Mo Springer reviews The Dawn of Nia by L. Cherelle

Dawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle

This review contains minor spoilers.

Nia’s life and self have been shaped by her friendship with her mentor Pat and is grief stricken when she dies. At the funeral, she meets a mysterious woman who turns out to be none other than Pat’s estranged daughter, Deidra. Nia is left feeling confused and betrayed–why did Pat keep this secret from her, when Nia had shared everything? Her life and feelings about Pat are further complicated when she enters a relationship with Deidra. Can they weather this storm of complicated feelings surrounding a woman who was so complicated herself, and let go of past trauma?

Both Nia and Deidra are characters who have been through a lot of trauma and a lot of demons in their pasts. It was interesting to see how they deal with the challenges and obstacles that rose from this baggage. Both of them make good and bad decisions, which helped make the story and their characters more realistic and believable. Sometimes the best people make the worst decisions, and they have to deal with the consequences of that.

You didn’t get to meet Pat, Nia’s dead mentor who was so very close to her, and Deidra’s dead mother, who she was so very distant from. But you get an intimate picture of her character from both women’s perspectives and through them see what a complex person she was. Sometimes people are bad parents, but very good in other roles of life, and you get to see how Deidra and Nia both have to grapple with how each other see someone who has had such a tremendous impact on both their lives.

In L. Cherelle’s Goodreads author page, she describes this book as being about “transformative love”, which is the best way to put it (she would know, being the author). A lot of romance stories focus on the lead up, the rising tension, the hot scenes, and the will-they won’t-they. And there is a lot of that here (with some wonderfully hot scenes), but it doesn’t detract from that transformative love theme. You don’t just get to see two characters grow and develop in separate narratives. Nia and Deidra’s character arcs are tightly wound together.

Another thing I loved about this book was how realistic all the characters were, not just Nia and Deidra. There’s a large ensemble cast of characters and they each get a moment to shine and show their true colors–for better or worse. A lot of the dialogue felt very real and lifelike, as if I was a fly on the wall in the characters’ homes.

With these characters there was also an interesting exploration of sexuality and how labels function for different people. Nia describes herself as 99% of a lesbian, having a very slight attraction to men but not the desire to pursue relationships with them. Deidra describes herself as bisexual, but also later on calls herself a lesbian to indicate her monogamous, long-term relationship with Nia.

Adding more to the realistic theme of the book is how it ends. I won’t give anything away, but the way different story threads are wrapped up felt true to life while still being a satisfactory fiction element. Chapters of your life don’t always end with a bang, but sometimes with just a whisper. You don’t always get a big scene of drama: sometimes you just have a conversation in your living room and leave it at that. Having said that, this book does have some great scenes of big drama, and where it does, it always feels like it fits the characters involved and the tension that has led to that moment.

Overall, this was both an incredibly fun and fulfilling read that I highly recommend.

Maggie reviews Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

In these trying times, the romance stories I am drawn to most right now involve two characters taking one look at each other and going “Oh.” Enemies to lovers or any variation thereof has its place, and is a trope I do enjoy, but right now what I want is two characters just being into each other. Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon fulfills that need. It’s a cute rich girl/working girl novella featuring two black characters, one of whom is a stripper and the other of whom is still trying to get a feel for her own sexuality and style.

Alexis Chambers is a freshmen in college who is trying to figure out her identity amongst family expectations and the pressures of going off to college. Trisha “Treasure” Hamilton strips nights to make money and is going to school so she has a good career after she’s done with dancing. They first notice each other during Alexis’s sister’s bachelorette party at the club where Trisha works, and then later they find out they have a class together. The connection between them is almost instantaneous, although Alexis is shy, leaving Trisha to make the first moves. Although they come from different backgrounds, and each has their own family issues, their instant attraction is undeniable. CONTENT WARNING: There is talk of a suicide attempt in Alexis’s past. It is talked about, but there’s no graphic flashbacks or descriptions.

What I liked most about this book is how sweet they both are towards each other. Alexis is head over heels about Trisha but suffering from low self-confidence. Trisha is besotted with Alexis but dealing with her own baggage. But their sheer attraction to each other makes every milestone–from holding hands to having sex–both supercharged and incredibly sweet. It’s adorable and every page made me so happy. I also love that they are both aware of their own and each other’s issues but are determined not to push or make the other feel uncomfortable. I also love how chill Alexis is about Trisha’s stripping. It’s refreshing because it feels so natural to Alexis and Trisha is so charmed by it. It’s just good to read about characters who are unambiguously into each other.

My only complaint is that the climax felt a little contrived. It’s the most obvious roadblock to introduce to their relationship, but to introduce it, there’s a very contrived appearance by a minor character. It all felt very “well they need to have at least one (1) problem.” But honestly that’s not a terrible problem for a romance to have, and, obviously, they make up very quickly.

Susan reviews The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Olivia Waite’s The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is a historical romance that revolves around two queer women creating a space for themselves in art and science. Lucy Muchelney’s lover has just married someone else, and her brother is trying to get her to give up on astronomy; her only recourse is to fling herself on the mercies of Lady Catherine St Day, who’s seeking a translator for a french astronomy text so that she can wash her hands of her late husband’s legacy once and for all. Lucy, with her excellent French and understanding of mathematics and astronomy is the perfect person for the job! … If she can convince the scientific establishment to accept that.

I adored The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, but it was so stressful as a reading experience! I was absolutely certain the whole way that there couldn’t be any true catharsis in it, because every sympathetic character is up against structural oppression and the sheer societal weight of white men and their gatekeeping. Over and over people who aren’t white men get dismissed and undermined, both professionally and personally, and it’s as infuriating in fiction as it is in real life! Especially because Olivia Waite does such a good job of showing the way that this form of bigotry wields politeness and reputation as weapons against marginalised people having the audacity to, say, want credit for their work! Or to be accepted as experts in their fields! But there is some catharsis – not just individual victories, characters explicitly doing the work to make science and art more welcoming, and I’ll accept that as a start.

It helps that the characters have believe in each other throughout the book. Lucy believes that Catherine’s embroidery is as much art as anything her brother has done with paint and canvas, and Catherine knows that Lucy – and many other marginalised people she knows, including herself! – are knowledgable scientists or talented artists, and while she might not always know what the best way to encourage those skills, she tries. The supportive relationships are such a good counterpoint to the Polite Science Society.

(And the descriptions are so lush! They give the book so much texture, and the characters so much depth just from what details they notice. Honestly it’s worth reading just for the gifts Catherine makes for Lucy.)

But it’s also a romance, so let’s talk about that! Lucy and Catherine are both freshly out of terrible relationships; Lucy’s ex-girlfriend is petty and manipulative even after they’ve broken up, while Catherine’s late husband was explicitly abusive. There’s no abuse explicitly on page, but Catherine’s reactions to relationships are heavily influenced by the abuse, and are completely believable to me! But if you’re in the market for a romance that’s supportive and kind, where the power difference between characters is actually acknowledged, and the characters find beautiful ways to demonstrate their commitment to each other, this is the book for you! I adored both of the characters and the ways that they tried to make their worlds and interests more accessible for each other! The ways that they work together warmed me right through. Honestly, my biggest frustration with the romance is that there’s a conflict between them near the end that could be solved by actually talking to each other that they just don’t deal with, which felt a little artificial considering that up until that point they’d tried to communicate! But on the whole, the romance was wonderful!

At its heart, The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is about recognition and community. At every turn, the characters are asked to choose whose recognition they value – whose recognition is valuable – and what they want their community to be. Watching them answer those questions and discover a community that they didn’t even know was available is beautiful, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

[Caution warnings: racism, misogyny, past abuse, structural oppression, manipulative exes, dubious consent in backstory]

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found as a contributing editor for Hugo-winning media blog Lady Business, or a reviewing for SFF Reviews and Smart Bitches Trashy Books. She brings the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Sheila Laroque reviews The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

I couldn’t believe that this novel, The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, was a debut work! It was so poetic and lyrically written, and Petrus painted such a vibrant picture into the lives of Audre and Mabel. This story has two primary voices: Audre, a teen from Trinidad who is now living in Minneapolis, and Mabel, who quickly takes to showing Audre what being in an American high school is like.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons, but particularly by learning more about Trinidad through the eyes of Audre, as well as what she misses about home. I’m not very familiar with Trinidadian culture in my personal life; and I always appreciate it when books are written in a way that allows me to learn without feeling condescending or just out of place with the rest of the work.

This is a young adult romance that is written in a way that acknowledges the complexity and emotional depth that people in their teens have. It can be seen as a beautiful time to be experiencing all of the intricacies of love and dating, and this book is a beautiful experience to read. There are other elements of racial justice that fit in very well to the current political climate. I will definitely look for upcoming releases from Juanada Petrus.

Reading Black Joy: F/F Romances by Black Authors

The first Pride was a riot. A riot against police.

This Pride, support Black Americans protesting for their rights. When you’re building your Pride TBR, support Black LGBTQ authors and Black-owned bookstores.

Black Lives Matter protests have brought a shift in bestsellers: anti-racist books are selling out, and Black authors are getting a bit of the recognition the extremely white publishing industry usually robs them of. As crucial as those books are, though, it’s not enough. Many Black authors are asking readers to read and buy not only the difficult, dark stories centring racism, but also stories about Black joy. Which brings me to this post! “Black lesbian romance” has been a common keyword search that leads people to the Lesbrary, which reveals how little coverage there is, because although we have a general Black Bi & Lesbian Book Recommendations post, it is light on romance recs, so it’s past time to have some more relevant suggestions.

If you’re looking for Black lesbian romance, you need to immediately bookmark Sistahs on the Shelf and Black Lesbian Literary Collective. They both aren’t exclusively romance, but SotS especially reviews quite a few.

Katrina Jackson, author of many queer Black romances, has a twitter thread where she discussed how Pride coverage of queer books is usually extremely white, especially outside of YA & kidlit. She rightfully calls out white readers and reviewers for not reading queer Black romance, prioritizing interracial romance with a white partner, fetishizing Black queer men and erasing queer Black women. This post features any F/F romances by Black authors, while her thread showcases Black-authored queer romances starring Black people (no interracial romances with white characters). This post is thanks to her recommendations, and her work, so please check out her titles first.

I am just featuring one or two titles from each author, but many of these authors have multiple queer Black romances, so make sure to click through and check out their other titles!

Breaking Jaie by S. Renée BessBreaking Jaie by S. Renée Bess

Twenty-eight-year-old Ph.D. candidate Jaie Baxter is supremely confident about three things: She will become a noted writer. She’ll win the prestigious Adamson Prize. And she can have any woman who grabs her attention. But Jaie’s arrogance begins to slip away the day she meets Terez Overton, a woman whose ethnicity matches hers, but whose background is the exact opposite.

Dawn of Nia by Lauren CherelleDawn of Nia by Lauren Cherelle

Nia Ellis is grief stricken when, Pat, her mentor passes away. At the funeral, Nia is blindsided by Pat’s deep-seated secret, which sparks feelings of betrayal. Weeks after the funeral, Nia is still figuring out how to handle her wavering emotions and the unexplained secret– until the opportunity for answers forces her to step outside of her comfort zone. Nia believes she is in control of her guarded emotions when sidetracked by curiosity and thrust into a battle zone with Pat’s sisters.

Romance was the least of Nia’s concerns until a fling matures and challenges her lingering insecurities. Nia learns there is a thin line between love and hate when former relationships and loyalties are lost in her circle of friends. In the end, she realizes that Pat’s secret was a blessing in disguise.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa ColeOnce Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

When Likotsi and Fabiola meet again on a stalled subway train months later, Fab asks for just one cup of tea. Likotsi, hoping to know why she was unceremoniously dumped, agrees. Tea and food soon leads to them exploring the city together, and their past, with Fab slowly revealing why she let Likotsi go, and both of them wondering if they can turn this second chance into a happily ever after.

That Could Be Enough by Alyssa ColeThat Could Be Enough by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston knows the best thing to do with pesky feelings like “love” and “hope”: avoid them at all cost. Serving as a maid to Eliza Hamilton, and an assistant in the woman’s stubborn desire to preserve her late husband’s legacy, has driven that point home for Mercy—as have her own previous heartbreaks.

When Andromeda Stiel shows up at Hamilton Grange for an interview in her grandfather’s stead, Mercy’s resolution to live a quiet, pain-free life is tested by the beautiful, flirtatious, and entirely overwhelming dressmaker.

Andromeda has staid Mercy reconsidering her worldview, but neither is prepared for love—or for what happens when it’s not enough.

This is an angsty but fluffy F/F novella with a happy ending for both of our intrepid heroines.

21 Questions by Mason Dixon21 Questions by Mason Dixon

Kenya Davis’s ability to find the perfect employee is unparalleled. Her ability to find the perfect mate? Not so much. After she takes a chance on speed dating, she finds herself with not one but two chances to find true love. But with her spotty romantic track record, how can she be sure which woman is Miss Right and which is only Miss Right Now?

Simone Bailey works as a bartender at one of the hottest nightclubs in South Beach, has more female attention than she knows what to do with, and spends her spare time following her musical ambitions. Then she meets Kenya Davis. After her initial attempt to charm her way into Kenya’s heart fails, she resolves to reach her ultimate destination one question at a time.

Four Letter Word by Ava FreemanFour Letter Word by Ava Freeman

They say love comes when you least expect it and Anais Gibbons definitely has no expectations. Dating has led to nowhere and she still entertains her ex while yearning for something more fulfilling. Her coworker Maya Banks has been her work “best friend” for years despite Anais’s desire to take things to another level.

After a girl’s night out a real friendship emerges and the possibility for a deeper connection. Reluctant to take the next step, Anais has to decide whether taking a chance on love is worth risking it all or if love is just another four letter word.

Midtown by Alix B. GoldenMidtown by Alix B. Golden

Midtown, the center of everything gay in Atlanta, GA. Friends from FAMU live together, work together, and sleep together.

Eva Daniels, aka Ed, has a pretty girlfriend, works for herself, and has plenty of love in her life. She floats on Cloud Nine, until she catches her girlfriend cheating. Taylor Collins is the blonde haired blue eyed All American girl with a strong appetite for beautiful girls. While her heart is committed to Ed, her body is not. Keikou Satou, Ki is what the ladies call her. Looks can be deceiving though, because Ki really only has eyes for one woman. Brie Allen isn’t looking for Miss Right, she’d settle for Miss Right now if they are skilled in the bedroom. Will the love of a good woman be enough to make her settle down? Ashley Johnson can’t turn down the opportunity to bail a friend out of a tough spot. What will her friends think about her newly discovered sexuality? And what will one friend think when she confesses her love?

What happens when 5 same sex loving friends co-habitat? Visit Midtown and find out!

When I Was Your Girlfriend by Nikki Harmon

How can you be sure that your first love wasn’t your true love?

Dee Armstrong leads a seemingly charmed life. She has a successful midwifery practice, a supportive family, and an exciting romantic life. But when Dee mistakenly believes she will have to confront her first love and first heartbreak, Candace, it sends her tumbling back into her memories to re-live the terrifying and exhilarating joy of being a teenager in love … with another girl.

Suddenly convinced that Candace was her one true love, Dee sets off on a tumultuous cross country journey to find her in hopes of renewing their relationship. When she does not find the reconciliation she had hoped for, she dives into a new relationship with Noema, an outspoken artist. She feels completely vindicated until she makes the awful discovery that this too, has been more fantasy than the real love she desires.

Dee’s quest leads to some serious soul searching and the realization that maybe love wasn’t the only thing that she lost all those years ago.

Things Hoped For by Chencia C. HigginsThings Hoped For by Chencia C. Higgins

Can two women who only want to be loved, find a home in each other when the world around them is moving too fast for them to settle down?

Growing up in an intolerant town, Latrisha Martin was used to shrinking the most important parts of herself. She hid her loneliness within a busy life and kept the yearning in her heart tucked away from those closest to her. Just as the façade became too heavy to maintain, Trisha received wise words from a strange woman that helped redirect her life’s journey. On a whim, she relocates to Houston, and while adjusting to a new normal, she finds that those desires she’d once hidden begin to manifest in ways she never imagined.

With her star attached to a rocket ship, Xenobia Cooper was quickly transforming from a locally known talent into a name known in households across the nation. Viewed as an overnight success to many, the only thing that the veteran of the Houston underground music scene hadn’t prepared for was living a life without someone to come home to at the end of the day. A reckless tweet sent out in the middle of the night brings an influx of women with stars in their eyes, but they all lack the key component that Xeno is looking for. A chance encounter after her largest show to date and she’s convinced that those things she’d hoped for are just within her grasp.

Being Hospitable by Meka James

Some houseguests are more enticing than others…

Kiki Jenkins knows that opening her home to her best friend’s younger sister means giving up some solitude. What she doesn’t expect is for her new roommate to become temptation in the form of novelty panties and flirty innuendos. But Charley is off limits…for several reasons.

Charley Graham wants to be seen as more than her brother’s little sister. And she wants Kiki to do the seeing. Her new internship provides the perfect opportunity. Plan in motion, she’s not going to let their close living quarters go to waste.

The arrangement is supposed to be temporary, but as they grow closer a permanent change of address might be in order.

Goslyn County by A.M. McKnightGoslyn County by A.M. McKnight

A mostly black community with its roots in farming, Goslyn, Virginia lay just south of the State’s Capital. The once small, close-knit county had grown rapidly in the past two decades and boasted a population of just over fifty thousand. But the county’s crime stats had grown as well, and the latest offenses included several break-ins and rumors of a meth lab. Time had brought many changes, and many of the longtime folks of Goslyn no longer recognized their community and longed for days gone by.

Goslyn PD Detective Olivia “Ollie” Winston loves her family and friends and shows it through her sense of humor. Just like her neighbors, she too worries about the recent events, and it’s her job to find out who’s behind the crime spree.

While investigating three burglaries, Olivia meets IRS Special Agent Maureen Jeffries who is pursuing a tax fraud suspect. Their cases are connected, and both soon discover they have much in common, personally and professionally.

A Girl Like Me by J. NicholeA Girl Like Me by J. Nichole

Lo made her feel like nobody had ever made her feel.

That smile made Skylar feel like she was wrapped in a warm hug, like she was secure.

She was inspired, motivated to move out of her comfort zone.

With just one look from Lo, Skylar felt like the sexiest woman alive.

Lo was proving to be the love Skylar hadn’t realized she deserved.

But there was only one thing Skylar didn’t expect —  Lo, was a girl like her.

The EXchange by Nikki RashanThe EXchange by Nikki Rashan

Can exes be friends? The answer to this question is tested and revealed in The EXchange, the third installment in the story of Kyla. When readers first met Kyla, she was a confused young woman struggling with her sexuality. By the time we met her again, she was a loose philanderer, bed-hopping in her search for love. She found it with the beautiful, no-nonsense Asia. After nine years of solid commitment, Kyla is bored with the monotony and simplicity of their day-to-day relationship. She soon finds the excitement she craves, but not in the right place. Angie, her ex turned longtime friend, is single again, and she’s ready and willing to fill the void Kyla feels. Will Kyla trade the stability she has with Asia for the passion she’s been missing?

Full Circle by SkyyFull Circle by Skyy

It’s been two years since Lena decided to take time away from drama to find herself and focus on her child. But the present finds her staring at images of Denise, the one who got away. Will Lena finally move on to someone new, or go after the one she’s wanted all along?

Sugar & Ice by Brooklyn Wallace

[Currently unavailable to buy]

One ice queen, one sweetheart, one last chance at happily ever after.

Gwendolyn Crawford is Superwoman personified. She runs her ex’s senatorial campaign while battling gossip rags, sleazy opponents, and her self-righteous former father-in-law. She does the job well, and as far as she’s concerned, that’s all she needs. Besides, there’s no time for romance. Not even when a pair of bright eyes catch hers at the highly exclusive Rose club.

Jacklyn Dunn is stuck in a rut. After a devastating stress fracture ended her WNBA career, she’s mostly been dodging her agent and binging TV. Then she meets Gwen and starts to wonder if there’s more to life than wishes and regrets.

There’s no denying the sparks between them. Jackie thrills in melting Gwen’s ice queen heart, and Gwen is instantly hooked on Jackie’s sweetness. But romance isn’t easy for two women in the spotlight. Stress, tabloids, and their own fears threaten to shake the foundation of their budding relationship. After years of building up walls, the two must open themselves up to love—and to getting hurt—to find what truly makes them happy.

Tailor-Made by Yolanda WallaceTailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace

Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.

Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.

Soul to Keep by Rebekah Weatherspoon Soul to Keep by Rebekah Weatherspoon

College junior Jill Babineux knows where her priorities lie. Between a full course load, her blood pledge to feed a certain vampire, and all the community service hours she’s got to log with her sisters in Alpha Beta Omega Sorority, the last thing on her mind is finding love, especially with an immortal.

Which works out just fine for Miyoko “Tokyo” Hayashi who’s been so busy enjoying her wild days and even kinkier nights, she’s never had a reason to speak to the tiny know-it-all. But after a random run-in and a few carefully plotted encounters, Miyoko learns that there’s more to the sorority’s least favorite member.

Miyoko never thought she’d actually start to like the girl, let alone love her, but when true evil comes for Jill, Miyoko finds herself willing to do anything to protect her. Anything.

Treasure by Rebekah WeatherspoonTreasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

Drawing the Line by K.D. WilliamsonDrawing the Line by K.D. Williamson

Pediatric resident Dr. Dani Russell is focused on her career and there’s no room for anything else since her last relationship crashed and burned. She’s seen as standoffish and cold to everyone except her patients and her best friend Rick. That’s just fine with her.

Detective Rebecca Wells, newly appointed to Atlanta’s Juvenile Missing Person Unit, is a woman in a state of flux and on a mission to fix her unsatisfying personal life. That means reaching out to her ex, Dani, to make amends. But after sizing up the once warm, friendly woman she loved, Rebecca can’t believe how unrecognizable she now is or how hurt she is.
Is it too late for them? Has too much time passed to make things right?

An enemies-to-lovers, second-chance lesbian romance that’s powerful, sizzling, thought-provoking, and everything in between.

A Drop in the Ocean by Nikki WinterA Drop in the Ocean by Nikki Winter

It was a small lie, really. Nearly white because of how minuscule she intended it to be. And yet Kairo Maftah’s small, nearly white, very minuscule lie had managed to turn into something large and pink and pachyderm shaped in silhouette. One might’ve asked how and she might’ve been inclined to say, “Oh, my knob of a younger brother has taken it upon himself to get tied in a matrimonial union with my ex-girlfriend who I really shouldn’t call names—but I do it anyway because what the f$&@?!—and I may have roped my best friend into playing my newest love interest at their ceremony because I don’t want to look pathetic and alone and Audrey Hart, that’s my best friend, is such an amazing person that she’s agreed to spend a couple weeks of her vacation days here in Queensland convincing everyone we’re in love. But she kind of doesn’t know I really am in love with’er so I have to pretend I know how to function on a basic human level past grunts and happy sighs when she’s around. Did you get all of that? I hope so because I really don’t feel like repeating it.” That would have been a ridiculous response to that question right? Right?

Every Dark Desire by Fiona ZeddeEvery Dark Desire by Fiona Zedde

Naomi lives an almost idyllic life in Jamaica. She has a daughter who adores her, a close-knit community that looks out for its own, and paradise as her playground. But she secretly longs for the touch of other women. It is a longing she finally gets to satisfy during a trip into the tourist heart of Jamaica. When she surrenders to the seduction of a compelling stranger, however, she is savagely transformed into Belle, a ruthless beast whose hungers know no bounds.

Now Belle is part of a vampire clan, reveling in an existence that lays bare the dark hungers within every soul. Part of her hates her new world, but another part glories in it and in the explosive sexual connection she shares with the powerful head of the clan. But as magical as her new world is, it also has its dangers. Dangers that threaten the people she loves.

Bonus Bisexual Black M/F Books

If you’re looking for Black queer women romances in general, check out these M/F Black romances about bi+ women!

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia HibbertTake a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Pink Slip by Katrina Jackson Pink Slip (The Spies Who Loved Her #1) by Katrina Jackson

Kierra was a poor poet looking for a job while she worked toward her dream of becoming a published poet. One day she accidentally becomes the personal assistant to married spies. For the last three years she’s lusted after them, not very secretively, until finally she decides it’s time to move on with her life and gives her notice.

During her last week of work, her bosses whisk her away to Serbia for a top secret mission that only she can help them complete. And in the middle of dispatching a European dictator, Kierra and her bosses give in to their deepest desires.

Pink Slip is the first in an erotic/suspense/spy/comedy series that wonders what James Bond’s receptionist’s life might have been like. If James Bond had a wife and they both wanted to shag the receptionist. But the dirty American version of that. And all of the possible entanglements in between.

Something Like Love by Christine C. JonesSomething Like Love by Christina C. Jones

Eddie is arrogant, quite vain and slick at the mouth – or simply confident, discerning, and unafraid to speak his mind, if you ask him. Astrid is annoyingly perky, unpolished, and a little delusional about Eddie’s attraction to her – or, according to her, energetic, authentic, and absolutely spot on about the driving factor of a certain local tattoo artist’s “hatred” of her.

Undeniable attraction.

They may think they’re opposite, but have more in common than they think. For both of them, finding a connection that is deeper than surface-level is rare. Someone they can learn from, grow with, someone who can show them things they haven’t seen before and feel things they’ve never felt, with anyone.

No labels, no boxes.

Just…maybe… something like love.

This is far from a complete list! Check out the Sistahs on the Shelf Romance tag for more Black lesbian romance, and Katrina Jackson’s twitter thread for more queer Black romance.

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Mary reviews A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J. Werlinger

A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J. Werlinger

Ireland? Ghosts? A hot horse trainer?  What more could you ask for?!

Nora is spending her summer exploring the Irish town her grandparents hail from when she discovers her cottage is haunted by a tragic history. She falls in love with the country and the people, her cousins and new friends (and one friend that could turn into more), but her vacation soon takes a drastic turn. She’s started sleepwalking and having awful nightmares, and she won’t leave the cottage for anything or anyone.

Briana has lived in relative solitude–by choice. She works with horses, a job she’s passionate about, has a few friends, and a family she rarely visits. Ever since an accident years ago that she refuses to talk about, she hasn’t let herself grown close to anyone. All of that changes when Nora moves to town and ruffles her feathers.

I won’t lie, I wasn’t very engaged with this book for the first third. The plot took its time getting off the ground, but once it did, I was all in! The author makes sure to set the stage for what’s about to happen so that once it does, you can’t stop reading. As the paranormal happenings rise, tensions between Nora and Briana, as well as with her cousin, rise as well. The relationships you’ve spent so much time reading about developing are now at great risk, and so is Nora.

The characters felt real and interesting. Nora had a full personality with a character arc that I felt was complete by the end. The same can be said for Briana, who was a nice contrast point-of-view character to Nora as their perspectives on haunted cottage vary more and more drastically as the book goes on. Their romance was soft and a slow burn that also had its hot moments. It was nice to watch them grow closer over the course of the book.

Nora’s cousins and friends Sheila and Quinn were good side characters that felt real and added to the story. It was fun to see Nora explore her Irish roots and grow some new ones in her grandparent’s new town through Sheila and Quinn and other family members she meets along the way.

The paranormal aspect of the story was a lot better than I expected. I thought it would be more subdued, but as the ghost–or ghosts–drag Nora into their past, I was dragged along as well. It was also nicely wrapped into Irish history and I enjoyed how the setting played a character of its own.

Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable read. If you’re looking for a paranormal mystery with some subdued romance, this is the book for you!

Sheila Laroque reviews Music From Another World by Robin Talley

Music From Another World by Robin Talley

Reading this was the comforting visit from a great pal that I was so desperate for this week. This story takes place in 1977; across Orange County and San Francisco. I should disclose that I believe that any way that one consumes books counts as reading, even if more technically you are listening. It all counts as reading to me; and the way that this story was written through a series of letters and diary entries suited an audiobook performance.

It is the story of two Catholic high school girls that are assigned a pen pal assignment over the summer of 1977 California. They discuss their lives, the punk music scene and the state of politics at the time. It was a welcomed break from our current situation, to revisit a time in queer history where the fight for political and civil rights was just coming into the public sphere.

In this YA romance, we can also see just how far we have come. There was also a great deal of time in the middle of the punk scene at the time, which was music that I really enjoyed when I was in high school. Reading this book was one of the highlights of my week, and is an excellent story told with compelling characters. It is well-written and highly enjoyable. If you are looking for a lovely, “get my mind off things” coming of age romance story, this one will stand up for years to come.

Maggie reviews The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin cover

Obviously, there has been a lot going on recently. In light of the new stresses in my, and everyone else’s, lives, what I wanted to read was some light romance as an escape. I turned to The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin, because it had been recommended to me a while ago as a very cute fantasy f/f romance. I liked it immensely. The twin influences of fantasy and romance combined for some highly enjoyable, wish-fulfilling world-building, bulldozing all potential problems to create a fantasy realm where queer romance can reign and the problems are mostly fantasy-plot related.

Princess Esofi of Rhodia has journeyed for months to get to the kingdom of Ieflaria and marry her long-time betrothed, Prince Albion. Although the betrothal was born out of political necessity – Ieflaria needs the battlemages that Rhodia trains in order to fend off escalating dragon attacks – she believes her union with Albion will be a good one based upon the long series of letters they’ve exchanged. However, upon arrival she finds out that Albion is dead. Esofi is left to marry another in the line of succession to keep her and her resources in Ieflaria. Albion’s sister, the Princess Adale, is the logical choice, but Adale never thought she would rule and rejects the violent upheaval of her life. Esofi and Adale have to build their relationship in the midst of dragon attacks, culture shock, rival heirs, and Adale’s own personal crisis.

What I enjoyed about this book was that there was a lot of traditional fantasy elements – magic, dragons, elaborate regency setups – but a strong romance sensibility made it all very soft. Princess Adale has strong feelings about being forced into the position of Crown Princess, a common enough fantasy element, but she starts to reconsider when she becomes enamored of how nice and soft Princess Esofi looks, a common romance element. Watching her become tongue-tied over her feelings is a delight. Court politics and arranged marriages are standard fare in both fantasy and romance, but this book wanted them to be a backdrop, not a real obstacle. Princess Esofi is both incredibly politically savvy and sensible about her position and also more than willing to have an emotional relationship. It was just so nice to take a break from everything happening in real life and watch a disaster princess trip and fall head over heels for a soft but extremely capable princess while also reading about dragons and magic.

What was also very nice about this book was that it was set squarely on Queer Romance and no problem was too real life to get explained away. How can they expect Princess Esofia to switch from marrying a guy to marrying a girl? Obviously Everyone is Pansexual. What about the line of succession? There’s some magic for that. A 400 page fantasy novel would explain and justify all of these things, but this is a romance first and foremost, so you don’t have to worry about it. Neither do the characters – it’s all built into their society from the ground up so they can immediately get to the romancing and the magic. A queer reader can sit back, read some inept wooing and dragon fighting, and feel warm and fuzzy for a while without any of the conflict having anything to do with queerness, which is always an experience I don’t realize I’m missing until I get into a story like this.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Queen of Ieflaria. It’s just the sort of fast-paced but incredibly soft romance I was looking for right now. If you’re at all into fantasy elements, this is a fun and feel-good read, and I’m excited to continue on to the rest of the series.

Mary reviews Thornfruit by Felicia Davin

Thornfruit by Felicia Davin

Alizhan has grown up in the noble house of Iriyat ha-Varensi, using her secret powers to read people’s minds. The downside of her powers is that she can touch someone or be touched without causing extreme pain to both her and the other person. It is because of this that her life has been lonely with only Iriyat for brief moments of painless touch, but the woman who rescued her from an orphanage is keeping many secrets of her own.

Besides Iriyat, Alizhan has Evreyet Umarsad. Going by Ev, she has grown up on a farm with her loving parents and taken the cart every week to the market to sell her thornfruit. Every week, the same thief steals her thornfruit, but Ev is fond of them. This thief is Alizhan, and she has no one else to turn to when she starts to unravel a complex plot involving her powers, Iriyat’s secrets, and an unknown number of innocent lives.

This was a great book! Alizhan and Ev were wonderfully real. Alizhan definitely felt like someone who grew up isolated and was completely unfamiliar with any sort of human interaction. She was adorably earnest though! Ev was equally realistic in being more down to earth and realistic, while also repressing her attraction to women. Both of them have been isolated in different ways and in finding each other they find they aren’t so alone. The two of them were engaging and watching them slowly grapple with their feelings for each other was wonderful.

The world building was probably my favorite part besides Alizhan and Ev. There are no days and nights like we have in our world, it’s day all the time and they split their time into “shifts”. Night is a whole place, called the Nightward Coast. In addition, there are waves that will wreak havoc and deadly medusas deep in the ocean.

The plot starts off as a kind of mystery and then turns into a chase mixed with a heist. It was intriguing and exciting. It’s balanced between the big picture of the political implications and the smaller day-to-day trials Alizhan and Ev have to go through such as finding money to continue their investigation.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I avidly look forward to reading the sequel. If you’re looking for a fun, intriguing, fantasy romance I highly suggest picking this up.

SPONSORED REVIEW: Oaktown Girls Series by Suzanne Falter

Oaktown Girls by Suzanne Falter is a four volume romance series following several lesbians and one non-binary character in Oakland as they explore and deepen their relationships. While the first volume focuses mainly on Kate and Lizzy, there are more point of view characters added as the series progresses, eventually having 8 main point of view characters.

Driven by Suzanne FalterOne of the strengths of Oaktown Girls is this sense of a strong lesbian community. Lizzy and Temika run a garage together, and it becomes a hub. All the main characters are connected in some way, and you get the sense of them forming an always-expanding family. They are different ages and at different points in their relationships, which makes the community feel vibrant. Even the peripheral characters–customers, employers, the villain of the series–are lesbians. I also appreciated that Temika, Delilah, and Lizzy are middle-aged: a demographic that doesn’t always get represented in romance novels.

The characters are all multi-faceted and flawed, which can sometimes prove frustrating: I lost sympathy for Kate in the first book, while Lizzy’s attitude in the second volume rubbed me the wrong way. As I continued reading, though, I realized that this wasn’t a matter of them not being written well, but that the characters themselves made bad decisions: they weren’t always the people I wanted them to be. And I respect that, especially when each character’s flaws and strengths are completely different from each other.

Committed by Suzanne FalterOne ongoing theme in this series had to do with self-help and spirituality. It began with statements like “This is the thing about the human race, Lizzy. We always get what we need in this life.” and “If it truly meant to be, it would simply happen. That’s just how the Universe worked.” I’ll be honest, this isn’t a philosophy that appeals to me. I’m also surprised to have that sentiment co-existing with some of the truly horrific things that happen over the course of the series (check out the trigger warnings section for details). Once I finished the first volume, I saw in the author’s biography that she has published self-help books, which explains the tone.

From the second book onward, the series becomes more spiritual, not just general self-help sentiments. Sally is introduced, who is a psychic character whose visions are confirmed by the text. She speaks to angels and believes in goddesses. By the end of the series, it seems like everyone believes in goddesses, hears voices occasionally, and are constantly getting sudden epiphanies about what they must do right now–which can seem very convenient to the plot.

Destined by Suzanne FalterOverall, although the spiritual aspect wasn’t something I connect with, I really enjoyed this series. It’s fun and surprising. The first book is about two rival lesbian garages, including a cartoonishly evil villain, with a romance blossoming across these rival camps. Who can resist that? A psychic character was definitely a curveball, but so was the corporate espionage subplot in the third book. I never knew what would happen next. Sometimes it’s about a developing romance, sometimes it’s about the threat of deportation and having to live in a sanctuary church and the isolation that causes. The last book really wrapped up the series, giving each relationship a relevant milestone, and I appreciated the family that had formed between them.

Unfortunately, I did have some issues with the series, including some things I think are worth having content warnings for. Firstly, although it was fun to have a villain to rail against in the first book, Mindy’s rage and single-mindedness is ascribed to her brain injury, which I didn’t feel great about. We did have a few chapters from her perspective, and because she really seems to be driven entirely by spite, with no positive qualities, it wasn’t particularly compelling to read from her perspective.

Revealed by Suzanne FalterLater in the series, we get the point of view of a non-binary character. I appreciate this addition, and I believe this was done with the best of intentions, but the representation here fell short. Monroe’s gender identity is sometimes fetishized: “Monroe’s wan countenance was maddeningly, alluringly non-gender-specific” and “Non-binary. Not choosing male or female. Monroe was somewhere deliciously in between. Instantly, Rosalind began to blush crimson with the alarming realization that she’d been instantly aroused.” Awkwardly, Monroe is also referred to in-text and by characters as “a ‘they'” constantly. As in: “she’s not a she— she’s a ‘they’” and “She’d never even considered being with a non-binary person. A ‘they.’” Similarly: “Can I really bring home a non-binary?”

Monroe is also constantly misgendered by people, and their gender is often discussed as being somewhat tragic: doomed to always be misgendered, and as undesirable. The text establishes that Monroe is being read as a woman by seemingly everyone around them. It also includes their birth name. Their mother is determined to misgender them, saying “You were born a girl, and you’ll always be a girl, Sarah. As if I should have to remind you.” As I mentioned, I really believe that this was meant to be a positive depiction, but it missteps frequently, including lines like: “Just like Cher refused to call Chastity Chaz back in the day.” At a different point, a sex worker is referred to as a “transvestite.” I’m disappointed, because I think Monroe could have been a really great addition to this story, with a little reworking. I think it would have helped if there were any other trans characters, even minor characters, so that Monroe wouldn’t have to be the only representation of trans or non-binary people.

Oaktown Girls is a series that never failed to surprise me. I became emotionally invested in the growing cast of characters, and I appreciated seeing them become a chosen family. Like the characters it portrays, this series is flawed, but it is also compelling and enjoyable. Just be prepared to roll with the punches, because you never know where it will go next.

Content warnings: violence and death, including a murdered child, traumatic injury of a child, witnessed suicide of a child; PTSD; internalized homophobia and parental homophobia; casual mention of drunk driving; anti-sex work sentiments (and pro-police sentiments)

This has been a sponsored review. For more information, check out the Lesbrary’s review policy.