In today’s post, we have a review of Brave Love and a Q+A with Ash and Marcus Kusi, the husband-and-wife duo who comprise A. M. Kusi and have over a dozen stories under their belts.
Brave Love is part of A. M. Kusi’s Shattered Cove Series and can be read as a standalone.
The characters lead us to ponder the ultimate questions about love:
- Does love require courage?
- Is love more than just a feeling or an action?
- Can we sway love or outrun it?
Pippa owns an independent bookstore, which is frequented by Mason’s young daughter. Pippa cooks delicious meals, has a service dog named Lady, and is fiercely protective of her new young friend.
Mason is a single father, unsure of his future with love. After some events in his past left him with scars – literally and emotionally – it’s difficult for him to imagine someone wanting to be with him intimately. Instead, he focuses on taking care of his only child, Aspen.
When Pippa and Mason cross paths, a match is lit, and the embers of their passions develop into a friends-with-benefits situationship. They both harbor deep-seated fears about the other’s attraction, and as with all true loves, they face a few (not so small) hurdles. Will their love step up to the challenge and pass the test?
It will, actually! And that’s not even a spoiler – A. M. Kusi promises a happily ever after in each story.
I liked Brave Love for many reasons, including because it presents a main character who is a single parent and has a cast of characters with a range of identities and abilities.
Also, even though A. M. Kusi eases readers’ minds in advance about happily ever afters, the conflict and emotion are built throughout the story in such a way that I still felt worried about what would happen between the characters next.
Hidden pasts and burning desires clash in this transfixing tale of love and forgiveness. If you love spicy scenes and well-rounded characters, Brave Love is definitely for you!
Things to know about Brave Love:
- friends with benefits
- friends to lovers to enemies to lovers (yes, it’s a rollercoaster, in the best way)
- secret histories
- indie bookstore (I’m a sucker for books about bookstores, who’s with me??)
- muscular brooding man (I’m also a sucker for this!)
- LGBT+ representation
- Disabilities representation
- POC main character
- 18+! (this review is not 18+ but the book certainly is)
Q+A with A. M. Kusi
Q. Has writing always been a part of your lives?
Ash: For me, yes. My Nana is a writer, and she and my mother always encouraged me to write as a hobby. I used it as a creative outlet and a form of escapism growing up. I have taken long breaks and we actually started writing non fiction before we switched to fiction.
Marcus: Writing wasn’t really a part of my life until we started writing non fiction for our other business. Ash had a fiction story idea, and that’s how we got started writing romance.
Q. You are straightforward about your stories all having happy endings, and as an anxious reader, I find that comforting. Lately I’ve seen some debates on social media about whether romance novels should inherently include happy endings. What are your thoughts?
A. In our opinion, romance always has a happily ever after (HEA), or at the very least a happy for now. If it doesn’t have an HEA, that would be classified as a love story. We too want that guaranteed HEA.
Q. The characters in your stories are inclusive and diverse. What advice can you give to other writers who also want to include more diversity in their stories?
A. Research the culture of your characters, get more than one sensitivity editor from that culture or diverse subset, and beta readers. This way you can learn, be respectful, and enhance the story so that everyone can enjoy it. Getting other points of view is so important, especially when writing about a culture, race, or diverse person that you have no direct personal experience with.
Q. You also have work featured in a few anthologies. How do you approach writing for anthologies versus writing for your own novels?
A. The anthologies we partake in are usually through another author group and there is a theme. We always write a complete short story for these anthologies. Some authors will use this as a prelude or extended epilogue for already established stories or some to come soon. There is nothing wrong with this. We like to give the reader a feeling of conclusion with the story–our guaranteed HEA comes back into play here. We have been honored to be a part of the Color Theory anthology which features stories with only interracial couples. And we are excited to be a part of the next one this coming year as well.
Q. How has working on novels together impacted your relationship?
Ash. Oh, it’s been so fun. Plotting is where we disagree the most. But writing romance has brought a lot of fun conversations, helped us connect more, and of course brought more spice 😉 Marcus is more analytical and he looks at the stories from a different perspective, assessing the plot and reader expectations and getting into the nitty-gritty of details. Like are the character’s wants and needs clear? Are they in opposition of each other? Pacing, etc. – whereas I focus more on the creative aspect, the story itself, and finding a way to weave all the themes and emotions into the novel and play with the reader’s emotions before they get to the HEA. We are really a ying/yang situation. We balance each other out and we have so much fun. Honestly, it’s just amazing to have a partner that believes in my dream that he puts his everything into learning the marketing and other sides to the business that I am weakest or have no interest in.
Q. What are the pros and cons of writing as partners instead of individually?
A. Marcus likes to follow certain rules, whereas Ash likes to follow the characters and stories and push the limits to those rules. We have different comfort levels with certain things. And Marcus looks at things from a marketing perspective, (our readers like this type of hero, so let’s write more like him) whereas Ash likes to follow the characters how they appear in her head. (Sometimes the heroes might be more of an a-hole at first, or darker themed). In the end, we compromise. Sometimes we reach out for trusted friends’ points of view. And we both have very strong stubborn personalities. But working together has improved our communication and we get to the root of why this is important for the story or what he’s worried about if we include it like this. Hope that makes sense!
Q. I first saw your account on TikTok, then followed your Instagram. How has social media affected your experience as writers?
A. TikTok has been amazing for us. We are connecting with so many new readers and authors. It’s really helped to make it more personal. Plus we are able to market our books much better on that platform than anywhere else. Instagram is nice to post teasers and things like that, connect with some readers, but not to the level of TikTok. We like to do lives on Sunday nights to check in and see if we can answer questions from our readers or other users and it’s been fun. With the connection comes feedback, and we take all the feedback to heart. We had one reader mention they wanted a heroine who was taller than the hero, so that will be in our next series. And to hear of how our books have impacted other readers on a personal level is honestly the greatest gift we could ask for.
Q. What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Ash: I don’t force it. I take a break. I will read from authors that inspire me, or authors that write a completely different genre than me to take that mental break. I get outside in nature. And sometimes, I just get the words on the page, though I set small goals of just one chapter a day. I know I’ll come back and edit later to make it better.
Q. There are well over a dozen books under your belts between the Shattered Cove series and Orchard Inn series. Are there any new series or standalone novels in the works?
A. Oh, yes! The Orchard Inn series is where we were learning and finding our footing. We have since rewritten it, tweaking it a little to bring it closer to the Shattered Cove series standards, but it’s also a lot lighter than the themes of Shattered Cove. We have the main Shattered Cove series, but we also have a standalone in the same world, Beautiful Collision.
Our short story, One Holiday Kiss, is also in this world (years ahead) and is a standalone without spoilers. We have another short story in the Color Theory anthology that is also a part of this world, and they have a cameo in one of the books. More are on their way. We plan on staying in Shattered Cove and writing many series that take place here. Next up is The Emerson Family of Shattered Cove. Then we’ll be writing the band members from In The Grey. We have plans of writing about more families, friends, MC gang, and more. So. Many. Stories.
Q. What is your favorite book you’ve written? Who is your favorite character?
Ash: That is a tough one. I have 3 top favorites and all for different reasons. Defying Gravity and the heroine Belle are probably my top favorites. She has been through hell and yet still she pulled herself out of it, made a life for herself and her little brother while also working on her past trauma. She is a fierce heroine who doesn’t settle for less than she deserves and I LOVE that about her. The theme of the book is police brutality and racism which is not an easy topic to talk about, much less include in a romance. But, we did it and the feedback has been mostly phenomenal. It’s something that affects our family and millions of others. We don’t shy away from the issues, but it is done in a sensitive way that will hopefully have the reader empathizing with the situation.
My close second is In The Grey, because Emma’s struggles with depression and self-harm is my story in so many ways. And then Hope Between Us – which comes out January 6th – is my third favorite because their relationship is GOALS, and the hero is very much based off my husband’s character traits so I’m biased.
Marcus: My favorite book that we’ve written is Defying Gravity for the reasons that Ash mentioned – the message. And In The Grey because I was never fully able to understand depression and what my wife was dealing with until I read her words. That’s when it clicked for me. I could feel it through her writing and I got it. Even though I don’t struggle with the same mental health issues, it really helped me empathize with her.
My favorite heroine is a tie between Pippa from Brave Love and Belle from Defying Gravity. Just because of what they’ve been through and how they don’t let it hold them back from achieving their dreams.
Q. What are you currently reading?
Marcus: The Brown Sister’s series by Talia Hibbert
Ash: I’m reading a genre I’ve never read before for that mental break and I’m kinda obsessed with Ruby Dixon right now. I finished the 22 books of the Ice Planet Barbarians in 10 days and now I’m on the second series in that world.
Many thanks to A. M. Kusi (aka Ash and Marcus) for being today’s special guest!
If you love a happy ever after, head to their author website for purchasing links!
My Goodreads review: 5/5*
“The authors promise a happy ending to all of their stories and that is a huge comfort while I’m reading – especially for stories that involve romantic relationships. I thought the pacing was good and the balance between dialogue and action was really effective, I was very invested in the story. The chapters going back and forth between the two main characters was insightful and not confusing. I did tear up a couple times in the second half of the story but it’s so worth it. The diversity and inclusion of the characters and in the story itself are so great to see. I’m looking forward to reading more!”
What’s next on your reading list?
(Side note on Ice Planet Barbarians – it has been super popular, especially across TikTok. If you’re into alien romance/spice, or are a little curious, go check it out, but please heed this content warning for the beginning of the first book : rape/unwanted sexual contact/captivity/abduction. I honestly did not get past the beginning, so I have no idea what happens after that! Many people go through the series very quickly.)