Review of Rogue Acts

Rogue Acts (anthology). 2018.

Note: I edited this review after receiving a final copy of the book. The initial review was of an ARC.

4 stars

rogue actsRogue Acts is the third book in a series of collections of resistance romance, and my personal favorite. One of the core things I appreciate about this collection is that it has a wider range of resistance in the stories. The bulk of the stories in the previous two collections focus on resistance in the form of direct action protest, breaking news, or things related to politicians (local, state and federal) and folks working in the national government. This book has those things but also includes activism that’s more community and neighborhood-based, art as a form of activism, and teaching as a form of activism. I really appreciated that. It also feels like some of the stories treat activism as a long term, lifelong, everyday thing that then becomes the context within which the romance takes place. I really appreciated that perspective being included in this collection. Prior collections had long term politicians, but also concentrated more on folks who were newly galvanized into activist efforts.

Rogue Acts (all m/f except for one f/f and one m/m) is less queer than the last collection, containing only one story with queer MCs. Rogue Affair had four stories with queer MCs (an m/m, a f/f, an m/f with a trans MC, and an m/f with a bi MC). I am missing a story in my ARC that is an f/f romance. I was glad to see in the final version of this book that they had changed the order of the stories and not grouped all the queer stories at the end like they were in the ARC.

This collection of romances is a mixed bag, as most anthologies are. There were some stories I adored, and some that didn’t work as well for me.

A few that I especially enjoyed:

“The Long Run” by Ruby Lang (5 stars) blew me away. It’s my favorite story in the collection and my first 5 star romance I’ve read this year. It royally kicked my ass. Gave me so many feels. And left me feeling hopeful and determined. For this story alone, buy the collection. I love this m/f romance centering older POC activists in Harlem so so much. Love how deeply neighborhood based it is, love the way these two MCs have been doing the work their whole lives, love how the romance is center stage and the activism is the context for it, love the way they talk about their activist work and care for each other.

Representation

  • Chinese American heroine
  • Black hero
  • Asian American author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. 

“Make You Mine” by Molly O’Keefe (4.5 stars) was a joy. Lovely and swoony and hot and has all this incredible pining. Exactly right for the length, and a beautiful romance where the hero has been in love with the heroine forever. The heroine is a politician and the hero on her staff. The political stuff is mostly the backdrop and context, which worked well, and really let the romance shine through. This makes me want to go out and read more stories by this author (I have only read one other!)

Representation

  • Jewish hero

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. Alcohol use. Incident of physical violence.

I loved the fat representation in “Cover Me” by Olivia Dade (3.75 stars); it was just wonderful. (I struggled a bit with the fat MC believing the myth about fatness being a risk factor for cancer, but it definitely felt realistic and I liked that she didn’t make it a big thing.) The m/f romance arc between the older MCs was rather quiet, and I found myself feeling like I wanted to know the MCs a bit more than I got to. I really adored the way he supports her and cuddles her. That was my favorite thing about it, along with the speech she makes at the town hall about healthcare. Issues around healthcare were front and center in this story, focused on a small scale: one of the MCs. I appreciated the way the activism was integrated into the narrative.

Representation

  • Fat heroine
  • Chubby hero
  • Fat author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. MC with cancer (breast). Parent with dementia, parental death. References to alcoholic ex.

I enjoyed “His Neighbor’s Education” by Jane Lee Blair (3.75 stars), especially for the ways it engages with teaching as activism and the impact of charter schools and fast track teaching programs, how local and everyday the activism in the story was, and how central faith was to the story and the character’s lives. I liked the way the story engaged with experiences of desire within the context of faith. There was a bit of a whirlwind feel to the romance, but it worked within the context of the story. This is my favorite of the stories by this author that I’ve read.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. Casual ableist comment.

A few notes about stories that I had mixed feelings about or didn’t work as well for me:

I loved how queer “Personal Audition” by Ainsley Booth (3.5 stars) was. This f/f romance felt so real in many ways, from the complex ex relationships to the way the characters related, from how they navigated difficult moments between them to how the meet cute happened to the discussion of boundaries. I liked the bits that were about being a comedian, those details were lovely. And I enjoyed the part set at the charity function. Where it didn’t work for me, and didn’t feel real, was the way it depicted Camilla being precariously housed, especially since the story implied that her experience was akin to LGBTQIA teen homelessness. As a queer reader who has been precariously housed several times in my life, it felt like the story took that experience too lightly. The tone felt off, and the resolution at the end took a story that felt like it was trying to engage with class differences in a complex way to this oddly reductive simplified place that seemed to ignore those complexities.

Representation

  • Bisexual woman MC
  • Lesbian woman MC

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. MC who is precariously housed. References to losing housing due to a fire. Implied survival sex situation that is not directly acknowledged. References to LGBTQIA teen homelessness. 

I liked the kind of activism represented in “Never Again” by Stacey Agdern (3.25 stars), and I loved how Jewish it was, and the kitten was just adorable, but I wanted a bit more from the romance arc. It’s more activist than romance, and is weighed down some by the anti-Semitic incident that is at its center. It doesn’t have a strong enough throughline for the central arc to quite work.

Representation

  • Jewish MCs
  • Jewish author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Anti-Semitism, defacement of a temple, sex on the page

“Brand New Bike” by Andie J. Christopher (2.5 stars) didn’t really work for me as an m/m romance, storywise. The ending was super rushed, and it didn’t have much romance in it. I deeply dislike stories that have no sexual negotiation and instead talk about the top miraculously read the bottom’s mind, know exactly what he likes in bed, and want all the same things.

Representation

  • Latinx gay MC
  • Jewish gay MC
  • Latinx woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. Alcohol use. Fat antagonism.

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from one of the authors
  • I have had contact with a few of the authors on Twitter.

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