Review of Rogue Hearts

Rogue Hearts (anthology). 2018.

3.25 stars

rogue heartsRogue Hearts is the fourth book in a series of collections of resistance romance. I am surprised by the cover as it doesn’t seem to be representing any of the stories? The same could be said potentially for Rogue Acts, but feels very obvious here.

Rogue Hearts (all m/f except for one m/m) is less queer than some of the previous collections, containing only one story with queer MCs. It has one story by an author of color; two of the previous collections had two stories by authors of color.

The activism described in the stories leaned toward elected officials, but also included non-profit work, fundraising, and community based cultural activism.

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. While I liked some of the stories quite a bit, I feel this collection is not as strong as Rogue Acts, which is my favorite of the four collections, and would recommend Rogue Affair to readers wanting more queer representation in their activist romance anthologies.

A few that I especially enjoyed:

“In Her Service” by Suleikha Snyder (4.25 stars) is gorgeous; full of heat, heart, and hope. With a sizeable slice of femdom D/s to wrap it all together. It’s worth it to get the collection for this story alone. I loved spending time in a world with an amazing Black woman vice president who was planning on running for the presidency in a few years. And the hero of this story grabbed my heart.

Representation

  • Black woman MC
  • Indian American Muslim man MC
  • Queer Desi woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. D/s dynamic that includes sexual service. References to anti-Black racism and anti-Islam hatred.

“Run” by Emma Barry (4 stars) has the qualities I look for in her stories: lovely details, complex characters, heroines I want to be friends with, an arc I’m riveted by. I liked how much it was about finding hope, and that it didn’t treat that as easy. Loved how the hero was so undone by the heroine. This felt like exactly the right amount of story for this length, with a rather hard earned HFN. I liked that it did not include sex; that worked in the context of the story.***

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Alcohol use. References to racism and exploitation of prisoners.

I enjoyed reading “Good Men” by Tamsen Parker (3.25 stars). I liked seeing the MCs flirt over the phone, liked how gone he was over her, and enjoyed watching him get more invested in immigration issues. The sex scene was full of glorious heat, though I wish it had a bit more of a femdom feel than it did; he definitely seemed to be leaning that way in how he thought about her. In general, I wanted to get to witness them together as a couple a bit more, and to feel more solid in their HFN. (I gather from the author’s note that there will be an expanded version of this story with both POVs.) It felt more like the possibility of a relationship than an actual relationship by the end. I liked the fat rep; the heroine is chubby, and I loved seeing how much he was into her thick thighs and lush ass. This is part of a series, and having read the earlier stories added to this one, but I think it would stand alone just fine.

Representation

  • Korean American man MC.
  • Woman of color MC.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. Physical altercation. References to familial separation due to oppressive immigration policies. 

A few notes about stories that didn’t work as well for me:

The Sheriff and Mr. Devine by Amy Jo Cousins (2.75 stars) felt more like the first few chapters of a longer novel than a stand-alone novella. So much was unresolved, including the main obstacles to the MCs being together. It just sort of trails off, without feeling like things were wrapped up or like there was an HFN. (I gather from the author’s note that there will be an expanded version of this story at some point.) I liked meeting these characters, and enjoyed them, liked their chemistry, liked spending time with an activist librarian who cared deeply about his three grandmas. I didn’t like the way the story talked about bisexuality; I found myself jarred out of the story both times it was mentioned. It felt pretty clear that the MC had some bi antagonism, and that never got challenged.***

Representation

  • Gay MC
  • Queer MC

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Bi antagonism on the page, never challenged. References to queer antagonism and racism. References to an older relative potentially having dementia. References to older people having dementia and it going unnoticed and not cared for, leading to accidental death. 

“Coming Up Rosa” by Kelly Maher (2.5 stars) didn’t really grab me. The characterization felt thin, and I just never really connected with the characters or their problems. I didn’t care whether they got together. I honestly didn’t see a lot of romance potential between them beyond good sex. My favorite part was the excerpts from the newsletter.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Sex on the page. Parent ill with a brain disease and needing care. 

I had trouble following “Rogue Files” by Stacey Agdern (2 stars); I found this especially odd because I have read the earlier connected stories in the other Rogue anthologies. I struggled to connect the pieces between what wasn’t said, and follow the plot and dialogue. There were some small moments I enjoyed, but in general this made it hard for me to enjoy the story. I read the ARC, so its possible that the coherence issues I found have been resolved in edits.

Representation

  • Jewish heroine
  • Jewish woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to threats of violence and workplace harassment.

 

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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