Queer Debuts From January to May 2019

by K.A. Doore

Search for “LGBT books” and your top ten results will be lists of Young Adult (aka YA) books. This isn’t surprising; YA has been at the frontline of the push to diversify lit for the past decade and that effort is reflected in the many queer books now out in almost any genre.

With all these lists and emphasis on YA, though, readers might be forgiven for thinking the adult side is a queer representation wasteland. But this is far from the truth. Publishers and authors might not be actively shouting from the rooftops, but these books exist and are being published.

Maybe, though, it is time for a little shouting.

As a reader, I desperately need more queer adult books, and I know many of my reader friends are hungry for the same. A whole generation of queer kids have grown up into a much more open and accepting generation – even if we still have a long way to go – and we want to see ourselves represented in the adult books we read.

As a writer, I want to grow that queer adult list, if only one book at a time. Thankfully, I’m not alone. As part of a 2019 debut author group, I’ve met dozens of other queer authors, all working on their equally queer books. Some are more about the queer experience than others, some simply have an inclusive world, and some reflect the real lived experiences of their authors. They’re all needed and there’s so many I’m going to have to break up this list into two parts (!!).

Caveat: I haven’t had the time to read every one of the books on this list, so the representation is self-reported by the author or gleaned from reviews.

So here are the queer debut novels through June 2019. All blurbs are from Goodreads.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT by Alex Harrow
(February 25th 2019 by NineStar Press)
Science Fiction

To save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

Rep: M/M

(February 5, 2019 by Tor Books)

Kihrin is a bastard orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests. When he’s claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.

Rep: Bi

THE FEVER KING by Victoria Lee
(March 1st 2019 by Skyscape)

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

Rep: M/M, bi

AFTER THE ECLIPSE by Fran Dorricott
(March 5th 2019 by Titan Books)

Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.

Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.

Rep: F/F

THE PARTING GLASS by Gina Marie Guadagnino (March 5th 2019 by Atria Books)
Historical Fiction

By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…

Rep: F/F, bi

IF, THEN by Kate Hope Day
(March 12th 2019 by Random House)
Literary Science Fiction

In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities.

At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly disturbing—and, in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens Clearing, it becomes obvious that the visions were not what they first seemed and that the town will never be the same.

Rep: F/F

BESOTTED by Melissa Duclos
(March 13th 2019 by 7.13 Books)

Sasha and Liz are American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape, but when they move in together, Sasha falls in love. The sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons.

Rep: F/F

THE WIDENING GYRE by Michael R Johnston (March 14th 2019 by Flame Tree Press)
Science Fiction

Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship drifting in the fringes of their space. The Zhen gave them a place to live and folded them into their Empire as a client state.

Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species into their Empire, and humans have faced persecution. Tajen Hunt is the only human named an official Hero of the Empire. But when he failed in a crucial mission, causing the deaths of millions of people, he resigned in disgrace and faded into life on the fringes as a lone independent pilot.

When Tajen discovers his brother, Daav, has been killed by agents of the Empire, he, his niece, and their newly-hired crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity.

Rep: M/M

(March 19th 2019 by Tor Books)

As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, Amastan’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Rep: M/M, ace

A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE by Arkady Martine (March 26th 2019 by Tor Books)
Science Fiction

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.

Rep: F/F

THE LUMINOUS DEAD by Caitlin Starling
(April 2nd 2019 by Harper Voyager)
Science Fiction/Horror

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

Rep: F/F

NAAMAH by Sarah Blake
(April 9th 2019 by Riverhead Books)
Historical Fiction

With the coming of the Great Flood only one family was spared, drifting on an endless sea, waiting for the waters to subside. We know the story of Noah, moved by divine vision to launch their escape. This is the story of his wife, Naamah, the matriarch who kept them alive. Here is the woman torn between faith and fury, lending her strength to her sons and their wives, caring for an unruly menagerie of restless creatures, silently mourning the lover she left behind. Here is the woman escaping into the unreceded waters, where a seductive angel tempts her to join a strange and haunted world. Here is the woman tormented by dreams and questions of her own—questions of service and self-determination, of history and memory, of the kindness or cruelty of fate.

Rep: Polyamory, bi

LITTLE DARLINGS by Melanie Golding
(April 30th 2019 by Crooked Lane Books)

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Rep: Pan, bi

by Karen Havelin
(May 30th 2019 by Dead Ink)

The story tracks backward, from 2016 until 1995, etching details of daily life into a gripping and darkly humorous bildungsroman, about the intricacies of love and life in a fragile body.

We meet Laura Fjellstad first as she works and cares for her young daughter, while struggling with debilitating pain and endometriosis, an invisible chronic illness.

Rep: Bi

K.A. Doore’s coverage of queer releases from June to December 2019 is here.

K.A. Doore is the author of The Perfect Assassin (queer murder fantasy!). She has a BA in Classics and likes to shout about queer books of all flavors. Find her on Twitter @KA_Doore or at her blog