With a long stretch of quarantine behind us and at least a few months of virtual learning still ahead, you have probably found yourself with a free hour or two in between classes where doing your homework sounds as unappealing as looking ahead through your textbook. Why not preoccupy that hour—or three—with one of these queer romances that are guaranteed to make you swoon or maybe, just maybe bring tears to your eyes?
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
It’s highly likely that you have heard of this novel considering that it made quite a splash when it debuted in 2019. Set in an alternate universe where the 2016 presidential election is won by a woman senator from Texas, Red, White & Royal Blue follows First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz as he discovers his bisexuality and struggles with an attraction to—and later a relationship with—his nemesis, British Prince Henry of Wales. This novel is an adorable emotional roller coaster that’s guaranteed to keep you smiling even while you sob.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
In this expansion of Homer’s Iliad, Achilles is a Greek prince and warrior renowned for his invulnerability, but his close friend—and beloved lover—Patroclus follows him into the grasp of death. Through her writing, Miller’s gorgeous imagery translates easily within your mind as you follow young Patroclus to his arrival at Achilles’ palace in Phthia all the way to Troy where he fights in a ten-year battle. If you are familiar with the Iliad, you know to prepare yourself for a beautiful yet tragic tale; however, The Song of Achilles is definitely worth a read, or twenty.
The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
In the world of Nora Sakavic’s novel, the fictional Exy is a brutal, violent yet thrilling sport, a bastardization of lacrosse and ice hockey played on a soccer-sized court. Protagonist Neil Josten is on the run from his past but cannot resist the lure of Exy when he signs on to play for Palmetto State University, home to the Foxes, the worst team in the college Exy league. With the Foxes, Neil finds a family of like-minded, haunted young adults just as his demons catch up with him. Although the queer romance that develops between Neil and violent, misunderstood teammate Andrew Minyard is more of a slow burn over the course of Sakavic’s trilogy, the emotional understanding and vulnerability that develops between Neil and Andrew is enough to take your breath away.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Released in May of this year, Felix Ever After has been making waves over social media. In fact, the novel is already slated for a television adaption by Amazon Studios and Field Trip Productions. The novel follows Felix Love—Black, queer, and trans—who desperately seeks love. After receiving transphobic messages from an anonymous student at his high school, Felix launches into plotting a revenge scheme of his own, but his catfish ploy leads him, unexpectedly, into a quasi-love triangle. This queer love story is anything but simple—it’s messy, fierce, and sweet.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
With her stunning debut novel, Leah Johnson has been compared to Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han for her romantic comedy writing. In You Should See Me in a Crown, Liz Lighty has the perfect plan to get out of her small midwestern town, and it involves attending her dream college. When Liz’s financial aid unexpectedly falls through, she sets her eyes on becoming prom queen in the hopes of winning her high school’s scholarship fund. Liz’s main opponent? A new girl named Mack, who Liz cannot help falling for. Featuring a hilarious Black protagonist, this rom-com is enough to leave you breathless and smiling.
I Kissed Alice by Anna Birch, with contributions by Victoria Ying
I Kissed Alice, considered a homage to fandom, ironically knocks out a few tropes of its own: enemies-to-lovers, identity porn, slow burn, and more. Rhodes, a talented artist at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts, finds sudden competition with a transfer student, the fiercely competitive Iliana. Unfortunately, Rhodes has hit a brutal bout of creator’s block just as she goes head-to-head with Iliana for a coveted scholarship. Meanwhile, online, outside of school, Rhodes and Iliana are unknowingly collaborating on a fanfiction webcomic. As the competition worsens, Rhodes and Iliana find themselves falling for each other’s pseudonyms in a swoony romance.
Well, there you have it! Six under-rated but extremely excellent queer romances sure to take your mind away from current global circumstances for an hour or two—or even pull you away for a whole day. Maybe one of these will be your next favorite novel!