Romance

GUEST POST: Thank You Beverly Jenkins By Funmi Baker

Thank You Beverly Jenkins

By Funmi Baker

@when_funmi_met_romance

4D61FFA4-3A38-4655-B302-B41C7C54A561The Lust & Found blog (@lustfoundreads) has done a wonderful thing. She created #JenkinsJuly. A wonderful month to celebrate a living legend in the genre of romance, Beverly Jenkins. She is my favorite author in the entire world. All month, I’ve been mulling over what to say about her works, or how to say it. One thing is for sure, I couldn't let #JenkinsJuly go by without adding my two cents.

 

I grew up wonderfully black. I lived in a black neighborhood. I went to black schools. I had a mother who could drown out my whining perfectly when she had a Sepia, Arabesque, Dafina, or BET book in her hand. She surrounded me with illustrated books of girls who looked like me. I went to Juneteenth celebrations. It was easy to be black. I never understood exactly how hard she was working to make me understand that my blackness is a positive thing. In many ways, I was sheltered. A black life was the de facto for me.  

 

I, like my mother, am a voracious romance reader. Living a one minute walk from the library, it was my key to worlds unknown. I became particularly enamored with historicals. In high school, I entered a world of dukes, barons, and earls. They were all very good but all very white. I never read into it because I was young. Black was normal. Black was everywhere in my life. I was simply reading for the joy of reading. Before I knew it, I had read hundreds of historical books about white people. I was in every history class at my high school answering all the white-washed questions. There was no AP history test I couldn’t pass. Now, my mom had noticed that my reading was white and my history knowledge was fairly white. She tried steering me toward the things she had been surrounding me with since I was a kid. However, I was a high schooler. I knew it all. She was a single mom with four kids and two jobs. She didn’t have much time to really sit down with me.  

 

So speed forward. I’m 18. I’m at Purdue University. For the first time in my life, I felt the weight of my skin. Now, I’m the only fly in the buttermilk. I’m the only black person in my major in years. I’m the only black person in my friend group. I’m the only black person in my classes. I’m isolated. I stopped reading altogether. I spent five years fighting to be seen as a person as I pursued higher education.    

 

When I graduated, I decided I wanted to live the blackest, BLACKEST life I could. I wanted to be unapologetic. I wanted the luster to return. So I returned to my favorite thing in the world--reading. This time, I wanted to see myself. I wanted to see brown happily ever afters. Kinky happily ever afters. Full-lipped happily ever afters. This is how I found Beverly Jenkins.  

 

637D76F4-F2C6-4AB5-B4C2-349EAAB1E096I ordered her book, BREATHLESS. I remember when the Amazon package came--I just stared at the cover. I was thinking, “Where have you been all my life?” I devoured that book. With my first adult paycheck, I ordered EVERY single historical title of hers. With the help of my mom, I consumed at a voracious rate every single Beverly Jenkins historical. I felt my soul warming with each word. The excitement, the sighs, the tension. I had never been more engrossed in my life.  The power of representation--of reading your culture’s love stories--is unparalleled.  

 

Not only was I reading some swoon-worthy things, I was learning. Before you know it, I’m checking out the books from her bibliography. I’m reading books on black women in the west and wealthy black business owners in Louisiana. I had no idea cowboys were not white. As I learn the history of my people, I find that I’m also learning about myself. When I look at black people, we aren’t just made of struggle and suffering. We are the product of love. We are the product of fighting. We are the product of WINNING.

 

Reading Beverly Jenkins books as an adult, I now understand what my mom was fighting to do. You have to understand your history, the good and the bad. Black people are amazing. Black women are awe-inspiring. There is not one Beverly Jenkins title that lets you forget that. We’ve been falling in love, fighting for our rights, and saving the day since the beginning of time.  

 

Thank you so much Beverly Jenkins. Thank you for restoring some color into a lost black woman’s life. Thank you for inspiring a journey of black knowledge that won't stop until I’m six feet under. Thank you for always showing Black Love.


Spellbound by Allie Therin

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Debut Latinx (Cuban-American) author, Allie Therin’s Spellbound is the first in a projected three book series set in Prohibition era NYC, where smuggled magic-infused objects threaten the lives of all magically-gifted paranormals and non-magical alike. Therin draws on the era’s post- war clandestine counter-culture scene and anti-immigrant to develop a cohesively tense backdrop for her action-adventure, where her wildly diverse characters can find acceptance a community in a black run speakeasy in Harlem, but also fear exposure and persecution elsewhere.  Therin also explores class and generational tension throughout the novel, as Arthur, the son of a wealthy political family, exploits his privilege to try to protect the younger and poorer Rory.

 

While the world-building was engaging, the secondary characters richly developed and the heist plot intriguing, the romantic beats were somewhat repetitive. I loved how soft and smitten Rory and Arthur become with each other but the dual insecurity about the realness of each other’s interest or the depth of feelings became tiresome. However when the romance was clicking it was delightfully sweet. I loved the little details about younger and smaller Rory tucking himself next to the taller and athletically built Arthur and Arthur who is the bossy caretaker of his friend group, soaking up the open-hearted affection.

 

Tropes:

First Love

Virgin Hero

Opposites Attract

Age Gap

 

Content Warnings: Homophobia, Torture, War, Past Trauma: Child Abuse, religious shaming, 

 

 

 


#RomBkLove May 2019– Thank You!

 

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Thank You!

I’m humbled each year by everyone who takes the time to participate and shares recs and book memories close to their hearts. I’m humbled when readers and bloggers devote so much time and effort on their rec posts.  Thank you for the gift you are to our diverse romance community.

 I hope that your TBR’s and Wishlists are full of new books and authors to explore.  I hope most of all that you’ve made a connection with other romance readers. That you may have found other people who love romance like you do.  

And I hope that you continue to celebrate Inclusive Romance all year-long. Celebrate it by buying, reading and reviewing books by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx Authors. Celebrate it by supporting Reviewers of color & LGBTQIA+, Disabled reviewers. 

Resources:

Twitter list of #Rombklove contributors 

Master List of Posts & links to tweet archives 

#readRchat : Monthly topical romance reader discussion.  Next chat will be June 8th, 4pm EST/10CET. They also organize the #readRchatawards, an inclusive reader award, that each year introduces me to fabulous authors. 

#RomBkBlog : Find romance reviews and blog posts by romance readers. (Brainchild of Wendy the SuperLibrarian).  

Sign up for the Diverse Romance Release Press List Newsletter to hear about upcoming releases by AOC & LGBTQIA & Disabled authors. 

Joyfully Reviewed’s WOC Romance Bloggers & Reviewers List 

 

I’m going to try to catch up on my sleep after I link to all my May Love in Panels reviews! Love you and I look forward talking about inclusive romance with you on Twitter all year long!

 

 

 

 


#RomBkLove May 2019, Day 3: Magic and Monsters

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Elisabeth Lane is long-time romance reader & reviewer. She has also recently started a booktube channel, where you can follow her adventures in not-buying books and reading through her TBR.  She is a huge fan of table-top role-playing games, and she knew her husband would be a keeper when he gifted her with an overpowered sword.  I am sure this immersion in the world of magic and monster-slaying inspired her choice of topic! 

 

Magic and Monsters

What are your favorite paranormal romance and urban fantasy series? And what are your favorite lesser-known books, series and sub-genres featuring magic and monsters? 

 

Day 3 Tweet Archive

 

How to participate?

Readers: Respond to the prompts! Share your favorite books, characters, scenes, or thoughts on tropes.  Make sure to include the #RomBkLove hashtag with your tweet! If you have read and loved a book by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and/or  Authors of Color that fits the prompt please, please mention it.  You might think everyone has heard of the book but I can guarantee you there are lots of people who still need to hear about it.  

Authors: You are welcome to participate too, as fellow readers. The tag is not meant for self-promotion. Boost fellow authors, celebrate the community but do so in a way that respect reader spaces. Respect the conversation.   Join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” but please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo. 

For a list of all of these month's prompts and archives go to: https://www.anacoqui.com/2019/04/rombklove-may-2019-celebrating-inclusive-romance.html


Love in Panels Review of Hired by Zoey Castile (Happy Endings Book 2).

HiredcoverabsAlthough I really liked the characters and the setting this is a DNF review!

This book had a fabulously hot beginning with it is white-hot flirtation/hookup but when I had to bow out when Adrien kept delaying telling Faith a crucial piece of information, and I lost patience with the sight-seeing around NOLA with that hanging over the couple. 

 

For the rest of the review visit: Love in Panels


What can I do?

In the wake of the #ritassowhite  and the growing awareness of how black authors are systematically discriminated against in the romance community, there has been a lot conversations about what we can do as readers and reviewers.  For all the attention we pay to the Ritas each year most readers, bloggers and reviewers are not and will never be RWA members. I am librarian member, which is a limited membership, that doesn't give me access to the forums or allow me to vote.  But the pronounced discrimination against Black and Indigenous writers at RWA and prejudice and exclusion of Authors of Color more generally is an industry wide problem.  As a reader, blogger, and reviewer I am part of that industry. I might be unpaid but I know that I am part of the industry, thus part of the problem.

You might be asking yourself, "What can I do?"

 

Track Your Reading:

Inspired by others, last year I started keeping a reading log, so I could get a better idea of how inclusive my reading really was. It is very easy to think one is reading inclusively because the white/straight default is so strong and nothing like hard numbers and charts to make you aware of how far there is to go.  This is the first thing I would recommend to readers who wants to do more.  You can't recognize patterns until you look at your data.  I would suggest you start simply. Just a spreadsheet with the books your read and a couple of categories you will want to track. My spreadsheet this year is more granular, but I didn't really know what I really cared to learn till I looked at the first round of data.

Evaluate Who You Follow:

When I first came into Romance I mostly followed white reviewers and authors. They were the biggest names, the most visible and the most retweeted. They had their books in the library and on the RITA lists.  And as a result almost everything I read was written by white authors.

Really look at who you follow, it matters. Do you have black bloggers on your follow lists?  Do you read the reviews of Black, Asian, Latinx  & LGBTQIA+ readers?  Do you follow their Instas? If you are not, it isn't because they aren't out there on their platforms. Their work is invisible to you because you haven't looked for them.   Once you find someone who is giving good inclusive recs, look at who they follow. We all influence each other. 

The big publishers have advertising and promo budgets, and access to us through their newsletter databases.  We've all seen how certain books are seemingly are everywhere, that isn't simply organic, that is marketing. If you are already an established author, that ARC is an easier sell to readers and reviewers, more likely to be coveted and talked about, more likely that folks with big platforms were approached and offered the book. Privilege builds on privilege.

 

Read Someone New:

We all have favorite authors, authors who are auto-buys, authors whose books we drop everything else to read. Our TBRs get crowded, and maybe you are mood reader, and prone to re-read binges. We can very easily let our reading be dictated by others. We want to be part of the conversation, read that hot book everyone else is reading. But I urge you to try a book a black author whose work you have never read before.  Make room for them on your reading shelf in between your favorites.

If you have a favorite-can't-miss tropes, you can search WoCinRomance's database for ideas, look at Girl, Have you Read's weekly new release list, or maybe try one of those three 2019 POC Rita finalists (Courtney Milan's organizing a virtual bookclub to do this: Romance Sparks Joy). If you are reviewer, sign up for Love in Panels/BawdyBookworms/Jenreadsromance's Diverse Romances Press List and get a monthly list of new and upcoming books by AOC and LGBTQIA+ authors.  Also if you didn't look at them in the past take a look at the #Rombklove prompt posts, as we tried to create diverse and inclusive lists for our prompts.

Reading and then talking about you read, leaving reviews is time-tested  and effective way to support authors.  Hopefully you will like me turn those New-to-Me authors into your new Auto-buy authors.

Recommend books by AOC to your Library:

 

Melinda's tweet reminded me of another simple action readers can take.  If you library uses the Overdrive ebook system or collects patron recommendations, take the time to suggest your library purchase books by authors of color.  Many people rely solely on their library collections and the diversity of collections varies widely. 


Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch

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Lord Thornby’s debauched and provocative London life came to an abrupt end when his father seemingly incensed at his latest outrageous stunt drags him back to the family estate. Once there Soren discovers he can’t leave, not because he would be disowned or cut off but because he literally can’t, his father able to mysteriously compel him to stay in the ever-shrinking debt ridden estate.  He is close to despair when his step-mother returns from home with an unexpected and mysterious guest.

John Blake is a materials magician, working magic through inanimate objects, listening to the whispering of the walls and  the chattering of chairs. He feels decidedly out of his element in the rural ramshackle manor, but a good friend has asked him to investigate who is magically harassing, his sister, the new Lady Dalton. At first he is convinced the eccentrically dressed and oddly-behaved Lord Thornby is responsible, until he sees through Soren’s cutting and dismissive words and witnesses his torment.  Together they must uncover what kind of magic is at work, and secrets are key to Lord’s Dalton’s hold over Soren.

I really enjoyed listening to this book. I loved the twisty Gothic/paranormal elements on what at first seems like traditional historical romance premise. Thornby’s shock & horror at realizing he is trapped and his suspicion that he can’t simply free himself by agreeing to marry an heiress like his father demands, unless he can figure out why his father, a previously cruel but non-magical person has managed it. I am also a sucker for bad first impressions and John and Soren start out  as suspicious of each other as they are attracted. The tension over whether they can trust or believe each other is delicious, because they each have very good reasons to distrust each other.

Welch did a fabulous job teasing out the mystery and complicating the picture for everyone involved. She also created some fantastically engaging secondary characters to populate the curse household, including the adventurous and sharp-witted Lady Amelia. I particularly enjoyed seeing Lady Dalton’s opinion about what is happening, and of her husband change throughout the novel. Her desire to retain her dignity and regain some power in their relationship felt very real. Of all the characters in the book, I would l really love to read some more about her as she needs a HEA of her own.

The worldbuilding was fascinating, especially because it incorporated class differences and prejudice into its development. Set in the rapidly industrializing Victorian era, John’s material’s based magic is in its ascendancy, but he is hampered by the disdain of his demon-wielding theogist teachers, whose center of power, Politics and religion are losing ground to Industry but whose wrong-headed opinions still hold sway in academic settings. I loved that Blake comes to realize that his fellow magicians have lost a great deal of knowledge about more rural folk magics that leave him unprepared to deal with what he experiences at the estate.

I listened to ending in one fell swoop because I need to know how the story would be resolved and while I was fully satisfied with John and Soren’s HEA, I wish we could have had some sort of epilogue that gave some sense who everyone else on the estate, responded, recovered and moved on.

I had not previously listened to any books narrated by Joel Leslie but he did a wonderful job differentiating the voices of the characters, capably capturing desperation, desire, urgency, archness and tenderness.

Content Warnings: Homophobia, incarceration, kidnapping/abduction, mention/description of past trauma (physical, emotional and sexual abuse).

I received a review copy of Salt Magic, Skin Magic from the author, Lee Welch.


Love in Panels Review: American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

American-dreamerMy review of American Dreamer is up at Love in Panels!

Ernesto Vasquez might have been born in the Dominican Republic but he is a die-hard New Yorker at heart. His food truck, OuNYe’s menu expresses the special fusion of his New York city childhood, where the Afro-caribbean flavors of his heritage and that of his Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jamaican and Haitian best-friends, nourished and united them. Making his food truck a success is his driving objective because Nesto can’t live on passion alone, he needs his truck to turn a profit. Willing to try anything, Nesto has given himself six months Upstate in his mother Nurys’s new town of Ithaca, in a last ditch effort to keep his dream aflot. If he fails to find customers, he will pack it in and head back to NYC and find new dreams.

Jude Fuller is a young adult librarian with a passion for outreach to underserved communities, like rural LGBTQIA+ youth who don’t have regular or easy access to the local library. For years he has been working to see his bookmobile project funded and this might finally be the year. While it is small town curiosity and the lure of delicious flavors that bring Jude to OuNYe, it is Nesto’s flirtatious smiles and smooth moves that he can’t resist. However, Jude is determined to counter his BFF's matchmaking antics as he has no desire not risk heartbreak again. Jude wants to keep things nice and casual, but he soon finds himself caring and wanting more from Nesto.

Nesto and Jude’s relationship starts off playful and sexy with with great joyous energy and bilingual banter. But underneath Jude’s sunny and saucy sauntering lurks a painful emotional history and anxiety that makes him hesitate pursuing anyone, particularly someone whose focus and ambition might not keep him in Ithaca. Nesto is also conflicted about his inability to ignore his attraction to Jude. Being distracted from his primary reason for being in Ithaca brings up its own kind of angst.

Tension over the risk of pursuing a relationship, fear that commitment might not be evenly felt, and how to balance relationship and career goals are central to the story. Both Jude and Nesto have moments where they realize how deep in denial they have been, and I loved how their actions often betrayed their real feelings for each other long before they are willing to name their attraction or relationship.

This book was chock-full of delicious food, fascinating and engaging secondary characters and had a great sense of place. Herrera brings to life Ithaca’s many social and economic contrasts. I loved Nesto’s rowdy, nosey and loving extended Latinx family and the friends who drop everything to help him and wish him well. In contrast Jude’s religious and emotionally abusive family felt sketched in and somewhat like cardboard cutouts.

Misty, the petty and malicious antagonistic harasser of both Jude and Nesto was at times grandly cartoonish but not unrealistic in this day and age of meme-able white ladies calling 911 on innocent picnickers for simply being POC. Misty’s use and abuse of public servants such as cops & health inspectors seem instead frighteningly believable.

I also loved how Herrera showed Nesto and Jude’s different responses to the harassment. The differing ways they responded to Misty’s behavior is deeply informed by their own prior experiences and whether they felt it would spill onto others. I particularly appreciated how Nesto’s attitude of calm disengagement was a result of a life-long experience with racism and Jude’s internalized anger a scar from growing up closeted in an insular community that would eventually shun him for failing to conform to their expectations.

As much as I loved the book overall and the characters most of all, there was some wonky pacing in the middle of the book with weeks going by in a few paragraphs. I felt that I lost a sense of how long Jude and Nesto circled around each other, how long they were actively together before things started to go sideways or how far into Nesto’s six months we had progressed. I am also not a grand-gesture/big grovel reader, and the ending of this book has a big one. The gesture makes intellectual sense but it didn’t hit my emotional buttons, because it seemed to gloss over some serious communication and expectations issues that Nesto and Jude must address for their HEA to feel solid.

 

American Dreamer is angsty and sexy with a strong supporting cast and I am eager to read the future books in the series. I do recommend readers identify a source for Caribbean food before they start reading American Dreamer, as it is sure to inspire a desperate hankering for its Caribbean flavors.

 

I received a review copy from the author.

 

 

 

Content Warnings: Cancer Death (relative of one of the MCs), religious extremist family, Homophobia, Racist language, racist harassment. 


Episode 2 of Beyond the Sectors is out! It is all about Beyond Control.

Copy of Beyond
Find the second episode of Beyond The Sectors on  iTunes and Podbean.

Ana and Chelsea giddily discuss the tumultuous romance between the King and Queen of Sector Four. Dallas and Lex have been circling around each other for years, risk and desire in balance until an inflammatory tattoo changes everything.

Find the show notes over at: https://beyondthesectors.com/


Beyond the Sectors, Episode 1: Beyond Shame is live!

Hey fellow O'Kane for lifers, the first episode of the Beyond the Sectors Podcast is now live!

 

The podcast is already available for download via podbean . The itunes link will come soon!