8 books featuring Butches, Studs and Mascs
Rejoice queer romance readers! In this month’s Ask Your Friendly Lesbrarian Neighborhood, I answer a question posed by an Autostraddle reader about the February book quiz, Which Queer Romance Should You Read?. This reader asked:
do you have any recs for novels featuring butch characters? I’ve only recently started reading romance novels, so I’m not sure what’s out there or where to look. Thank you!
I’m always up for talking more queer romance, especially with underrepresented characters! The list I’ve curated here is a little broader than what the asker has described, as I include all queer female center male characters, including those who identify as studs, butches, masks and others. They are mostly contemporary romances, with themes and tropes such as second-chance relationships, sports, reality TV, fake relationships, online dating, ghosts, age gaps, and Moreover !
Stallion like her by Fiona Zedde
Chance has always struggled with the nature of her queer attraction, as a stud who loves other studs: so much so that she was in a toxic relationship for ten years that just ended in her dumping. She decides to try to reconnect with an old flame, someone she met when she was first exploring her sexuality. Instead, however, she meets Garrett, a stud with whom she has an immediate mutual attraction. Garrett is young and she has the confident swagger and seriousness of someone with a big and popular social media presence. Chance isn’t sure, both about their age difference and the fact that she’s still sorting out her feelings about dating another stud. Can these two lovebirds make it work? With fun and memorable secondary characters too, like Chance’s straight sister who doesn’t hesitate to call her out on her bullshit.
If you like the sound of this one, also check out Zedde’s previous book, woman like her!
To do things well by Skye Kilaen
This second-chance romance features Finn, a butch lesbian on parole, and Vivi, a pansexual nurse. They reunite after getting to know each other in prison, while Finn was serving time and Vivi was working in the infirmary. Both knew that acting on their attraction to each other in this context was definitely off limits, and after Vivi quit her job abruptly, she and Finn lost touch. They thought they would never see each other again. Until the day they cross paths at a local medical clinic. Finn can see right away that something is wrong with Vivi; even though there is no chance that Vivi will share his feelings, she wants to help him. What’s going on with Vivi? And is the universe giving them a second chance? It’s a love story where the protagonists have already fallen in love with each other but they don’t know that their feelings are mutual!
D’Vaughn and Kris plan a wedding by Chencia C. Higgins
In this mellow, low-stakes contemporary romance, stud-wife couple D’Vaughn and Kris have six weeks to plan their dream wedding on the reality show Instant i do. This task would be difficult enough on its own, but they have an additional obstacle: they are not really in a relationship. If anyone finds out their relationship is fake, they’re off the show. Not only would that be a huge embarrassment, but neither woman would get what she wants from the affair. For Kris, it’s a chance to grow her personal brand and truly become an influencer. D’Vaughn uses the show as an excuse to finally come out to her mother, as well as to try something new that she, usually shy, would avoid. Neither would say no to the $100,000 cash prize, either. Luckily, they don’t have to fake chemistry because they have a lot…even when the cameras stop rolling. Does this falsehood become real?
A Masc for Purim by Roz Alexander
This episode of Alexander’s “Hot for the Holidays” gay Jewish romance novels features a bisexual butch, Carrie, and a tomboyish lesbian, Liza. Liza’s big annual Purim party is approaching, but this year she’s struggling to generate her usual hostess enthusiasm. It’s getting sadder and sadder to always attend the party without a partner. Enter Carrie, Liza’s lost first love, also known as the bitch who broke her heart! Carrie is back in town and determined to win Liza back. It’s been ten years since their inexperienced selves fumbled in a young relationship that ultimately self-destructed under their inability to be honest and vulnerable with each other. Have they each learned enough in a decade to make it work this time around? Will they go to the Purim party together??
Patience and Sarah by Isabelle Miller
Miller’s lesbian romance is sort of doubly historical: the story is set in the 19th century, but it was originally published in 1969, so its perspective is decidedly different from, say, a 2022 perspective. (Legendary lesbian author Emma Donoghue explains more about the background to the book’s publication in her introduction to the 2005 edition). But on to the story! Around 1816 in Connecticut, two women meet. The moment they look at each other, they recognize something about each other, despite their differences. Patience is a relatively wealthy, single female woman by choice in her late twenties. Sarah is 22 years old, an uneducated male farmer’s daughter who was raised as a boy in order to do physical farm work. Their path to happily ever after is rocky, but not as bumpy as one might expect given the historical circumstances.
Once ghost twice shy by Alyssa Cole
Likotsi is the right arm of the Prince of Thesolo. She and her boss were briefly in New York the previous year in search of her long-lost princess. But he wasn’t the only one who found love across the ocean: Likotsi met Fabiola on a dating app, and she thought they hit it off really well. Until Fab ghosted her. Now Likotsi is back in New York and is unlucky enough to bump into Fab on the subway. What are the chances? Fab, however, is ecstatic and she begs Likotsi to just have a cup of tea with her so she can explain what happened. But how can she justify ghosting? The story takes place on two timelines, so we experience the two women when they first meet and when they reconcile. This book is one of my personal favorites! With a women’s top and a studded bottom.
Home court advantage by Dahlia Adler
Adler’s latest delightful small-town YA romance tells the love story of a butch football player and a cheerleader! Amber is a budding amateur, but it’s hard enough to be peppy when your school’s quarterback has been killed in a car crash. When the replacement QB is announced, everyone is surprised to find that “Jack” is short for Jaclyn. Chaos ensues: soccer players refuse to be coached by a girl and cheerleaders go crazy over the upheaval of traditional gender roles. Amber is caught between the two. It’s clear that she must help bring down Jack if she wants the football teams’ support and encouragement. But not only does she want to support Jack and not bow to homophobia and misogyny, but she and Jack fall in love with each other. This love story is funny and sweet while thoughtfully addressing serious matters.
Wrong number, right woman by Jae
This Lambda Literary Award finalist is perfect if you want a classic “toaster oven” lesbian romance with very little drama or angst! Denny is a shy butch lesbian who is content with her simple life working as a cashier and helping raise her niece. This all changes when one day she receives a wrong text message from a woman named Eliza. Eliza, of all things, asks for (straight) dating advice. She is also quite the opposite of Denny, in terms of personality: outgoing, funny and talkative. Denny and Eliza strike up a textual friendship and soon Eliza is having more fun telling Denny about her dates with guys than she actually does. She also finds herself wishing the guys she dates were more like Denny. Although she’s never dated a woman before, is it possible that Denny is actually the person she should be with?
These books are just the beginning, of course! For more on queer women’s romances, check out The Lesbian Review, a website dedicated to them where you can search for book reviews by themes, tropes, and identities. The general romance review website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books also has an excellent LGBTQIA section.
Please add in the comments if you have any recommendations for queer romances featuring butch, stud, or otherwise masculine characters!
And don’t forget to send me your lesbian questions. You might be featured in a future column. Comment here, or email me at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com.