Romance / Erotica
by Brooke Skipstone
Plot/Idea: Each queer person's experience is unique, and Skipstone has highlighted this well in her newest novel, The Moonstone Girls. Showcasing the personalities, lives, emotions, and young love of multiple gay folks in the late sixties, Skipstone has written a work that not only is delightful to read for its pure teenaged romance, but also because it lends much-needed representation to those who suffer from living in homophobic households.
Prose: Skipstone knows how to write romance, and writes it well. Skillfully avoiding the cringeworthy in her prose, she is able to feature plenty of steamy scenes that perfectly capture the intense, hormonal feelings of young love.
Originality: The Moonstone Girls is a classic coming-of-age story with a handful of large twists. Working with common themes, such as the trope of the abusive, homophobic father, the suffering and sensitive musician, and the brash tomboy, there are definitely some stereotypes present. However, Skipstone is skilled at character development and delving into the complexities of these figures' inner workings, which makes the relative tropes function well.
Character Development/Execution: The relationships between characters, along with their motivations, feelings, and desires, are beautifully clear. The characters in this book spring to life, feeling like friends with whom the reader would love to go on a raucous adventure.
by Sahlan Diver
Plot/Idea: Sixty Positions with Pleasure is unexpectedly delightful. Written with humor, grace, and plenty of puns, Diver has done an excellent job at pulling together what could be a messy plot to craft a sexy and silly murder mystery, filled with interesting characters, beautiful settings, and lots of steamy bedroom scenes.
Prose: The prose is playful, easy to follow, and even verges on the poetic. Diver is an expert at setting a scene--the settings of the book are spectacular, and the worldbuilding is quaint. Diver creates a compelling near-future that thoughtfully integrates climate change.
Originality: This will likely be the first murder mystery/climate thriller/love story/erotic romance novel that many readers will have encountered.
Character Development/Execution: The most developed character is the protagonist, Charlie, whose primary fault is that he has few discernible flaws, lessening his relatability. Additional characters are somewhat more flat, serving more as tools or foils for Charlie. Nevertheless, they adequately serve and enhance the story.
by D. L. Yoder
Plot/Idea: Lilly of the Mountains features an intelligent, hapless protagonist who has decided no longer to put up with men mistreating her, and packs a punch with Western-themed excitement and action that keeps the reader intrigued, page after page.
Prose: Yoder knows how to write a complicated, chaotic scene in a very descriptive and clear manner, while the imagery throughout the novel is engaging and vivid.
Originality: The unfortunate widow who sets out to make a better life for herself can be a tired trope. However, with the humor and action Yoder puts into their writing, Lilly of the Mountains feels fresh and entertaining.
Character Development/Execution: Yoder brings all of their characters to full life, ranging from a dopey policeman to an ornery hillbilly to a stately lady and a town gossip. These players all feel authentic while also having an air of caricature, which makes them even more entertaining and intriguing to the reader.