Like many romance readers, I have a list of authors whose new releases are always on my shopping list. But this winter I've been looking for new (to me) novels that reflect the people I see around me. I wanted to read books by authors of color. I also looked for interracial relationships, protagonists from different cultures, and class differences without power imbalances (the Women of Color in Romance website was a great resource). Here are a few that I found.
Hidden Impact (A Safeguard Novel) by Piper J. Drake is a suspense novel. Its heroine, Maylin Cheng, is searching for her younger sister — an expert in gene therapy who disappeared in China, where she was supposed to speak at a conference. Maylin tries going through official channels but no one seems interested in helping her locate her sister. As a last resort, she hires Gabriel, who works for a private military company. Drake's characters and the world she built worked for me. Maylin is first generation Chinese-American. She's bilingual, owns a high-end catering company and has lived a sheltered existence. Gabriel is former military, the leader of a small team who has spent much of his life in dangerous situations. I loved the way their rescue attempt brought these very different people together.
I stayed in the world of suspense novels with Killer Curves (Guarding Her Body) by Naima Simone. This one is about Sloane Barrett, who we learn early on, is a misfit. Her curvy body and interest in teaching make her "the failure" of her high-society family. But that's not Sloane's only problem — she's also dealing with an increasingly scary stalker. Eventually, Sloane goes to a security company where she meets Ciaran Ross, who is able to help her. It wasn't the romance though, that resonated with me. Instead it was the family dynamics, especially the relationship between Sloane and her sister that caught my attention. Sloane's feelings of mistreatment by her family are so ingrained, that it takes her by surprise when her sister comes through for her. The novel made the point that people change, and the labels we assign, even to ourselves, need to be constantly re-examined.
Beastly Passions (The Verochka Pride Book 2) by Nikki Winter is a paranormal romance: Asha Shankur isn't satisfied with the role of women in her Tiger Pride, which is to live in the shadows and marry whomever her father chooses. She tries to make herself too indispensable for marriage by delving into the worlds of diplomacy and trade agreements only to discover her father has promised her to a man known for bloody brutality. Beastly Passions is fun to read, but I also loved its powerful heroine. The story moves between India and Siberia, and the landscapes act as a counterweight to Asha's growth. Winter's descriptions of India are lush and full of color, but Asha lives a quiet life there. Against Siberia's neutral palette, however, she grows angry and expressive, becoming a leader, and defending herself from her father's unscrupulous plot. Through Asha, Winter shows what is possible for women when they reject the rules.
Ericka Brooks reviews books at thebookpushers.com as well as scifiromancequarterly.org. You can find her on Twitter, talking about books, food and her cats.