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.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.