Here are the 10 Best Lesbian Books as decreed by Sheena, founder of The Lesbian Review. This list is great for a number of things: it can inspire gifts for lesbians; it can promote reading to lesbians who are new to the scene; or just boost your own reading list. It was not easy to whittle down my beloved books to just the 10 best lesbian books, but after much deliberation and agonising, it is done.
They are in order from my most absolutely favourite/amazing/best at number one down to ten that is perhaps just a teeny bit less favourite than number one but not much. I adore all of these books and have read them each a number of times. They are completely unique and the only commonality among the bunch is how awesome they are, and of course, that they are lesbian books (making them all the more superior). Also, if you must know, they have an element of romance in them because life without love is just not worth it. Starting at number…
1 Requiem For Immortals by Lee Winter
A beautifully constructed thriller that gets under your skin and stays with you.
This isn’t a thriller the way Silence of the Lambs is a thriller, it isn’t gruesome or horrifying, rather it is about a cellist who is an assassin and her target, a seemingly mousy woman named Alison. But nothing is quite as simple as it seems and Winter takes you on a twisting, turning tale that will leave you amazed at her storytelling prowess.
You can read my full review.
Excerpt from Requiem for Immortals
This was the art, and at this particular game of cat and mouse, Requiem was unmatched. She quickened her pace behind her target and mused at how galling it was to use her gift on a quarry so far beneath Requiem’s skillset. Ryan was clearly clueless to the point of oblivious. Requiem suspected she could walk right beside the woman for ten blocks and she wouldn’t even notice. There was a faint leakage from Ryan’s headphones, and she tried to stitch together the musical strains she could hear to work out the composition’s name. She identified the piece after a few more blocks of trailing her. Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. So the little mouse had a decent musical palate, Requiem would give her that. They neared the parking building entrance Ryan used when she wasn’t catching the train. But instead of going inside, the woman kept walking. This was new. A few quick lefts, then rights, and a left again and the unthinkable happened. Alison Ryan disappeared.
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2 Christabel by Karin Kallmaker
This book speaks of longing across many lifetimes. It is magnificently written, a completely unique take on the subject matter with a great set of characters.
This is one of my favourite lesbian novels, which is saying a lot, considering how many I have read over the years.
Christabel was originally published under a pen name because it is so different from Kallmaker’s normal works, so it took me a while to get my hands on it. Bless Kindle for coming to my rescue. Since I bought it, I have read it several times already and am sure that I will read it several more before I am done.
Excerpt from Christabel by Karin Kallmaker
Everyone turned to the soft voice behind them. For the third time in the last hour, Dina was stricken with vertigo. Surely it was just hunger and fatigue. PMS, maybe. Through the shoulders of the men she saw a woman, or a girl, no, a woman. Her dark eyes were huge and her skin alabaster with rose-stained cheeks and lips. She seemed like a mist, almost as if she wasn’t there. But as she moved down the stairs with a flowing grace that mesmerized Dina, she solidified in Dina’s mind. She has to be a model, but unlike most models, there was nothing boyish or waiflike about her. She was all woman, lushly female.
“You wanted to examine my assets?” Goransons gestured at the newcomer, who stood at the bottom of the stairs. “This is my chief asset, la Christabel.”
Dina looked at Goranson and knew that he understood assets were something you owned. That was when she began to hate him.
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3 Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Excerpt from Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
We were all more or less thieves, at Lant Street. But we were the kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it. If I had stared to see Flora put her hand to a tear in her skirt and bring out a purse and perfume, I was never so surprised again: for it was a very dull day with us, when no-one came to Mr Ibb’s shop with a bad or a packet in the lining of his coat, in his hat, in his sleeve or stocking.
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4 Shell Game by Benny Lawrence
A pirate queen, a beautiful captive with a secret and some high seas adventures told in a witty, tongue-in-cheek manner. I adore Benny Lawrence’s work. She is always original and brilliantly witty. Of her books this one is my favourite and it absolutely deserves to be on my 10 Best Lesbian Books list.
Excerpt from Shell Game by Benny Lawrence
“Look, time out,” I said. “You’re new to this. I understand. But it isn’t complicated. You can’t let a prisoner roam around your ship. Not when she is trying to kill you.”
Daren made a small, exasperated noise as she sheathed her knife. “I don’t care if you try to kill me. You’re the size of a badly-nourished kitten. The worst you could do is give me a couple of flesh wounds and bruise my self-esteem. Here I am trussing you up, treating you like an assassin, when you should be in the countryside somewhere, with a farmer’s wife force-feeding you pie.” Her eyes wandered as she spoke, and that’s when I drew back my heel and kicked her in the pit of her stomach. Not hard. She gave a little whoosh and sat back, blinking. After a second she asked, “What the hell was that for?”
“For getting maudlin. I’m not a kitten.” “I just meant that you’re tiny.”
“Hey,” I said defensively. “I could still be an assassin. Do you know how many assassins are short?”
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5 The Magistrate/The Procuress by Keira Michelle Telford
These two books are part of a series and the one story follows directly to the other, so in essence it is one story. Plus there are so many wondrous lesbian books out there, how can you make me choose only ten for my 10 Best Lesbian Books?
The Magistrate and The Procuress tell the story about London in a post-apocalyptic sort of space. There is just enough steampunk in the book to make enthusiasts of the movement quiver in their breeches. The story is about a magistrate (law enforcer) and the madam of a cathouse. They have a history but haven’t seen each other in years. They are reunited by the murder of one of the madam’s whores. Naturally, sparks fly. Unfortunately, same-sex love is strictly outlawed and punishable by death.
The Magistrate Book Excerpt
She dips her finger in the honey again, and this time, she offers it to Carmen. Without dropping eye contact, she bumps her finger lightly against Carmen’s soft pink lips and waits for a reaction. At worst, she expects that Carmen might flick her tongue briefly against the sugary treat, sampling it tentatively.
Instead, Carmen takes her completely by surprise. Strangely seduced by the woman’s deep blue eyes and inexplicably fond smile. Carmen parts her lips and takes the woman’s finger into her mouth, holding it captive between her teeth. She wraps her tongue around the tip, licking the dripping honey off the woman’s warm skin, sucking her clean. All trace of honey is long gone before the woman finally feels the last flicker of Carmen’s retreating tongue, allowing her to withdraw slowly, savouring every last second of contact.
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The Procuress Book Excerpt
Lina scrutinizes her appearance in the bedroom mirror, deeply conflicted about wearing such an exquisite outfit for the likes of Maribeth Stockhill. She considers changing into something a little less flashy, but the faint, lingering hope that this evening might well end with Carmen falling into her arms convinces her to stay rigged as she is.
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6 Tomorrow’s Promise by Radclyffe
This book is set on an island and both characters are as restless as the sea. Tanner is an heiress to the Whitley fortune and Adrianne is a marine escaping from her life. The two meet and are drawn together. They both have baggage and can’t help but mess things up. Loads of drama for those who love the – will they/won’t they get together tug of war in lesbian romance novels.
I absolutely could not do the 10 best lesbian books list without this novel.
Tomorrow’s Promise by Radclyffe Excerpt
Just as Adrienne reached out tentatively to touch the woman’s face, nearly translucent eyelids fluttered open to reveal dark, unfocused eyes. Adrienne stood transfixed, staring down, captured by those eyes. For an instant, there was a hint of innocence and something terribly lost swirling in their depths. It wasn’t until the searching gaze settled questioningly on Adrienne’s face that she found her voice. “My God, you frightened me. Are you hurt?” “Eternally,” a husky voice replied.
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7 Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton
This story is so beautifully written that it makes me stop to just appreciate the use of language.
It is uplifting and a rare find in any kind of literature.
Excerpt from Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton
Roselyn Thorn of Rhiw Hall. Sharer of secrets and confidence and the best friend a girl could have. Better than sisters from the age of six until sweet sixteen, when everything wasn’t so sweet anymore.
Poppy would have been lying if she’d claimed not to think of Rosalyn. Although weeks, even months, would pass between musings, she always wondered what became of her former friend. And now there she was a few paces away.
“Poppy.” She saw Roselyn say her name more than heard it. Rosalyn’s mouth lingered open, her face pale.
Poppy’s insides chilled and even though she feared her friend she couldn’t move.
A quiet laugh of irony escaped Rosalyn and she clasped a hand to her brow. When she dropped her arm and wandered a few paces closer and embarrassed smile tempered her face.
“I did wonder if I’d bump into you, but I didn’t really…” She threw up her hands in disbelief. “Poppy Jenkins.” Roselyn’s keen eyes travelled all over Poppy’s body, taking in her hair, bare arms and the open chest of her dress.
“You look well. Really well.” Her sad smile spoke of a regret Poppy couldn’t fathom.
Roselyn put out her hand but Poppy was too numb to respond.
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8 Sword of the Guardian/Prayer of the Handmaiden by Merry Shannon
I decided to pair these books because they really tell one story and it is far more complete when you read both books. Technically they can each stand alone, but as with all things lesbian, we pair/couple/multiple is more fulfilling.
Sword of the Guardian is a love story between a princess and her security guard who is secretly a woman. The princess balks when she finds out that her hero is actually her heroine. This is an epic, fun adventure story filled with sword fighting, horse riding, and spunky women. The world is magnificently built for you without over-explaining.
Prayer of the Handmaiden is a follow up to Sword of the Guardian in that it takes place right after the first book, in the same world. This time, however, the main characters from Sword of the Guardian play side characters and the side characters from the first book play main characters. Prayer of the Handmaiden is a gentler, more internal story than Sword of the Guardian. However, it is equally brilliantly written. It is not easy to write a really good story where a character is so torn between doing what is right and what her heart is telling her to do, yet Merry Shannon makes it seem effortless.
Sword Of The Guardian Book Excerpt
With a cry, she leaped from her spot at the wall, planted her feet on a nearby bench and catapulted herself into the air. She shoved Lyris in the small of her back and pushed the Princess to the ground, then landed hard in front of them. At the same instant that her knees buckled with the impact, she was aware of an explosion of pain in her abdomen. Her hand came up instinctively, and when she pulled it away her palm was slick with blood.
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Prayer of the Handmaiden Book Excerpt
Erinda relaxed her hand, feeling the delicate bones of Kade’s ribcage curve beneath her palm, too close to the skin. After more than a decade of friendship, this fragility was something she probably ought to be used to, but every now and then it still managed to take her by surprise. She squeezed with her fingers, just a little bit. “Ah, but you love me anyway.”
Ugh. The cheeky quip was underscored by an inflection that sounded plaintive, even to her own ears. What was she doing? This was madness. The expression on Kade’s face shifted. One moment her mock-pout was buoyant and playful; then she was gazing at Erinda so intently that Erinda felt the air hitch in her lungs. Kade’s eyes were set just a little too close together, her nose slightly too pointed, her chin a bit too narrow for most people to consider her pretty.
But the sharpness of her features had always reminded Erinda of a hawk, or maybe a fox. Sleek. Intelligent. Elegant. She found herself possessed by the need to memorize this face, before it was gone forever. Greedily, she drank in the sight of her: the faintly freckled skin, the perfectly arched eyebrows, the tiny mole just below her left eye.
Beneath her, Kade’s heart was thudding. Erinda could see the pulse in her throat. Her hair was spread in the grass, a halo of gold and green, and she held Erinda’s eyes without seeming to breathe. Something inside Erinda quivered and warmed, weighing her down over Kade’s body as if she could melt them both into the ground. As if she might be able to keep her from leaving, if only she could wish hard enough. Kade was staring at her with such uneasiness, like she was struggling to work out the answer to a hopeless riddle.
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9 Keepers of the Cave/Weeping Walls by Gerri Hill
Oops, I did it again. I paired up the books and this time it is even more of a cheat than the previous times because while these are about the same characters, they are two completely unique stories. The main characters of both these books are FBI agents and in the first book the ladies find the passion between them too much to resist and in the second book, they are together as a couple. Both stories are X files type cases. The first is about a missing girl, a monster in a cave and a cult of people who worship the monster.
The second is about a haunted house. Intrigued yet? Well, you should be. These are both fantastic books.
Keepers Of The Cave by Gerri Hill Book Excerpt
“Disappearances?” Billy asked as he scanned the first page of the folder.
“Lots of them,” Howly said. “Let’s get some background. This investigation was originally started eight months ago. Senator Trumbley from Dallas has a stake in this. His daughter had been missing for nine months now. College student. She was driving from New Orleans back to Dallas last October. Alone. The last communication he had from her was here,” he said, pointing to the map in Leesville, Louisiana.
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Weeping Walls Book Excerpt
“Mother, please.” “You’ve been avoiding me for weeks now, Paige Riley. I won’t be put off any longer.” Paige sidestepped two men in business suits hurrying down the sidewalk like she was doing. She was late. And she was never late. “Mother, what do you want me to say?”
“I want to know who that woman was in your apartment and why she was half-naked.” Paige stopped suddenly, pushing her sunglasses on top of her head. “First of all, she was not half-naked. She was all the way naked. And secondly…it’s none of your business.” She ended the call quickly as she stared up into the cloudless sky. Did I just out myself to my mother?
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10 Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
When Jane’s PayBuddy account gets hacked she ends up with a mail-order bride from Transnistria, Natasha. Although Natasha is very hot and is trying to consummate their marriage, Jane’s heart really belongs to someone else.
This is an utterly adorable read.
Excerpt from Jane’s World by Paige Braddock
If it was possible for Natasha to look even sexier from this lower vantage point, then she did. Jane felt heat rising to her cheeks as Natasha’s barely covered breasts hovered near her face. “You write such beautiful things to me. Things of romance and desire. You don’t like what you see?”
“Yes. I mean, no. What I mean is that you’re very beautiful.” Jane slid sideways and stood up quickly, putting a few feet between them. “It’s just that this whole situation was a big surprise to me. You get that, right?”
“We make love and then you will see this is good thing.” Natasha toyed with Jane’s bow tie. She pulled one side loose from the knot and allowed her fingers to trail down the buttons at the front of Jane’s shirt. Jane didn’t realize she had taken a few steps backward until her back hit the closed bedroom door.
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Bonus: That Certain Something by Clare Ashton
This is a delightful, quirky romance with a boatload of angst thrown in for good measure. This is one of my favourites of Ashton’s books. The characters are well written and believable. The book is filled with moments so lovely you wish you could frame them and keep looking at them.
That Certain Something by Clare Ashton Book Excerpt
Cate took a slow sip of Champagne and peeked at Pia, her lips twitching in the corners. ‘I know you’re watching me.’ ‘I can’t tell the colour of your eyes,’ Pia said. ‘They change.’ Cate turned towards Pia, tucking up her knees and resting her head on her arm. ‘It depends on what I’m wearing and the light. If I wear blue, it tends to bring out a slate grey, if green then a pale green.’
Pia was unable to hide her admiration. ‘They’re amazing. Mine are boring. Just hazel.’
‘Honest eyes,’ Cate said with a serious tone, and then: ‘But I wouldn’t call deep hypnotic hazel boring. Not with those long inky eyelashes.’
The words made Pia warm inside. She peered across the skyline. ‘This is perfect. Champagne on a summer’s evening, a beautiful view and beautiful company. What more could you ask for?’ A thrill of fear shot through her. She’d uttered the words without thinking, with that fluidity that Champagne brings. Cate regarded her.
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Bonus: Reflected Passion by Erica Lawson
Following the sounds she sees that her mirror has become a sort of window into another time and place. A French woman is staring back at her from the other side.
Reflected Passion is a romance that spans ages and takes you back to a time when women were not safe without a man.
Reflected Passion by Erica Lawson Book Excerpt
My attention turned back to the wood as I slid my hands over the frame. Images flashed into my mind of a raven-haired woman. Her piercing dark eyes looked into my very soul to extract each and every secret I had hidden, even from myself.
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I hope you enjoy these, and if there are any that you haven’t read then you must add them to your pile of must-read books. Another great use for this list is to send your wife a link to this page with an email that says – oooh number 6 sounds interesting – and oh, on a totally unrelated topic, when are you going to do Christmas shopping/birthday shopping?
And if you enjoyed this list you should see some of our other top 10 lists of lesbian books