Today I am so pleased to welcome Skye Kilaen to Joyfully Jay. Skye has come to talk to us about her latest release, If You Want Me Close. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

 

Thanks so much for having me here!

My latest book, If You Want Me Close, is an M/M contemporary about a new friends-to-lovers romance that’s tested by tragedy. It’s a type of romance I like to call “heavy topics and hurt-comfort,” where one of the main characters is going through something difficult, but the couple gets through it and their relationship ends up stronger because of the care and kindness within it.

Crying a little while reading a romance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that emotional catharsis is exactly what I’m looking for sometimes. And in romance, I have the guarantee of an HEA!

Here are five of my absolute favorite LGBTQ romances where at least one main character really struggles before getting to that happy for now or happily ever after.

A Demon for Midwinter by K.L. Noone

An age gap, rock star, urban fantasy M/M romance that begins when Kris Starr, bisexual projective empath and washed-up rock singer, realizes with a start that he’s fallen in love with his manager, Justin Moore. Justin is the cutest and most adorable and kindest and Kris just wants to touch his hair and make him happy forever.

This plan hits a snag when Kris finds out that Justin has a boyfriend. A jerk boyfriend. Things go from bad to worse on that front, and one of Justin’s secrets also gets publicly exposed, sending his life into a tailspin. Kris is the person Justin feels safe turning to for help. Despite not having much experience in either helping traumatized friends or with relationships, Kris does his best. He asks friends for help and advice on how not to screw it up and does everything in his power to show Justin that he’s worthy of love.

His Cocky Valet by Cole McCade

An age-gap contemporary D/S romance between the party boy son of a dying CEO, Ash, who is drafted into his father’s job, and Brand, the hyper-competent older man he hires as a valet and personal assistant. The book focuses tightly on the growing attraction and affection between the two men, leaving some areas without detail, but the emotional core of the story is so damn compelling, such excellent hurt-comfort and compassionate wish fulfillment, that I could handwave that away.

The writing is dramatic and lovely, and the characters are distinct and compelling. I particularly appreciated how both characters explicitly think about the issues inherent in boss-employee relationships, and Ash struggles to act ethically, because a workplace romance is DNF for me when those dynamics aren’t even addressed.

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

This paranormal historical romance is about a gentle cowboy with lovely manners (he’s trans and bi) and some spooky-as-hell magic done by cranky witch (she’s also trans and bi, how cool is that?). It’s also about loneliness, loss, the burden of keeping secrets, and finding a person with whom you can be your whole self, but it never feels heavy. The story ends with such a feeling of relief, hope, and home. The blurb for this book centers Cecily, but Roy’s the emotional heart (no pun intended) of the story, the one who coaxes Cecily alive and holds her up when she needs it.

It’s set in 1885 in both Texas and Oregon, but with no road trip, because witches have better travel options than non-magical people.

Training Mac by Kris Ripper

I thought this book had a hilarious premise, but it knocked me down with real feelings. A dude goes to work at an “erotic gym,” haha, right? Wrong. This is a series that grapples profoundly with the fallout of toxic masculinity for men, especially queer men, and after the three books in the series I’d still be here for more of Mac’s journey to healing and connection. Mac shows up at the gym homeless, scared, and in some level of denial about his sexuality, only to run headlong into a culture of total acceptance and affection among the sex workers and managers. He has NO IDEA what to do with that, it’s completely disorienting. If you’re looking for a big dose of hurt-comfort, you’ll get it here.

Lord Heliodor’s Retirement by Amy Rae Durreson

After a long, successful career in public service, Lord Adem Heliodor is asked to retire when it becomes clear to everyone that trauma from a terrifying magical attack is making it impossible for him to work. Since he was a hero during the attack, it seems terribly unfair to Adem, but what can you do when the Queen sends you away? Go back to your country estate and expect boredom, that’s what. Luckily for Adem, and probably his staff, his long-lost love Corun turns up – which is a big surprise, as Adem thought the man was dead.

I loved seeing older characters get their romance, and the space Corum makes for Adem to process his trauma is a lovely thing. The pacing of this story is perfect for the hurt-comfort and healing to be well underway before dangerous plot pops up. It’s lovely and warm, and the villains get their dramatic comeuppance in the end.

I hope you find something new here to read and love! And keep reading for my book’s blurb!


Blurb

Falling in love with your best friend is wonderful… until tragedy means fighting for the romance and the friendship.

Bisexual event coordinator Simon Novotny thrives on connection. He cherishes his large, queer-friendly family and his friends—especially his cute, brilliant work bestie, gay IT geek Ziah Holdaway.

It’s taken forever for Simon to to coax Ziah out of his shell. Time and again people have let him down, especially those who should have loved him unconditionally. But Simon would do anything for Ziah: text him jokes when he’s down, bring him homemade lunches, change his tire in the rain. Heck, if Ziah needs a kidney, Simon’s got two.

Minor crush? Maybe, but Simon’s not a make-the-first-move kind of guy. So when an unplanned hookup with Ziah proves their chemistry is off the charts, it also shakes Simon to his core. Because for Ziah, it’s not casual, it’s love.

Before Simon can fully process his feelings, a life-altering tragedy upends Ziah’s world. Simon throws himself into helping and also rallies his family. But for Ziah, family means rejection, and Simon’s uber-helpful clan sets off major alarm bells.

Can they find a middle path through the storm, or will this crisis cost them both their romance and their friendship?

Content warnings are included in the book’s front matter and on the author’s website.


Bio

Skye Kilaen writes romance across the queer spectrum, both contemporary and science fiction, that’s sometimes about polyamorous relationships. Even her contemporaries are usually at least a bit geeky. After all, she did a lot of her early editing in her local comic book shop. (Find more info about all of them at SkyeWritesRomance.com)

She’s bi/pan and she currently lives in Austin, Texas because of all the libraries and breakfast tacos.

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