The interwebs tell me August was Romance Awareness Month. Since we’ve missed that delightful bus, I offer up this sparkly selection of romance novels because (1) we should celebrate romance every day, and (2) we’re going to need some tingly happiness to handle the annual slide from flip flops and ice cream to hot chocolate and rainy skies.
Give yourself an extra challenge and try an author you haven’t read before.
Seven Days in June – Tia Williams
Brooklynite, single mum and bestselling author Eva Mercy is not ready to run into her high school ex, Shane Hall, a reclusive, award-winning literary writer. But when he shows up in New York they find not only is the spark still there, bright as ever, so are all the demons that drove them apart. Can they get things right this time or will they mutually self-destruct?
A Low Country Bride – Preslaysa Williams
Maya Jackson has dreamed of becoming a head bridal gown designer for years. When she is called home to Charleston, South Carolina to support her father after he fractures his hip, she takes a job at a local bridal gown boutique. She bonds with the store owner, a widowed, military vet trying to save his business from bankruptcy and reconnect with his estranged daughter. Soon two lonely people discover the blessing of coming home.
Real Men Knit – Kwana Jackson
Jesse Strong is a playa. One of Harlem’s finest. But when his adoptive mother dies he and his brothers fight to keep her beloved knitting shop open. This means enlisting the help of a childhood friend who has long carried a torch for him and opening himself up to the kind of relationship he’s never had before.
His Defiant Princess – Nana Prah
(Royal House of Saene #1)
Princess Amira Saene has always done the right thing when it cames to her beloved Kingdom of Bagumi. Yet her unorthodox online relationship with a man across the sea has derailed her from cultural norms. She doesn’t care. After a year of communicating, the man she’s developed feelings for comes to visit. Their chemistry is intense and she tumbles the rest of the way into love. However, the looming threat of war sees Amira thrown in the middle as a peacemaker and forced to consider an arranged marriage to smooth diplomatic relations.
Riding Rebel – Kiru Taye
(The Essien Series #3)
Tony has always been the rebel Essien. More comfortable in leather than a suit, happier on a premiere red carpet then in the boardroom, known for his daredevil lifestyle. Still, he’s determined to prove himself to his family and build a successful movie business. Spotting Rita Dike at an event, he sees the potential star of his new movie and his next pleasure conquest.
Rita is a journalist looking for her big break. When she inherits the journal of a late friend which claims Tony is not an Essien she spots the perfect scoop. Her acting classes come in handy when she has to pose as an actress to get closer to Tony. Succumbing to the charms of dark and brooding Tony might be the only way to get through the close ranks of the Essien family.
But as she gets closer to the truth, Rita risks losing the rebel she has come to care for.
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes: A Story of Love, Loss, and Rock-And-Roll – Xio Axelrod
Toni B is trying to make a name for herself in Philadelphia’s indie rock scene. Upcoming auditions for a trending new band could be the ticket to the life she wants, but she is shocked to learn one of the decision-makers is a boy from her home town who once broke her heart. Turns out he still holds a piece of her heart, as well as the keys to her future.
Nearly All the Men in Lagos Are Mad – Damilare Kuku
How do you find lasting love in one of Africa’s craziest cities? Not easily. A collection of short stories, structured as case-studies lays out the male archetypes women are likely to encounter in the Lagos dating scene. From serial cheaters, to mummy’s boys, from the ‘fake it till you make it’ fanatics to the ones who can’t commit. This book is not a romance but a love letter to Lagosian women.
Cups of You – Karmen Lee
Amber Jones is back in Millensville to help her aunt recover from a broken leg. The town still holds painful memories for her and she doesn’t plan to stay. But when her relationship with her boyfriend back home starts to fray and she meets the delicious owner of Millensville’s local coffee shop – a man recovering from his own disappointments yet pouring love into the town’s residents with smiles and dark roast coffee – she begins to reassess her plans and dreams.
Dawsk – Erhu Kome Yellow
Simi, is 28, a nurse, and a workaholic. When reclusive billionaire Aiden Essien walks into her life and shows interest in her, she becomes wary. Her life grows even more complicated when her ex boyfriend, Femi, reappears. It turns out the three are linked by a secret from their past lives. It’s a secret that could destroy them all unless they put aside their differences and work together.
Diary of a Wallflower – Glory Abah
Glory Owhor leads a quiet life that revolves around work and church. Her world kicks into a higher gear when her high school boyfriend pops back into her life and her best friend’s odd behavior starts to suggest he has more than platonic feelings for her.
Love in Colour – Bolu Babalola
A powerful Ghanaian spokeswoman is forced to choose between her family’s politics and her heart. A young businesswoman attempts a great leap in her company, and an even greater one in her love life. A misused Nigerian goddess longs to be truly seen. Bolu Babalola retells love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.
If I Don’t have You – Sareeta Domingo
Afro-Brazilian filmmaker Ren is recovering from a romantic betrayal. Kayla is a Black British artist and journalist trying to make her mark. They meet during a string of interviews in New York for Ren’s latest film and discover an irresistible attraction. After a single night of searing honesty and passion their lives divert. Are they willing to make the sacrifices necessary to bridge their physical and emotional distance?
Act Your Age, Eve Brown – Talia Hibbert
Eve has tried to straighten out her life, but every move results in disaster. When she accidentally ruins an expensive wedding and unintentionally runs into the B&B owner with her car, she has to scramble to clean up another mess. Jacob’s arm is broken, yet as Eve flutters around trying to make things better, he finds himself falling for the crazy lady.
The Returnees – Elizabeth Okoh
After a bad break up, 25-year-old Osayuki leaves behind everything she loves in London to return to Lagos, Nigeria. Drawn by the transformations happening in the fashion industry there, she accepts a job at House of Martha as their Head of PR. While waiting at Milan airport for her connecting flight to Lagos, she meets two fellow returnees. After the plane lands at the Lagos airport, they all go their separate ways but their lives will intertwine again and change the course of Osayuki’s life forever. Not strictly a romance but has romantic elements.
Her Twin Baby Secret – Therese Beharrie
Alexa Moore is single and successful. She runs a thriving restaurant and is respected by her peers. Now she’s decided to start the family she’s always longed for—by herself! But after business rival Benjamin Foster comes to her rescue and pretends to be her boyfriend for a night, her plans are thrown into disarray. Benjamin snags a business opportunity Alexa had been counting on, their dating ruse comes back to bite them and their paths cross with increasing frequency until Alexa is forced to wonder how much further their relationship can go. By celebrated South African novelist, Therese Beharrie.
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted – Jayne Allen
(First in a three-book series)
Things are going well for Tabitha Walker. At 33 she has secured her childhood dream of becoming a news reporter, saved the down payment for a house, is dating a “paper-perfect” man and has a standing Saturday morning appointment with a reliable hairstylist. Her life is perfectly on track until she receives an unexpected diagnosis that threatens a goal sh’d taken for granted: having children. Suddenly she is faced with an impossible choice between her career, her dream home, and a family of her own.
With the help of her best friends she begins to explore the reaches of modern medicine and the limits of her romantic relationship. Before long she begins to suspect her grandmother’s age-old adage might still be true: Black girls must die exhausted.
Honey Girl – Morgan Rogers
A girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate Grace Porter’s newly minted PhD in astronomy ends in a drunken haze and marriage to a woman whose name she doesn’t know. She compounds her mistakes by running away to New York with the wife she barely knows. It’s a more appealing prospect than facing her stern ex-military father and his impossible expectations, competing in a struggling job market or managing her feelings of burnout. But you can’t run forever. Eventually Grace will have to confront her fears and navigate the messiness of adulthood.
Do you have a favourite romance novel? Share the love. Drop your recommendation in the comments below.
I really loved Real Men Knit and I keep hearing about the Talia Hibberts and think I do need to read them. Of the others, Nearly All the Men in Lagos Are Mad looks great. I haven’t read that many Black romance novels (I’ve read other books with romantic elements like Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water but I wouldn’t class that as a romance), but will definitely keep this list and explore some others if I can get hold of them. I found your blog from the mention on ZeZee With Books’ recent post.
Hi Liz! Thank you for reading. I’m glad the lists have been useful. I love Talia Hibbert’s books. I met her in 2019 and she is the loveliest person. https://coffeebookshelves.com/2019/02/14/talia-hibbert-is-giving-black-women-happy-endings-and-publishers-a-lesson-in-business/ Thank you for mentioning ZeZee’s blog too. I will head over there and have a nose around.
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