So, it has been A Week in Romancelandia. The shortlist for RITA Golden Heart awards came out and it was incredibly white for the umpteenth time in a row and everyone (me included) is angry about it. And as discussion about it raged on Twitter, it turned out that a whole load of black authors have just given up entering their work (you have to enter it yourself and pay a fee to be considered) because no black author has ever won one. Never. Not one. And only seven of 20 categories have had a winner who isn’t white in 20 years. Twenty. Years. I’m not a romance writer (I’m a reader) and I’m not American – so I can’t do anything to actually fix the RITAs. But I can do my bit in book recommendations, because bitching about it on Twitter doesn’t solve anything.
Yesterday’s book of the week was Alyssa Cole’s latest novella, Can’t Escape Love, and as mentioned there, her next novel is out in April. Also on my reading list last week was Courtney Milan’s new novella, Mrs Martin’s Incomparable Adventure, which came out yesterday, but which I got an advance copy of and is really excellent (two older ladies find love as they persecute a Terrible Nephew). But if you’ve been hanging round romance for any length of time you should already know about them because they’re giants of the genre at this point. So who else?
Well if you’re in the market for more modern royals novels after Alyssa Cole whetted your appetite, then Talia Hibbert’s The Princess Trap might be just what you are looking for. It was a BotW here last year, and she is pro-lif-ic – with small town contemporaries and paranormal among her series and a lot of choice of tropes. She also has terrific book covers. Here’s her website with a list of titles and blurbs so you can find your catnip. And if you sign up to her mailing list, you get freebies to read too.
Jasmine Guillory was one of the names that people were expecting to see on the RITA list – I know I was because 2018 was a massive year for her. I really enjoyed her debut, The Wedding Date, and the second in the series, The Proposal, and saw her do a reading from the latter while I was in Washington. The Wedding Date (fake relationship turns real) is £1.99 on Kindle/Kobo at the moment and The Proposal (a Reese Witherspoon book club pick) is £2.99 on Kindle/Kobo. Her third book – The Wedding Party – is £1.99 to preorder** on Kindle and Kobo as I write this and is out in July.
If you want a sports romance, I’ve just finished I’ll Catch You (Kindle/Kobo) by Farah Rochon, which has a female sports agent falling head over heels for her first client – a running back with a bad boy image who may not be quite what he seems. It’s a category romance and was over far too quickly for me – I could easily have spent another hundred pages with Payton and Cedric. It’s the second book in the series (which have had a smart-looking repacking since the edition my library holds) and the first, Huddle With Me Tonight, is £1.56 on Kindle at the moment and just slightly more on Kobo. I haven’t read it (yet!) but one of her medical romances, Deliver Me, is free at the moment on Kindle and Kobo.
Want a historical romance? Well Beverley Jenkins is the biggest name in the field – she is a legend of the genre and her historicals come up in every discussion about historical romances featuring non-white characters. I have a whole load of her books on hold with my library, but if yours doesn’t carry them (the UK not being great for American romances in paperback) then Forbidden is 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment and Breathless and several others are £1.99. She also writes contemporary romances – her Blessings series is super highly rated – Bring on the Blessings is the first one (Kindle/Kobo) but they’re a bit more expensive.
Away from Ms Bev, Vanessa Riley’s Advertisements for Love series features smart non-white characters in Britain looking for their happily ever afters. I’ve read the first two – and loved the characters but they weren’t neccesarily my favourite tropes and were a little melodramatic for me . But I liked them both enough that I have book three waiting on the Kindle because it looks like it is one of my tropes! The first one is The Bittersweet Bride (£2.84 on Kindle at the moment, also on Kobo but more expensive there) which is a second-chance love story with a secret, the second is The Bashful Bride (Kindle/Kobo) which is a marriage of convenience and the third is The Butterfly Bride (Kindle/Kobo) which looks like a friends to lovers, which is usually totally my catnip. Her website is here and has details of all her books.
Rebekah Witherspoon writes contemporary erotic romances. I read her novella So Sweet (Kindle/Kobo) back in 2016 after she gave copies away as part of a sponsorship deal with the Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcase, but struggled at the time to get any more of her stories in the UK at a price that was under my kindle price cap. Sugar Daddy stories aren’t usually my thing, and I’m not a big erotic romance reader, but I enjoyed it a lot – it was more romantic than I was expecting, but so steamy that I blushed too hard to read it in public. I’m waiting for holds to come in at the library – but have FIT (Kindle/Kobo) waiting for me on my Kindle because it’s £1.99 at the moment. I just need to find somewhere to blush in peace! Her website is here.
Asian authors have at least won some prizes at the RITAs – but they’re still way below the representation they should have. Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient was another book I – and a lot of others – were expecting to see on the list – but she was among the authors who didn’t even enter.
The Kiss Quotient was one of my favourite books of last year – her next book, The Bride Test is out at the start of May, was on my list of most anticipated books of 2019 – and is £1.89 to preorder on Kindle at the moment (Kobo don’t have it listed yet). From the blurb, The Bride Test is a modern day relationship of convenience with culture clash between a Vietnamese American man and a Vietnamese woman. He’s got autism and is convinced he doesn’t do feelings, she’s fallen head over heels for him and wants him to love her back – and she’s got a time limit to make it happen. What is not to love. I can’t wait.
Suleikha Snyder is an Indian-American and writes small town and Bollywood romances. I read Tikka Chance on Me in January – and it’s a funny sexy biker gang romance novella. I’m not usually a biker gang romance girl – but this was *kisses fingers*. It’s 99p on Kindle and Kobo at the moment. And the first in her Bollywood Confidential series, Spice and Smoke, is free (Kindle/Kobo)at the moment and is now waiting on my to-read pile. You’re welcome.
In not a quite romance books, Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock historical mystery series is awesome – here’s my BotW review of A Study in Scarlet Women – I have book three waiting on the pile, and she’s just finished writing book four. Thomas also writes romance and YA fantasy – although I haven’t ready any of those from here yet – and English is her second language.
In other Not Romance books – I’ve got an advance copy of The Confessions of Frannie Langton (I’m in the blog tour for it!), which is a historical mystery about a Jamaican maid accused of murdering her employer and his wife in 1826. I’ve already started reading it and it is shaping up to be good so far. A debut novel – and Sara Collins was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize while she was writing it.
So there you have it. Go forth and read romance and read diversely. And I want more recommendations please. I’m very aware that my list may not be straying too far from the mainstream and people recommended by the authors that I follow on Twitter. You all know how many books I read a year – and you know I love discovering new authors so give me names. Just writing this post has had me buying more books – because Ms Bev’s prices are lower than I’ve ever seen them in the UK at the moment. I’m currently reading An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (the first in her Loyal League Civil War series) and have several Ms Bevs waiting to be read next.
*I didn’t realise that so many book awards had an entry fee. I don’t know how I thought the shortlists were come up with – I guess I naively thought it was going to be the best new books by eligible people/members of the organisation…
**Have I mentioned before that pre-orders are super useful to authors? They let publishers know how much interest there is in a book – particularly important for own voices authors who often get told that people don’t want to read books like theirs. My only gripe with pre-ordering on Kindle is that the Amazon pre-order price guarantee doesn’t apply. I think Kobo do do a price guarantee on pre-orders, but I can’t be dealing with another ebook platform – I’m already confused enough with two (apple books, Kindle) and the chances of me buying the same book multiple times are High.