Coyote Ugly: Exploring The Exciting World Of The Lesbian Western

Do you love lesbian Western novels as much as we do? These sapphic love stories are irresistible! Let’s explore the exciting world of the lesbian Western genre!

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three lesbian wester novels on a western silhouette background.

From lesbians and horses to sunsets and rustic, old-west settings, the lesbian Western genre has everything there is to love about a novel. But what makes these sapphic love stories so irresistible? Themes of forbidden love and secret identities are only part of what makes lesbian Western novels so enjoyable. Today we’re going to dive into the genre and some of the most notable works within it.

Why do we love this genre?

Lesbian romance novels set in the old-west include themes of forbidden love more often than not. From Guinevere and Sir Lancelot to Romeo and Juliet, the idea of falling in love with someone you aren’t supposed to is an intriguing tale as old as time. So, it’s not surprising that the forbidden love between two lesbian women is equally as intriguing. These stories also frequently feature women living as men and hiding their true identities. In these cases, the fear of being found out, either as a woman or as a gay woman, creates an ever-present tension throughout the story.

Though lesbian Western novels have elements that appeal to a broader audience, they hold even more appeal for gay women. For them, the lesbian Western genre offers representation and visibility not offered in more mainstream genres. Stories centered on women-loving-women relationships are a chance for sapphic women to see their relationships reflected in new and exciting ways. Jae, a prominent lesbian romance author, is quoted in an interview stating:

As a queer woman, I value seeing myself reflected in the books I’m reading, especially if it feels like an authentic representation and not just adding a token queer character by an author who hasn’t lived that experience.”

Jae, Reads Rainbow (2021)

What are the fixings of a lesbian Western romance?


The first thing you’ll need if you want to write a lesbian Western romance novel is lesbians. There are a lot of different directions you can go with your sapphic main characters. These characters could be women disguised as men escaping from the sexist societal expectations of women at the time the story is taking place. They might be the textbook ingenue daughter of a powerful figure in the story. Or, your characters might be a runaway still trying to understand their sexuality. No matter which direction you decide to go, chances are the character’s backstories will play an important part in the plot of the story.

The next major ingredient of any lesbian Western romance is the setting. Western novels are typically set in the American West in the late 18th-19th century. They regularly incorporate ranches or farms, and horses are the preferred method of transportation. This setting also offers flexibility for Western authors. Stories set in the desert in areas like northern Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, as well as stories set in snowy mountain ranges like Colorado, Montana, and Western Canada, are all considered Western novels.

Finally, the last element of any lesbian Western romance is romance! The sapphic love story between the two characters is a major part of the storyline. These relationships can be enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, or love-at-first-sight stories. Regardless of how the two characters meet and fall in love, these novels often include themes of homophobia. Subsequently, the two characters will doubtless face social stigma around being in a same-sex relationship. All of these elements combined create exciting stories full of conflict and romance set against a beautiful Western backdrop.

What’s the history of the lesbian Western genre?

Lesbian literature extends at least as far back as the poetry of Sappho of Lesbos in ancient Greece. Her work is considered the foundation of lesbian literature. However, the first English language novel with sapphic themes was The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, published in 1928. At the time, lesbian novels were written as tragedies, either ending in suicide or conversion to heterosexuality. This was done to prevent the works from being viewed as “obscene”. In the 1950s and 60s, interest in lesbian literature exploded with the development of pulp fiction novels. Author Marijane Meaker is considered a pioneer of these works. Her novel Spring Fire is considered the first lesbian paperback novel.

Lesbian pulp-fiction paperbacks saw the development of the lesbian Western Romance novel, as well as other romance fiction and detective novels. Meaker, along with Ann Bannon, Valerie Taylor, Sloane Britain, and others were integral in the development of “pro-lesbian” literature, which sought to reshape the genre by giving lesbian stories happy endings. These authors, many of whom were lesbians themselves, refused to address the voyeurism prevalent throughout the genre. Each of these instances is milestones in the development of the modern lesbian Western romance story.

Once you know something is wrong, you’re responsible, whether you see it, or hear about it, and most particularly when you’re a part of it.”

Marijane Meaker

Which lesbian Westerns should you be reading?

The Oregon Series by Jae


This series chronicles the relationship between Luke, a woman living as a man, and Nora. The novels see them meet, fall in love, get married, and raise children together as a happily married couple. Luke’s secret creates a constant source of conflict throughout the series. As the couple navigates life in the Old West while hiding their same-sex relationship, they meet people with secrets of their own. The series is a fun and highly-rated read for fans of lesbian romances!

Prairie Hearts Series by Radclyffe


Radclyffe’s Prairie Hearts novels are two separate stories. Innocent Hearts is the story of Kate, a young woman who moves to Montana from Boston. As she struggles against the social constraints of the 1800’s, she meets an exciting woman named Jessie. Their relationship struggles to bloom, however, in a time as cruel as it is beautiful. Promising Hearts Is about Mae, a frontier madam who ensures the well-being the women who come under her care. She unexpectedly takes on the responsibility of caring for a doctor, and a relationship between the two begins to form. The novels are a fun, endearing read for fans of lesbian westerns.

Josie and Rebecca: The Western Chronicles by B.L. Miller


Josie is a gunslinger and an outlaw, bitter from past injustices. One afternoon she decides to rescue a young woman named Rebecca, escaping horrors of her own. Though Josie assumes their encounter is finished once the woman is saved, Rebecca has other plans. The two are polar opposites, and Rebecca will have to prove to Josie that she’s worth keeping around. Josie and Rebecca is an exciting read for lesbian romance lovers!

Lesbian Western romance is a fascinating subgenre with a rich history. These novels played an important role in removing the stigma around LGBTQ+ literature and same-sex relationships in society. But, more than just a key element of progressing socially, these stories are incredibly fun to read! If you’d like to read more about stories with lesbian leads, check out our article here!