Will they or won't they?
September 11, 2017 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for well-written books or short stories that do a good job of building sexual tension. I am not looking specifically for sex scenes, but rather stories where the tension simmers and builds and you find yourself asking 'will they or won't they'? Bonus points if the tension is between same-sex characters. Not interested in sci-fi, probably not interested in fantasy.
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Sarah Waters Fingersmith and Affinity.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:27 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanigahara (same sex characters).

Stoner, by John Williams (opposite sex characters)
posted by holborne at 10:27 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Couple more:

Are You Experienced, by William Sutcliffe

Photographing Fairies, by Steve Szilagyi

Beebo Brinker, by Ann Bannon (same sex)
posted by holborne at 10:39 AM on September 11

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. Same-sex characters, summer romance, first love. I think it's being made into a movie, but I don't know much about that — it's just a beautifully written book.
posted by stellarc at 10:41 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

The Remains of the Day. (Book follows movie fairly closely.)
posted by Melismata at 11:01 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

This is the deep subtext of A Passage to India, in my opinion.
posted by jamjam at 12:04 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

As Meat Loves Salt, Maria McCann - same sex characters.
posted by Ziggy500 at 12:14 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Brideshead Revisited
posted by shalom at 1:32 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. The movie Carol was based on this book, and it is about same-sex characters.
posted by catwoman429 at 1:41 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Came here to rec CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, so seconding stellarc. That book is all tension. Aciman's novel EIGHT WHITE NIGHTS is similarly fraught but it's hetero and not as beautiful/agonizing imo.
posted by kapers at 1:57 PM on September 11

If you are OK with older books, The Thorn Birds is pretty agonizing. The Meggie/Ralph thing is pretty unforgettable.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]

Not same sex, but Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence.
posted by Mchelly at 2:08 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

AO3 fanworks search: M/M, unresolved sexual tension, slow burn, complete stories, sorted by kudos: 220 results.

Only the short ones (15k words or less): 64 results.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:56 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the... series
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:02 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

The first part of Atonement, Ian McEwan, and the relationship between Robbie and Cecilia. Book first, then film.
posted by giraffeneckbattle at 3:22 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]

PB Ryan's Nell Sweeney mystery series. The mysteries are cozy length.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 7:34 PM on September 11

Web serial comic being posted right now: "Heartstopper".
posted by brainwane at 10:50 AM on September 13

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