I’ll be straight with you, fellow readers: If I were going to honestly represent what I’ve been reading this week, it would consist of all seven of Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarians books, plus the two “slice of life” short stories. These short stories include the accurately named Ice Ice Babies, about life after giving birth to alien baby twins named Anna and Elsa. I fucking love these books. I’ve been stressed, and this level of silly fun was exactly what I needed right now.

So just in case blue aliens aren’t your bag, here are three books I’ve read and enjoyed in the past few weeks!

What Erin is Reading

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Mad About the Marquess, Elizabeth Essex (Highland Brides, vol 2)

If Elizabeth Essex writes it, I like it. It’s as simple as that. And this book is no exception. The delightfully charming heroine is named Lady Quince Winthrop, which has to go down as one of the best romance heroine names of all time. Quince is a wee bit of a kleptomaniac and she’s translated this affliction into a calling, sending her stolen trinkets along to the church fund for the poor. Quince has a razor wit and a tongue to match, and her banter with Alisdair is both the best part of this book and also veers into “but do people really talk like that?” at times. (Book people talk like that. I’m okay with it.)

This book is a wild ride from beginning to end, from ballrooms to a remote Highland castle. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable historical, without too much angst. Their banter is a lot of fun, and I cracked up several times. The villain is something of a caricature, and the whole thing is wrapped up a little too neatly, but don’t let that put you off. If you want a book to make you smile, this is the one. It’s also worth noting that in this book (as in actual history) black people — and wealthy black people — do, in fact, exist in 1792.

Save of the Game, Avon Gale (Scoring Chances)

I loved this book! This is another feel-good romance from Avon Gale, who likes to write both detailed, accurate hockey and lots of bisexuals. You know what I like? Hockey and bisexuals. Avon gets me. Riley and Ethan are both bisexual, but haven’t experimented with men. They’re roommates and their relationship progresses from awkward strangers to friendship, from “nothing weird, bro” making out to steamy hot sex, and from there to love.

There is some small amount of conflict, over the fact that Riley is obscenely wealthy and tries to hide it, and over Ethan’s worries about his career, but overall, this is pretty low on the angst. Not to say that it’s uninteresting or forgettable; Gale’s rich, detailed description of small-time hockey life and her quirky characters make this a feel-good book that sticks with you. I can definitely see this one being a comfort re-read in the future.

Let it Shine, Alyssa Cole

Ok, everyone and their sister has recommended this book, particularly in the leadup to RT. I grabbed it at the time, then somehow missed reading it until now. And yes, this book is worth all the praise. I have absolutely no idea how this is a novella. Most novellas feel unfinished or sketched in — this one feels like a novel.

Sofie and Ivan were childhood friends who reconnect during the Civil Rights movement on the early 1960s. Sofie’s mother used to work for Ivan’s parents as a cook and a housekeeper, and the negotiation of that power imbalance, how Sofie sees it vs. how Ivan sees it, is a delicate dance between them. Both Sofie and Ivan’s fathers also hold on to hatred and resentment held over from that time, particularly around Sofie’s mother’s death.

Cole does not shy away from the fear, hatred, and violence of the Civil Rights movement. The romance, of course, has a happy ending, but there is no attempt to pretty up or glamorize what living in that time was like for a black woman and a Jewish man. This story is heartbreaking and hot and romantic and wonderfully written, and I highly, highly recommend it. The added epilogue is equally terrific, but hoo boy, have some tissues ready.

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