Hello and welcome to Rainbow Trends, a column dedicated to the hottest tropes and trends in LGBTQ+ books! Each month, I focus on a specific trend or trope and recommend the top three to four books I’ve loved that fit it. There are never big spoilers, only a whole lot of excited book talk, some new-to-you reads, and loads of HEAs.
This month, let’s talk…series in a city!
One of the best parts about starting a series is the ability to dive into this whole new world of possibility: will the characters be edgy and rough or gentle and kind? Will they be full of angst, tears, and enough drama to have you rolling your eyes or will they be sweet and loving, relationships starting out soft and nice between two people who have been searching for love? Will they have an insta-connection or will the slow burn of their drawn out romance have you turning the pages faster and faster dying for something – anything! – to happen?
As a reader, the characters and their development are extremely important; I mean, they are the driving force of every Romance and Romantic series. But it’s the setting that provides so much more context and insight into the hows and whys of their relationships. All those snowed in at the inn recs just wouldn’t be the same if they were set in Miami or Venice Beach. Likewise, the carefully manicured lawns and tightly-buttoned formality of the English countryside makes finding true love on an English estate so deliciously captivating. Keeping this in mind, today I want to recommend three series where the setting is just as important as the relationship and the location of the characters matters just as much as their interactions. So today we are talking, some fabulous series in a city!
Bad in Baltimore series by K.A. Mitchell
Series reading order:
What it’s about: When opposites attract or old lovers reunite, there’s a lot of trouble to get into in Baltimore. Though they might be billionaires or street kids, cops or history teachers, friendship connects them, and a sexy romance is right around the Inner Harbor.
Why you should read this series: K.A. Mitchell capitalizes on the gritty urban setting of Baltimore to bring 6 different relationships to life with more hopefully on the horizon! Filled with a huge cast of locals, the books feature forays into the uglier side of the concrete jungle and how tough the city can be. As the main characters deal with brushes with Baltimore law enforcement, nights out at the local gay bar and dance club, and even the newsroom of a local arts newspaper, Mitchell is able to fully weave Baltimore into each of their storylines.
Out of the six, the real standout for me personally is book two, Bad Boyfriend. Featuring an instantaneous attraction between a freelance photographer and an ex-military man turned teacher, the chemistry is explosive and you can feel how much these two genuinely like each other as they interact and their relationship grows. There’s overbearing family, an ex who isn’t ready to let go, and a whole lot of baggage to get through before these two have their HEA but K.A. Mitchell makes the wait oh-so-worth it. Start with one and don’t stop until you’ve read them all.
Sex in Seattle series by Eli Easton
Series reading order:
What it’s about: [From Book 1] As part of the investigation into the murder of a young woman, Seattle P.I. Tony DeMarco poses as a patient of Dr. Jack Halloran, the therapist who treated the victim at a Seattle sex clinic. This isn’t the first time Tony has gone undercover, but it’s the first time he’s wanted to go under cover with one of his suspects. He can’t help it—Jack Halloran is just the kind of steely-eyed hero Tony goes for. But he’ll have to prove Halloran’s innocence and keep the doctor from finding out about his ruse before he can play Romeo.
Dr. Halloran has his own issues, including a damaged right arm sustained in the line of duty as a combat surgeon in Iraq and the PTSD that followed. He’s confused to find himself attracted to a new patient, the big, funny Italian with the puppy-dog eyes, and Tony’s humor slips right past Jack’s defenses, making him feel things he thought long buried. But can the doctor and the P.I. find a path to romance despite the secrets between them?
Why you should read this series: Every book I’ve read by Eli Easton has been captivating due to her superlative writing chops and her ability to craft unique stories from deceptively simple premises. Her Sex in Seattle series is a testament to that writing ability. Yes, it’s just that good. Set quite obviously in Seattle, the common thread of this series is less the city as a whole (though it still plays a big part) and more the microcosm of a local sex clinic and the community that revolves around it. The word “clinic” rarely screams sexy, but in Easton’s capable hands, this setting and the city in which it calls home, becomes an integral backdrop for three very different relationships.
Of the three books, I adored The Mating of Michael most since it is an absolute joy to read. Featuring a nurse and sex surrogate who rarely dates and a science fiction author dealing with the physical complications of polio, their romance is a rollercoaster of emotion and vulnerability from the very beginning. As the two discover more about each other, their miscommunications and honesty feel so very raw and real. Have the kleenex ready for this one because it will suckerpunch you in the best possible way.
Queers of La Vista series by Kris Ripper
Series reading order:
What it’s about:
Welcome to La Vista, California!
Searching for love? A hookup? A few hours of debate and debauchery with friends? Look no further than Club Fred’s, the diverse queer community’s favorite watering hole in La Vista’s newly revitalized Harbor District!
Club Fred’s is the kind of place where everyone knows your name—and quite a few of them know about that birthmark on your upper thigh, the way you laugh too loudly after a single shot of tequila, and the reason you broke up with your last partner. The only downside to a night at Fred’s? Every now and then someone walks out the door and winds up dead.
When a killer stalks the streets of La Vista, some parts of the community draw closer, and some are pushed further apart. But in the end, they’re all in it together—for better or for worse.
Why you should read this series: Kris Ripper knocks it out of the park with these over the top, messy, soap opera inspired books chock full of nuanced queer characters! With titles all loosely based on the soaps we know and love (hey, unabashed General Hospital lover here!), each novel follows a particular set of characters as they meet, learn more about each other, and ultimately fall in love in the small town of La Vista, California. The city plays as much a role as the characters themselves since overarching the entire series is a bit of suspense as a killer begins targeting members of this tightly knit community. As we get further along in the books, characters overlap, landmarks become recognizable, and the cast of characters keeps growing until you’ll find yourself obsessed and completely convinced that this town and its inhabitants are real.
My personal favorites are: book one, Gays of Our Lives, which features a grumpy hero with MS whose unexpected encounter with a hipster on a bus forces him to take stock of who he is and what he ultimately wants; and book two, The Butch and the Beautiful, which spotlights dependable teacher, Jaq, and her own chance encounter with a gorgeous, outgoing divorcee who is definitely not the type of person Jaq imagined for a long term relationship. The entire series is excellent however and you’ll definitely want to read all five books in order to find out more about the interconnected relationships but also the killer and the toll these murders take on the community…with happy endings, I swear!
Enjoy series centered in a city that becomes as real as the characters themselves? Tell me all about your favorites! I love to chat all things book related on Twitter: @writerjudithutz