Tag: Talia Hibbert

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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Apr 28

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Seventeeth

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Time Travel 3

How Now, Bookworms?

Here in Illinois, our stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of May… At least. The upside is that greenhouses and nurseries are going to be allowed to open, which means FLOWERS! One of my book club friends runs a seasonal flower/garden center with her Mom and I’m super stoked to support them with ALL MY FLOWER DOLLARS. I look forward to planting annuals every year and I’m so thrilled that it’s one thing I’ll still be able to do. I’m hoping Sam will be interested enough to join me this year. I mean, we’ll probably have to hose him off, but I think gardening is an excellent toddler activity. (Says the woman who has not yet attempted to garden with said toddler.) I never plant until after Mother’s Day, so we’ve got some time. But I can’t wait!

This week I finished reading yet another Talia Hibbert gem, Untouchable. How are all her books so charming? Hibbert clearly has “a type.” Her heroes are all big, muscled, and tattooed. Often bearded. Perhaps not my “type” IRL, but it makes for a swoony romance novel hero. Especially when they’ve got a big, soft heart underneath all those muscles. Nate Davis is one of those big, muscled, tattooed gents. He’s a widower who has returned to his hometown to help care for cancer stricken mother. Given his unpredictable schedule and the two kiddos, he finds himself in need of a nanny, pronto. Hannah Kabbah (you’ll remember her as Ruth’s sister from A Girl Like Her which I told you all about already) is a phenomenal early childhood caregiver, but has been unable to work in the field since that unfortunate incident with a horrible man, a cricket bat, and a car. Nate hires her on without hesitation and sparks fly. The best part of this whole romance is that he’s super aware of just how icky it can be when employers take advantage of their employees when it comes to dating. He does everything in his power to make that a non-issue and to be as un-creepy as possible. Of course it helps that Hannah is totally into him because, um, hot-muscled-tattooed guy with a soft heart? How could she possibly resist?

What’s this? Did I finish binge reading the Ravenswood Series already? Why, yes, yes I did. That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert was yet another delicious morsel of a book. This time it follows Zach, a swoony blacksmith with all the muscles. (Yes, a second swoony blacksmith in the series. What? He’s the buddy Evan kept cooking for in the first book. Keep up, people!) He’s got a reputation as a ladies man, but that was mostly for show. When mysterious newcomer Rae appears in town, she and Zach strike up a friendship. She’s a fantasy writer, he’s a secret nerd. She has a truly excellent dog and just happens to walk him near where Zach takes his work breaks to cool off from that hot, sweaty forge. When Rae is in need of a fake boyfriend (gosh I love this trope) to accompany her to a conference her awful ex husband will be attending, she turns to Zach for help. Spoiler Alert: There’s only one bed! Romance tropes FOREVER!

I finally finished Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore while scrubbing down a bathroom that sorely needed it. It took me much longer to finish this book than I’d have liked, but it’s because I chose to listen to it as an audio book instead of reading with my eyeballs. Sigh, Quarantine troubles have limited my audio book capacity to nap times and my kid has gotten extremely proficient at avoiding his naps. Oof. Anyway, this book was great. Oona Lockhart is celebrating her birthday/New Year, but just as the clock strikes midnight to turn 1982 into 1983, something weird happens in the space-time continuum and she’s jumped forward in time. It turns out that every year at the stroke of midnight, Oona emerges into a different year in her life and lives, as the title suggests, out of order. This book was an incredibly clever take on time travel, and it just earned a place as one of my favorites. Watching Oona navigate her own life without much context is a fascinating and emotional journey. I love, love, loved it.

Whew! What a whirlwind reading week! I’ve also been reading books to Sam by the truckload, so I’m hoping to put together a list of some of HIS current favorites this week too. We have such a phenomenal children’s library at our disposal (since our family members are overly generous and really, really good at choosing books) it seems a shame to keep it to ourselves. As for what I’m diving into, I decided to wrap up the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan, so I’m reading The Suffragette Scandal with my eyeballs. And, even though it will probably take forever to get through, I decided to start Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai on audio. It’s a continuation of the series that started with The Right Swipe which I absolutely adored. Just give me all the romance. Maybe I’ll read something else one day. Maybe I won’t. But as for right now? GIVE ME ALL THE HAPPILY EVER AFTERS.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links above direct to Amazon, but if you’re able and interested in making a purchase through a local independent bookstore, please consider using the links below:

Untouchable
That Kind of Guy
A Girl Like Her
Oona Out of Order
The Suffragette Scandal
Girl Gone Viral
The Right Swipe

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Apr 21

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Sixteenth

Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 7

Greetings, Bookworms!

It’s been a good week for me and romance novels, I tell you what. I finished TWO WHOLE BOOKS and am rapidly closing in on a third. All of them romances, because that is all I currently want to read. But, to mix it up, they’re all contemporary romances, not historicals. It’s a genre with endless variety, why not change things up? So, where should we start?

I finished reading The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. Pro baseball player Gavin Scott’s marriage is falling apart when he’s unexpectedly drafted into a book club, of sorts. The movers and shakers of Nashville pro sports have banded together and started reading romance novels in an effort to better understand how they’re screwing up their relationships. The concept is delightful- I mean, romance novels are written primarily by women, for women. Guys in heterosexual relationships (and, honestly, probably homosexual relationships too) could learn a lot from romance novels. Heck, women can learn a lot from romance novels. They’re WAY more fun to read than self-help books, at least from where I’m sitting, and a lot of them provide excellent relationship guidance. Then again, some are complete trash and glorify unhealthy and abusive relationships. Look, let’s not dive too deeply into that rabbit hole, okay? Anyway. Gavin joins this book club and sets out to win his wife back. But it’s not just romantic grand gestures- they both have to do some emotional heavy lifting to figure out where things went wrong and how to fix them.

Remember that Talia Hibbert book I told you about last week? A Girl Like Her? It was the start of a series! And yes, I’m going to binge read the whole thing because I love Talia Hibbert so very much. I devoured the followup novel, Damaged Goods. It follows the wife of that one terrible dude from the first book. And you know what? Once she breaks away from the terrible dude, good things happen. Because that’s how life works. Cut out the abusive scum bags, everyone! I know, it’s not that easy. There’s so much gas lighting that goes into an abusive relationship that it can be difficult to figure out you’re in one, let alone figuring out how to break free. But it makes me super happy when I see fictional characters doing just that. BYE HORRIBLE ABUSIVE SCUMBAG. HELLO, HOTTIE McHOTSTUFF WHO COOKS IN BEACH TOWN. Sigh. I do so love a happily ever after. Speaking of escaping abusive scumbags in search of happily ever after, Sammy has decided that Tangled is among his favorite films. It’s pretty cute that he asks for “Tangled and Gene” all the time, but if you’re wondering if you’re in an abusive relationship? Check out how Mother Gothel treats Rapunzel. YIKES. (I do love the movie, though. It’s one of the best Disney Princess movies. Rapunzel is a joy and Flynn Rider AKA Eugene Fitzherbert is one rakish love interest.)

As for what I’m currently reading, no surprise on the eyeball reads: I’m reading Untouchable by the wonderful Talia Hibbert. So freaking charming. And in my ears? Well, I’m still working on Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore. I’m enjoying the book, digging the whole The Time Traveler’s Wife vibe, but I haven’t gotten a lot in the way of cooperative naps lately. I’m about halfway through it, so I’ll get there eventually. What have you been reading, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the text above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and able, please consider making a purchase through a local, independent book store by using the links below:

Oona Out of Order
The Bromance Book Club
Damaged Goods
Untouchable
The Time Traveler’s Wife

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