I was fortunate enough to receive advanced copies of The Write Escape by Charish Reid and Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory and instead of writing two separate reviews, I thought I would thank Dani for not only sending me her advanced copy of Royal Holiday, but also the idea to just do an ARC round up rather than two separate reviews. Netgalley provided me the advanced copy of The Write Escape. So let’s hop into it.
The Write Escape by Charish Reid
The Write Escape is a debut novel about Antonia, a black woman from Chicago, who when she loses her job in publishing and calls off her wedding goes off on a solo trip to Ireland. While in Ireland, she meets a white Irish literature professor, Aiden, and the two have some fun banter about literature. Both Aiden and Antonia are working on their writing while they’re staying in these cottages in a small town. Aiden is working on scholarship stuff and Antonia is writing her first romance novel.
I think I would have liked this book more if a few things were different. For one, Aiden and Antonia don’t meet for the first… 20% ish? Second, I absolutely hated the way Antonia talked about why she was writing this romance novel. This book is a contemporary novel, right? So, one might think that if you’re going to talk about why representation in romance is so important, you wouldn’t erase the Black authors who ARE and HAVE BEEN writing romance for years. I mean, even if you only ever read historical romance (which, tbh, is what it seemed like), Ms. Bev has been writing historical for decades and Alyssa Cole has one of the best historical romance series ever written. And that’s just two BESTSELLING authors who have been traditionally published. There are SO MANY more Indie authors who have been writing about Black heroines in historical AND contemporary AND every other subgenre. Third, but related, there was some super weird internalized sex shame? I really didn’t like that aspect.
Now, I did like Aiden. I don’t know that he was a fully formed character, but I liked him a lot. Antonia was… interesting. I liked her, but felt like she was inconsistent sometimes. Either way, the two of them together were definitely cute. I will say though that a lot of people seem to have really liked this book, so check some other reviews before you take what I’m saying to heart.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
In reviewing this, I promise I am attempting to set aside my frustrations with Jasmine Guillory’s marketing strategies. This would be easier if it didn’t mirror my frustration with the discussion of representation in The Write Escape. But, for real, setting that aside…
This holiday romance is mostly focused on Malcom and Vivian’s meet cute in Sycamore Cottage (aka a part of Sandringham House) and Vivian’s time in England with Maddie (her daughter). The last 50ish pages involve Vivian’s return to Northern California and her life there. Vivian is a Black, social worker who has been offered a really big promotion that she knows she’s going to take, but she doesn’t seem too thrilled about it. Malcom is the first Black secretary to the Queen, which is, obviously, a big deal. So both of them are very much career oriented humans, but they immediately connect.
But here’s the thing, I read this book at a time where my patience for older men not knowing how to like… effectively communicate their displeasure or emotions stressed me out. And it was interesting that Vivian was patient with Malcom in regards to this because she commented at dinner about how this woman on a terrible date was an expert at handling her date and how that was actually kind of sad. But I felt like it was kind of sad that Vivian had to keep helping Malcom communicate effectively. Like… does she not see that she’s doing the same thing?
That said, this book had some great humor and I really liked the early sections before Vivian left for London. I just wish we could have more romances with emotionally fluent men. What would the conflict be in those situations? I don’t know, but like, let’s figure it out!
Have you read either of these? Are you wanting to pick them up? Let me know!