Recs for A-Spec Representation in Contemporary Romance

For #AspecApril I wanted to do a list of contemporary genre romances with ace spec and aro spec representation that I liked, because I know some a-spec readers are really looking for books like this, particularly folks who enjoy reading romance. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of ace and aro spec rep in contemporary romance, but focuses on the stories I have read and would recommend. For my TBR for #AspecApril’s readathon, go here.

After putting this together, I was struck by how many a-spec contemporary romances have covers with blue, or brown, or both!

I’m listing rep at the end of my descriptions. If you spot something incorrect, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I am not intending to out anyone; I get author info from the web and the book bio. If an author would like me to remove any info listed, please do let me know. I want to note that I use the word fat as a neutral descriptor when listing rep, and use the word queer when a character or author identify that way or when I am unclear about their identity but know they fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

For folks looking for stories with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description. For folks looking for audiobook versions, I’m listing those with an (A) at the end of the description. Note: A few of these books are not out yet, but come out in the next month or two. I indicated their release date at the end of the description.

Age Gap Romance

 

  • Over & Over Again by Cole McCade (contemporary m/m romance novel)  This is a snowed-in angsty holiday romance is the slowest of all slow burns. With baby goats. An age gap romance with a taboo element, as the gentle giant older MC is a friend of the family and knew the younger MC as a child. I loved the MCs so much, all the layers of them; I felt so deeply for them both. The characters are drawn in such a complex, careful way, & the writing is beautiful. There is a lovely sweetness to this book. And it gave me so many feels! I appreciated the demisexual representation in this book quite a bit; it resonated for me and felt very real. (Rep: British-Hungarian Romani demisexual homoromantic man MC. Gay man MC. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demigray ace bisexual queer trans man author.)
  • Christmas Lane by Amy Aislin (contemp m/m romance novel) I enjoyed this age gap former teacher/student romance, and I generally am not a fan of the trope. I loved how much of it was about building floats for the parade and quiet domestic details. I liked the way the a-spec rep was handled in the story, & it felt right that we see him questioning, and that he doesn’t choose a label but is more focused on navigating the relationship & negotiating stuff around sex with his LI. (Rep: Gay ace-spectrum and aro-spectrum questioning MC. Gay MC.)

Foodie Romance

 

  • For Better or Worse by R. Cooper (contemporary m/m romance novella) So the blurb for the book says Javier is demisexual, but in the book, he also uses gray ace to refer to himself, so I read him as demigray. One of the things I loved about this is how the structure of the book felt demigray to me. It moves very slowly, and mostly shows the MCs cooking together, eating together, sharing daily life, being friends and coworkers, building and deepening connection. The romantic and sexual aspects of the relationship are mostly under the surface for much of the book and emerge with confusion and a need to unpack and communicate that come about near the end. That feels like a very demigray romance arc to me. (Rep: Latinx biromantic demigray ace man MC. Gay man MC.)
  • Belly Up by Eva Darrows (contemporary YA m/f romance novel) I am lucky enough to have been an early reader for this wonderful YA romance centering a pregnant teen girl. It’s full of heart, and full of humor, and the characters are wonderfully complex and deeply drawn. I loved it. I especially appreciated the fat rep, and the demisexual love interest Leaf in particular. (Rep: Hispanic biracial fat pregnant questioning teen girl MC. Fat Romani teen boy MC who I read as demisexual. Gray ace secondary character. Butch trans lesbian secondary character. Femme lesbian secondary character with diabetes. Hispanic and Romani biracial bisexual fat author with diabetes, PTSD, and anxiety.) (Note: out 4/30/19)

Friends to Lovers

 

  • That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance) I loved how angry this demisexual hero was in this friends to lovers romance, how much rage he had about not knowing about demisexuality and all the ways he’d tried to pass as allo and pushed himself to have sex he didn’t want. I ache to see more angry, confused and frustrated a-spec characters, especially when those feelings are depicted with complexity, and where anger is distinguished from abusiveness (esp in men), and this book really delivers on that front. I fell hard for both MCs, enjoyed watching them go through a complicated dance of guardedness and trying to figure out what they meant to each other and how to know what was real and what was fake while navigating a fake relationship.  (Demisexual man MC. Black woman MC. Black, Anglo-Romani, disabled autistic queer woman author.) (Note: out 5/2/19)
  • Thrown Off Track by Tamsen Parker (contemporary m/m romance novella) This romance between two bandmates has demisexual rep that resonated so deeply and intensely for me. There were a couple of things I wish had been different about the demisexual rep, but overall, this is one of my most favorite romances with demisexual rep. At the beginning of the story, the demi character has been having quite a lot of sex that he technically consented to but did not want, and he goes through a process of recognizing his demisexuality throughout the book. The making out & sex scenes between the MCs worked well for me. I really appreciated how demi they felt, the layers and the pace of them, the way the MCs navigated touch and boundaries, the intensity of them, how the second one showed the fullness of sex without the need for reciprocity around touch. (Rep: Bisexual demisexual man MC. Gay man MC.)

Internet Famous MC

 

  • Play It Again by Aidan Wayne (contemporary m/m romance) This hit the mark for me with the online relationship and online content creator aspect, and was pretty satisfying on the long distance relationship piece as well. It’s not a completely light story, I wouldn’t exactly call it fluff, as Sam’s arc has trauma elements woven into it pretty strongly, but it’s got a fairly light adorableness to the romantic relationship aspect that was exactly what I needed on a rough day. Regarding the ace rep, I especially appreciated the way Dovid and Sam negotiated around sex. Sam is not sex repulsed; he’s also not really interested in sex, and Dovid carefully draws him out when he gets a soft yes for sex, in a way that I really liked.  At one point Dovid says “Not minding something and wanting to do something are two really different things,” and my whole body relaxed. (Bisexual Jewish blind man MC. Homoromantic ace man trauma survivor MC with social anxiety. Aroace Jewish woman secondary character. Non-binary author.)*** (Note: Out 4/22/19) (A)
  • Soft on Soft by Mina Waheed (contemporary f/f romance novella) A lovely, lighthearted swoony low-heat fluffy meet-cute romance that was comforting to read. This is a romance between two fat queer women of color, and it has fat representation that made me happy. I appreciated the demisexual rep and the anxiety rep as well, and loved the way they were both so gone for each other, and kind to each other. (Rep: Middle Eastern Muslim anxious fat pansexual woman MC. Black extroverted fat demisexual woman love interest. Non-binary secondary character. Middle Eastern Muslim queer demisexual demiromantic non-binary author.)***

Meet-Cute Romance

 

 

  • Shadows You Left by Taylor Brooke and Jude Sierra (contemporary m/m romance novel) A story that grips with teeth and fists and will not let you go, an unputdownable character-driven complex novel that is gorgeously told, has deeply compelling characters, and takes you on an emotional roller coaster. This is a romance between two queer men who trigger the hell out of each other and are so deeply into each other that they choose each other again and again. I felt so much for the demiro MC first experiencing that lightning quick classic demi attraction that happens with so few people, and not knowing how to reconcile it with what he knows about who he is. It was really lovely to see that kind of demi experience woven seamlessly into this complex story, to see that aspect of myself on the page. (Rep: Demiromantic man MC with addiction. Bisexual man MC. Latinx Bi-ro, demi/ace woman author. Non-binary, demi/pansexual and demi/panromantic author.) (Note: out 5/20/19)
  • Mr March Names the Stars by Rivka Aarons-Hughes (contemporary m/m romance novella with a trans lead) The sweetest homiest cozy romance I’ve read in a while. It felt like a hug. I really liked the trans and enby rep, the ace rep, the pagan rep. I loved the epistolary nature of the romance. It’s one of the only ace/ace pairings I’ve read and my fave so far. (Rep: Homoromantic asexual pagan man MC. Black panromantic asexual pagan trans man MC. Non-binary secondary character.)***
  • Strike Up the Band by Sam Burns (contemporary m/m romance) I really enjoyed this rock star romance about a band that needs to replace their lead singer who has died, to fulfill their contract with their awful label. The romance unfolds slowly, as the ace MC starts out so angry about losing his badmate sister and needing to tour that it takes him a while to warm up and connect with the new lead singer. I liked that the ace MC had a BFF who googled not interested in sex, found AVEN, and just handed over his phone, and the ace character got to do his self exploration and learning on his own. I also appreciated the way the MCs navigated an ace/allo relationship. That said, one of my favorite things about this was that it was mostly about the band, and how they worked through the changes they were grappling with, and found a way to be family to each other that worked for them. (Rep: Homoromantic ace man MC. Bisexual man MC. Gay man secondary character. Asexual panromantic woman author with anxiety.)***

Kink Romance

 

  • From the Same Star by Nicole Field (contemporary f/f romance novel) This is a gorgeous romance that centers D/s and a beautiful grief arc. I love the ace representation and the vulnerability of the dominant love interest, and seeing the submissive MC Angela grow throughout the story. There are very few kink romances with ace lead characters, and it was lovely to read this one. (Rep: Queer woman MC. Ace spec queer woman love interest. Demisexual polyamorous queer multigender author.)
  • Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West (me!) (contemporary m/f romance novella with a trans man MC) This polyamorous kinky metamour to lovers foodie romance is intentionally very demiromantic in it’s structure and point of view. Much of the story centers Ernest being confused and irritable about the potential crush he is not at all sure he might have on his metamour, and the arc centers around him figuring out that in fact he is romantically attracted to her and interested in doing kink with her. This is a kink romance that does not include sex; it does include bondage, D/s and service. (Jewish autistic fat pansexual demiromantic trans man MC with PTSD. Jewish fat bisexual disabled cane user diabetic femme cis woman love interest with PTSD. Jewish trans man with depression secondary character. Jewish autistic fat bisexual woman secondary character. Jewish fat demiromantic pansexual non-binary secondary character. Jewish autistic fat disabled cane user diabetic demiromantic demigray queer genderqueer author with PTSD.)*** (Note: Out 4/16/19)

New Adult Romance

 

  • Learning Curves series by Ceillie Simkiss (contemporary f/f romance novella) Learning Curves is an NA college-set holiday romance and it was lovely. I really enjoyed the way the characters moved from meet cute to best friends to dating. It was a lovely arc, and this is definitely a satisfying Christmas romance, with family gathering, a mistletoe moment, and lots of foodie moments. The other two books in the series include a collection of three Halloween stories and a Christmas novella set the following year. (Rep: Fat Puerto Rican lesbian woman MC with anxiety. Panromantic asexual woman MC with ADHD. Panromantic asexual woman author with ADHD and anxiety.)***
  • Second Chance by Chelsea M. Cameron (contemporary f/f romance novella) I enjoyed this first summer after starting college second chance with your high school girlfriend who broke your heart story. It felt very NA in all the right ways, so specific to that time of life. I love the queer haven the characters create/find away from their parents. (Rep: Demisexual Demiromantic bisexual woman MC. Lesbian woman MC. Queer demigirl author.)  (A)

Workplace Romance

 

  • Criminal Intentions by Cole McCade, esp It’s Witchcraft (ep 5) & Where There’s Smoke (ep 6) (contemporary m/m police procedural romance serial) This is a serial with characters I fell hard for, complex politics, and amazingly slow burn. I especially loved the demigray rep in episode 5, where the ace-spec character discusses his demigrayness, and you see him grappling with how confusing and frustrating he finds his attraction, and the afterword discusses his demigrayness at length. McCade is truly masterful at building complex characters, at having slow organic reveals of them as a story goes along, at building tension, and at showing small moments of intimacy.  (Rep: Bi Persian American Mizrahi Jewish man MC with PTSD. Gay demigray ace Korean American man MC with PTSD. Genderqueer/Two Spirit Lumbee secondary character. Aro Black Cubano American woman secondary character. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer trans man author.)
  • His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto (contemporary m/m romance novella) This contemporary romance between two ace spec spies has this wonderful measured pace to it that soothes me, perhaps because its told from the POV of a demisexual MC, and centers a new relationship. (Rep: Biromantic demisexual man MC. Asexual man MC who I read as autistic. Lesbian secondary character. Mexican American woman author with dysgraphia and phonological dyslexia.)***  (A)

 

Note about this post: After a lengthy Twitter discussion with many fellow aro-spec folks, both authors and readers, with regards to when to include aro spec rep on genre romance lists, I have decided to only include books that resolve to a romantic relationship for all parties in the relationship. This means leaving out some aro/allo pairings in contemporary books that have been marketed as romance, written by authors who primarily write romance, and/or published by romance publishers, because they do not resolve to a romantic relationship for all the characters involved. During the discussion, it became clear that including such books would be potentially harmful to some aro spec folks, particularly romance-repulsed aros, and would likely feel like it was erasing the characters aromanticism and implying that aro non-romantic relationships are “romance-lite”.  What I want to do in the future is make more recommendation lists (by trope or around specific character attributes) that are not genre-romance specific, that include both romances and books that are not romances or do not resolve to a romantic relationship for all involved. .

If you are looking for ace-spectrum and aro-spectrum books in general, there is no better resource than the Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database. And Claudie Arseneault, the curator of the database, also has a rec list for ace spectrum lit and a rec list for aro spectrum lit!

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