual, [it’s that] they’re straight and now they’re gay. Bisexual people exist.”

Wallace’s tale is a bit darker in that it involves death and discussions of murder and suicide, however, these are handled in a thoughtful and reflective way rather than pure shock value.  This is another novel that will leave you wanting to check out more of Klune’s work.  

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Resources

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