#RomBkLove 2021 Day 28: Romantic Movie & TV Pairings

Day 28

Guest post by @KatrinDavidson / @Katreadskissingbooks on IG

2020 has been a roller coaster ride, that both physically and mentally, many of us didn’t expect to be so intense. For some romance readers, sometimes slipping into our favourite genre perhaps didn’t feel right. It didn’t give us the comfort that we expected. 

 

Reading in 2020 got hard, well it definitely did for me. Pre-pandemic I would use my hour-long commute to gobble up books either on my e-tablet or headphones, allowing myself space away from the press of bodies on the London Underground. It gave me time to get ready, escape and be in that happy space with Romance. When the pandemic forced us to work from home, it was a revelation. I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to undertake a draining commute across London to be at my desk for half-eight. Instead, it gave me back my mornings.

 

However, what it didn’t do with this extra time was carve out space for something I loved. Reading suddenly became something I had to factor in, the news cycle took over. My happy place no longer felt so happy. My concentration, when not needed for work, living and looking after my people,started to drift. Instead of full novels I sought out novellas and began to savour rereading books I had previously loved in the past. 

 

Instead, I rediscovered and fell back in love, with Love, watching Romance series and films on the TV.




RECS-

CrashlandingKramas- Crash landing on you

https://asianwiki.com/Crash_Landing_on_You

K-Dramas did a lot of heavy lifting for many of  us this year, with genres, tropes and storylines that hit all the romance beats.The content coming out of eastern media is much more attuned to romance. I would  also recommend some great Turkish dramas such as  Erkenci Kuş (this series in particular inspired some recent Penny Reid’s heroes). BUT Crash Landing on you, was the perfect Fish-Out-Of-Water billionairess story. Both opposites attract and a Sunshine vs Stoic that delivered all the lovely beats. To be absolutely clear to us HEA fans, the ending is more HFN which tends to be the case with K-Dramas i've noticed. 

 

I would also recommend joining OSRBC Asian Dramas which have a handy guide to popular Korean, Chinese and Japanese dramas in a reader/watcher friendly spreadsheet. 

 

Books recs- As K-Dramas are so diverse in their tropes, you will be able to find whatever pairing takes your fancy. For a Sunshine Vs Grump I would recommend- Managed (VIP, #2)

by Kristen Callihan, Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

by Talia Hibbert, The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)

by Tessa Dare and Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

 

FirelightPeriod dramas- Firelight 

 

Historical romance are one of my happy places. Period films and tv series ( North and South, Pride and Prejudice both the movie and television mini series alongside Persuasion etc) are multiple rewatches throughout the year. 

My husband says they are my “period dramas” , something I gravitate towards when my womb decides to deliver samurai death once a month. So discovering, unwatched period drama films that have HEA can sometimes be like finding little gems.

 

The plot of Firelight (1997) “In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of an anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father's debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven years later she is hired as governess to a girl on a remote Sussex estate. The father of the girl, Charles Godwin, turns out to be that anonymous landowner. So Elisabeth has to be her own daughter's governess, and she can't reveal the secret of her tie with little Louisa.” 

 

The plot is seeping with anguish, but what this film really delivers is some outstanding acting and cinematography. Stephen Dillane as the hero looks haunted and is haunting, telling so much with his eyes, that when casting my mind to other bits i've seen him in, I remembered he was in Game of thrones as the slimy Stannis Baratheon. A vast improvement here, the film never shies away from silence. It's the moments in between , the longing, the need to have a connection that really make this outstanding. Sophie Marceau’s beauty is ethereal here. Another crush to add to my ever growing  list. 

 

 A note of warning for some CW- there is some bad treatment of a bed ridden wife to deliver our ending,which personally I had no issues with but after reading reviews it didn't always sit right with some viewers. 

 

Books recs-

Governess romances- The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) by Courtney Milan( CW- check goodreads),

The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, #3) by Kerrigan Byrne (CW check goodreads).

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart

 A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby(Rogues and Remarkable Women #1) by Vanessa Riley.




Starstruck

 

Octanehttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt10801368/

 

Written by and starring the Award-winning comedian, writer and actor Rose Matafeo, who happens to be a massive girl crush of mine ” ‘Starstruck' follows the life of Jessie, a millennial who lives in East London. She juggles between her two jobs in order to afford the overpriced apartment that she shares with her best friend, Kate. On New Year's eve, she hooks up with Tom, and she soon discovers that he is a famous film star. Their worlds could not be more different, yet fate keeps bringing them together under the most extraordinary circumstances.”  

 

Currently on Iplayer, this BBC 3 programme is a delight. Somewhat a reverse Notting Hill, which was on repeat viewings when I was a teenager( Big warning here as after rewatching in the pandemic,  I came to the realisation that Curtis although perfectly capturing the quintessential british rom-com , his writing is not without its dated references. There are definitely prejudiced takes, so be warned if you fancy diving into the backcateolgue.  On that note, my own hot take- Love actually is not a Christmas movie.)

 

Starstruck feels fun, romantic and modern. It also is very funny, it passes the 6 laugh test pretty much every episode.  I really hope it makes it across the pond, but most of all I'm delighted it's been given a series two.

 

Book recs- Celebrity romance--Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert, #1)

by Olivia Dade, Twice in a Blue Moon (Hardcover)

by Christina Lauren, The Roommate (Paperback)

by Rosie Danan and Naked in Death (In Death #1)

by J.D. Robb ( CW check goodreads). 




Honourable mentions

Honorable mentions



  • Fleabag- Pair with Sierra Simones Priest for a heroine that is messy and definitely more modern than Thorn birds, Richard  Chamberlain is still a dish though. 
  • Its a sin - Dealing with the AIDS crisis in Britain, this is truly wonderful telly, heartbreaking but worth watching, from the creator of Queer as folk. Pair with Unbroken by Larry Page   which has a large section dealing with the Aids crisis in America.I remember reading it and being moved to tears by his writing on a plane. 
  • I may destroy you- this is gut punching tv, Gut punching, Looking at modern sexual consent this is something that is hard viewing but heart wrenching for its skill and writing. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams  although not a romance, deals with blackness, Britishness and sex in a way that feels very modern, and needs to be read particularly after the Black lives matter movement. 
  •  And lastly Brigerton, not without its flaws , mostly here  but what I hope for in the future of Romance TV is that Bridgerton has opened the door . It's shown that Romance is a genre to be taken seriously and about bloody time. 

-------



What films and television have got you through the pandemic? 

 

What films or television do you return to, for comfort, when you're sick, sad or heartbroken? 

 

What was your new discovery that you need to shout from the rooftops about?  

 

But mostly, if you loved a Movie/Tv series what book would you recommend to hit the same feels?

 


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 27: Gothic Romances

Day 27

 

Guest Post by Geek Girl @emergentgeek

    Gothic Romance is today’s #RomBkLove subject. The genre is characterized by a creepy, unsettling atmosphere and is usually set in an old, dark mansion, house, or castle full of secrets and suspicious servants. The house itself is frequently the third main character in the story- ghosts, darkness, murder, and hidden passages are all typical aspects of a Gothic story. TWs abound in Gothic Romance- the protagonist is frequently a young woman who is an abuse survivor and occasionally gaslit by either the hero or other characters. The love interest is usually brooding with a dark secret in his past.

    JaneeyreThe first Gothic Romance I ever read at the tender age of 10 was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (WM/WF). For years, I didn’t like Jane, she seemed so passive. I reread it recently and found myself feeling quite protective of her character. She was severely abused by her family then the staff of the boarding school she was sent to. She was a trauma survivor and would instinctively freeze when overwhelmed. Though she was quiet, she was strong. When she found out Mr Rochester (174 year old spoiler alert) was already married with a mentally ill wife in his attic, she knew he could easily overwhelm her concerns about the situation and convince her to stay, so she left in the middle of the night. She knew it was wrong to live with him further and followed her principles. When St. John offered her a marriage of friendship and companionship, but not love, Jane declined because she knew she was worthy of love and passion. When she went back to Rochester, it was on her terms, their HEA was her choice.

   Widowofrosehouse My second recommendation is The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller (WM/WF). This book was my favorite from last year’s #RomBkLove. Alva is a widow who fled to America to escape her past. She buys a creepy old mansion to restore and enlists the assistance of a professor who is an expert in the newfangled electric lighting. There’s ghosts, blackmail, and delicious romance as the adoring professor is drawn to the reserved, wounded heroine. This story also has the grumpy/sunshine trope with the heroine’s love interest breaking the brooding male stereotype of Gothic Romance. I adored this book, the characters, and even the creepy mansion.    

    ToowickedtokissToo Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley (WM/WF) is the first in her Gothic Love Stories series. I’ve only read this one of the series, but it was excellent and I will be reading more! Evangeline flees from her abusive stepfather and finds herself a part of a house party at the creepy Blackberry Manor. She finds herself drawn to the reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, who might or might not have killed his parents in cold blood. There’s secret passageways, more murders, secrets, and servants who know too much… #RomBkLove.

    SeducedbyastrangerSeduced by a Stranger by Eve Silver (WM/WF) is the fifth of her Dark Gothic series though they are all standalones and can be read in any order. Catherine accepts an invite from a childhood friend Madeline to visit Cairncroft Abbey, which is filled with secrets, lies, and murder. Madeline is in poor health, frequently bedbound, and often starts raving that someone is trying to kill her. Catherine is drawn to the owner of Cairncroft Abbey, Madeline’s cousin- brooding, fierce Gabriel St Aubyn who is haunted by the horrors of his past and has difficulty understanding and expressing emotions. Is he trying to murder his cousin? Is he a sociopath? How does he seem to be in two places at once? This one is super dark even for a Gothic Romance as there is a serial killer in the story as well.

    BitterburnBitterburn by Ann Aguirre (WM?/WF) is a Gothic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Amarrah, an outsider even in her own family, offers herself as a sacrifice when her village is unable to pay tribute to the Beast in the Keep at the End of the World. The Beast is a tragic and sympathetic character trapped in his castle through no fault of his own, alone and despondent for centuries. The two lonely outsiders gradually form a bond and eventually fall in love. The whole story is beautiful and haunting, but not as dark as other recommendations in this list.

Simonfleximal    The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles (WM/WM) is one of my favorite creepy books. Robert is an investigative reporter who hires Simon to help him with his haunted house. The book is a series of supernatural cases the two investigate together and they eventually fall in love. There’s evil cults, bleeding walls, homicidal butterflies, and moving skin runes.

    Shadows: A Bayou Magic Novel by Kristen Proby. (WM/WW)Modern romantic suspense/paranormal straying into Gothic Romance territory. THIS SERIES SCARED THE S*^$ OUT OF ME! SO good. Brielle can see ghosts, and if she listens Shadows closely, she can hear their stories as well. Cash, a FBI profiler, comes to town for a vacation and is drawn to her. When multiple young women, all resembling Brielle, go missing then show up brutally murdered, they team up to figure out what is going on. There’s a feeling of dread throughout the series, a haunted house, a serial killer, and demon possession.

    DangerouscollaborationBonus book suggestion: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn, (WM/WW) the fourth of the Veronica Speedwell mystery series. A bride mysteriously vanishes on her wedding day. Decades later, her reclusive former fiancé hosts a house party and invites everyone who was there for the wedding. It has creepy servants, a poison garden, suspicious family, possible ghosts, and secret tunnels. However, it is not truly a Gothic Romance. The heroine, Veronica, is there to investigate what happened to the bride and always looks for a rational explanation for supposed supernatural events.


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 26: Your "Thing"

 

2021 Day 16 Your thing

Guest post by Angela James

I’m here to represent all the people who like very specific things in their reading, and as soon as you know that very specific element is in a book, you’re ready to read it. It might be a trope, a character trait, a specific storyline, or something else, but it’s your “thing”. The thing that lights you up, sometimes for no apparent reason, and gives the story an immediate in with you. 

My thing is books featuring protagonists who are bakers. I love bakers. It’s not even that I’m a baker myself, because though I can throw together a pan of incredible brownies and an occasional loaf of bread, I’m no baker. But give me a protagonist who’s a baker—especially if they own a bakery—and I’m going to read that book because I love bakers. 

Until I agreed to write this post, I hadn’t given much thought to why I love main characters who are bakers, but I think it comes down to a few key things: one, I do love cupcakes and a well-made cupcake that has a moist cake portion (sorry for using the word moist) with excellent frosting is hard to find, so I think I see people who do it well as competent, and I like competent characters. But I also think that I see bakers as a form of caretaker, and that’s also appealing to me. Plus, there’s a certain fantasy element involved in the idea of knowing someone who makes incredible baked goods and showers her friends and family with them. A thing that’s missing from my own life, currently, I suppose!

And yes, I do love the Great British Bakeoff, why do you ask?

Weirdly, my thing for characters who are bakers doesn’t extend to other forms of culinary art. I don’t have similar feelings for chefs, or chocolatiers, or even distillers or brewmasters. This is specific to bakers and no substitute will do—much like in baking, which is a bit of an exact science.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to force you to only recommend books that feature bakers (though of course, I will take ALL the recs and I would love to here if you also love main characters who are bakers). 

Instead, share your thing. What’s that one thing that will sell you a book nearly instantly, guaranteed. And what are some of your favorite books you’ve found with that thing? 

 

Recommendations:

 

Graham'sGraham’s Delicacies by Mina Waheed

I’m not sure if this book is still available for purchase, as I couldn’t find it on retail sites, but I’m still including it as a favorite because this collection of three romances, which starts with the dedication “This is for nonbinary cuties” and that center the romances around Graham’s Delicacies is such an inclusive and sweet romance that I hope you’ll be able to find it. 

All 6 of the main characters are queer and inside the book you’ll find three romances that are warm, engaging and so happy-making that this is a book you’ll find lifting your mood and giving you that “good book” sigh. Just writing this post made me put this one back on my ereader so I could revisit that feeling that I look for in my romances! 

Representation: Black, Latinx, Arab-American, Korean-American, bisexual, nonbinary, gay

Content warnings: misgendering, mention of parent death

BeardscienceBeard Science by Penny Reid

Beard Science is my favorite of Penny Reid’s work due to main characters Jennifer and Cletus. Jennifer is the “Banana Cake Queen” and famous for her baking, but in particular her banana cake. Jennifer wants nothing more than to get out from under her unwanted title and she has no qualms about blackmailing Cletus—clever, interfering, and all-too-observant Cletus—to help her do so. 

Beard Science serves as the springboard for a mystery series featuring Jennifer and Cletus. 

Representation: cis, white, m/f couples, neurodiversity

Content Warnings: mentions of violence, toxic family, body shaming

 

AsweetmessA Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

While I admit that Jayci Lee’s debut book Temporary Wife Temptation still holds first place in my hear among her books, her writing is fantastic and A Sweet Mess checked my “bakers” box so of course I loved it. 

Aubrey is a baker and bakery owner whose main focus is on her bakery, Comfort Zone, until she has a one-night stand with Landon Kim. A food critic whose review ripping apart Comfort Zone and Aubrey’s baking skills goes viral and nearly ruins her business. To save her reputation, Aubrey has to agree to go on Landon’s food competition show (another thing I love for real: food competition shows) and it’s up to Landon to show Aubrey he’ll stand by her side. 

This book adorable and swoonworthy, but speaking of swoonworthy, I was super excited when Jayci Lee announced the sale of her book’s movie rights, which Daniel Dae Kim will be producing and starring in. I’m ready!

Representation: Korean-American, cis, m/f couple

Content warnings: Family abuse, toxic family

 

About Angela:

Freelance editor and author career coach Angela James (she/her) is a veteran of the fiction publishing industry and has enjoyed nearly 20 years of experience in her field. An expert on editing (and reading!) genre fiction, especially romance and mystery, Angela has edited hundreds of bestselling books and authors. 

But, most of all, at heart, Angela is an avid romance reader who started reading romance at the precocious age of 9, when she “borrowed” her first Harlequin category romance from the brown paper grocery bag full that her mom kept next to her recliner. Romance has remained her one true love ever since that moment.

You can find Angela on Twitter: @AngelaJames or Instagram: @AngelaJamesEditor or on her website www.angelajames.co

 


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 25: Duty vs. Love

Day 25

#RomBkLove 2021 Day 25: Duty vs. Love recs from #RomBkLove Team.

 

SweettalkingloverStacey Agdern (@nystacey) recommends:

Tracey Livesay's Sweet Talking Lover

Relation to theme: fmc falls in love with the mayor of the town whose plant she's sent to close down .

Representation: black woman author, black woman fmc, interracial 

 

 

Jeannie linHolly from The Smut Report (@smutreport)

My Fair Concubine by  Jeannie Lin

Relation to theme: Fei Long is giving Yan Ling princess lessons so he can pass her off as his sister and prevent an international diplomatic disaster. Their love is impossible: because of family honor, because of Fei Long’s duty to the empire, because of Yan Ling’s promise to stick to the terms of their agreement. The result? Top notch pining. 

Representation: Chinese main characters

Content Warnings: violence

Hannah @hannahheartsro1 & Vicky @romancingread recommend: Honeytrap

Honeytrap by Aster Glenn Gray

An American and a Russian spy during the Cold War fall into a decades-long, constantly evolving relationship. Both MCs struggle with their respective duties to their countries versus their feelings for the other man; they are constantly having to weigh their patriotic obligations against protecting someone they care deeply about. If you haven’t read this beautiful book yet, what are you waiting for? It’s going to be both everything and nothing like what you expect.

Representation: Both white cis bisexual men

Content Warnings: workplace sexual harassment and abusive boss, PTSD, internalized homophobia, biphobia, homophobia, homophobic slur, stabbing, past suicidal ideation, war references, past intimate partner violence, ex dies by suicide off-page, grief, divorce

 

 


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 23: Action & Adventure

Day 23

#RomBkLove 2021 Day 23: Action & Adventure

Not all Action & Adventure romance is RS, what romances kept your heart pumping & your brain guessing as the MC's engaged in all kind of hijinks & misadventures across genre lines? Do you any favorite authors?

 

When I think action and adventure I think of Nalini Singh, whether it be her Guild Hunter books, Psy-changelings, or her thrillers her MC's are always thick in the action of political intrigue, life-risking adventure or other some caper.  (CWs: murder, gore, violence, guns, abuse, mentions of parental suicide).

NighthawkBeverly Jenkins's historicals are full of fantastic action & adventure, where her MCs show their audacity, vibrant vitality and fierce freedom as the outsmart, outchase and outlive anyone who dare challenge them. (Cws: Racism, violence, prejudice, guns, past trauma : enslavement).

Ai who loved meAlyssa Cole loves to write a good adventure, whether it is facing of against a wall of paparazzi, spying and sabotage deep in the confederacy or falling in love with with the AI next door, she pair humor, sass and heart with action and intrigue.  (Cws: racism, prejudice, secrets, guns, past trauma: enslavement, mind-wipes).

Kit Rocha's whole ouvre from their Moira Rogers PNR adventures, to their erotic revolutionaries to their Mercenary Librarians,  I know things will blow up, the romance will be intense and conflicted and some rich people's plans will be foiled.  (Cw: involuntary medical procedures, guns, past trauma: abuse, SA).

Who are you go to authors  for Action & Adventure?

 

 

 


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 22: Cultural Representation

Day 22

Cultural rep in Romance: Every (un-hurtful) take is valid and important

Guest Post by Royaline Sing

Disclaimer: These are solely my opinions and I am not speaking for any particular identity as an authority. I am mostly sticking to desi references. A dialog is welcome.

Romance is about hope. It's about happiness, about possibilities, and all about dreams.

You see how up close and personal it is, right? Every individual has different dreams, different hopes, different ideas about happiness, but everyone in the world relates with that emotion. When each of that individual becomes a unique character and meets another in a romance book, it becomes their story. Not of the entire group they represent necessarily, but their own individual story.

This vibrantly personal nature of everyone's lived reality is why every (un-hurtful) take on cultural rep in the books, especially the happy ending romances, is valid.

And extremely important.

Here is my example. I come from a middle class Indian family. I rarely wear saree and apply a bindi. But on festivals such as Ganesh Puja or Diwali I love to do my religious rituals, dress up and eat delicious food. When I first read a romance where I read a desi character like me, I was ecstatic.

I can imagine the same is true for someone who wears a saree daily and sees that in the books. Needless to say, there are many Indians who don't do either. Everyone is from the same ethnicity and seeing their version on the pages is deeply satisfying. It gives us readers a place to belong to.

This will be difficult to achieve though if (1) they never see themselves in books (or TV) at all AND (2) if they only see stereotypes or monolithic group representation.

There are thousands of types of sarees. There are thousands of types of hijabs. I'd like to see them. There are desis who never eat Biryani (in my own house, yes, thank you). There are desis who never eat a speck of spice. There are various degrees of food tolerance across cultures. Do I even get started on color? You have milk white skin tones through every shade of black and brown.

I'd like to see them.

There is art and music, experienced in different ways by every individual in the same community. There are traditions and modified customs. Someone would have grand prayer temples in the houses, others won't. Someone would rejoice in mehendi in all occasions, others won't. Someone lives on their own, others with a joint family.

And even then I realized, not many books in my favorite genre mentioned my routine, my thoughts, my cultural heritage. So when I picked up the pen myself, I was fortunate to be able to write about some of my life experiences.
Every single scenario is valid. It's a real person's lived experience, after all.

And seeing that in a happy romance book gives me hope. Hope that it's possible for everyone to be themselves. If the next-door desi character in the book can be different and happy, then I can be too. It gives me hope that we can break prejudices. Overcome fears.

So give it a chance and read culturally diverse romances with an open mind. Let’s enrich our minds. Various individual's dreams with a happy ending is the perfect recipe that the world needs. Nothing grand like a romance book to serve it with!

Here are some books that were important for me to experience a slice of my realities. Dukesofshadows

  1. The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

I grew up studying British rule on India and the struggle for freedom in schools. I learned that as many oppressive and cruel individuals existed causing the centuries of misery, there were also a few allies. And collateral damages from both ends. We have Bollywood movies portraying some stories like this. Lagaan, Krishna, if I may name a few.

The hero, who has an English title but Indian parentage right in the middle of the revolution going in India, was immediately relatable to me. Without going into details (a complicated topic in itself) the author portrayed a vivid picture of places in India, very similar to what I grew up to, respectful mentions of the religious items, palace and kings, the subtle hint at the politics within. Mostly, more than half of the novel takes place in India. The romance is angsty and heartwarming both.

  1. Borne to be Wilde by Eloisa James

Born to be wildeThe book and the series are my favorite for many reasons such as the peacock! But this book specifically gave me joy. Parth is the name of my favorite Mahabharat character, the archer Arjun. So I was delighted to read a whole book with the hero called Parth. But she also made him a power house, sensitive and well, yes, rich in the established world of regency. I hadn't seen it much before.

 

  1. 3. The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas Artoftheft

If you are anything like me, you have already devoured the lady Sherlock series by Sherry Thomas. I secretly online-stalk her :-D But this book is special to me. Right in the stakes there is Maharani of Ajmer. The singular idea in the west that royals in India are rolling in gold and nothing much else was neatly handled and countered here. Not only Maharani of Ajmer is a single mother, a widow, but is also a queen who takes care of their people. She has to be diplomatic, cautious and skilful with her resources. And like a normal person she also loves. No spoilers, but I loved seeing this piece in the book!

  1. Blame it on the Duke by Lenora Bell

BellThis could be surprising for readers who already read it. Yes, there are no desi characters in the book. And that's why it is a great example of how even the smallest detail of cultural rep could be important and valid. The heroine here is determined to translate Kamasutra, which is in Sanskrut. (I know, I know, but separate topic.) I studied Sanskrut in my my middle and high school for 4 years. I have a great affinity with Sanskrut and anything related to translation. This book inspired me. If that heroine can do it… I can too, right?

In my own book, the heroine, is translating Sanskrut Mahabharat manuscripts. Each chapter starts with a slice of that story Sing translation. Without Lenora Bell writing this book, I'd not have seen myself doing it.

Of course I could keep going on, but I will refrain myself now. Here are a few more of my already-read or TBR books which I hope to read soon. If I may, mentioned my own book as well.

What are your favorite romance books in which you saw a slice of your cultural life and it brought you joy?


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 18: Mental Health & Therapy

Day 18

Guest post by Hannah Hearts Romance,  @hannahheartsro1

Mental health in Romance

I love that so many authors are writing stories that show how mental illness impacts people and relationships. Too often in other genres, the “realistic” depictions of mental health challenges lean toward despair and hopelessness. In romance, even if the stories get dark we know we are heading toward a happy ending. Considering how many of us have struggled with mental health (whether diagnosed or not), it can be so healing and comforting to see those characters find love and belonging.

For my official #RomBkLove post I want to highlight books that include descriptions of mental health treatment or depict therapy on-page. Although by nature fictional therapy has to focus on moving the story forward more than the accuracy of the therapeutic techniques, I think that positive portrayals of mental health treatment can help demystify the process and even encourage people to seek therapy!

Atinypiece of something

A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra -- Reid is at a point in his mental health recovery journey that he knows he needs to make a change. He leaves his strained relationship with his parents and his codependent ex-boyfriend behind and heads down to Florida, where he meets Brazilian dive instructor Joaquim. Back home, everyone only knows Reid in relation to his mental illness but Joaquim only sees Reid. This book is surprisingly soft considering that Reid has been dealing with some serious challenges including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. He was in residential treatment and continues to participate in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and takes medication. I love the conversations between Reid and Joaquim as Reid starts to feel safe enough to share that part of himself with Joaquim. (CW: descriptions of depressive and hypomanic mood episodes, non-suicidal self-harm, anxiety and panic attack, reference to past suicidal ideation, MC was in codependent relationship)

 

Emptynet avon galeEmpty Net by Avon Gale -- I love the way MM sports romance can really tackle the issue of toxic masculinity and how it negatively impacts the mental health of athletes. In Empty Net, Laurent is traded to the team of his archnemesis, Isaac. Well, really the whole team is his nemesis due to Laurent’s history of “despicable” behavior. But turns out Laurent is escaping demons of his own and struggles with a significant dose of self-loathing. As Isaac starts to break down Laurent’s walls and Laurent learns to care for himself, their bond becomes stronger than anything they’ve experienced before. This book has one of the most realistic portrayals of therapy that I’ve read in romance. It’s somewhat truncated for (I assume) plotting purposes, but I would totally refer someone to the therapist in this book! (CW: descriptions of past physical/emotional abuse, homophobia and homophobic slurs, references to conversion therapy, character used to be homeless, character with eating disorder and self harm (shown on-page), on-page physical fights/assault)

 

Equivalent exchangeEquivalent Exchange by Christina C. Jones -- This was one of the first romances with on-page therapy I read and is a long-standing favorite. Keris has left an abusive relationship and is looking for a fresh start. She ends up working for Laken as a graphic designer for his brewery. They both go through a lot in this book, but one of the things I love about it is (I will never phrase this better than in my original review, so pardon me as I steal from myself) it’s about imperfect people being imperfect together and demanding growth of each other. I love that Keris feels no shame about going back to her therapist when she knows she needs some more support. (CW: descriptions of past abusive relationship, sexual assault, past child abuse, addiction and overdose death, parental death (happens in course of story), infertility, MC is divorced)

 

I can’t wait to see what everyone else recommends for this prompt. I’m always looking for more books that address mental health, and so many romance authors are doing it so well! And in case anyone is inspired to try therapy for themselves, I wanted to include a few resources to check out:

 

Inclusive Therapists( inclusivetherapists.com)

Melanin and Mental Health (melaninandmentalhealth.com)

National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (nqttcn.com)

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective (openpathcollective.org)

 


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 16: Steamy & Inclusive

Day 16

Guest post by Charlotte @charlottelovestoread on ig & @allllthebooks on twitter

 

Matzo matchAs a reader who prefers open door romance, usually high heat, I have a lot of options available to me, but seeking out a wider variety of authors and character representation has helped me better understand and celebrate myself and others. Inclusivity can cover many facets, but in the recs below I've focused on indie works that I think can use more love and recognition.

Matzo Match by Roz Alexander - This high heat sapphic Passover novella - a debut! - was just released in March 2021. The main characters are Ashkenazi and Persian Jews, and one of them may be the most delicious butch I've read to date. Just as I felt when I read my beloved novellas from Erin McLellan's So Over the Holidays series, I wanted to be in this story at the Seder with the queer friend group. Overall, this novella was very sexy and it also made me laugh out loud - my favorite combo!

Rep: both main characters (MCs) are Jewish lesbian cis women (one from a Persian family), queer Jewish author

CWs: Divorce, closeted and secret relationship, cheating ex, mentions of fertility struggles and pregnancy, racism

 

Heartbeat bravesHeartbeat Braves by Pamela Sanderson - When Henry ends up working with Rayanne at the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center, they have instant attraction but getting together is more of a slow burn. The story focuses heavily on some of the immediate goals and challenges of the center. I was rooting for Rayanne and Henry both professionally and as a couple. This isn't as high heat as my other recs but it is open door and I loved how protection was handled. The supporting characters felt so true to life, and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Rep: Native cis man MC, Native cis woman MC, Native author (a member of the Karuk tribe)

CWs: microaggressions, racism

Eight kinky nightsEight Kinky Nights by Xan West - I absolutely loved this sapphic Chanukah friends-to-lovers romance with kink lessons. This book immerses the reader in the world of two fat queer women who are kinky, autistic, and Jewish, and a community of kinky queer people by proxy. I have read romance novels with kink, but this delves into non-sexual kink in a way that is rare, in my experience, and I would say the same for self love and acceptance. I finished this book feeling profoundly changed by the treatment of boundaries, comfort, and communication. It was like a giant hug.

Rep: white Jewish fat autistic gray ace queer femme MC, white Jewish fat autistic stone butch queer MC, white Jewish autistic queer fat genderqueer author with disabilities

CWs: provided in detail by the author https://xanwest.wordpress.com/eight-kinky-nights/

Truth or dareTruth or Dare by Danielle Allen - If you are into sexy times in public spaces, whew! This friends-to-lovers story is not to be missed. A destination wedding provides a backdrop for a reunion among a friend group with a tangled history, and a game of Truth or Dare ignites some serious sparks. Some of the scenes from this book have lived rent-free in my mind since I finished, and I will definitely be rereading.

Rep: cis Black woman MC, cis Black man MC, Black author

CW: sex without a condom

CompanionThe Companion by E.E. Ottoman - a loving and tender historical (1948) instalust story of three kindred spirits finding finding love and acceptance while safely secluded in upstate New York, away from the literary scene in the city. Full of sexual discovery with little or no angst, this polyamorous HEA shows that in the right environment, your HEA can be radically within reach. Released April 2021.

Rep: trans woman MC, trans woman MC, trans man MC, trans author

CWs from the author: references to rape culture, sexual exploitation of trans women, feeling unsafe in certain spaces, internalized transphobia, smoking weed, more included at the front of the book

If you want to follow along on my reading journey, check out my bookstagram at http://instagram.com/charlottelovestoread.


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 15: Low Heat Romance

Day 15

What are your favorite inclusive low heat romances? Do you find low heat reads in all subgenres, or mostly in certain ones? What do you look for in a low heat romance?

Guest post by Reina Williams 

Low heat romance looks and feels different to everyone. You might not even call it low heat. (Below, I designate kisses only: to me, that can include on-page kisses of faces, hands, and arms; touching, usually hand holds, gentle caresses, and the like; longing looks; and sexy thoughts.) Though I read every heat level, I appreciate having a pool of low heat romances to dive into, because especially during stressful times, low heat is my preferred heat level. Here are six of my favorites:

 

Contemporary Romance:

 

Twosweettobe goodThe Sugar Lake duo (As Good As the First Time and Too Sweet to Be Good), K.M. Jackson

Two sisters return to help their aunt at her Southern small-town bakery, and discover what they want, and romance. If you appreciate strong main characters, aunties and grandmas, pie, and slow-building love, try visiting Sugar Lake.

m/f romance; Black MCs; Black author

Kisses only 

Content advisory: grief (loss of relationship, deceased grandparent), divorce and single parenthood; Christian worldview characters

 

Takeme homeTake Me Home, Hudson Lin

This very short story between two older men, one grumpy and one sunshine, left me feeling as cozy as if I’d been in the coffee shop with the two MCs as they talk, knit, and flirt. 

m/m romance; Asian MC; Black MC; 50+ MCs

Longing looks and brief touching

Content advisory: grief (deceased wife)

 

YA:

IwannabewhereI Wanna Be Where You Are, Kristina Forest

This road trip romance, complete with a drooly dog, a grumpy neighbor, and a ballerina pursuing her dreams, is soft and adorable, yet also touches on difficult topics, like a challenging mother-daughter relationship, and navigating friendships and family.

m/f romance; Black MCs; Black author

Kisses only

Content advisory: grief (loss of parent), divorce and single parenthood; mention of racism; some salty language



Theresomething about sweetieThere’s Something About Sweetie, Sandhya Menon

I enjoy the Dimple and Rishi series, and this is my favorite. Sweetie and Ashish are fun characters, and are adorable together. They each have wonderful friend groups, close families, and the matchmaking centers a favorite trope. Love watching Sweetie find her voice and power, and how she and Ashish support each other.

m/f romance; fat MC; Indian American MCs; Indian American author

Kisses only

Content advisory: fat-shaming (including from a parent); breakup grief 

 

Historical Romance:

 

Craftof loveThe Craft of Love, E.E. Ottoman

Soft, cozy, romantic, and quietly emotional, The Craft of Love is a gentle read with tender moments, tea drinking, and struggles that end hopefully. A favorite read this year that I hope to reread.

m/f romance; white trans man MC; white bi/pan MC; trans male author

Kisses only 

Content advisory: mentions of trans hate and misgendering by a parent; deceased parent/grief

 

LawyersluckThe Lawyer’s Luck, Piper Huguley

In this novella, strong characters clash then come to appreciate and love each other in 1844 Ohio.

m/f romance; Black MCs; Black author

Kisses only

Content advisory: religious (Christian) content; mention/description of trauma (enslavement, anti-Blackness, and racism)