Lest we think I don’t actually like AA romance, let me tell you about a series I love.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what worked for me about Gwyneth Bolton’s Hightower Honors series. First of all, they were well-written. They were a pleasure to read. Never once did I find myself rolling my eyes at a silly plot contrivance or working hard to suspend my disbelief. Sure, this series features love at first sight and absolute certainty about someone being THE ONE, but all of that is wrapped in incredibly readable writing and fully drawn characters.
Secondly, there are the Hightower brothers–Joel and Patrick, the firemen, and Jason and Lawrence, the cops. They are fine, fierce, smart, honorable mahogany-colored protectors of the people. Bolton manages to give them each distinct personalities and matches them up with equally distinct women. I wanted to know these men, I wanted to meet these women. I wanted to spend some time in the Paterson, NJ described in these books.
Third, the secondary characters were to die for. These books are worth reading for Carla and Aunt Sophie alone. Never once do the secondary characters seem pointless or marginal to the plot. Bolton crafts her world so well that we can’t wait to see what Aunt Sophie thinks about the latest Hightower love interest. We want there to be a family gathering so that Carla can come on stage and say something crazy. If romance novels are an escape, then the secondary characters in this series help complete a fun world to escape to.
Fourth, the romantic tension in all of them is great. In my favorite of the series, Make It Hot, Joel and Samantha are attracted to each other from the moment they lay eyes on each other, but their individual issues (she’s vowed to never give her heart to a man with a dangerous job; he wants nothing more than to recover from his injury and return to fighting fires) and personalities (they are both stubborn and outspoken) make it near impossible to give into that attraction. Here’s an excerpt from the scene where they meet. Joel is waiting for Samantha. She’s going to be his physical therapist and she’s very late for their appointment.
He turned to set eyes on a curvy chocolate goddess with flashing brown eyes, flawlessly smooth skin and jet-black hair. She wore her hair in one of those natural styles with twists and it reached her shoulders. Then there was her smile… With a smile like hers she could probably get away with anything.
Anything but keep him waiting.
Forget how captivating she looked. “Do you always disregard your patients’ time like this or is it just me? Because if this is the way you conduct yourself, then maybe I should look into getting another therapist.”
Her head tilted and she took a step back placing her hand on her hip. She glared at him for a full minute before saying a word.
Joel glanced at Lawrence for some moral support and saw his brother had buried his face in the magazine.
No problem. He didn’t need back up for this. Right was right and wrong was wrong.
“Like I said, I apologize. We’re down one therapist today. But that’s not your problem. The gift of understanding isn’t something everyone is born with. So, I’m sorry for giving you the opportunity to exhibit your extreme lack in that area.
Now, if you’ll just follow me, we can get you started.” Her smile took on a decidedly false appearance and gone was the warmth and kindness that seemed to exude from her just a few moments ago.
I love that hand on her hip. I love the detail of Lawrence hiding behind his magazine. And Joel, my favorite Hightower brother, having his arrogance challenged. Everything about this scene makes me happy. If it makes you happy, too, these books will not disappoint.
And finally, even though we aren’t really supposed to talk about this, these books were HOT. Sure, hot-ness is subjective. What turns you on may not turn me on, and vice versa. But I am telling you–for books without explicit language (no cocks here, only swollen sexes), Bolton turns up the heat. The sex scenes are sexy, not mechanical. They are emotional and moving and a pleasure to read. I’m not afraid to say that they made me a little horny.
If you’re looking for beautiful, hot black love set in a believable, multi-faceted black world, these are the books for you.