I came across a one-star review from a person I’m Goodreads friends with of a book I was loving the other day that said, “I could barely get through it.” This got me wondering, how do we decide whose reviews we can trust? For me, I think it’s a two fold question. I trust several people to flag problematic content or to note sensitive issues and how they were handled. So if someone from that list tells me a book is harmful, I will pretty much immediately remove it from my TBR because those aren’t books I want to support. But adding something to my TBR is a different story, especially for it to skip up to the top of my TBR. I think having similar taste in books is what matters most in that regard, although I’m not positive.
Anyway, there’s been a trend on YouTube that maybe started with Chandler Ainsley’s taste test videos or maybe that was a spinoff of Kayla’s (booksandlala) “Can we trust Booktube?” video, of trying out a reviewer’s favorite books to see if your tastes align. But I thought I would make a few posts that introduce y’all to my tastes so you can see if my reviews of books I love are likely to be books that you’ll love and if you should avoid books I don’t like. I’m also hoping this will be a bit of a self-discovery thing in which I get better about pinpointing things I am likely to enjoy. So now that I’ve given you quite a lengthy intro, let us begin with a list of things I love in books!
- Messy Heroines Figuring It Out
Dani’s the one that first drew my attention to the fact that this is an incredibly common thread running through my favorite romances. I love messy heroines sort of getting their lives together with plenty of support along the way. The most obvious example of this is Portia in A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole, because Portia figures out that she has ADHD and starts learning to cope with that. It is, however, as Dani said, incredibly common throughout the majority of my absolute favorite romances.
2. Positive Fat Representation
As a fat woman myself, one of my favorite things in romance is a curvy heroine finding love without having to change who she is or how she looks. The author I think is doing this the best right now is Olivia Dade and I am so grateful to all that she’s done. I always come out of her novels feeling better about myself and about life. Another author doing an excellent job with this and who actually wrote the first book I read where I was awed by the beautiful representation of fat women is Talia Hibbert. That book was Bad for the Boss and there’s a line in it about her beautiful stretch marks. I died, but in a good way.
3. I am here for the drama.
Okay, so this has to be done well, but if nothing else, the thing my love for The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan made clear is that I am here for the messy. It’s also why I like books like Forbidden Promises by Synithia Williams where the very premise implies that the inside of the book will contain mess. My actual real life is boring so sometimes it’s really fun to observe the drama from the sidelines.
4. Books with Strong Bonds Between Women
I think because growing up it felt like there was a lot of media about women and girls tearing one another down and that became a sort of stereotype, I have pretty much always been more drawn toward groups of women who are ride or die there for one another. I’m especially a sucker for non-related groups of women, but sisters can provide this for me too. A great and recent example of this for me is Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha, which has a girl gang at the center. Also, Storm of Locusts by Rebekah Roanhorse, the sequel to Trail of Lightning has the most incredible team up and I was shouting a lot of exclamations at my audiobook. (Brief note to say that women includes trans women!)
5. On a more broad scale, I like the friends to lovers trope.
I actually love a lot of romance tropes, but this is one of my favorites. My sister pointed out that this may be because I really hate the awkward getting to know each other part of dating and friends to lovers is a more natural slide into dating most of the time. There are obviously books that do this better or worse, but two of my all time favorites are Scoring Off the Field by Naima Simone and Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert. A more recent love is Go Deep by Rilzy Adams, which is a fantastically steamy friends to lovers novella.
6. But… I also like the hate to love trope.
To be fair, I do think that at least with hate to love, you still have some sort of history with the person you’re falling in love with, so I think I may like it for some of the same reasons. I also like the intensity and drama that tends to accompany hate to love. Second chance romance is usually not my favorite thing, but it tends to work for me sometimes when there’s still that level of antagonism present like in Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. I think I especially love it when there’s more of an antagonistic relationship than any actual enemies like in Branded by Fire by Nalini Singh with Riley and Mercy or Archangel’s Shadows by Nalini Singh with Janvier and Ashwini.
7. But arguably the trope to rule them all for me is fake dating.
I love fake dating paired with literally any other trope or on it’s own. I love that it’s versatile and can range from fake dating for one quick event that takes like two chapters, á la The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, to a much longer scheme á la Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. There’s something about the forced proximity in this specific context that just speaks to my id in such a powerful way. I really love the, “but is this still acting?” dilemma that always happens. It’s just one of the best and most versatile tropes for me.
8. I really like sex as an experiment or tutorial type of situation.
This isn’t a trope I see a ton, but I absolutely adore it. It added a little spice to Go Deep as the reason Navaya and Xander move from friends to lovers. I also loved it in One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean because I love Pippa’s scientific determination to learn about sexual desire and activities. Cross is bowled over by her and, tbh, so was I.
9. I adore women who go after what they want.
This sort of relates to my first point about messy heroines figuring out how to put their life together, but I also just love women going after what they want. I feel like Florence Greene of The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe fame best embodies this energy, but also Hattie in Brazen & the Beast by Sarah MacLean. There’s something about the just brazening through obstacles that appeals to me. It also might have something to do with the smashing the patriarchy energy.
10. Men who cook and can express emotions already.
There is just something about a hero who already has his life together (I acknowledge that this is a double standard) and is really lovely. A perfect example is Zafir from Take a Hint, Dani Brown, which is my favorite book of the year so far. Zaf is excellent and he’s trying to teach young boys how to express their emotions and I just love him the most. Another example would be Rafe from, well, Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon. A darling man, honestly. (I do also really like the buttoned up man literally coming undone because he falls in love, but I wanted this list to be ten things, so… Just know I also really like the flip side of this!)
Now because Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer came out last week, I’m going to ask that if you can, please donate to the Quileute Tribe’s fund to help them move to higher ground. This is the Tribe whose traditions and folklore were co-opted by Meyer without receiving any compensation. Because colonization. Also, if the vampires and werewolves resurgence is making you want to read some, here are just a few you could consider from authors of color: Psy-Changeling or Guild Hunters series by Nalini Singh (my highest recommendation to both); The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (first book reads more like a gothic mystery and the vampires are out in full force in book two); Lobizona by Romina Garber (check out this post for ten reasons why you should pick it up!); and Janine by Chencia C. Higgins (which comes highly recommended by Ms. Bev herself!).
And in closing, I hope you enjoyed getting to know me and my tastes a little more. What are some of your favorite things in books? Let me know!