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16 Gay M/M Romance Novels To Read After “Red, White and Royal Blue”

I didn’t realize until the film came out just how many queer women in my social circle and workplace had read and adored Red, White and Royal Blue. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised, considering women have historically been the primary readers of M/M romantic fiction, even if the general assumption around that fact is that it’s straight women. But I suspect I’m not the only lesbian out there who enjoys a light, unchallenging little romp into gay romance. Whether you’re looking for hot sex scenes, tender coming-of-age tales, historical romance or kitchen-centric love, we’ve got you covered. Share your favorites in the comments!


Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston

Red White and Royal Blue

If you’re looking for a reading experience that will be an unmitigated delight from top to bottom, try Red, White & Royal Blue! I loved this book so much I sent a Kindle copy to my girlfriend because I wanted her to have the same opportunity to access and harness easy joy in her life as I’d just given myself. If you’re here, you know the basics: Alex Claremont-Diaz is the son of America’s first female president, he’s got beef with Prince Henry. Forced to bury the hatchet by the forces of U.S. foreign policy, the two build a fake friendship that eventually becomes… more than that. Plus, his former girlfriend and current bestie, Nora (granddaughter of the Vice President), is bisexual and Jewish (this was not the case in the Prime Video movie, alas.) I had zero thoughts in my head while reading this book, it was like sitting on a cloud.


I’m So (Not) Over You, by Kosoko Jackson

I'm So Not Over You, by Kosoko Jackson

If you’re looking for messy queers looking for love in wrong places that turn out to be right places, try I’m So Not Over You! Months after their breakup, aspiring journalist Kian Andrews gets an unexpected proposal from his ex-boyfriend Hudson: he needs Kian to pretend they’re together again for his parents’ visit — but when that flops, Kian ends up being Hudson’s plus one to a huge wedding in Georgia that’ll be a big opportunity for Kian to meet the people who could move his career forward. Kian and Hudson are pure gay chaos apart and together in this witty little read!


The Heartstopper Books, by Alice Oseman
Hearstopper books

If you’re looking to have your heart warmed by very cute, mostly well-behaved and usually mentally tormented teenagers, try The Heartstopper graphic novels! The stories that inspired the television show that has melted our collective hearts, Oseman’s coming-of-age tales follow a group of queer and trans friends grappling to figure out who they are, who they love, and what to do with all that love once they’ve found it. While awkward Charlie and his absolutely adorable relationship with rugby star Nick are the show’s centerpiece, there’s also a lesbian couple and a relationship between a trans girl and her best friend that eventually blossoms into romance. Even the tough stuff — and there’s plenty of it, including Charlie’s mental health struggles — is unbelievably tender, yet somehow bearable even for a certified cynic.


The Charm Offensive, by Alison Cochrun

The Charm Offensive

If you’re looking for a behind-the-scenes look at reality dating shows with a gay twist we could only dream could ever happen in real life — and lots of queer women characters, too — try The Charm Offensive! Disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw is the new bachelor on reality TV show Ever After — a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. Renowned producer Dev Deshpande, who still believes in fairy tale love, is finding Charlie to be the series’ most challenging contestant. He’s awkward, anxious, and not really connecting with any of the contestants — but my friends, he eventually does find quite the connection with Dev if you know what I mean.


Boyfriend Material, by Alexis Hall

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

If you’re looking for self-deprecating British gays written by one of the masters of the genre, try the widely adored Boyfriend Material! In this “fun, frothy, quintessentially British romcom,” Luc is the troubled son of a rock star he’s never met but now that rock star father is having a comeback, and Luc needs to clean up his image lest he thwart it. Thus he’s set up to have a nice, normal relationship with Oliver Blackwood, a barrister and an ethical vegetarian who couldn’t be more different than Luc but also stands to benefit from the fake relationship. But you know what happens to men in gay romance novels who have fake relationships!


If This Gets Out, by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

If This Gets Out. by Sophie Gonzales and Gale Dietrich

Looking for One Direction fanfic but as a novel? Try If This Gets Out! Best friends Zach and Ruben are part of the super-famous boy band Saturday, and Ruben’s desire to come out has been squashed by Saturday’s management since the day they found out about it. But when sparks begin flying with Zach, leading to Zach realizing his own bisexuality — now they’ve got a lot more to figure out. How will they balance the pressures of being super-famous with their first European tour, a bandmate struggling with addiction and keeping their love a secret from the world???!!!


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

If you’re looking for an award-winning sweet teen friends-to-lovers that’s gorgeously written, try Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe! This widely adored YA classic set in 1980s El Paso tells the story of two Mexican-American teens finding their place in the world and who they are to each other. Dante’s a confident, self-assured swimmer and poet. Ari’s tough but shy, a loner with a brother in prison who’s never really fit in anywhere, protected by the walls he’s placed around himself. They meet at the swimming pool and their friendship changes everything.


Him, by Sabrina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Him, by Sabrina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

If you’re looking for as many explicit gay sex scenes as possible and also enjoy a sport or two, try Him! The summer they were eighteen, Jamie and Ryan shared a weird, drunken, intimate night at hockey camp, and in the four years since, Jamie’s still not sure what he did to warrant his hilarious and delightful roommate cutting him off without warning forever. But now, Jamie and Ryan’s teams are about to face off at the national championship and Ryan’s ready to make amends for coaxing his straight friend into pushing the boundaries of their relationship, but as soon as they lock eyes, his crush bubbles right back up to the surface. And they’ve got a long summer at camp ahead of them. A long summer of boning!!!!!


We Could Be So Good, by Cat Sebastian

we could be so good by cat sebastian

Looking for a cross-class historical gay romance that’ll make you wanna listen to the Newsies soundtrack again? Try We Could Be So Good! Set in the 1950s, it’s the story of a reporter from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood who falls for the son of the tycoon who owns his newspaper. Their love story is full of pining and “the inherent eroticism of watching baseball with your queer spouse.”


Always the Almost, by Edward Underhill

Always the Almost

Looking for a sweet high school story full of queer and trans joy? Try Always the Almost, a YA novel centered on Miles, a 16-year-old trans pianist determined to both win back his boyfriend Shane (a football star who dumped him when he came out) and win the Midwest’s most prestigious piano competition. Then he meets Eric Mendez, a queer cartoonist and the new kid in town who makes Miles feel… special, and cool, and valid. But first Miles has to love himself!!!!!


Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Adventure, by Becky Albertalli

Looking for a story palatable enough to the world that it became a genuinely popular rom-com and television spin-off? Try Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! Simon Spier is a closeted gay teenager writing clandestine emails to another closeted gay teenager in his school — but they don’t know who the other closeted gay teenager is. When Simon’s emails fall into the wrong hands, he’s blackmailed into a manipulated universe of perpetual fear, pushed towards compromising his friends’ lives to save his own, while reckoning with the fact that he’s fallen in love with the mysterious guy on the other end of these electronic conversations.


Almost Like Being in Love, by Steve Kluger

Almost Like Being In Love by Steve Klluger

Looking for an inventively told love story featuring full-grown adults? Try Almost Like Being in Love! Told through e-mails, checklists, letters and narrative, this story finds a high school jock and nerd falling in love their final year of high school, spending an unforgettable summer together, and then drifting away until 20 years later. Both 38, Travis and Craig have incredible lives and careers, but they know something’s missing. Like perhaps EACH OTHER?


Café Con Lychee, by Emery Lee

cafe con lychee

Seeking a friends-to-lovers BIPOC YA rom-com set in the local ethnic food scene of a small Vermont town? Try Café Con Lychee! Theo Mori’s the only out gay guy in his school, eager to escape Vermont and his parents’ café for college. Gabi Moreno’s closeted, playing soccer instead of pursuing his true love of dance, and his parents expect him to take over their Puerto Rican bakery after graduation. But a new fusion café opening in town changes everything, and thrusts Theo and Gabi together in unexpected ways, thus leading to unexpected feelings.


All the Right Notes, by Dominic Lim

All the right notes by dominic lim

If you’re a music lover looking for a happy, slow-burn second-chance rom-com, try All the Right Notes by Filipino-American musician Dominic Lim! Quito Cruz and Emmett Aoki shared a very special night together in college and now, twenty years later (yes this is a popular trope), Quito’s a genius piano player / composer and Emmmett’s a Hollywood heartthrob. And Emmett’s agreed to perform at a charity event that Quito is organizing in their hometown and my friends the vibes are still there.


Like a Love Story, by Abdi Nazemian

like a love story, by abdi nazemian

If you’re looking for a YA love triangle with a little more depth and also so much heart, try Like a Love Story, set in 1989 New York City during the AIDS crisis. Reza, an Iranian teen who’s just moved to the city with his family, is terrified of being gay during a time when his only reference of gay life in the media are men dying of AIDS. Then he meets and connects deeply with Judy, an aspiring fashion designer with a gay uncle active in ACT UP, and somehow he finds himself being Judy’s boyfriend. But then there’s Art, Judy’s best friend, the only out student at their school — now he’s gotta figure out how to follow his heart without losing everything. It’s a book rich with community, history, chosen family and art.


As You Walk On By, by Julian Winters

As You Walk on By, by Julian Winters

Looking for an adorable voicey YA romance described as “The Breakfast Club meets Can’t Hardly Wait” with a fun ensemble cast? Try As You Walk on By, in which 17-year-old Theo is dared to prompose to his crush at a party, gets rejected, and hides out in an empty bedroom to have an existential crisis. One by one, new classmates join him in the room to avoid their own crises, and together they get somewhere.


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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3181 articles for us.

26 Comments

  1. For some excellent YA (but still emotionally mature) T4T MLM stories, check out the short story “Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live” and the novel “When the Angels Left the Old Country,” both by Sacha Lamb. They are FANTASTIC, beautiful, queer, Jewish love stories. Not explicitly in the romance category, but they are about love.

  2. My other m/m favs are The Darkness Outside Us (space apocalypse), Peter Darling (gay trans retelling of Peter Pan), Felix ever after (YA & trans) and Cemetery Boys (YA trans gay in a fantasy / magical realism setting).

  3. I’m a little disappointed that half of these recommendations are written by female authors – I’ve found that those can get a little fetishy feeling very quickly. Like if someone recommended a wlw novel written by a straight man, I think that most queer women would initially feel a little skeevy about it.

    The sex scenes in Red, White, and Royal Blue did feel fetishy to me, as does most of Alice Osman and Sophie Gonzalez’s work (although to be fair to the latter, I haven’t read this one).

    On a more positive note, Boyfriend Material is one of my favorite books ever.

    • While I agree with your point in general, less than a third of the books listed here were written by women as far as I can tell.
      And Casey McQuiston is non-binary which of course also a non-binary author can write fetishy scenes.

    • Bridge, you’re probably gone, but I’m always curious what people mean when they say women authors are writing “fetishizing” MLM stories. What makes it fetishizing? Particularly in a book like RWRB that’s like, 400 pages of romance?

      I’m genuinely curious. Is it the presence of gay men having sex at all? That its written to be enjoyable to readers? I don’t necessarily agree with your stance, but I keep seeing people write the same thing about both McQuiston and Oseman, putting aside the fact that they’re not women, I’m curious about this argument.

      • I’m not Bridge but I’ve been reading m/m romance for at least a decade and have thought a lot about this. And in the past, I’ve participated in various online discussions about it, although I’m much less active in online romancelandia than I used to be and I’ve noped out of the online m/m romance community (too much drama and some of the blogs felt fetishy and exploitative to me). For reference I’m a (mostly) cis, bi woman.

        I have read m/m romances that feel fetishy to me. (I haven’t read the McQuiston or Oseman books in question). What I mean by that is that is that it feels like the characters don’t have much, if any, relationship to actual queer people / gay men. AND the sex scenes have this quality that’s hard to describe but is kind of like the author mashing her Ken dolls together (to borrow Olivia Waite’s description). They also tend to be about conventionally attractive cis gay men. Also, I get a kind of visceral “ick” feeling reading them.

        To be clear, I’ve read a lot of mlm romance by a variety of authors that I don’t think are fetishing. And I think it’s a really personal call.

        The thing that I think is tricky about these discussions about non gay men fetishizing gay men by writing mlm romance is that while there’s a lot of sincere criticism, there’s also a lot (imo) that’s less sincere and more about gatekeeping. A lot of the controversies about mm romance come down to who has the “right” to write it and who can / should be included. And some of it was really ugly – lots of biphobia and transphobia and misogyny directed at authors and at the books. That may have changed – I noped out of the m/m romance community a few years ago.

        MM romance as a genre grew out of fanfic and it used to be almost exclusively about cis gay men and almost exclusively written for women. Some of those fans were blatantly and unapologetically biphobic and transphobic about only wanting to read about cis gay men. You had mm romance review blogs plastered with beefcake pics of men waving rainbow flags, claiming to be allies, publishing reviews mad about mm romances with a trans protag or a bi man who slept with a woman as well as a man. There were also controversies about authors “pretending” to be men (some of whom were trans masc authors). It was ugly.

        Also, quite a few authors who identified as women when they started writing mm later came out as trans or agender or nb. (Jay Northcote, Alex Beecroft, Heidi Cullinan are just a few authors that I know of). There are a LOT of trans and nb authors writing mm. So I try to be careful (and skeptical) about claims about women authors writing fetishizing mm.

    • yeah, this is an interesting conversation!

      while i respect the #ownvoices only approach on the level of individual taste, systematically it just doesn’t feel like a 1:1 comparison to men writing about lesbians. the male gaze is a thing, you know? Men have been in charge of writing about female sexuality for centuries. (the runaway success of ‘memoirs of a geisha’ is something i will never get over on serveral levels) And sexism is a thing! Patriarchy is a thing! and inequity within the publishing industry, especially w/r/t men not buying books by women but women reading books by men, etc etc.

      I think an interesting thing about this convo also, and why i included simon even though i know it’s been controversial, is that we often make assumptions about the sexual orientation of gender of creators that aren’t accurate, and writing can be an act of self-discovery. which cleo talks about too, that often writers have come out later as trans/agender/nb. on some level, gender is a bit more fluid than these conversations can suggest. we can relate to characters who don’t share our precise orientation.

      I’m also not sure where this concept leaves non-binary people, are non-binary people only allowed to write romance novels about non-binary people? heartstopper doesn’t have any actual sex in it, and it has characters of multiple orientations, and oseman is an asexual aromantic person (uses she/her and they/them), like who are they allowed to write about?

    • Maybe only tangentially related but I gotta say: I think the strawman of “the middle-aged cis woman who writes about men kissing because it gets her hot” has been a really convenient excuse for misogynists who want to punish women & AFAB people for any success they experience. The woman who wrote Love Simon was the victim of a years-long targeted harassment campaign and eventually outed. (Because someone who came out against her will to try to mitigate the harassment against her did not “out herself”; she was outed by her harassers.) And the same thing has happened to many other female and/or AFAB writers (including, IIRC, Casey McQuiston).
      And I would also like to know what defines a book as “fetishizing.” Does the fact that a book “gave you the ick” or didn’t resonate with *you specifically* automatically mean that the book is “fetishy” or “for the straight gaze”? If a book with a queer male POV character was not written by a cis man, does that automatically mean that the author was fetishizing queer men?
      Plenty of trans men & NB people have explored their identities by writing m/m fiction; plenty of these same authors have been accused of being inauthentic fetishizers. Plenty of queer cis women (and even straight cis women) have things to say about queerness and masculinity which they express by writing queer male POV characters. AFAIC, that’s not wrong.
      And look: maybe there are some cis women writing queer male protags for the wrong reasons. But I think it’s important to remember that *we don’t know* all of someone’s reasons for writing what they write before ascribing the worst possible motives to any given author.

  4. Outside of these, The House on the Cerulean Sea is a really good cozy lil’ romance! For others, the Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue series is period piece-y favorite (and has some of the best aromantic rep not in an Alice Oseman novel) and They Both Die in the End is iconic for a reason, though it is (as the title implies) another tearjerker in the vein of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, so be warned. :)

  5. Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez is a very messy, very queer story about an evil coven of bisexual witches trying to convince a man to possess his son.

    KJ Charles’ Will Darling series is fantastic Lost Generation spy shenanigans.

  6. Adding my strongest and most praise-filled recommendation for A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske!

    It’s set in a magical Edwardian England and deftly combines genre elements of fantasy, romance, mystery, and history, as the main characters become embroiled in a magical conspiracy while also falling in beautifully-written love.

    The prose is so gorgeous that I want to take a bath in it. The character work is impeccable and tender and their relationship develops so naturally alongside their individual character arcs. The worldbuilding feels organic and rooted. And it has some of the best-written sex I’ve come across in tradpub. It’s riveting, emotionally intimate, and gorgeously written.

    (And if that wasn’t enough of an enticement—the second book in the series focuses on the previous main character’s lesbian sister and her high-seas sapphic hijinx on an ocean liner where she solves mysteries and discovers the magic of orgasms. The queer women get to have equally spicy sex scenes as the men did, without any of that “pastoral metaphors and deodorant commercial vibes” double standards you sometimes encounter with F/F fiction)

    When it comes to fictional romance, I prefer quiet moments of characters seeing each other beneath their masks, and knowing and being known. And Freya Marske writes some of the most skillful, deliberate, well-crafted, emotionally rich romances that I’ve ever encountered.

  7. A little late to the party, but here are some of my contemporary mm recommendations.

    Kris Ripper writes romances with a variety of pairings and a great sense of queer community. The Hate Project and Gays of Our Lives are good m/m. (Mostly white protagonists, somewhat diverse characters)

    High Rise series by Jayce Ellis, starting with Jeremiah. Set in Washington DC, it has a great sense of queer and Black community. (Mostly Black protagonists but one of the pairings is interracial.)

    Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox. Romance involving art theft, set in Toronto. Ace protagonist (and ace author). (I think the characters were white but don’t remember now.)

    Grumpy Bear by Slade James – cute romance set in a clothing optional men’s campground, written by a gay man familiar with this sub-culture. The writing is a little uneven so read the sample first (white protagonists, very white setting)

    Work for It by Talia Hibbert. Angsty, opposites attracts goodness set in an English village. It’s part of a series but works as a standalone. (Black and white protagonists, pretty diverse characters.)

    Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) by Avon Gale. Probably my favorite book in my favorite mm hockey series. It’s set in the NHL minor leagues (don’t remember the official term). There are at least a bazillion mm hockey romance series. A lot of them require a suspension of disbelief because they’re set in some alt version of the NHL with (multiple!) openly gay pro players. This series mostly avoids that by not being set in the NHL. (Mostly white, because it’s hockey).

    Gaymers series by Annabeth Albert. Fluffy, tropey fun set in a Seattle based gaming start up. (Mostly white but I think there’s a SE Asian protagonist in one of the books)

    Stupid Love by Riley Hart. Super duper tropey new adult romance set in Atlanta. (Black and white protagonists, diverse characters)

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