In 2016 I left academia after deciding that the PhD path and teaching (?) wasn’t for me. Charish Reid’s Hearts on Hold—featuring an African American Literature professor and a Children’s Lit. librarian and department head—takes me back to those days and offers an exciting combo I haven’t really seen in a romance novel before: allusions to various African American writers (Zora!) + academia politics and learning goals and student meetings (!) + absolutely scintillating sexytimes (!). It’s socially aware (even a little nerdy at times) and sexy and I adoreeee it.
Professor Victoria Reese wants to offer students at her college an internship with the local library. To please her fuddy-duddy, snobby (maybe worse) supervisor and hopefully get her internship idea approved, Victoria contacts the library to get more deets about how the program would work. She’s paired with Johnny Donovan, aforementioned librarian, who’s nothing like she expected.
Can we say tattooed? And man-bun? And tall, handsome Viking?
This interracial romance has lots of things I didn’t even know I was looking for. Like a beta hero. References to Zora and “We wear the mask.” A “prim” heroine trying to deal with her overbearing mother’s expectations and an oftentimes stifling English department—where she feels like she has to disguise who she really is and rigorously sell what she thinks is important for their students. An instant attraction leading to a fast sexual arrangement leading to an awkward first date plot.
I felt like some of the sexytimes language went a little overboard (the metaphorical teasing between leads for example) and it gave me a smidge of secondhand embarrassment, but overall the dialogue between characters—especially Victoria and her two BFFs—snap, crackle, pops. There are several scenes that brought a big smile to my face because they’re so funny and original. The period scene between Johnny, his niece, and Alanis is particularly outstanding.
I love how willing Reid is to really engage with what it means to be a black woman in academia—and I think this book has a lot of important things to say—but don’t be scared off if you’re in the mood for something lighter. Hearts on Hold is also so so so willing to be dirty. One-click away!
Hearts on Hold is out now. Thanks to Netgalley and Carina Press for my complimentary ARC. All opinions provided are my own.
Q: How do you keep track of books you want to read that haven’t been published and released into the world yet?
I’m only asking because *she says very casually* I think you’re gonna wanna read Tessa Bailey’s first paranormal romance REBORN YESTERDAY and I’m *she starts to lose her cool* sharing the cover reveal today!
Isn’t it beautiful?! Tessa is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors and I’m so so excited about this one. REBORN YESTERDAY releases on March 16th. Read on for the blurb and more deets!
A timeless love story with bite.
It was a night like any other for funeral home director Ginny Lynn, until the
exceptionally handsome—and unfortunately deceased—young man on her embalming table sat up, opened his emerald eyes and changed the course of her life forever, making her feel quite fluttery while he was at it.
Humans aren’t supposed to know Jonas Cantrell, or any vampire, exists. It’s kind of a major rule. Despite his instantaneous bond with perfectly peculiar Ginny, he has no choice but to erase her memories of their one and only meeting.
That was the plan. Before a reluctant Jonas can wipe Ginny’s mind clean, she reveals a secret that brings their worlds crashing together. Human and vampire. Past and present. Darkness and light. And while their love is strictly forbidden, it might be the only thing that can save them…
Pre-order Your Copy Today
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Cover Design: Hang Le
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school
graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.
Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees,
a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband,
best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through
Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the
same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the workforce as a journalist followed, but
romance writing continued to demand her attention.
She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eleven years and seven-
year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2NSjQgA
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Thanks to Social Butterfly PR for the promotional materials. All opinions provided are my own.
When I read a Julie Buxbaum YA book the feelings flow, whether the book’s related to losing a parent (the amazing Tell Me Three Things) or the recent college admissions scandal. The latter’s the topic of Admission and Buxbaum makes it hurt, overtly wrestling as the book does with themes like low self-esteem, uncertainty over the future, especially when one can no longer 100% trust one’s parents, and the deleterious nature and effects of white privilege, whether someone’s actively trying to sustain it or trying to ignore its very real existence in their own life—even as they benefit from it.
Chloe Berringer is the daughter of famous actress Joy Fields. It’s time to apply to college and Chloe realizes how difficult it’s going to be to get into the right school with average grades and an average SAT score she hasn’t been able to bring up. Her parents hire Dr. Wilson, a consultant who’s going to help her apply. With his help Chloe gets into her dream school...and then it all comes crashing down.
Admission's told from a Then and Now perspective and comparisons of Chloe and her family across that time-span give the reader a lot to chew on. I’ll be honest: I really like this book but I can see how the moments when Chloe’s painfully “oblivious,” short-sighted, or stubbornly forcing her head to remain in the sand, when she’s so soft and can’t even think of an application essay topic because she isn’t sure what bad life event or circumstance she can draw on—could easily frustrate, alienate, and/or anger a reader. Or the times when Shola, her Nigerian American friend, has to hold Chloe accountable for the things she says and the way she lives her life...like she “deserve[s] everything.” And then there’s the general premise that Chloe and her family are rich and her parents are so not satisfied with their already tremendous advantages that they’re willing to pay a humongous amount—and commit fraud—to orchestrate Chloe’s acceptance to a specific school.
Buxbaum gives us those moments.
She also gives us Chloe’s self-awareness and her general awareness of how her family did wrong. Chloe’s determination to be better and do better. Her secret pain—that she’s not enough—that pops up again and again in harsh ways, even in the book’s final chapters—no matter how much her parents love her. How she wrestles with the fact that she's "betrayed" people, too, even though her parents were the ones actively seeking Dr. Wilson's help.
It’s those aspects of Chloe’s story—coupled with my own past (and to some degree present) as a sheltered, protected, spoiled girl who benefited from white privilege (and still does) and who said (and to a much lesser degree, says) things that reveal my own complicity in white privilege that made me connect to her.
Chloe’s mother Joy seems loosely based on Lori Loughlin and her actions help drive the book. But her daughter Chloe is the focus here, the one arguably most affected. The one whose future is dashed on the rocks, who loses people and things, and who—like her guidance counselor suggests—has the most opportunity to grow. If she takes advantage of it.
I don’t think that this book will be loved by everyone. The topic, the main character, the family, are too polarizing for that. But I love how Buxbaum boldly tackles the topic of white privilege and the admissions scandal, how she shows the unattractive bits of Chloe and her family humanely, without writing them off for good, and how she portrays the consequences of it all. Some of those aren’t pleasant but like Chloe says, the view from the bottom can be pretty good.
I received a complimentary ARC of this book from Netgalley but all opinions provided are my own.
Q: How do you think you’d fare in a post-apocalyptic situation like a huge solar storm, where power was totally lost?
It’s something that I’ve thought about before, when I’m reading dystopian fiction or on the admittedly rare occasion of talking with someone about their prepping stash.
It can be a pretty grim topic whether IRL or in fiction. But when romance is added to the latter equation we're offered something beautiful out of the chaos and fear. Linda Howard and Linda Jones work this magic in their book After Sundown.
Ben Jernigan is a former Marine and current near-recluse who retreated to Wears Valley—a community in the Smoky Mountains—after losing some of his men and faith during war. After learning in advance that a life-changing solar storm is imminent, he does the unexpected and informs the only person he remotely cares about, gas station owner Sela Gordon.
She thinks he’s crazy.
But she prepares for what seems to be impossible—a world that will likely be without power for at least a year.
The storm hits and people are taken back to a time when everything was done without the benefit of electricity...and internet. As they try to become accustomed to this new life Ben and Sela are increasingly attracted to the other, though the odds against them—from external and internal forces—seem pretty huge in this post-apocalyptic world...
Ben and Sela shine throughout this book as both of them have some growing to do to meet the demands facing them. Someone has to step up to lead their community, and it’s rewarding to see Ben start to come down from his mountain and Sela learn to use the voice that she usually chooses to keep quiet.
Howard and Jones have the whole alpha hero thing down, and Ben’s a model example of the type. He’s protective, strong, and determined. He’s resourceful when it comes to surviving and when he’s reluctantly moved to take care of people their chances of surviving go up exponentially (this is just me speculating, but it’s the overall effect he gives off).
When he turns his sights to Sela it’s very intense, and in a way that feels familiar (and exciting) to me as a Linda Howard reader and fan. Their attraction crackles and arcs between them, thrillingly interrupting the narration of day to day post-apocalyptic life. This is a slowwwww burn.
Speaking of the narration, I feel like I learned a lot about how to possibly survive in a post-apocalyptic world because Howard and Jones go into so much detail about the practicalities. On one hand, it's kinda cool, and I settled into the soothing recital of what Ben, Sela, and her family and friends have to do to make it. On the other, there are times when the narration starts to feel a bit dry, and I wanted more time between Ben and Sela, who don’t really get any meaningful face to face time together until approximately 25% into the novel.
After Sundown largely ignores the outside world for most of the book, giving its readers a sustained glimpse into a particular community during a time when their world comes crashing down. There's a lot on the main characters's plates, and they do worry about the eventual intrusion of outsiders in their community, but I missed the emotional impact I was expecting to see in a post-apocalyptic read. After all, there are a lot of people dying as a result of the storm--millions and millions--and I didn't see a real emotional toll of that on anyone in the book. That seems a little odd to me.
In the end After Sundown is a post-apocalyptic romance that’s got its share of violence, but that’s also encouraging and at the best moments, pretty tender and lusty. I wanted more more more time with Sela and Ben but oh boy did that Epilogue deliver.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.