Recommended Read, Review

Anthology Review: The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology (2015)

Heat Factor: Hot, tender, touching, strong, hopeful

Character Chemistry: All four couples have undeniable and complicated chemistry.

Plot: Four stories of love and hope entwined with Juneteenth–each story set in a slightly different time period, each story SO historically and emotionally vivid.

Overall: This is an absolutely phenomenal MUST read — it’s going to hit you right in the “feels” and stay there.

I was so excited to be assigned this book–initially, we Smut Reporters were going to split them up, but I ended up getting all four and I am NOT sad about it. I finished this book kind of slowly, one story at a time, and ever since I closed it these characters keep drifting into my mind as I go about my day. 

Amazing Grace” by Lena Hart:

The book begins with Gracie Shaw’s family’s escape to freedom when Gracie is four years old. When she turns 18, she becomes a sight-unseen bride-to-be for a man in Montana. On the way, she ends up facing challenge after challenge with former Confederate soldier, Logan Finley. 

Logan and Gracie’s romance is magnetic and their path to love is so bumpy, I really couldn’t see how this was going to work out and I worried for these two because I was invested right off the bat. Luckily, the resolution was absolutely perfect.

Drifting to You” by Kianna Alexander

Rosaline gets the opportunity to bake a cinnamon cake for a Juneteenth celebration on Will the sexy shipbuilder’s boat. When he asks to court her, she decides to think things through during the voyage. But when the nephew of her hostess decides to get to know her better, Rosaline ends up in quite a pickle.

This was such a tender story between two people beginning their lives as entrepreneurs and free people. 

A Sweet Way to Freedom” by Piper Huguley

This one was practically vibrating with personality–Missouri Baxter finds herself in a bit of a state after falling in love with Arlo Tucker. When she loses her beloved teaching job because of her growing belly, Missy decides she’s going to handle things on her own, much to the surprise and dismay of her juke joint-owning Romeo. 

This ended up being a powerful story about family and what being married means, especially for people who were denied these ties for so long and in such cruel ways.

Let it Shine” by Alyssa Cole

Oh, my heartstrings. Sofronia Wallis has sought ladylike perfection ever since the sudden and traumatic death of her mother. When she tentatively checks out a peaceful protest meeting and sees her childhood friend (and Jewish boxer) Ivan Friedman, she has no idea what deeply-rooted power she’s about to awaken. 

This one is sexy and thought-provoking, romantic, and riveting. Just beautifully done. 


I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t even begin to understand the significance of Juneteenth until far, far into my adulthood and after having moved to Maryland. How amazing is it that instead of celebrating in January, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, these freed slaves chose to celebrate the day the last slaves were freed? Reading this book now, in light of all that’s happening, was very stirring and hopeful for me–all beautifully written in my very favorite genre.

In addition to being just an incredible selection of romantic novellas, this anthology unfurled a deep awareness of the importance of Juneteenth–and how important it is to remember that we have to keep pressing for freedom and justice until it serves us all and not just the privileged.

If you support making Juneteenth a national holiday, here’s a petition you can sign.

Buy Now: Amazon

Three of the four novellas are also available to purchase individually:

Amazing Grace | Drifting to You | Let it Shine

Looking for something similar?

This talented quartet also teamed up to write an anthology about Black suffragettes, and it is similarly historically rich and thought-provoking and swoon-worthy

Books by authors of color

Thoughtful romances

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