Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

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“…Princesses like no-strings sex just as much as the next girl.”

Oh, friends, please pick this one up for the holiday season! It was so heartwarming, so atmospheric, and brought me so much joy to read! I loved both protagonists, I loved the wintery setting, I loved the Christmas tattoo shop, and I completely recommend this one with my entire heart. And now I need to go and read everything by Talia Hibbert.

This is an ownvoices novel, starting a Black woman that is working as a barista in a coffee shop part-time while she goes to college. And she has a regular customer who makes her pretty weak in the knees with his flirting, even though nothing ever comes from it. That is, until one night, before closing, and Bailey’s friend John comes in, who is homeless and cold. She is trying to warm him up, when her boss comes out of the back and acts like a complete jerk, until the mystery man witnesses it all and takes action.

“Boring guys finish last,” she corrected, pushing the completed forms back to him. “Nice guys finish anywhere they want. Especially when they look like you.”

Cash is a white tattoo artist, who knows how needed a helping hand can be. He not only takes John under his wing, but also offers Bailey a new job at his tattoo shop. Even though they are completely drawn to each other. Bailey and Cash both haven’t had easy lives growing up, and they have such a realistic bond and attraction to each other, and it makes it completely impossible not to root for them. Especially when Cash invites Bailey to his mom’s for Christmas, since she would be all by herself. But Cash has a policy; he only will date a woman for ninety days before he calls it quits, because he refuses to truly ever let anyone in.

“Funny; he’d been a hell of a lot more charming when she was just serving him coffee.”

But the romance in this is seriously perfect. This book is only a tiny bit over two-hundred pages, but I think I was smiling, or crying, or smiling and crying on every single one. This book is funny, this book is swoon-worthy, and this book has so many important themes; from Cash and Bailey starting an interracial relationship, to Bailey also being plus sized, to it also staring a homeless, queer character, to showing that the terrible things that happen to us in the past do not have to dictate what we become in the future, to really celebrating abuse survivors (from physical abuse to neglect), this book is a damn gift to the world. I also think this story has a main character on the autism spectrum, but it doesn’t say the word(s) on page.

Overall, this was just a treat to read. And this epilogue? 11/10. This story was just so sex positive and steamy, so funny and so endearing, so enthralling and so un-put-downable. And Bailey is the female protagonist I’ve always wanted, she’s strong, and brave, and so empathetic! Ah, this book just had it all; I only wish it was longer! This is the best holiday romance I’ve ever read, and I hope you all pick this up this holiday season.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer, talk of past domestic violence, talk of past child abuse, and talk of past statutory rape.