Book Review Interview

Queer Books, Queer Readers: Halli Starling

I’m Halli, or Halli Starling (she/they). @hallistarling on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, and my website is hallistarling.com.

What queer book have you chosen to share with our readers today?

I’m sharing just the most amazing queer romance, An Unsuitable Heir by K.J. Charles. It’s a historical queer romance about Pen, who is a trapeze artist with his sister Greta in Victoria England. They’re “The Flying Starlings” and semi-famous. When Mark, a private detective, is tasked with tracking down a missing heir to an earldom, the trail leads him to Pen. But there’s a string of mysterious murders on that trail as well, and as Pen and Mark fall for each other, they grapple with their attraction as well as the danger before them.

Why is this book one of your favorites?

I….this book. This book made me WEEP with how tender it was. Let’s talk about the rep first: Mark, the private detective, was born with one arm (the other ends before his elbow), and Pen is neither he or she (there wouldn’t have been a “they” consideration during that time). He’s just Pen, and unlike anyone else. Everything about Mark and Pen’s relationship is understanding and sweet, and even when the danger upends their lives and they get dumped into the middle of a murder mystery, Mark has Pen’s back no matter what. I have never, ever seen disability and identity tied together in this way, especially not in a historical romance. I’m forever grateful to the author for creating these two incredible characters and the cast around them (the whole trilogy is brilliant, but this book broke me). And the end? THE END?? With the gold-yellow robe and Mark and Pen being loving and soft? My heart SOARED.

How would you describe yourself as a reader?

I’m a picky but voracious reader! I’ve always been like that, since the time I was a little kid and books were an escape from an abusive home life. I let fantasy worlds take me far away from the reality I lived in and I’m eternally grateful to every author who let me peek inside their imaginations.

As a queer person, have books helped you explore or express your queer identity?

Whew, what a question! I think the key word for me is “safely”. I struggled with my understanding of bi or pansexuality when I was around 14/15, because I grew up in a really rural area that was mostly white and seemingly straight. Reading books about other people, other identities, other ethnicities and experiences? It was a gateway for me, an open door invitation to understand more about the world. I was terrified of my own attractions and accused of being a “lesbian” by my mother when I spent a lot of time with a platonic female friend (her house was safer than mine, so it’s not difficult arithmetic!). And that accusation hurt in a way I couldn’t put words to. But I could read and explore safely on my own through books.

Other than reading, are there any queer nerdy recommendations that you would like to leave with our readers?

Don’t forget your librarians! Even if you need to reach out to a library not in your area, they’re so helpful (and if they’re judgey, kick them to the curb!). There are so many queer librarians ready to help – including me! 

Check out our Queer Lil Library for more book recommendations and reviews!

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