Foreword Reviews

The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club

An all-LGBTQ+ Dungeons and Dragons group finds the drama of their latest campaign bleeding into the real world in the novel The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club.

Every Thursday night, magic and mayhem play out in the back room of Readmore Comix and Games. There, listless, twenty-five-year-old Ben escapes into a fantasy world where druids and bards battle an evil cult. Because he lives at home, where he nurses his broken heart and dodges his mother’s pestering about his future plans: Readmore is the only place where Ben feels in control. But then his character is killed off, and a handsome newcomer, Albert, joins his D&D group.

Albert works at the local record store; he is coworkers-with-benefits with Ben’s former crush, Jeff. After being rejected by Jeff in a humiliating fashion, Ben thinks he’s given up on his love life, which now exists only in the stuffy back room of Readmore. But real life threats, including from homophobia and a rival vampire role playing club, push him to reclaim his confidence and come into magic that’s all his own.

The D&D campaign is narrated throughout the text; it’s a nail-biting story-within-a-story, though it sometimes overwhelms the story’s real life predicaments. Some characters play to stereotypes, including Ben, a gamer who lives in his family’s basement, surrounded by dirty clothes and dirtier dishes; and the book’s sexual innuendos and descriptions are sometimes gratuitous. But spots of humor, and one fierce, sarcastic character, Valerie, help to retain a whimsical atmosphere in this story about finding your people and never letting go.

Doug Henderson’s novel is sure to delight proud nerds with its story of a young man searching to belong against a backdrop of mischief and magic.

Reviewed by Danielle Ballantyne

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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