50 Must-Read Gay Romance Novels

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

The world of gay romance novels is, if not quite as vast as the world of m/f romance, still quite expansive. Are you looking for a royal-commoner romance? A fake marriage? Something dark and gritty, or something that’s the literary equivalent of a basket of puppies? Whatever it is that floats your romance boat, I guarantee there’s an m/m romance out there that will satisfy.

50 Must-Read Gay Romance Novels

In making this list, I’ve highlighted as many #ownvoices authors as possible. There’s a misconception that the only people who write m/m romance are straight women, and while it’s true that some of the biggest names in gay romance are straight women, there are also dozens of queer men writing fantastic gay romance. But because of the biases and shortcomings of publishing (and a slew of other complicated factors), it’s straight women who often get the most recognition in the genre.

This is not to say that straight women can’t, or shouldn’t, write gay romance novels. You’ll find several (including some of my absolute favorites!) on this list. You’ll also find many wonderful books by queer men that deserve the same praise and recognition. I’ve tried to make this list as wide-ranging as possible, and it includes books about diverse characters written by queer men and women, queer authors of color, and trans and genderqueer writers.

Over the years, these tales of queer happily ever afters have brought me much joy and comfort. Whether you’re entirely new to gay romance novels, or whether you’ve been reading them for years, I hope they’ll bring you the same delight.

Note: Books marked with an asterisk are #ownvoices, which, in this case, means that the author is a queer man. Many of the other novels on this list are #ownvoices for different reasons. I’ve chosen only to make note of books written by queer men, but it is by no means intended to erase or ignore the many other identities held by the fabulous writers who have produced these works.

Historical Gay Romance Novels

The Doctor's Discretion by E.E. Ottoman*The Doctor’s Discretion by e.e. ottoman

MCs: a retired Navy surgeon and a gentleman doctor more comfortable around books than patients.

Setting: 1830s New York City
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: an exciting and action-packed rescue of a hospital patient about to be committed to an asylum; racism and transphobia in 1830s NYC.
Rep: black MC, trans MC

An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

MCs: a quiet boarding-house keeper and one of his lodgers, a taxonomist.
Setting: Victorian London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a murder mystery; a beautifully depicted tight-knit queer community; some kink.
Rep: Indian, neurodivergent MC

The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat sebastian

MCs: a grumpy, unscrupulous, street-smart private eye (think: Olivia Pope in 1820s London) who grew up in the slums and despises nobility and a retired (and very proper) soldier who craves order and predicability.
Setting: Regency London and the English countryside
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: enemies-to-lovers; a mystery involving blackmail; interesting and complicated family dynamics; explorations of class differences and disability.
Rep: disabled MC

contemporary Gay Romance Novels

Tactical Submission by ada maria soto

MCs: a gay SWAT commander who’s mostly in the closet about being kinky and submissive and a bisexual, polyamorous kinky doctor who works for the coroner’s office.
Setting: L.A. County
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: BDSM, polyamory, characters dealing with PTSD, lots of on-the-page sex (this one is definitely erotic romance).
Rep: bisexual, polyamorous MC

Idlewild by Jude SierraIdlewild by jude sierra

MCs: a restauranteur still mourning the death of his husband and the determined college graduate he hires as part of his staff reboot.
Setting: Detroit
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; lots of food and cooking; friends-to-lovers; an age gap; an interracial relationship; characters dealing with grief.
Rep: black genderqueer MC

*Coffee Boy by austin chant

MCs: an intern at a political campaign, just out of college and stunned he’s landed his dream job, but also dealing with the stress of being out and trans in a not-very-supportive workplace and the somewhat prickly and uptight campaign strategist who actually ends up being super charming and kind.
Setting: the offices of a political campaign somewhere in contemporary America
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; the MC dealing with transphobia from coworkers (but not the love interest); some fun behind-the-scenes political campaign drama.
Rep: trans MC, bisexual MC

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

MCs: an NFL player, widower, and single dad raising his teenage son and a ballet dancer from Russia seeking asylum in the U.S.
Setting: LA
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fake marriage; sports romance; characters dealing with grief; parenting; secondary characters that matter to the plot.
black MC

*Hot Head by damon suede

MCs: two lifelong best friends and Brooklyn firefighters (who may or may not have been hiding their feelings for each other for years) who decide to work as models for a gay porn website because one of them is basically broke.
Setting: Brooklyn post-9/11
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: friends to lovers; total hilarity; a satisfying and authentic secondary cast of friends and family; tasty homemade Italian food described in detail.
Rep: gay MCs

Trouble and the Wallflower by Kade Boehme*Trouble and the Wallflower by Kade Boehme

MCs: a shy twenty-something with social anxiety who lives alone and works at a soda fountain and a loud, outgoing sort-of-hipster.
Setting: Seattle
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: opposites attract; complex family dynamics; a cast of secondary characters who are in turns lovely, annoying, endearing, and frustrating.
neurodivergent MC

*Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy

MCs: a famous football player who’s spent his life in the closet and a mega football fan who is also kinda lonely and runs an independent film festival.
Setting: Melbourne, Australia
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: sports romance; lots of angst; celebrity romance; characters dealing with homophobia (from the public and in their families); a wonderful and heartwarming collection of friends and chosen family surrounding both MCs.
gay MCs

Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

MCs: a somewhat grumpy recluse who has MS, which sometimes means his body does not act as he wants it to, and a super cheerful, open and not-at-all grumpy artist/hipster.
Setting: Oakland/Bay Area
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: adorable opposites-attract romance; a character that deals with chronic illness on a daily basis, especially as his illness pertains to sex; BDSM; a strong sense of queer community and queer community.
disabled MC

*Second Chance by Jay Northcote

MCs: a freelance writer who returns to town where he grew up to give himself and his teenage daughter a fresh start and his childhood best friend, who has just moved back in with his parents after his alcohol addiction sent his life into a downward spiral.
Setting: a small town in the UK
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: friends-to-lovers; second-chance romance; parenting; older MCs (both men are in their forties); family dynamics; characters struggling with addiction and depression.
trans MC

Starting From Scratch by Jay Northcote*Starting from Scratch by Jay Northcote

MCs: a quiet trans college student who’s just returned to university after transitioning and the outgoing ex of one of his friends.
Setting: Plymouth, England
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: college romance; authentic and sweet depiction of friendship among young gay university students; some downright adorable and geeky board game playing.
trans MC

Shame and A Disgrace by Holley Trent

MCs: a pharmaceutical sales rep who’s just dumped his much younger boyfriend who he thinks is too young to settle down and commit, and the much younger boyfriend, who is determined to win back the love of his life.
Setting: New Orleans
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: second chance romance; age gap.
Rep: gay MCs

Hearsay by Taylor V. Donovan

MCs:  two lawyers working for the same law firm who get to know each other over a series of lunch meetings and then reconnect a year later over an important case.
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; courtroom drama; significant angst involving a senior partner and junior associate pining for each other.
Rep: biracial MC

*For Real by Alexis Hall

MCs: a thirty-something trauma doctor and submissive who’s getting tired of the BDSM scene he’s been a part of for so long and a 19-year-old line cook who is just coming out as kinky and dominant.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: age gap romance; BDSM; lots of angst surrounding the MCs emotional openness; a strong circle of friends and chosen family; a slow-burn romance; a fair bit of on-the-page sex.
gay MCs

Glitterland by Alexis Hall*Glitterland by Alexis Hall

MCs: a bipolar writer, once well-regarded, who now writes crime fiction and mostly keeps to himself and a party boy and aspiring model who surrounds himself with people and lights.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: character dealing with mental illness; a fair bit of angst and self-loathing; backstory that involves intense heartbreak and loss; a surprising amount of humor and levity.
MC with mental illness

*The Nothingness of Ben by Brad Boney

MCs: a rising hotshot lawyer who is forced to return home to care for his three teenage brothers after his father dies and his next-door, small-town, openhearted neighbor.
Setting: Austin, TX
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; characters dealing with grief; family dynamics.
gay MCs

Kings and Butterflies by Lina Langley

MCs: the owner of an inn on one of the most popular seaside resort boardwalks in the world and a mysterious guest who offers him $10,00 in cash to stay for a week and then disappears.
Setting: a fancy seaside resort town
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: lots of fun food-related details; a love interest who is a mysterious stranger; a very sweet section where the MCs are apart geographically and connect online; some kink.
bisexual MC

A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

MCs: a famous billionaire and a charmingly grumpy art student.
Setting: California and a cabin in Oregon
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: May/December romance; billionaire romance; wonderful cast of supporting characters (mostly trans); characters dealing with dysphoria and transphobia who hold each other and support each other in truly wonderful ways; very little angst. 
trans MC, genderqueer MC, bisexual MCs

Autumn by Cole McCade*Autumn: A Crow City Side Story by Cole McCade

MCs: a forty-something man grieving the kidnapping of his niece and the man he’s always loved, who happens to be his sister’s ex-husband and the father of his niece.
Setting: Crow City (fictional)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: characters dealing with grief and loss; enemies-to-lovers; a lot of emotional baggage; dark themes including kidnapping.
disabled MC, bisexual MC

*his cocky valet by Cole McCade

MCs: a 23-year-old who suddenly finds himself the head of his father’s multibillion dollar corporation and the forty-something British man he hires to work as his valet (i.e. personal assistant).
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance (boss/employee) age gap romance; storyline involving a family member with cancer; BDSM.
biracial Japanese-American MC

*Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

MCs: a detective who’s about to get married and has dreamed his whole life of joining the FBI and a waiter he meets one day at a diner who turns out to be a whole lot more than he seems.
Setting: Denver, CO
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: age gap romance; murder mystery; lots of drama and angst and situations where characters frequently in danger; a fantastic supporting cast of friends and family.
gay MCs

*King Consort by J.R. Gray

MCs: a prince and heir to the throne of England and a paparazzi photographer with whom, against his better judgment, he shares a one-night stand.
Setting: Toronto and London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: royal/commoner romance; a character dealing with being closeted due to his position (English royalty); fantastic supporting characters (especially the MC’s grandmother, the Queen); angsty.
gay MCs

SyncopationSyncopation by Anna Zabo by Anna Zabo

MCs: the lead singer of a rock band and the man who joins them as their new drummer after a scandal
Setting: various locales in contemporary America (the band tours throughout the book)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: musician/rock band romance; BDSM; characters dealing with trauma; complex secondary characters/bandmates that form a wonderful queer chosen family.
Rep: pansexual aromantic MC

*Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

MCs: a nerdy college student and a jock, who fall in love their senior year, drift apart, and are then reunited twenty years later.
Setting: Tarrytown, New York, in the 1970s; various locales in America in 1998
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a unique narrative style, told in checklists, letters, and two POVs; second-chance romance.
gay MCs

*Galley Proof by Eric Arvin

MCs: a fiction writer and the editor of his latest book.
Setting: small town America and Italy
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: snarky, hilarious first-person narration; a great supporting cast including the MCs mom and best friend/roommate; engaging depictions of small town life.
Rep: gay MCs

*Home by William Neale

MCs: an ad exec who returns to his hometown after the death of his father and the man who bullied him in high school, now the deputy chief of police.
Setting: small-town Southern American
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: characters who share a past traumatic relationship (which involved one MC bullying the other); a stalker situation; a return-to-hometown romance; characters dealing with homophobia from various angles.
gay MCs

Love Me Tomorrow by Ethan Day*Love Me Tomorrow by Ethan Day

MCs: an event planner and a paramedic (who also happens to be the brother of his newest, most important client).
Setting: Wilde City (fictional)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a man working to build up his business and the challenges he faces; a love interest in an existing relationship; a cast of endearing supporting characters.
gay MCs

*Shaking the Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus

MCs: a single dad and failed writer struggling to make ends meet and a nurse who recently moved to Mississippi from Boston.
Setting: Mississippi
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; complicated family dynamics; lots of interesting supporting characters; a lot of emotional backstory; characters dealing with various traumas.
gay MCs, deaf secondary character (the son of one of the MCs)

Daddy, Daddy, and Me by Sean Michael

MCs: a single dad who finds himself raising his biological kids after his best friend, to whom he donated sperm, dies and a young man who just finished his degree in early childhood education and is looking for a nannying job.
Setting: Ontario
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; fantastic depiction of queer family building; an adorable meet-cute (involving screaming children); almost no angst.
gay MCs

Keeping the Cookies by Briana Lawrence

MCs: a man reeling after a recent breakup who takes a job as a holiday elf at the mall and the kind janitor he meets there.
Setting: Minneapolis
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: holiday (Christmas) romance; adorable meet-cute; lighthearted story with little angst.
black MCs

Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper*Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper

MCs: a young man who’s become sick of the meaninglessness and consumerism of his family’s Hanukah celebration and his long-time crush, his best friend’s uncle, who also happens to be a golem.
Setting: a city in contemporary America
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: holiday (Chanukah) romance; romance involving a long-time crush; lots of geekiness (including an amazing scene where the MCs play D&D); family dynamics and a lovely supporting cast (esp. the MC’s best friend).
bisexual MC

*Shy by John Inman

MCs: an assistant bank manager with social anxiety disorder and an Indiana farm boy.
Setting: San Diego and a farm in Indiana
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: return-to-hometown romance; a character dealing with a sick parent; lots of farm shenanigans and humor; characters that deal with both shyness and social anxiety disorder.
MC with social anxiety

*Legally Wed by Rick R. Reed

MCs: a man who’s given up on romantic love, so decides to marry a woman and (of course!) his wedding planner.
Setting: Seattle
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: marriage of convenience; forced proximity; various relationships explored besides the main love interest; an arc of self-discovery and affirmation that’s separate from the love story.
gay MCs

Fantasy & Paranormal Gay Romance Novels

*Peter Darling by Austin Chant

MCs: Peter Pan (reimagined as a trans man) and Captain Hook.
Setting: Neverland
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a beautiful and nuanced gay, trans retelling of Peter Pan; equal parts romance and adventure.
Rep: trans MC

*Witches of London-LarsWitches of London-Lars by Aleksandr Voinov by Aleksandr Voinov

MCs: a pagan man and contractor who’s just joined a new circle of queer witches and a man who has just quit his stressful job and bought an old house in the suburbs, due to his failing health.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a character with a life-threatening illness; queer witches who practice various forms of paganism; an exploration of spirituality and faith; a lovely portrayal of queer family among the witches.
gay MCs

*Shatterproof by Xen Sanders

MCs: an immortal EMT who feeds on the souls of those he loves and an artist whom he stops from attempting suicide.
Setting: London and its suburbs
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a dark fairytale with a satisfying ending; heavy subject matter including depression and suicide; lots of emotional heft; lyrical writing; some exploration of Haitian voodoo.
black MC, bisexual MC

*From the ashes by Xen Sanders

MCs: an aberrant (human with superpowers) villain disguised as a graduate student and the professor who becomes fascinated by him.
Setting: New York City & the UK
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: lots of fast-paced action; political intrigue; complex characters with conflicting emotions; a storyline that plays with what it means to be a villain.
Southeast Asian MC

The Alpha’s Claim by Holley Trent

MCs: the alpha of the New York coyote pack and an aspiring actor/waiter.
Setting: small town New York
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a condensed time frame (most of this book takes place over a weekend); coyote shifter pack politics; lots of witty banter.
gay MCs

Sea LoverSea Lover by J.K. Pendragon by J.K. Pendragon

MCs: a quiet and reclusive fisherman and a merman who washes up injured on the beach near his cabin.
Setting: a tiny and remote Canadian fishing town
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a fairytale vibe; forced proximity romance; a tender and sweet story with little angst; one MC nursing the other back to health.
Rep: trans MC

*The Lightning Struck Heart by T.J. KLune

MCs: a wizard’s apprentice and a dreamy knight who spends altogether too much time dating other people.
Setting: a fantasy kingdom populated by beautiful queer creatures
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a creative and unique cast of characters and creatures including gay dragons; lovely friendships; a totally fun and wacky fantasy world; dangerous quests; many moments of total laugh-out-loud humor.
gay MCs

Science Fiction & post-apocolyptic

Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole

MCs: a man who has survived the apocalypse and is living with his family in a tiny cabin and a young astrophysics university student who appears in their garden one day.
Setting: a secluded cabin in post-apocalyptic New York
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a long road (walking trip); family dynamics; high-stakes drama/action; life in the post-apocalyptic world.
Korean MC

*Incursion by Aleksandr Voinov

MCs: a man on a mission to hunt and kill an alien spy and the captain of the spaceship  he hitches a ride on.
Setting: a mercenary spaceship
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fascinating aliens; fast-paced action; a mysterious love interest with an intriguing past; a character dealing with the aftermath of war.
disabled MC

Chaos StationChaos Station by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen

MCs: a spaceship engineer and an ex-supersoldier, both with traumatic pasts, who are also childhood best friends (and former boyfriends), reunited after being separated for years.
Setting: a spaceship roaming the galaxy after a major interplanetary war
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: second-chance romance, friends-to-lovers, a lot of fast-paced action; a truly wonderful sense of chosen family among the spaceship crew; fascinating aliens; characters dealing with PTSD from a brutal war.
Rep: bisexual MC

YA Gay Romance Novels

*Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

MCs: two Mexican-American teenage boys coming of age in 1980s Texas.
Setting: El Paso
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: complex family dynamics; friends-to-lovers; self-discovery; exploration cultural heritage and identity.
Latinx MCs

*One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

MCs: a high school freshman from an Armenian family and the brash, irreverent boy he meets at summer school.
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: family dynamics; a coming-out storyline that’s not the center of the book at all; first love; so many amazing food scenes; an exploration of culture and heritage and how important their Armenian identity is to the MCs family.
gay MCs

*Chulito by Charles Rice-Gonzalez

MCs: a teenage boy from the South Bronx and his childhood best friend, whom he distanced himself from when folks around the neighborhood started teasing him for being gay.
Setting: NYC (specifically the South Bronx)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: beautiful descriptions of the neighborhood and community; characters dealing with homophobia; friends-to-lovers; nuanced supporting characters; exploration of masculinity and identity.
Rep: Latinx MCs

*Running with Lions by Julian Winters

MCs: the star goalie of the high school soccer teen and his childhood best friend, who arrives unexpectedly at summer training camp.
Setting: soccer training camp
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: sports romance; a diverse and lovable soccer team that feels more like a family; friends-to-lovers; a sweet and tender love story low on the angst.
bisexual MC, Muslim British Pakistani MC

*The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

MCs: two boys raised as “love interests” (forced to compete for the interest of the same girl) by a secret and powerful organization that trains teenage spies.
Setting: dystopian Australia
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fascinating world-building; lots of high-stakes action; a queer and creative twist on the spy novel; lots of angst;  a creepy dystopian corporation.
gay MCs

Looking for more gay romance novels? Check out 8 of the Best M/M Romances and A (Semi) Comprehensive Guide to LGBTQ Romance. Gay romance novels also appear on this list of must-read YA romances and this list of must-read LGBT fantasy books.