It sometimes feels that everyone talks about the same books and authors, yet Romancelandia is larger and more diverse than any top ten or best-seller list can capture and many wonderful books and excellent authors fail to get the notice and attention they deserve.
This month we’ve had an opportunity to share with you some of our favorite books and authors for dozens of tropes, yet we know we’ve missed mentioning some fantastic books. What are your Hidden Gems—both authors and books—you love but that no one else seems to talk about? What books or authors do you wish more people would discover?
The following are just a smidge of some of my Hidden Gems, authors who I’d love for more readers to get to know. Not that they don’t have fans, but I would love to see their books being buzzed about more. They craft great stories with much heat and with diverse MCs that have given me hours of enjoyment, from contemporary, BDSM, PNRs, and more. These authors will give you so many good reads and have you glomming their backlists:
Melissa Blue aka Dakota Gray, Kaye Blue, Stephanie Burke, Bridget Midway aka Crystal Bright, Aliyah Burke, Xio Axelrod, Shara Azod, Melissa Schroeder, Latrivia S. Nelson, Minx Malone aka M. Malone, Marie Rochelle and Reana Malori.
I also count Harper Kincaid, MK Meredith, Lynda Chance, Virna DePaul, Rhyannon Byrd, Stephanie Julian, Samantha Kane as some of my Hidden Gems, for although they also bring some good romance and burning heat, their books don’t come up on lists or get great buzz. During #RomBkLove, I want to take this opportunity to do so.
One of my fave not-buzzed-about authors is Christine Pope. She writes F/SF romance, but within that broad rubric you can find all sorts of different elements: witches, djinn, alien worlds, and more. My favorite book of hers is Breath of Life. It’s the beauty-and-the-beast trope, but the beast is an alien on a human colony planet. Seeing the farmsteading Annika get to know Sarzhin is a treat in this lovely novella.
Another “why doesn’t she get more buzz?” author for me is Jamie Wesley. Her contemporary romances are fun, honest, and moving, and I never feel like I’m reading stereotypes. Instead, I get the sense that I could meet these people tomorrow, they are so genuine. I started with Tell Me Something Good, so I’ll point that out as a great way to begin reading her books.
Becca Jameson writes so many different types of romance--shifter books, military romance, BDSM romance, ménage, MMA fight club, romantic suspense--and I’ve loved them all. I don’t know why she doesn’t have the buzz that other authors do. She’s a great Hidden Gem. Look over her books, find the type that you like, and dive on in.
There’s an old Desire title I love--Just a Little Bit Pregnant by Eileen Wilks. In soooo many romance novels featuring accidental pregnancy, there’s angst, or secret babies, or any number of somewhat far-fetched plot points. But this book starts with the heroine marching into the hero’s workplace, informing him that she’s pregnant, and giving him the paper she’s prepared with probable medical expenses (including insurance coverage estimates), support coverage suggestions, and a schedule of visitation rights. At last, a book that starts with something I might actually expect to happen! But Just a Little Bit Pregnant then builds into a lovely romance of two lonely, wounded people and the steps they take to heal one another, with a risky pregnancy as a pivotal plot point.
Carol van Natta writes a lovely complex space opera series, The Central Galactic Concordance, which reminds me of the Foundation Series if you added romance, changed the business language to Mandarin Chinese, included mental powers and cybernetics. Most of the stories focus on separate couples some of whom have cameos in other installments. I love the sheer contrasts in this series between characters, settings, conflict, abilities, and yet a common thread unites them. Book 1 is Overload Flux.
Rinda Elliott wrote two partial series which I adore. The first series, The Kithran Regenesis, is Science Fiction Romance with male/male/female relationships. One of the branches of humanity is very sexually open so it was fabulous to see the lack of shame or secrecy. (TW one of the main characters in Book 4 was enslaved and suffered horribly). The second series Crux Survivors, is post apocalyptic and focuses mainly on a small group who banded together years ago and their struggles to survive and find relationships. Really hoping Elliott will pick both of these up again.
I’m limiting my hidden gem suggestions to just 5 authors, most of whom are in fact new-to-me authors. Some of them have just a couple of books out and I have read and loved them all, others have bigger blacklists that I still need to tackle.
Al Steward and Claire Davis, are a writing duo creating very moving, emotional m/m romances that speak to my heart. I highly recommend Dear Mona Lisa (I know how vague the blurb is but if you are interested in a romance with where older men find love and finally reach for their happiness, this is the book for you). Oskar Blows a Gasket is YA/NA m/m romance exploring complicated family relationships, forming friendships, discovering love (and sex :), finding one’s place and fighting for it. Al and Claire have a bunch of short stories/novellas out and some of them are already waiting patiently on my Kindle for me to get to them.
Dal Maclean is new author with just two books out and they are both spectacular. Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire are both romantic crime mystery/thrillers, and the second one being darker. They work as standalones and stand out with their perfectly executed mystery plots (I couldn’t figure who the killer was till the very end, they have been real page-turners for me). The romance element is a bit understated, especially in the second book, but it felt very real and moving for me and fitting to the characters. "Bitter Legacy", was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List.
Roe Horvat writes contemporary m/m romances set in Europe. His debut, The Layover, is a wonderful forced proximity romance with strong European feels which I absolutely adore. His latest romance, A Love Song for the Sad Man in the White Coat is a brilliant portrayal of a grumpy, misantropic character dealing with dysthymia (he is a psychiatrist and his self diagnose and treatment does not really go well).
EE Ottoman is a trans writer who writes trans romance and fantasy. He has a relatively extensive backlist and I have only read two of his romances and I quite enjoyed them both. The Doctor’s Discretion is a historical romance set in 19c NY. Both MCs are doctors, one is Black, the other is trans and I liked how much the story focused on kindness and basic human decency as severely lacking both in the past and sadly in the present.
My final recommendation is Rebecca Crowley whose soccer series I discovered following a recommendation on Twitter. Her Atlanta Skyline series is amazing sports romance with hidden depths and really interesting, unusual characters. I loved how she doesn’t shy away for presenting the darker side of professional sports - the injuries, the constant media scrutiny, the transition to ‘civilian’ life after years only being involved in the sport, women in professional sports. She also tackles issues of Islamophobia, gambling addiction and more while still creating complex and emotionally satisfying love stories.