Well, the setting is rural Alaska at Christmastime, so there’s plenty of snow, certainly. But this one gives readers the warm fuzzies because Reed and Erika have a relationship on fire, but it’s a vacation fling. They have to decide what’s more important – the lives they were so invested in before, or a new one they could build together.
This erotic holiday novella about two librarians getting snowed in at the library is super hot. And Ben and Poppy spend a lot of time talking about what they find sexy (read: dirty talk, but also communicating about boundaries and consent and desire), which makes everything hotter and adds emotional depth to what would otherwise be a simple sexy rumpus.
Think Hallmark Christmas Special, except with sex and profanity. Seriously. There’s a hot chocolate festival, for goodness sake. However, it’s not all tropey hijinks (though there is a lot of that), but also a thoughtful story of two deeply sad and lonely people finding love and joy in their lives.
How about some danger banging…in a shack in the middle of Antarctica. It’s so cold in most of this book that it’s literally too dangerous for Ford to remove his penis from his pants lest he risk some serious frostbite, but don’t worry: the sexual tension is off the charts. Plus: there’s only one sleeping bag!
Things start off on the wrong foot, but when Nina and Max end up stuck in Max’s house for several days after Nina’s caught in a snowstorm in the small town Colorado mountains, they both end up turning their lives inside out so Nina’s vacation romance can be something more. Fair warning: Max is a bit of an alpha-hole and this book is really long, but if you like that, check it out.
What could be colder than an ENTIRE PLANET OF ICE??!? How about an entire planet of ice that is ALSO TRYING TO MURDER YOU?!?!? (Now that’s cold.) Luckily, Vektal is here with his big, blue, sexy, protectory energy, and once he takes care of the nurturing, all he wants to do is eat Georgie out. Bonus: it’s the first book in a very long series.
June is Pride month, and as we hurtle towards July and summer, we wanted to take a moment to highlight some of our favorite romances featuring bisexual characters. (As always, click the links to go to the book’s Amazon page.)
Johan doesn’t specifically label himself, but he does easily and matter-of-factly discuss his partners of different genders. The drama of the story is his fake relationship with Nya, the politics of his imaginary benevolent European monarchy, and their respective childhood traumas. Loved. It.
This is a very YA romance. Kai isn’t out, and he’s a HS senior, but when he decides to spite-ask Bryson to date him (because of this dare that made him very grumpy), he finally gets to be himself with someone without fear, and Bryson discovers that he’s actually attracted to Kai. It is just the sweetest young love story, although, thanks to the high school framing, bi invisibility is real, since everyone dating someone of a different gender is presumed to be straight (shocking, I know).
Chellie, influencer extraordinaire, is on an image rehabilitation tour slash is taking some alone time out in the woods…where she meets Tanner, Grumpy Bear Shifter. This is a low-drama novella with a lot of Tanner grumpily caring for Chellie when she does things like not dress appropriately for the woods or wander off and almost get eaten by a mountain lion. Chellie is also bi, though her toxic mother keeps trying to convince everyone that her attraction to women is “just a phase.” (Charming.) But seriously, aside from the toxic mother, this novella is seriously charming.
This beautiful menage romance features two bisexual men who have been best friends slash bandmates for years. Come for the sexytimes, stay for the thoughtful portrayal of a couple opening their marriage and finding so much more love than they expected.
Did you know that bisexuality is…not a new phenomenon? Agatha Griffin was happily married to a man for many years, and is surprised when she finds love again, this time in the arms of beekeeper and rabble-rouser Penelope Flood. This beautiful, espistolitary romance featuring two women as they enter middle age is a lovely, politically-sharp read.
This romance novel is set at the Great British Bake Off. Need I say more? Ok, fine, so Rosaline is also openly and proudly bisexual—perhaps even stridently so. Her experience entering a baking competition brings her not only love, but also a pretty compelling journey of self-discovery. Warning: this book includes an ugly and gas-lighty and all-too-unsurprising attempted sexual assault. It also contains a love triangle. Your mileage may vary, but I had a blast reading it.
May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so we’re doing a couple of mini-lists featuring some of our favorite Asian (American) authors. Last week, we highlighted some books which focused on race and identity. This week, we’ve compiled a list of tropey (in the best way) romances…which just happen to be written by Asian and Asian-American authors.
The book opens with Ethan crashing a wedding to convince his ex to run away with him instead of marrying that guy. Except he crashes the wrong wedding—and the bride, a complete stranger, still takes him up on his offer. Shenanigans ensue, as Ethan and Divya travel around the US, staying ahead of Divya’s family and checking things off her bucket list. This book is the best kind of bonkers: a ridiculous premise, and characters who respond to their outrageous situation in completely understandable ways.
There’s plenty of big feelings happening in this book, but the whole premise of it is based on the 2018 #planebae wholly imaginary, live-Tweeted airplane “romance” between two people who didn’t know each other. Throw in a little bodyguard pining for his employer, the employer pining for her bodyguard, and a little forced proximity in the country, and you’ve got a trope-tastic, swoon-worthy romance.
Looking back at my tags for this one, I wonder a little bit what trope isn’t a thing here? Summer is hot for teacher (Fox), and he has been since he was a teenager. Now they’re working together(!) and they’ve got a kissing wager going(!!!). This is definitely a book that is super fun (and super hot), but probably mostly if you just let your imagination go while you read it.
Fei Long is in a bind. He has to present his sister as a diplomatic bride, but she’s run away. The solution? Train a tea girl to pass as a noble lady! No one will know! This reimagining of My Fair Lady includes some of the best pining I’ve ever read. Fei Long and Yan Ling are obviously meant to be together, but must honor their commitments. Up until the very end, I wasn’t sure how they were going to make their love story work.
It’s a lot of drama, this book, but if you’re looking for an uptown girl kind of trope in which the uptown girl gets fired from her prestigious job as a chef because she can’t resist having kitchen sex with the neighborhood bad boy after he’s hired as a dishwasher at her restaurant, look no further. And then the rest of the book happens.
I’ve recommended Dev’s Raje series a LOT on this blog, but have you read her debut? Mili was a child bride; even though her husband never came to claim her, her status as a married woman gave her more freedom than the average young woman from her village. The problem? Her husband doesn’t realize that the marriage was legal and binding, so he sends his brother, Samir, to America to obtain a divorce. And of course, Samir is not exactly honest about his identity or intentions. TLDR: arranged marriage–dishonest beginnings mash-up FTW!!!!
May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so this week and next week we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite romances by Asian (and Asian-American and Asian-Canadian) authors. This week, we focus on books where the emotional arc of the story is inextricably linked with questions of identity.
Winnie processes events in her life by watching Bollywood movies. So when her boyfriend—who she thinks she’s fated to be with because of a prophecy—breaks up with her, she deals with it by watching movies and having dreams where Shah Rukh Khan gives her advice. This Young Adult romance offers not only a thoughtful portrait of a young woman crying to figure out her relationship with “destiny,” but also an excellent list of films to dive into if you want to dive into Bollywood cinema.
So, Raj and Nayna are actually Asian New Zealander, but I am of the opinion that setting anything Down Under makes it better. I kid. (Kind of.) The point is, Raj and Nayna are both from relatively traditional Indian families, and they’re both seeking their future happiness but realize they have to come to terms with how their culture plays a role in their lives and decision making. It was a bit angsty for Singh, but maybe that just made it more satisfying.
Jeremy Wentworth, Duke of Lansing, is half-Chinese. And the place where he feels most at home is the town of Wedgeford, where he goes every year for the annual “trials” (kind of an epic village-wide capture the flag situation?)—and pretends to be just a regular guy. He’s been in love with Chloe for years, and swears that this year he will prove himself worthy of her. What’s great about this book is that Milan unpacks the racism faced by the characters gradually, slowly revealing how their circumstances have shaped their personalities.
This light-hearted romp about an ice cream shop owner and a guy who hates ice cream is both hilarious and a thoughtful examination of identity. As a biracial woman whose (white) father “doesn’t see color”, Chloe deals with strong feelings of alienation, both from her family and from the Asian-Canadian community in Toronto. Her ice cream shop, which specializes in flavors like durian, red bean, and green tea in memory of her late mother, and her burgeoning relationship with Drew, are both avenues through which Chloe creates space for herself.
In this Pride and Prejudice retelling, Ayesha and Khalid navigate the tensions between devout Muslim faith, family expectations, cultural assimilation, and their own desires. There’s a lot there, but Jalaluddin skillfully weaves together their internal conflicts and a beautiful slow burn romance. There is a lot of pining, and one of the most sexually fraught moments of fully-clothed face touching ever written.
In this YA romance, we have a very bright young woman who desperately wants to study English while her parents insist she study pre-med. When her parents go away for a month, leaving her with her grandma and brother, she ends up agreeing to tutor the school’s bad boy (who, spoiler—is actually a very thoughtful and talented musician). Through Karina’s relationship with Ace, Karina learns to advocate for herself within the loving (but often restrictive) confines of her family.
Romance retellings are fun and offer endless variety. The fun comes from seeing a recognizable frame—and then going along for the ride as the author takes the base story in a new direction. And there are so many ways you can take retellings! And so many stories out there to retell! We had a group chat just about Cinderella romances last fall, and even that one story offers a host of possibilities. When the original and the new material really play off each other, it’s magic.
Holly is our local Austen Retelling Expert, and Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors remains her gold standard for Pride and Prejudice retellings. Dev captures the ethos of the original in her contemporary retelling but gives Tricia and DJ depth such that their arc from antagonism to love is believable in and of itself, and not just because they are Lizzie and Darcy and have to fall in love. (Read Holly’s full review.)
Content Notes: racism, medical stuff, past sexual assault (secondary character)
On the surface, this Taming of the Shrew retelling follows a women’s rights activist and a buffoonish aristocrat who’s trying to do right by her after inadvertently compromising her. But Cassandra “tames” Ashmont (as it were), not vice versa, because as she explains why she won’t marry him, doesn’t respect him, and doesn’t trust him, she makes Ashmont see his privilege and how his past behavior had harmed her (and others) and made her feel invisible. Chase did some really awesome things with this retelling, and the character development was fabulous. (Read Erin’s full review.)
This Cinderella retelling manages to evoke the Cinderella ethos without making Amanda a helpless victim. With Amanda’s employer being cast in the role of the step-sister, it’s easy to understand why Amanda chooses to tread carefully – she’s got a dream to reach for, after all! But even without meaning to, Oscar-winning actor Sam Pleasant churns up some drama when Amanda comes into his orbit. The natural tension of the Cinderella plot works for this story, so if you’re looking for a not-so-angsty read with some solid natural tension and awesome checking in and consent between the protagonists, this here’s a great retelling for you!
Content Notes: verbal/emotional abuse (in the workplace)
Garton’s reimagining of the Arthurian legend is set in rural Kentucky, and it is a wild ride. Lance, as a trans man dealing with some self-esteem struggles and body dysphoria and living back in his hometown where people don’t hesitate to deadname him, is working on some emotionally weighty stuff. But also he, his sister Gwen, his friends Mordy and Morgan, and his best friend–>boyfriend Arthur have to destroy the evil necromancer, save the girls/young women in their community, and pull themselves out of the eons old reincarnation loop that they’ve been dealing with since being cursed by Morgana. (Read Erin’s full review.)
This super-sexy retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth leans in to the dysfunctional side of Olympus. Like, of course Persephone and Demeter have a fraught relationship! Where this book really shines, however, is in the bantery grumpy-sunshine dynamic that develops between Persephone and Hades, as they go from exhibitionist sex pact to true love. Bonus points for Hades doing that thing where he is all domineering because that’s how he shows he cares.
Whether or not you agree with me about including this book probably depends on how you take your happy endings, but I’m going for it because 1. It is a reimagining of the Victorian pulp romance The Prisoner of Zenda, 2. It clearly demonstrates that retellings or reimaginings are everywhere and 3. It is totally awesome. The original is OTT in true Victorian pulp fashion, but with her “let’s tell this story from the perspective of the bad guys, and also they’re totally into each other” twist, Charles makes it even better! Jasper is a cheeky anti-hero narrator, and he and Rupert are a clever team with some stellar on-page sizzle.
Content Notes: violence, homophobia, abduction, discussion of sexual assault
Honorable Mention: Peter Darling by Austin Chant
This book is the rare retelling that makes you rethink the source material—and not just because Chant reimagines Wendy/Peter as the same person, but also because of the way he portrays Neverland and the nature of reality there. Plus, everyone can agree that Captain Hook is the sexiest. So why is this incredible book listed as a bonus? Because it’s not currently available for sale anywhere. (Holly was lucky enough to find a copy at her local library; you might get lucky too!)
Content Notes: transphobia, violence
EDITED TO ADD: As of June 1, 2021, Peter Darling has been re-released by the author and is available for purchase.