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About the author:
Aria Emend writes romance that’s close to her heart—diverse, culturally rich love stories. She’s always had a passion for reading romance, and writing one was a dream come true. As an avid reader, she’s devoured many, many books, but noticed a distinct lack of cultural diversity in mainstream romance novels. She hopes that there are plenty of readers who’d love to see a fresh, new kind of romance blossom on the page. Her stories are designed to resonate with readers, help them challenge their thoughts on love, and encourage them to open their minds to new ideas and concepts.
Born in the Cape Verde Islands, Aria traveled to the US at age eight. Though she currently resides in Massachusetts—and has for the last forty-two years—she adores her Cape Verdean roots and cherishes her rich, traditional family values. As a wife, mother, and grandmother, she’s passed those values on to the next generation and continues to teach that love conquers all. After all, love is diverse and beautiful, and our literature should be too.
What inspired you to write your book?
I was inspired to write a story based on my culture that reflects on a young girl’s struggles in navigating first love. A love that is forbidden by her family. I wanted to bring a twist In a romance novel that sheds light on a different culture and not the usual American one…
The story is based on a true story. The main characters are made up names, but the other characters are made up using the first letter of the person’s actual names. The names are based on real Cape Verdean/Portuguese names.
Here is a short sample from the book:
It all started on a hot summer day with the June sun set high up in the southwest. It was 4:00 p.m., and thirteen-year-old Zarayah Mello was finally joining her brothers for karate class. She had begged her parents, Tanin and Joan, for weeks to join them, and the day had arrived. She was the only girl at home with four brothers, and she loved to tag along with them wherever they went. Her brothers were good to her and would take her out to eat and to watch movies. Roberto, one of her older brothers, had finally convinced her parents to let her go with them. She didn’t know how, but she was just happy to finally be going.
Zarayah was an average teenage girl. She had shoulder-length curly, natural hair that she often wore in a ponytail. She was taller and more developed than the girls in her class, and that made her stand out. She had a long torso and was a little pudgy around her middle—but so were many girls at that age. She so wanted her baby fat gone and figured a good sweat in karate class would take care of her pudginess.
Zarayah also had a passion for reading and loved to walk around with a book in hand. She enjoyed pretty much any story she read, but her favorites were romance novels. As she was sitting on the couch in the TV room reading one of her short story romance novels, her younger brother Jose, or JJ, was watching cartoons and interrupting her tranquility.
“Zarayah, come watch TV with me,” he said.
Umm, she said more to herself than answering him.
Jose sat back on the couch and stared at her, but she was so engrossed in her novel that she didn’t notice.
Finally, she looked up and realized that he was waiting for a response. “Sorry, JJ. I’ll watch with you after karate class.”
She read a few more pages and heard her brother Damian calling out to her from the kitchen. “Zarayah, go get ready for karate class, your uniform is on your bed.”
Zarayah reluctantly closed her book and headed to the bedroom to change her clothes.
She walked out of her bedroom and found her brothers waiting for her so they could leave. Since the studio was only a few blocks away, her brothers thought it would be a good warm-up to walk there. As Zarayah walked down the street with Roberto, Damien, and Hendrix, she couldn’t help but notice how much taller and athletic they were compared to her. What if she couldn’t keep up with them in class?
What if this was all a mistake? I should have stuck to playing with my dolls, reading my books, and saving the sweat for gym class.
Roberto had already paid for the class, and they were already walking there. At this point, she figured she’d have to at least try it. As they walked along, she linked her right arm around Damien’s elbow and followed his stride. Ten minutes into their walk, she thought to herself, I can’t wait to get there.
They had already walked four long blocks and she was tired. Sheesh, how am I going to last if I’m already tired…
Finally, they arrived at the studio.
What a massive dark and dreary place, she thought to herself as she looked up at the building. The outside of the building was a dirty, white stucco that looked like it would crumble at any minute. They had to walk up a flight of steep stairs that lead to an open room, almost like a ball room. Even this room felt dark and dreary. There didn’t seem to be much light coming through the three windows. She thought of quitting again, but, nope, there was Master Seephu walking up to greet them.
“Hi, I’m Seephu,” he said.
Zarayah gave a small wave. She was very shy, and he made her uncomfortable. Not in a creepy way, but she didn’t like to talk to people she didn’t know. He seemed nice enough. If anything, maybe taking karate would help her to get out of her shell.
Everyone started stretching as the other pupils trickled in. Zarayah sat on the dingy floor. Yuck, my pants are going to get dirty. She hated getting her clothes dirty. She wished her white uniform was black. Zarayah wasn’t quite a girly girl. She loved her jeans and t-shirt but also liked to wear a nice dress occasionally. She liked to take care of her clothes. Her family wasn’t poor, but they didn’t have a lot of money. Her parents worked hard at their factory jobs and had five kids to feed and shelter. It was because of this that Zarayah was so mindful in caring for what she did have.
As Zarayah was stretching on the floor, she looked up. And she saw him. A tall, handsome guy talking to a group of students.
Who is that? And why is he so noticeable? It must be his smile.
There were plenty of other guys in the room, but his presence caught her attention right away. He was talking and joking around with the others and seemed to be a real smooth character. As their eyes met, Zarayah quickly looked back down to her crossed legs.
It’s safer not to be noticed. Zarayah didn’t like attention. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him talking and laughing with her brothers.
Her first day of karate class was a success. Not only did she sweat more than she ever did her whole life, but now she had a renewed interest in attending classes.