The best thing about starting a blog, for me, was the fact that it introduced me to Dani, a fellow blogger and a true friend. We roomed together in Chicago for Kiss Con and it was amazing to discover that our electronically based friendship translates just fine to IRL. Our reading tastes frequently overlap, but we were having a conversation a few months ago where Dani discovered I have read SO few old historicals and really missed out on a huge part of the romance genre. So Dani suggested and I readily agreed that we would do this project where we read the old historical romances she loved so much and are what got her into the genre and mix up the old white-centric titles with some of my favorite contemporaries from a diverse array of authors. Check out Dani’s post for more on the historicals that we’re reading, and buckle in for the syllabus to Jenica’s Favorite Contemporaries!
Fly with Me by Chanel Cleeton
I love Chanel Cleeton and I think Dani and I both enjoyed Next Year in Havana. I finally picked up her backlist series, Wild Aces, and fell head over heels in love with it. Fly with Me is about Jordan and Noah, who meet in Vegas and are immediately, irrevocably drawn to one another. Their Vegas hookup turns into desperately wanting more, but the geography problem between them seems insurmountable. Jordan owns her own clothing boutique in Florida and Noah is stationed in Oklahoma. I included this book on my list for Dani because I was texting her while reading it saying, “DANI, YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.” I sent her the whole series as soon as she finished her Zero TBR Project because, of course I did.
Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert
Tbh, Dani and I probably should have had the conversation we had a few days ago about tropes that do and don’t work for us before I picked this one for our list, but, we’ll see what she winds up thinking. Wanna Bet? is/was my favorite Talia Hibbert (I think Get a Life, Chloe Brown has overtaken it???? I can’t decide) and I think it’s a great friends to lovers. Anyway, Dani has been wanting to try Talia for a while, but despite being so new to publishing, Talia’s backlist is pretty expansive. So I chose Wanna Bet? for our challenge because I adore this friends to lovers book wherein Jasmine has to move in with her best friend, Rahul, because her apartment has flooded. Rahul’s had feelings for Jasmine for ages, but Jasmine was up front that a man can either be her friend or a guy she sleeps with once and he chose to be her friend. This close proximity thing may challenge that stance a little…
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
American Dreamer is a m/m romance about a Dominican food truck owner who moves himself and his truck to Ithaca, NY to see if he can really make his dreams come true. While parked outside of the library, Nesto spots Jude, a librarian with a dream of creating a library on the go to reach more kids. The problem, for both of them, is Misty, a self-important white lady who is the epitome of this is why we can’t have nice things. Anyway, the two are certainly attracted to one another, but Nesto’s ambition and Jude’s need for security might make things a little challenging. This book took romancelandia by storm this year and for good reason. I’m excited to reread it.
If you’ve been around for any time at all, you may know that Hold Me is one of my top three romance novels of all time. I absolutely adore Maria, but I felt a little bit guilty when I finally re-read Trade Me around the first of the year, because I forgot that Tina Chen is equally amazing. These are the first and second books in Courtney Milan’s Cyclone series. Trade Me follows Tina Chen, first in her family to go to college and trying to support herself and take care of her family on her meagre salary, and Blake Reynolds, son of tech giant Adam Reynolds who has never really given any consideration to money in his life. The two agree to trade places and adventures and shenanigans ensue. Hold Me follows Maria Lopez, a trans woman with a blog about the science of apocalyptic scenarios, and Jay na Thalang, a post-doc fellow (I think) who has a friendly correspondence with Maria online. However, when the two meet, it’s immediate enemies territory and I love every page of this novel. I just really hope Dani agrees with me!
Scoring Off the Field by Naima Simone
Truly a masterpiece of a romance novel, I stand by Scoring Off the Field as the single best friends to lovers ever written. Following Tennyson Clark, personal assistant and best friend of Dominic Anderson (star quarterback of the Warriors), Scoring Off the Field looks at what it’s like to try and step out of the shadow of the best friend you’ve been in love with for years. This book gets pining so very right and also it’s very sexy. I’m a little apprehensive to see what Dani thinks, but fingers crossed she loves this one as much as me!
It’s wild to think that Kennedy Ryan was a new to me author at the beginning of the year because I have absolutely devoured her back and front list this year. I have one series to go and I’ve bought the first two in the series so it won’t be long until I’ve gotten through that one too. Anyway, Flow was my first book of Kennedy’s and despite knowing it’s a prequel novella, I still felt pretty cheated. But I am really looking forward to reading them actually back to back on this go around. And I’m going to try the audiobooks on this go around. Anyway, I don’t think Dani has tried Kennedy Ryan yet and in my opinion this series is the best place to start because although it has Kennedy’s characteristic social issues examination through romance, there are fewer CWs necessary. This series is about Bristol and Grip, a couple who meet when Bristol goes to LA to try and make a relationship with her twin brother who has been estranged from her for years. Grip is Bristol’s brother’s best friend and the two of them hit it off despite appearing to be from wildly different worlds. Bristol’s WASP-y upbringing clashes with Grip’s urban, West Coast, impoverished one, but art and poetry connect them. Until, that is, Bristol finds out Grip isn’t quite the man she thought. Grip picks up a few years after Flow and the series is really just so good.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
And another one of my all-time favorite romances. (Maybe I really have a top four?) Rock Hard is one that Dani has heard me talk about probably too many times. After finally getting her to try Guild Hunters and Psy-Changeling, Dani’s finally ready to try one of her contemporary romances! This particular one has the best meet disaster ever, which is Charlotte throwing a stapler at the person she thinks is an intruder but who is actually the new CEO (and her boss). Gabriel Bishop is very intimidating, but he’s confident Charlotte is up to the task of being his personal assistant. The two of them have such a fun and banter filled relationship and I love how gradually it builds from assistant/boss to friends to lovers.
I really hope Dani finds a few new favorites in this list! I’m so looking forward to re-reading them alongside her. If you were going to make a syllabus of contemporary romance by authors of color, what would make it on your list? Of course, if I were doing this for someone who hadn’t read my other two favorites of all time (A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole and Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai), those would definitely be added!