Self-Published Romance Recs to Warm Your Heart and Heat Up Your Life
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Last week, as we moved into March, we capped off our month-long celebration of romance with a re-release of last year's Love Is in the Air episode. In February, we released a new Love Is in the Air episode; discussed Helen Hoang's The Heart Principle, our Book Club pick; and chatted about Sally Thorne's The Hating Game AND its adaptation.
While I review a lot of romance, I thought it might be fun to zoom in on some popular subsection of the romance realm: self-published romance novels. I'm definitely no expert—in fact, it's only recently that I started to pay attention to this category at all—so please send me your recommendations. I'd love to add to my slate of authors. (One note: as I investigated, I found that some of these authors have since been picked up by publishers.)
So, I'm providing a place to start for an array of authors whose work I've recently loved.
Elena Armas's The Spanish Love Deception (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
While Armas's debut has since been picked up by Atria Books, she initially self-published this fabulous enemies-to-lovers romance (my favorite trope!). Here's an excerpt from my review: "Catalina Martín is dreading returning to Spain for her sister's wedding. She's incredibly happy for her sister, but she knows that she's going to have to see her ex-boyfriend (the brother of her sister's fiance) and to face the rumors and pity that have followed her since they broke up.
"The answer? A fake boyfriend, of course. Though she's resistant to the idea at first, eventually she has to admit that Aaron Blackford's offer to pretend to be her boyfriend for the wedding is her best option . . . even though they can't stand each other. They have battled since Aaron came to work at her office and was rude to her during their first interaction. (I bet you can see where this is going!)
"I absolutely loved the way Armas wrote Catalina's gradual realization that maybe they don't hate each other after all AND Armas's exploration of the gender inequities that plague Catalina's work and personal lives. Catalina and Aaron have great chemistry, and the story is so compelling that I had a hard time putting this one down."
Christina C. Jones's Wonder (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Warning: Full Steam Ahead!
Most of the romances I've read by Jones are contemporary realistic, but with Wonder, she steps into a different genre. Here's an excerpt from my review:
"'All our science and technology and politics and meant nothing once [the earth] decided she wanted us off, that we'd done too much and gone too far' (9).
"Christina C. Jones's Wonder is a compelling novel that successfully weaves together several threads: a re-telling of Alice in Wonderland; a dystopian novel that takes on class conflict and environmental concerns; and a romance between two strong characters. Her website, beingmrsjones.com, says she is known for 'seamlessly weav[ing] the complexities of modern life into captivating tales of black romance,' and this novel certainly fulfills that goal.
". . . I thoroughly enjoyed Jones's reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, the clever ways that she envisions them as fitting into this new world. The romance here is satisfying, the world building is strong, and the questions the novel poses provoke thoughts relevant to our current situation."
Chloe Liese's Only When It's Us (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Only When It's Us is the first of the Bergman Brothers series (four have been published so far; the next will come out in May). On her website, her bio proclaims that she "writes romances reflecting her belief that everyone deserves a love story. Her stories pack a punch of heat, heart, and humor, and often feature characters who are neurodivergent like herself." Her characters are rich, complex individuals navigating an array of challenges, and her romances are super-steamy. I'm always a fan of romance series because there's that satisfying reappearance of characters and couples from previous novels. So. Much. Fun.
Penny Reid's Neanderthal Seeks Human (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) or Truth or Beard (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm)
Penny Reid has set the idea of a simple romance series on its head: she has created a romance UNIVERSE. I couldn't bear to choose between her two intertwined series, Knitting in the City and The Winston Brothers—honestly, you can't go wrong, and if you love one, you'll probably want to devour both series. Regardless of the path you choose, you should know that Reid excels at creating eccentric, interesting characters; that she writes very open-door romances; and that, in addition to the books she writes, she has started Smartypants Romance, a company that brings in other authors to continue to extend her universe.
Mariana Zapata's From Lukov with Love (Bookshop.org)
I'm still new to Zapata's work, but I've become a real fan of her slow burn romances. If you're ready to immerse yourself in a relationship, look no further than my favorite of the three I've read so far, From Lukov with Love. This is an enemies-to-lovers, figure skating-centered romance about two complex and layered characters whose long history makes their inevitable relationship rich and satisfying. I've loved all of Zapata's books I've read so far, but this is my favorite.
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