Valentine’s Day has come again. And with it comes all the predictable, but no less hurtful, erasure of experiences outside the cultural ‘norm’. So I wanted to do a short series of posts recommending stories that feature identities which don’t usually register on the cultural landscape.
Really, this series could be endless. But I wanted to focus particularly on some of the less ‘mainstream’ identities of the LGBTQIA+ community. I’m aware that all of the identities included under the umbrella acronym suffer marginalisation, but I know that lists such as in this series do already exist for the, if you like, ‘headline’ identities. I want to do something for those people who receive even less acknowledgement and validity, who can’t just google ‘______’ characters in fiction’ and get an easy-to-reference result.
So in the week of Valentine’s Day, I’ll be posting rec lists for aromanticism, asexuality, demisexuality/demiromanticism, pansexuality/panromanticism and polyamory. I could do plenty more – and I have ideas for several more – but I want to keep this series short in order to make sure that all these lists are researched and resourced to the best of my ability. If you feel there’s an identity that I’ve overlooked, please do let me know! I’d love to expand this series if that’s something people would be interested in.
Once the whole series is posted, I’ll do a summary post linking them all together, which you will be able to click through to here.
Demisexual and demiromantic characters are even trickier to track down than aro/ace characters, so with apologies I’m combining these two to make one list of twelve recommendations. I’ve made it as clear as possible which books represent who, and I’ve split them as evenly as I could manage. However, a disclaimer that I’ve only read one of these, so if I’ve included any with problematic rep by accident, I’d love to know so I can remove them.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past. She has to confess why Carys disappeared… Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
On-the-page explicit demisexual main character, and one of my faves.
Jack of Thorns (Inheritance series book 1) by Amelia Faulkner
Laurence Riley coasts by on good looks and natural charm, but underneath lies a dark chasm that neither heroin nor lovers can fill. Sobriety is a pipe dream which his stalker ex-boyfriend is pushing him away from. Luckily, Laurence has powers most can only dream of. If only he could control them.
Quentin d’Arcy is the product of centuries of wealth, privilege, and breeding, and is on the run from all three. A chance encounter with an arresting young florist with a winning smile could make him stop. Laurence is kind, warm, and oddly intriguing but Quentin’s wild telekinesis and his fear of sex make dating a dangerous game.
Desperate to fix his rotting life, Laurence prays for aid and accidentally summons a fertility god who prefers to be called Jack. Jack is willing to help out for a price, and it’s one Laurence just can’t pay: he must keep Jack fed with regular offerings of sex, and the florist has fallen for the one man in San Diego who doesn’t want any.
If they’re to survive Jack’s wrath, Laurence and Quentin must master their blossoming feelings and gifts, but even then the cost of Laurence’s mistake could well overwhelm them both. How exactly are mere mortals supposed to defeat a god?
Demisexual panromantic main character.
The Mystic Marriage (Alpennia book 1) by Heather Rose Jones
Antuniet Chazillen lost everything the night her brother was executed. In exile, she swore that treason would not be the final chapter of the Chazillen legacy in Alpennia’s history. A long-hidden book of alchemical secrets provides the first hope of success, but her return to the capital is haunted by an enemy who wants those secrets for himself.
Jeanne, Vicomtesse de Cherdillac is bored. The Rotenek season is flat, her latest lover has grown tediously jealous and her usual crowd of friends fails to amuse. When Antuniet turns up on her doorstep seeking patronage for her alchemy experiments, what begins as amusement turns to interest, then something deeper. But Antuniet’s work draws danger that threatens even the crown of Alpennia.
The alchemy of precious gems throws two women into a crucible of adversity, but it is the alchemy of the human heart that transforms them both in this breathtaking follow-up to the widely acclaimed Daughter of Mystery.
Demisexual main character (not explicit on the page but author supports), f/f romance.
The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake by Lynn E. O’Connacht
When the kingdom discovers that their crown princess doesn’t like cake, chaos ensues. How will the royal line ever continue? Cake is essential to a good marriage! (Not to mention, the rejection of his cake was deeply insulting to the baker-prince who proposed with it.)
The princess befriends a stableboy. She’s oblivious to the fact that he’s in love with her. The stableboy does his best to explain to the princess what is so wonderful about cake, but it takes an arduous journey to convince her to try a slice.
The Princess who Didn’t Eat Cake is a demisexual fairy tale. It aims to introduce people to the concept of demisexuality and to offer a rough idea of how the world may be experienced by people identifying on the asexual spectrum. It offers both the titular fairy tale, a brief essay explaining what demisexuality is in more detail and a short list of books featuring demisexual characters for anyone who would like to see more representation in fiction.
Demisexual main character.
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Darcy Patel is afraid to believe all the hype. But it’s really happening – her teen novel is getting published. Instead of heading to college, she’s living in New York City, where she’s welcomed into the dazzling world of YA publishing. That means book tours, parties with her favorite authors, and finding a place to live that won’t leave her penniless. It means sleepless nights rewriting her first draft and struggling to find the perfect ending… all while dealing with the intoxicating, terrifying experience of falling in love – with another writer.
Told in alternating chapters is Darcy’s novel, the thrilling story of Lizzie, who wills her way into the afterworld to survive a deadly terrorist attack. With survival comes the responsibility to guide the restless spirits that walk our world, including one ghost with whom she shares a surprising personal connection. But Lizzie’s not alone in her new calling – she has counsel from a fellow spirit guide, a very desirable one, who is torn between wanting Lizzie and warning her that…
Demisexual main character (not explicit, but definitely a valid reading), f/f relationship.
Fourth World (The Iamos Trilogy book 1) by Lyssa Chiavari
Nadin’s planet is dying. As its atmosphere drains away, her people are forced to live huddled in domed cities for protection. With only enough resources to support the population for one more year, time is running out. Nadin thinks she’s found a way to save Iamos, but it will mean defying the planet’s rulers, the geroi—and betraying the geroi could cost her everything.
When a strange boy from another world appears out of nowhere outside the citidome’s glass walls, Nadin knows for sure that her plan will work. But to build the device that can save her people, Nadin must first find the legendary city of Elytherios. And to do that, she’ll need the help of the mysterious alien boy named Isaak.
MARS, 2073 C.E.
All Isaak wanted was to get through his senior year at the Academy in one piece. Everything would have been fine if he hadn’t found that ancient coin among his missing father’s possessions. The coin seems to have a strange connection not only to Isaak’s family, but to Mars’ ancient past. But how is that possible, on a planet that was supposed to be dead until just forty years ago?
Now Isaak’s got agents of the Earth’s government on his tail and a deranged factory worker stalking his every move. Everyone is desperate to get their hands on something called the Key. And the only way to escape is to unlock an even bigger secret, one that could change his life—and the fate of Mars—forever.
Explicitly demisexual main character, explicitly asexual character.
The Second Mango by Shira Glassman
Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody thinks she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately. Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.
Demisexual main character (also in Climbing the Date Palm, A Harvest of Ripe Figs and The Olive Conspiracy – not explicit on the page but absolutely supported by the author).
City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault
A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.
Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.
Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.
In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.
City of Strife is the first installment of the City of Spires trilogy, a multi-layered political fantasy led by an all LGBTQIAP+ cast. Fans of complex storylines criss-crossing one another, elves and magic, and strong friendships and found families will find everything they need within these pages.
Demiromantic character, all-LGBTQIA+ cast.
From Under the Mountain by C. M. Spivey
As the second child of the Aridan imperial family, nineteen-year-old Guerline knows exactly what is expected of her: be unobtrusive, be compliant, and do not fall in love with her low-born companion, Eva. She has succeeded at only two of those.
But before her feelings for Eva can become a point of contention for the royal house, Guerline’s calm and narrow life is ripped away from her—in the course of a single night—and she is abruptly cast in the role of empress.
Faced with a council that aggressively fears the four witch clans charged with protecting Arido and believes they are, in fact, waging war against the humans, Guerline struggles to maintain order. As her control over the land crumbles, she learns that the war is rooted in a conflict much older than she realized—one centuries in the making, which is now crawling from under the mountain and into the light. With the fate of Arido hanging in the balance, Guerline must decide who to trust when even her closest councilors seem to have an agenda.
Demisexual main character (not explicit on the page but author supports), f/f romance.
Life Within Parole by RoAnna Sylver
Living in a city whose population has been quarantined and imprisoned over an eternally burning lake of fire isn’t what most people would call a ‘normal life.’ Then there are the superhuman abilities. Thousands of people with wings, scales, telepathy, sonic blasts – ‘normal’ seems long gone. But life goes on. Eventually, everyone discovers that life within Parole is just as real, meaningful, fun, frightening, mundane, and survivable, as any other. Sometimes it’s just a little more intense.
This collection of seven short stories from the universe of Chameleon Moon gives readers a look at everyday life in Parole, and the colorful, memorable, and thoroughly human characters who call it home.
Demiromantic grey-ace character (and a generally very diverse cast).
Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver
Celosia Brennan was supposed to be a hero. After a spectacular failure that cost her people their freedom, she is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance at redemption. Together with a gifted team of rebels, she not only sets her sights on freedom, but defeating her personal demons along the way.
Now branded a failure, Celosia desperately volunteers for the next mission: taking down the corrupt Council with a team of her fellow elementally gifted mages. Leading the Ember Operative gives Celosia her last hope at redemption. They seek to overthrow the Council once and for all, this time bringing the fight to Valeria, the largest city under the Council’s iron grip. But Celosia’s new teammates don’t trust her—except for Ianthe, a powerful Ice Elementalist who happens to believe in second chances.
With Council spies, uncontrolled magic, and the distraction of unexpected love, Celosia will have to win the trust of her teammates and push her abilities to the breaking point to complete the Ember Operative. Except if she falters this time, there won’t be any Elementalists left to stop the Council from taking over not just their country, but the entire world.
Demisexual main character, f/f romance, demiromantic representation(?).
The Trouble With Tony by Eli Easton
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?
Main character is demisexual, though I couldn’t confirm explicit use of the word.
My thanks to the following people and resources: Lynn E. O’Connacht’s list of Demisexuality in Fiction; Claudie Arseneault’s Aromantic and Asexual Speculative Fiction Database. If you’re looking for further recs, I can absolutely recommend these as good places to start.