Kissing Books

Hooray! It’s The Ripped Bodice Awards!

What’s up, love lovers. Happy Monday, or Presidents Day, or Washington’s Birthday, or Washington/Lincoln Presidents’ Day, or whatever today is where you are. If you’ve got the day off, hope you’re spending it with a book. If not, hope you’ve got some time to yourself at some point.

Oof. It’s been a week.

News and Useful Links

Let’s start with the good stuff:

The Ribbies were announced! The first annual Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction recognized nine books by seven authors and I am so glad it’s done! (I was in the inaugural judging panel, which was amazing, but also have you ever tried to read as many romance novels published in a single year as humanly possible? It’s hard.)

If you like The Mandalorian, you’re gonna like this new sci fi romance series from Jessie Mihalik. Or so that’s the word. We’ll have to wait a couple years to find out, sadly.

Harlequin is expanding their Love Inspired line, so if you’re into or interested in inspirational romance, have at it.

I know Valentine’s Day is over, but this is just so sweet.

This is a really interesting look at Georgette Heyer and the current state of Regency romance.

And this is just effing delightful.

And so is this!

This is just super cute.

In less exciting news, the entire RWA board resigned and there is a special election for the remaining voting members to choose new leadership. They have brought on a DEI expert who looks to know her shit, but there’s also the possibility that CIMRWA (Cultural, Interracial and Multicultural Chapter of RWA) will disolve. :shrug emoji:


cover of Firelight by Kristen CallihanHave you read any Kristen Callihan? I’ve seen her name a lot recently, and have a good number of her books or have checked them out (I have Idol and Managed right now), but I haven’t actually read any of her books. One that has been on my list for years is Firelight, which is 1.99 right now. It’s the first in a fantasy series that has elements of Beauty and the Beast. Always exciting for me.

Black History Highlight

Black Romance history highlight this time! This thread from the BGSU Pop Culture Library (which has one of the most amazing collections that I can’t wait to visit in a couple months!) gives us a little insight into the life and work of early Arabesque author Gwynne Foster, who started publishing later in life. They must have sent some of that dust through the computer.


Now that the Ripped Bodice Awards have been announced, let’s talk about some of my favorites!

cover of Xeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Rebekah WeatherspoonXeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience
Rebekah Weatherspoon

It’s no surprise that this was a book the majority of the judges loved last year. Not only is it tightly and well-written, with excellent character development and a good story, but it’s fun! Xeni starts with grief, so you wouldn’t expect to have moments of brilliant laughter alongside those of deep sadness and thought. But Rebekah masters it with the skill of someone who has been doing this for a long time.

Cover of American Love Story by Adriana HerreraThe Dreamers
Adriana Herrera

So I know American Love Story is the one actually being recognized, and that is a hell of a book. But all three of the released books (and I imagine the fourth, which is out…not soon enough) are pretty great. I actually brought my rating for American Dreamer down after reading American Fairytale, because Goodreads doesn’t have six stars, and I liked the second a smidge more than the first. The people in Adriana’s stories are heartfelt and lovable.

cover of Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure by Courtney MilanMrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure
Courtney Milan

This novella about a pair of women who have dealt with enough shit in their lives and choose to do something about it is a sheer delight. When Miss Beauchamps arrives at Mrs. Martin’s home seeking payment for Mrs. Martin’s nephew’s stay at her boarding house, the pair instead plot to make his life just a little bit miserable. His nickname is The Terrible Nephew, after all. He’s made both of their lives miserable enough already. Oh, and as is the way, our elderly lesbians fall in love along the way.

cover of a prince on paper by alyssa coleThe Reluctant Royals and The Loyal League and Everything Else
Alyssa Cole

It should be no surprise that I can’t choose a favorite when it comes to Alyssa Cole’s books. A Prince on Paper is definitely my favorite of the full length novels released last year, though my favorite Reluctant Royal book is definitely Can’t Escape Love, which sadly didn’t make it into the final list. An Unconditional Freedom was absolutely spectacular, of course, and hard, and intense. (My favorite of those will always be A Hope Divided, but they’re all just…so good). While the Loyal League books are masterfully done and probably the only Civil War era books not written by Beverly Jenkins that I will ever pick up, the outright queerness living in the Reluctant Royals world edges it out. I realize that part of it is the setting, though, so we can just pretend they’re equally amazing series that have now been wrapped up. Sort of.

(How to Catch a Queen, the first book in the Reluctant Royals spinoff series, The Runaway Royals, is available for preorder now. By the way.)

This is not to say that Get a Life, Chloe Brown and Trashed weren’t favorites of the year. I still think about Trashed on a regular basis and thrust Chloe into people’s hands as they walk by. (Note: I have not actually read The Austen Playbook.)

It’s hard to pick favorites when you loved them all.

Which was yours?

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi!