Book Recommendations: YA and Adult Queer Historical Fiction

Book Recommendations with Varian: Young adult and adult queer historical fiction. Image is of Varian the toad, sewing a shirt while wearing a monocle.

In case you’re new to the Pond’s book recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has come up with their latest costume, they will always recommend a few books that inspired them!

Historical fiction has always been one of those underappreciated genres for me. Although I don’t actively search for historical fiction books, historical fiction has always been like one of those rare treats for me – I don’t have it often, but when I do, I enjoy it.

What makes historical fiction even better though? When there’s queer rep! Queer identity and queer people have always existed, though historic (and some that still even exist today) oppression made it impossible for queer people to live their truest and most authentic selves. Historical fiction gives us the opportunity to explore and imagine the complex and fraught experiences that queer people had, the ways they found happiness, freedom, agency, and themselves.

Without further ado, here are some of my book recommendations for young adult and adult queer historical fiction! I haven’t read some of these books, but I’ve recommended those that were highly praised by my co-bloggers or other readers. (On that note, a huge thank you to my co-bloggers Joce and Skye for helping me put this list together!)


YOUNG ADULT

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Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Goodness, I need to read this book so badly. Friends of mine have called this book as a ‘love letter to the LGBTQIA+ community’ and an emotional and beautiful story. Add this to your TBR and read this book with me, friends – I can tell it’ll be a good one.

  • Set in 1989 America, this book follows three teens as they navigate sexuality, friendship, and love during the AIDs crisis.
  • The book apparently has an m/m romance, with a closeted gay Iranian character, out gay character, and a fat character.
  • This book explores gay identity during a time when ‘being gay’ was heavily associated with men dying of AIDs – and the impact this association had on how queer identity was understood.
  • Deeply emotional and affecting, and will, apparently, definitely make us cry in the end.

Add Like a Love Story on Goodreads.


The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Although The Gilded Wolves has fantasy elements, I couldn’t resist including this book in this list for its rich historical context. Although queer romance isn’t the focus of this book, this book does have queer characters that I adored.

  • Set in 1889 Paris, this book follows a band of friends as they work together to pull off a heist to claim an ancient artefact.
  • There are some fantasy elements in this book, but I found that the fantasy elements enhanced the majesty and mystery of the setting and time period!
  • The cast is wonderfully unique and the characters so interesting. Readers will especially love Enrique, who is Fillipino-Spanish and bisexual, and Hypnos, an enigmatic and delightfully charismatic character who is Black and gay.
  • Read this, but promise me to stop comparing this to Six of Crows, I beg of you.

Add The Gilded Wolves on Goodreads.


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Blood Countess by Lana Popović

This released only this year and it sounds absolutely delightful. A horror-historical fiction inspired by Hungarian noblewoman, Elizabeth Báthory – otherwise known as the Countess Dracula, known for bathing in blood to retain her youth.

  • Set in 16th century Hungary, this book follows Anna, a scullery maid for the Countess Báthory who begins to fall for the Countess’s spell and allure of a better life.
  • This book is apparently very dark with horror elements, morally gray, is very gay as the main character and Countess’s relationship starts to grow – as well as Countess’s cruelty.
  • This book sounds like a deep dive into Elizabeth Báthory as a historical figure with a sapphic spin. I’m definitely intrigued.

Add Blood Countess on Goodreads.


 

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Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation has been on my to-read list since forever and now that I’ve delved into this book a little more – did you know that this book has queer characters? I didn’t either!

  • Set in 19th century America during the American Civil War where zombies began to rise, changing the course of America forever. The book follows Jane, a Black-American teen who trains in both weaponry and etiquette who gets caught in a conspiracy.
  • Not only does this book boast badass heroines, the main character is also bisexual! There’s also an aromantic-asexual character with great representation.
  • I love the twist of zombies in a historical setting! This sounds like such a fun and bloody book. I can’t wait to read this.

Add Dread Nation on Goodreads.


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Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

An ownvoices story that takes place in Colombo, Sri Lanka and written by a gay Sri Lankan-Canadian writer. This was recommended by one of my co-bloggers, Joce.

  • Set in 1980’s Sri Lanka, this book follows Sri-Lankan teen Amrith who gradually realises that he may not be straight after all.
  • This is a coming-of-age novel and a ‘quiet’ book and follows Amrith as he gradually realises that he is gay.
  • This book also explores grief from losing his parents, adoption, and is set in the backdrop of Amrith’s school production of Othello.

Add Swimming in the Monsoon Sea on Goodreads.


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All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell

I love anthologies and word is that All Out is, apparently, as fantastic as they come. Such a fantastic collaboration among great writers too (and the great thing about anthologies is that if you are not comfortable reading a story by a particular author, you can skip it!).

  • Contains 17 short stories about queer teens throughout history – from a Little Red Riding Hood retelling set in 1870’s Mexico to an asexual teen discovering her identity during the 1979’s roller-disco scene.
  • Not only is there diversity in queer identity, but there’s also cultural diversity as well!
  • Once again: seventeen diverse stories about being queer in a historical context… I feel like this anthology is doing my work of recommending stories to me. Read this!

Add the All Out anthology on Goodreads.


ADULT

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Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

My co-blogger Joce recommended that I add this book to the list! I haven’t read this book myself but this book sounds like a must-read.

  • Set in 1960’s Nigeria after the civil war, this book follows Ijeoma, a lesbian Nigerian woman who falls in love with another woman displaced by the war but of a different tribe and religion.
  • This book follows the main character from a young child into adulthood.
  • Explores identity and the psychological impact of living in a country where being gay is illegal and is criminalised.

Add Under the Udala Trees on Goodreads.


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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

One of my favourite books but heck! The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a roller-coaster of emotions (both good and bad) and will make you feel pain (in the absolute best way).

  • Set in America, this book follows a journalist who interviews Cuban-American actress Evelyn Hugo about her rise to fame and the seven husbands she had during her career from the 1950’s to present day.
  • Not only does this book explore the cost of fame and fortune, it also explores what it was like being a woman of colour and being queer in Old Hollywood.
  • Note: this book is not ownvoices.

Add The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo on Goodreads.


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That Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole

I came across this some time ago when looking for f/f content and now I am delighted to share That Could Be Enough by one of romance’s queens, Alyssa Cole, with you!

  • Set in 18th century America, this book follows Mercy, a Black woman who falls in love with a Black dressmaker.
  • This novella may be short, but apparently boasts wonderful character development and has the ‘woman who has been heartbroken too many times opens up and allows love in’ trope!
  • Fluffy, angsty, and sounds wholly delightful. There’s also a happy ending for both women!

Add That Could Be Enough on Goodreads.


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The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

I have seen this book praised to the heavens by Fadwa at Word Wonders and Kate at Your Tita Kate; two bloggers and readers whose opinions I hold to the highest esteem. I haven’t read this book yet, but feel fairly confident recommending this book to you all!

  • Set in the Regency Era, this book follows Lucy, an aspiring astronomer who assists the recently widowed Catherine translate a groundbreaking astronomy text left by her late husband – and they fall in love.
  • The book also explores socio-cultural pressures of its time: that science is not for women, that relationships that don’t end in marriage should not be pursued, and sexism.
  • Apparently has a very loving, very trusting, very soft, very sapphic, and at times very steamy story! I can’t wait to read this; it sounds so good.

Add The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics on Goodreads.


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Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis

Joce also recommended Cantoras and nothing to say but the utmost praise. Looking through the Goodreads reviews for this book, it seems that Joce’s praises for this book are echoed across the board. Time to pick up this underappreciated gem!

  • Set in the 1970’s in Uruguay amidst the Uruguayan dictatorship, this book follows five women who find in one another lovers, friends, and family.
  • This book has the found family trope with the five women forging deep connections with one another, and is also very queer as well!
  • It sounds like this book is a little on the heavier side as it explores political resistance, forgotten history, and revolution.

Add Cantoras on Goodreads.


In light of recent discussions and those who may have strongly mixed feelings about The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – whether you liked it but feel weird or sad or bad about liking it; you’re totally valid and this was not your fault! – I hope this post helps you find a new and exciting read that you can dive into. Lastly, I purposefully included stories with f/f romances – and was delighted to do so! Perhaps now people can save their breath from saying that there are no f/f books out there.

  • Have you read any of the book above? What did you think of them?
  • Do you have any book recommendations to add to this list?
  • What historical period or event would you like to see as a queer story?
  • What is your favourite queer historical fiction book?

9 thoughts on “Book Recommendations: YA and Adult Queer Historical Fiction

  1. ‪I’m not really a big fan of historical fiction but I just added some of the recommended books to my Goodreads TBR because they seem interesting and I’d love to explore this genre this year. Thank you so much for the recs! 💙‬

    Like

  2. I have way more queer historical fiction on my TBR compared to what I’ve read, but I did really like Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant (trans rep!),

    A couple of these are on my TBR but I also have The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey (WWII, f/f) and Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman (trans rep) on my list

    Like

  3. I’m adding a couple of these to my TBR!

    I’ve read All Out and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo! Loved them both for different reasons. I don’t tend to read much historical fiction, but I’m always excited to read anything diverse.

    Like

  4. I love And I Darken! Set during the rise of the Ottoman Empire, it follows Lada Dracul (a female version of Vlad the Impaler), and her brother Radu (who is gay) as they grow up under the rule of the Sultan and befriend the Sultan’s heir. Fantastic series, would highly recommend!

    Like

  5. oh. my. gosh. FIRSTLY, how beautiful is your blog??? like *hearteyes* SECONDLY, you’ve totally made me want to read ‘like a love story’ because I saw it but it was very ambiguous and??? but this sounds amazing!!! and ‘all out’ too.. I’ve head so many good things about itttttttttt (and that one author that I should skip… hm I will be skipping…)

    this post was amazing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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