Tag: Alyssa Cole

Jul 30

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirtieth

Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Howdy Bookworms,

How’s that Pandemic life treating you? Fun new development- I’m now having COVID related anxiety dreams. Specifically, last night I dreamt I was going to someplace crowded (Disney maybe?) and I realized I didn’t have a mask on. Except NOBODY had masks on. I was aghast, and tried to put on my own mask only to have it consistently dip below my nose (the horrors). AND thanks to weirdos running around looking for attention wearing nothing but masks over their unmentionables, my dream also included me trying to figure out how exactly to construct underwear out of masks, and, weirdly, tulle. These are troubling times, people. Troubling times. You know what has yet to fail me during these times, though? BOOKS. Obviously. So let’s talk about what I read this week.

A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole- I liked this book even better than An Extraordinary Union(review)! At the very end of An Extraordinary Union, we’re introduced to Malcom McCall’s little brother, Ewan. Well, we’re not introduced exactly, it’s more that they receive word that Ewan has been captured and placed in a Confederate prison. Marlie Lynch has spent her years during the war in a unique position- she is acknowledged by her father’s privileged family despite being born to one of the family’s former slaves. Since Marlie was born free (her mother was granted her freedom while pregnant) and eventually (however complicatedly) accepted into the Lynch family, she is able to assist the Loyal League in abolitionist work. She also spends much of her time bringing aid to Union soldiers in the Confederate prison camp near her home, a prison camp that just so happens to house Ewan McCall. Ewan’s got his own set of deep darkness thanks to his role in the army, and Marlie is haunted by her mother’s past. Once the absolutely monstrous Lynch relatives decide to darken Marlie’s doorstep, she and Ewan (who may or may not have been hiding in her laboratory) are left with little choice but to run. Secret hidey holes and shocking family secrets ABOUND. Escape and adventure and stomach churning historical accuracy are a lot to handle, but well worth the effort. I definitely have a soft spot for historical female healers and herbalists, and will be reading the final installment of this series as soon as I finish my current eyeball read.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev- I love love love Sonali Dev, but something about her take on Jane Austen retellings is just *chef kiss* perfection. I read the first installment of the Raje series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors during a quiet blogging period, but I absolutely adored it. The second installment, Recipe for Persuasion, stars Ashna Raje, who is trying to save her failing restaurant. It’s one of her last remaining links to her father, whose loss was incredibly painful and traumatizing to Ashna. When her estranged mother suddenly wants to wriggle back into Ashna’s life, Ashna impulsively accepts a new job in order to avoid her mother. The new job is a reality cooking show, which would be great PR for her struggling restaurant, if only she didn’t have a panic attack any time she tried to cook anything that wasn’t one of her father’s original recipes. Rico Silva has just retired from playing professional soccer. One night while he’s feeling a bit maudlin at a friend’s bachelor party, he decides to google his former high school flame- the one who dumped him because her father didn’t approve. Seeing that Ashna is about to star on a reality show pairing celebrities with professional chefs, he throws his celebrity hat into the ring. He’s a big time celebrity soccer star now. Eat your heart out, Ashna Raje. And, well, a Wentworth is gonna Wentworth, I guess. (I wouldn’t have been able to make that joke a week ago because most of Jane Austen’s heroes have glooped together in my brain. I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that it’s been so long since I read most of the books or that I’m a truly horrific human being. I should hope it’s the former, but if I’m murdered in my sleep by the vengeful ghost of Jane Austen we’ll have to reevaluate.) The point I’m trying to make here is that Sonali Dev’s Recipe for Persuasion was absolutely delightful. I so hope Dev gets to do all six Austens because I’m extremely attached to these people.

Whew, what a ride! I’m currently listening to Sandhya Menon’s latest, 10 Things I Hate about Pinky and loving it. I’m eyeball reading the second Aru Shah book by Roshani Chokshi, Aru Shah and the Song of DeathSo, aside from my ever evolving anxiety dreams, life is… As good as can be expected under the circumstances. How are you doing, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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Jun 05

Boosting Black Voices: Rom-Com Edition

Romance 2

Hi Bookworms,

It’s been a week, hasn’t it? I’m going to take a pass on a regular weekly update. It hardly seems appropriate given the circumstances. Today, I want to take the opportunity to highlight some books by excellent Black authors that aren’t going to land on any social justice reading lists. Most of what I’ve been reading of late has been light, romantic, and fun. That’s my lane, and there are a ton of fabulous Black authors writing these stories. If I can give some of those voices even the tiniest boost? It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Black people deserve happy endings too, dangit.

Before I start, though, I want to make it clear that I fully understand the gravity of this moment. George Floyd was murdered by police, on camera, in an absolutely horrific and brutal manner. It has sparked a massive uprising of protests across the country, protests which are just and necessary. If this atrocity hadn’t been filmed, if the video hadn’t been disseminated, if people hadn’t started to protest? The man who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck until he suffocated would still be out there with a gun and a badge able to do anything he pleased. At the moment I’m writing this post, the other three officers involved STILL aren’t in custody. (*UPDATE* They’re in custody now. Finally. I’ve been working on this post all week.) And, it’s not JUST about George Floyd. It’s happened over and over and over again and the perpetrators are almost never held accountable. Police are always given the benefit of the doubt in conflict situations. Black people rarely are. It’s wrong on a basic human level. It was wrong centuries ago. It’s wrong now. It’s endlessly wrong that it’s been allowed to continue in varying degrees for so freaking long. What can I, as a white lady who avoids conflict like it’s her job, POSSIBLY add to a conversation about racial injustice? Nothing, really. And my personal feelings are not important. This isn’t about ME and I don’t want to center myself in the conversation. There are a lot of resources out there right now discussing the hard topics, and I encourage you to seek them out. I know I will be. (I’ll link some at the end of this post.)

But back to my little mission statement: there are so many wonderful stories starring Black people about love and joy. Fiction and non fiction exposing the systemic mistreatment of Black people is incredibly important, but stories of Black joy are enduring and vital. Hollywood nearly always depicts Black people in romantic comedies as sidekicks and comic relief- this list of books puts Black people in at least one of the starring roles, and every last one of them is authored by a Black woman. Let’s take a gander at some of my recent favorites, shall we?

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole- This book is laugh-out-loud funny. It starts off with a Black woman completing grad school who keeps receiving what she assumes to be catfishing emails from a African prince. Because, yes, OF COURSE she’s betrothed to an African prince. Naledi Smith- former foster kid, worker of multiple jobs, struggling student, and Princess to be? Sure, Jan. Spoiler alert- it’s not a catfishing scam. Prince Thabiso of Thesolo is legitimately attempting to track down the woman he was betrothed to as a child, out of duty and curiosity. He’s immediately drawn to Naledi, but he’s not exactly forthright about who he is. Nobody ever claimed romance heroes have the best judgment. Anyway, the book is really fun and it kicks of a series, which is perfection, and you should read every single installment.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory- this book is the third in the series, but it’s my favorite. of the bunch. Every single book in this series so far features a Black girl getting a happy ending, so you really can’t go wrong no matter where you start. The Wedding Party follows Maddie and Theo as they prepare to stand up in their best friend Alexa’s wedding. Unfortunately, the two have always not-so-secretly hated each other so things are bound to be kind of tense. Except that they “accidentally” hook up… And then can’t stop hooking up. What? Enemies to lovers is a tried and true romance trope for good reason! But Theo. Oh Theo. He’s one of my all-time favorite romantic heroes. He’s all buttoned up and proper and smart, but then he busts out with his sweet sweet N’Sync dance moves. It’s a recipe for fun, I tell you what.

RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon- I have talked about this book A LOT. Actually, I think I’ve discussed all the books on this list in other places on my blog, but the swoony factor on this one is a stand-out. Dr. Sloane Copeland is a Black heart surgeon. The former child prodigy has super cute twin little girls and her nanny flaked out. Finding quality, reliable childcare is tough under the best of circumstances, but Sloane has unpredictable hours. She’s a single mother who needs live-in help, and she’s been left in the lurch. Enter Rafe, unlikely but incredibly capable childcare professional. The sparks immediately fly and the two must navigate the murky waters of professionalism and attraction. Nanny-employer relationships are usually pretty creepy, but Weatherspoon flips the script. Our heroine is super aware of the power imbalance; she and Rafe actually discuss the power dynamics of their involvement. This book is the exact opposite of the gross Dad leaving his wife for the babysitter. I highly recommend it.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa- The protagonist in this novel is of Afro-Brazilian decent, which was awesome as I know know that pao de quiejo exists and I’ve never wanted to eat something so badly. I mean, Brazilian cheese bread?! YUM! Lina Santos is a sought-after wedding planner whose own wedding took a disastrous turn when her garbage fire of a fiance jilted her at the altar. Apparently a heart-to-heart with his brother and Best Man the night before the wedding convinced him walking out would be the best thing to do. Fast forward to a while after the dust settles. Lina has an incredible job opportunity, only to find out it would involve her working with both her ex and his brother- the WEDDING RUINING BEST MAN. Look, if “we accidentally landed in a couples counseling retreat” doesn’t sound like the perfect recipe for hilarity and heart in a rom-com to you, then perhaps you’ll be interested in “woman of color gets revenge on smug white guy by ordering him extremely spicy food he totally thinks he can handle.” Enemies to lovers, you know you love it.

Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins- This is the third installment of a series following the Yates brothers, and my favorite of the bunch. It’s a historical novel, set in the barely post-Civil War American West. Noah Yates is the youngest member of a well-to-do bi-racial Northern California ranching family (his dad was Black, his mom is Spanish.) While he has plenty to go home to, his traumatic past has led him to spend his life at sea. Pilar is a Cuban political activist from a family of forgers, pirates, and general malcontents. Noah has a ship. Pilar needs one. So she steals the boat and kidnaps Noah. As one does. Overall, this one is more serious in tone than most of the other books on the list, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for humor or hijinks. I mean, the lead couple end up in a literal sword fight at one point! (Not a “I want to actually hurt you” sword fight, mind. More of a “let us compete for the title of best swashbuckler in an attempt to ignore our incredible sexual tension” sort of sword fight.) It’s an excellent (and steamy) read!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: Talia Hibbert is British, and I imagine that the experience of being Black in England is different than being Black in the US. But, racism is garbage and literally everywhere. In this book, Chloe comes from a wealthy Black family- she suffers from chronic pain and as a result she does not suffer fools. Her curtness leads to a prickly acquaintance with the superintendent at her apartment building, Red. He hails from a much humbler set of circumstances, and is put off by Chloe’s snobbishness. If only he could get past the fact that he’s inexplicably drawn to her. And then Chloe goes and attempts to rescue a cat from a tree and Red then has to rescue Chloe. Adorable, hilarious, cheeky banter- it’s everything I love in a rom-com. The second book in this series was just released, and I’m super stoked. Take a Hint, Dani Brown, here I come!

I’m going to stop there because I will never finish writing this post otherwise. I have discussed most (if not all) of these books on my blog at some point, but compiling this list felt important. Seeing Black people live “happily ever after” is wonderful. It’s critical to recognize the trauma Black people experience, but let’s normalize that Black joy too, shall we?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

Here are a few resources for those of you interested in a more serious reading list and some thoughtful commentary:

12 Anti-Racist Books Recommended by Educators and Activists

16 Books about Race Every White Person Should Read

What is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?

The Anti-Racist Reading List

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