Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for happy fun novels by underrepresented writers?

MSWR asks:

I’d love to know your recommendations for romance novels and other HEA novels written by BIPOC, especially women.

We both read a lot of books by BIPOC, especially women (maybe even only women in #1’s case?), so if you cruise our link love books tag you’ll find a lot of them.  They’re not all HEA romance novels (although all the books #1 contributes are…) and they’re generally not labeled as such.  So it’s good to have a collection here.  First, let’s see what I’ve been collecting here from internet sources since you first posted this question (every time I see a list, I think of you!).

Sadly the owner of this original tweet has gone private, but the replies have some suggestions.

Are you interested in Black Women Equestrians?  It is a genre!  And here are suggestions.

Here is a list of names of Steve Ammidown’s favorite Black romance novelists and editors from the 80s and 90s.

This gorgeous thread of book covers as donuts includes a lot of our favorite BIPOC romance novelists.

Here’s a list from SELF magazine.

This sad but sweet memorial thread includes lists of lists of HEA romance novels and novelists, not only of BIPOC, but also other under-represented groups.

I keep trying to find a post from a few years ago that had some HEA YA by Asian American authors, but I can’t.  (Apparently I didn’t list Jenny Han or To all the Boys I’ve Ever Loved before even though we both read it before it was a major motion picture!  And I cannot remember the name of the JV author who inspired it– not Grace Lin though DC2 is LOVING her books right now.)  A blog gets really dense after 10 years, eh?

In any case:  Must buy favs of ours that are also HEA Romances:

Courtney Milan.  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  They are ALL good.  Even the bad ones are good.  Many of them have White protagonists and her early books when they do have BIPOC or non-CIS/hetero people, they’re side characters or only get novellas instead of full books.  BUT.  That’s changing.  If you want to start with a short novel/long novella with BIPOC protagonists, her latest, The Duke Who Didn’t, is like a burst of happiness.

Talia Hibbert.  She does a lot of biracial romances, often with neuro-diverse heroines, set in England.  I don’t like her newer stuff as much as her older stuff, but she’s still a must buy.  For an inexpensive dip in, start with A Girl Like Her.  (Not all her books are great though– I thought Merry Inkmas was kind of messed up with what we would now call workplace harassment.)

Rebekah Weatherspoon  is another must buy.  Her heroes and heroines are always so *mature* and their problems are external problems that are real.  The beta heroes are wonderfully supportive (because they are secure in their manliness given their physical attributes!).  Start with RAFE, the buff male nanny, which somehow manages to make the falling in love with the nanny trope not squicky by addressing it head-on at the beginning of the book.

Jackie Lau writes light little novellas about Asian romances that often hit my favorite tropes.  Her Holidays with the Wongs series is probably a good place to start.  You can get the entire series for $5.99!  The nice thing about novellas is that they’re not larded down with stupid misunderstandings in order to get to novel length.

I liked the Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon so much I bought it after reading the library copy and definitely intend to buy the next one when it comes out.

I’m mentally going through some of the library books we’ve read.  Slay by Brittney Morris was fantastic, but it’s the opposite of a romance.  There was a series about football players and their girlfriends but it was uneven and one of the “heroes” had anger issues that were totally glossed over.  Beverly Jenkins is uneven just like famous white romance novelists that have similar length careers– I need to do a better job reading her newer work because she has the same problems with consent in her earlier works that the entire industry had.  I couldn’t really get into Alyssa Cole because even before Meghan and Harry I just wasn’t into modern day royalty as romance heroes.  I should probably try a different series.  Maybe the AI who loved me (only $2.99!).  The Crazy Rich Asians series has a pretty satisfying final ending, but you have to get through all the books to get to it, so it is HEA, but not necessarily at the end of each book for everyone.   DC2 has been LOVING all the Rick Riordin presents series and the other books by the authors highlighted, and similarly books by Sayantani Dasgupta and Grace Lin, but those are more about children saving the universe than romance, though they do have HEA.  Also, not for romance, but I recommend going through the last 10 years of Newberry winners– they are diverse and DC2 has been LOVING them (going backwards in time they don’t start getting into the “my best friend died/tragedy is the only thing that makes books about minorities worthy” tropes until 2005ish– newer stuff allows winning the award even without tropey heartbreak!).  Then of course there’s so many great Spec Fic books with/by minorities, but none of those are romances and they don’t always have HEA, so I won’t link here, but Octavia Butler, NK Jemison, Nnedi Okorafor, Tomi Adeyemi, and so on.  DC1 is a big fan of these.  (Still not *enough* spec fic by minorities– there will be enough when published books by minorities are allowed to be as mediocre as those by white dudes.  There’s a LONG way to go before that happens.)

Grumpy Nation, Who are we forgetting!?!?  What amazing recommendations do you have for us?

10 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for happy fun novels by underrepresented writers?”

  1. Steph Says:

    Rebekah Weatherspoon was one of my favorite authors to read last year during lockdown, I loved both Rafe and Xeni. I’ve also read and enjoyed books by Milan, Hibbert, and Lau, so I can second those recs too.

    I’m a big fan of Alisha Rai as well – I prefer her Forbidden Hearts trilogy over the newer Modern Love trilogy, but they’re both good, it just depends on your trope preferences. Forbidden Hearts involves forbidden love tropes and feuding families (romeo & juliet, dead brother’s widow, and an age gap romance; the middle one, Wrong to Need You, is actually my favorite but seems to be the one that squicks people out the most). Modern Love takes place in California and has all BIPOC main characters, and all the stories involve technology somehow – one night stand comes back with dating apps, bodyguard/client romance after someone goes viral, and catfishing/fake-dating. The main characters of ML#1 and ML#3 are also siblings of characters from FH, so it’s all in the same universe.

    I’ve pulled a few recommendations from this list of queer BIPOC characters as well: https://twitter.com/katrinajax/status/1271076503082721281

  2. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    BTW, Grumpy Readers, last night when I was puttering around, it looked like Harper Collins was having a 50% off sale on amazon kindle. I picked up a few. I don’t know if that is still happening today, but may be worth looking into if you get your romance via kindle.

  3. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I enjoyed The Worst Best Man (Mia Sosa) and Jasmine Guillory’s books. I guess I’m not 100% sure if they consider themselves BIPOC but as far as I know they are POC.

    I really liked The Duke Who Didn’t. It was extremely “screw your Regency conventions, I’m gonna write a really fun book.”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think with Jasmine Guillory, if I’m remembering correctly, I loved her intros and conclusions and just got bored in the middle with the “why don’t they just TALK to each other” third act trope.

  4. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Also they are not my cup of tea but Beverly Jenkins, if you like Western romances.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I haven’t gotten into Western romances. Not sure why, but just not my thing (I did read a lot of Pioneer/Western stuff with plucky heroines growing up, but not romances).

  5. MSWR Says:

    Yay! Thanks for all the great books to explore! I found Courtney Milan through this blog a few years ago and have read all her work. The Duke Who Didn’t was delightful! I liked Crazy Rich Asians but never finished the trilogy, so I’ll pick that back up. I’m excited to dive into Rebekah Weatherspoon and the Newberry winners.

    Have you read anything by Stacy Abrams/Selena Montgomery? I haven’t, but they’ve been on my TBR list since November.

    One author I enjoy that’s not listed is Sherry Thomas. She immigrated to the US from China as a kid and learned/refined her English skills by reading romance and sci fi. She writes in a wider variety of genres that some other romance authors, including mysteries, sci fi, and YA. I recently finished her The Heart of the Blade duology and loved it. Heroine is half Chinese, half English, hero is English gentleman, lots of martial arts and Chinese medicine. I picked them up in reaction to the rise of AAPI hate and specifically the murders in Atlanta.

    Thanks again! Off to read now!

  6. teresa Says:

    I really like Sonali Dev’s Jane Austen takes (Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors and Recipe for Persuasion, and a third one coming out this summer)

    Agree Jasmine Guillory’s books all seem to have the same miscommunication trope in the middle but I still liked them

    Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity was also fun (similar vein as Crazy Rich Asians)

  7. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Lisa Yee is that JB/YA author I was forgetting.


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