The third category of the Sapphic Reading Challenge is a theme that I see a lot, especially in WLW & lesbian romance: books in which the protagonist returns to her hometown after years away.
Maybe it’s the fact that many queer people have to leave their hometown to be able to be their authentic selves and then have to face their past sooner or later—families that might not have reacted too well to their coming out or a first crush they left behind.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
Remember that you can either read one of the 15 books listed below or pick another sapphic book in which the protagonist returns to her hometown.
15 sapphic novels with a “return to hometown” theme
I put together a list of 15 novels with a “return to hometown” theme that I hope you’ll enjoy.
Perfect Rhythm by Jae
A lesbian slow-burn romance about seeking the perfect rhythm between two very different people—and finding happiness where they least expect it.
Pop star Leontyne Blake might sing about love, but she stopped believing in it a long time ago. What women want is her image, not the real her. When her father has a stroke, she flees the spotlight and returns to her tiny Missouri hometown.
In her childhood home, she meets small-town nurse Holly Drummond, who isn’t impressed by Leo’s fame at all. That isn’t the only thing that makes Holly different from other women. She’s also asexual. For her, dating is a minefield of expectations that she has decided to avoid.
Can the tentative friendship between a burned-out pop star and a woman not interested in sex develop into something more despite their diverse expectations?
Big Girl Pill by KD Williamson
Maya Davis is done hiding. It’s left her empty and out of touch with her family. Now she’s a young woman on a mission: getting rid of residual feelings for her former best friend from college. Her plan is to put herself through a wringer by being in Nina’s upcoming wedding and burning away whatever emotions are left, so she can start anew. Her plan, however, has big holes, and everything she’s been feeling rushes through and leaves her thinking that this was a bad idea.
Nina Sterling is a work in progress, torn between being two very different things—the person others expect her to be and who she wants to become. For the past couple of years, it’s been easier to give in to her demanding, steamroller of a mother and her pleasant but controlling fiancé, but with Maya’s return for a lengthy stay in town, and encouragement from Nina’s hilarious cousin, seeds of rebellion are sown.
As Maya and Nina try to patch up the past and get closer, old sparks rekindle, and as they both grow into who they are meant to be, those sparks might just become a fire.
In the Black by Luci Dreamer
What if you got a second chance at first love?
Hotshot firefighter captain Michelle ‘Mitch’ Mitchell loves her job, loves her dog, and loves her best friend Fish. She did love a girl once, but that girl left their small town, taking Mitch’s heart with her.
Lilly never meant to hurt Mitch. She just wanted some time to figure out who she was. Now ten years later, she’s back in her hometown dealing with an ailing aunt, a failing family bar, and a girlfriend she can’t seem to fall in love with.
When grief brings Mitch and Lilly together, secrets are revealed, old wounds are reopened and long-smoldering feelings reignited. Will they be able to forgive past mistakes and start over again?
The Long Way Home by Rachel Spangler
They say you can’t go home again, but Raine St. James doesn’t know why anyone would want to.
Rory St. James was disowned after she came out at seventeen. She rebounded by moving to Chicago, changing her name to Raine, and putting down her hometown to audiences around the country. Now, ten years later, too old to be considered a gay youth, broke, evicted, and fresh off a much needed breakup, Raine St. James is forced to accept a job teaching at Bramble University in Darlington, the town she’s been publicly bashing for the last decade.
Beth Devoroux was born and raised in Darlington. Despite losing her parents at a young age, she is well loved by everyone who knows her. She leads a comfortable life with good job at Bramble University, a long-term but closeted relationship, friends that she can count on, and everything she thinks she wants, so why is she so drawn to a rabble-rouser like Raine St. James?
Can Raine and Beth face their pasts and come to terms with their differences in order to have any hope for a future together?
Full Circle by Dillon Watson
Sara Gordon knows better—don’t sleep with women she works with. It just leads to awkward mornings and moving on. But she did and it does. Now she’s in her hometown of Atlanta, looking back at a string of broken relationships and making the same promise to herself on the eve of yet another new posting.
Mikaela Small’s last date set personal and regional records for Worst Ever. On the upside, there’s a plum job opening in her firm, but the competition for it will be fierce. This is not a good time to make an epic mistake, like falling into the arms of the gorgeous new security guard.
This time will be different. Neither of them knows how right they are.
Lockset by Brenda Murphy
After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.
Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.
Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.
Turning for Home by Caren J. Werlinger
Like her mother before her, Jules Calhoon couldn’t wait to escape her small Ohio town. Unlike her mother, though, Jules couldn’t disappear forever. When she’s called back for her grandfather’s funeral, the visit unleashes a flood of memories and starts her on a lonely—and familiar—path.
Her partner, Kelli, feels Jules slipping away but can’t figure out how to pull her back. In desperation, she turns to Jules’s oldest friend—and her ex—Donna. The problem is, Donna never could figure out why her relationship with Jules ended so long ago, and she never stopped loving Jules.
When a lonely, confused teenager reaches out to Jules for help, the past and present are set on a collision course, igniting a chain of events that will leave none of them unscathed.
Back to the Start by Monica McCallan
When Remy’s grandmother dies, it means leaving her life in San Francisco and returning to a town she swore she’d never revisit, forced to confront a world she’d worked hard to put behind her over the last twelve years.
She’s not expecting that the first girl to ever steal her heart, the pretty, popular Fallon Lewis is still around, and in a town this small, their paths continue to cross much to Remy’s dismay. It’s hard enough seeing her first love, but it’s exponentially more difficult when she can barely stand to look at the woman.
Remy’s trip back has the possibility to open up doors she believed were shut long ago, but she’s never planned on staying, and she definitely never planned on letting Fallon back into her life.
If she thought being a teenager in a small town was hard, she’s about to find out how much harder life is when there’s no one but herself to blame for her problems.
Crossed (A Luce Hansen Thriller, book 1) by Meredith Doench
Agent Luce Hansen returns home to Willow’s Ridge to catch a serial killer who has been murdering young women. It’s the case she’s been waiting for, the case that compels her to return to the small town she turned her back on nineteen years ago, the case she plans to ride from the Ohio BCI all the way to the FBI.
The case worth risking her shaky relationship with her lover, Rowan. But the horrors of the case recall the unsolved murder of Luce’s first girlfriend, and Luce is forced to confront the local ex-gay ministry that haunted her youth. When the past crosses the present, will Luce lose everything she’s worked so hard to build?
Choosing Love by MB Panichi
Amry Marasich is a lesbian novelist whose day job is editing for a local paper in Minneapolis. Vacationing in her hometown of Hibbing in northern Minnesota’s spectacular Iron Range, she meets forestry officer Takoda Running Bear while cycling the scenic Mesabi Trail. The attraction between them is instantaneous and almost magical.
Unfortunately, reality rears its ugly head, in the form of Amry’s homophobic siblings. Although they both profess to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” like so many of their ilk, “hate” seems to be the operative word—reviving in Amry painful memories of growing up different in a close-minded small town and reminding her of why she chose to leave it for the anonymity of the big city.
Neither Amry nor Takoda are interested in a summer romance, so the geographically challenged couple struggle to make time for each other with long phone calls and short, passionate visits. But for Amry, falling in love would mean falling back into a life she fled. When fate turns her world upside down, will she have the courage to surrender the past and commit to a new life and an unknown future with Takoda?
Unbroken Circle by Mary Griggs
Sallie Lee Hybart doesn’t see many strangers at her diner counter. Pennington, Alabama, is a town the interstate passed by, so newcomers are rare. But this one looks familiar.
Janet Bouton has nothing and no one. Her life has been stripped down to the clothing on her back. Counting out her meager change to pay for a stick-to-the-ribs meal, she is hoping to escape the diner unrecognized. She shouldn’t have come back…but no place else on earth was familiar.
An act of kindness sets a chain of events in motion and pulls Sallie Lee and Janet together, but the past has the power to tear them apart. There are still people in Pennington who remember Janet too well. Small town memories have had a lot of years to simmer, and love may not be the recipe for happiness.
Chasing Shadows by Lila Bruce
Avery Smith, who returned to her hometown of Bethel Springs after time spent away in the big city, is finally beginning to absorb the culture shock and settle into her job at the local Sheriff’s Department. The pay’s not great, there’s a decided lack of decent coffee and available women in town, but those are sacrifices she’s willing to make to in order to be closer to her aging and increasingly eccentric grandmother. When the discovery of a dead body in the county coincides with the arrival of attractive but irritating tv personality Cameron Reinhart, Avery has to put aside her feelings of skepticism and disbelief when Cam claims to have seen Avery’s murder victim — after she was murdered.
Sunlight in the Shadows by Gail Newman
How the hell did this happen? Kate asked herself. She was sitting in the passenger section of the ferry holding her overnight case on her lap. She never could have imaged herself in this position with life as she knew it seemingly falling apart. Staying with her Aunt Constance was something she never could have imagined. What were the secrets that this small island held about her aunt and grandmother? Reconnecting with people and memories of her past Kate desperately tries to find the strength within herself to rebuild her life. As if there is not enough to deal with add in the fiery Faith and lovely Lane vying for her affections. While life may never be the same it is certainly going to get interesting.
A Heart to Call Home by Jeannie Levig
Dakota Scott has spent her entire adult life trying to outrun her past, but even the privilege and reputation her family name affords her haven’t helped her forget. Her mother’s mental illness and the memory of the night that haunts her from so long ago won’t release her. When the one woman with the power to set her free shows up, Dakota is drawn to her, but she is a painful reminder of everything Dakota has been trying desperately to escape.
When Jessie Weldon returns to her hometown after thirty years of avoiding it, she knows she has demons to face and a conflicted past to resolve, but she has no idea love awaits her. Can she give her heart to Dakota with the tragic past that lies between them?
Addie Mae by Addison M. Conley
Twenty years after leaving Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Maddy Carlton moves back to her hometown. She’s split from her husband, and all she wants is to get her life in order, help her son, and move on.
Surrounded by old friends, she begins to see hope, but things turn ugly when her husband and father-in-law uncover her secret. Maddy doesn’t want to play dirty, but discovering a few skeletons in her husband’s family may be the only way out.
Mysterious, Jessie Stevens is like a daughter to the woman dating Maddy’s grandfather. She bonds with Maddy over scuba diving. As their friendship grows, so does the attraction. Jessie silently hopes for more, but Maddy isn’t free, and Jessie isn’t sure how Maddy identifies. And then, there’s Jessie’s little secret.
Will their choices bring them closer together, or will it push them apart?
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