In the American Dreamer series, Herrera has crafted three strong romances that engage deeply with political and social issues without losing their sexiness and humor. In American Love Story the failure of white LGBTQ allies to stand up for Black and marginalized people is front and center. Herrera sets Easton and Patrice’s reunion against the high-conflict backdrop of a spree of racially motivated traffic stops by local cops which only intensifies and highlights the poor communication behind the hot/cold dynamics of their tentative relationship.
One of my gateways to romance was Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, but for years I have told myself that her Urban Fantasy Guild Hunter series was simply just not for me. Too much blood, horror and war. But last month the only books I could seem to finish were Guild Hunter books, so maybe there is just a time and mood for everything. Archangel’s War, book 12 in this series, just came out and in it Nalini Singh closes out one of the major story arcs in her series, making it an excellent time to catch up with Singh’s Vampires, Angels and Hunters and come along on a wild ride.
[Read Ana's review of Archangel's War here.]
The twelfth book in the Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series has been eagerly awaited by long-time fans after the excruciatingly tense way the previous book, Archangel’s Prophecy ended. In this book Singh brings to a close the long-running Cascade storyline, but not before nearly shattering the world, Raphael and Elena, and their people in an intense showdown between the most powerful members of the Archangelic ruling Cadre.
Catalina has always had to hold back her power, ever conscious that one slip could steal the will of those around her and make her vulnerable to their obsessive love. Now, with the future of House Baylor and Baylor Investigations squarely on her shoulders, she has to shake out her wings and do what needs to be done to find answers for herself and her clients. The last person she expects to derail her investigation however is Alessandro Sagredo, international playboy and the only man who has ever been able to even attempt to resist her. His skill at killing and disappearing are yet another mystery for Catalina to detangle.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Alisha Rai about The Right Swipe, romance and dating. The Right Swipe is the first in Modern Love, a new series for Rai with Avon, who previously published her angsty and soapy Forbidden Hearts series. In The Right Swipe the main characters meet via a dating app, and although they had fantastic chemistry, they just as quickly lost that connection only to be reunited unexpectedly in a very public way. The realities of modern dating via apps, from sexting to ghosting are central.
There are few things Rhiannon Hunter won’t do to get a shot at outmaneuvering her competitors in her quest to buy Matchmaker, but when the sweet and sexy man who ghosted her after talking her into a rare second date turns out to be the new face of the company, she has reevaluate a lot of her plans. Samson Lima walked away from football after seeing his team routinely mismanage his best-friend’s concussions and has spent the last five years caring for his uncle Aleki as he suffered from CTE-related dementia, except for that one night he spent with Rhiannon. Samson is just starting to come out of the fog of grief, and trying to figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and the one thing he knows is, he wants to spend time with Rhiannon again.
Josh Copeland is looking for a new start. After realizing that his long-time girlfriend was not changing her mind about having children anytime soon, he has ended that three-year relationship and moved across the country to work in the same firehouse as his best-friend. He has an empty apartment full of boxes, bills for appliances he no longer owns, and guilt and frustration over the relationship in equal measure. The last thing he should be doing is falling in love with a unavailable woman like Kristen, but the more time he spends with her the more he is convinced she is his “unicorn”.
It is hard to jump into a long-running series, especially one with a dozen interconnected books, but Nalini Singh’s Wolf Rain makes it easy. Although there are a lot of familiar characters for long-time readers to enjoy, the story focuses tightly on Memory and her journey to learn how to live outside of captivity. While Singh continues to develop the current Psy-changeling Trinity arc, primarily through alternate POV chapters peppered throughout the novel, it doesn’t distract from the central romance. Long-time readers however will be pleased by a return to the SnowDancer Wolf Den, and its playful and vibrant pack. Alexei’s grumpy and protective personality is the perfect foil for Memory’s fierce but fragile fury.
While I really enjoyed American Dreamer, I adored American Fairytale. I loved the angst, and the sources of conflict between Tom and Milo. I particularly appreciated how Herrera contrasted the various complicated caretaking relationships in the book. Dinorah’s mental health struggles were compassionately depicted, Herrera is able to skillfully present the worry, guilt and occasional resentment Milo carries, while still presenting Dinorah as sympathetic and frankly fascinating character in her own right. Her history, choices and reactions are her own, and not simply something Milo has to respond or is able to solve for her. Likewise Tom has to learn how not swoop in and try to throw money at problems and instead learn to listen and do the harder work of being present in order to have Milo feel like a partner to a problem to be solved.
Chastised for being unable to cry at his best-friend and cousin’s funeral, Khải comes to believe that he is unnaturally unfeeling, unable to love. Khải is actually autistic, a diagnosis his immigrant Vietnamese family mostly ignores, instead thinking him as simply a little strange. In Vietnam, My/Esme is just a bit strange too, but in her Khải’s mother sees the perfect bride for her son - humble, hard-working and honest.
While The Bride Test is at points quite funny, at its center it is a deeply emotional story about familial bonds and an immigrant's desperate striving to make a better life for herself and her family. Hoang parallels My’s experiences as a new immigrant trying to figure out the rules of a new culture as an outsider to Khải’s autism and his efforts to navigate the feelings and reactions he doesn’t fully understand. Both My and Khải have to work very hard to decode each other’s feelings and intentions, working to overcome their differing cultural expectations and learn each other boundaries.