Best Reads May 2019

This post gives a list of my favorite books I read in May 2019.

This list definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but also includes paranormal romance, YA fiction, interactive fiction, new adult, romantic suspense, erotic romance, and historical romance. I am putting the audiobooks in a separate category. I link to reviews where I have written them; and also where I have only posted trigger warnings, so you can easily find those. If I have not yet reviewed, I am using affiliate links to Amazon. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.

I’m listing marginalized rep at the end of my descriptions. If you spot something incorrect, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I am not intending to out anyone; I get author info from the web and the book bio. If an author would like me to remove any info listed, please do let me know. I want to note that I use the word fat as a neutral descriptor when listing rep, and use the word queer when a character or author identify that way or when I am unclear about their identity but know they fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

For folks looking for stories with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description.

New reads

Activist Romance

  • American Fairy Tale by Adriana Herrera (2019 contemporary m/m romance novel) A contemporary m/m romance with billionaire, meet-cute, one night stand to relationship, workplace romance, and single parent tropes. Overall, it was a really enjoyable, engaging ride, and I was blown away by the realism in the depiction of intimate partner violence work; I honestly have never seen that part of myself depicted in a way that resonated that much before, and it felt really wonderful to have that on the page. I adored Milo to pieces, and enjoyed the way this felt like a twist on a fairy tale. (Rep: White-passing biracial Dominican American queer man MC. Cuban-Jamaican American queer man trauma survivor MC. Many secondary characters of color, including several queer ones. This book has pretty much an all-POC cast. Afro-Latinx Dominican American bisexual woman author.)
  • Rogue Ever After (2019 romance anthology) This collection of romances is a mixed bag, as most anthologies are, but it definitely leans to quality, and while some of the stories did not work as well for me personally, I think that many readers will like those very stories. I especially enjoyed the romances by Hudson Lin, Chace Verity, Tracey Livesay, KD Fisher, and KK Hendin. (Rep: see review, too much to list.)
  • Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (2019 alternate history NA m/m romance) This reconceives the 2016 election so that a feminist woman gets elected, and presents a Trump-like figure as her antagonist for the 2020 election. It’s primarily a romance, between one of the princes of England and the US President’s son (who also works for her campaign and political aspirations of his own. This book has some lovely things about it! I loved most of the secondary characters, I fell hard for the MCs, and really enjoyed the epistolary aspect to their romance especially. I thought the arc around the MC realizing he was bisexual was really wonderful. I liked the idea of imagining a different more hopeful future for the US. I had mixed feelings, however, around the way the story set up the MCs queerness in opposition to that hopeful future, and with the forced outing in the story. This book is often discussed as fluffy and while there are really swoony aspects to the romance, I didn’t find it to be a fluffy cozy world for me as a queer reader. If I frame it as a take on how queerness is often divorced from leftist politics and sacrificed in the service of political goals, even when there is a very sweet romance that deserves to be supported, then I think it makes an important point. (Rep: Mexican American bisexual man MC. Gay man MC with anxiety. Queer secondary characters. Queer woman author.)

Actor MC

  • In the Spotlight by Ally Decker (2017 contemporary m/f romance novella) This is a light meet-cute fake relationship romance, between a movie star taking his first turn on Broadway and a theater blogger/musical theater fan. It was a fun read, with a fixer component that I enjoyed. (It’s first in a fixer series.)
  • See The Light by Kate McMurray (2019 contemporary m/m romance novel) I enjoyed this friends to temporary roommates to lovers romance quite a lot! There is so much theater geekery, mostly in the realms of stage makeup and musical theater, as one MC is an actor and the other runs a company that does stage makeup. So much pining, and communication difficulties and assumptions, and it just worked, for me. Exactly what I needed on a hard day. (Rep: Queer men MCs.)
  • Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy (2018 contemporary m/f YA romance novel) I enjoyed this rather angsty YA centering a teen girl with deeply neglectful parents that push her to take over parenting her younger brother, who gets stuck traveling with him to visit the fan-filled set of a movie based on her grandmother’s fantasy series. She’s an anti-fan, who falls for a fan playing one of the main characters, and their romance arc is lovely. (Rep: Demisexual MC with trauma. Queer woman secondary character. Irish-Lebanese American queer non-binary author.)

Casual to Lovers

  • More Than Comics by Elizabeth Briggs (2015 contemporary m/f romance novel) This is a friends to lovers, online to in person romance between MCs who have been collaborating to create a comic and now are meeting for the first time at a comic convention. He’s been in love with her for years, she just broke up with her boyfriend, and they have a con fling. This is full of my catnip and was an enjoyable cute ride, despite the hero doing the kind of self sacrificing thing that usually irritates me. His band almost won a reality show and there is a lovely found family feel to the band and their friend group who are all at the con, that culminates in group cosplay. (Rep: Mexican American man MC.)
  • The Geek Job by Eve Langlais (2011 paranormal m/f romantic suspense novel) This is a tropetastic romp of a bodyguard/protectee romance complete with a werewolf bodyguard who pretends to fall for a scientist to guard him, a vampire wanting to walk in sunlight, instalust, and a fascinating scientific solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem in the MCs being together. It leans heavily erotic, with a lot of playfulness in it.
  • Soloplay by Miranda Baker (2011 contemporary m/f erotic romance novel) A librarian who’s never had an orgasm goes to a sex shop and meets a sexual psychic who helps her explore her own desires. When that f/f relationship ends amicably, she agrees to take on a job testing sex toys. That’s when the geekery really begins. The bulk of the rest of the story is about sex toy testing and the building flirtation with the sex toy inventor and then the decision to test a line of couple-oriented toys with him. There are a couple instances of iffy consent early in the story, that are clearly set up to move the plot along, so this may not be for everyone (check the link for more detailed CWs). That said, this is definitely the geekiest romance I’ve read that’s focused on sex toys, so I wanted to include it. (Rep: Bisexual heroine. Bisexual woman secondary character.)

Geeky Romance

  • One Con Glory by Sarah Kuhn (2010 contemporary m/f romance novella) I adored the prickly guarded heroine who is obsessed with an obscure superhero comic and has very definitive geeky theories about many aspects of fandom including the actor she ends up falling for over the course of the con, despite her certainty he is a terrible cast choice for a tv adaptation of her fave comic. (Rep: Hapa woman author.)
  • Stone-Cold Fox by Hailey Edwards (2015 paranormal m/f romance novella)*** This compelling shifter novella is a spin off from a series but can stand alone. I could not put it down. It has deep Labyrinth fandom elements, including cosplay, an awesome friendship between the heroine and her BFF, and a tightly plotted engaging story about power. (Rep: Japanese American MCs. Queer man secondary character.)
  • A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) This installment in Cole’s Reluctant Royals series has a hero with so much emotional armor he is weighted down and cut off from authenticity and connection with those he loves, and I fell hard for him. I also really adored the heroine who was struggling with the legacy of emotional abuse and gaslighting from early childhood, and trying to find her own way in the face of that. It was great to be at the wedding of the MCs in book 1, and I really enjoyed the gaming aspect of this story, and the relationship dynamics with friends and family. This is compelling, full of heart, and has a lovely amount of humor interwoven with the heat. (Rep: African woman MC. Bisexual man MC with trauma. Non-binary secondary character. Black woman author.)

Kink Fiction

  • Strictly Business by Sheryl Nantus (2017 contemporary m/f kink romance novel) The pro domme heroine in this sex worker/client romance does character art for games. The hero is a tech freelancer/game designer who runs a company that helps gaming companies. He wants to figure out if he is in fact submissive, as he suspects, so he hires a private pro-domme service. I liked the way they ended up connecting via gaming, and how respectful he was of her boundaries while still attempting to show how he has fallen for her and wants to be with her. I really liked the way that this story wasn’t sex work negative or critical of other kinds of sex workers. and the way it acknowledged the place that pro dommes have in kink communities. The D/s was also quite lovely, and I appreciated the dominant’s vulnerability.
  • The Three Body Problem by RoAnna Sylver (2019 interactive fiction video game)*** I adored this fantasy game centering a submissive who encounters a stranger while enacting a ritual with their dominant. The kink in the story is really lovely, its clear that the D/s makes the characters feel secure, that they are interdependent, that it’s consensual and good for them. It’s really sweet and made me feel all swoony. It engages a lot with outward perceptions vs inner reality, and differentiating between abusive behavior and consensual kink. I adored the central D/s dynamic, and Venus in particular. (Rep: Non-binary MC. Queer trans ace polyamorous spoonie author.)
  • The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham (2018 historical m/f kink romance novel) The heroine is a mostly self taught brilliant botanist (I loved all the bits about plants) and the hero is full of so much angst and privilege and cannot deal with or face his feelings for her. This is angst-filled kink, and while there are references to potentially iffy kink practices in the past (of the emotionally self-destructive sort), I really appreciated the kink in the book itself, and the complex plot woven around the stigma of it, and the desire for it. It felt like a kinky book written for experienced kinky folks who are interested in unpacking some of the the emotional complexities of D/s, real world social power, punishment, and pain play. (Rep: MCs with trauma.)

Meet Cute

  • New Ink On Life by Jennie Davids (2019 contemporary f/f romance novel) This romance between a tattoo show owner and her new apprentice (who she inherited from her own mentor) was really compelling; I could not put it down. The MCs communicate so much through tattoos, build their relationship and trust that way; it’s lovely to witness. I enjoyed Cassie’s personal arc around being less focused on pleasing people. (Rep: Queer femme woman MC cancer survivor. Queer butch woman MC.)
  • Teach Me by Olivia Dade (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) I adored this so much and highly recommend it! It’s so full of heart, has lovely complex characters who I fell hard for, & unfolds in this beautiful way that was such a joy to read. This is one of my favorite romances I’ve read so far this year; the characterization is beautiful, it’s unputdownable, the fat rep is lovely, and I loved the way the hero really saw and respected the heroine’s emotional armor. It has an extremely satisfying resolution and it resonated so much with my own experiences as a teacher. The relationships with secondary characters are just wonderful, and I really appreciated the way it approached the trauma histories of the MCs. (Rep: Older fat woman MC with trauma. Older man with trauma. Fat woman author.)
  • Finding X by Miles Tan (2014 contemporary m/f romance novella)*** This is a cute meet cute romance novella with a geologist hero who keeps a scientific journal documenting his attempts to win the heart of the heroine. The heroine works for a tech company and is very guarded after being burned by her last relationship. I liked how geeky they both were and the way he kept fumbling with her and trying to figure it out. This is a #romanceclass book, set in The Phillipines, and it has a lovely spare prose style that I enjoyed. (Rep: Filipinx MCs. Filipinx author.)

Non-monogamy

  • Just Past Two by Elia Winters (2019 contemporary m/f erotic romance novel) I really liked this erotic romance that centers a married couple trying new things, both kink and hotwifing. It was fun, hot, engaging, and well-plotted. I couldn’t put it down. I liked the way the story presented several different kinds of non-monogamy, both the central couple’s hotwifing, a closed triad, and an open marriage. I also appreciated the way the novice dominant gets supported by a friend who has experience. The heroine’s arc was complex and engaging, and I liked how clear it was that her internalized stuff was hers to work through, and wasn’t The Truth. (Rep: Bisexual polyamorous fat woman author.)
  • Three-Way Split by Elia Winters (2018 contemporary m/m/f erotic romance novel) I enjoyed this erotic romance a lot! The central conflict is equal parts can we make polyamory work and can I let my guard down and try for a romantic relationship, and they actually go to a polyamory class, which I appreciated. The sex is extremely well written and creative, really shows the different pairings within the triad as different, and I especially appreciated the D/s. Plus I liked the personal arc around asking for/accepting help quite a bit. We have two men who are roommates/best friends/fuck buddies/business partners who are both attracted to the same woman, and they resolve to a closed triad. (Rep: Bisexual men MCs. Bisexual polyamorous fat woman author.)
  • Izzy and the Right Answer by R Cooper (2019 contemporary m/m/m romance novel) I was really moved by the slow evolution of this polyamorous relationship, particularly as it’s from the POV of a demisexual autistic MC. It resonated so much with my own experience of trying to sort through relationships and cues and being lost and making errors as I tried, and I fell really hard for Izzy as he attempts to sort all this out. I struggled a bit with how much he discounted his own needs and feelings and assumed that he wasn’t a partner folks would want because of his aceness and neuroatypicality, but this didn’t feel like self loathing to me, even as it felt like internalized ace antagonism and ableism. I really liked the way he kept working the problems he was grappling with at his own pace and the folks around him didn’t rush him, even as he kept getting stuck. His stuckness felt very real and resonant, a lot like my own experiences of stuckness when trying to sort things through. (Autistic demigray ace femme queer man MC. Queer men LIs.)

Sports Romance

  • On the Ice by Amy Aislin (2018 contemporary m/m romance novel) I enjoyed this hockey romance quite a bit; the pacing of the romance arc felt very demi in a way that worked for me.  The meet cute was delightful, and I really appreciated the friendships and family relationships in the story quite a lot. (Rep: Gay demisexual MC. Gay trauma survivor MC.)
  • There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandyha Menon (2019 contemporary YA m/f romance novel)*** I loved this book so much. It hit on every level for me: engaging characters, swoony romance that I was rooting for hard, awesome friendships that were really important to the story and the MCs, extremely well paced and well-plotted, unputdownable, with this glorious fat rep that made me incredibly happy. (Rep: Fat Indian American teen girl MC. Indian American teen boy MC. Indian American woman author.)
  • Something Real by Aja Cole (2019 contemporary m/f romance novella) This one night stand to lovers fake engagement romance was a lot of fun. I really appreciated the friendships and family relationships in this story, and there was a lovely amount of sexual tension. This was exactly what I needed on a hard day. Looking forward to trying more in this series. (Rep: Black woman MC. Black woman author.)

Audio Books

  • Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn, read by Carly Robins and Will Damron (2018 contemporary m/f romance novel) This has so much in it that I enjoyed! I liked all the disabled characters in it, really resonated with the neurodivergent hero, loved all the stuff about fixing up the house, and felt the representation of ACOA issues was just spot-on. The heroine is delightfully geeky about her job in the lab. I really enjoyed rereading this on audiobook; it was just as lovely the second time around and the performances were great. (Rep: Trauma survivor heroine. Hero with ADHD. Secondary disabled characters.)
  • Play It Again by Aidan Wayne, read by Sean Crisden (2019 contemporary m/m romance novel)*** This hit the mark for me with the gaming aspect in a really lovely way, and the audio performance was wonderful. It’s not a completely light story, I wouldn’t exactly call it fluff, as Sam’s arc has trauma elements woven into it pretty strongly, but it’s got a fairly light adorableness to the romantic relationship aspect that was exactly what I needed on a rough day. I especially appreciated the way Dovid and Sam negotiated around sex. Sam is not sex repulsed; he’s also not really interested in sex, and Dovid carefully draws him out when he gets a soft yes for sex, in a way that I really liked. (Bisexual Jewish blind man MC. Homoromantic ace man trauma survivor MC with social anxiety. Aroace Jewish woman secondary character. Non-binary author.)

June TBR (I likely won’t get to all of these, but it’s nice to have goals. A in parentheses indicates books I plan to read on audio)

Buddy Read/Group Read

ARCs to Read

My YARC19 Challenge TBR

Romance Book Bingo TBR

M’s Book Bingo TBR

Hockey Romance TBR

For fun

 

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