PHS Reader Challenge 2018
Ready to try something new? Ali Williams and Nicole Locke recommend some books you might not know to kick start our reader challenge!
I love reading romance; and there are those auto buy authors whose books I return to over and over again, but sometimes I like to pick up something a little different.
There are a couple of key things that my romances with a difference need though—and I'm not talking about specific tropes or being in a particular subgenre.
I need really good, in-depth conflict; I need characters who get under my skin who I actually care about; and I need the worlds they live in, whether fantastical or contemporary, to be fully fleshed out.
Therese Beharrie's Surprise Baby, Second Chance
Beharrie is the queen of the emotional sucker punch, and this book in particular means a hell of a lot to me. It has a brilliantly devastating depiction of anxiety, complete with an on-page panic attack that the hero suffers, and every time I read it, it makes me cry.
Set in South Africa, with a diverse cast of characters and a damn good dollop of mental health rep, I can't recommend this enough.
Two countries, at war with each other, in a land of magic and advanced technology. There's fated mates—which I'm always a bit of a sucker for—but more than that there's real depth of emotion.
Both Liv and Galen, and Lyre and Sabine, face challenges as couples that illustrate how moving romance into a science fiction or fantasy realm can heighten the stakes in a way that just isn't possible in contemporary romance.
I also love the way in which different LGBTQIA identities are embraced as part of the world building, and the f/f romance between the Empress and her spymaster in A Treason of Truths literally took my breath away.
Austin Chant's Coffee Boy
I've had a soft spot for politics as a backdrop ever since I discovered The West Wing in my teens, so the concept of Coffee Boy—an intern falling for his boss in a political campaign office—was right up my street.
What Chant does so very very well, is capturing the day to day struggles of a trans man, who is having to work in an environment that doesn't quite know how to react to him. It's an utterly delightful romance, which delves into the power imbalance romance trope, without ever seeming exploitative or making us feel uncomfortable. Plus Seth, Kieran's boss, is so very very awkwardly adorable and there's nothing quite so fun as seeing them both get their happy ever after.
Jenn St-Onge and Tee Franklin's Bingo Love
I adore romance comics and graphic novels. There are a handful of them that have been published in recent years, and Bingo Love is one of my favourites.
Arguably more romantic than a romance, due to the fact that it spans the protagonists' life time, it follows Hazel and Mari, who met in their teen years, fell in love and were then forced apart by their families. When they meet years later, they can't quite believe that nothing's really changed... Apart from their families and their lives.
It's a simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story, and the art deftly captures the emotion in their words. Definitely worth a read!
Pamela Sanderson's Crooked Rock series
Pamela Sanderson, citizen of the Karuk Tribe, has set her gorgeous ongoing romance series in the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Centre, a fictional place which focuses on the lives of Native Americans off the rez.
I really love the fact that there's an ongoing narrative about the centre across the series, and Sanderson's writing gives an insight into the experiences of a group of people that I'd love to see represented more in romance. And then there are the romances themselves, which are delightful and uplifting.
Talia Hibbert's Wanna Bet?
Talia Hibbert has been one of the best discoveries of 2018 for me. A Black British romance author—and if anyone's got any recs of other such authors, please let me know!—her novels are sexy as hell and delightfully irreverent.
Wanna Bet? is no different and focuses on best friends Jasmine Allen and Rahul Khan as they edge closer and closer to love and reliving the sexual encounter seven years ago that haunts both their dreams.
Hibbert's heroes are considerate and her heroines incapable of taking any shit from anyone; which is exactly how I like it. This book is a great introduction to her writing, but I'd recommend inhaling her entire back catalogue.
Ali Williams is a romance editor, academic and writer, and one of the hosts of Into the Stacks: The Bookcast, a podcast about speculative fiction. For more information about Ali and her projects, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
As any of you know by reading my books, I like my historical romance a bit on the steamy side. So it’s no surprise I also like my romance reading to be… Well… You know.
What you may not know is I don’t always read historical, and even if I want passion, I also demand a good story. And, oh boy, have I found some outstanding authors who deliver both desire and heart.
Now, I read a lot of Sci-Fi and Paranormal. Many of you will be familiar with my favourites such as Kresley Cole and Kate Pearce. But there may be two that you’d make a pass on. And I get it, I do. In the first, the hero is a grey machine. In the second, the hero is a blue alien with horns and… Errr… Extra body parts.
Under no circumstances do I recommend dismissing these series. They are so just… Well… You know…That I have read them all. They are that good. Remember the ultimate romance motto: Love is Love is Love. And these books have Love in spades.
Cynthia Sax's Releasing Rage
Half Man. Half Machine. All Hers.
Rage, the Humanoid Alliance's most primitive cyborg, has two goals--kill all of the humans on his battle station and escape to the Homeland. The warrior has seen the darkness in others and in himself. He believes that's all he's been programmed to experience.
Until he meets Joan.
Joan, the battle station's first female engineer, has one goal--survive long enough to help the big sexy cyborg plotting to kill her. Rage might not trust her but he wants her. She sees the passion in his eyes, the caring in his battle-worn hands, the gruff emotion in his voice.
When Joan survives the unthinkable, Rage's priorities are tested. Is there enough room in this cyborg's heart for both love and revenge?
Ruby Dixon's Ice Planet Barbarians
You'd think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me.
And you'd be wrong. Because now, the aliens are having ship trouble, and they've left their cargo of human women - including me - on an ice planet.
And the only native inhabitant I've met? He's big, horned, blue, and really, really has a thing for me...
Alright, if you think I’ve went off the deep end (I haven’t!), there are two contemporary romance authors whose complete backlist I’ve bought as well (see a trend?). It’s because the following books were so amazing I read them again and again.
Anne Calhoun's Liberating Lacey
Newly divorced Lacey Meyers wasted too many years yawning through sex in the missionary position. Now she's looking for a hookup with a man who can make her shatter. What she gets is a hot younger cop with handcuffs. . .and he's not afraid to use them. Hunter Anderson knows the score though; classy, successful women like Lacey might play with guys like him, but at the end of the evening, they walk.
But when one night leads to another and then another, he finds himself getting too attached to a woman he can't have. Lacey knows Hunter - gorgeous, hard-edged and eight years younger - won't want anything permanent. No matter how hot and daring the sex is between them, she can't mistake adventurous sex for emotional involvement.
They both know it's got to end, and soon, or someone's going to get hurt. But can either of them go back to life without the other?
Jen Frederick's Sacked
What he wants he gets...
Knox Masters is a quarterback's worst nightmare. Warrior. Champion. And...virgin. Knox knows what he wants--and he gets it. All American Football player? Check. NFL pros scouting him? Check. Now, he's set his sight on two things. The national title. And Ellie Campbell. Sure, she's the sister of his fellow teammate, but that's not going to stop him. Especially not when he’s convinced Ellie is the one.
...but he's never met her before.
But Ellie isn't as sure. She's trying to start a new life and she's not interested in a relationship...with anyone. Beside it's not just her cardinal rule of never dating her brother's teammates that keeps her away, but Ellie has a dark secret that would jeopardize everything Knox is pursuing. Knox has no intention of losing. Ellie has no intention of giving in.
Are you up for the challenge? Prepared to read a NTM author out of your usual comfort zone? Do you have books on your keeper shelf you would recommend to someone else taking up the challenge? Let us know in the comments or on our Social Media using #PHSReaderChallenge and don't forget to tell us if you find a new author you love!
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