Category Archives: Fuck Yeah, People of Color!

Always and Forever by Farrah Rochon

Always and Forever is the story of Phylicia and Jamal who are first introduced in A Forever Kind of Love as the best friends of the protagonists (you won’t be lost if you haven’t read the first book). The story is set in Gauthier, Louisiana, the cutest little town this side of Stars Hollow: It looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with its brightly colored storefronts sporting striped awnings and hand-painted We’re Open signs hanging in the windows. Jamal hadn’t known towns like this still existed, especially with predominantly black populations.

Basically, I want to go to there.

Jamal is converting a Victorian home into a green B&B and needs Phil’s assistance as she is “one of the most sought after restoration specialists in the entire region”. Problem is that Phil wants nothing to do with Jamal. See, even though they both felt an immediate attraction and completely bonded at their best friends’ wedding, the next day Phil was like: “And you are?” Ouch. The reason why is completely believable and understandable, but I still felt for Jamal who is, by the way, THE BEST. He’s such a wonderful character. Sweet, sincere, sexy. And so sensitive!

“Good morning,” Jamal said.
“Good morning,” she answered and moved right past him.
Jamal closed his eyes and let his chin fall to his chest. So much for that.

He just drops nuggets like this one, making me swoooon:

“…I dread even going to the house in the morning, because it’s so damn hard to work near you and not touch you. To have you ignore me. Do you know how much that kills me?”

DUDE.

He also…plays the saxophone. I think I’ve watched The Lost Boys one too many times to find that romantic. All I can come up with is cornball. Other things that I quirked my eyebrow at: there’s a bit where “the thought of being mistaken for Phylicia’s husband didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would.” He and Phil are in ARIZONA to go to his sister’s wedding, two seconds after they started dating. So um, you’re in it to win it Jamal. Relax. If anyone should be scared it’s Phil. And Jamal’s actions were a bit too much to swallow at the end. Not that I didn’t get how he could be angry, but the level of anger raised these old eyebrows a bit. No worries though, I welcomed him back with loving arms.

Phil is just as swoon-worthy. She’s hard-working and strong and passionate. It was wonderful watching her finally let her guard down with Jamal. I loved that he didn’t try to solve all of her problems for her and that the obvious “easy fix” was never an option for either of them. Also? Her relationship with her mother brought tears to my eyes.

Love this book. So, so satisfying.

ALL THE STARS!!!!

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Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins

Before I read Night Hawk I’d been holding out for a hero. I’d been holding out for a hero until the morning light. He had to be strong, and he had to ride his horse into a saloon and he had to have a Scottish brogue that he brought out on special occasions. Ian Vance aka Ian Bigelow aka Preacher? NAILS IT. He gets the job done. That is, when Maggie Freeman wasn’t taking matters into her own hands. She didn’t wait around for Ian to swoop in and save her, although she has no doubt that he would. They complimented each other perfectly and I loved watching them fall in love. I wish there had been more focus on the romance and less awkward info dumps, though.

“…I do most of the doctoring for the race around here, deliver all the babies too. Learned my doctoring during the war.”
“Where are you from?”
“South Carolina. Trained under Susie King Taylor.”
Maggie was unfamiliar with the name and it must have shown on her face because Lola explained. “Susie helped nurse the Black troops of South Carolina’s Thirty Third Regiment. She was fairly well known back during those days.”
…as Maggie listened she told how Susie’s family…escaped slavery on a Union gunboat and joined the Union Army. “She was about fifteen when the Yankee officers came to St. Simon Island to recruit soldiers. She was hired to be a laundress at first…

And it continues on from there, pulling me completely out of the story. Sure, I’d love to know more about Susie King Taylor and Big Nose George Parrot (holy crap!) and Jim Beckworth, but surely there was a way to be a little less obvious when introducing an Important Moment in History to a scene that has been running along so nicely, and I’m all invested.

All in all, a lovely book. 3.5 stars!

Back to the Good Fortune Diner

Tiffany Cheung has had a string of bad luck: she has no job, no apartment, and no car. She balks at moving back home and working at her parents diner – which is Good Fortune in name only, in her opinion. Not only do her family have a certain high standard that they expect her to live up to, but she has set some pretty high ones for herself as well. She doesn’t get a thrill from working in a diner like her brother, Daniel, saying to him at one point: “I hate that after all the work I put in, this is where I’m at. I was supposed to be an editor at a publishing house by now. But here I am, thirty-two and back living with my parents.”  But then she reconnects with Chris (high school crush) who hires her to tutor his son, Simon. And guess what? The crush is alive and well. There are goosebumps and sparks and racing pulses, oh my.

Okay, so it’s not as if I haven’t read this type of book thousands of times – former high school weirdo/nerd returns to small town and finally scores big with the quarterback hottie, yet Back to the Good Fortune Diner still managed to feel fresh. Not to mention refreshing. I’m not gonna lie – I get tired of reading about white people. The story resonated with me because I could understand not only how it felt to be the only (or one of few) POC in a predominantly white environment but also how it felt/feels to be an awkward individual in general. Sometimes being a combination of the two feels downright tragic (please watch The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl if you haven’t already). Tiffany’s self-preservation tactics tickled me; she’s crushing on Chris big time but gets all Ice Queen when she’s around him, giving the appearance that she couldn’t care less when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. He’s pretty popular with the ladies so watching him squirm was entertaining; his attempts at flirtation with her in the beginning are awkward but their initial interactions still manage to crackle with sexual tension. By the time Tiffany started letting down her defenses, I was relieved although not entirely convinced that she could loosen up so entirely around Chris in such a short period of time. But nevermind that, I quite enjoyed her “propositioning” him using kittens as bait. And that gravy/French fry scene? I actually clutched my pearls and said, “Dang.”

I completely bought Tiffany and Chris’ attraction, but the love? Not so much. It was too much, too soon. And don’t even get me started on Chris’ father, whose transformation from racist to introspective, empathetic human being was a bit of a stretch. How nice for Tiffany, that a well overdue talk down to a big bully magically relieved him of his ignorance. I wish.

Despite that, I still enjoyed Back to the Good Fortune Diner and hope to read more by Ms. Essex.

3.5 stars.

Cover Love

Andy just texted me at work.

Andy: Google Max Gladstone Three Parts Dead

So I did.

Me: Oh, HELL YEAH.

Book, prepare to be read.