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June started off with a bang. It was a bang that the world really needed to hear. With the intensification of the Black Lives Matter movement, I was transfixed with the news. I spent so much time on Instagram reading posts and reposting resources to stories. So it was a lot on my Black body. In the midst of this turmoil, the way I found to calm my anxiety was to focus on reading novels. In particular, I committed to reading romance novels by Woman of Color as a form of protest against the overwhelmingly white gaze of the publishing industry.
Romance Books To Read July 2020
So for the month of July, I have decided to try something new with my blog. At the beginning of the month, I am committing to recommending romance novels that you can tuck into and get away from the world. But the romance novels I am recommending are not all by women of color. However, I am committing to making sure that my lists includes a good representation of romance novels written by women of color.
I started reading romance books when I was a teenager living in Lagos Nigeria. Back in those days, I had a collection of Harlequin Romances and some Mills & Boons. In fact, romance novels were the first place I found to explore sex, sexuality, and love. It was also the mechanism through which I was able to imagine romance. Growing up as a Yoruba girl, it was drummed into me that one day I would meet a man, get married, and have children. This has always been a critical prayer point from my mother. Left out of the conversation were sex, love, romance, and other important mechanisms of a fulfilling relationship and partnership.
Like so many young women, reading romance novels was the first place I got to explore how love works and what relationships are supposed to be. Now at 33, romance novels are a major part of my collection. Every month, I will be recommending new books I have read, old books that I keep reminiscing about and occasionally, I’ll recommend a book that will be published soon.
Party Of Two By Jasmine Guillory
Shop Party of Two By Jasmine Guillory here.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a video I did talking about Jasmine Guillory’s other books, especially The Wedding Date. Party of Two which was released late in June a lot of fun to read. It took me a while to make the connection, but Party of Two is connected to the other Guillory books. The female lead in this book, Olivia Munroe is the sister of Alexa Munroe from The Wedding Date.*
Olivia is a lawyer who has recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to start a law firm with her best friend. During her stay at a hotel, she meets Max at the bar and they have a really fun conversation about cookies and cakes. They also both lie to each other, one by omission and the other, intentionally. From this meet-cute, they go on to build a relationship. One of the things that struck me about this book is how perfect it is for this moment. Guillory has chosen to talk about criminal justice in this book in a way that is serious but not so heavy that it overshadows the lighthearted nature of the book.
Olivia is a Black woman who was arrested in her teenage years for trespassing. Due to a diversion program, she was able to get a second chance to focus on her academics and become a successful lawyer. Max is a prosecutor turned district attorney who is now a senator in the US Congress. He is also a white man who understands the concept of white privilege. And learning how to use his privilege as a white man and a legislator to push for necessary reforms.
Given the discussion we are having about Black Lives Matter in the moment, it felt so divine that Guillory has written a book for this unexpected moment.
It feels like the stars aligned for this book’s arrival. One of the things I love about Guillory’s writing is that sex between the characters is usually exciting without being an overwrought production. Sex happens in this book and it happens well. But it does not overshadow the rest of the book. Overall, I loved reading this book. I believe this would be the perfect read for the long 4th of July weekend. Consider it a form of activism! You are supporting a Black female author, reading about Black issues while relaxing with some delightful words.
Take A Hint, Dani Brown By Talia Hibbert
Shop Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert here.
This is the sequel to the Talia Hibbert book that I discussed on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. And this book is another smash hit, in my humble opinion. In this novel, the sister of Chloe Brown of Get A Life, Chloe Brown, Dani gets her turn in the spotlight. Dani is a doctoral student who gets caught in a viral moment with Zaf.
The viral moment leads to a fake romance that reveals a whole lot more about the characters than they intended. Also can we talk about how the female character in this book is sexually liberated. And really in touch with her need for sex. The thing I love about this book is that it touches on bisexuality without making a big deal out of it. It is also touches on grief, male vulnerability and intercultural dating.
Another thing that is really powerful in this book is the Dani, the heroine, is unabashedly smart and committed to her work. It is refreshing reading a book about a woman who is intelligent. And who is celebrated for her brains as much as she is for her body. I also loved that a good chunk of the emotional arc we experience in this book is focused on Zaf who is learning to navigate his grief at losing his brother and his father. We get to see a man, who is physically strong, reveal his vulnerability and embrace them as a part of his being.
P.S. If you love Take A Hint, Dani Brown, you will possibly like Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai. Rai also explores the consequences of going viral in her book in a different way.
Shop Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai here.
Born In Fire By Nora Roberts
Shop Born in Fire by Nora Roberts here.
Born in Fire is one of those books that I reach for every couple of years or so. It is the first in the Born in Trilogy and this book is steamy. Born in Fire is the story of Maggie who is a glass sculptor. The story is set in Ireland where Margaret Mary, aka Maggie, lives and works in a village with her mother and her sister nearby.
Due to fortunate circumstances, Maggie gets discovered as an artist, and is offered a management deal by Rogan Sweeney. Their professional relationship bleeds in a fiery personal relationship as well. This book was one of the few romance books that I have read that really informed who I want to be in my own relationship. It is an exploration of what it means to be a strong independent woman who wants to be loved and loves other. How do you do that without feeling like you are breaking? This book is an addictive read and you might find yourself reaching for Born in Ice and Born in Shame, the other two books in the trilogy once you are done with Margaret Mary’s story.
Those are my recommendations for July. If you read any of these books, please let me know how you feel about them. Enjoy the month of July. Stay safe.