I first came across the #romanceclass hashtag on Twitter. At first – and I admit this to my eternal shame – I didn’t think much of it because I didn’t have a high opinion of indie authors. Then, two things coincided which got me to read #romanceclass books: 1) Shealea of That Bookshelf Bitch talked about them a lot, so I got curious (plus I super trust her taste in books); and 2) one of my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions was to read more Filipino authors, particularly more female Filipino authors.
At the time, I didn’t know that you could download an app that turns your phone into a Kindle, and I didn’t have an actual Kindle, so I thought buying physical copies was the only way I’d get my hands on the #romanceclass books. Luckily enough, I discovered that they’d be selling books at BGC Art Mart on 17 February. I was going to be at UP anyway to do some library work, and since #romanceclass would be at BGC Art Mart until 10PM, I thought I’d pass by.
When I found the #romanceclass stall, I thought I’d just browse quietly, but no. For all that they claim to be a shy, awkward bunch, the #romanceclass crowd were very outgoing and friendly! Not to mention super helpful and welcoming Chachic of Chachic’s Book Nook greeted me with a great big smile and asked me if I was a new reader. I told her that I was, and that I only came across the hashtag on Twitter and that I’d gotten curious. So she very gamely marched me through the available titles and the tropes they were grouped under. It was rather like being led into a battle by a very friendly and very pretty general (who was wearing red lipstick).
I ended up getting by Beginner’s Guide by Six de los Reyes, No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra, and Just for the Summer by Justine Camacho-Tajonera. Suffice it to say, I ended up loving them all, and soon after downloaded the Kindle App and bought three more titles: Like Nobody’s Watching by Tara Frejas, All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria, and Prep & Prejudice by Miren B. Flores.
But what exactly is #romanceclass?
From the words of founder Mina V. Esguerra:
The #romanceclass community of authors is a group that came out of the free class I ran in 2013, meant to encourage Filipino readers of chick lit and contemporary romance to start writing and publishing their own stories. “romanceclass” was the hashtag used to informally discuss things with each other over Twitter, and it stuck. That time, 100 people signed up, and 16 authors completed a contemporary romance novella. They’ve since gone on to write more, publish, get publishing deals…and we continue to support each other on social media and everywhere else.
And according to the #romanceclass website:
#romanceclass is a community of:
- Authors who attended #romanceclass, #romanceclass2016, the steamy reads, YA classes organized by Mina V. Esguerra
- Readers of the books by those authors
- Readers of English-language romance books by Filipino authors
For me, #romanceclass is all about creativity and community. It’s about a group of Filipino readers and writers who come to together to create something beautiful and happy, and support each other while doing that. It’s absolutely beautiful to see how close-knit the #romanceclass family is. I swear you guys, every time I talk to any of them on Twitter, I feel like the new kid at school, enviously staring at the table where the cool kids are sitting.
For a complete list of #romanceclass books, you can check out this link.
Here are the #romanceclass books I’ve read!
Plus a quick review of them (although I’m planning on writing individual reviews for the books I really enjoyed – check them out soon!).
No Strings Attached – Mina V. Esguerra
Carla’s 29 and a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last minute. Her dating life is practically nonexistent though, and everyone has an opinion about that. Her girl best friend (who’s married) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single and proud of it) encourages her to play the field–no strings attached.
Then Carla meets hot, smug, sexy Dante, and he’s everything she didn’t know she liked. He’s also five years younger, and she thinks it makes him perfect for the non-relationship she had in mind. What happens to that plan when he thinks he’s met the one for him at 24?
Quick Review: A light, fun, well-written read. Carla is a great, relatable character; and Dante is essentially a fuckboy with a heart of gold. Also, I’m a sucker for romance stories where it’s the guy who falls first for the girl, or where it’s the guy who’s pining for the girl and the girl is oblivious to said pinining. If there was one thing I didn’t like about the story, it was probably Mary, Carla’s BFF, who subscribes to the stereotypical (although fast-fading, thank God) notion that a Filipino woman needs to have a husband and kids in order to be truly happy. Throughout the whole book, I just felt like she was pressuring Carla into having the same life as her because she herself was insecure about the choices about she made. Other than that though, I really liked this book! I read it one sitting while on my lunch break because I really just wanted to find out what happens next.
Just For the Summer – Justine Camacho-Tajonera
Cassie already knows that Joey Garcia makes no promises. He was the cautionary tale told in college. But when he says, “Come with me to Dumaguete for the summer,” on a whim, she says yes. It’s the summer Cassie is turning twenty-three, and she thinks she’s old enough to make mistakes and young enough to recover. Besides, Cassie has always worked hard to get what she wants. For once, it looks like this is going to be easy.
So when she shows up prepared for a wild getaway little does she realize that they’re actually heading for his hometown . . . for a wedding. Her summer fling is turning out to be all kinds of awkward, from sleeping arrangements to family introductions. But heck, if Joey can be cucumber cool about it then so can she.
Quick Review: Not my favorite amongst the #romanceclass books I’ve read so far, and perhaps not the best-written of books (if you’re picky about grammar, dialogue, and syntax, maybe skip this one) but it was cute and sweet. I felt like I was listening to a girlfriend making kwento about a new boyfriend she’d gotten over the summer. Also, this book was essentially a love letter to Dumaguete, which I really loved because that’s where my dad’s family is from (all my cousins went to Siliman University, another cousin is a lawyer still living there, my grandfather and an aunt were prominent attorneys in the area, and several more aunts and uncles are practicing doctors at the Siliman Medical Center).
Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions – Six De Los Reyes
Falling in love is a chemical reaction.
Just ask Kaya Rubio, twenty-five year-old molecular genetics graduate student and research assistant. Fed up with her spinster aunts’ relentless reminders and unsolicited advice regarding her Single Since Birth status, she designs a scientific, evidence-based methodology to find her a suitable partner in time for her cousin’s wedding. As any good scientist knows, any valid experimental design requires a negative control. Enter the most unsuitable candidate for a potential boyfriend: the messy, easygoing, café owner Nero Sison. Her null hypothesis? Going out with Nero would establish her baseline data without catalyzing the chemical reaction she seeks.
But when Kaya’s recorded results refuse to make sense, she is forced to come to the conclusion that there are some things in life that are simply, by nature, irrational and illogical. And that sometimes, chemistry doesn’t always happen inside a lab.
Quick Review: I. LOVED. THIS. Aside from having women in STEM – which is one of my favorite things, to be honest – Six De Los Reyes wrote Kaya so well. Kaya Rubio is smart, a good daughter and a good friend, very introspective, and interprets human social conventions through the lens of a scientist. She sounded, I thought, a lot like Spock from Star Trek – which you don’t often see done with female characters, let’s be real. I really appreciated this book for breaking a lot of gender stereotypes you see with STEM, and it was wonderfully written as well. Definitely would recommend. Also, Nero is hot. Love me a man with tattoos!
Like Nobody’s Watching – Tara Frejas
If there’s something Pio Alvez is good at, it’s pretending to be someone he’s not. On stage and on-screen, the actor has mastered the art of becoming the characters he plays, and his new role should be no different. After all, how difficult would it be to pretend to be smitten with a beautiful, intelligent go-getter like Audrey Alonzo?
Perhaps it’s more difficult pretending not to be.
Quick Review: My soft man Pio Alvez! Every girl needs a Pio in their life; whether as a boyfriend or just a friend. Definitely one of my favorite male MCs in #romanceclass. And Audrey is great as well. Can we all just emulate this girl who takes some time for herself and works on healing and bouncing back from a failed relationship before fully committing to another? And can we all appreciate the fact that Pio was willing to wait for her and wasn’t rushing her or pressuring her into doing something she wasn’t ready to? Ugh, this book was just the best!
All’s Fair in Blog and War – Chrissie Peria
Five Cuevas @5travels
Three guesses to where I’m going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel
Travel blogger Five thinks she has hit the jackpot when the Macau Tourism Board invites her over for an all-expense-paid blogger tour in exchange for blogging about Macau. But while she happily signs up for the trip, she didn’t sign up to be travel buddies with the infuriating Jesse. Will her dream vacation turn into a nightmare junket? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?
Quick Review: One of my favorite tropes is mutual pining, and All’s Fair in Blog and War delivers this trope in spades. Jesse and Five were both such morons – I absolutely loved it. Also, the ‘femme fatale’ character turns out to be a really good friend to Five, the endearingly awkward female MC – again, something you don’t normally see in romance novels.
Prep & Prejudice – Miren B. Flores
You can take the girl out of teenage hell, but can you take teenage hell out of the girl?
At fourteen, Andrea was a geeky, gangly teenager who spent one magical summer with the rich and famous—surrounded by art, polo ponies, and children who bear the names of corporations and main avenues. She had a mad crush on handsome trust fund baby Manolo, but her silly romantic notions were painfully crushed one night by spoiled, arrogant Jaime—the one boy she loved to hate, and who hated her right back.
More than a decade later, Andrea is overworked and under-loved, with no man in sight and no intention of getting back to the delusional business of hoping and throwing caution to the wind. Ordered by her doctor to hightail it out of the city and into a true-blue vacation, she and her best friend, hippie-heiress Pilar, head off to a small, soon-to-open resort on a southern island. But Andrea’s plans of a tranquil summer holiday are ruined by cruel reminders of the past—taking her back to her humiliations and her thwarted desires.
Quick Review: This book got me feeling some type of way; I can’t describe it. I felt like I was reading a movie, or an episode of Beverly 90210 – but in a good way. Also has one of my favorite tropes – busy career girl decides there’s more to life than her job. Definitely recommending this. Also, reading about Jaime made me think of Nico Bolzico, so thank you, Miren B. Flores, for that wonderful image!
Sound cool? Want in on this?
#romanceclass books will be on sale at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on 24 March for the event Gandang-Ganda sa Sariling Gawa, and there will be a #romanceclass event called April Feels Day 2018 on 28 April at Warehouse Eight in Makati. See you there!