We’ve all heard the stories of how romance sales surge when the world throws challenges at readers, so I expect we’re headed into record sales, don’t you?

As usual in August, I’m bunkered in my house, trying to keep up with Read-A-Romance Month posts and my pile of reviews, but this year things got a little more crazy when I heard the news that my mom was sick.

It’s been a weird couple years for me, as you may know, but this year started with my husband’s father dying and then, heading straight into RARM, I found out about Mom. 

I am very lucky—and grateful!—that my sister, who lives in Alaska, is able to spend big chunks of time in Texas with my mom, and that my incredibly sweet brother-in-law is willing to part with her so that she can.

I am grateful that while my mom is sick, there’s a decent prognosis, and that my sister, who’s about the most nurturing person on the planet, can navigate the doctor’s visits and specialists my mom has to see so that she can get the best care. We’re all still trying to wrap our heads around it, but my sister is the one who always has the presence of mind to ask the right questions and can help dissect the information and figure out the best choices for moving forward.

Neither my sister nor my mom read romance. My sister’s a huge fantasty/sci-fi reader and my mom’s a mystery buff. When I was in high school, my mom subtly discouraged my love of romance, so it was one of my great victories when she discovered a Karen Rose title on my shelves during a visit and told me it was one of the best books she’d read in a while. (Huzzah!) 

My sister has never been condescending toward my love of romance, and in fact encouraged me to pick up some fantasies with romantic elements she thought I might like, while I encouraged her to check out Amanda Bouchet’s great Kingmaker Chronicles series. (Taps foot impatiently waiting for Book #3, Heart On Fire, which releases in January….)

What I’m trying to say here, as per my typical platform message, is that everyone should be allowed to read whatever makes them happy, without fear of judgment, condescension, or scorn. This is especially important now, when so many things we’ve always taken for granted—you know, like when white supremacists march through the streets and commit murder, the President of the United States would actually condemn them?—seem under siege.

If you’re looking for some good reading about the events in Charlottesville, there’s a great NPR roundup.  (It was posted before the stunningly tone-deaf commentary from the White House two days ago.) 

Last summer, in tandem with the release of the anthology “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota,” Minnesota’s StarTribune asked Twin Cities Writers of Color what they thought we should be reading now. They came up with this powerful and extensive list. You can find out more about the anthology here.

And if you’re simply looking for some romantic fiction to escape into, I have some of those titles for you, too!

Between Lost and Found by Shelly Stratton

between lost and found

Tiffany Reisz recommended this author/book in her RARM post and I realized I’d received an ARC, so I pulled it out of the pile to check it out. (It also received a nice Kirkus review.) 

On the night her boyfriend Mark proposes to her (during their housewarming party), Janelle gets a phone call telling her that her grandfather has disappeared, completely distracting her from what should have been a celebration. Jumping on a plane to South Dakota sets her on a quest of discovery, not just to figure out what happened to her grandfather, but also to revisit deep emotional wounds that may be leading her towards choices that aren’t truly authentic, or even making her happy. Stratton is a really good writer and this story examines an unexpected turn in one woman’s life journey that sends her in a completely new direction, and the quirky set of characters she meets in small town South Dakota along the way. It’s a bright cast and the storytelling is full of surface stereotypes that surprise us as we dive a little deeper. The interesting juxtaposition of the sophisticated young Black D.C. professional who falls for the Marlboro Man sheriff in a town where red MAGA hats are the norm makes for lively storytelling, and a terrific opportunity to take a closer look at subtle and not-so-subtle impacts of guilt and preconceptions. An interesting story and a perceptive study. Highly recommend.

For romance reviewers, summer means holiday reading, and I was intrigued by the cover and blurb for All I Want for Halloween by Marie Harte (which was also warmly reviewed by Kirkus).  

all I want for halloween

Dressed up and anonymous, Sadie Liberato feels powerful, sexy and free. Where better to lose herself than a masked party?

Gear Blackstone's cheating ex and scheming best friend have managed to spin his life into a serious downward spiral. At least with a mask on he can cut loose for one night. And cut loose he does―with the sexiest, snarkiest chick he's ever met.

After a scorching-hot encounter, Sadie and Gear are desperate to find each other in real life. But can the heat last when the masks come off?

If you love seriously hot romance that still manages to explore human frailty and the redeeming, healing power of love, you can’t go wrong with Harte. This title was especially fun, with its flirty Halloween backdrop, reality TV theme and juicy villain-ish antagonists, but Harte’s use of the mask motif—literally and metaphorically—gave the externally tough characters unexpected vulnerability.

Whether you're reading this week for entertainment, knowledge, or truer understanding, I hope your choices help you find what you’re looking for.

And if you’re looking for more great romance recommendations, be sure to check out the RARM posts - 93 romance authors have some great suggestions for you!