The holiday season can be stressful for many at any given time, what with the pressure of consumerism and people-pleasing that is commonly associated with gift-giving. Times are even more challenging at this moment because of the pandemic; many people (myself included) will be missing out on traditional family gatherings to ensure everyone’s health and safety. At a time when self-care is more important than ever, it is worth considering making space for much-needed cheer with holiday romance novels.
I am still relatively new to reading romance. I read my first “official” romance novel in 2019, and have not read very many since. However, this holiday season I find myself gravitating toward the genre that is famous for HEA’s (romance-speak for Happily Ever After). While looking for festive reading material, I found it a challenge to find romances written by BIPOC authors. They are available and widely read, but I had to SEARCH for them. In my bookstore-browsing days of old, I recall being inundated with a wall of books by (white) authors whose names have dominated the genre for decades. Romance books by BIPOC are not marketed as widely, at least in my opinion, as romances by white women authors. This is not surprising for a genre that is historically overwhelmingly white.
Reading holiday-themed romance (aka allowing myself to just enjoy feel-good stories) is my Christmas gift to myself this year. I’ve read some of these, and have yet to read through the rest of this brief list, but they sound perfect to me right now. Here are a few romance titles by BIPOC authors you should check out, paired with festive dessert recipes to enhance your reading experience.
A Christmas Parranda by Andrea Beatriz Arango
This short novella is a queer, Puerto Rican retelling of a Christmas Carol that features hilarious friend and family dynamics, fun pop culture references, the challenging of outdated cultural gender norms, a puppy, and quality Latinx representation. Pair this cozy romance with flan, a comfort-dessert like no other.
Mangos & Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera
An own-voices Dominican f/f romance that takes place on the set of a baking competition in Scotland? Say no more and sign me up. Mango almond icebox cake sounds like the most appropriate (and yummy) dessert to accompany this one.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Set in England over the holidays, a woman tagging along on her daughter’s work trip finds intrigue and romance where she was not expecting it. Note that this one is the fourth in a series, but many readers claim that you need not have read the previous books to understand/enjoy what’s going on in Royal Holiday. Try this one with these shortbread jam cookies.
Sweet on You by Carla de Guzman
A rivalry—and maybe something more—grows between a barista/cafe owner and a neighboring baker in this satisfying, rivals-to-lovers holiday romance set in the Philippines. This crema de fruta recipe sounds heavenly and especially festive, like a proper holiday romance should.