AAR staffers read and loved many of this year’s RITA nominees. We are happy for those writers and were delighted to feature their books in this post. We were startled, however, not to see any of the wonderful books by AoC (Authors of Color) we read in 2018 make the list of nominees. At least sixteen of the books we list here made our reviewers’ official Best of 2018 lists, and others, read after the deadline, would be included if we made the lists today.

These, in alphabetical order by author, are AAR’s staff top reads of 2018 by authors of color.


Rogue Nights (Anthology)

The quality of writing, the topics covered, and the inclusion of #OwnVoices and LGBTQ pairings all make this is a worthy addition to the 2018 list. It’s not uncommon for a collection such as this to have some strong entries and some weak ones, but every single story in here is worth reading.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Because neither is completely comfortable opening up in person, barista Sam and college freshman Penny bond through text messages before they slowly start to interact in the real world. Neither grim nor hypersexual, this book breaks New Adult stereotypes and was a delightful read.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Our reviewer reports, “I was almost immediately engrossed in the author’s vivid descriptions of Cuba, both today and in 1959. The romance is lovely, and definitely adds to the overall beauty of the story. This author is someone whose work I’ll definitely seek out in the future.”

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

The first Reluctant Royals book, A Princess in Theory, is a fanciful modern fairytale about the prince of a make-believe African kingdom and his lost betrothed, whom he finds, beguiles, loses, and wins all over again. What could’ve been a clichéd plot is made magical by Cole’s writing, the authenticity of her research, and the depiction of characters who have interests and passions beyond their relationship with each other. If you’ve never read Cole before, or never read a lighthearted story by her before, do pick this book up.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

In the second book, A Duke by Default, socialite Portia Hobbs travels to Scotland to work in the armory of Tavish McKenzie. If you love a good meet cute/meet crazy, this book contains one of the very best. This tale of finding your place in the world combines poignant, meaningful moments with laugh out loud humor.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Dance All Night by Alexis Daria

This fun and flirty novella is a great addition to Alexis Daria’s Dance Off series, about a dance themed reality show and its contestants as they try to reach the pinnacle of success (tv fame and the glittering trophy). Featuring a smart and caring black heroine with an appreciation of the women who paved the way for her in the dance world, it’s also a hero in pursuit story.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Mirage  by Somaiya Daud

This is a well written debut novel which covers violence, oppression, the quest for power and finding  love in dangerous circumstances.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Do Over by Delaney Diamond

Diamond turns the typical billionaire hero trope on its head with this sexy romance about an heiress and member of a wealthy African American family and the copy assisting her after a break-in. They both have some relationship baggage to overcome in order to get their HEA but the author writes an engaging and compelling story with enough secondary characters to make one want to read more about the Brooks family!

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Wedding Date and The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

If you’re a total sucker for the fake relationship trope, The Wedding Date is a delightful execution of it. Alexa agrees to be Drew’s plus-one to his ex’s wedding after meeting him in an elevator. The spark isn’t fake, though, and as they explore what it could mean in “real life,” the reader will fall for them as they fall for each other.A gem of a read from 2018 for sure.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Proposal is a sensational, charming, warm, sexy romance that gives all the feels. Carlos and Nikole are lovable, and our reviewer felt this was one of the best contemporary romances she had read in years.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Untouchable and Damaged Goods by Talia Hibbert

This is a treasure of a story where the protagonists, nanny Hannah Kabbah and her employer Nathaniel Davis, see each other with tenderness, awareness, joyfulness, and high regard. The protagonists are so self-aware of their strengths and failures, as well as their capabilities and weaknesses, that being allowed to spy on their thoughts in addition to seeing how they react with each other makes for a rich reading experience. Hibbert handles her characters’ mental illnesses and developmental challenges with a gentleness that allows them to talk about their experiences without fear of judgment. Mental illness takes different people differently, and in showing her characters’ challenges and disparate reactions, which aren’t magically erased or cured by their HEA, Hibbert allows her readers to see themselves in these characters’ struggles and triumphs.

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We also highly recommend Damaged Goods, Hibbert’s novella in this same series. This is a friends-to-lovers story with a pregnant heroine recovering from an abusive marriage. The hero is a dream and Hibbert handles the novella’s heavy topics with a debt and compassionate touch. It’s a DIK for us.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Smart, special, and wonderful, this novel elevates familiar ground – a socially awkward woman falls hard for a handsome and confident man – beyond the formulaic. Our heroine, Stella Lane, has Asperger’s. Because she refuses to allow it to limit her life experiences, she hires Michael Phan, a professional escort, to teach her physical intimacy. Everything about The Kiss Quotient – the clever cover, the wonderful story, the terrific writing – adds up. (That’s a little math humor for you).

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Mr. Hotshot CEO and Not Another Family Wedding by Jackie Lau

Lau’s OwnVoices stories embrace a Chinese-Canadian setting and, in Mr. Hotshot CEO, the role depression plays for the heroine Courtney. Bringing mental health issues into a romantic comedy might seem counter-intuitive but the author does a fabulous job of providing a funny, uplifting and authentic story, ripe with Chinese cultural family dynamics and a sexy romance to boot.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

On the surface, Not Another Family Wedding is the story of two people in their 30s discovering love after nearly 20 years of friendship and their romantic relationship unfolding against the backdrop of family drama. But the story is truly about relationships: relationships between the protagonists, between the parents, parents and children, siblings, extended family and love interests. It is a story of how you exist within yourself and with others and how every action of every person you interact with has repercussions, small and large, on you. With deep insight and delicacy, Lau navigates all the tricky human relationships in this book with an assuredness that is as entertaining as it is appealing.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

This is a fun tale of adulting in the 21st Century, finding the love of your life, and football. The author, a former NFL wife, knows whereof she speaks and this sports romance rings with an authenticity that you don’t often find in contemporary love stories.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon

The protagonists, high school students Twinkle Mehra and Sahil Roy, are both shy and awkward, but support each other to overcome their self-consciousness. They develop from unsure, unassertive personalities into the confident, secure people they’ve always wanted to be. Twinkle is clearly happy pursuing her dream of changing lives through film, and this epistolary novel is written as a series of letters by her to various notable female film directors. Right from the cover all the way to the last page, the story shines with true feelings – moments that are effervescently joyful, sad, humorous, wistful, and loving.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
Oliveras delivered another heartwarming, family focused romance in her Matched to Perfection series. It’s an ‘oops, we made a baby!’ trope story, with a focus on the heroine’s Puerto Rican heritage. All of the books in the series have been winners.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Block Shot and Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Featuring two bi-racial principal characters and set in the world of basketball, Long Shot starts off charming and lighthearted, and quickly segues into something significantly darker.  Absorbing and wonderful and awful, Long Shot is that special novel that transcends the genre.

Buy it at: Amazon

Block Shot, book two in the Hoops series, stars Jared Foster, step-brother of Augustus West (the beta hero of Long Shot), and Banner Morales, the girl he briefly had and then lost in spectacular fashion. Block Shot is sexy and smart and sharp – just like its principal characters.

Buy it at: Amazon

Pas de Deux by Lynn Turner

The world’s fourth highest paid ballerina, Mina Allende, is recruited by choreographer and dancer Zach Coen to star in his upcoming musical/opera/dance performance The Lady in Red. Sexy, meticulously researched, and with excellent prose, Pas de Deux is a terrific contemporary.

Buy it at: Amazon

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

This fairytale/historical, set in late 1800s Paris, stars a prince who wants to feel beautiful in gowns and the designer/seamstress whose creative vision can bring his dreams to life. A wonderful graphic novel suitable for middle grades and up.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

And don’t forget to visit our Amazon Storefront. These stories and more are part of our Diverse Reads We Love idea list!