20+ Geeky & Nerdy Romance Novels, Novellas, and Short Stories

   December 18, 2019    Comments Off on 20+ Geeky & Nerdy Romance Novels, Novellas, and Short Stories

— This post was updated in November 2020 with even MORE books. Happy reading! —

Yep, it’s a post full of romance novels about the geeky and nerdy among us. Video games, programming, hacking, collectible card games, epidemiology, climate change science, neurosurgery, archaeology, the college newspaper, comics, fandom, Victorian fashion, theater… it’s all here. “Geek” pretty much describes everyone who lives in my house, so this roundup is close to my heart. I hope you find something new here to read and enjoy.

Before we jump in:

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Puneet’s Getting Mail by Sookh Kaur (Amazon / Goodreads)

“Clint Devaros is knocking on my door. I’ve got a choice to make. Play it safe or risk my badly burned heart again?”

Adorable little romance / romantic comedy short story about two seriously nerdy people who are soooo into each other after a ton of internet flirting while our heroine Puneet thought Clint was just some guy at the tech company she’s contracting for. Oops, he’s the rich CEO!

You can get this for cheap on Amazon or if you sign up for the author’s newsletter you get a chapter or so a day across a few days, and it’s worth it either way. :)

Can’t Lose by Rae Birch (Amazon / Goodreads)

I haven’t had time to write a review of this F/M romance novella about an older pop culture professor and the hot young man she picks up at the movies, but I adore it.

Here’s the blurb: “I have no intention of falling in love with the hot guy in the movie theater, I just want to get laid. (You would too, trust me.) And he’s not-insignificantly younger than me so falling in love would be insane, right? Duh. Love means sharing my chicken nuggets and keeping promises and always having to say you’re sorry. Love is obligation. But, turns out, I want to sing him Bruce Springsteen and trust him with my Stephen King collection and fall asleep on his chest watching Goodfellas and rescue him from a castle and protect him from beasts and he’s so pretty and smart and sad and I want. I want. I want. Yeah I DEF have no intention of falling in love. But love may have other intentions for me.”

Cup of Tea by M. Arbon (Amazon / Goodreads)

Charming M/M short story about an afternoon in the life of Allan del Mar, a museum expert, who arrives at the private home of Russell Evers to evaluate a collection of historical photographs for possible donation. The initial attraction between the two becomes slightly more awkward when Allan finds some… very interesting subject matter, as the author puts it, within the collection.

Arbon has such a lovely writing style, and all of the short stories I’ve read by them so far have been a delight, though they were very different from each other. This is a perfect little meet-cute/meet-sexy, very distinctive.

Diversity note: Arbon uses they/them or she/her pronouns.

Revelry by K.L. Noone (JMS Books / Amazon / Goodreads)

Another novella I haven’t had time to review, but it’s a comfort re-read for me.

The condensed blurb: “Stephen Hunt’s having a terrible holiday season. It’s mid-December, and he’s about as far from the familiar scholarly walls of his Oxford professor’s office as he can get. Back home, his ex-boyfriend’s moved out, and Stephen’s alone and miserable in the hotel bar with his research on obscure ancient Roman holiday traditions. The bartender’s adorable, though. Brian Dwyer’s a very good bartender. Good at making drinks and having holiday spirit, good at talking to customers, good at making people smile. He’s decided that the gorgeous but unhappy professor at the end of the bar needs to smile. And once Stephen opens up and starts talking to him, Brian just might be in love with historical trivia, knowledge and passion, and those soft brown eyes. And if the night’s one of those decadent ancient holidays that Stephen knows so much about, even better — they’ll just have to find a way to celebrate together.”

Diversity note: Noone is bi.

Geeky, Freaky, Clueless by G.G. Andrew (Amazon / Goodreads)

When two theater nerds fall in love… one of them has to figure out if the other is a serial killer? Vin Penjarla kissed Phineas Harrington at a bar before she knew he was her theater director. She may not know anything about dating due to her traditional Indian-American parents, but she does know that snogging the boss is generally a no. All Phin knows is that he thinks Vin is lovely and wonderful in her eccentricities, and staying away from her is going to be a challenge. Okay, that’s not all he knows. He also knows a lot about death, for some reason…?

Cute little novella where the author messes with the reader’s head, dropping hints that Phin might not be what he seems. Both characters have secrets, though, and Vin’s turn out to be more difficult to resolve. Spooky without being scary, with a genuine affection between the two leads, and a lot of adorkable fun.

More Than Luck by Casey Cameron (Amazon / Goodreads)

If I could have held my hand over my heart while reading this without annoying my elbow, I would have done it. I loved it that much.

It’s an age gap romance between grumpy bisexual 40 year old white dude Drey Harper, an art director for the collectible card game Legendary Pairs (think Magic: The Gathering), and gay 24 year old Korean-American Legendary Pairs champion… possibly soon to be ex-champion, if his bad boy party throw-caution-to-the-wind lifestyle doesn’t knock him out of the running or even get him killed. Drey understands messes, having lost his best friend, his wife, and his last job due to his own self-destructive vengefulness, but that doesn’t mean he wants to get involved with Lucas’s, especially because the kid is a cocky little jerk. Cue forced proximity due to Drey’s manager assigning him to babysit Lucas for the good of the company’s PR.

I’d read the first book in Cameron’s Legendary Pairs series and thought it had promise, but wasn’t properly fleshed out. This second book is a HUGE level up by comparison. Drey and Lucas are both capable of kindness and abrasiveness by turns and struggle to connect honestly with each other, so the halting progress of their connection and eventual relationship feels very genuine. Falling in love doesn’t make Drey less of a grump or exorcise Lucas’s demons, but it helps, and they both end up feeling (for the first time in forever) like they can make new starts in their lives together and build something.

Bonus points for Drey working so hard to be a good dad, his real apology to his former best friend, Lucas being all sweet while he’s teaching kids Legendary Pairs, and the nerdiness of card game tournaments.

Diversity note: Cameron is nonbinary, using she/her or they/them pronouns.

Playing House by Amy Andrews (Amazon / Goodreads)

Eleanor was looking for her Mr. Darcy. She got a rugby player. Lucky for her, said rugby player is Bodie Webb, who thinks the Victorian-obsessed seamstress is the most fascinating woman he’s ever met. She’s a breath of fresh air in his world, and while their one night stand was supposed to be only that, he’s absolutely smitten. Of course, her being his teammate’s sister is a bit problematic. What I adored about this book was Eleanor’s deep nerdiness – she sews reproductions of Victorian clothing, for heaven’s sake, including the underwear – and how Bodie thinks that’s adorable beyond measure, despite not having any knowledge of the topic whatsoever before meeting her. Who she is just clicks for him on such a deep level, even if he has to do some catch-up learning on how her mind and heart work in order to win her over for keeps.

Content warning: A character somewhere in the cast has a miscarriage. I know this is a hugely sensitive issue for many readers, so I don’t want to let anyone trip over that without a heads up.

Liam Davis and the Raven by Anyta Sunday (Amazon / Goodreads)

Liam, socially isolated college newspaper nerd, is rescued from an attack on campus by a mysterious vigilante known as The Raven. Cute gay jock Quinn finds Liam on the sidewalk and takes him to the hospital, after which Liam ends up investigating the Raven while his friendship with Quinn deepens.

Quinn, poor guy, spends a lot of time basically saying to Liam “I know we’re friends, but the way you’re acting, do you think you might want something more from me?” Liam spends all of that time either missing the point, or in active denial, because he’s never considered that he might be gay and feels like he should gather data before drawing a conclusion. Which sounds possibly annoying, and it does try Quinn’s patience, but journalistic observation and fact-checking is just Liam’s personality and Quinn accepts and comes to cherish him the way he is.

In the meantime there’s a lovely arc going on for Liam as he gets to know Quinn (his first friend ever?), Quinn’s friend Shannon, and Shannon’s brother Hunter. All of them see something in Liam that he doesn’t see in himself, accept him as-is, and take it upon themselves to coax him out of his isolation. They don’t give up on being his friend even when he’s awkward or his behavior isn’t what they expect. I don’t know if it’s what Sunday intended, but I read Liam as on the autism spectrum – I could be totally wrong and jumping to conclusions. What made me think so was that in interpersonal interactions he’s extremely literal and doesn’t have much of a filter or insight into how his behavior makes other people feel. He also plays with a pen in a way that read to me like mild stimming.

Quinn also doesn’t give up on being his boyfriend even though his heart gets dinged so many times, and I was so pleased when he was finally rewarded for hanging in there! His love for Liam is clearly because of who Liam is, not in spite of it.

The prose is sometimes a little stilted, and there are several deux ex machina events that strained my credulity (the coffee spills, getting stuck under the dorm room bed), but the characters in this are so good that I forgave it.

Diversity note: I don’t usually point out secondary character diversity, but friend Hunter’s use of a wheelchair is a major element in the book, in a good way despite his sister’s overprotectiveness, so yay for that.

Looking for Group by Alexis Hall (Amazon / Goodreads)

I really enjoyed Alexis Hall’s foray into new adult romance, with this oh-maybe-I’m-bi? novel about Drew, who meets a great girl in an online multiplayer game, then finds out Kit is actually a guy. It’s a seriously geeky book, with a ton of the events happening in-game, and my life has so much gaming in it that I’m not sure how to assess whether that works for a reader who knows nothing about games or thinks they’re pointless. It’s clear that Hall, like Kit, believes strongly in the power of gaming to build real connections between people, in addition to being a form of entertainment.

Drew and Kit have such a tough time, in large part because Drew just keeps screwing things up, but I cheered so hard for him to make things right. Which he does, in a truly epic gaming fashion.

Diversity note: Hall is a gay man.

Love By The Numbers by Karin Kallmaker (Bella Books / Amazon / Goodreads)

This quasi-road trip F/F romance is extremely slow burn, but for good reasons, and well worth it. Indian-American behavioral scientist Nicole Hathaway wrote a book that was supposed to be an academic work on her research into biological markers for successful romantic relationships. It accidentally became a bestseller, and her publisher demands she go on an international publicity tour, which is the very definition of hell for introverted Nicole. Extroverted Lily Linden-Smith needs a job after spending the last couple of years hiding from the fallout of her parents’ well-publicized financial crimes, and when her uncle offers her a gig as Nicole’s assistant, she doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s unclear to me whether the author intended Nicole to be on the autism spectrum, though many readers have interpreted her that way. She’s clearly much more comfortable with logic and data than she is with feelings, but IMHO a huge part of that is her assessment, early in her adulthood, that she wouldn’t ever be in a position to come out and have a romantic relationship – and the emotional closing-off she did as a result. Her assessment turns out to be wrong, but her reasoning wasn’t invalid at the time, and a big part of her journey is learning to reintegrate her deeply closeted “Cole” side she uses to pick up women for one-night stands with the rest of herself, the sister, daughter, and researcher.

Lily’s journey from fear to confidence is equally compelling, the international travel is interesting (Russian cowboys!), and while I felt like the end was a little rushed and the last line way too cheesy, the emotional journey and development of their relationship was well developed and satisfying.

Diversity note: Kallmaker is a lesbian.

His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto (Amazon / Goodreads)

Emotionally delicate in the best way, powerful storytelling, nerdy secret agents with hearts of gold, both main characters are on the asexual spectrum, more than one round of hurt-comfort, and I have no idea why I waited so long to read this M/M romance! Instant all-time favorite. Agent Arthur Drams, an office-based analyst, needs to socialize in order to advance in his career. Because reasons, he ends up focused on the only analyst more socially un-engaged than he is: Agent Martin Grove, who literally does not speak to anyone else. Arthur coaxes Martin out of his shell by talking about obscure books and semi-surreptitiously feeding him home-cooked meals. Martin responds by kinda messing with Arthur (the library thing, hahaha!), but there’s also growing trust between them. The story took me by surprise, though. Just when I thought everything was settling down nicely, something very bad happens! And voicemails are left, which are so painful, I literally teared up. Don’t worry, though, reader, it’s okay.

I loved how Soto gave us only the barest brushstrokes for some parts of Martin’s life and past, but they’re the brushstrokes that really matter. I loved how Arthur and Martin’s relationship was so uniquely theirs. I love how Arthur was able to meet Martin exactly where he was, and how Martin jumped in to support Arthur when he really needed it. Gorgeous book. I read the library’s e-copy and then bought myself one to keep. The follow-up short story, available separately, is also perfect.

Diversity note: Soto is Mexican-American. She has dysgraphia and phonological dyslexia.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (Amazon / Goodreads)

Super cute, warm novella about two queer Jewish women, Clara Ziegler (bi) and Danielle Solomon (lesbian), that begins when Clara is inspired to small-batch dye yarn for a knitting club based on Danielle’s paintings. It turns out that both are fans of a show called Captain Werewolf, so a large part of their initial flirting is exchanging links to good fanfic and Danielle creating fan art for Clara.

It’s nerdy and totally sweet. There isn’t a lot of angst here, just two gals with similar passions getting to know each other, trying to manage the overwhelming demand for the knitting club, and getting closer and closer to that first kiss. Danielle is described as zaftig, and in one scene she confidently refuses to interact with a scale.

Diversity note: Glassman is a bisexual Jewish woman.

Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder (Amazon / Goodreads)

“He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant.” Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover should NOT even be attracted to each other, let alone get involved. But who can resist Marvel Cinematic Universe related banter? Or a blond, bearded dude in a Captain America t-shirt? Not these two. Now if only they could sort out the whole “life of crime” thing Trucker’s got going on.

Lovely little novella with SO much packed into it – sparks, real affection, serious and believable pain when it looks like all is lost, and a perfect HEA. It was a little strange to me that Pinky’s POV was first person and Trucker’s was third person. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read that POV combo again, but I did get used to it here, and it was well worth it.

Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn (Amazon / Goodreads)

This is the romance novel equivalent of a blanket straight out of the dryer on a cold night. Corporate dude Ben Tucker is supposed to be recruiting materials scientist Kit Averin. Instead, he falls for her. Unfortunately for Ben, (a) Kit won the lottery a while back, so she doesn’t have to take a job she doesn’t want just because it pays better, and (b) the hangover from his recruitment attempt might tank their relationship before it has a chance to get going.

The conflict is agonizing because they are amazing together, not the least of which because Kit, the adult child of an addict who grew up poor, has just purchased a historical fixer-upper for her first home, while Ben is technically on leave from his job to help out at the family business which salvages and sells restoration building materials (how perfect is that?). Kit is a fantastic STEM heroine, Ben is adorably torn, their personal and career-related character arcs are deeply satisfying, the cast of secondary characters is perfection, and I have to stop talking about this book now or we’ll be here for days. Loved it, wrote Kate Clayborn a fan email.

I mean really, how can you not want to read a romance novel that includes the phrase “high angle annular dark field node”? Just sayin’.

Diversity note: Ben has ADHD.

Flirting With Disaster by Ruthie Knox (Amazon / Goodreads)

One of my all-time favorite M/F romances, and I suspect it will remain so, because Knox does such a smashing job with these characters. The book’s blurb doesn’t even begin to show their depth or the emotional weight of the book.

Sean Owens is a tech company co-founder who’s on a leave of absence following the death of his mother, back home in Camelot, Ohio, to clean out her house. Katie Clark is newly divorced, back from Alaska where her ex dumped her and took all their savings, trying to figure out how to be a different woman than the doormat she turned into with her ex, and desperate to succeed in her new job with her brother’s security firm… where she gets paired on a stalking case with hot hacker Sean, who literally will not talk to her. Like, at all. Katie doesn’t know this, but Sean has a stutter, which is usually mostly controlled through techniques he learned in speech therapy, but it breaks through around Katie because he has a massive crush on her. They manage to sort all that out, work on the case, and start kinda-dating, but in the process Katie discovers that Sean’s stutter is the least of his problems. Dude is messed up over his mom’s death, for heartbreaking reasons, and if he won’t engage with his trauma and work on it, there is zero future for them as a couple.

Each character is so distinct, with specific senses of humor, relationships to their pasts, and ways of expressing and processing their emotions. Katie is compassionate and fun, Sean is magnetic and grieving, but they’re never stereotypes. Sean’s issues are the central problem, but they don’t run over Katie’s personal growth arc. They’re clearly good together, but Knox is quite willing to let you believe the relationship might not make it, because Katie isn’t willing to settle – and it’s not blindly reflexive due to her past, it’s a well-considered setting of boundaries and knowing what she deserves. There’s such a striking contrast between Sean’s ability to be rational in computers and business but his personal decision-making getting hijacked by these big, deep, powerful emotions that he’s avoiding.

I think I’ll stop here, because I could probably gush about this book all day.

Content warning: One character’s backstory includes significant emotional abuse.

Diversity notes: (1) Though it doesn’t play much of a role in the story, Katie’s mother is Lebanese. (2) Knox did the work of portraying a stutter properly rather than just throwing in random repeats of initial consonants. (3) The case they’re working on is the stalking of a secretly gay pop star. Judah is wonderful and hilarious. Knox does a great job with his backstory and how cultural homophobia can warp queer folks’ lives, then gives him a happy outcome. I rarely see this much respectful queer content in a non-queer romance.

The Takeover series by Anna Zabo (Amazon / Goodreads)

If you’ve ever worked in a startup, in tech, or in a corporation that went through acquisition/merger, and you’re comfortable with BDSM, this may be the romance series for you.

Takeover begins in a hotel bar where Michael, an out gay software engineer, picks up Sam, a closeted gay management consultant. The first 13 percent of the book is just their meeting and having sex – but Zabo’s writing here is AMAZING. Sam’s entire emotional world is laid out for the reader during this encounter. I have rarely seen a sex scene so effectively used to reveal a character’s story and personality. Unfortunately for our heroes, they both turn up at work to find that Sam’s new interim CEO position is at Michael’s soon-to-be-acquired company. Despite both their shock, they forge a working friendship… which is undercut by their mutually anguished desire to connect, Michael’s buttons getting pushed by Sam being closeted, and nasty corporate politics. (Do they end up sleeping together despite knowing it’s not “proper or ethical”? Yes. Do they take the consequences gracefully? Yes.) I loved the growing respect in their working relationship, that they both find the courage to save their personal relationship, and that they’re both such smarty smart-pants.

Just Business is the story of Eli, Sam’s CFO at his new Pittsburgh-based consulting company, and Justin, the assistant they hire. Eli is a dom, Justin is a sub, they both have tons of emotional baggage (cw: grief, domestic abuse) – and Justin, at least, hasn’t dealt with his at all. It didn’t completely work for me – and I think there are significant problems with the disability rep – but there are achingly lovely parts, and Eli is a significant character in the next book who I wouldn’t have appreciated as much if I hadn’t read his story. (Diversity note: Eli is a Sephardic Jew and disabled from a car accident.)

Due Diligence gave me the two programmers second chance romance I’ve apparently always wanted. Fazil (bi), one of Sam’s technical staff, goes with Eli to fix a company in Seattle. His high-school lover, Todd (gay), is (surprise!) working there as a programmer. Todd wants to reconnect, but first they have to deal with a TON of misconceptions and misunderstandings that broke them up in the first place. Most of that turns out to be Fazil’s fault, and he has to work through his guilt while updating his view of his past relationship with Todd. I love how just because these two guys are older and have straightened out what happened, their issues don’t just magically disappear. Fazil is still insecure, Todd is once again willing to just make a plan for their lives together, and somehow neither one of these very bright men consider (until way late in the game) Todd moving to Fazil’s city instead of the other way around, even though Fazil’s the one with the job he loves and Todd’s company has -CONTENT WARNING- an extreme problem with homophobia and racism! But eventually Todd gets a clue and asks for help so they can straighten it out. Yay happy endings. (Diversity note: Fazil’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey.)

What I super-adore about all three books is the presence of gentle, understanding supervisors and mentors. Sam and Michael are given consequences for their inappropriate relationship by folks in the acquiring company, but they are appropriate, not punitive. Sam extends that same type of grace and humanity to Eli and Justin in the second book, and Sam and Eli do the same for Fazil in the third book.

Additional diversity note: Zabo is bi and nonbinary, uses they/them pronouns, and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.

The Spire by Kate Canterbary (Amazon / Goodreads)

One of the most gorgeously written romances I’ve ever read. I am horribly jealous of what Kate Canterbary does with words.

Our heroine is Erin Walsh, volcanologist, Iceland and Oxford based climate change scientist, and lover of historical anecdotes. Our hero is Nick Acevedo, Mexican-American pediatric neurosurgeon. They collide at a Walsh family wedding, feel an intense attraction, drop their emotional guards, and by the next morning, they’re married. Unfortunately for Nick, who really wants to make a go of things, Erin is skittish. She grew up in a violently abusive home and has a history of cutting, suicide attempts, and alcohol abuse. The father who abused her is dead, and she’s done tons of work on therapy that’s brought her to a fairly healthy place, but the one city on Earth this world traveler won’t go to is where she grew up and all her siblings live, Boston… where Nick lives.

Nick isn’t willing to lose Erin, so they settle into a courtship of (delightful!) emails, Skype chats, and never-enough intercontinental visits. It was so satisfying that Nick totally accepts as valid that Erin’s interjection of scientific and historical information in conversations is simultaneously a reflection of her passions, the way she’s most comfortable understanding and describing the world, and also how she distances and protects herself. To smarty-pants Nick, Erin’s brain is the sexiest thing about her, but he struggles with Erin not being as confident in her own strength as he is. I was so gratified by how Nick finally realized that while he fell for Erin at the wedding, their communications while separated is how he came to really love her. I was also proud of Erin for not letting Nick rush her into taking the next step, then finally taking that next step when she was ready, with Nick in her corner.

This cover cracks me up, though, because one of the things Erin likes about Nick is his chest hair.

A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert (Amazon / Goodreads)

This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s the falling-in-love story of Ruth, a webcomic creator who is a fat, black, autistic woman, and her white neighbor Evan, who is ex-military, now a blacksmith, and an all-around nice guy. Really legitimately nice, like “make a casserole for your friend whose mom is sick” nice. Evan’s smitten with Ruth almost from the first time they meet, finding her gorgeous, funny, and intriguing. He makes her a shepherd’s pie, she lends him comic books. However, the small British town they live in has a hate-on for Ruth that newcomer Evan doesn’t understand, and her past quickly gets tangled up in their present.

There is so much to enjoy in this book. Ruth is a fabulous prickly heroine. Evan was so refreshing because even though he has a fairly typical alpha male backstory – ex-military, physical job – his dominant character trait is kindness. Neither character is perfect, but they keep trying. The story is so sex-positive and body-positive, so respectful, and handles consent beautifully. Really looking forward to the next book in this series!

Content warning: Discussion of a past abusive relationship and sexual assault.

Diversity note: Hibbert is a pan, autistic black woman.

Status Update by Annabeth Albert (Amazon / Goodreads)

Painful but ultimately sweet story about Noah, a closeted geoarchaeology professor who teaches at an extremely conservative Christian Texas college, falling in love with Adrian, a vibrant and very out video game developer. Annabeth Albert bites off a LOT of story here by having Noah and Adrian fall hard for each other during a brief road trip, but she succeeds because each character’s internal voice and struggle are so distinctive and well developed. Her writing isn’t always the shiniest, but there are lovely passages, and overall she has a great knack for writing warm, kind stories even when both characters are wrestling with their own issues and the relationship.

I love how open Adrian is, and especially how delighted he is while discovering all these little specific things about Noah. He’s not just falling for some guy, he’s falling for Noah. Noah is so new to being cared for, and so scared to leave the closet, but he’s so amazed at how Adrian’s bravery and gentleness opens his heart – even in the face of Noah’s very real fears. I grew up in a conservative Christian Texas family and culture, so Noah’s struggle is totally understandable to me. The phone call with his sister late in the book, where they discuss his sexual orientation, just about brought tears to my eyes.

Because I grew up in conservative Texas Christianity, this book will always have a special place in my heart.

Diversity note: Albert is bi.

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon (Amazon / Goodreads)

I haven’t yet had time to review this Black romance by a Black about two programmers, but I really enjoyed it:

“Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . .

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?”

Diversity note: Daniel is Black and Korean.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Amazon / Goodreads)

Naledi Smith is an epidemiology grad student who’s being targeted by email scammers trying to convince her she’s a long-lost princess betrothed to an African prince. Thabiso is that African prince, who’s unaware that his assistant has located his long-lost betrothed and has been emailing her and getting nothing but rudeness back. When he finds out Ledi is alive, he heads to America to get her back… and does a terrible job of it. Seriously, this dude is great at prince-ing but not so great at anything else. Sparks very much exist between them, though, and lo, there’s also an unexplainable illness in Thabiso’s country which an epidemiologist might be able to help with…

All of which sounds fluffy and tropetastic and hilarious, which is sometimes is, but there’s also so much complexity and emotion here. Ledi is a black woman in STEM and the book doesn’t shy away from showing exactly how that can play out with racist and sexist colleagues. Her life as a former foster kid is not easy even though she works her ass off, and being babysitter / emotional anchor for her best friend Portia doesn’t help. Thabiso’s screwups in getting to know her cause real pain, and forgiveness isn’t quick or easy. At least once during the book, when Ledi finds the family she’d thought lost (vague to avoid spoilers), I literally cried for her.

I was so pleased with this STEM gal and her HEA, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

ALSO, I’d like to highlight my favorite passage in the book, because it’s one of the most queer-friendly bits of a non-queer romance that I’ve ever read:

“That beard made her fingers itch to stroke it, or to grab her smartphone and photograph it for posterity… she’d rack up a million liked within the day, for sure, if not some kind of award for heroism on behalf of male-attracted humanity.”

“Male-attracted humanity.” YES! In a typical non-queer romance, this would say “women.” I’ve seen that kind of thing a bazillion times. The problem being that “women” ignores – and this is just my starting list – lesbians, ace women, and non-binary folks and men who are attracted to men. “Male-attracted humanity” is a phrase that recognizes those people exist, describing the world as it is, rather than with heterosexist blinders on. It’s a jolt of inclusion instead of exclusion. Thanks Ms. Cole!

Diversity note: Cole is a Black woman.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (Amazon / Goodreads)

My geek girl heart adored this high-tech M/F love story about connection and communication, wanted and unwanted, real and fake, technological and emotional. Briddey has a good job at a mobile phone company, a colorful Irish-American family who has no concept of boundaries, and a new boyfriend, all-American Trent, who she hopes will insulate her from them if the relationship goes well. So when Trent asks Briddey to have a sought-after surgery to help them communicate their emotions directly, she agrees… and encounters strenuous objections from C.B., her company’s reclusive tech genius. Which is ridiculous, really, because it’s none of his business and why should he care? Until Briddey wakes up after the surgery to find something’s gone horribly wrong and C.B.’s the only one who can help.

I had a great time watching Willis take a piece of hand-wavey “tech” and build such an emotionally complex story around it. Briddey is so goal-oriented that she struggles to accurately perceive the people around her, and the story is as much her learning to see them clearly as it is a romance or a sci-fi tale of technology’s unintended consequences. It’s not an indictment of being connected, IMHO, but an exploration of how to choose and nurture human connections deliberately. I also loved seeing C.B. emerge from the stereotype of basement-dwelling geek and reveal himself as a generous, caring friend and protector. The quiet moments between him and Briddey are so lovely and warm, and I was so relieved that she got her priorities straight and realized the value of what he was offering.

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  • From my post on fantasy romances, Highland Dragon Warrior by Isabel Cooper has a female alchemist main character.
  • From my post on paranormal historical romances, Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger has a female inventor main character who hooks up with a gal who’s great at math.
  • From my post on funny romances, Beauty and the Bookworm by Nick Pageant has a nerdy male librarian main character.
  • From my post on romantic suspense, both Deep Dark by Laura Griffin and The Phisher King by Clancy Nacht and Tuesday Euclid have hacker main characters.

And that’s the list of my favorite nerdy and geeky romance novels! If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!