I don’t know about you, but I’m completely exhausted by current events. My energy is sapped. My blood pressure goes bonkers when I see science denial and arguing with people on the internet gives me hives. For my own mental health, I’ve liberally (get it? Because I’m liberal? Come for the books, stay for the Dad jokes) used the unfriend and snooze and unfollow features on FB as I see people posting conspiracy theories or something particularly hateful. As a result, I have done the only logical thing. Ignored all political news in favor of reading romance novels (my ballot was in the mail over a week ago, not that any debate could possibly have changed my mind.) Self care, y’all. Let’s talk about some books, shall we?
Indigo by Beverly Jenkins- This is not my first novel by Ms. Bev, but I saw on Twitter once that she recommended Indigo as a starting point for those just discovering her work. Hester Wyatt was born into slavery but was rescued as a child. As an adult, she’s been an active member of the Underground Railroad, offering assistance to others who seek to escape slavery. One night, along with a family of fugitives, Hester is asked to harbor a badly injured member of her cause. Despite great personal risk, Hester agrees to tend to the Black Daniel- a man notorious for helping enslaved people escape the South. Galen (aka the Black Daniel) makes for an ornery, cantankerous patient, but Hester takes care of him nonetheless. The two fall hard and fast over mud pies, but some nasty characters are after Galen and as soon as he’s healed, he disappears into the night… Only to reappear a few months later in an attempt to uncover a traitor and woo the heck out of Hester. Turns out, the Black Daniel hails from an extremely well-to-do Creole family, and Hester doubts that Galen’s light-skinned, wealthy family will accept a dark-skinned former slave with indigo stained hands into the fold. Of course, Hester has underestimated Galen’s devotion, because, well, it’s a romance novel and he is a romance hero. EXTRA may as well be his middle name. This book had me falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes right and left. I had no idea that indigo plantations were even a thing, let alone that a person’s skin could legitimately be permanently stained by working with it. I was also unaware that there was a documented case of a person selling THEMSELVES into slavery in order to be with their beloved (and you thought Romeo and Juliet was tragic.) Whew. Reason number 87692 to read historical romances by women of color- you’ll learn all kinds of history you weren’t taught in school. If you need a comparison point, Indigo is very much on the same wavelength as Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series (it’s safe to assume that Cole was influenced by Jenkins as this book was published long before Cole’s) BUT I found Indigo to be a little more joyful and a little less anxiety inducing (which I very much appreciated.)
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria- Jasmine is a soap opera star about to embark on what she hopes to be the next phase of her career- she’s just landed a starring role on a re-worked telenovela featuring a bilingual Lantinx cast. Unfortunately, she’s also dealing with the tabloid fallout from a nasty breakup with a high profile musical artist. Ashton is also looking to launch into a new phase of his career- he’s a seasoned telenovela actor who wants to reach a wider audience. Of course, they both have baggage. And secrets. And a whole lot of chemistry. The book is almost a story within a story as you read so much about the show Jasmine and Ashton star in, Carmen in Charge. My favorite part of the book had to be the intimacy coach. I don’t know if it’s a commonly done thing in Hollywood- the book made it sound kind of new- but the coach was there to choreograph the make-out and love scenes AND to make sure all parties felt comfortable. She also ended up filling the role of, like, preliminary couples counselor which was pretty great. I love a happily ever after, but I EXTRA love a happily ever after wherein each member of the couple does the work to deal with their own issues. More healthy relationships where the partners aren’t magically fixed by finding “the one,” por favor.
Yesterday I had a hard time deciding which audio book to listen to next and ended up accidentally clicking on Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson. I’m not sure how I feel about it quite yet- it’s about privileged high school kids texting as far as I can tell. But, you know. Sometimes fate hands you the book you ought to be reading so perhaps it will turn out to be the best book I’ve ever listened to. Too early to tell for sure. My eyeballs are reading The Cactus by Sarah Haywood and it’s giving me MAJOR Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine vibes. Again, I’m not far enough into it to draw final conclusions, so it should be an interesting reading week. What are you reading, Bookworms?
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