Lana Harper shares some of her favorite queer speculative reads

In Charm's Way by Lana Harper. Image Courtesy of Berkley.
In Charm's Way by Lana Harper. Image Courtesy of Berkley. /

When it comes to the rise in witchy romance books, there is one book that comes to mind and that’s Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper.

There were so many witchy romance books coming out in 2021 and it felt like Payback’s a Witch was putting a twist on a classic trope. If anything, it made me enjoy witchy romances as I did find some duds. Regardless if you read that book or not, romance readers are familiar with Harper.

Since publishing the first book in the series, Lana Harper has expanded the world and given us love stories for characters of all sexualities and genders. It’s honestly hard to believe she’s now written 4 books in this series with the latest being In Charm’s Way.

That’s why I’m so excited and thankful to Berkley for setting up a guest post. Since she writes queer romances, she agreed to share some of her favorite queer speculative fiction with us, and what a list it is.

Lana Harper shares some speculative queer favorites with us.

I’d also like to thank Lana Harper for taking the time to write up this list for us so I’m able to share it with you. Hopefully, you’ll find something new from her list or it might even encourage you to pick up one of her books. With that being said, let’s get into the post.

Lana Harper
Lana Harper Author Photo. Image Courtesy of Gary Alpert. /

"I’ve always been a devoted speculative fiction reader, across the SF&F spectrum. I remember loving Stephen King, Ann Rice, Diana Gabaldon, Robert Heinlein, the Wheel of Time series, and every vampire, werewolf, and witch book I could find, starting from my early teens. But as a bisexual reader, I was always looking for characters—especially main characters—who reflected a diversity of identities and experiences that I rarely found on the page. Here are seven of my all-time favorites (some of them series, for prolonged enjoyment!) that center LGBTQIA+ characters and stories while blowing your mind with magical worlds.Kushiel’s Legacy by Jacqueline CareyI will never stop gushing about how much I love these books, nor have I ever found anything quite like them since. The setting is a reimagined medieval world that mirrors our own, in which an alternative version of Jesus and a host of his angelic companions descended upon France (which in the story, becomes Terre D’Ange), commingled with the populace, and produced a country of sublimely gorgeous people whose ultimate precept is “love as thou wilt.” If that isn’t enough for you, it’s narrated by Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve, a bisexual courtesan chosen as an earthly avatar by the ruthless god Kushiel, and destined to experience pleasure and pain entwined. She becomes embroiled in complex international politics, courtly scheming, and steamy BDSM scenes that are as wildly sexy as they are compassionate and frank. Come for Phedre’s voice—lush, funny, clever, horny, and infinitely nuanced—and stay for the nefarious antics of Melisandre Shahrizai, one of the most seductive villainesses I’ve ever read.The Magicians Trilogy by Lev GrossmanWhat if magic were real—for a chosen few brilliant, pathologically dedicated, and emotionally unstable adults, willing to sacrifice everything for entry to a magical graduate school and a fantasy world? A dazzling cross between Narnia for grownups and the “school for magic” trope—and so, so much more—these books are full of intricately imagined and highly demanding magic, hilarious banter, and terrible choices. They’re also absolutely brutal when it comes to dissecting the characters’ failures and triumphs. (The TV show is super fun as well, but in my opinion, doesn’t do the books justice.) Elliott was my favorite character, and one of the first examples I’d seen in a story of a multidimensional gay male lead with agency, complexity, and a non-tragic narrative arc.The Scholomance Series by Naomi NovikThis series is a total mindblow revelation, and Naomi Novik is an unparalleled genius. The Scholomance is a magical school for wizard children, suspended in a void and meant to protect them from maleficaria, the dread monsters that result from the use of dark magic and have a taste for vulnerable young wizard blood. The magical system and worldbuilding are both very complex and incredibly satisfying, and the narrator—a reluctant dark sorceress unwilling to give in to her prophesied villainous destiny—is an utter delight. I would have been obsessed with these books no matter what, but the organic nature of El’s bisexuality and her two very different romances had me pledging my soul to this series. (For what it’s worth, the last book made me cry so hard on a plane that my seatmate asked if I was doing okay. And I mean that as a tremendous compliment.)A Marvellous Light by Freya MarskeThis is a gorgeous historical fantasy and magical murder mystery set in Edwardian London, which isn’t usually my era of choice, but I threw all preconceptions out the window for this MLM book. The magical system is incredibly original and fascinating, every setting is stunningly atmospheric, and the steamy scenes between Robin and Edward—who are both impossible not to love—are beyond hot. I’ve never been so down for sinister hedge mazes, sprawlingly opulent manors, and Morris wallpaper.Ink Blood Sister Scribe by Emma TorszThis contemporary fantasy, spanning from a remote base in Antarctica to London to Boston, blew me away. It follows two sisters whose lives have been upended in diametrically different ways by their father’s legacy of guarding ancient, magically powerful books written in blood. While Esther isn’t allowed to put down roots, forever in motion in order to protect her family from an enigmatic enemy bent on book theft and murder, Joanna becomes housebound after the death of their father, responsible for maintaining the wards that protect her home and the library inside it. Nicholas, on the other hand, is a blood scribe working for an occult organization known as the Library, leading an opulent, overprotected existence that is very much not what it seems. When their paths collide, magic of all kinds, both literal and literary, crackles on every page. Esther and Pearl’s romance was enthralling, as was the slow-burn friendship between Nicholas and his surly, wisecracking bodyguard.Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona SilveyI read this book two years ago, and it still gives me chills. Theo and Santi meet in Cologne, Germany as college students, before a tragic accident cuts their burgeoning friendship short. But they’ll be bound to each for life after life in that same city—as friends, romantic partners, enemies, teacher and student, caretaker and patient. But as the world around them appears to unravel, seemingly leading to a final life for both of them, they must discover the nature of their mysterious reality before the final oblivion arrives. The way this story explores the many facets of an entire spectrum of relationships was dazzlingly ambitious, the twist utterly brilliant and unexpected, the ending sublime.House of Hunger by Alexis HendersonI’ll admit it—I’m a sucker for an Elizabeth Bathory retelling, but make it queer (I’ve even written one of my own!). In this gothic horror novel, Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, and is driven to become a blood maiden to the depraved nobility of the north, who live luxurious, debaucherous lives in their dynastic houses and drink the blood of servants carefully chosen for their beauty and flavor, like human delicacies. What follows is a toxic, hypnotic, horrifying tale of obsession between Marion and Countess Lisavet, the head of the most prestigious House of Hunger. But the house is built on a grotesque secret that Marion must uncover, if she’s to survive the most ravenous love of her life. I thought about this book months after reading it; it’s a deeply unnerving mixture of gamey hedonism, social commentary, and the terrible allure of abusive, all-consuming love. You’ll want to follow it with Alexis Henderson’s Year of the Witching."

Whether you’re new to the genre or not, I adored reading this guest post from Lana Harper. Maybe it’s in the way she described these books, but it made me want to read them all. I’m not a big speculative reader so that’s a feat. Either way, I’m curious if you picked up any recommendations from her.

In Charm’s Way by Lana Harper is out now wherever your favorite books are sold. 

Will you be picking up any of Lana Harper’s recommendations or will you be picking up her latest? Sound off in the comments!

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