Tag: Beverly Jenkins

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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Feb 18

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Seventh

Bite Size Reviews, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 1

Greetings Bookworms!

I’d just like to take a moment to give myself a high five for keeping these weekly posts going longer than I anticipated when I made my New Year’s Resolution. Yes, I know it’s only February, but I expected to make it 3 weeks, tops. As it turns out, I really, really missed shouting about books on the internet. Who knew? So… Shall we shout about some books on the internet? Let’s start with the remainder of this Beverly Jenkins trilogy…

Fabio Who?

So, last week, I was like “Destiny’s Embrace was good but not my favorite.” Which, is still true, but it’s moved up in my esteem by proximity to the rest of the series. I’d have been MISSING OUT if I’d quit after book 1. Destiny’s Surrender follows the middle Yates brother, Andrew Antonio. He’s a lawyer practicing in 1880s San Francisco who isn’t ready to be tied down. At least, not figuratively. (I have no evidence of his bedroom escapades including restraints but he’s an adventurous guy, so I wouldn’t put it past him.) Aaaanyway, this leads to his frequenting a certain plucky prostitute named Billie whom he accidentally impregnates. When the baby arrives with a telltale matching birthmark (life before paternity tests, y’all) Billie knows who the father is. She is desperate to find her child a safe home so she can escape an evil pimp. Such drama! Such intrigue! Such steam! I was well and truly prepared to say that Destiny’s Surrender was my favorite of the series when Ms. Bev pulled out the mother-frickin PIRATES in book 3, Destiny’s Captive. Noah, the youngest Yates brother has turned his traumatic past into a successful shipping business. All is going as well as can be expected when he’s taken captive and his ship is stolen. BY A LADY PIRATE! This series started in Hallmark movie territory (if Hallmark acknowledged sexy times) and graduated to HBO miniseries in a hurry! Not only was Destiny’s Captive a fabulous love story, but it covered a lot of historical content I wasn’t familiar with. I learned all kinds of new things. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS! Pilar + Noah = 4 Ever.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi was, possibly, even more intense than its predecessor, Children of Blood and Bone. It’s one thing to write a magical epic, but a magical epic that rips out the guts of its readers at every turn? That’s QUITE a feat. Bahni Turpin narrated the audio book, and she is unquestionably one of the best narrators ever. She’s a phenomenal actress and can express arrays of emotion that make a book even more compelling. I think my heart broke about 30% more than it would have if I had merely read the words by listening to the rawness and passion she put into the storytelling. And, as I often feel about fantasy novels, I prefer to listen to them so I can hear the names of people and places pronounced as the author intended. I can’t reveal a lot of the plot of this novel without completely spoiling the first book, but I urge you to pick up this series. You will NOT be disappointed.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo was WOW. I read Acevedo’s novel, With the Fire on High, but that was regular prose (another great book to add to your reading list.) The Poet X was this wonderfully imaginative poetry/novel hybrid, and its power was enhanced through the audio book narrated by the author. It follows Xiomara Batista- a teenage girl living in Harlem from a very religious Domincan family. She’s trying to navigate her way through a world that treats her body as a threat to decency while grappling with her faith and familial relationships. Xiomara turns her tumultuous thoughts into verse in a notebook she received from her twin brother. I’m trying to think of an example to compare it with and the only thing I can come up with style-wise is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (which is excellent, too!) This is a quick read with high emotional payoff- go get a copy and feel some things.


I’d been meaning to read some Rebekah Weatherspoon and it seems I chose the CORRECT place to start. Holy hotness, Batman,  RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny was ::fans self:: delightful. Sloan is a single mother, a heart surgeon, and in need of a nanny stat. After her previous live-in leaves her in the lurch, she hires an unconventional nanny who comes highly recommended- Rafe. He’s a buff, tattooed, biker with an unparalleled gentleness with children. AND. HE. COOKS. This one is REAL steamy, but sometimes when I run into super steamy books they’re a bit lacking in, oh, everything else? Not the case here. I’d have adored this book even if Ms. Weatherspoon had gone fade-to-black on the love scenes. It’s just that sweet.

Whew, what a ride! It’s been a busy week for my brain and the books. I’m currently listening to Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire. It’s the latest in the Wayward Children series of novellas, all of which have thus far been fantastic. As for these eyes of mine, they’re working on The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. I started it because I’d run out of material on my kindle that sounded appealing and started trolling what was available to me in Prime reading. I’m not sure it’s exactly what I’m in the mood for, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At least until the library holds start rolling in. What are you reading this week, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the above text direct to Amazon. If you prefer to shop through a local, independent bookstore, please see the links below:

Destiny’s Embrace
Destiny’s Surrender
Destiny’s Captive
Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Brown Girl Dreaming
The Poet X
With the Fire on High
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Come Tumbling Down

 

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Feb 11

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Sixth

Brain Dump, Weekly Wrap-Up 3

Well Bookworms, it’s been a week!

Jim just got back from a business trip. He was gone for just over a week. I didn’t mention it at the time because it’s not a great idea to plaster the internet with notifications that you’re home alone with a toddler. Sammers and I had a lot of fun, but it’s nice to be a parenting team again! We’re still potty training (it’s a process, but we’re making strides) which just made the flying solo thing a little bit harder. My hat is off to all the single parents out there who keep things running single-handedly every day- you all deserve vacations and massages.

What else? Oh, my BFF is going to be getting married in June! After my last bridesmaiding stint, I said that the only way I’d stand up in another wedding was if HJM decided to make things official with her long-time beau (I say that like my services are in demand, but in reality, I’m almost 37 and am out of friends who’d want me to stand up for them.) Welp, after 11-ish years, he put a ring on it. GAME ON. I get to give a speech too, which is cool because I’ve only been drafting it in my head FOR THE PAST 25 YEARS. Ahem. This will be my 7th (and most likely final) walk down the aisle in a matchy-matchy dress. I’m also pretty sure this is the first time that one of my bridesmaid dresses will be worn after the fact. It’s got polka dots! Eeep!

In at-least-tangentially-book-related news, I got to hang out with my book club this weekend! This is the neighborhood book club I joined years ago, and even though some of the members have moved out of our little corner of town, the book club has held strong. (You may recall Emily and Angie, the two in the center of the pic, from that time they threw me that super awesome Alice in Wonderland themed baby shower.) Every year we do something to celebrate the holidays- usually a dinner in lieu of reading a book since December is so busy for everyone, but in recent years we’ve scheduled our holiday party way after the holidays because LIFE. This year we decided to go to a dinner theater… In rural Central Illinois. I was super stoked about the idea because I thought it would be cheesy and delightful. It WAS! Well, mostly anyway. The play they put on was from the late 70s and the humor did not age well, but the food was good and the company was stellar. Look how cute we are!

This pic doesn’t have ALL of us- several of us couldn’t make it, but we had fun enough for all our missing members.

 

But you’re not here to hear about my life tidbits! You’re here for the books! This week I finished listening to Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgI’d seen a lot of rave reviews for it, so I was really excited to take it on. I was taking notes through the first half of the book and found myself writing things like “where is the BANTER?” and “this guy is SUPER BORING” and “I get that he’s supposed to be the buttoned up serious dude with a marshmallow center, but Reid is no Theo from The Wedding Party.” (That last thought inspired an upcoming post, so stay tuned for that.) But the longer I read, the more Reid grew on me. And yes, he gets a lot of points for noble behavior and general tenderness… But he’s still no Theo. I really liked that a major plot point involved Meg going through a rather traumatic friend situation. I have BEEN THERE and it suuuuuuuuuucks. I’ve been on both the Meg side and the Sibby side of these situations and they’re both horrible. Nobody ever really talks about how awful friend breakups and hiccups are, but I think they’re every bit as bad as romantic heartbreaks- sometimes worse. You don’t hear about them a whole lot, particularly not in romance novels, so I appreciated that. I’d also like to note that while this book clearly points out that Meg is from Ohio, the narrator doesn’t sound as Midwestern as the narrator for How to How to Hack a Heartbreak (review). Apparently I’m still not over that.

I also finished my first Beverly Jenkins novel! If you’re not aware, Beverly Jenkins is a household name in romance and has a prolific back list. Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBut, as I’ve said before, there are a zillion different styles of romance novel. I tend toward the cheeky, rom-com style, and usually gravitate toward either contemporary or Regency England settings. Destiny’s Embrace is a much more earnest book than I’m used to (though it does have some flashes of humor) and it’s set in 1880s California. Our heroine, Mariah Cooper, leaves behind her abusive childhood home in Philadelphia to answer an advertisement and become a housekeeper to rancher Logan Yates clear on the other side of the country.  Mariah and Logan have chemistry from the start, but it’s a fiery passion that often manifests in shouting matches and, once, memorably, projectiles. Mariah eventually wants marriage and a family, and Logan has sworn that sort of thing off, so they are at an impasse. The whole love story unfolds within like a week, but thanks to my Regency romances, it hardly fazes me when characters fall in love at lightening speed anymore. All in all, Destiny’s Embrace was enjoyable, but it’s unlikely that fairly serious historical Western romances are going to become my go-to. That said, I did purchase the entire series and I’m definitely going to read the next two books. Let’s just say that book two,Destiny’s Surrender, starts off with a bang (pun absolutely intended) and things are looking promising. I may already be a little swoony over Andrew Antonio.

In addition to feasting my eyes upon the glories of Destiny’s Surrender, I’m listening to Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which is a followup to Children of Blood and Bone (the eleventy billionth excellent book I read and didn’t tell you about.) It’s a young adult fantasy series inspired by West African mythology and it is EPIC.

What have you been up to this week, Bookworms? And what are you reading?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the above text direct to Amazon, but if you’d prefer to shop through a local, independent book store, please see the links below.*

Love Lettering
Destiny’s Embrace
Destiny’s Surrender
The Wedding Party
How to Hack a Heartbreak
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Children of Blood and Bone

 

 

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