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May 15, 2023

3 Romance Novels to Read

MK French

Check out some of this month's great romance novels.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Ander and Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

book cover of young adult romance novel Ander and Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa
May 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250843999
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); YA romance

Ander Lopez only knows their neighborhood in San Antonio and focuses on their job at their family's taquería. Ander is also a muralist getting ready for art school but isn't sure they're ready to leave. When their family "fires" them so they can prepare for college, they meet Santiago Garcia, the hot new waiter. Falling for each other is easy; Ander learns more about themself and their art, and Santi begins to feel like the United States is home. When ICE agents come for Santi, Ander realizes how fragile that really is.

Ander wanted some real-life experience as a muralist, especially when some schools rejected him after reducing them to only Mexican styles and subjects. Ironically, the advisor coaching them at the school they deferred for the year wants them to only focus on those themes and doesn't bother to actually get to know their interests. Ander gets too locked in their doubts, but their good friends and then Santi help them open up. It's a teen romance in the beginning, with awkward moments and family members butting in. Santi tried to slow the connection between them; we know why even as Ander doesn't, because he doesn't want to make close connections he'll have to drop at a moment's notice. It happened to other workers in the taquería, but Ander hadn't been as personally affected before. 

I love how the characters are casually bilingual in a real way, not fake fumbling for words. The tension from ICE agents coming into the restaurant or following them made me clench my teeth in fear. Ander makes a decision no one expects, but it's one they commit to and can feel good about. It's a bold move, and I wish them all the best of luck. 

Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts by Kristyn J. Miller

book cover of romantic comedy novel Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts by Kristyn J. Miller
May 2023; Griffin; 978-1250861825
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); romantic comedy

Margo Anderson and her best friend Jo run a podcast featuring rules for hooking up without catching feelings. When Jo takes up a sponsor’s offer to host an all-expenses-paid wedding trip on Catalina Island, Margo decides to break all her own dating rules, just to prove that it’s a bad idea. She picks the groom’s best friend, her old high school nemesis Declan Walsh. He is just as annoying as he used to be, but spending so much time together proves there's a spark between them.  Can she actually let him in?

Calling Declan a nemesis is a bit of a stretch, considering that he played pranks in high school and Margo was only one of a few victims. They hadn't really interacted much, and she was self-conscious at the time. Anyone who has trouble dating can sympathize with Margo. Her parents' marriage fell apart due to his cheating, she'd been picked on and didn't trust that anyone she tried to meet wouldn't hurt her emotionally. The podcast grew out of that and went viral, but it wasn't something she'd planned as a career. With Jo getting married, she's forced to contend with moving to a new apartment, ending the podcast, and figuring out what to do with her future. She determines that Declan is a safe bet to break her podcast rules, but they get along too well and he doesn't want to be an anecdote for the show. I think we all know what will happen long before she does!

The banter is witty and fun, which I really enjoyed. It's part of what makes romcom-style novels so fun. Antics due to drinking leading up to the wedding show us how well the two get along once they actually talk, and how lonely Margo really is. It's not that she thinks love isn't real, it's just something that happens to other people. This time it's happening to her, and we're along for that bumpy ride. We get a happily ever after for her, romantically and professionally, and no need for any future heartbreaking. 

Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko

book cover of young adult romance novel Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
May 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250817631
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); YA romance

After her mother's death, seventeen-year-old Coley moved to Oregon. She thought she'd always be alone, but finds an instant attraction to Sonya. She's never been attracted to girls before and doesn't know how to be part of a healthy relationship. Coley and Sonya will have to figure out how to truly be themselves and be worthy of love.

Based on her song "Girls Like Girls," this is Haley Kiyoko's first novel. It takes place in 2006, the heyday of AIM handles and LiveJournal entries with nested comment replies. (Can you tell I look back on that fondly?) Coley is an emotional mess, with hints as to why her mother died that aren't explained until later when she confides in Sonya. Sonya is popular and affluent, used to being perfect and following her mother's directives for dance and dating the popular boy. While she's drawn to Coley right away, she doesn't admit to herself that she likes girls and her boyfriend is a bully, instead pushing Coley away. She's lost and literally doesn't know many people; it's not until she reaches out and tries to begin building a relationship with her father that she starts to come out of that spiral. He wants to know her for who she is, and they share memories of her mother. This helps her feel more confident in figuring herself out, even if she still hasn't entirely determined who that is.

This book captures the lost feeling that teens have, especially those that feel stuck in small towns living out the roles that others assign to them. There is the emotional back and forth of teen love, plus the fear Sonya has in coming out and possibly losing her family, and her boyfriend's volatile temper and disrespect. Too many people have lived this kind of life, and it's bound to resonate with those readers. The story ends almost abruptly, because we don't really see a happily ever after, but it's following the music video. Those don't really go into an epilogue phase, even though we're used to seeing it. Still, this is a YA romance where the girls figure out what they want out of love and romance. We see it more from Coley's POV, and she absolutely won't settle for being someone's hidden secret. She's worth more than that, and it's an important message to carry from the book.

Buy Girls Like Girls at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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