Review of Rogue Nights

Rogue Nights (anthology). 2018.

rogue nightsRogue Nights is the sixth book in a series of collections of resistance romance.

Rogue Nights (2 f/f, 2 m/m, 3 m/f stories) is more queer than some of the previous collections, containing four stories with queer MCs. It has three stories by authors of color; three of the previous collections had two stories by authors of color, and two had one story by an author of color.

The activism described in the stories had a range to it, including activism related to elected officials, non-profit work, protests, online activism, individual movement towards change, and being a clinic escort.

This collection of romances is a mixed bag, as most anthologies are. I am marking the stories that do not include sex with three asterisks.***

A few stories that I especially enjoyed:

Resisting Desire by Talia Hibbert (m/f) is a brothers best friend romance with a bodyguard/protectee trope, and completely loved it, which is not unusual for me with Hibberts romances. I loved the heroine so much, right along with the hero, who sees her strength and power and just wants to protect her and give her what she needs and love her as best he can. I also deeply appreciate, as always, the fat representation in this book. It is incredibly difficult to find m/f romance with fat heroes, and James is so dreamy and sexy and loving and respects Nina so much; I adored him. I was rooting for them as a couple, and enjoyed watching them come together. The activist aspect of the book was wonderful, balanced hope and realism really well and I loved the politics in it. It’s worth buying the book for this romance, alone.

Representation

  • Fat Black hero.
  • Chubby Black heroine.
  • Autistic Black Anglo-Romani disabled queer author.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Reference to racist abusive police officers and the police killing the MCs parents in a car accident. Racist and misogynist harassment. Death and rape threats. Use of racial slurs. Doxxing. Heroine in peril. Sex on the page.

Dare to Dream by Hudson Lin (m/m) is a deeply compelling, riveting romance centering two QPOC immigrant MCs who meet through a group project in law school. The contrast between the MCs perspectives and fears and the stakes each of them have felt very resonant; the chemistry between them and the intensity of the way they clash around politics made this unputdownable. I cared about both of them, and was invested in each of them listening to and making room for each other’s experience and vulnerabilities. I loved the family dynamics in the story, and the details in the storytelling were lovely. I highly recommend this romance and think the book is worth buying just to read this story. I will definitely be reading this author’s backlist.

Representation

  • Chinese American immigrant queer man MC
  • Mexican American immigrant Dreamer queer man MC
  • Taiwanese Canadian queer author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Fear of deportation and ICE detention. Fear of police. Detailed discussions of risks for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers. Sex on the page. 

Sacred Son by Robin Covington (m/m)

The activism in the story is about advocating for Native American parents to regain custody o of their children from white foster homes; the advocate MC is helping his ex from many years ago in a custody fight. This is an intense read, a second chance single parent m/m romance that leans towards angst. I felt for Judah, really connected with him as a character, and the pain of wanting to be there for a child and struggling in a custody situation to do what is best for the kid. There was a lot of emotional intensity in the story for me around the custody fight, and it felt like that was centered in the story more than the romance, like the romance was more a subplot. I was okay with that, personally, found the central arc deeply compelling.

Representation

  • Native American, formerly incarcerated, trauma survivor, bisexual man MC
  • Native American gay man MC
  • Native American woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to being incarcerated. Fistfight. References to residential schools and settler colonialism. MC lost custody of his child when he was in prison and his child’s mother was murdered, custody battle is central to the story. Child is being raised away from his people, facing racism at school, and internalizing it. Sex on the page.

Parking Lot Cowboy by Rebecca Crowley (m/f)

This was rather quiet and slow paced. The core conflict was class based and mostly about the cowboy hero feeling he wasn’t good enough for the epidemiologist heroine because of his minimal education and working on a ranch. The message seemed a bit heavy handed, and I’d have liked a bit more chemistry between the MCs. That said, I liked this one. I enjoyed spending time with these characters.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

A good portion of the story involves MCs volunteering as clinic escorts for folks getting abortions; it includes descriptions of clients being upset by anti-abortion protesters, discussion of the morality of abortion, altercations with protesters, name calling, and one of the MCs briefly physically attacking a protester. Casual ableism and class prejudice. Sex on the page. 

Stories that didn’t work as well for me:

The Coffee Shop Around the Corner by Shae Connor (m/f)*** has a You’ve Got Mail trope, a fave trope of mine. The politics in the story were focused on a local mayoral electoral battle, and that got center stage in the story, leaving the characterization a bit light, which had me less invested in the characters getting together. That said, I enjoyed this story; the romance arc was lighthearted and cute and I liked the epistolary exchanges.

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to familial racism including a family member in the KKK. Recounting of a candidate making a racist statement. 

Dropped Stitches by Annabeth Albert*** (f/f) is a meet cute low heat romance between two women who had crushes on each other in high school. It was sweet and light, with a conflict based on one of them having recently broken up with someone. The meet cute was adorable and I liked the knitting aspects. The activist aspect of the story seemed more like background setting than integrated into the characters, but that may have been because the characterization was rather thin, particularly for the love interest who I felt like I barely had a sense of. This romance felt very different, tone-wise, from Albert’s other work, which generally leans angsty, to high heat, and towards deeper, more complex characterization. I struggled with this one being Albert’s first f/f story and it not including a sex scene; I’ve never read a book by her that did not, and it felt more like avoidance than like the choice that fit the story. I also was troubled by the way the book barely skimmed over the Black love interest’s involvement in Black Lives Matter, while the white MCs involvement in electoral campaigns was centered in the story.

Representation

  • Queer woman MC
  • Bisexual Black woman love interest
  • Bisexual woman author

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

References to being arrested in the past; oblique references to racism.

Love Your Face by Ainsley Booth (f/f) has a friends to lovers arc that didn’t quite work for me. The activist aspect in this one is about anti-gentrification activism, and it’s quite light, not so much part of the plot as just mentioned and described a little. What takes center stage is a lesbian going home for the holidays and resisting familial queer antagonism and gender policing, and a friends to lovers romance arc. I was really moved by the friendship in this story, especially how Ami takes care of and stands up for Fred around her family being awful. I struggled with the way the romance arc evolved.

It was very clearly stated that the questioning MC was questioning because she increasingly felt like men were awful, not because she was attracted to other genders, or even attracted to her best friend. I am troubled by the politics of this, but I also think it raised all these doubts that were not addressed in the story itself. We don’t get to see the sparks of her attraction to her BFF happen, or see her realize it, which felt like a missing piece, because I honestly struggled to get on board with this relationship. It may be that the story was trying to do too much and there wasn’t room, but it made the romance arc fall flat for me.

I do think that it would be possible to write a story that depicted a character questioning her sexuality sparked by men being terrible, but that would really need a lot of care and nuance and unpacking in the story and that didn’t happen here. It’s never actually clearly debunked as the reason she’s queer, just left out there as if sexual identity works this way, that being attracted to women is at the root about rejecting attraction to/relationships with men. Its just kind of tossed in and left there to hang, and as a survivor reader who has been abused in queer relationships (including by women), I was deeply troubled by the implication that the answer to men being violent and misogynist is to date women. I almost DNF’d the story based on this plot point. If I hadn’t been reading it for review, I would have. This story has tropes I love–friends to lovers and holiday romance–but it didn’t deliver on the friends to lovers for me.

Representation

  • Lesbian MC
  • Questioning MC

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Oblique references to men being violent. The questioning MC is framed as questioning her sexuality because men are misogynist and violent, which both erases violence in queer relationships and is deeply misleading about how sexual identity works. Parental gender policing and queer antagonism. Casual aromisia around not being “just friends”. Casual cissexism (the phrase “strictly dick policy” was used). Alcohol use. Sex on the page.

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from one of the authors
  • I have had contact with a couple of the authors on Twitter, interviewed Talia Hibbert on my blog.

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