In situations like the one in which we’re currently living, I find myself going in one of two directions: either I want to read the gooiest of fluff, in which there is hardly any conflict, lots of communication, and several swoonworthy interactions; or I want to read about people with grand ideals and loud voices speaking for the unheard, and also falling in love and landing their happy ever after, whatever that may look like. So I thought I’d toss out some old favorites for those kinds of read. They are mostly books I’ve mentioned before, either in Kissing Books or on When In Romance, Book Riot’s biweekly romance podcast.
Note: While I started out with a fluffometer of 0–5, it was impossible to go in the reverse direction at such a closed scale.
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon (Fluffometer: 5)
Surgeon Sloan needs a new childcare professional, and she needs one now. Her precocious young twins are skilled at intimidating nannies, and she doesn’t have time to look after them. Rafe is an amazing nanny, and gets along well with the kids…and even better with Sloan. They decide to pursue a sexual relationship thanks to their sizzling chemistry, and things…go from there. There is a minor external conflict featuring Sloan’s ex, but it’s really just like a mug of tea in romance form.
If you like that one I would definitely recommend picking up Xeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience, but I will note that the fluffometer is lower thanks to a strong grief plot. Or Treasure. I’ll always tell you to pick up Treasure in a moment of need.
Love By the Books by Té Russ (Fluffometer 4)
Featuring a love story between a literary agent and a bookseller, this was my first (and favorite) Té Russ experience. Their slow, easy romance develops naturally, and it’s a fun journey to go with them on. There are literary and cultural references galore; there’s a speakeasy; there’s an opera-singing neighbor who I would love to have. There’s Black family time and the restoration that comes from it. There is some conflict, but it resolves pretty easily.
Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole (Fluffometer 3)
For a book set around the Freedom Riders and the Civil Rights Movement, this book is surprisingly fluffy. Alyssa Cole knows how to establish characters and setting in a way that you are rooting for Soph immediately, and you understand her need to make her voice heard. And the support she receives from Ivan, who has his own reasons for joining the fight for justice, feels right as the novella progresses. There’s a lot of serious stuff, but there’s a great counterbalance of sweetness, too.
And if you like this one, definitely check out Let Us Dream, which is set during the suffragist movement. That one is more a 2 on the fluffometer.
Dreamers by Adriana Herrera (Fluffometer -6)
I have a shelf on Goodreads called “Goddammit America.” All four of the Dreamer books are on that shelf. I actually haven’t been able to bring myself to finish the third one, American Love Story, which centers a relationship between a vocal Black activist and the District Attorney that he has the hots for. There is police-related activity that hits harder than the racism in the other two books, so read with care.
The Truth Duet by Tasha L. Harrison (Fluffometer -12)
If you can handle reading a cop hero, Tasha L. Harrison does an amazing job crafting the nature of such a relationship between two Black people in today’s society. It is a story told across two books, rather than a standalone first novel and its sequel. The relationship between Ava, a photographer, and Levi, a police officer, is very strongly developed, but there is heavy depiction of both racism and police violence. So as I’ve said before, read with care.
The Loyal League by Alyssa Cole (Fluffometer -15)
I know, I’ve already talked about Alyssa Cole, but if you really want to read some angsty, violent stuff featuring amazing romances and people who will tear your heart out, these aren’t books to miss. Spies for the Union using their best skills to take out the Confederacy might be the thing to pick up as we support those who do their best to take out their counterparts in the present day.
Systemic racism obviously cannot be solved by reading fiction, but if you need a reminder that good things happen in this world and everyone deserves their own version of an HEA, these books are a good start.
This content was originally featured in Kissing Books, Book Riot’s romance themed newsletter. Subscribe for updates on Romancelandia and book recommendations every Monday and Thursday.