I was struck by a sentence written by romance novelist Adriana Herrera in the Washington Post this week. Herrera, in an article entitled The 10 Best Romance Novels of 2022, wrote:
For me, this year has been a reminder that the personal is always political, and I’ve found myself reaching for romances with protagonists who are not only looking for that glorious HEA but also healing, showing up for their communities, being courageous enough to fight for justice and striving to live authentically.
The books Herrera picked, I assume, reflect that. On her list are:
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (rated 4.2 at Amazon and 3.72 at Goodreads)
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan (rated 5.0 at Amazon and 4.70 at Goodreads)
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (rated 4.5 at Amazon and 4.27 at Goodreads)
Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean (rated 4.5 at Amazon and 4.18 at Goodreads)
A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Caña (rated 4.2 at Amazon and 3.82 at Goodreads)
Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner (rated 4.5 at Amazon and 4.12 at Goodreads)
Something Wilder by Christina Lauren (rated 4.1 at Amazon and 3.72 at Goodreads)
American Royalty by Tracey Livesay (rated 4.2 at Amazon and 3.70 at Goodreads)
After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M Lopez (rated 4.3 at Amazon and 3.88 at Goodreads)
Pride and Protest by Nikki Payne (rated 4.7 at Amazon and 4.22 at Goodreads)
I’ve only read one of these–I could barely get through it–but have several others on my TBR. It’s an interesting list and anyone who thinks romance isn’t a diverse genre is flat out wrong. Many of them, as described, deal with weighty topics. They have a moving portrayal of depression and grief, incisive observations on gentrification, racism and the immigrant experience, heavy themes like generational trauma and classism, and more.
As much as I admire books with emotional depth and social criticism, right now I’m not as up for stories of anguished people trying to change a cruel and unforgiving world. It makes me feel shallow to admit it, but, currently, what I want from romance is escapism. I love stories with depth but–at this point in my life–not with devastation. But that, dear readers, is just me.
How about you? Do love stories with political heft and emotional loss call to you? If so, what’s your favorite you’ve read this year? And if this is not your jam, why not?