There are two types of books that I can almost always finish in a single day, regardless of how long they are. The first is thrillers, which are just really hard to put down (most of the time). And the second is romance. They’re just really quick reads. I have been known to finish books by both of these genres in a single day, many times. Mostly when I’m bored at work.
I have been wondering if I could accomplish finishing a book in a day… but for seven days straight. I think the longest I’ve gone is maybe three days. Which also happens to be exactly how far I got when I attempted this same experiment with thrillers back in October. It completely failed – mostly because the thrillers I picked up, while good, weren’t exactly the thrilling kind of thrillers – which is why that post sadly never saw the light of day.
But, because we are still stuck inside and I want to ignore work as much as possible, I decided to attempt the feat again. But this time with romance novels. If you’re reading this, it was successful, and if not, well, I’m sure this post won’t be lonely with all of my other scrapped posts. I was going back and forth on what romance novels I wanted to read for kind of a while (I like to plan these things in advance so I don’t waste half a day deciding what to read). And then I thought “hey, February is the month of Valentine’s Day (which I hate, but won’t rant about here) and obviously perfect for my romance novel experiment, but it’s also Black History Month”. So I decided to only read books by black authors for this post. I know it’s a stretch, but whatever, this is my blog and I can do what I want.
I read seven romance novels in seven days, and every single one of them was written by a black author and features at least one black main character! Which is pretty cool. I’ve been looking for some new romance that doesn’t make me cringe, and bonus points if it’s diverse. So I’m excited to give these a shot! Maybe I’ll even find a new favorite, who knows?
As always, I blogged about these books as I read them, so you get to follow this crazy journey just a I experienced it (though in much less time). This is a VERY long post, so grab a snack and a cup of tea and settle in for this rollercoaster ride of romance novels.
To start this one the right foot (and so I don’t entirely lose my motivation on the first day), I’m kicking off this experiment with an author I’ve already read and loved:
Book One: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
I immediately regretted making this my first book of the week. Because it is so good! Which means everything else I read this week is bound to disappoint me. Seriously though, it took two chapters for me to fall in love with this book. And with Talia Hibbert’s writing (again). It’s funny and clever and sexy and fun. Basically everything I want in a romance novel. Plus, our love interests are a bisexual black witch and a Muslim ex-rugby player who has anxiety and likes reading romance novels. Which made for an interesting experience for me, because I (a straight, cisgender woman) have never read a romance novel in which I identified with the male love interest more than the female protagonist. But highly-sensitive, romance-reading, and plagued with anxiety? It me.
Basically, this book is amazing and set me up for failure for the rest of this experiment. Can I just read Talia Hibbert books for a week? That might have been a better idea. I was a little bit skeptical as to whether or not I would love this more than Get a Life, Chloe Brown (because that book is awesome), but I think I did. I also think I have a new favorite romance author (which is something I never thought I’d say, since I wasn’t interested in reading romance until like a year and a half ago). Talia Hibbert is also one of two authors I plan to read this week that I’ve read before, so I’m curious to see how I feel about the rest of these books. I don’t think any of them can dethrone this one as my favorite romance of the week (or year). Solid four and a half stars! Loved it!
Book Two: Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
I’m not going to lie, day one was a little stressful trying to finish a three-hundred and sixty page book in one day (while working full time). So, for day two, I decided to go with something shorter and slightly more manageable. This one doesn’t have great reviews, but I have to admit I was kind of curious about a M/M romance that happens to be written by a man, something I don’t think I’ve ever read before (which, if you think about it, is kind of weird, since this isn’t my first gay romance novel). Unfortunately, that made it all the more disappointing that I didn’t like this one.
To be fair, I think I probably would have enjoyed this if I’d read it ten years ago in my twenties. As a thirty-something-year-old, this book just felt kind of juvenile. I didn’t love the writing, and the characters and dialogue were pretty cringe-y. I can appreciate some good cheesy moments in romance novels, but this hit cliché and kept on trucking. There were also a lot of moments in the story that felt off to me.
Minor spoiler warning for this paragraph. Maybe I’m too old to think a virtual stranger showing up at my house with a book he sold me in a bookstore (and kind of made fun of me for) to join a book club he wasn’t invited to is cute and romantic. Instead, my brain screamed “stalker! run! inviting him in is literally the opposite of what you should do!”. There’s also a mention of a woman making herself sick because she found out her husband was cheating on her. Which, fine whatever, but she’s literally known for like ten years. If you’re still devastated enough that you’re vomiting because of something you’ve known about for a decade, you need help. Things like this made it really hard to like these characters. It felt like I was in some weird romance Twilight Zone where common sense, boundaries, and character growth don’t exist and all creepy impulses are acceptable to act on.
Basically, this was NOT the book for me. I didn’t really enjoy it at all, and couldn’t wait to be done with it. If it wasn’t for this post, I would have DNF’d it. There were definitely some things I didn’t dislike about this book, but overall, I couldn’t give this more than one star. And since I genuinely feel bad about that, here are some links to a few reviews by Bookishly Rebecca and Lazy Book Conquerer, who both loved this book. If your tastes are more similar to theirs than mine, you might love it, too.
Why am I doing this post again? I have so many regrets already. I’m not even halfway through. Send help. (Note from Future Me: the foreshadowing here is painful. Get ready.)
Book Three: A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Because I am obviously a genius human, I decided to follow up my first one-star read of the year with a book that has an even lower average rating on Goodreads. In my defense, this one is ENTIRELY Bridgerton‘s fault. I haven’t read the books (and don’t know if I want to), but I really enjoyed the Netflix series and couldn’t resist a diverse historical romance. Even though I’ve only read like three historical romances ever. This should be fun…
Reader, it was not fun. Not to be dramatic, but I might have actually gagged out loud at one point. And that point might have been the very first scene when the main character referred to her breasts as her “charms”. And then used said charms to breastfeed her slurping child (yes, she literally says the baby is loudly slurping as if eating “runny porridge”). Which gave my brain two separate reasons to immediately flash this emoji: 🤮. But it wouldn’t even be close to the only time that happened. Because the euphemisms in this book, while I will admit are creative, tend to evoke imagery that isn’t exactly… pleasant. Case in point: “fleshy congress”. You’re welcome.
Also, the duke has a strange habit of calling his servants (including our disguised protagonist) minions. The word “minion” should be reserved for things that are evil and/or yellow. That connotation is just too strong and the image in my brain didn’t work so well with a romance novel. Minions and fleshy congress DO NOT belong in the same book. Just… no.
Seriously, though, the author made a lot of really odd choices. The writing seemed off, almost as if she went back in at the end armed with a thesaurus. I literally have a masters in English and read an insane amount of things, and even I didn’t know some of the words this author uses. And while I love learning new words, in this context so many obscure words felt unnatural, and it was distracting.
Also, the main character basically “sees into the duke’s soul” like five seconds after she meets him. I actually flipped back a few pages because I assumed I’d missed something and accidentally scrolled through the ebook too far. But no, she just magically knew him already after only exchanging a few words (one of which was her calling him “weighty”). It was weird and unrealistic and, quite honestly, would creep me the hell out if it happened in real life. So many things about this book had me constantly thinking “ew, WTF” and I just couldn’t get past it.
I genuinely wanted to like this one. I think having diversity in historical fiction (especially romance) is so important and I was honestly looking forward to disagreeing with the low Goodreads rating. But I barely made it through this book without vomiting (to be fair, that was partly the fault of the Chipotle I ate while reading this – my stomach was already a bit iffy). Hard one star on this one, and I don’t even feel bad about it because my brain may never recover from minions, boob charms, the creepy breastfeeding fetish, and the fleshy congress that (I wish I was joking) needs “work” to “improve technique” 🤢. The cringe is strong with this one.
Book Four: Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory
I was saving this for later in the week, but I just really need something by an author I already know and like to cleanse by brain from the very inappropriate minions dancing around in there. Talia Hibbert jinxed this experiment with her amazing book, maybe Jasmine Guillory can save it? Honestly, I skimmed a lot of the last book (fine, the last one and a half books) for my own sanity, so I am thankfully a day ahead of schedule. Which means I got to take a little break from this insane experiment before diving into Party of Two. I’ve only read The Wedding Date thus far, but out of all of Jasmine Guillory’s books, this one appealed to me most right now, so we’re going with it.
The verdict: Party of Two was… fine? I’m giving it three stars. It was worlds better than the previous two books, and managed to redeem this experiment just a little. But if I’m being completely honest, I was a tiny bit disappointed. This just felt like standard, cookie-cutter romance. Except with politics. Which, I have to say, was my favorite part of the book. I did really like the fact that this dealt with politics and touched on race at the same time. And there were some feminist themes, which we all know makes me happy (especially in romance). But the rest was just… meh.
I didn’t really dislike anything in particular about this book. It was enjoyable. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t started out the week with Talia Hibbert’s amazingness, because everything about this just wasn’t as good as Dani Brown. There were definitely some cringe moments here and there, and a few things felt a little repetitive. It almost could have been shorter. There was more time spent on the build up to the traditional rom-com conflict moments than there was on the actual romance part. I get that that’s what a lot of romance novels do, and that’s fine. It’s just not my favorite.
But really my only complaint about this book was that the sex scenes didn’t do anything for me. They weren’t fade-to-black, but they just felt rushed or like I’ve read them before (which is probably exactly what the problem was), and I was a little bit bored. I am now four books into a romance reading marathon and only one book so far has left me feeling hot and bothered and it feels like I read that ages ago. I have one book on my list that I have fairly high hopes for in that department, so I’m leaving it for last. Just in case.
Book Five:Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
I already read a M/M romance this week, so it only seems right that I also read a F/F romance. And I feel like I keep hearing about this one. Also, it is a novella which is exactly what I need a this point in the week, because I am very tired. I am also starting to see the flaw in this experiment: all romance novels have basically the same story structure. And it is definitely getting old. Remind me to never do this again. I just really want to read a book that doesn’t have a happy ending. Maybe one where everyone dies. But for now, here’s romance number five!
Given how short this book is, it took me way too long to get through it. Which is super annoying because I still have two more books to get through and now I’m behind, but also because there wasn’t really anything wrong with this book. It just didn’t click for me. The writing wasn’t bad by any means (I actually thought it was pretty good), but my brain wasn’t having it. It’s entirely possible I am getting really burnt out on romance and need a break. But this might not have been the right book for me. And I’m honestly a little sad about it, because this author has a lot of other books that sound really fun and now I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy the as much as I want to.
I will say that I have some regrets about not reading A Princess in Theory first (I actually originally had that on my list instead of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, so I have extra regrets). This book can stand on its own, but I think I would have appreciated the story more if I’d had that little bit of background. Still, this was a pretty solid book. I liked how it felt a little bit different than some of the others on this list – it alternates what’s happening now with flashbacks, which was a nice way to break up the story structure. I did actually enjoy the characters a lot, as well. It was pretty fun, just not super memorable.
Really, I think the writing just didn’t click for me personally, and it took a bit to get into this book. Since it’s so short, there wasn’t really a lot of time for that to happen. Overall, I liked it. I even liked that the writing felt a little more mature than so many of the romance books I’ve read. Just, unfortunately, not for me. Three stars. But definitely check out this series if it interests you.
Book Six: Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo
I’ve actually had an ARC of this since before it came out last year. And then my reading habits went downhill and I never ended up reading it. So I figured this would be the perfect time. Since I was very much in the mood for a nothing day after a very long week, I decided to pick up the audiobook of this one. Which was a great decision. I don’t usually do romance on audio, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I spent an afternoon listening to it and relaxing, and it was such a nice self-care Saturday.
I kind of had the feeling going into this that it wasn’t going to be that heavy on the romance, and I was right. It was a lot more about balancing differing cultures in a relationship, and I liked that aspect of this book a lot more than I was expecting to. This is definitely more of a sweet romance (as opposed to steamy), but I thought that worked really well with this story. I liked it. But…
This might have been a four- or even five-star read for me, if it wasn’t for the main characters basically not communicating through the majority of the novel. At one point, the main character literally thinks “I don’t trust him, he’s keeping things from me” and then just never says anything and gets mad after months of nothing. She has reservations about the relationship, but never brings them up until things blow up. I actually initially gave this four stars, but just demoted it to three after thinking about how much this bothered me. There were just so many secrets and lies and everyone just ignored all of it and said nothing. Like, at all. Ever. Even though everyone was mad about it the entire novel.
If only I hadn’t wanted to scream at the main character the entire book to just say SOMETHING, I think I would have loved this. The romance was pretty cute (if you don’t count in the lies and secrets and weirdness). Ugh, my feeling about this are complicated. Because it did make me smile, but it also annoyed me. It’s like the things I hate about romance novels came together with the things I really enjoy and had a baby and I love it and hate it at the same time. This is why I shouldn’t read this much romance in one week. My brain hurts. I’m so glad this is almost over.
Book Seven: Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Holy. Shit. This book was steamy. It took the sex scenes from Dani Brown and then gave us more of them AND dialed up the in-between sexual tension. Which just made for a really, really fun read. I started this at the end of Day 6 figuring I’d read a little bit and get ahead, but I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it just before midnight. Which means I technically read seven books in six days, but whatever.
Steaminess aside, I actually ended up liking this a lot more than I was expecting to. I loved the main characters and how they interacted with each other. But I also really loved how this didn’t exactly follow the standard “one-of-us-fucked-up-halfway-through-the-book” trope. This experiment has really cemented for me that I’m not the biggest fan of reading about adults playing games in relationships. Sure, shit happens and people fight or break up. But I hate when it’s something dumb, like “I think he’s cheating, but I won’t ask, I’ll just be mad and see if he figures it out” or “I want to know if he loves me, so I’ll make him jealous”. I really, really appreciated that this book did none of that shit.
And, after the last book, I have to say how much I appreciated that the main characters actually talked to each other about what was bothering them. Could it be that this as an actual, mature, adult relationship? What? What have I been reading all week? Because most of it wasn’t this. I loved it! Yay for adults being actual adults in adult relationships! I will only be reading romance novels like this from now on. It was wonderful.
This was another (high) four-star read for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is exactly the kind of book I was hoping for when I started this experiment. It’s the kind of book that just made me happy. It was cute and fun and very sexy. And I am so glad I had a good feeling about this one and saved it until the end, because now I mostly don’t hate myself for deciding to do this whole reading experiment. Will definitely be reading more Rebekah Weatherspoon in the future!
This week was a journey that I was probably NOT prepared for. Somehow it worked out that my first and last books were my favorites of the week. But the books in the middle were an emotional rollercoaster. Mostly of annoyance and disappointment. To be totally fair, I am a very occasional romance reader at best, so I probably bit off more than I could chew with this. But also, one of these books repeatedly made me physically cringe, so maybe that wasn’t all my fault.
Am I glad that I did this? Kind of. I think it made for a fun post, and I did read two books that I really enjoyed. I also discovered a couple new black romance authors I’d read again. But I am never, ever attempting to read this many romance novels in a row again. It had fun moments, but it also melted my brain and made me never want to read romance again. At least until Talia Hibbert’s new book comes out next month. I think I got all of the romance out of my system for like a year. I might make sure the next few books I read have no romance at all. My brain can’t handle any more of this.
But, I do have to say that reading diverse romance is a lot more fun than reading the plain, white kind. It’s just nice to see representation in these kinds of stories, and I’m happy I was able to explore more of them this week.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this in the future (just not romance – because seriously, never again).
Edit: In exploring the topic some more, I became aware that my original title “I Read 7 Black Romance Novels in 7 Days” was inaccurate, as not all of the characters in the main relationships are black. My apologies. I have updated the title to more accurately reflect the books I read for this post.