My first review of the year is over that Love in Panels. I reviewed Holley Trent's Coyote's Comfort. It is a f/f novella in the Masters of Maria series that was a wonderful introduction to the series while working well as a standalone.
64. Destiny’s Surrender: Billie, a sex worker flees SF a thug tries to steal her son. She goes to the only place she knows he will be safe, his father’s family ranch, unwittingly interrupting his engagement party! Resentment & mistrust must overcome for their HEA. #bkbrk— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) July 23, 2018
Billie Wells doesn't believe in fairy tales. Her life has always been hard and she has done everything to survive from picking pockets, scavenging and once her body started changing, sex work. While the attention and care Drew Yates is undeniable, she can't let herself rely on it or even let herself believe in it. She knows who she is and what they are. She is his whore, not his wife or novilla and can't imagine a world where she would be anything but that. She still soaks up whatever nuggets of knowledge of the world and culture he shares with her, treasures the gifts, the chocolates, and silks he brings on his visits and big and small the luxuries they are to enjoy when they are together. When she learns she is pregnant she doesn't even consider contacting him, not just because he has been away for months, but because they have never been exclusive for longer than a few days at time, so many other clients could have fathered her child. Though she misses him terribly, her choices and consequences are her own to deal with.
Drew Yates knows it is time of him to settle down. While his mind often wanders back to Billie when he isn't with her, he knows he needs to find himself a proper Spanish bride to bring back to his mother. When months of spent among friends and family in Mexico don't yield any likely candidates he renews his search in Yerba Buena (San Francisco). While he doesn't find any women with Billie's curiosity, directness and strength of will, he does identify a young woman, whose poise and beauty catch his attention, among all the young ladies hiding behind their duennas, even though her mother is a terror. He can only hope his mother will be able to nurture her into blossoming. Spotting a heavily pregnant and haggard looking Billie almost distracts him from his chosen course but her adamant rejection and dismissal, makes him more determined to start this new phase of life. But when an old enemy threatens Billie and her young son, surprisingly, his own, his carefully planning is for naught.
I adored Billie. She is fierce and flinty. She doesn't sink into self-pity or regret for the tough choices she's had to make her whole life and she doesn't anyone shame her. She doesn't ever expect anyone to stand up for her, but has genuine affection when someone willfully and knowingly do so, from Addie, to Alanza to Mariah. Jenkins doesn't sugar coat or gloss over the hardships faced by sex workers from abuse and exploitation by pimps and johns, social isolation, the risks of disease, pregnancy and abortion, but the sex workers themselves are never vilified. They are working people and have their relationships with their johns and fellow sex workers shaped by it. The other women have been competitors and peers and while some of their patrons have been kind, others detestable and most forgettable. Her frankness unsettles many but I loved watching her interact with Alanza, who while bold and courageous has still been incredibly sheltered by her upbringing and station in life. I also love how Alanza who is devoutly catholic, never shames Bilie for anything but the time that Drew and Billie lose themselves in screaming match, frightening Antonio.
Drew goes on a journey in this book. His whole life is upended. Learning he is already a father, having his carefully cultivated engagement shattered and facing scandal just as his career faces other threats is a lot, but he also has to come to terms with his own feelings about Billie, something he has determinedly tried to ignore for years. Learning to do the hard work of loving someone rather than simply depending on his charm was great to see. He has to unlearn so many selfish and self-centered habits in order to earn a place in Billie and Antonio's life and it was lovely to see him do the work.
As I previously experienced in with other of Jenkins' novels, I loved the secondary characters. Alanza continues to shine as a steadfast but demanding mother, starting to embrace her own life as her sons grow and find their life-partners. She is a doting grandmother and someone on the cusp of experiencing a sexual awakening of her own. I also loved Addie, the New Orleans born, mid-wife/seer, who rescues and shelters Billie and gains the revenge she long sought. I was also curious about Rosa, Drew's smothered and sheltered ex-novilla and wondered if she will find her own HEA in Monterrey among Drew's Mexican family.
Destiny's Surrender's audiobook was fabulously narrated by Thomas Penny as I literally couldn't stop listening and he captured both Drew and Billie's emotional ranges!
I highly recommend Destiny's Surrender for its fierce and flinty heroine and for having the hero do the emotional work necessary to regain the trust of his heroine.
48. Therese Beharrie ‘s Suprise Baby, Second Chance (eARC, 8/7) forced-proximity, SAfrican-set m/f. Rosa left their seemingly happy marriage without a word & their near reconciliation has consequences.Strong emotional conflict as they face their anxieties https://t.co/BbUvioLYKK
— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) June 23, 2018
Rosa walked away from what Aaron thought had been a happy marriage. Her surprise abandonment, shattered his confidence and his sense of what they had together. It is Rosa who is blindsided when she walks into what she expects is her mother-in-law's birthday bash to find herself stranded alone with her estranged husband at his family's vacation home.
Stuck together for the weekend, Rosa and Aaron can no longer avoid talking about the hidden guilt and anxiety that has driven them apart. Despite the fact that they both care deeply about each and still are deeply attracted they find a way to reconcile and overcome the ways they have denied each other trust and intimacy when they needed it most.
Beharrie has her characters unpack and reckon which whole host of mental anguishes and anxieties that stem from the very particular way they met. Cancer, caretaking and parental abandonment both physical and emotional play a huge role in their relationship dynamics, more than each of them realize at the start of the novel.
The escalation of their confrontations and the very realistic way they spiral off-topic to other sensitive topics felt very real, especially they way to very verbal people can talk circles around each other while failing to understand what the core conflict really is.
The book felt emotionally true, especially Rosa's conflicting desires and questioning of her choices and her deep fear of becoming someone Aaron comes to resent. Aaron's struggles to confront his own anxieties about being someone deserving of love where equally heartbreaking.
And this is all before they have to figure out how to respond at the news of an unplanned pregnancy.
This book packs an emotional wallop that never shies away from the very un-cute downsides of forced proximity scenarios. I appreciate how truly uncomfortable it is not to be able to escape an emotionally intense conversation because you are literally trapped in a the room together and then seemingly trapped in a relationship because of impulsive choice.
Neither of these characters responds in all the right ways. They really struggle which makes their efforts at trying to put together their relationship and becoming more accepting of their own mental health struggles was highly emotional book to read.
An ARC of Surprise Baby, Second Chance was provided by the author, Therese Beharrie for review consideration.
Surprise Baby, Second Chance is available for pre-order right now and it due for release on Aug 7, 2018.
I accepted Suzanne's invitation to join the Love in Panels Review team. I will be reviewing one or two books a month for them.
Ever since RT announced that it will be closing, I've been trying to figure out it I wanted to join another group venture or just write for myself. This is the best of both worlds. I have total freedom of what I choose to review for Love in Panels, and I get to support a review blog I respect.
I'll always link to my reviews here too, but I hope you add Love in Panels to your bookmarks!
We are thrilled to welcome @anacoqui to Love in Panels with her first review! Ana talks about RESORT TO LOVE, a new contemporary romance from Priscilla Oliveras that's a second-chance, enemies-to-lovers story set at a resort! https://t.co/bAUMfMQHh1— Love in Panels (@LoveinPanels) June 12, 2018
Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras is the third book in Tule’s Paradise Key multi-author series about a set of friends who return to the Floridian island where they all met for the funeral of a dear friend. Each of the books can be read as standalones. Like Oliveras’s previous novels it features a Puerto Rican heroine and it is a sweet and sexy closed door romance that is not lacking in sexual tension. Oliveras’s recurring core theme of balancing faith, family and love in order find happiness drives this story of ex-lovers reunited as rivals in a real-estate transaction.
Sofía Vargas grew up spending her summers with her Tía Mili on Paradise Key, eventually joining her aunt as a summer worker at the Paradise Key Beach Resort. It was at Paradise Key where she first met Nate Hamilton, son of the resort owners, sent to Paradise Key to learn the family business from the bottom up. Always aware of the huge gulf between them, Sofía set up the boundaries for their romance, as simply “no strings, just fun”. They spent their summers sharing picnics on the beach, and dances in the moonlight. Eventually after they both left Paradise Key for college and then careers in the hospitality industry, flirty texts, frequent phone calls, romantic getaways weekends kept their connection alive if undefined until the day that Nate came to let her know that his family expected him to propose to daughter of business partner as a way of solidifying a potential business merger. Never wanting to be the cause of division in his family she cut ties with Nate then and there.
Two years later and newly freed from the engagement he never wanted and once again on the outs with his overbearing father, Nate finds himself exiled back to Florida. Sent on fact-finding mission, to assess potential real estate targets for acquisition, Nate is sidetracked when he runs into Sofía outside the shuttered and storm-damaged Paradise Key Resort, which his family had sold off many years earlier. The awkwardness of their uncomfortable reunion is magnified when they realize they are both planning on submitting rival bids to re-open the resort. While Sofía hopes that Nate will once again walk away, the quicker the better for her hurting heart, Nathan sees it as an opportunity to re-write history and stop letting his family dictactate his actions and reclaim his life and love.
Oliveras does a wonderful job portraying Sofía’s Puerto Rican heritage, and how Sofía’s sense of family extends beyond her immediate family, to include her friends and can even encompass her relationship with her boss and business mentor Sal and his wife Vivi. By contrast, Nate’s is a loveless business venture masquerading as family, where his father seeks to dominate and micro-manages rather than encouraging and supporting. I loved how this came to play in the resolution, especially as Sofía has to reconsider how certain assumptions, omissions and decisions in both their parts were results of their very different senses of family. The reconciliation is not easy gained but Nate puts in the work through the whole novel by being there for Sofía when she most needs him, never wavering, showing his maturity and determination and taking the emotional risks. It earns him the trust that lets him pull of a big romantic gesture with a high potential for failure at the 11th hour.
The one sour note in this novel is the cartoonishly stereotypical (although not mean-spirited) portrayal of Paul, the sole gay character in the book. Paul is Sofía’s trusted assistant hotel manager, who is juggling managing several properties on his own while Sofía is away yet his flamboyant and gregarious personality is played for comic relief. Had there been more LGBT characters in the book, it wouldn’t have stood out, but there is only one other character, Vida, the spacey-hippyish town planning board member, that has their mannerisms or way of dress are singled out in this way. It was disappointing but mercifully brief.
The one stand-out supporting character in the novel is Sofía’s Tia Mili, who I hope returns in her own solo novella or novel. Widowed young, she has built a life for herself in the community she shared with her beloved husband David. Despite the loss she is vibrantly joyful and wise, and successful small business owner. I would love to see her find love again.
Resort to Love was a emotional read that balanced angst with humor for sweet and hopeful romance about valuing family and knowing when to risk it all by laying everything out on the table.
Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras (Book 3 in the Paradise Key Series), Tule Publishing Group, May 15,2018, ($8.99 print, 3.99 e-book). 978-1949068283 214 pp.
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Content Warnings: Medical drama for a father figure secondary character, references to the unexpected death of a friend, subpar gay rep.
Rep: Allocishet M/F Contemporary, Latina heroine, White hero.
37. Rome’s Chance by Joanna Wylde. 2nd chance-ish Dental Hygienist heroine, hero is not going to miss his moment. My night was weirdly emotional/drama filled offline tonight, so I don’t have a lot of perspective but it held my interest when I really needed the distraction.— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 26, 2018
Joanna Wylde's books are really hit or miss for me usually. I either love them or I hate read them but either way I rarely put them down because they are really emotionally engrossing. This was a second-chance at love/reunion romance for two minor characters in a book I hate read (Reaper's Fire), yet I really liked it.
Randi has been taking care of her siblings since she was just a kid because of her mom's addiction issues. The warring feelings of love and resentment Randi feels for her mother were very well portrayed as were Randi's creeping awareness that things have been going terribly for her youngest siblings while she has been away at school in a different town. Despite Randi's complicated feeling for her mother, Wylde was surprisingly compassionate in the portrayal.
Rome is a classic caretaker hero, thankfully without the asshole bossiness qualities that often comes packaged with the caretaker alpha character type in Biker novels. He truly cares for Randi, and put in the effort to be there for her when she can't cope. He understands the ups and downs of her grief and sticks even when she lashes out. Randi's self-protective, self-denial and a real sense that she just doesn't have the energy for a a relationship, doesn't faze him, because he is there not to get something for himself, but because he wants to take care of her.
“We’ll date later,” he told me, dropping back down in front of me. “Maybe next year. Until then, I’ll be the guy fucking you. And the guy who bandages up your feet. You can cry on me, too, but I’m not gonna let you dump me until we’ve had a real chance. Sooner or later, you’ll be ready to live again. I can wait.” -- Rome's Chance by Joanna Wylde
Recent Reads: Mini-Reviews of my April Reading including books by Kristen Ashley, Holley Trent, Lauren Dane and Deanna Raybourn
30. Rock Chick Reborn by Kristen Ashley. The problematic rep in this was baked in long ago when Ashley created Shrileen, so I can't recommend it to anyone, especially when so much makes me shake my head, however I did enjoy having the Hot Bunch/Rock Chicks play matchmaker.— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 6, 2018
This surprise novella gives an HEA to a longstanding supporting character in the Rock Chick series, Shirleen, the former poker-game running, black office manager at Lee Investigations, whose over-the-top meddling has incited many a romantic conflicts in the series. She is now a devoted single foster mother to two teenage boys on the brink of manhood. As a character Shirleen has always been problematic, and this book is no exception.
When a handsome man tries to pick her up at the grocery store, she first runs from his attention and then soaks it in, saving his number despite being determined not to ever call him because she is sure her sketchy past, precludes her from deserving of the HEAs she has helped engineer for her girlfriends have all received. So the Rock Chicks and the Hot Bunch intervene.
What I really enjoyed about this romance was the care Moses took in building up his relationship with Shirleen. He knows she is skittish with good reason, so he puts in the work. They have long phone-calls, romantic dinners and is there for her breaking down the barriers to her believing she deserves to be happy and that someone can love her despite her complicated history.
31. Puerto Rico Strong Anthology. Tackles Boricuan anxieties about our history, identity and future, in vastly contrasting storytelling & art styles from political/socio-historical tracts, to autobiographical vignettes to futuristic superhero stories. https://t.co/CMrUCKaRfC— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 14, 2018
Like all anthologies there are some really great stories and some so-so ones and all of them are no longer than a handfuls of pages. My favorites were "Here" by Ronnie Garcia, "Stories from my father" by Adam Lance Garcia and Heidi Black, "A Broken Promesa" by Rosa Colon and "Blame it on 'Rico" by Alberto 'Tito' Serrano, It will be a great document to use try to unpack all the cultural anxieties experienced by Puerto Ricans and the Boricuan Diaspora. I was also once again fascinated by the amount of projection we Puerto Ricans are able channel into Taino imagery as an expression of anti-colonial sentiment. I understand the impulse and desire to reclaim that lost heritage but I feel we run the danger of colonizing them once more with our narratives. Puerto Rico has a lot more wrestling to do in the present with its colonial reality and reading this anthology made me feel a lot less alone, as I recognize so much of the home I grew up in, the worries and hopes I have for it and the murkiness of its future in it.
32. Norseton Wolves Mate Call: Beast by Holley Trent Intreguing worldbuilding but the hero’s self-hating reaction to a recent disability & his desire to override the heroine’s choices didn’t work for me. Not my tropes but will try others Free via KU: https://t.co/I1BBFvk1Pb— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 14, 2018
An abused, low-ranking wolf female jumps at a chance to leave her wretched home back by answering a mating call. Arriving to a new pack as modern-day mail-order bride of sorts, she has no idea what to expect, and only has the hope that these wolves will be better, less brutal and that her role as wife, rather than a single female will be more secure. Only when she arrives her assigned mate doesn't want her. Determined not to go back, she sets out to out-stubborn him. I quite liked the heroine and her hope and determination. She is practical and clear-eyed about the society she has grown up in, and it was a treat to see her grown in confidence as she realizes her world need not be as small as it was before.
However I didn't care for the hero or his self-hating about his new disability. His view of himself as lesser and unworthy as mate, and that didn't work for me. I particularly didn't like how long it took him to realize that his determination to reject her was about overriding her choices. And I didn't like that in the end he was containing to insist in denying her the bite that would allow her to shift fully after reconciling himself to the blessing of having her as his wife. I did like the rest of the world, so I will eventually read the rest of these, but I think I will jump to the Viking Queen's Men book everyone else is raving about first.
33. Giving Chase by Lauren Dane: Small-town Cinderella story with evil vain mom & sister.Loved the opening were we didn't know who the hero was in the early chapters but heroine's insecurity & constant competition with other women turned me off. CW: stalker https://t.co/K3qZyPLUao— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 17, 2018
I really loved the beginning of this book. I loved how the heroine's dating life was messy and how realistically she responded the attention and interest after her mini-makeover. She basks in the new-found male attention but doesn't lose sight of her boundaries. When one of her dates starts getting possessive, and clingy, she reacts in reasonable ways, mildly rebuking, trying to distance herself while also being aware of the potential danger.
However I didn't like how much the story relied on portraying women outside the heroine's friendship circle, and in the hero's past as vain and bitchy and how often the heroine had to stake her claim through uncomfortable confrontations. I really hate the trope that the hero has only date terrible women in the past and finally find the one.
35. A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell #3, in audio). Veronica & Stoker's relationship moved forward, some & old hurts were exorcised. I enjoyed spending time with them and seeing Veronica choosing her place in the world, the mystery was quite dull. #bkbrk— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 18, 2018
I continue to enjoy how matter-of-factly lecherous Veronica can be. She owns her sexual desire and has no shame in claiming her extensive sexual history. In this book I did love how she uses her flirtations with Stoker, to soothe or aggravate him depending on what he needs at the time and how she has come to realize that her feelings for him go well beyond wanting to shag him. The mystery however was quite dull and Veronica and Stoker spent too much spinning their wheels.
Last year I wrote a post breaking down the RITA finalists list against the books I happened to read the year before (2017) and looking at the list to see which books were in my TBR in order to move them up before the annual ceremony in July. This year when the list was announced there were a few first time finalists that made me super happy (Congratulations, Alexis Daria and Priscilla Oliveras & KJ Charles) but there were so many fabulous books especially by Authors of Color that didn't final this year that at the end of day, I didn't feel a great RITA bounce.
This past month and half has been rough in Romancelandia. First were the waves of revelations of abuse and harassment in m/m, that affected a lot of readers and writers I read, then the RITAs announcement day came and went, and it just highlighted how segregated Romancelandia can be. Since then Black authors have been sharing incredibly painful stories of exclusion. These stories are not new, but hopefully more people will hear them this time around.
At the same time my friend Jen (@jenreadsromance) had started work on website full of romance novel recommendations: https://www.jenreadsromance.com/, a place where a reader could find starter romances in many of romance's rich sub-genres. She is intentionally working on creating an inclusive list that is searchable by theme and time period. It is something I wish I had stumbled upon when I was first starting. I started by exploring my library's ebook collection first and that collection was mostly white, assembled by purchasing from the RITA finalists lists.
Eventually I left that mostly-white corner of Romancelandia behind, but not before I had developed the mistaken notion that African American and other POC simply didn't write the books I was looking for. Instead I accepted the crumbs of having white writers who would very occasionally throw in a token or stereotypical CoC into their books, when looking for characters like me. While I was growing bored, restless and increasingly angry with these book and I kept saying I wish, someone would write X but with POC. It took me a ridiculously long time to realize I was the problem because I was the one limiting myself. The problem wasn't that no one was writing that, it was that I wasn't looking at what POC writers were doing. The books were out there waiting for me, but I didn't know where to find them or who to ask. That was no one's problem but my own. I had to change how I discovered books. Some of it was organic, as I got more involved in Romancelandia, I met more PoC readers, as I followed them, I became exposed to authors and books I hadn't encountered before.
As I moved into reviewing I became more intentional about reading outside the narrow corner of Romancelandia I had first landed in. Some of it was unintentional, because I am not a big blog, I didn't just depend on what I saw available in Netgalley or Edelweiss, several authors that have grown into favorites approached me, sending in a review request . I am not going to pretend that my blog is this diverse wonderland but being willing to review what I buy for myself and accepting author pitches has certainly exposed me to tons of authors I would have never reviewed otherwise.
This week has reminded how other folks might end up just not knowing about great books and great authors of color because no one in their immediate circle talks about them. I might think everyone knows who Farrah Rochon or Alisha Rai or Beverly Jenkins is but honestly too many people don't. They might not see their books in bookstores, they might not see them listed as read-a-likes. Ask me how weird it was to walk into a B&N last year and have to hunt around to find just a couple of non-white authors on the shelves. So many of my faves were missing and it was a wake-up call about just how much further we need to go as industry to be inclusive despite how affirming my own twitter TL might be.
I can't fix the whole industry or those who don't actually want to read awesome books but I can talk about some of fantastic authors of color publishing right now. It is not a hardship to come up with fabulous Authors of Color to recommend, it is a hardship to stop.
Reading more authors of color should not be though of as homework or a challenge. These are just great books that you have overlooked. They & their authors are not there to teach you a lesson. They have the same purpose as other romance novels. Enjoy the HEAs!— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 4, 2018
So who should you try? If you follow this blog the names I mention here should not surprise you. But if this is your first visit here:
These are some of my favorites:
Farrah Rochon (Contemporary & Sports Romance): Rochon writes contemporary romance set in the south. Most of her books take place in small town and cities not far from New Orleans. My favorite is her Moments in Maplesville Series, they are about people seeing their towns grown and change, worrying about big box stores moving in and whether they should move to bigger cities for better opportunities. The first book in The Moments in Maplesville series (which can be read as standalones),A Perfect Holiday Fling is about temporary single dad (his widowed sister is deployed overseas, so the former naval pilot moves in to take care of his nephew) and the recently divorce veterinarian he meets when they discover an abandoned cat.
She also wrote sports romance for Kimani, so if you are looking for football romance that are not improbably all-white check those out. She is a huge Broadway fan, so I hope one days she gives us Broadway-set romance.
Alisha Rai(Contemporary & Erotic Romance) has been on my favorite author list for a long time. I read and enjoyed a lot of her erotic romances, Serving Pleasure & Gentleman in the Street but I have adored her Forbidden Hearts series for Avon (Reviews for Hate to Want You, Wrong to Need You, Hurts to Love You.) She tackles huge themes, creates a fantastic family saga that takes three books to resolve and left me wanting more while doing an amazing job portraying the many faces of anxiety and depression. These people are complicated and fascinating and I loved them. So if you like angsty romance novels where lots of tropes are subverted and upended in swoony ways, check Alisha Rai's books out.
Ruby Lang (Contemporary) writes smart, funny contemporary romances with strong female friendships and prickly heroines. I've liked each book in her Practice Perfect series better than the one before and I quite liked the first, Acute Reactions. I loved Hard Knocks, book 2 and suddenly I got her, then Clean Breaks, and now Lang is one of those authors, I auto-buy. Most recently I simply adored her story in Rogue Acts, The Long Run.
Rebekah Weatherspoon's (Contemporary, Erotic Romance & PNR) Beards and Bondage series books Haven and Sanctuary start off with a bang, each of these RS-tinged contemporary romances feature the heroine surviving attempts on their lives. The openings are intense and gripping and immediately caught my attention but the meat of the books are these strong black women falling for big gruff mean that are secret marshmallows and are people they can lean and depend on. I also really enjoyed her Sugar Baby series of novellas about a woman, Kayla, desperately trying to make ends meet, whose roommate convinces her to Sugar Daddy mixer event, in hopes of finding someone who will be happy to help pay some of her bills in exchange for a little companionship. Totally miserable at the event, she tries to hide out in side room and ends up meeting the organizer of the event, and they have to figure out how to negotiate a real relationship. This is not a trope that typically appeals to me but this series was delightful, and Kayla and Michael are adorable and I loved spending time with them as they figured out their HEA.
Do you enjoy geeky heroes and heroines or raunchy stories of sexy revenge? Well Melissa Blue/Dakota Gray writes them both! (Contemporary & Erotic Romance) In early 2016, I read Under His Kilt, about co-workers who have fling and I ended up searching out the rest of her backlist and it so worth reading. I have to admit to hesitating in trying Perv when a few people on my TL started recommending it, I didn't know at the time that Dakota Gray was another pen name for Melissa Blue, and I was frankly put off my the hero's aggressive cockiness in the blurb. But I finally gave in after a good friend whose recs I trusted raved. It so fun. I am heroine-centric reader and I adored the heroine, Robyn, she is not here for the hero's shit, she is hero to teach him a lesson and it all gets very sexy and complicated.
Priscilla Oliveras (Closed-door Contemporary Romance) RITA nominated debut, His Perfect Partner and its newly released follow-up Her Perfect Affair should be on your TBR if you want to read emotional romances, centered on sisterhood and family. It was such a joy to read a heroines who shared so much with me, who respond in such believable ways. These stories might be closed door but they don't lack in tension and sexiness. I am really looking forward to the third book, coming out later this year.
Mia Sosa writes great tropey Contemporary romances. I have really enjoyed her Love on Cue series for Avon Impulse. In the first two books she has mashed a lots of great tropes ( secret identity, vacation fling, best-friend's little sister, fake relationship) and combined them with great premises and an interesting and diverse cast of supporting characters to create highly-enjoyable romances.
Acting on Impulse features an Afro-Puerto Rican fitness trainer who has just gotten dumped on the radio by her politician boyfriend and decides to jet off for an island getaway. On the plane she meets Carter Williamson, a television star traveling incognito to an island resort after a grueling film schedule. Carter tries to make a play for Tori knowing she doesn't recognize him and when she finds out she is not happy and she puts him through his paces before she lets him into her heart.
Sosa has a new book coming out next week, Pretending He's Mine that I was lucky enough to read early (I have been beta reading for Mia for a couple of years) featuring Carter's agent and best friend Julian and Carter's little sister Ashley.
Alyssa Cole has rightly has gained a lot praise for her excellent historical romances, some of my favorites are An Extraordinary Union, Let it Shine and Let us Dream and she also has fantastic new series of royal themed contemporary romances, Reluctant Royals, on the go right now, but the first series I read from Alyssa was the first book in dystopian series, Off the Grid, Radio Silence. That just shows you a little of the range of stories Cole is able to tell. What all those stories have in common of fantastic engaging heroines, who are bright, determined and ready to kickass.
I have been reading Sherry Thomas (Historical Fiction, Mystery with Romantic Elements, Fantasy and Contemporary Fiction) for a long time. Remember that mostly-white collection of RITA finalists stuffed ebooks collection I mentioned in the intro? In it was Sherry Thomas so as a result I had the opportunity to read a lot of her historical fiction. I am huge fan of her current mystery-with-romantic elements series, Lady Sherlock. Her prose is beautiful and I adore the moral dilemmas and complications they have tackle. I really enjoyed her story in the Sight Unseen anthology which was the galactic romantic myth "The Heart is a Universe", that reminded I really need to get around to reading her Burning Sky series sometime soon.
This is just a smattering of fantastic Authors of Color. There are so many more, some with huge fan bases and others with smaller followings, I hope you find someone on this list to try.
Update 4/6/2018: I have been asked if I have some more historical romance authors to recommend
Courtney Milan writes really fantastic UK and American set historical romances. My absolute favorite of hers is The Countess Conspiracy, a fantastic friends to lovers story. The whole Brothers Sinister series excels at showcasing how sexy and romantic affirmative consent is. Start with the Governess Affair and don't forget to pick up the novellas, like Talk Sweetly to Me with its fantastic black British heroine (There is a bundle that has all of them!).
Piper Huguley. I loved Piper's story in The Brightest Day Anthology a collection of beautiful historical romances by African American authors, like Lena Hart, Kianna Alexander and Alyssa Cole. Her story there is connected to her Migrations of the Heart Series. Many of stories her stories include a strong spiritual/religious elements without being preachy, just powerful.
Beverly Jenkins is the Slayer of Words and amazing mentor to
the current generation
of African American historical and contemporary authors. Her love for research and her ability to teach history through her writing is unparalleled. The first book of hers that I read was Forbidden just blew me away. And I have loved the rest of the series that has followed, Breathless and Tempest .
Lydia San Andres is Dominican author writing historical fiction set in the Spanish Caribbean. I really enjoyed her "Infamous Miss Rodriguez" in which a young woman trapped in engagement she does not want tries to make herself scandalous and the man tasked with saving her reputation ends up falling for her instead.
Jeannie Lin's Chinese Tang-Dynasty set historical mystery romance series, The Lotus Palace and the Jade Temptress helped break me out a historical genre slump back in 2014. These stories are beautiful, suspenseful and absolutely worth your time. Also if you are a fan of steampunk make sure you don't miss Gunpowder Alchemy and the Gunpowder Chronicles series as they are one my favorite alternate history romances.
and two more recs!
These two authors are on my TBR but I haven't yet read their books but they come highly recommended and might be perfect for those looking for AOC written historical set in the UK:
.@LianainBloom—AOC, To Love a Scandalous Duke has a mixed race duke.— Elizabeth Bright (@A_Bright_Lizzie) April 6, 2018
— Mimi Milan (@AuthorMimiMilan) April 6, 2018
I hope you don't mind me throwing a new name in the mix. @VanessaRiley also writes historical. Her Swept Away story was a real page turner! Then again, I enjoy all her books.
My Biker romance tastes are very specific and narrow. The biker has to be tough, dangerous and dirty but not truly a bad apple and the heroine has to have a lot autonomy to gives as good as she get and has to have a pretty darn good reason for getting involved with said Biker. There are not a lot Biker romances that work for me but Christopher wrote one that fit in that very narrow niche and was an emotionally satisfying ride.
Skylar’s left Sebastopol right after graduation, but she has never been able to leave behind the pain of her father’s betrayal and the fear that his criminal past has tainted her life for ever. His descent from beloved town doctor to calloused drug-pushing biker nearly took her down with him and it cost her high-school crush, Abner Travis, his brother. On her last night in Sebastopol, they find mutual comfort and escape each others arms, but when Travis pulls back at the last minute, it leaves her feeling embarrassed and rejected. She left her mark on his cheek and left town heartbroken.
10 years have passed and Skylar is back working to resuscitate her career as Vintner on the lands that once were the Travis Family's vineyards. A prestigious Ivy league education and a decade building her reputation in Europe doesn't mean much to the suspicious townsfolk who remember her as the Diablos Santos MC's princess, who may or may not have known what her father was up to. When she runs into Travis and find him as attractive as ever, despite the fact that he is unexpectedly wearing a MC's cut, Skylar is truly torn about whether she has made the best or worst decision in her life by returning to Sebastopol.
Christopher plays with a lot of tropes I liked in this story: Rekindled crushes, people who are terrible at feelings and carry a lot of insecurities despite appearing like they have it all together, and my fave, folks looking for redemption and a home. But there is a lot of plot and occasionally the story meandered more than it needed to. It is clear that Christopher was laying the groundwork for a whole series in this book, so she opens a lot of storylines for secondary characters that she clearly intends to resolve in later books but they came to feel one too many rabbit trails. While I would love to read more about Sara, her war vet and possibly bisexual brother Chevy, and the conflicted and apparently kinky Deacon with his secretive and obscure motivations for running with the Diablo Santos, I found the story line with Ian (Skyler's boorish and smug ex) and Michael (Skyler's closest friend, & emotional mess) mostly boring. I will say however that Michael's story in the upcoming Rogue Acts Anthology which I just stared is so far highly entertaining.
I really like that this confrontation went this way #bkbrk #rombklove "“Do we have to do this?” Skyler drained the rest of her vodka soda. Ginger shook her head. “Do what?” “Be shitty to each other?” She didn’t want to relive high school at this bar tonight." ― from "Biker B*tch (Heaven's Sinners Book 1)" https://t.co/4YBTRQpYnE— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) January 13, 2018
Early on I was super excited when Ginger, Travis's most recent and regular former lover and Skylar run into each other at a bar the first night, Skylar is out with Travis. They end up short circuiting what could have been a jealousy and envy driven scene, by simply choosing not to be terrible to each other. However a few chapters later, that envy and anger does lead to a confrontation, that makes them both look bad which was disappointing. Ginger and Travis do have a good encounter later in the book where he has to admit to having been a selfish asshole and how his indifference hurt her. Ginger is not evil or slut shamed but it didn't overcome my disappointment at having the promise of catfight-less story not pan out.
If Christopher does come out with more Heaven's Sinners books, I will pick them up. The romance between her prickly heroine and sweet dirty hero held my interest, the sex was very sexy and more importantly emotionally meaningful and erotically charged. I enjoyed the complexity of the feelings Travis and Skylar have for each other and how they struggle to name it love. Biker B*tch was compelling if not perfect and a promising introduction to an author I will happily read again in the future.
The temperatures outside are frightful and there is nothing more delightful than sitting around in my pajamas and not doing much more than reading all day.
The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon: An occasional art thief with a cause stumbles upon a murder and contaminates a crime scene leading to the wrong person being accused. He comes back to clear the name of the woman accused and gets a little too close to her.
I struggled with this book at first, the hero's panic at stumbling upon the dying woman, and his desperate flight to flee being discovered were so visceral as was his guilt at causing someone to be wrongly accused meant I struggled to feel fully sympathetic to him, especially as he lies to the heroine about who he is for a great majority of the novel. However Dimon pulls it off and redeems Harrison and establishes a believable relationship between him and Gabrielle. The mystery of who killed Gabrielle's estranged sister was gripping and the twists and turns in their investigation were fantastic. (ARC provided by the Publisher for review consideration).
Beary Christmas, Baby by Sasha Devlin: Liev has loved Sira for years and years, but despite his unwavering devotion and her reliance on him, Sira has always kept him at arms length. But one late night working together on Christmas Eve, Sira pushes Liev just a bit too far. Their friends to lovers, dominating boss romance has the added twist of Sira being a dragon shifter with a complicated relationship with her family and Liev, a big cuddly polar bear shifter, who claimed Sira in his heart when they were kids.
Devlin delighted me with this story. It is sexy, sweet and super fun. I am not a huge fan of holiday romances but this is one I will read again. If you have a weakness for prickly and bossy heroines, love a hero who loses his shit but not his love and respect for the heroine, pick this one up. I love the real sense of knowing each other these two characters radiate. They have been around each other for years yet have this huge unspoken thing that believably keeps them apart.
Lake Silence by Anne Bishop: Bishop returns to the broader world of her Others series with a self-contained story set in a small community deep in Wild Country on the edge of the Finger Lakes.
In her divorce settlement with her gaslighting and emotionally abusive husband Vicky DeVine was granted ownership of run-down rambling inn on the edge of Lake Silence. She has been the last six month working on restoring it and slowly regaining a healthier sense of self. The peacefulness of her lakeside retreat is shattered when her sole lodger, attempts to microwave a human eye in the Inn's kitchen.
The story is one-part police procedural & one-part women's fiction in a dark fantasy package. For readers of Bishop's previous Others novels the story will feel very familiar. A wounded woman finding sanctuary and protectors in a community run by supernatural beings, a honest and determined law-enforcement official seeks to solve crimes and protect humans from their own foolishness while walking a tight rope between human laws and powerful beings with their own rules and expectations. There is even another strong, wounded bookseller with a deep interest in the heroine, although this time that role is filled by Intuit.
I very much enjoyed getting to know the new characters and community, and appreciated the faster, self-contained pacing. I didn't expect the story to wrap up in such a satisfying manner after the leisurely pace of Bishop's previous books in this series. I loved Julian Farrow's character, and the particular ways being an Intuit affected his relationships with non-Intuit humans. The scenes involving the game of Murder were particularly fantastic, both darkly humorous and suspenseful and I loved how the ramifications played later in the of the story.
I'm now deeply curious where else in the World of the Others Bishops plans to write about next.
(An ARC of Lake Silence was provided by the Publisher for review consideration. Lake Silence is available for Pre-order and its expected publication date is March 6th, 2018.)
Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5) by Patricia Briggs: Bran, the Marrok is away and has left his son Charles in charge, when one of the Marrok's special pack of wolves is attacked. Charles, Anna and the rest of the pack rush to to avert tragedy and track down a traitor among them.
The story was intense, full of grief and powerful magics. It is a story about marriages and loss and it was simply beautiful. The story was filled to the brim with little character moments, full of insight into long-standing relationships in the series. It was completely engrossing and I highly recommend it. I love these characters and the ways Briggs has lets us grow to get to know them, sometimes transforming the way I thought about a character through small reveal. I had fallen behind in my Mercy Thompson series reading, and this made me eager to catch back up again, although like the previous Alpha and Omega books, its stands apart. (An Arc of Burn Bright was provided by the Publisher for review consideration. Burn Bright's expected publication date is March 6th, 2018 and it is available for pre-order).
The Hookup (Moonlight and Motor Oil #1) by Kristen Ashley
When Eliza Forrester hit the bar in her new hometown in order to get to know people, she wasn't planning on going home with anyone, certainly not Johnny Gamble, not that she knew he was "the Johnny Gamble" , heir to successful local chain of convenience stores and car garages and one half of legendary star-crossed couple. All she knew was the he was sexy, funny and easy to talk to. Unused to hookups, her clumsy attempts for a graceful exit, capture Johnny's attention and prick his pride. While Eliza tries to play it cool, Johnny makes sure to make that difficult, sending confusing mixed signals, by being sweet and persistent while at the same time resisting sharing much about himself. Thankfully Eliza's best-friend and co-worker Deanna has all the gossip and acts as a relationship guru.
I mildly enjoyed this story. It has its share of misdirection and foiled expectations as the anticipated love-triangle never really materializes, Johnny drops his tortured-by-past-heartbreak persona pretty quickly and they manage to resolve most of their issues by simply talking them out. Most of the drama, including a pulse-pounding manhunt is connected to the secondary storyline featuring Eliza's sister. Honestly I am not quite sure what to make of this story. There was a lot a liked, much that reminded me of the old KA magic but not quite. It was solid but not cracky.
This is just a sampling of what I've been reading this month, so there are more reviews to come!
I read a lot of fantastic Contemporary Romance this year, but three books stood out as giving me all the happy sighs.
My favorite book of the year is Alisha Rai's "Wrong to Need You". It came out this week. And I need everyone to finish reading it so they can also nominate it. While I loved "Hate to Want You", the first book in Rai's Hidden Hearts series, the emotional core of this books is so much stronger. I loved the conflict between Sadia and Jackson, the depth of the family tensions and the HEA left me happily wrung out.
Jackson and Sadia grew up together, each other's most trusted and true friend. But it was Jackson's big brother, Paul, who stole her heart. Ten years later, Paul is dead, Sadia is struggling to keep the cafe they ran together afloat, when Jackson, now a chef with global-following unexpectedly arrives back in town after a decade of ignoring her emails to insist on helping her.
They have a ton of deep unspoken issues to resolve, secrets to discover and so much sexual tension to work out. As Jackson and Sadia rediscover each other, learn how life has changed them and marked them, they also have their individual issues to resolve with their own families, which deepen rather than distract from their romance.. It was a delicious sexy angst-fest that doesn't feel manufactured in any way.
I almost always fall in love with Rai's heroines and Sadia is no exception for I adored her, bisexual,widowed mother & cocktail historian. While Jackson has the more dramatic family drama to resolve, Sadia's complex relationships with her sisters, her parents, who love her & judge her and how they cause her to defend and questions her life choices gripped me.
All I can say is GO READ IT. (I received a ARC from the author for review consideration).
My second nomination in the Best Contemporary Romance category was Lucy Parker's "Pretty Face". I loved Parker's first West End-set novel, Act Like It, and this turned me into a full-blown Parker fangirl, as there is just such great backstage intrigue, full of gossip and melodrama.
Lily Lamprey dreams of escaping the vampy TV roles that have made her a household name for serious career on the stage and in film. But her new director, Luc Savage, nearly refuses to cast her, worried that she is nothing more than a pretty face. Their relationship starts out adversarial and there is no one more surprised than they when they start acknowledging a mutual attraction. Like in Wrong To Need You, Luc and Lily's contrasting family relationships add some much depth to romance. This book has a great big Grovel and it was wonderful and well earned.
I rounded out my nominations in Best Contemporary Romance, with a nod to Laura Florand's A Kiss in Lavender. Lucien is the long-lost cousin, who struggles to believe that he belongs in the Rosier Valley and Elena is the much shuffled and abandoned foster child, who idealizes a homecoming for Lucien and struggles to understand how he might not long to stay in their welcoming arms. The real meat of their conflict however is about identity and how much they value their careers.
For Best Short Romance/Novella my nominees were Kissing and Other Forms of Sedition from Rogue Desire by Emma Barry, & Shira Glassman’s Knit One, Girl Two.
I loved watching The Rogue Desire anthology move from idea into reality in the days after election. The collection as a whole was quite strong and at one point I intended to review it all but sadly life intervened.
My favorite story in the collection was Emma Barry's. Her story, Kissing and Other Forms of Sedition is about two VA legislative staffers, who when the President seems determined to trigger nuclear war via twitter finally confess their mutual desire and then set out on a road-trip to DC so they might attempt to persuade a Federal Cabinet official to consider evoking the 25th amendment. It is nerdy, funny and incredibly sexy.
I read Glassman's fluffy and colorful short with the rest of the "Not-a-bookclub" crew. In it indie yarn dyer is inspired by the colorful paintings of a local artists and reaches out to her so they might collaborate on project. It is a story about creativity, inspiration, and falling in love, full of nerdy knit-culture and fan-culture details and crammed full of interesting supporting characters. It was just the dash of sweetness and hope that I needed in midsummer.
Have you read Shira Glassman? I thought her recent f/f which was sweet was incredibly tender. It was all courtship.— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) September 11, 2017
For Best Historical Romance my nominees were Fair, Bright and Terrible by Elizabeth Kingston, An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole, & Lisa Kleypas’s A Devil in Spring but if I could nominated five I would have also nominated The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare and K.J. Charles 's An Unnatural Vice.
I adored Kingston's The King's Man, so I was really looking forward to the sequel, Fair, Bright and Terrible by Elizabeth Kingston. I was shocked however to learn that the heroine would be Eluned, Gwellian's rebel mother, who was one of the chief antagonists in the King's Man. Kingston however compelled me to fall in love for this revenge-minded and vicious heroine. It is a second chance at love story, as after the death of her mad abusive husband in the Holy Lands, King Edward seeks to solidify his hold on Welsh lands by forcing her to marry one his men, Robert de Lascaux. Eluned and Robert had a costly affair when they were both young and Robert has never stopped loving her. Eluned however paid a deep price for their love affair and is not eager to give up her power, lands and position to a new English Lord, even if he was once her beloved lover. Their journey from vengeance and pain to trust and love was amazing. I loved the richness of Kingston's storytelling, the way she handles religion, personal faith and politics is intricate and remarkable. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it and if you are an audio fan, both the books are superbly narrated by Nicholas Boulton, one of the best romance narrators around.
Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union is a spy-thriller set in the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Ellie Burns's photographic memory once made her performer on the abolitionist circuit , but the former slave now serves the Union as part of the Loyal League, a network of black spies. She has infiltrated the home of a Confederate politician when her mission is endangered by the arrival of another Union spy, Malcom McCall, a Scottish immigrant and one of Pinkerton's agents.
I loved Ellie, righteous anger and disgust and incredibly bravery. She is witty, cynical about men, white men in particular and determined to do all she can to make sure the Union wins.
Lisa Kleypas's Devil in Spring is the sequel I didn't really mean to read but that I loved anyway. I was distinctly underwhelmed by the first book in this series, as the hero and heroine hardly spent anytime together, and although I bought Marrying Winterbourne, I didn't ever get around to reading it. However, after hearing interesting things from trusted romance reading friends, I decided to try the sample and I was delighted by Pandora. One of the wild Ravenel sisters that steal the first book, Pandora is determined to avoid marriage, so she may launch her own game-manufacturing company. However an act of kindness and clumsiness entrap both Pandora and Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, the son of Evie and Sebastian from Kleypas's treasured classic Devil in Winter, in an engagment.
This book has some flaws, mostly in the third half when the plot goes sideways, but Pandora is one of the most enjoyable Regency heroines I have read in a good while.
However I could have easily nominated Tessa Dare's delightful and fanciful, The Duchess Deal. The Duchess Deal is more fairy-tale than Regency romance, as many almost fantastical events move the plot forward but the romance was just so tender and sweet that like most Tessa Dare romances, it overcomes all sorts of ridiculous premises. It doesn't quite matter how ridiculous it would be that a Duke would insist on marrying an impoverished seamstress so that he may spite the fiancee that abandoned him when he returned dramatically scarred from the Continental Wars, because story feels right. The book leans into the ridiculous at points, with Emma giving the Duke new nicknames each day and Ashbury's adventures as a nighttime vigilante.
I very much enjoy Dare's sense of humor and find her fun to read. She frequently makes me laugh, which is something I look for in fluffy reads, but she also tackle a great deal emotional territory. I particularly appreciated the scene where the Duke struggles to understand and comfort the Emma when she is having a panic attack. It wasn't gritty or eloquent but it felt very very familiar.
She clung to his waistcoat. “This just h-happens sometimes.” He tightened his arms about her. “I’m here,” he murmured. “I’m here.” He didn’t ask her any further questions, but he couldn’t help but think them.
I adored K.J.Charles's Sins of the Cities series ( I reviewed the whole series for RT). The books are set in a colorful and diverse London that is rarely depicted in romance novels and never as vividly. An Unnatural Vice is the story of Nathaniel Roy, an investigative journalist pressured by his boss to take on the incredibly popular spiritualists, who were all the rage in Victorian London. His skepticism meets its match in Justin Lazarus, the gifted amoral grifter known as the Seer of London, and one my favorite K.J. Charles characters yet.
K.J.Charles did a fantastic job juggling the overarching series mystery with the more personal and deadly danger Justin and Nathan find themselves caught up in. I was fascinated by the way Charles was able to resolve the conflicts between Justin and Nathan, to provide them with a believable HEA.
My nominations for Best Paranormal Romance were Wildfire (Book 3 in the Hidden Legacy series), Silver Silence by Nalini Singh (Book 1 in her new Psy-Changeling Series, Trinity) and Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop.
I have consistently enjoyed Gordon and Ilona Andrew's Urban Fantasy and PNR novels but the Hidden Legacy series has all the elements that made the other series work for me mixed together in just the right way. I love Nevada, her self-sacrifice, and determination to take care of her family. I love her family, her wacky sisters, her funny cousins, and her quirky and determined mom and grandmother. I really like Rogan and the arc the Andrews have given to him, from almost feral despot, to a dangerous and still unpredictable leader who trust Nevada as partner in all ways, and is determined to make sure the Nevada and her family have all the choices they deserve.
I really hope we see way more books set in this world. I am pretty done with Rogan and Nevada as leads, but I am eager to follow so many of the other characters in this series into magical mayhem. These books are also excellent audio books. Renee Raudman once again pairs up with Andrews to deliver an engrossing performance.
I was thrilled to see Nalini Singh embrace a new more inclusive direction in the her new Psy-Changeling series, Trinity. Silver Silence is the story of Silver Mercant and Valentin Nikoleav.
Valentin is sweet, determined Bear Shifter who is determined to breakthrough Silver' icy silence, but he gets consent.
In Silver Silence, Valentin does not proceed without Silver's explicit consent. He is blunt, determined and stubborn but he respects Silver's choices even when it hurts him. He encourages her and makes sure she has everything she needs. His protectiveness does not make her world smaller. Silver is presented as more powerful than Valentin in all ways but the physically, and that he is not threatened by her prominent global position but instead actively supportive of it. Valentin's love for Silver is self-sacrificial, and constant when many would have given up. Singh does a great job presenting this as fidelity not simply stubbornness.
"Who are you to me?"
"Yours," he said, "I'm yours."
Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop is the last book of a fascinating but often frustrating series for romance readers like myself who are used to more romantic progression and heat. But the series and its sprawling cast captured my heart and imagination.
In this novel Bishop resolves Meg and Simon's long-standing but unacknowledged love for one another. The whole world is changed by their relationship even if they don't know quite how to articulate what they are one another. I left the series feeling satisfied and impressed after a few re-reads of the whole series highlighted to me how many themes and threads from the first books are tied up in the fifth book.
However the book was also partly a set up for Bishop future novels set in the world of the Others as she expands the focus away from the Courtyard to new satellite communities. I am eager to see what dangers and wonders those stories will dwell on.
I don't read a lot of romantic suspense anymore but when I do, it is by HelenKay Dimon. The genre as whole has gone very dark but I can count on Dimon to build tension and menace without more gore or gruesomeness than I can handle.
I loved Guarding Mr. Fine one of the runners up in this year's #readRchatawards, when I read it almost a year ago and it has one of the best awkward morning after run-ins ever. But my favorite of Dimon's current series is her "Games People play" series about a close-knit group of guys, who are as awkward as they are dangerous. My favorites in the series were The Fixer, which came out the last week of last year and The Enforcer, which came out in the spring. The heroines are fabulous, hostile, suspicious and not willing to give these guys an inch.
These books hit my sweet spot of fun, sexy and suspenseful and I had a hard time putting it down to get other stuff done this week.
This was a really tough category for me this year. I used to read so many that fell under this heading but I have instead been reading a lot more hot contemporary. However when I do read Erotic Romance it is written by Rebekah Weatherspoon. I loved her Beards and Bondage series, particularly the second book, Haven. Weatherspoon's heroines are the best but she writes wonderfully superficially grumpy and gruff heroes who are truly sweet and creates communities around the protagonists that dynamic, realistic and believable.
Rebekah Weatherspoon continues to succeed in crafting stories that are emotionally layered and full of humor. I loved the whole cast, even when they don't love each other.
The #readRchatawards debut romance nominee list read like the top of my TBR. I was particularly thrilled to see nominations for two great up and coming Latina writers, Priscilla Oliveras and Alexis Daria.
I really enjoyed reading Daria's "Take the Lead" and there is just something so special about seeing someone with a name and background like your own (my mom shares a last name with Daria's heroine, Gina Morales) getting their HEA. Gina is strong, principled and determined to succeed in a difficult soul-eating industry. I loved her intensity. Although I have never watched a minute of Dancing with the Stars or any other celebrity Dancing competition I found the whole story highly enjoyable, with great behind the scene details (OMG, the spray-tan scene!).
In the debut category I also loved reading Adriana Anders, "Under Her Skin".
"" a story about finding a safe harbor, working toward self-acceptance, and starting over. There really great depictions of female friendships, a richly drawn small town community and little femdom kink to spice things up.
--From my review in April
She has had a stellar year, with two additional releases and a great short story anchoring in the Rogue Desire Anthology, that you need pick up if you love heroes and heroines who are part of the #resistance and fight for trust, justice, freedom and equality.
I needed great books to read this year more than I usually do. They provided precious hours of entertainment, uplift and inspiration. I hope you had a great year of reading, and I hope the coming new year is filled with fantastic books for all of us to enjoy!