Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.
Welcome to our very first book recommendation post for Latine Heritage Month at the Pond 2021! Though it’s only the start of Latine Heritage Month, we had an incredible start with Laura Pohl, author of The Grimrose Girls visiting us to talk about her upcoming book! In the next week, we have reviews of Latine book reviews planned, as well as another new friend visiting the Pond.
Across the next weekends during Latine Heritage Month, we will be sharing our book recommendations of Latine books that we loved and hope that you will read as well! I’m proud to say that we have read all the books that we have recommended, so you know they have our seal of approval and that we are recommending books that we loved.
Before we share today’s recommendations for Latine romances and/or stories about love, be sure to check out last year’s book recommendation posts. (We’ve done our best to not recommend the same books twice.) 💜
So, without further ado, here are our book recommendations for Latine romances or stories about love!
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.
Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.
CW: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is a spectacular story about a long distance romance, family, and being true to who you are. It deftly balances the gooeyness of romance with the drama and heartache of family. It’s one of my favourite YA romance books of all time!
- The romance in this is so sweet, so tender, and so full of joy. I adore Mat and Jules with my whole being, and I enjoyed how their relationship and romance develops over time.
- The book deals with bigotry, machismo and heteronormativity coming from a parent. Parts of this book are challenging to read, but are handled with so much care and sensitivity. (Please see the book’s content warnings.)
- I loved how funny this book was! The humour and comedy is just perfect and I found myself laughing out loud so many times. I also loved how humour was used when depicting safe sex and safe sex practices.
How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.
Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.
Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.
Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?
CW: One of the most gorgeous and beautifully written books I’ve read this year, How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe will leave you feeling raw, unfurled, but also hungry with its beautiful food descriptions and inspiring portrayal of love for the universe.
- The writing in this is just sublime, gorgeous, and so stunning. Raquel’s poetry background shines through in the storytelling and I was just in awe of how the story holds the beauty of the universe in its words.
- This is a YA story about trauma, grief, loving yourself, sexuality, the joy of food and cooking, fatness, parental abuse, and religion. I’m stunned by how the story shows how the world can be so ugly and vicious, but amidst all that, there’s beauty and healing and light.
- The relationships in this are incredible. I particularly loved the wonderful hate-to-love romance between Moon and Santiago and their banter and jabs at each other.
Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins
Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?
Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star…until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.
Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?
CW: My goodness, if you’re looking for a light-hearted and incredibly fun romance, then Like a Love Song is absolutely perfect. I had so much fun reading this!
- The fake-dating romance in this is to die for. The dynamic between Natalie and William is so much fun and had me grinning from ear to ear. (I also love how Natalie and William feels like friends first, and the romance that blossoms between them felt so natural.)
- I also loved how the story explores Natalie’s complicated feelings towards how disconnected she feels from her heritage and how her family perceives her, now that she is famous and “American”.
- Really, this book is such a comfort; the romance is lovely, cosy, and tons of fun too.
Your Heart, My Sky by Margarita Engle
The people of Cuba are living in el periodo especial en tiempos de paz—the special period in times of peace. That’s what the government insists that this era must be called, but the reality behind these words is starvation.
Liana is struggling to find enough to eat. Yet hunger has also made her brave: she finds the courage to skip a summer of so-called volunteer farm labor, even though she risks government retribution. Nearby, a quiet, handsome boy named Amado also refuses to comply, so he wanders alone, trying to discover rare sources of food.
A chance encounter with an enigmatic dog brings Liana and Amado together. United in hope and hunger, they soon discover that their feelings for each other run deep. Love can feed their souls and hearts—but is it enough to withstand el periodo especial?
CW: To be very clear, I wouldn’t call Your Heart, My Sky a romance, though it does have a romance. Rather, this is a story about love in a time of crisis and desolation, specifically during The Special Period in Time of Peace during 1990’s Cuba.
- Inspired by the author’s family’s experience, this story takes place during el periodo especial – the story dives head-first into how the policies and injustices caused hunger, fear, and pain for Cuban people.
- Your Heart, My Sky is written in verse – and I found myself pausing to really let the words sink in. The poetry is breath-taking, gut-wrenching, and a marvel.
- Amid all the desolation, it’s also a story about hope and love can be lifelines.
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.
When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.
CW: If you enjoy stories that subvert its own tropes where trans characters find happily ever after, then maybe you will enjoy Meet Cute Diary as much as I did!
- It has the fake-dating trope… but it doesn’t go the way that you think! It explores the complexity of relationships and how sometimes they can be difficult to navigate, particularly when our own ambitions and perceptions get in the way – definitely not like how things tend to go in fiction.
- The cute romance scenes were really adorable. I adored the love interest with no whole heart.
- Noah is an ‘unlikeable’ character, but I enjoyed how Noah, a trans multiracial teenager, gets the opportunity to be flawed and nuanced and make plenty of silly mistakes.
Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe
Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.
There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.
Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .
This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
CW: After reading The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, I vowed I’d read any YA that Ben Philippe read – so I picked up Charming as a Verb and I have absolutely no regrets. This was such a delight!
- If you love stories with a great narrative voice and plenty of humour, then this book is a must-read for you!
- The romance in this was so, so good. I adored Henri and Corinne; I adored both of them separately – Henri is indeed utterly charming and Corinne was so intense but so delightful – and I also loved them together as well.
- It’s also a story about the stress of college, and familial pressures and how sometimes the dreams our parents dream for us aren’t really our dreams.
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.
Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.
When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.
Joce: This adult romance is one of my all-time favourites – if you love dance, you’ll love this.
- The story revolves around a Dancing with the Stars-esque competition for maximum drama.
- Explores the power dynamics in entertainment.
- It has VERY sexy dance scenes and non-dance scenes – and I love them all.
Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancé . . .
Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their fake relationship fade like the stunning sunset . . . or blossom into something beautiful?
Joce: Island Affair has great vacation vibes and is so much fun, while also balancing a great exploration into eating disorders.
- Has complex family dynamics.
- Our heroine, Sara, is in recovery from an eating disorder and the book depicts participation in therapy.
- There’s a hot firefighter… weeeooooo weeeoooo weeeooo 🚨
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both… if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
Joce: I’ll read anything by Adriana Herrera, but American Dreamer is an amazing romance and hard to fault.
- Nesto is an afro-dominican food truck owner, whereas Jude is a librarian.
- It’s a queer m/m romance!
- It also has discussion of immigration and intergenerational and religious trauma.