This month’s book recommendations come from Roxy Wilson, review coordinator at Romance Novels in Color. She’s here to tempt contemporary romance readers with a few red hot selections featuring POC characters. Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and check out the kaleidoscope of intriguing characters our February recommendations have in store. Marines dealing with battle scars. A sexy NASCAR driver. A divorced schoolteacher who is caring for her autistic son and much more.
One of the things which thrills my heart is the opportunity to immerse myself in the stories told by my favorite authors of interracial and multicultural romance. The writers of the following stories have used their pen, much like the way a sculptor uses a hammer and chisel, to shape characters that have made me laugh, cringe, cry and, most importantly, love.
Marine Ever After by Heather Long
I could read this story over and over again. It’s about a bridesmaid and a groomsman who hit it off so well during their first encounter, they have a one night stand. However, this one night stand is not arranged by the esteemed matchmaker and owner of 1Night Stand, Madame Evangeline, who has helped many men and women in Long’s Always A Marine series find their perfect match and their own brand of happily-ever-after. Instead, this one night stand is a culmination of Marine Paul Torres and Nurse Lillianna Hansen’s stimulating conversation and sizzling sexual attraction for each other.
The Latin hero, Paul, meets the African-American heroine, Lillianna, at Luke and Rebecca’s wedding. Luke and Rebecca are the first couple of the Always A Marine series, who utilize Madame Evangeline’s service, reunite with each other after years of separation, and decide to get married. So I guess I must concede that the shrewd Madame Evangeline should get some credit for Paul and Lily connecting with each other. They have a wonderful night of passion but the next morning Paul finds himself all alone, wishing the connection he feels with Lilly could have gone beyond just one night. He tries to get Lily’s contact details, but to no avail. Only a few days later, he takes up active duty in Germany.
Though Lily is a bit more stoic than Paul is, she finds it difficult to keep her mind from thinking about his sense of humor, his Alpha tendencies and his touch. About three months after, she discovers she’s pregnant and after much hesitation she contacts her baby’s father, Paul. Paul is delighted when he learns he’s soon to be a father, and does all he can to convince Lily to make a more permanent arrangement. Of course, being the strong-headed woman Lily is, she resists. But how long can she do so when Paul proves over and over again how wonderful life can be if they live it together?
The day to day grind of working at a hospital, the poignant scene at the airport, the way the Marines band together to help Paul win Lily, Paul and Lily’s reunion after months of separation, the contrast between loving someone from a distance and loving the person up close and personal, all make for a wonderfully satisfying read. And wait until you read what A Dummies Guide to Loving A Marine is all about; it’s simply fascinating.
Marine Ever After is Long’s fourteenth installation of the Always A Marine series, and like its predecessors can be read as a standalone. Fans would be delighted to see some of their favorite heroes and heroines from earlier books either being mentioned or making guest appearances in this story. It’s not very likely they’ll tire of this series in the near future.
5/5 star review
A Battle Raging by Sharon Cullars
Compelling. Out of the ordinary. Poignant. Entertaining. Complex. Those are just some of the words which come to mind when I think about Sharon Cullars’ story. As a teacher, I can totally identify with the African- American heroine, Maya Temple (seriously, that’s her name), who has to put up with a very difficult, surly art student in the form of the Caucasian hero, Zachary Yarborough. Zach, a former marine, isn’t the kind of hero one finds in the typical romance story because he has to contend with two major obstacles which are a source of much internal and external conflict: he is a paraplegic and he suffers from PTSD. He also has to endure his weekly group therapy sessions, which are led by the very psychiatrist who recommends he take the art classes.
Yet, inexplicably, Maya and Zach are drawn to each other. Both have battles raging within and without, and they need each other to heal. Ms. Cullars cleverly illustrates the emerging romance between the unlikely pair and shows how a wheelchair-bound man, whose spinal injuries are incomplete, can still have a satisfying physical relationship. Even the supporting cast of characters is layered, or three-dimensional, with their own battles raging within them. The right amount of tension and suspense is peppered here and there throughout the story. And the climax is explosive, both literally and metaphorically. Indeed, the conclusion is satisfactory. But it would be remiss of me to fail to mention some of the issues raised in this story: love and family relationships, war and its effects, heroism, attitude towards power and authority, physical and mental well-being, art, nature and beauty, death, and so much more.
One could tell Ms. Cullars expended much time and effort on researching the various scenes which are depicted in this wonderfully crafted story. The ugly reality of PTSD, the way in which group therapy sessions are conducted, the intricacies of teaching a group of adult learners, and the methods used for creating some fantastic meals as a tribute to a loving mother (check out the recipes at the back of the book), are so realistically portrayed, I wondered if Ms. Cullars is also a psychiatrist, an artist, a teacher, or a chef. And though I’ve never been to Seattle, she gives readers a glimpse of its beauty through the eyes of the hero and heroine. What’s more, this story is inundated with a wide range of sensory images: tactile, gustatory, visual, kinesthetic, aural, and olfactory, which add to its appeal.
A definite page turner!
5/5 star review
Skin Deep by Dez Burke
I’ve read many modern day twists to the Beauty and Beast fairytale, but Dez Burke’s version is one of the most endearing I’ve read in a long time. In this story, an aspiring actress, Angela Neil, is given the perfect (and paid) opportunity to ease her financial burdens and be NASCAR Champion, Shane Davis’, ‘fake girlfriend’ so that he could convince his parents and the rest of the world he’s started to live again after a fiery crash leaves him scarred. However, what happens in this beautifully written story, is a man who once hid behind the shadows (both literally and figuratively), but regains his confidence and finds a reason to live and love again.
One of the things I love about this romance story is the way Ms. Burke creates the sexual tension between Shane and Angela, which starts from the very first time they see each other. What’s more, there are times when they almost do ‘it’ and when ‘it’ didn’t happened, I sat on pins and needles waiting for the time they would actually get it on. But I must applaud Ms. Burke at this juncture, because when Shane and Angela finally succumb to the attraction which simmers every time they are in the same room with each other, it isn’t gratuitous at all. Not. One. Bit. This is because Shane and Angela have invested much time and effort into getting to know each other, developing mutual respect, and finally falling in love (although they don’t admit it to themselves or each other, as yet) so the act of making love is just a natural culmination of what they mean to each other.
Another thing I love about this story is the way the heroine Angela isn’t afraid to express her wants and desires inside or outside of the bedroom, how she is determined to play the role of her life to the best of her ability, and most of all, how she isn’t repelled by Shane’s scars.
Also, I believe Ms. Burke deserves kudos for the way she makes her characters, even millionaire playboys, very relatable, since they do have the same foibles of human nature just as ordinary folks do. So I got a glimpse of Shane’s insecurities, his hurt and anger when people look away from his scars in fear or disgust, and how he’s convinced himself he isn’t good enough for the lovely Ms. Angela Neil.
Skin Deep is definitely one of Ms. Burke’s best works; however, I get the feeling, her best is yet to come.
5/5 star review
A Special Kind of Love by Tamara Hoffa
Since the beginning of time, people have been prejudged and treated unfairly because of their race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, age, ability (or disability), economic and social background, nationality and so on. Anyone can be misunderstood, maligned or even murdered because of these perceived differences. In short, prejudice, as well as discrimination, is one of the scourges of our society.
Ms. Tamara Hoffa deals with issues of prejudice in her story. Sharon Daily moves to Wyoming to begin her new life. Her son, Aaron, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition which is oftentimes misunderstood. Not only does he need support from his mother, but also sensitivity and an unconditional love. Sharon fits the bill. Aaron also requires a special kind of man, a father figure, who is willing to understand and be patient with him. Tanner West is that kind of man. Unfortunately, not even Aaron’s own biological father loves him as a father should. It’s a good thing Tanner fills the role of surrogate father effortlessly. Ms. Hoffa also touches on the issues of race and race relations as Tanner is a Native American living in a white man’s world.
Although, A Special Kind of Love is a relatively quick read, it doesn’t feel rushed or underdeveloped at all. Ms. Hoffa weaves a story which shows how the relationship between Sharon and Tanner develops, from a mutual attraction to a burning passion for each other. The vivid descriptions give me some insight into Ms. Hoffa’s own character, as her love for nature, horses and her understanding of children with Asperger’s Syndrome permeate every page of her story.
I highly recommend this book, and look forward to reading more of Ms. Hoffa’s work.
5/5 star review
Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs) by M.J. Kane
In a perfect world, the road to happily-ever-after is smooth along the way. This is hardly the case for Yasmine Phillips, since her journey toward the happiness she craves is filled with bumps, potholes and roadblocks. Being the product of a bi-racial union doesn’t give Yasmine an easy start in life and things don’t get any better when she gets older. In fact, they just get worse for her, from being negatively labeled a ho because of her healthy appetite for sex, to being betrayed by her ex-fiancé, as well as being misunderstood by Zach Givens, an African-American man, with whom she eventually falls in love.
Kane uses Yasmine as a plot device to force readers to ponder upon a range of questions like: Will there ever be a time when bi-racial kids feel loved, acceptance and happiness in the two worlds to which they belong? Why are women called “ho’s” when they choose to sleep with anyone they want but men are called studs when they do the same thing? When is it not okay to keep someone’s secret? Should there ever be a time we begin to please only ourselves and not think about pleasing others? Should we always put our loved ones before ourselves?
Moreover, Kane’s use of the first person point of view gives readers a greater insight into the depth and complexity of the hero and heroine. Also, I’m always curious about why an author chooses a particular name for his/her novel and while reading this story I learned that the title and even the name of this series are deeply symbolic.
Jaded is certainly an enjoyable read.
5/5 star review
About Roxy Wilson
Roxy Wilson is a self-professed junkie whose excessive consumption of traditional and electronic books is legendary.
As a graduate with a degree in Education, she writes blogs which help readers to think critically about and appreciate poetry. Recently, however, she decided to delve into the world of writing romance stories. The Right Kind of Love is her debut novel.
She’s currently the Reviews Coordinator of Romance Novels in Color (RNIC), a review site that “celebrates diversity in romance novels”.
When she’s not reading or writing, she spends her time cooking with her thirteen year-old daughter, listening to music and visiting the various islands of the Caribbean.