What to Read: Romances with Neurodivergent Characters

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Here is the history behind this post. A few weeks ago I finished Beard in Mind, a romantic comedy (though a bit more serious that the rest of the series, I still feel it's a romcom) by Penny Reid. The heroine has OCD and I found the portrayal of her dealing with it and the way it affected her and all her relationships (with friends, family, lovers) very moving and powerful. The road to her HEA was not easy but it was particularly satisfying to see her get there in the end (my review). Prompted by this amazing book I decided to do a post with recommendations for romances with neurodivergent characters similar to my posts on crossover series and romances set around the world. I'll start with some personal recommendations and then move on the ones I got when I asked my friends on twitter for their favourite romances with neuroatypical characters. 

Just a few quick notes before I proceed with the lists themselves.

1/ All the books in this post include nuerodivergent characters, some of whom we see dealing with severe cases of mental illness, their stories might raise triggers for some readers. Please, read  the authors' notes/trigger warning for any book you are interested in reading before picking it up.

2/ I want to express my gratitude to Corey Alexander (@TGStoneButch) who helped me with the correct terminology in the field of mental illness and neurodivesity in general. It's a complicated field and I am not an expert in it by any means, so Corey's input has been invaluable. Any mistakes are my own only.

3/ Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliates links on my blog and in this post to support my reading/book blogging. I have also included links to my reviews of the books I have read. 


Romances with neurodivergent characters I have read and love

1. Beard in Mind (Winston Brothers #5) by Penny Reid, mf romcom where the heroine has OCD. My review (it can be read as standalone but works better if you read the previous books first). My review

2. Hate to Want You by  Alisha Rai, mf where the heroine has depression. It's my first book by this author and I absolutely loved it. My review

3. Glitterland by Alexis Hall, mm romance, one of the MCs has bi-polar disorder and depression. It was my first time reading about a bipolar character in romance and I was blown away by the book as a whole. My review

4. Curio and the Curios Vignettes by Cara McKenna, mf romance, the hero has agarophobia. I love Cara McKenna's books and this is one her best in my opinion. Tender and passionate love story of a French male prostitute and an American museum worker who comes to him a virgin at 28yo.

5. An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1) by KJ Charles, mm historical, one of the MCs is dyspraxic (possibly on the autistic spectre). It's a lovely, tender story about kindness and being oneself and two people coming together. My review

6. Mnevermind series by Jordan Castillo Price - mm speculative fiction/romance. One of the MCs is on the autism spectre. The series follows the same couple and book 2 is told entirely from the POV of the autistic character. Very powerful and moving. My review

7. Strong Signal by Santino Hassell and Megan Erickosn, contemporary mm romance, one of the MCs has anxiety and agarophobia. My review

8. Trade Me by Courtney Millan, mf romance, hero has eating disorder. It was my first time reading about a man dealing with eating disorder. My review

9. Foxes by Suki Fleet. It's a very moving NA mm romance where I read one of the MCs as autistic even though it's not explicitly said in the book. The other MC has an eating disorder. My review

10. Connection Error by Annabeth Albert, mm romance. Ex-NAVY guy with physical disability and a game designer with ADHD come together in this romance which I very much enjoyed. My review

11. Someone on Twitter reminded me about A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand. She is a favourite author and this part of her series set in the French Province and dealing with the rose farming, rose oil production and perfum making. The hero in this story has ADHD and I loved how it was portrayed. Said reader mentioned as criticism that he exhibit somewhat negative attitude towards taking meds for his condition, something I must admit I didn't catch when I read the book. 

Here are the recommendations I got when I asked Twitter.


ANXIETY

1. To One Hundred by Melissa Blue, mf romance, heroine has panic anxiety disorder (free on AMZ at the time of posting)

2. The Sun Still Rrises by Laura Bailo, mm romance set in Pamplona, Spain

3. Pull Me Close by Sidney Halston, mf romance, heroine has anxiety and OCD

4. Graveyard Sparrow by Kayla Bashe, ff romance, one MC has Aspergers and anxiety

5. Defying Convention by Cecil Widle, trans m/non-binary romance

6. Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan, mm romance

7. Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang, mm rockstar romance (some reviews describe the anxiety representation as problematic)

8. Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai - mf romance heroine with anxiety/panic attacks. To be released


9. London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait (releasing in Oct 2017) by Jacquelyn Middleton, romance/chick-lit 


DEPRESSION

1. Broken by Nicola Haken, mm romance

2. Unquiet (Resilient Love #3) by Melanie Hansen, mm romance, one MC has bipolar disorder and depression

3. Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summer, mm romance

4. Willing Victim and its sequel Brutal Game by Cara McKenna, erotic mf romance, heroine has depression.

5. Cam Girl by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake. MC with depression. Includes trans and NB characters; tw for vivid descriptions of prostitution and despair, but ends in a HEA.


OCD

1. Disasterology 101 by Taylor V. Donovan, contemporary mm, one of the MC has germophobia and OCD

2. Some Sort of Happy by Melanie Harlow, mf romance, hero has OCD


PTSD

1. Change of Address by Jordan Brock, contemporary mm, MC with PTSD (and a service dog)

2. To Stand In The Light by Kayla Bashe, f/non-binary romance, one MC with PTSD, another MC with ADHD and social anxiety

3. Illumination by Rowan Speedwell - rockstar mm romance, PTSD and agarophobia

4. Serving Pleasure by Alisha Rai, contemporary mf romance, hero has PTSD

5. Queen of Dauphine Street (Nola Nights #2) by Thea De Salle, mf romance, both hero and heroine have PTSD. Heroine also has anxiety.

5. The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian, mm historical romance

6. Down to Ash (#dirtysexygeeks #2) by Melissa Blue, mf romance, hero has PTSD


EATING DISORDERS

1. Empty Net (scoring Chances #4)  by Avon Gale, mm hockey romance, one MC has eating disorder

2. Second Position and Finding Center by Katherine Locke. Heroine has an eating disorder and anxiety, possibly more, hero is an amputee and a recovering alcoholic. I keep getting these books recommended for demi representation
 


BIPOLAR DISORDER

1. The Theory of Deviance by Rebecca Grace Allen, mf romance with bipolar heroine

2. The Bluest of Blue (#dirtysexygeeks #3) by Melissa Blue, mf romance with bipolar heroine


AUTISM

1. Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace by Claire Davis and Al Steward - mm NA/YA

2. Muscling Through by JL Merrow, mm romance told exclusively from POV of the autistic character

3. The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian, historical mm. One of MCs has anxiety and is on the autism spectrum (some reviews point to problematic representation of autism)

4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, queer YA with M/F & and a F/F romance arcs. Taylor, the heroine in the M/F arc, is autistic and has a panic disorder

5. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, mf historical romance, hero has Asperger's syndrome

6. The Absence of Light by Adrienne Wilder, May-December mm romance

7. Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon, mf rom, hero with Autism

8. Win Some, Lose Some by Shay Savage, NA mf rom, hero has Asperger's Syndrome

ADHD

1. Devil In Spring by Lisa Kleypas, mf historical r\omance, heroine has ADHD

2. Beyond Surrender (Beyond series #9) by Kit Rocha, dystopian romance, heroine with ADHD (note: series cannot be read out of order)

3. Flirting with Intent by Kelly Hunter, Harlequin presents rom, possibly hero with ADHD

4. Permanent Ink by Piper Vaughn and Avon Gales, mm May-December rom

5. The Love Charm by Pamela Morsi, historical mf romance, heroine with ADHD, though undiagnosed

6. A Lady's Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran, historical rom, heroine with ADHD

7. Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers, contemporary mf romance, diagnosed hero

8. Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon, contemporary ff romance


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12 comments

  1. There's Simple Jess by Morsi, historical where the hero is, as they said in those days, "simple minded." Jessica Scott writes military romance and has a number of books where the protagonists are dealing with PTSD.

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    1. Thanks for the rec. I'd love the include Simple Jess, but I'm not sure which category it fits. Austism?

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    2. I think the term is Intellectually Disabled. Like Aavis, I would also put Muscling Through in that category, not autism.

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  2. Unpopular opinion, but I found the portrayal in "The Madness... " far more problematic. Though I read the character in The Lawrence Brown affair as primarily having an anxiety disorder.

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    1. I haven't read either but will keep your opinion in mind when/if I choose to read them. Thanks!

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  3. Win some, lose some by shay savage. Autisism spectrum.

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  4. Some Sort of Happy by Melanie Harlow,mf romance,hero has severe OCD. It's a beautiful love story!

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    1. Thank you for the rec. I've added it to the list.

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  5. Second Position and Finding Center by Katherine Locke! Heroine has an eating disorder and anxiety, possibly more, hero is an amputee and a recovering alcoholic. Let's just say these books are basically the love story I never expected to read and always wanted ...

    Cam Girl by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake. Main character is severely depressed and codependent. Includes trans and NB characters; tw for vivid descriptions of prostitution and despair, but ends in a HEA.

    On another note, I didn't read the narrator of Muscling Through to be autistic; he's described more as having a developmental disability.

    Anyway, thank you for the list ♥

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    1. Thanks for your recs and kind words. I've added the books to the list.

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  6. Hi, thank you for this list. I'd just like to add that I'm autistic and I had problems with the rep in Mnevermind. Carry the Ocean has autistic rep as well, but I also found it to be problematic on that front.

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