Pandemic life means still searching for joy and grabbing onto every scrap of it you can find. Or at least, it does for me. So I am thrilled to be showing off the #SpringIntoLoveBingo board and sharing with you my excessive TBR. Also, there are a couple of prompts that I’m just hoping I stumble into along the way, so let’s talk about it!
Quick “Rule” Type Matters:
- #SpringIntoLoveBingo will take place from March 1, 2021 to May 31, 2021.
- Our only real ask is that y’all remember to keep your posts accessible, which means including ALT text for images and capitalizing each word within the hashtag.
- The only square we’re “strict” about in any way is Black Love, which just means a book with two (or more) Black leads and it’s written by a Black author.
- May is both Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month so we would encourage you to try and celebrate those with your reading choices!
Now onto my TBR… 🙂
Map/Diagram: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
My selection for this is absolutely going to be Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri because I’ve had this on my radar and on my TBR for years thanks to Aarya and it’s well past time for me to actually get to it. Although, I could say similar things about The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin, which I keep putting on my TBR and not getting to!! So one or both of these. Preferably both, tbh, because I really want to read them both and I have a feeling I’ll be kicking myself for not having done so sooner.
Secrets: Careless Whispers by Synithia Williams
I am so excited for this installment in the Jackson Falls series because Elaina is such a fascinating character. She comes across as kind of cold, but also very loyal to her family and I’m just so looking forward to watching her fall in love. Given that her younger sister is now married to her ex-husband, I’d say she deserves an HEA. She’s been through it. My secondary option is Beyond Scandal and Desire by Lorraine Heath, where the last line in the blurb is “As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.” I love Lorraine Heath’s writing. I think she does angst so well, so I’m really looking forward to this one. My final option is Seducing His Secret Wife by Robin Covington, which I picked up at Barnes and Noble the other day. I’m so thrilled for Covington’s Own Voices Harlequin series with Native American main characters. Indigenous representation in my own reading is severely lacking, so I’m extra pumped about this. Also having a secret wife sounds scandalous and I’m into it.
Spring Cleaning: Duchess by Design by Maya Rodale
I got Duchess by Design by Maya Rodale after listening to one of the first “What We’re Reading” episodes from Wicked Wallflowers in December of… 2018, I believe. Set in Gilded Age Manhattan, Duchess by Design follows Adeline Black who is trying to be a fancy dressmaker, not a duchess, but Brandon Fiennes needs someone to go on society events with him, which could serve both of their purposes. Until they fall in love. And my secondary pick is Fierce Justice by Piper J. Drake, which I’ve had for… some time. I’m not 100% sure how long. Anyway, it follows Arin Siri who is protecting a man named Jason Landon and they’re trying to figure out who is kidnapping people.
Set in Continental Europe: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
I sort of picked this prompt after seeing a tweet complaining that people seem to think that books set in the UK encompass all of Europe and was pleased when Dani and Aarya agreed we should put it on the board. I’m not sure how much more “diverse” of a setting France really is in the grand scheme of things, but I haven’t finished Laura Florand’s backlist and next up I have either The Chocolate Temptation or Shadowed Heart, both of which I’m pretty desperate to get to. If I would like to challenge myself in many ways, I could finally pick up the audiobook of Circe I’ve owned for years…
Makes You Laugh: To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters
Honestly, I have a feeling I’m going to stumble into this more than being able to actually pick out what book is most likely to do this. But for now, I’m going to guess that To Love and to Loathe by Martha Waters will make me laugh. I know that her first book, To Have and to Hoax, did so it seems like a promising pick! Plus I have an ARC so that’s definitely a good choice. It’s about two people who do not get along, but they’ve made a bet and now they’re at a house party or something. I’m really excited about it. (Also note that To Love and To Loathe would also work for Sophomore Novel.)
Pact: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath
If things go the way they’re looking right now, I’m going to be reading a lot of Lorraine Heath in the next three months, but I’m not complaining. My understanding of this book is that Althea and Benedict make a deal that involves teaching Benedict rules of etiquette and Althea seduction skills. So I’m very in. Please share your recommendations though, just in case this doesn’t work out!
Out of Comfort Zone: Reckless by Selena Montgomery
There are a few things that I think are out of my comfort zone that still fall within the romance genre. Number one is alien romance. I’ve read a few but they weird me out so I’ve never really fallen head over heals for some of these alien books the way so many people have. Then there’s romantic suspense, which I will get into a groove with if I stay within the same series, sometimes, but I have a really hard time picking up something new. And finally, fantasy romance is something that is like almost in my comfort zone, but if it involves much world-building, I get really hesitant about it and mostly just read the same books over and over again instead. So I decided to pick one book from each of these categories and go from there.
For alien romance, I’m going with Mastered by Her Mates by Grace Goodwin or maybe Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett. For romantic suspense, I could always use my secondary pick for Spring Cleaning, Fierce Justice, but I think I’ll go with Reckless by Selena Montgomery, aka the incredible Stacey Abrams! Finally, for fantasy romance, I have The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken or From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
Black Love: How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole
Most likely, I’ll be reading How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole for my Black Love square. My favorite part of How to Catch a Queen besides Shanti being fantastic, was the quick glimpse we got of the ball of energy that is Beznaria Chetchevaliere. I can’t wait to go on this adventure with Beznaria and Makeda and I’m so, so excited specifically for “Bez takes her on a transatlantic adventure with a crew of lovable weirdos, a fake marriage, and one-bed hijinks on the high seas.” Like, yes please, sign me up! Another option for this is… Well, there are so many. But specifically, I keep buying Rilzy Adams’ books faster than I can read them so I’m ready to pick up any of those. I just bought myself Ate, which I know is an erotic novelette, but I’ve avoided the actual details. The way Rilzy writes erotic romance though??? I know I’m not about to be disappointed. Or I could, and should, try a new to me Black author like Jayce Ellis, whose Learned Reactions has a gorgeous cover and it drops on March 9th. For some reason, I have a thing for main characters who have to take in their nieces and nephews and I don’t really know what that’s about, but Carlton does that twice so I love him already.
MC Has an Unusual Scent:
Okay, so this one, I really think I’m just going to have to discover because I don’t even know how to search for it! I’ll have my recommendations post up tomorrow and I’ll go ahead and spoil for you the only one I have on the list for that is Candy Hearts because I do not notice scent markers. Time to pay attention! (If you do pay attention and have a specific recommendation, please, please share with me!)
Sophomore Novel: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan
To say that I am excited about The Intimacy Experiment is really just a dramatic understatement. I cannot wait for this book. I want to read Naomi’s book so desperately, you cannot possibly begin to understand. Anyway, this one is out on April 6th! My secondary option is Love from A to Z by S. K. Ali, which was her sophomore YA contemporary novel and is one I’ve had on my shelves for quite some time. I really loved Saints and Misfits, but have been dragging my feet on all YA contemporary lately. Hopefully I’ll get this one read in the next three months! Or… I could do Dalliances and Devotions by Felicia Grossman… So many really good options.
Clinch Cover: The Heiress Hunt by Joanna Shupe
I have three ARCs that work so beautifully for this prompt, the first of which is The Heiress Hunt, a Gilded Age set in the U.S., where the woman love interest is engaged to a duke but agrees to help her childhood best friend pick out a wife. Pretty sure they’re the ones who actually fall in love so I’m excited. Scoundrel of My Heart is the next one, which is by Lorraine Heath, and is also the first in her new series. This one would also work well for flowers, but I have several options for that prompt as well as you’ll soon see. And finally, a contemporary romance and therefore, much more in my wheelhouse is Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam, a debut about a second chance between a Vietnamese woman trying to make her sex toy shop business a success and a Black man trying to save his family’s restaurant from gentrifiers. I am really looking forward to this one!
Social Media Rec: The Chai Factor by Farah Heron
I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages because of Aarya, who it seems is my go-to for recommendations. I’ve previously picked up The Chai Factor before setting it aside because I got side-tracked during the pandemic. Some other appealing options are A Treason of Truths by Ada Harper, which is on my TBR thanks to Bree and, if I’ve not read it by then since it’s technically on my tbr for this month, Love Unsolicited by Alexandra Warren, which Funmi recommended.
HEA: Sandcastle Beach by Jenny Holiday
I have a lot of ARCs to get to and I’m not sure where all of them fit so let me tell you about three I haven’t been able to fit elsewhere since I know they’ll work here. First up, we have Sandcastle Beach by Jenny Holiday, which is a hate to love romance where Maya and Law are also competing against one another for a business grant. Okay, so technically this works for Competition or Reality TV, but I have a long list of books I’m desperate to get to with that trope. At the Rancher’s Pleasure by Joss Wood is the second book in the series Naima Simone kicked off with Back in the Texan’s Bed and I’m really excited because it features the ex-wife of Rusty and she winds up having a thing with her son’s best friend. It sounds scandalous. And really, this one would also work for clinch cover, but you already saw how many books I have to fill that prompt. And finally, I wasn’t sure if I could fit The Road to Rose Bend by Naima Simone anywhere and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a bit worried there’s going to be an escape from an abusive ex storyline so I’m also hesitant, but hopefully that’s just me reading too much into the blurb. Also, since the word Rose is in the title and flowers on the cover, this one would work for flowers, but again, I have too many options for that prompt.
Term of Endearment: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
So, I’ve read both of the other books in this series of Tessa’s and I didn’t want to pick up book one because it just doesn’t sound like it’s going to be my thing, plus I remain scarred from my freshman year roommate calling her boyfriend baby at the end of every sentence and I believe that’s what Travis calls Georgie. But I’m a completionist and I really loved the other two books in the series, so here we are. I think I’m going to do it! If I manage to refrain from reading Reckless Road by Christine Feehan before March starts, I know Feehan’s books in this series are always good for a Russian pet name. Other than these two though, there aren’t really books or authors that stand out to me as playing this up so that I can go into a book knowing I’ll find this. That said, so many romance books have this so I’m not worried about it!
First of all, I can’t decide on my favorite trope anymore. Lately, I’ve been LOVING marriage in trouble and Taima from @shadesnpages on Instagram helpfully made a whole post with Black romance recs for this trope. Rilzy Adams has one called Yours Always and y’all know I love her. But I’ve also heard such good things about Cherish Me by Farrah Rochon. And I would like to read more from Shae Sanders who has one called Love and War (content warning, features quarantine) and then Alexandra Warren has one called Complacent. So basically Taima gave me so many options if I go this direction. On the other hand, my usual favorite trope is fake dating and I have The Dating Plan by Sara Desai, which sounds so appealing… But then I also love hate to love and friends to lovers. Basically, I have too many favorite tropes and this prompt is hard for me because WHICH one am I supposed to choose? Anyway, as you can see, I have many options.
Competition or Reality TV: The One by Danielle Allen
I’m a little nervous about The One because it’s a duet, but the solution clearly is to just be prepared to read both books back to back. The One is basically The Bachelor and I am so excited for this!! While we’re on the subject of The Bachelor, my next pick is an Audible Original called After the Fairy Tale by Terrence Gray, Erin Day, and Ian Thake. It sounds like it’s going to be like the “winner” of The Bachelor returning home and having a man from her past return to her life. I’m really excited about this one. Tiny House, Big Love is more of the HGTV style of reality TV and I’m really looking forward to finally picking it up. It’s one of the last Olivia Dade’s I have left! There’s also a February YA release called A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen that sounds amazing and Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron looks delightful too!
Growl: The Lady’s Champion by Mare Lipscomb
There are 34 mentions of the word growl in The Lady’s Champion, though at least one of those is not one of the leads actually growling. I didn’t want to skim through all of the results to make sure, but I think this one definitely fits! (I did the Kindle search again.) Another option that I believe I heard about on Discord and then bought on sale is Marked by Fire by Mia West, which has nearly 20 mentions of the word growl. And finally, there’s a lot of growling in Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, which I think is my next book in the series to get caught up.
Flowers: Sweethand by N. G. Peltier
There are flowers on Cherisse’s dress in this gorgeous cover and I’m excited for this debut. Sweethand comes out on March 30th and I think it looks fantastic! I also have Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender still on my TBR, which features a flower crown on the cover so I’m loving that. Felix Ever After is about a trans boy who is still sort of grappling with his identity and is being blackmailed or is forcibly outed, I’m not sure. It sounds like it’s going to break my heart, but I’m clinging to the idea that it ends well. Someone tell me it does, please. And finally, as you may know, I’ve been really loving Susanna Kearsley lately and I thought maybe I should try The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Wilig because of the story within a story element. Tell me if this is a good idea. I’ve owned this book for FOREVER on Sarah MacLean’s recommendation.
Spring Break/Vacation: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
There is no question in my mind that I will be dropping everything to read People We Meet on Vacation when it drops on May 11th. This sounds like a sort of estranged friends to lovers on one last ditch vacation to hopefully restore their friendship and I, for one, cannot wait. Another option I have if I don’t wind up reading it before that is The Sweetest Escape by Rilzy Adams. It is a friends to lovers, fake dating situation and I’m excited about it. My final pick is Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan, which is her February 23rd release. It sounds like Emma goes to Rosemont for a break after finding her boyfriend cheating on her and getting axed from her job on the same day. While she’s at Rosemont, she meets a hockey player. I’m definitely intrigued and Melanie seems to have really liked it! Also, it sounds like it would probably work for Term of Endearment (again, per Mel).
Queer Historical: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian
I am extremely fortunate to have an advanced copy of this one since it doesn’t come out until June, but I would really love to get ahead of my ARCs. Also, the cover is really lovely. The two leads in this one are planning a robbery so like… I’m very on board. Also they appear to meet in a coffee shop. True love. If I don’t get to this one, everyone loved Slippery Creatures by K. J. Charles last year and I want in on that love. This one involves both a mystery and a book shop so I’m essentially already sold. Finally, I really, really need to finally try EE Ottoman with A Matter of Disagreement, which, like too many of my books has been hanging out on my TBR for AGES. This one is more science-y from what I remember. (Also if I’m lucky, I would really love an ARC of The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite because it’s a heist book and I love heist books, so please universe!!)
As sort of an aside, does anyone have recommendations for Queer Historicals by and about people of color? If so, please feel free to share them below!
Big City Romance: Ante Up by Christina C. Jones
I read Maybe Next Time by Christina C. Jones the other day and realized that it includes mentions of characters from this book and series and so I decided I wanted to go back and read it. Set in Vegas, Ante Up is apparently darker than a lot of what I’ve read from CCJ so far and involves poker playing? Idk really. Another option I have is The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod, which in addition to having a pretty lovely cover, is also a second chance with rockstar vibes set in Philadelphia and I really love books about music. It’s out on May 4th so I’m hoping I can get my hands on a copy early enough! Finally, I still need to get to Tweet Cute by Emma Lord, which was on my last Bingo TBR because of Aarya and is again. It’s set in NYC, I believe.
PNR/SFF Romance by an Author of Color: Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
Honestly, I’m shocked I have this series by Alyssa Cole left, but since I can never get enough of her work, I think finally picking up Radio Silence is a brilliant plan. What I know about this one is that it’s the first in her post-apocalyptic series and Arden and John are treking across Canada to get to his family’s cabin where she meets and falls in love with John’s brother Gabriel. Next up we have Crux by H. E. Trent because I really need to continue in this series that I was loving. This follows the younger sister of our female lead in the last book. I’m looking forward to it. And finally, we have Bear’s Gold by Yvette Hines, which was recommended very highly by Rebekah Weatherspoon in a panel with Alyssa Cole and Beverly Jenkins, I think. Anyway, I bought it right after and then still haven’t picked it up.
Folklore: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This is a prompt that you can take in different ways, like literal folklore, in which case you could probably go ahead and use Bear’s Gold by Yvette Hines or you could take it the way that I intend to and read a book that reminds you of folklore by Taylor Swift. Penguin Random House Canada recommends for “Hoax” vibes, My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, which I recently picked up from the used bookstore so that wouldn’t be a bad choice for me. The Nerd Daily recommends for “Invisible String” vibes, Lovely War by Julie Barry, which I recently picked up on an Audible sale because of the full cast audio. Book Riot recommends for “August” Anna K, which I have from Book of the Month last year and for “Betty,” they recommend The Mothers by Britt Bennett, which I also have a copy of through Book of the Month. Sabrina from Wordy and Whimsical recommends Jade City to go with “Epiphany” and I’ve had that on my TBR for so unbelievably long. Meg from A Little Shelf Righteous recommends The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh for “Peace.” As you can tell, all of these books are on my TBR and spoiler alert, but in March I plan to participate in the ‘Tis the Damn Readathon that a ton of people are hosting on YouTube and Instagram. In case you’re intrigued, these are the folklore prompts in case you want to base your choice for this off these: Read a book based on mythology/retelling and Read a book written by two authors. My biggest issue with the books that have been recommended by other people for folklore is that there’s no guarantee of a happy ending, so if you’ve read any of these, please let me know if they’re safe. My only other plan is to just read until I find a book that reminds me of one of the songs, which isn’t particularly difficult because like we (Swifties) can get 13 out of too many numbers, we (I) am always relating things back to Taylor Swift.
Mental Health Representation: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle is her follow up to one of my favorite books last year, You Deserve Each Other, and I cannot wait! Apparently it features a male main character with anxiety, which is always really nice to see. Other options for me include Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish, which I picked up on the recommendation of Melinda and have been dragging my feet on because I’m pretty sure it’s going to destroy me or finally reading Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan, an ARC I’ve had for a December 2020 release for way too long. I really need to read it! I believe Invitation has depression and suicidal thoughts/ideation representation and Ten Rules has anxiety representation.
Forearms: Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur
I searched my ARC just to check if Bellefleur would deliver on forearm content and yes, yes, she does. I can’t wait to dive into this follow up to Written in the Stars. This installment is following Brendon who is going to be trying to prove to Annie, his older sister’s best friend, that love like in the romantic comedies exists and I cannot wait. I know there will be additional forearm content for me to find as I go on so I didn’t bother to search for other options because I’m 100% reading this book!
And there you have my entirely too extensive TBR. Why did I go so hard at picking books out? Well, two things. First I wound up doing #SnowInLoveBingo twice and I would sort of like to keep that energy going. Second, I’ve decided I only want to be including four or five star books on my Bingo board, which means I may need more than one option for each prompt. Anyway, here’s hoping I get at least some of these books read so I can make some progress on my owned TBR! What are your favorite prompts and illustrations on the board? Please share down below!