Rejoice queer romance readers! In this month’s Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian I’m answering a question posted by an Autostraddle reader on February’s bookish quiz, Which Queer Romance Should You Read?. This reader asked:
do you have any recs for romances featuring butch characters? I’m only recently getting into reading romance so not really familiar with what’s out there or where to look. Thanks!
I am always up for talking more queer romance, especially with underrepresented characters! The list that I’ve curated here is a little broader than what the question asker described, as I’m including any masculine of centre queer women characters, including those who identify as studs, butches, mascs, and others. These are mostly contemporary romances, with themes and tropes such as second chance relationships, sports, reality TV, fake relationships, online dating, ghosting, age gaps, and more!
Stud Like Her by Fiona Zedde
Chance has always struggled with the nature of her queer attraction, as a stud who likes other studs: so much so that she stayed in a toxic relationship for ten years that only just ended with her being dumped. She decides to try to reconnect with an old flame, someone she met when she was first exploring her sexuality. Instead, though, she meets Garrett, a stud with whom she has an immediate mutual attraction. Garrett is young and she’s got the confident swagger and earnestness of someone with a large and popular social media presence. Chance is unsure, both about their age difference and the fact that she’s still sorting through her feelings about dating another stud. Can these two lovebirds make it work? Featuring fun and memorable secondary characters too, like Chance’s straight sister who doesn’t hesitate to call her on her bullshit.
If you like the sound of this one, also check out Zedde’s previous book, Femme Like Her!
Get It Right by Skye Kilaen
This second chance romance features a butch lesbian parolee, Finn, and a pansexual nurse, Vivi. They meet again after initially getting to know each other in prison, while Finn was serving a sentence and Vivi was working at the infirmary. Both knew that acting on their attraction to the other in that context was a definite no go, and after Vivi left her job abruptly, she and Finn lost touch. They thought they’d never see each other again. Until one day, they run into each other at a local medical clinic. Finn can see right away that something is up with Vivi; even if there’s no chance Vivi shares her feelings, she wants to help her. What’s going on with Vivi? And is the universe giving them a second chance? This is a love story where the leads have already fallen for each other but they don’t know their feelings are mutual!
D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins
In this fluffy low stakes contemporary romance, stud-femme couple D’Vaughn and Kris have six weeks to plan their dream wedding on the reality TV show Instant I Do. This task would be hard enough on its own, but they have an additional obstacle: they’re not actually a couple. If anyone finds out their relationship is fake, they’re off the show. Not only would this be a huge embarrassment, neither woman would get what she wants out of the deal. For Kris, it’s a chance to grow her personal brand and really make it as an influencer. D’Vaughn is using the show as an excuse to finally come out to her mom, as well as trying something new her usually shy self would avoid. Neither would say no to the $100 000 prize money either. Luckily they don’t have to fake any chemistry since they have lots of it … even when the cameras stop rolling. Is this fauxmance becoming real?
A Masc for Purim by Roz Alexander
This installment in Alexander’s “Hot for the Holidays” queer Jewish romance books stars a bisexual butch, Carrie, and a tomboy-femme lesbian, Liza. Liza’s annual big Purim party is coming up, but this year she’s finding it hard to drum up her usual hostess enthusiasm. It’s getting sadder and sadder to always attend the party without a partner. Enter Carrie, Liza’s long lost first love, also known as the butch who broke her heart! Carrie is back in town and determined to win Liza back. It’s been ten years since their inexperienced selves fumbled through a young relationship that ultimately self-destructed under their inability to be honest and vulnerable with each other. Have they each learnt enough in a decade to make it work this time? Will they be going to the Purim party together??
Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller
Miller’s lesbian romance is kind of doubly historical: the story is set in the 19th century, but it was published originally in 1969, so its perspective is decidedly different than from, say, the vantage point of 2022. (Legendary lesbian author Emma Donoghue explains more about the context of the book’s publication in her introduction to the 2005 edition). But onto the story! Circa 1816 in Connecticut, two women meet. The moment they lock eyes, they recognize something in one another, despite their differences. Patience is a relatively wealthy, feminine woman and a spinster by choice in her late twenties. Sarah is 22, an uneducated, masculine presenting farmer’s daughter who was raised like a boy in order to perform physical farm labor. Their path to a happily ever after is rocky, but not nearly as much as you’d expect, given the historical circumstances.
Once Ghosted Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
Likotsi is the right-hand woman of the Prince of Thesolo. She and her boss were briefly in New York the previous year looking for his long lost princess. But he wasn’t the only one who found love across the ocean: Likotsi met Fabiola on a dating app, and she thought they had really hit it off. Until Fab ghosted her. Now Likotsi is back in NYC, and has the very bad luck of running into Fab on the subway. What are the odds? Fab, however, is ecstatic and she begs Likotsi to just have a cup of tea with her so she can explain what happened. But how can she possibly justify ghosting? The story unfolds over two timelines, so we get to experience the two women when they first meet and when they reconcile. This book is one of my personal favorites! Featuring a femme top and a stud bottom.
Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler
Adler’s latest delightful YA small town romance tells the love story of a butch football player and a femme cheerleader! Amber is an aspiring cheer captain, but it’s pretty hard to be full of spirit when your school’s quarterback has been killed in a car accident. When the replacement QB is announced, everyone is surprised to discover that “Jack” is short for Jaclyn. Chaos ensues: the football players refuse to be led by a girl and the cheerleaders are mad about the upset to the traditional gender roles. Amber is caught in between. It’s clear she has to help take Jack down if she wants the support of the football and cheer teams. But not only does she want to support Jack and not bow down to homophobia and misogyny, she and Jack are actually falling for each other. This love story is funny and sweet while also thoughtfully tackling serious subjects.
Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae
This Lambda Literary Award finalist is perfect if you want a classic “toaster oven” lesbian romance with very little drama or angst! Denny is a shy butch lesbian who’s content with her simple life working as a cashier and helping raise her niece. All that changes when one day she receives a wrong number text from a woman named Eliza. Eliza, of all things, is asking for (heterosexual) dating advice. She’s also the complete opposite of Denny, personality wise: outgoing, funny, and talkative. Denny and Eliza strike up a text friendship and soon Eliza is having more fun telling Denny about her dates with dudes than she is actually going on the dates. She’s also finding herself wishing the guys she’s going out with would be more like Denny. Although she’s never dated a woman before, is it possible that Denny is actually the person she should be with?
These books are just a start, of course! For more info on queer women romances, check out The Lesbian Review, a website dedicated to them where you can search book reviews by themes, tropes, and identities. The general romance review website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books also has a great LGBTQIA section.
Please chime in in the comments if you have recommendations of queer romances featuring butch, stud, or otherwise masculine of centre characters!
And don’t forget to send me your lesbrarian questions. You might be featured in a future column. Comment here, or send me an email at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com.