Video games, programming, hacking, collectible card games, epidemiology, climate change science, neurosurgery, archaeology, the college newspaper, comics, fandom… yep, it’s a post full of romance novels about the geeky and nerdy among us. “Geek” pretty much describes everyone who lives in my house, so this roundup is close to my heart. I hope you find something new here to read and enjoy.
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I swear that if I could have held my hand over my heart while reading this without annoying my elbow, I would have done it. I loved it that much.
It’s an age gap romance between grumpy bisexual 40 year old Drey Harper, an art director for the collectible card game Legendary Pairs (think Magic: The Gathering), and gay 24 year old Korean-American Legendary Pairs champion… possibly soon to be ex-champion, if his bad boy party throw-caution-to-the-wind lifestyle doesn’t knock him out of the running or even get him killed. Drey understands messes, having lost his best friend, his wife, and his last job due to his own self-destructive vengefulness, but that doesn’t mean he wants to get involved with Lucas’s, especially because the kid is a cocky little jerk. Cue forced proximity due to Drey’s manager assigning him to babysit Lucas for the good of the company’s PR.
I’d read the first book in Cameron’s Legendary Pairs series and thought it had promise, but wasn’t properly fleshed out. This second book is a HUGE level up by comparison. Drey and Lucas are both capable of kindness and abrasiveness by turns and struggle to connect honestly with each other, so the halting progress of their connection and eventual relationship feels very genuine. Falling in love doesn’t make Drey less of a grump or exorcise Lucas’s demons, but it helps, and they both end up feeling (for the first time in forever) like they can make new starts in their lives together and build something.
Bonus points for Drey working so hard to be a good dad, his real apology to his former best friend, Lucas being all sweet while he’s teaching kids Legendary Pairs, and the nerdiness of card game tournaments.
Diversity note: Casey Cameron is nonbinary, using she/her or they/them pronouns.
Super cute, warm novella about two Jewish women, Clara Ziegler and Danielle Solomon, that begins when Clara is inspired to small-batch dye yarn for a knitting club based on Danielle’s paintings. It turns out that both are fans of a show called Captain Werewolf, so a large part of their initial flirting is exchanging links to good fanfic and Danielle creating fan art for Clara.
It’s nerdy and totally sweet. There isn’t a lot of angst here, just two gals with similar passions getting to know each other, trying to manage the overwhelming demand for the knitting club, and getting closer and closer to that first kiss. Danielle is described as zaftig, and in one scene she confidently refuses to interact with a scale. Glassman is a bisexual Jewish woman, so this is even #ownvoices. Yay!
This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s the falling-in-love story of Ruth, a webcomic creator who is a fat, black, autistic woman, and her white neighbor Evan, who is ex-military, now a blacksmith, and an all-around nice guy. Really legitimately nice, like “make a casserole for your friend whose mom is sick” nice. Evan’s smitten with Ruth almost from the first time they meet, finding her gorgeous, funny, and intriguing. He makes her a shepherd’s pie, she lends him comic books. However, the small British town they live in has a hate-on for Ruth that newcomer Evan doesn’t understand, and her past quickly gets tangled up in their present.
There is so much to love in this book. Ruth is a fabulous prickly heroine. Evan was so refreshing because even though he has a fairly typical alpha male backstory – ex-military, physical job – his dominant character trait is kindness. Neither character is perfect, but they keep trying. The story is so sex-positive and body-positive, so respectful, and handles consent beautifully. Really looking forward to the next book in this series!
Content warning: Discussion of a past abusive relationship and sexual assault.
Diversity note: Hibbert is an autistic black woman. #ownvoices FTW!
Liam, socially isolated college newspaper nerd, is rescued from an attack on campus by a mysterious vigilante known as The Raven. Cute gay jock Quinn finds Liam on the sidewalk and takes him to the hospital, after which Liam ends up investigating the Raven while his friendship with Quinn deepens.
Quinn, poor guy, spends a lot of time basically saying to Liam “I know we’re friends, but the way you’re acting, do you think you might want something more from me?” Liam spends all of that time either missing the point, or in active denial, because he’s never considered that he might be gay and feels like he should gather data before drawing a conclusion. Which sounds possibly annoying, and it does try Quinn’s patience, but journalistic observation and fact-checking is just Liam’s personality and Quinn accepts and comes to cherish him the way he is.
In the meantime there’s a lovely arc going on for Liam as he gets to know Quinn (his first friend ever?), Quinn’s friend Shannon, and Shannon’s brother Hunter. All of them see something in Liam that he doesn’t see in himself, accept him as-is, and take it upon themselves to coax him out of his isolation. They don’t give up on being his friend even when he’s awkward or his behavior isn’t what they expect. I don’t know if it’s what Sunday intended, but I read Liam as on the autism spectrum – I could be totally wrong and jumping to conclusions. What made me think so was that in interpersonal interactions he’s extremely literal and doesn’t have much of a filter or insight into how his behavior makes other people feel. He also plays with a pen in a way that read to me like mild stimming.
Quinn also doesn’t give up on being his boyfriend even though his heart gets dinged so many times, and I was so pleased when he was finally rewarded for hanging in there! His love for Liam is clearly because of who Liam is, not in spite of it.
The prose is sometimes a little stilted, and there are several deux ex machina events that strained my credulity (the coffee spills, getting stuck under the dorm room bed), but the characters in this are so good that I forgave it.
Diversity note: I don’t usually point out secondary character diversity, but friend Hunter’s use of a wheelchair is a major element in the book, in a good way despite his sister’s overprotectiveness, so yay for that.
Trip, a gay comic book artist with a dysfunctional crush on his manipulative straight boss, meets Silas, a gay makeup/SFX artist who’s looking for a real relationship after too many years of being a party guy. What could go wrong?
This is possibly the nerdiest of nerdy romance novels I have EVER read. Trip and Silas attend a hate-screening of Halle Berry’s Catwoman where Silas is dressed as He-Man! People in a hotel bar quote Conan the Barbarian together! Two geeky white guys make slightly-too-grandiose speeches about art and culture and creation! Blended seamlessly with all of that, it’s a story about two men who desperately want to belong to someone, and how painful and difficult that can be to find, but how it’s so wonderfully worth it if you can get out of your own way and let it happen.
By which I mean if Trip can, because Silas is perfect and wonderful and I won’t hear a bad word said against him.
Damon Suede is an amazing writer. Eye for detail: check. Fully realized secondary characters that are key to the plot: check. Super-hot sexy times, sweet moments, emotional pain the reader can feel: check, check, and check. The best “will you give me a second chance?” scene in possibly all of literature: CHECK OMG CHECK.
Diversity Note: Suede is a gay man, which makes him a minority among those who write gay romance.
If you’ve ever worked in a startup, in tech, or in a corporation that went through acquisition/merger, this is the romance series for you. Unless you’re not comfortable with BDSM, in which case keep walking.
Takeover begins in a hotel bar where Michael, an out gay software engineer, picks up Sam, a closeted gay management consultant. The first 13 percent of the book is just their meeting and having sex – but Zabo’s writing here is AMAZING. Sam’s entire emotional world is laid out for the reader during this encounter. I have rarely seen a sex scene so effectively used to reveal a character’s story and personality. Unfortunately for our heroes, they both turn up at work to find that Sam’s new interim CEO position is at Michael’s soon-to-be-acquired company. Despite both their shock, they forge a working friendship… which is undercut by their mutually anguished desire to connect, Michael’s buttons getting pushed by Sam being closeted, and nasty corporate politics. (Do they end up sleeping together despite knowing it’s not “proper or ethical”? Yes. Do they take the consequences gracefully? Yes.) I loved the growing respect in their working relationship, that they both find the courage to save their personal relationship, and that they’re both such smarty smart-pants.
Just Business is the story of Eli, Sam’s CFO at his new Pittsburgh-based consulting company, and Justin, the assistant they hire. Eli is a dom, Justin is a sub, they both have tons of emotional baggage – and Justin, at least, hasn’t dealt with his at all. The story was beautiful and wonderful for me, including the BDSM scenes, until Justin started to fall apart. At that point I felt like his external viciousness to Eli was disproportionate to his internal narration and it threw me off. I was glad I read it, though, for the lovely parts, and because Eli is a significant character in the next book and I wouldn’t have appreciated him as much if I hadn’t read his story. The ending was perfect. (Diversity note: Eli is a Sephardic Jew and disabled from a car accident.)
Due Diligence gave me the two programmers second chance romance I’ve apparently always wanted. Fazil (bi), one of Sam’s technical staff, goes with Eli to fix a company in Seattle. His high-school lover, Todd (gay), is (surprise!) working there as a programmer. Todd wants to reconnect, but first they have to deal with a TON of misconceptions and misunderstandings that broke them up in the first place. Most of that turns out to be Fazil’s fault, and he has to work through his guilt while updating his view of his past relationship with Todd. I love how just because these two guys are older and have straightened out what happened, their issues don’t just magically disappear. Fazil is still insecure, Todd is once again willing to just make a plan for their lives together, and somehow neither one of these very bright men consider (until way late in the game) Todd moving to Fazil’s city instead of the other way around, even though Fazil’s the one with the job he loves and Todd’s company has -CONTENT WARNING- an extreme problem with homophobia and racism! But eventually Todd gets a clue and asks for help so they can straighten it out. Yay happy endings. (Diversity note: Fazil’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey.)
What I super-adore about all three books is the presence of gentle, understanding supervisors and mentors. Sam and Michael are given consequences for their inappropriate relationship by folks in the acquiring company, but they are appropriate, not punitive. Sam extends that same type of grace and humanity to Eli and Justin in the second book, and Sam and Eli do the same for Fazil in the third book.
Additional diversity note: Zabo identifies as bi and nonbinary, using they/them pronouns.
One of the most gorgeously written romances I’ve ever read. I am horribly jealous of what Kate Canterbary does with words.
Our heroine is Erin Walsh, volcanologist, Iceland and Oxford based climate change scientist, and lover of historical anecdotes. Our hero is Nick Acevedo, Mexican-American pediatric neurosurgeon. They collide at a Walsh family wedding, feel an intense attraction, drop their emotional guards, and by the next morning, they’re married. Unfortunately for Nick, who really wants to make a go of things, Erin is skittish. She grew up in a violently abusive home and has a history of cutting, suicide attempts, and alcohol abuse. The father who abused her is dead, and she’s done tons of work on therapy that’s brought her to a fairly healthy place, but the one city on Earth this world traveler won’t go to is where she grew up and all her siblings live, Boston… where Nick lives.
Nick isn’t willing to lose Erin, so they settle into a courtship of (delightful!) emails, Skype chats, and never-enough intercontinental visits. It was so satisfying that Nick totally accepts as valid that Erin’s interjection of scientific and historical information in conversations is simultaneously a reflection of her passions, the way she’s most comfortable understanding and describing the world, and also how she distances and protects herself. To smarty-pants Nick, Erin’s brain is the sexiest thing about her, but he struggles with Erin not being as confident in her own strength as he is. I was so gratified by how Nick finally realized that while he fell for Erin at the wedding, their communications while separated is how he came to really love her. I was also proud of Erin for not letting Nick rush her into taking the next step, then finally taking that next step when she was ready, with Nick in her corner.
This cover cracks me up, though, because one of the things Erin likes about Nick is his chest hair.
Naledi Smith is an epidemiology grad student who’s being targeted by email scammers trying to convince her she’s a long-lost princess betrothed to an African prince. Thabiso is that African prince, who’s unaware that his assistant has located his long-lost betrothed and has been emailing her and getting nothing but rudeness back. When he finds out Ledi is alive, he heads to America to get her back… and does a terrible job of it. Seriously, this dude is great at prince-ing but not so great at anything else. Sparks very much exist between them, though, and lo, there’s also an unexplainable illness in Thabiso’s country which an epidemiologist might be able to help with…
All of which sounds fluffy and tropetastic and hilarious, which is sometimes is, but there’s also so much complexity and emotion here. Ledi is a black woman in STEM and the book doesn’t shy away from showing exactly how that can play out with racist and sexist colleagues. Her life as a former foster kid is not easy even though she works her ass off, and being babysitter / emotional anchor for her best friend Portia doesn’t help. Thabiso’s screwups in getting to know her cause real pain, and forgiveness isn’t quick or easy. At least once during the book, when Ledi finds the family she’d thought lost (vague to avoid spoilers), I literally cried for her.
I was so pleased with this STEM gal and her HEA, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
ALSO, I’d like to highlight my favorite passage in the book, because it’s one of the most queer-friendly bits of a straight M/F romance that I’ve ever read:
“That beard made her fingers itch to stroke it, or to grab her smartphone and photograph it for posterity… she’d rack up a million liked within the day, for sure, if not some kind of award for heroism on behalf of male-attracted humanity.”
“Male-attracted humanity.” YES! In a typical straight M/F romance, this would say “women.” I’ve seen that kind of thing a bazillion times. The problem being that “women” ignores – and this is just my starting list – lesbians, ace women, and non-binary folks and men who are attracted to men. “Male-attracted humanity” is a phrase that instead recognizes those people exist, describing the world as it is, rather than with heterosexist blinders on. It’s a jolt of inclusion instead of exclusion. Thanks Ms. Cole!
Painful but ultimately sweet story about Noah, a closeted geoarchaeology professor who teaches at an extremely conservative Christian Texas college, falling in love with Adrian, a vibrant and very out video game developer. Annabeth Albert bites off a LOT of story here by having Noah and Adrian fall hard for each other during a brief road trip, but she succeeds because each character’s internal voice and struggle are so distinctive and well developed. Her writing isn’t always the shiniest, but there are lovely passages, and overall she has a great knack for writing warm, kind stories even when both characters are wrestling with their own issues and the relationship.
I love how open Adrian is, and especially how delighted he is while discovering all these little specific things about Noah. He’s not just falling for some guy, he’s falling for Noah. Noah is so new to being cared for, and so scared to leave the closet, but he’s so amazed at how Adrian’s bravery and gentleness opens his heart – even in the face of Noah’s very real fears. I grew up in a conservative Christian Texas family and culture, so Noah’s struggle is totally understandable to me. The phone call with his sister late in the book, where they discuss his sexual orientation, just about brought tears to my eyes.
Because I grew up in conservative Texas Christianity, this book will always have a special place in my heart.
And that’s the list of my favorite nerdy and geeky romance novels! Hope you found something interesting. If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!