“The Romantic Agenda” by Claire Kann (Review)

Kann, Claire. The Romantic Agenda. New York: Jove, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-0593336632 | $16.00 USD | 336 pages | Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

Joy is in love with Malcolm.
But Malcolm really likes Summer.
Summer is in love with love.
And Fox is Summer’s ex-boyfriend.

Thirty, flirty, and asexual Joy is secretly in love with her best friend Malcolm, but she’s never been brave enough to say so. When he unexpectedly announces that he’s met the love of his life—and no, it’s not Joy—she’s heartbroken. Malcolm invites her on a weekend getaway, and Joy decides it’s her last chance to show him exactly what he’s overlooking. But maybe Joy is the one missing something…or someone…and his name is Fox.

Fox sees a kindred spirit in Joy—and decides to help her. He proposes they pretend to fall for each other on the weekend trip to make Malcolm jealous. But spending time with Fox shows Joy what it’s like to not be the third wheel, and there’s no mistaking the way he makes her feel. Could Fox be the romantic partner she’s always deserved?

Review 

5 stars 

The Romantic Agenda (or something in this vein) was the book I have been waiting for Claire Kann to write, ever since I fell in love with her debut, Let’s Talk About Love. Neither of her other books between that one and this one captured the same magic…but this one does that and more. 

I adore Joy and feel a lot of kinship with her, similar to Alice, the heroine of LTAL. She expresses many sentiments about asexuality, both in terms of her own experience with it and as a broader spectrum, that spoke to me. I also like that she expresses her dissatisfaction with the way people, both asexual and allosexual, make assumptions or judgments about what it means to be asexual, and how, for example, other aces tried to gatekeep her because she chose to show off her body, and that she’s a “setting a bad example for the movement” or  “confusing people.” There isn’t just one way to be asexual, and I love the way Joy, and the book in general, express that. 

This book is a bit of a love…triangle/almost-square, and it’s perhaps one of the best I’ve read, that explored the complex emotions of the characters, while still making all of them endearing, if sometimes a bit messy. I definitely felt Malcolm took Joy for granted for most of the book, but there’s a sense of history there that can’t be explained. Malcolm has some secrets about his feelings for Joy that are revealed late in the book, and I appreciated how that was handled, still with the acknowledgment that their current trajectories with their new partners are better for them. 

And while Summer is a bit of a love rival for Malcolm’s attention, I appreciate that there’s no bitchiness on her part, even if Joy isn’t exactly warm toward her at first. I did like how their relationship evolved as they spent time together, especially as Joy also got to know Fox, which colored her interactions with the others as her feelings evolved. 

And then, there’s Fox. He’s pretty wonderful. I was afraid at first he’d be defined by being grumpy, to contrast Joy’s optimism, but I really like how he actually sees Joy. He helps her initially with no ulterior motives of his own (in fact, they both suspect Malcolm and Summer of ulterior motives of their own  in inviting them), and I really like how understanding he is of Joy’s boundaries. And the subtle ways Joy tries to reciprocate…that’s freaking cute! My only wish is that Joy could have been able to fully shake her attachment to Malcolm sooner, so she could invest more in Fox sooner, but I can also understand  the reasoning behind the choices made. 

This is an awesome book, and I love the balance between conventional romance beats and the more introspective moments. If you’ve been craving more asexual rep in romance, I’d recommend this one.

Author Bio

Claire Kann is the author of several young adult novels and is an award-winning online storyteller. In her other life she works for a nonprofit you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it. She loves cats and is obsessed with horror media (which makes the whole being known for writing contemporary love stories a little weird, to be honest).

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Top 10 Romances by Authors of Color (A Personal List)

Another year, and once again we have more proof how little the romance industry has progressed, first with the release of The Ripped Bodice third annual State of Racial Diversity in Romance survey, and more recently with the release of the RITA finalists, which are, once again overwhelmingly white, and while there are a couple finalists of color, Black authors in particular are once again snubbed. And, as is often the case when race comes up, while some are compassionate allies, others are…not. Claiming not to be racist, they say such things like “I don’t see color,” and I don’t care if someone  is black, red, blue, purple, etc.” (I greatly appreciate Eva Leigh’s takedown of the latter defense in particular).

Therefore, wanting to write about this whole situation, but being aware that I may not have a lot of the information, due to a lot of it being insider Romance Writers of America organizational stuff that I am only getting snippets of secondhand, I made a compromise and decided to shout out my favorite books by authors of color.

So, without further ado, and not (entirely) in any particular order, here are my favorite reads by authors of color:

  1. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (2018): Obviously, this one would be on the list. And Helen Hoang said on Twitter that she didn’t enter, due to her awareness of the  broken RITAs judging system, and how it favored some POC over others. But regardless, it is still my (and many others’, I’m sure) personal favorite of last year. Despite having a premise that could have easily put me off, it captured the perfect balance of steamy and sweet for me, and Michael and Stella have one of the healthiest, most nurturing relationships in romance I’ve ever read.
  2. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (2019): I’ve been dying to read more f/f, and despite it being only a novella, this satisfied my craving completely. While the main Reluctant Royals books have fallen a little short of expectations for me, this one was beautiful, and hit all the right notes as a second chance love story.
  3. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (2018): I had some issues with the element of miscommunication in her prior book, but The Proposal hit it out of the park for me. I loved the emotional journey that Nik goes on toward letting herself be loved, especially after being with a partner who was emotionally abusive,  and Carlos for being such a great, supportive hero from the beginning.
  4. Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras (2018): I was psyched when Priscilla’s first book double finaled last year, and that was part of why I ended up checking out her work. But I personally feel like this one is better than the first, although I may be biased due to the librarian heroine and the adorable hero. It has a situation that I did not expect to love, but
  5. Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (2016): My first Beverly Jenkins book and my personal favorite of her Old West/“Rhine Trilogy,” I loved Forbidden for its captivating romance while dealing with difficult topics like race relations and Passing.
  6. Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (2018): Asexual representation is lacking, particularly in traditional publishing, and I was glad to see this one get some love last year, especially since I first heard about it through author Mackenzi Lee’s Pride Month recommendations video. I love how it deals  with navigating how to have a relationship as a asexual person, as well as touching on the pressures that Black people in America face, having to work twice as hard to prove themselves academically and professionally.
  7. I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo (2017): This is  an adorable book that put a fun spin on a premise that’s been done before: using tips from Korean dramas to impress the guy you like. And while the romance was cute, “flailures” and all, the best part about this (and a Maurene Goo book, in general) is seeing the parent-child relationships she crafts. The heroine and her father becoming closer through their shared love of K-Dramas is so sweet.  
  8. Pride by Ibi Zoboi (2018): While I’ve seen mixed reviews of this YA Pride and Prejudice retelling, I enjoyed this one. My criteria for an Austen retelling is a mix of capturing the spirit of the book, while adding something new, and Ibi Zoboi does so in transplanting the story to present-day Brooklyn, and discussing the issue of gentrification.
  9. The Forbidden Hearts series by Alisha Rai (2017-18): This series was life changing in the best way. I’m not normally a fan of super-steamy books, but I loved the way the romance in these books was just as much about the characters’ emotional bond with one another as it was about their sexual desire. And the series also beautifully develops family relationships that I could get invested in just as much as the love relationships, and while I can sometimes find that some authors focus too much on one and leave something wanting with the author, I felt Alisha Rai captured the perfect balance of the two here.
  10. The Loyal League series by Alyssa Cole (2016-19): I admit, I’m cheating on this one, as I haven’t read book 3 yet, and I don’t know for sure when I’ll get to it. But the first two books are amazing, and I love the beautiful relationships that arise between the two couples from working together in high-pressure situations.

Review of “Let’s Talk About Love” by Claire Kann

Kann, Claire. Let’s Talk About Love. New York: Swoon Reads, 2018.

Hardcover | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250136121 | 281 pages | YA Contemporary Romance

5 stars

I heard about this book a while back through one of Mackenzi Lee’s videos for Pride Month on the Epic Reads YouTube channel, and was excited about a YA romance with asexual representation.

I love Alice as a character, and she really resonates with me, especially when she talks about how she feels attraction, and that the only difference between her and other people is that there isn’t a sexual component there, yet asexuality is still viewed as unnatural. I also found it interesting how her story explored microaggressions related to her race, like the contradiction where people don’t understand her lack of interest in sex, due to the stereotypes about Black women’s sexuality, and the way she finds herself in a bit of a predicament academically, due to not having the same lofty aspirations as her parents, and how that connects to the barriers that stand in the way of success for Black people, meaning they have to work twice as hard as others.

As for Takumi, I liked him as a character, and enjoyed the evolution of his and Alice’s relationship from a deepening friendship to a relationship. And in comparison to her long-term friends, who I found annoying, especially Feenie with her hypocrisy being mad about Alice blowing them off while constantly blowing Alice off to hang out with Ryan, I liked that Takumi was actually there for her, even allowing her to stay with him at his place early on in their friendship when things were tense between her and Feenie.

I would recommend this to fans of light, fun diverse YA romance, that also doesn’t shy away from the complexities of more serious issues.