I had this at a solid ten, and then I was working on another TTT for this month about queer fantasy MCs and had Yadriel on that list and somehow not him & Julian on this one, and I just?? Decided to do a list of 12 instead so the cover aesthetic could stay strong. All of these are so predictable, just in general, but also if you pay attention to me at all, and I don’t care in the slightest. I love these dumbasses in love so much, and I’m so happy to scream about them as frequently as possible.
We are just 100% starting off with the three couples that have wrecked me the most in the last couple of years, and writing about them is making me want to reread all of their stories so bad. Gosh, but would I actually survive a second reading of Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly? I DON’T THINK SO. It literally starts with Cyril lounging in bed with Aristides, and I just was not expecting that in the slightest because queer MCs? In fantasy?? WITH NO HOMOPHOBIA??? Never heard of it. (Hey, I have a post about this tomorrow!) OH MY SATAN, it literally just occurred to me right now why I love these two so much. Cyril is such a James Bond character, and while Aristides is nowhere near a Q character, it’s got enough of the 00Q vibe that YUP. Here I am, living out my 007 queer fantasy.
After The Amberlough Dossier ruined me for all other books ever, I thought that nothing would ever fill the hole in my heart. I was really convinced of that for a few months, too, because it was all I could think about, and I was just miserable trying to find another book that would somehow live up to it. Enter The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. I KNOW that we all know by now (but do we? have you read it and succumbed to misery with me yet?) how amazing Thaniel & Mori are, but my goodness, I am never going to get over them. They came at the exact right time when I just truly didn’t know how to get over Cyril & Aristides, and that doesn’t even touch the majesty that is Pulley’s writing in general. Hold up, I’m having such a dream right now, someone please tell me that Pulley and Donnelly are friends, I NEED IT. Anyway, tea in the dark will break my heart until the end of time.
I really planned these first three well because we’re getting the ones I talk about the most out of the way so we can move onto–well, that’s a lie, RWRB is up next, NEVER MIND. I recognize that I’ve been talking about There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool a lot lately, and I will not be stopped until everyone has read it. Do you want an incredibly well developed high fantasy? Do you want a diverse cast of characters with all sorts of trauma and angst? Do you want queer fantasy MCs who feel like they’re not good enough for each other, but will stay save the world together anyway? WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ THIS YET? Anton & Jude are just everything I’ve ever wanted out of a fantasy book, and I wish like hell that I’d known to record my reaction to them happening. I was legit like “WAIT WHAT IS THIS REAL I’M GONNA CRY” literally because?? When was the last time you read a fantasy book with a queer MC who also gets a wholesome romance that doesn’t end in tragedy? EXACTLY.
Still hanging out on the predictable train, I see! I couldn’t write a list of my favorite queer couples and not include Alex & Henry from Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I literally read this book three times in one year, and it made me cry every damn time. This book is truly everything I ever hoped to read, but nothing I ever thought we’d actually get. I know a lot of people say this is so insanely similar to fanfiction, and I am definitely one of those people, but I need you to understand why that’s so wonderful. I wrote a post–oh my Satan, last year??–about why fanfiction is worthy, and I think it explains pretty clearly why so many of us adore RWRB, but the tl;dr of it is that fanfiction is everything that we, as readers, want to see happen in stories. It’s literally the creation of our hearts, and to find a book that mirrors that so much? It’s like the most unexpected gift in the world.
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t pause to weep over Felix Love. Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender is, coincidentally, another book I’ve read several times in one year, and I’m planning on continuing to read it and RWRB until the end of my days. There is so, so much to love about this book, and I’ll be honest and say that most of the reason I do love it is purely because of Felix. He’s just such an incredible character, and I would read a dozen more books just watching him wander through life. And hey, Netflix? Can we please have a mini-series for this book? For next summer?? But, and this is probably a spoiler alert since it really doesn’t seem like this is the way the story is going to go at first, but that friends to lovers at the end with Ezra? UGH. I was shipping Felix & Ezra hardcore at the beginning of the book, but I truly didn’t think we were going to see it play out, AND THEN IT DID, AND I AM A SHELL OF MY FORMER SELF.
Oh my gosh, hahahaha, speaking of untimely deaths, I legit ugly cried my way through I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, and I am so not ready for their next novel. I have never before felt so seen by a book, which you’re going to see echoed again at the end of this post with Claire Kann, and it just took my heart and cradled it gently with love and hope. I want to wrap Ben in blankets and give them tea & soup and just promise them that everything is going to be okay, forever and ever. And I love so much how Nathan fits so softly into Ben’s life, how they come together through uncertainty and fear, and how they end up stronger because of one another. Their relationship is probably the softest one on this list, and it destroys me every time.
Back on my Shadowhunters shit because of course we’re talking about Alec & Magnus. This is twofold, too, because there are so many different aspects of their relationships throughout the series that I love. Watching them go through the tumultuous beginning over the course of The Mortal Instruments and actually have the shape of a relationship that we usually only ever see with hetero couples was incredible. The fact that they’re not just immediately happy and that’s that, but that Cassandra Clare continues to develop their relationship, let them experience the same hardships that the hetero romances around them do, and still come back together, stronger than ever, is something I haven’t seen in many other books, and it’s pretty amazing. And I know that a lot of people hate the show, but I’m a huge fan of it, and yes, a lot of that is because of the fact that it was a show on a primetime station that was mostly geared toward “wholesome families” or whatever bullshit ABC Family was toting back in the day before it switched to whatever it is now and just went hella gay (which, wow, what a rollercoaster glow-up) and, for a good, long while, a queer relationship was the only featured romance. And they got a lot of screen time! It’s the best, I will forever love Cassandra Clare for the gift of this couple, and even though the writing in The Eldest Curses is questionable at best, I will continue reading them until the end of time!
Remember when everyone was just screaming incessantly about Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, and I was all “eh I’ll get to it later”, but then put it on a five-star prediction list because of all the hype, AND THEN I WAS SO MAD THAT I HADN’T READ IT SOONER BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY PERFECT? Yeah, same. Not only is Lei one of my favorite queer fantasy MCs, but her relationship with Wren is beautiful. For many of the same reasons as Alec & Magnus, actually! I love that Ngan allows them to develop their relationship over the course of the story, to not just have them be all wispy and longing with each other until they finally get together and that’s the end, everything is sunshine and rainbows! And no, I don’t want drama and angst with queer couples, but I do want them to be realistic, and that means allowing them to go through the same bullshit that hetero ones do! Thus, while it breaks my heart whenever Lei & Wren are at odds, it also feels like queer romance is finally being set on the same level as hetero ones, and that’s important. But also, like, give me Lei & Wren saving each other’s lives twenty-five more times in the finale, please!
And here comes Yadriel & Julian, which you can thank for this list being twelve instead of ten! I was scrolling through my LGBTQIAP+ shelf on Goodreads trying to decide which couples to feature, and I legit had a jaw drop moment when I saw Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and realized I hadn’t included it on this list. Like, who even am I?? A fake fan, clearly. Julian’s todo bien at the end will never not wreck me, and it’s been so long since I read this that I think I now have to reread it just so I can fall in love with Yadriel and scream incoherently about Julian again. Also, I swear to Satan, if Thomas throws us another “but there was only one bed” trope matched with hiding boys in your bedroom and DOESN’T include kissing? I will perish.
When I cracked open If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann, I really just expected it to be a solid contemporary. I thought it would probably get four stars, maybe five, and that I’d forget the finer details of it in a month or two after I’d read a bunch of insane fantasies that ruined me. And yet. And yet, holy shit. I am never going to forget this book. I honest to Satan had to put it down during the last 50 pages because I was crying so hard, and I couldn’t see the words anymore. Much like Deaver’s debut, I felt so damn seen by this book in so many different ways, and it just made me feel whole and wonderful by the end. It wasn’t necessarily Winnie’s relationship with Kara & Dallas that did it for me, though that was definitely something beautiful that I’m still thinking about months later, as well. The careful explanation and development of Winnie’s relationship with Kara was so incredible to see, and to watch that be braided together with her relationship with Dallas was just–I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like this in another book, and it was truly special.
Eyyyyy, it’s ya girl, Liz Lighty! Oh my gosh, I loved You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson so much, even if it really did make me feel old sometimes with the references that I experienced live in action as a wee teenager, haha. This book was so unexpectedly wholesome even while being Slytherin to its core, and it was just a delight. I was legit grinning every time Liz & Mack had a scene together, and they felt so inevitable for each other that it was almost like a contented sigh when they did finally end up together. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t spend a second being hyped about Liz’s friendship with Jordan and how much he was like “girl I’m your ride or die let’s go get your girl whaaaaat”. I am here for friends supporting friends in their queer love!
This list would not be complete without a couple that almost feels like an OG one now? Charlie & Nick from Heartstopper by Alice Oseman have lived in my heart for so long now, so much so that I’m reviewing the entire series later this month! Their relationship is just the sweetest, most adorable one in the entire world, and I know I said that Ben & Nathan were the softest on this list, but it may be these two knuckleheads? I can’t believe the amount of times that I’ve used the word wholesome in this post, and I’m a little mad at myself for doing it again, particularly because it’s usually a yuck word for me, but it’s the only one I can think to describe Charlie & Nick’s toothachingly sweet romance.