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*= I am trying to make a more conscious effort to read books by authors of color. I know many others are as well. Moving forward, I will be annotating books by authors of color with an asterisk. Please let me know if I missed one or mislabeled one.
Physical Books: 2
*Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
I received this as an eARC from Netgalley. This is a contemporary romance about a woman whose mother-figure has passed away, leaving behind her 4 adoptive sons. Some of them want to close her knitting store, but one wants to keep it open and enlists the help of our heroine. The author, Kwana Jackson, also goes by KM Jackson, is a Black author. She has a big backlist of contemporary romance novels under the KM Jackson pen name that I definitely want to check out.
I think this book was just a case of bad timing and burn out for me. I found myself skimming pretty early on in this book because it felt like the story wasn’t moving forward at all. Scenes were lasting too long to keep my attention. It was actually pretty disappointing because I was really excited about this book! I don’t knit, but I crochet, and I liked hearing about yarn and knitting in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series, however, I had to put this one down.
Becoming Mrs. Lockwood by LI Lynn
I talk more about this in my 7yo Picks my TBR video, but this was a book that Roree picked out for me. I think I heard this is a Twilight fanfiction, but it’s another one that reads like fanfiction, however, is extremely different than the original. It’s about a girl who is on vacation with her mom in Las Vegas, but hasn’t been able to see any sights since her mom is gambling all day and night. Since she is underage, she can’t go with her. All of that felt like a stretch to begin with, but then this super hot guy spots her from across the room and immediately is in love with her and takes her out to see Las Vegas. There is also an age gap in this, but it isn’t a good one. She’s a very immature 18 year old who is still in high school. This is mentioned when they first meet, yet he still pursues her. It just… rubbed me the wrong way. Like, how can this be instalove and still be a 500+ page contemporary romance. I DON’T UNDERSTAND!
Taming Her Mountain Man (Bear’s Tooth Mountain Man #1) by Cameron Hart
I read this for the Weekend Contemporaryathon, so I talk more about that in my Contemporaryathon Vlog. It’s about an adoptive girl that is running away from her shady adoptive parents to her estranged grandmother’s cabin in the mountains where she meets this older, loner mountain man who is running away from his past. This is a novella, so it’s obviously very instalovey. What put me off of it was the main character and the instalove wasn’t done well. She’s another one who is SO immature that I was weirded out by the age gap. I think I’ve found that I don’t mind age gaps as long as there isn’t a big difference in maturity levels.
Remind Me (Magnolia Sound #1) by Samantha Chase
This was a book I just randomly listened to off of Hoopla before I realized I have a limit on how many books I can read on that app. My library just got Hoopla, so I’m still learning. To be completely honest, I remember next to nothing about this book and the next one on this list.
If I remember correctly, it is a second chance romance about a girl who has moved away from a small town in North Carolina. She had a summer fling with her grandfather’s neighbor, but she moves away to NY to be a successful woman in tech (as they do in these types of romances). A hurricane is threatening the town and they are being asked to evacuate, but her grandfather is refusing to leave, so the hero stays with him.
I want to take a moment here to talk about this. I live in FL and have lived through many hurricanes. Some that were scary (Irma), some that fizzled out to be nothing but some wind and rain. Either way, living here my whole life has taught me that when there is a mandatory evacuation, you GTFO ASAP. Hurricanes can and have flattened entire communities.
Anyway, this book was just meh. I didn’t really care about the characters. There wasn’t a lot of chemistry. It was just ok.
The Royal Treatment (Alaskin Royal Family #1) by MaryJanice Davidson
I recently did a video talking about the books that got me through my Twilight hangover back in the day, and Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series was on this list. When I came across this book on Audible Escape, I was curious to see how her contemporary romances would be.
And it was as I expected. Just meh. This is an alternative/futuristic reality in which Alaska is it’s own country or something weird like that. Anyway, they have a king there who is looking for a wife who would make a good princess for his son. He ends up setting up our main character with his son.
A couple of things were weird about this. First, the who Alaska thing seemed unnecessary, like, just make up a country like everyone else does. Second, she didn’t really do anything that I saw for the King to think she was so amazing. Something I did find interesting, was this was almost opposite of instalove. Both of them seemed pretty neutral about each other aside from sexual chemistry until the very end. I actually really appreciated that.
Also, the synopsis calls this book erotic. It’s not. If I did steam fans like Steph, I’d give this one 3 steam fans.
PS It’s Always Been You Part 1 by Lauren Blakely
I read this one for the Weekend Contemporaryathon and talk about it in that vlog. Let’s be real, I read this for Scott Eastwood’s narration… and it was pretty disappointing. The book and his narrating. He had a lot of awkward pauses. Anyway, the time it’s going to take me to tell you what this book is about is pretty much as long as it took me to listen to this audiobook. It’s about this daredevil, reality TV show guy who once hooked up with this girl who is some sort of historian, but ends up ditching her for his career, until one day they end up having to work together. And that’s it. That’s the whole story. The End.
Abducting Abby (Dragon Lords of Valdier #1) by SE Smith
I 100% do not remember reading this book at all. This is what happens when I go crazy adding audiobooks to my favorites in Hoopla (which I use as my TBR) because I got over-excited about having a new service.
This is a short, smutty, sci-fi romance that I picked up because… dragons. Abby creates and sells luxury artwork from her cabin in the mountains when one day an alien space ship crash lands in the woods near her and she ends up saving the guy inside not realizing that he’s a dragon shifter.
Now that I’m remembering the story, I did enjoy reading this one, it just wasn’t anything particularly special. I think I may actually move on in the series, though. If you like the whole fated mates thing, you’ll like this one. It’s no IPB, but it’s good for IPB hangovers. Averie – you should totes give this one a try!
Fire in His Blood (Fireblood Dragon #1) by Ruby Dixon
Ruby Dixon is the author of IPB, and I was super interested to see how her other books are. This series is a fated mates dragon shifter post-apocolyptic romance. It’s pretty long, I was expecting it to be short like IPB, but it’s not. And I feel like I would’ve liked it better if it was. It just got a little repetitive. I did like when there is a communication barrier between the hero and heroine in these types of books. Especially when the hero recognizes that she’s his mate, but she’s like WTF, dude, back off. And I especially, especially like when they respect consent despite the communication difference. I’m over here like, “IF AN ALIEN DRAGON SHIFTER WHO HAS INVADED OUR PLANET CAN UNDERSTAND CONSENT, WHY CAN’T YOU, BROCK?”
Racked and Stacked (Blacktop Cowboys #9) by Lorelei James
I read this for a secret TBR that I’m in the middle of right now because when I do secret TBRs it takes me years, so I’m not going to talk about this one too much. Just know it’s a cowboy romcom, enemies to lovers.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
This was an ARC I received from Netgalley. It’s Berkely’s first F/F published romance, which is awesome for the author. And I think this is OWN voices, but I’m not sure. I had super high expectations going into this one – I didn’t realize how high until the book didn’t meet them. It’s about a woman who works in the entertainment industry, I think she’s a director or producer, and her assistant. The media thinks that they are dating because of something that happens while paparazzi were around. This is a SUPER CRAZY INSANE slow burn. Like… the first kiss doesn’t even happen until 75% into this book. Don’t get me wrong, I adore slow burn. Mariana Zapata is my favorite contemporary romance author, but the burn was so slow in this one, it affected how I felt about the relationship. I started not caring after awhile whether they got together or not.
I can see how some of the scenes were supposed to be super full of tension, but I think because it took so long for the relationship to develop, I just wasn’t as invested.
Shy Girls Write It Better (Some Girls Do It #1) by May Sage
I read this one for Contemporaryathon and talk about it in the vlog. It’s about a woman who writes erotic romance and accidentally gives her hot boss a copy of one of her manuscripts instead of a report and instead of getting mad, he wants to give her real life BDSM experience because she writes it so badly.
Overall, this was pretty good for a short, smutty read. I don’t love the overly innocent, inexperienced heroine to begin with, so that definitely affected my rating. Also the fact that she’s supposed to be a super successful romance author and she knows she sucks at writing BDSM, but yet she continues to do it? I don’t know, something about that entire aspect of the premise was off to me and I think this book would’ve been better without it.
I did really like that the hero wasn’t your stereotypical alpha, though. That was refreshing.
Point of Retreat (Slammed #2) by Colleen Hoover
I read this book for Contemporaryathon. It’s the sequel to Slammed which is Colleen Hoover’s debut novel, a contemporary romance involving slam poets. Obviously it’s so much more than that, I mean, it’s Colleen Hoover. At first I wasn’t sure if this book was necessary before reading it, but Layken and Will’s story definitely wasn’t done.
*Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh
Renee Ahdieh is a Korean-American author and this book was a unique twist on Mulan. This book was as beautiful and badass as the cover.
I’ve always been partial to the story of Mulan, but I love how much more intricate this story was in comparison.
Our main character doesn’t magically have all sorts of powers and though she is a badass, it’s because of her quick-thinking bravery, and resilience, not any magical skill.
The writing was also one of my favorite things about this book. It was beautiful and fit so well with the story itself. I felt like I was experiencing everything our main character did, right beside her.
*The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
I received this ARC from Netgalley. I believe this is an OWN voices novel. It’s a fun enemies to lovers romance where our main character, Layla, moves home with her big family after a humiliating break up that essentially lost her her job. Her father sets her up, not only with the office above his restaurant, but also with some arranged marriage prospects (without her knowledge). Little does she know, he also rented out the space to Sam, CEO of a corporate downsizing company. Read my review here.
*The Fire Between High & Lo (Elements #2) by Brittainy C Cherry
My monthly Brittainy C Cherry novel. If you don’t know, I discovered BCC this year and fell in love with her books. I’ve been reading at least one of her backlist titles per month. She is a Black author, by the way.
This is a sunshine and grumpy, friends-to-lovers romance about two teenagers who have very rough home lives. Our hero’s mother is struggling with bad addiction which has trickled down to him and has been affecting him since he was a young child. Our heroine’s mother, though successful, is cold and disinterested. Though they come from completely different backgrounds, there is a lot they have in common that bring them together and they become really good friends.
This wasn’t my favorite BCC. That being said, It was still a really good, emotional story that I’ve come to expect from her. I think the main reason why I couldn’t give this 5 stars as I have literally every other BCC I’ve read, is because there is a lot of drug use and addiction in this novel and it’s just not my favorite thing to read about.
Mind Reader by Kirsty McManus
I read this book for Contemporaryathon and talk about it in my vlog as well. This is one of those novellas that I found for free on Kindle and downloaded because it sounded fun. The hero can see other people’s soul mates and knows when they will meet. Until he meets our heroine, a woman who works in the STEM field who thinks it’s all BS. Their paths cross and sparks fly.
This book is perfect for those who prefer a lot less steam. It’s very fade-to-black.
This book was a lot of fun to read. I had a lot of expectations going into this book, and I expected it to be pretty predictable, but it surprised me a few times. Though the beginning as a little rough, it starts from the hero’s POV and he was kind of douchey, but the book ended up being super sweet.
*The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
I believe this is OWN voices for the latinx rep. It’s a romantic comedy between a woman who has been left at the alter and the groom’s best man and brother. Because of this, it is a hate-to-love, but it’s so much more. The hero is dealing with issues of his own self worth in comparison to his brother (the ex-groom). The heroine is dealing with prejudice in the workplace.
I feel like this book is a little underrated. It’s not my favorite enemies to lovers, but I think it is a lot better than many of the reviews I’ve read for it were. There are a lot of complaints about the male narrator in the audiobooks and I agree, but it didn’t completely put me off of the book because of it.
I thought that the humor was really good, it was awkward in some areas, and the issues both of the characters were dealing with played out really well.
*Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love #2) by Alisha Rai
Alisha Rai is a South Asian American writer. This was a refreshingly diverse bodyguard romance with fantastic panic disorder rep. Katrina is an ex-model and divorcee to a very wealthy man, she also suffers from debilitating panic attacks, so when a couple in a coffee bar live tweet an interaction between herself and a man who approached her and it goes viral, she’s not only in danger, but it also triggers her anxiety. Her long-time bodyguard whisks her away from the spotlight and sparks fly.
I almost didn’t read this, but I’m so glad I didn’t listen to some of the sub-par reviews, because I really enjoyed this book. First of all, it’s a bodyguard romance and he’s been pining after her for a long time. There is also great anxiety rep.
I had to take away a star only because I felt like the build up of tension between these two characters was so good, but when they finally got together, I was a little let down and I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly.
*Desolate (Grace #1) by Autumn Grey
Autumn Grey has officially been added to my list of authors I need to read their entire backlists alongside Brittainy C Cherry, Mia Sheridan, and Sarina Bowen. Autumn doesn’t have as many books in her backlist as the others, so I’m going to have to pace myself.
I didn’t know what this book was about going into it for Contemporaryathon. I just saw the author’s name and picked it up. Autumn is a Black author, by the way. I recently read Fall Back Skyward by her after buying it from her at Shameless Book Con last year, and I fell in love with it.
This book is a forbidden new adult romance between a man who is planning on becoming a priest and a woman who is wrongfully considered the town whore. As soon as I realized the premise in this book, I was hooked. And the characters, oh my goodness, the characters and their chemistry were so potent. From the moment they met and how fascinated our hero is with the heroine, despite his dedication to God. How he can’t seem to tear himself away from her.
I will say, my only complaint is that this is a cliff hanger. It is part of a trilogy which is complete and I will be reading on in it. That and the hero started driving me crazy at the end because he wouldn’t make a freaking decision, but like I said, I loved this book.
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
I need to preface this by saying that I know Hannah Moskowitz has said some problematic things on Twitter recently. I haven’t seen them myself, I’ve only seen references, but I do want everyone to know that going into this novel.
With that being said, this book was such a great and refreshing representation of chronic illness in YA. I have Multiple Sclerosis and though none of the characters in this book have that exact illness, they do have their own and they do have similar experiences and thoughts.
The two meet at, I believe, an infusion center. Some place that many with chronic illnesses are very familiar with. And there is great chemistry and bonding and banter from the beginning. There were so many moments where I found myself nodding vigerously as they talked about healthy people vs. people with chronic illnesses. What it’s like to be surrounded by healthy people when you are not. Being limited and defined by your illness. Big topics that were well portrayed.
I definitely felt seen.
Grin and Beard It (Winston Brothers #2) by Penny Reid
I’m slowly but surely making my way through this series and so far I’ve been loving every second of it. Normally I’m not a big fan of the fame element in a romance novel, but it was a little easier to swallow with this book because it was the heroine who is famous. Our heroine is a comedic actress who gets rescued by our hero, a park ranger, in a small town where she is filming her upcoming movie.
Fame plays a big part in this, which I normally don’t like, but there was something about the dynamic between her outgoing, charisma mixed with his southern charm that I loved.
Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3) by Penny Reid
So far the first book is still my favorite, but this comes in close second. This is Cletus’s story, and he’s such a big weirdo I was wondering who he was going to end up with. It was NOT the heroine. Where Cletus is super smart and manipulative and quirky, our heroine is very polished and put together and naive. She has lived under her mother’s thumb working at a very successful bakery.
Nobody in town takes her seriously, especially Cletus, until she blackmails him and they are forced together. Soon, he realizes there is a lot more to this seemingly shallow woman.
I loved this book so much more than I thought I would, given the main character. I thought, when we were first introduced to her that she was going to get on my nerves, but honestly, her character growth and unexpected depth made me change my mind entirely.
And I’m such a fan of quirky heroes, so I loved Cletus, too.
Powertools: Collection 1 (Powertools 1 & 2) by Jayne Rylon
You guys. I never would’ve expected a super steamy reverse harem novel would be so high on my list, but here we are.
I talk a lot more about this book in my Contemporaryathon vlog, but in short, I loved this book because though it was ridiculous, there was a strong romance in both of the two short stories. I also was totally into the whole summer vibe of the first book and the immersive autumn vibes of the second book. Also, the hero in the second book is so swoony and I fell so hard for him.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies & McBrides #1) by Jennifer Ashley
Yay! A historical romance I LOVED! I knew it was only a matter of time until I found one that hit the spot for me and it was absolutely this one.
This was a rec from a comment on one of my videos and they freaking nailed it.
This is a historical romance between a widow and a man with autism. Of course, back then, they just thought he was mad and threw him and everyone treated him so horribly because of it. Seriously, my heart absolutely broke. However, our heroine is the only one who truly understood him, or at least didn’t look down on him. I also absolutely loved her. Because she has her husband’s fortune, she doesn’t need to marry. In fact, men are lining up for her. She also isn’t a naive, innocent virgin. She knows what she wants and she goes after it. She’s smart and witty.
This was everything I am realizing I love in a romance novel.
*Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
This freaking book.
So, I haven’t seen this musical yet, but I am such a huge fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the music – especially Jonathan Groff’s song, though, I’m biased because I’m obsessed with him. I’ve watched performances and interviews and I’m so excited about finally getting to see this on Disney Plus on July 3. I can’t contain myself.
I actually downloaded this audiobook when it went on sale a while ago, but I picked it up on a whim last week and finished it in a day because I became obsessed.
I loved seeing how this musical became the phenomenon it is. I loved hearing Lin’s thought process behind creating it. How he wanted to depict these historical figures in a modern, much more diverse way, using a genre of music that was not associated with Broadway at all. From the choreography to the costumes – it was absolutely fascinating.
I just… I need July 3 to be now.
Lover Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2) by Tessa Bailey
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one. So many people complained about how the hero was way to alpha for them and I kept thinking, “Well, jeez, if he’s too alpha for them, he’ll definitely be too alpha for me.” But, honestly? He wasn’t.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely alpha, but I adored his reasoning for it.
Anyway, this is a second chance romance between a married couple who have a ton of chemistry in bed, but have lost touch of each other in every other way. So, when our heroine has had enough, she decides to leave her husband.
But he is not having it. To him, she is his everything. It’s kind of the opposite of The Bromance Bookclub because he thinks everything is fine since the sex is still really good, but that’s not the case. I loved how this book really dove into love languages and how both people must understand the other’s language and support it.
And there was so much longing, it made my heart hurt. Yes, he was very alpha. He very much wanted to be the one who provided for his wife, however, I wasn’t bothered by it AT ALL.
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
OMG this book was so sweet, I couldn’t handle it. It’s a whimsical fantasy that, if I had to explain it in one word, it would be charming.
It’s about a man in his forty’s who has led a very mediocre life thus far. He lives for his job, which is to evaluate orphanages for extraordinary children for a very corporate overlord of a company. He’s sent on a highly classified job to check out this orphanage for especially gifted, some think dangerous, children.
It’s very elementary school x-men.
And oh my goodness, the character growth and the relationships that are built, both familial, romantic, and platonic are all so strong and vibrant. This book absolutely lives up to the hype.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
This is another book that absolutely lived up to the hype. Though the title might lead you to believe that this is going to be a fun, light read, it’s really not. There is a lot of substance behind this book that the title and cover do not allude to.
Aside from a swoony romance and hilarious banter and writing, we are dealing with grief, with loss, with resentment … a lot of heavy topics woven between this romcom story about two writers who have challenged themselves to write each other’s genre, one literary fiction, one women’s fiction/romance.
The Edge #0.5-2 by CD Reiss
These are all short, but super intense military suspense romance novels. I feel that the prequel is required reading for this series because it sets up the relationship so solidly, that despite the craziness that this couple goes through in later books, you root hard for them. The couple meet in a war zone, one a surgeon who works for 8 days straight saving lives and one a psychiatrist who is trying to keep him standing and sane – along with all the other medics and soldiers. I felt like this book was so well researched and gorgeously written. CD Reiss is called the Shakespeare of Smut for a reason. The steamy scenes were just as intense as the rest of the book.
I absolutely plan on reading the rest of this series!