This week’s Sapphic Reading Challenge category features body-positive books that celebrate women of all sizes and shapes, e.g., a plus-sized protagonist.
The romance novel industry has a reputation for abiding by Hollywood’s standard of beauty. It’s rare to find plus-size characters in f/f romance novels (or any romance, for that matter). Most of the main characters are portrayed as slim, with perfectly sized breasts, and if they are a bit chubby, their goal in the story is probably to lose weight.
So let’s break with that tradition and search out diversity when it comes to how the main characters look.
By the way, body positivity includes not just fat or plus-sized characters; it also refers to characters who are skinny or flat-chested such as Eliza from Wrong Number, Right Woman or who otherwise deviate from society’s beauty standards.
I hope that going forward, there’ll be more body positivity in romance novels and that women of all shapes and sizes will find themselves represented in a positive way.
Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
If you are only discovering the Sapphic Reading Challenge now, the good news is you can still join! It’s a year-long challenge, so it runs until December 31, 2021. Read up on the rules of the Sapphic Reading Challenge and download your PDF so you can keep track of the books you read this year.
15 sapphic body-positive books
I put together a list of 15 sapphic books with a positive portrayal of women of all sizes and shapes. I hope you find at least one you’ll enjoy.
Just for Show by Jae
Claire Renshaw thought she had it all: a successful career as a couples therapist, a publishing contract for her self-help book, and a happy relationship. But her perfect world falls apart when her fiancée calls off their engagement. Because of that, even her book deal might be off the table. After all, readers don’t want relationship advice from someone who can’t even make her own relationship work.
So Claire sets out to hire herself a fake fiancée.
Lana Henderson, the actress who shows up to audition for the role, is not exactly Claire’s ideal woman. Her frankness and the messes she leaves everywhere drive Claire up the wall. At least she won’t fall in love with someone like Lana.
But soon, Lana starts to win her over with her big heart, tickle fights, and—gasp!—carbs after six. The longer they pretend to be a love-struck couple, the less fake their kisses feel and the more the lines between reality and role begin to blur.
Once the book contract is signed, will they walk away or is their relationship no longer just for show?
Worthy of Love by Quinn Ivins
Nadine Bayani was at the top of her game. The brilliant, ruthless lawyer was in line to be White House chief of staff—until she confessed to campaign finance crimes that cost her party the election.
Now Nadine’s out of prison, broke, hated by millions, and stuck doing a menial retail job in rural Virginia where she barely earns enough to survive.
Bella Clarke has worked at Overstock Oasis since she flunked college. She wants to go back to school, but secretly doubts she’s smart enough. At least she’s not as clueless as her boss, who just accidentally hired the woman responsible for a national scandal.
However, Nadine seems to be nothing like the crook portrayed in the media, and Bella is drawn to her troubled, standoffish co-worker. As they grow closer, Nadine introduces Bella to the delights of Filipino food and opens Bella’s eyes to her own possibilities.
Before long, about the only thing harder to make sense of than Nadine’s past is their powerful chemistry together. Is Bella really falling for a woman who caused so much harm? And even if she is, how can two such different people ever be a match?
Speak Low by Lynn Galli
Taking a job in Scotland shouldn’t be any different than Zoey’s other jobs. Three months to dive into the intricacies of a university, find its shiny component, flaunt it to the world, and move onto another university. Her niche occupation has served her roving lifestyle well. Just because this job is in another country shouldn’t affect her in any way. She doesn’t count on liking it so much, on reconnecting with a friend from grad school, or on meeting someone like Celia, who puts up with all her quirks. Celia is sensible about love and knows that taking a risk on someone unaccustomed to permanence is probably a bad bet.
Will the cynical wanderer and the reluctant romantic set aside their ingrained hesitancy to take a chance on love?
Finding Home by Jamey Moody
How do you find something you didn’t know you’d lost?
Olivia King has had it. She’s out of shape and tired of being alone. When she takes a tour of a fitness center, she had no idea how much she would gain while trying to lose.
Frankie Dean and her two best friends own Your Way, a place where fitness means more than improving your body.
Can Frankie lead Olivia through this journey to repair her self-image and discover her self-worth? And will Olivia give Frankie something she didn’t know she’d lost.
Mind Games by Cara Malone
Kelsey Granger is meticulous and careful, determined to turn her OCD into an advantage in her new job at the coroner’s office. There’s just one problem – her boss doesn’t think she’s ready. When Kelsey arrives at her first death scene to find the responding officer contaminating the evidence, she starts to wonder if her boss was right.
Zara Hayes hates death scenes. She’s been on patrol five long years but her chief won’t promote her until she can overcome her fear. So here she is, just feet away from a dead body while a pretty young investigator reads her the riot act because she thinks Zara screwed up her scene.
With a killer on the loose, there’s no time to argue so Zara and Kelsey team up to solve the case. As they get closer to the truth – and to each other – they must confront the mind games we play… in life, in love, and even in death.
The Curvy Side of Life by Suzie Carr
With her divorce finally behind her, Faith Miller is ready to move forward. And then, life tosses her a few unavoidable curveballs. Before long, she finds herself traveling down to her sister’s house on the coast of Rhode Island with her seven-year old daughter.
What she hoped might be a reflective time for her turns into a whirlwind adventure, thanks to her sister’s live in in-laws and the gorgeous pet and house-sitting neighbor, Candace. Candace is sexy and fun, and pulls on Faith’s heart. Faith, trying to stay focused and get her life back on track, attempts to ignore her growing feelings for Candace to no avail. What starts out as a casual and steamy interlude evolves into something more serious.
Will Faith decide her heart is better closed off from potential heartbreak or will she open it back up again to see what this new love has to offer?
Get It Right by Skye Kilaen
Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic.
The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.
Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.
Except Vivi, here and now, doesn’t seem fine. And Finn couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t try to help.
Is fate offering Finn a second chance? Or is finding love as likely as finding a job with health insurance?
A Curious Woman by Jess Lea
Bess Campbell has escaped to the windswept Australian coastal town of Port Bannir, determined to begin her life again. She is loving her fresh start, thanks to her fun job running a hip gallery, her territorial chickens, and a lot of self-help books to find her new, better self.
Port Bannir local Margaret Gale runs an austere maritime museum, and rules her staff with an iron fist. She has no time for that crazy modern gallery or upbeat, earnest Bess sweeping around town on her hipster bicycle.
After a heated dispute over an antique collectible dildo, there’s little hope Margaret and Bess will ever see eye to eye.
But when Port Bannir is rocked by a senseless murder, both women find themselves implicated. Can they work together to expose the truth––or will the truth prove far too dangerous?
At Her Feet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
During a night of Web surfing for celeb gossip and masturbatory material, digital marketing producer Suzanne Kim stumbles across an intriguing thread while checking her profile on kinklife.com. Suzanne isn’t exactly looking, but the request for a very specific type of submissive from the attractive mistress, Mami-P, is hard to resist. Though the two hit it off during their first online conversation, Suzanne never imagines how strong their real life attraction and compatibility will be. After a few missteps in training, trust, and communication, Suzanne finds a deep love with her mistress, Pilar.
Overworked and overstressed in her daily life, Suzanne comes to crave their relationship for the visceral escape it provides, but before they can make the ultimate commitment, someone from Suzanne’s professional life threatens to disrupt their perfectly balanced bliss.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto-Rican baby dyke from the Bronx. Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon, to intern with her favorite feminist writer – what’s sure to be a life-changing experience. And when Juliet’s coming out crashes and burns, she’s not sure her mom will ever speak to her again.
But Juliet has a plan – sort of. Her internship with legendary author Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff, is sure to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. Except Harlowe’s white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn’t have all the answers….
In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out – to the world, to her family, to herself.
Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat- but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
The only child of a single mum, her life is less privileged than her friends.
Her mum knows she’s bisexual, but Leah hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends.
Not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
Prom and college are on the horizon, and tensions are running high.
Can Leah still strike the right note, when the people she loves are fighting?
And how can she cope knowing that she might love one of her friends more than she ever intended?
Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge
Natalie has made a promise: a vow of celibacy, signed and witnessed by her best friend. After a string of sexual conquests, she is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she’s spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As Natalie sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.
Piecing together toxic relationship patterns from her past, Natalie finds herself strutting down fashion runways and rekindling her passion for clothing design in the present. All the while, her best friend, Anastaze, struggles with her own secret—whether or not to reveal her true identity to the thousands of fans of her popular blog and her potential first sexual partner.
Fight Fire with Fire by Sionna Fox
Frannie Thorpe is on the verge of getting everything she ever wanted, crowned by securing an exhibition of the work of late queer photographer Rian Sampson–until her funding is put in jeopardy by a would-be senator with an eye on slashing public funding for “pornography.”
Ashley Patterson, Sampson’s muse and erstwhile indie music darling, steps in to help close the funding gap. Working together to save the show creates sparks, but neither woman is prepared for the fire between them.
Body Language by Renee Roman
Mika James is handsome, so what’s the problem if she uses her attributes to seduce rich women? There are worse ways to keep a roof over her head. After her latest lover calls it quits for a better offer and shows her the door by telling her she’ll never do anything of importance with her life anyway, Mika has a choice to make: keep searching for validation between the sheets or go back to college and prove she’s capable of more.
Professor Jennifer Long loves her job and she’s really good at it. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing she has under control. Her unrewarding yo-yo dieting and her mom’s unending suggestion that she lose weight because no one will want her the way she is has killed not only her confidence, but any belief she’s sexy.
Mika’s struggling with her coursework, but she isn’t keen on admitting she needs help, even if it’s from the beautiful Professor Long. When Mika realizes Jennifer could also use some tutoring—of the hands-on erotic variety—they strike a deal to help each other. If only their perfect sexy arrangement wasn’t so dangerous for their hearts.
The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding
Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.
But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosseplaying bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is.
Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?
Leave a comment
Leave a comment and let us know which book you’ll be reading for the “sapphic body-positive book” category!