Romance Feed

The Bridesmaid and The Hurricane: A Capital Kisses story by Kelly Maher

30ish White man in white button up shirt and loose tie. Cover for Kelly Maher's The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane About a year and half-ago I spent a whole day reading novellas while keeping my youngest daughter company.  One of the novellas was Maher's Blizzard Bliss.  I found it quite charming and I was intrigued by a lot of the supporting characters.  One of the characters I wanted to know more about was Radhika O'Leary, Rory's older sister who was stranded at downtown hotel during the whole of Blizzard Bliss.

Turns out Radhika had a blizzard fling of her own with Malcolm "Colm" Jones, a national weather reporter in town to cover the storm. Eighteen months have passed with no contact but Colm is about to blow right back into Radhika's life and complicate it in ways neither of them expected.

When I asked for Radhika's story, it didn't expect this one, but that isn't a complaint.  Maher delivered a story about workplace politics, toxic co-workers, relationship baggage and the necessity to taking emotional risks.  I really liked the romance between Colm and Radhika, especially her wariness at getting involved with him, despite how much she liked and still likes him. Neither of these characters are perfect, but they are both trying very hard and they have friends and family to push them the right direction when they screw up.  

One of the things I really appreciate about Maher is her attention to detail and her strong sense of place however there were a few scenes that could have been tighter, as the pacing of the story slowed to accommodate the detail. That is a small nitpick in what was a fresh and interesting take on the return of a rebound two-night stand. 

I received ARC for review consideration from the author.

#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy


#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy Who or what triggers your one-click finger?

This select group is actually very very small. I have a largish circle of authors whose books I am almost guaranteed to buy, because of their track record with me.  Those are authors are Alyssa Cole, Emma Barry, Erin Satie, Laura Florand, Ruthie Knox, Molly O'Keefe.  I will always look at their blurbs.

However my auto-buy list is quite small.  I could only think of four authors right now whose books I will buy without even bothering to read the blurb.   Those authors are Kit Rocha, whose world-building and vision in the Beyond and Gideon Riders series I am heavily invested in.  KJ Charles whose voice draws me in no matter the time period or genre. Whether it is a book in her long-running psy-changeling series or her contemporaries, Nalini Singh's has won such trust that even when I haven't loved every book, I don't even consider not picking them up.

What does it take to get you to auto-buy?

#RomBkLove Day 16: Dark Moments


#RomBkLove Day 16: Dark Moments

I often read multiple books at the same time and the worst thing I ever do to myself is when I bail pages ahead of the dark moment, when the protagonist screw everything up, or the conflict seems insurmountable, in multiple books, and I am left with a kindle filled with a half-dozen of impending dark moments and no choice but to face one of them. I know I have the HEA waiting for me on the other side but still I hesitate, because I am so emotionally involved and I don't want to see the pain or hurt, but the HEA is not quite as sweet if there isn't anything to overcome low-angst or not.

One of the most memorable Dark Moments I can recall is from R. Lee Smith's Last Hour of Gann.  This book is absolutely brutal (TW: rape, sexual violence)  but it also did some extremely interesting stuff around faith and religion. I am not sure I can ever read it again, there is only so much rape I can stomach but Meoraq journey was fascinating. Meoraq is a warrior priest for his God, whose once unshakable belief in his God is shaken as he gets to know Amber, whose presence in his world, and her own beliefs start Meoraq on a questioning journey.  When Meoraq comes upon a shocking truth that upends everything he thought he knew, he is almost unable to go on, but in the end he come out of the other side of his belief, away from fundamentalism to a new less militant understanding of his religion and his role in the world, it was extremely satisfying. 

However the dark moment doesn't have to be the culmination of some long brutal journey to be beautiful and meaningful. One of my favorite recent dark moments is from Vanessa North's Roller Girl. In it Tina and Joe are falling for each other and trying to hide it from their derby team. The last time Joe dated another teammate, their breakup had big repercussions for her former team. She wants Tina, to hide their relationship from their friends, so she won't have to deal with their feeling about her dating another teammate. Their breakup wasn't explosive, but teary and emotional, two people who are clearly falling for each other unable to find a way make it work despite wanting each other so much.  It was just a ordinary breakup, but it was so very meaningful because I had gotten so attached to Tina and Joe and their friends. I care because I cared about them. It is just that simple sometimes.

#RomBkLove Day 15: Bicker and Banter

#RomBkLove Day 15: Bicker and Banter Do you have a favorite bickering couple? Who writes the best banter?

One of my favorite on-screen couples are Nick and Nora Charles. Their constant banter and playful bickering is hilarious to witness in the Thin Man movies.  I love when characters can match wits or tease each other and there is still clearly a layer of love and respect beneath it.

I loved how in Heyer's Venetia Damerel and Venetia sparred in their letters and in person. Their verbal play was delightful and introduced an element of play into their relationship.

Sometimes verbal sparring is a way for more vulnerable characters to hide their insecurity or gain attention. In Fast Connection by Erickson and Hassell, Dominic Costigan is just starting to figure out his bisexuality and when he hooks up with older grumpy Luke, he uses his smart-alecky ways to poke through Luke's persistent cynicism and wear down his opposition to them seeing each other again.  



#RomBkLove Day 14: Covers


#RomBkLove Day 14: Covers  What says romance for you? Do they matter to you? Ever bought a book just because of the cover? Any favorites?

Because I follow so many authors on twitter, I know how incredibly hard it is to find even passably useful stock photos, so I tend to be forgiving when I spot the same cover model, on a dozen book covers.  Long-gone are the days of commissioned oil paintings. Although check out this slide show of original Lisa Kleypas covers! I wish I had some of these!

When I look at covers, I am not someone who is looking for a headless set of abs. When I look at couples I want to see tenderness or passion. I like the covers to highlight an element of the book.

Some of my recent faves:

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#RomBkLove Day 13: Contemporary Romance

IMG_7003#RomBkLove Day 13: Contemporary Romance:  Small Towns, Big Cities, and everything in between. What do look for? Who does it best?

When I burned out of HistoRom, I was lost on where to start with Contemporaries. My library at the time didn't have much contemporary romances available that didn't have Adirondack chairs on the covers. And browsing through Amazon seemed like a bad plan. Since I had no idea on how to begin I asked for recs on twitter.  I asked Sarah Wendell, specifically as I was huge listener of her podcast with Jane Litte and I knew she read a lot of them. She suggested I start out with Ruthie Knox and Shannon Stacey.  These were fantastic recs, as they are both authors I still read to this day.  Stacey's Kowalski series, set in a small New Hampshire town is still one my favorite small town contemporary series.

But the first contemporary I tried was actually Ruthie Knox's About Last Night. And to be honest I didn't really like it the first time I read it.  I didn't like Neville a lot and I wasn't quite sure what to make of Cath.  But there was there that when I saw the first novella in her Camelot series, with How to Misbehave was on sale, I decided to try it. Reading Amber was a little like reading about myself 15 years before. Her hesitancy and distance from her sexual self was painfully familiar as was her struggle with her faith and always having been known as a good girl. I eventually feel in love with Ruthie Knox's writing, with her flawed heroines's struggles and I recognized the suburban communities they lived in.  I slowly ventured further and further into contemporaries from there, discovering Cara McKenna, MaryAnn Rivers,  Audra North, Delphine Dryden and other of the Wonkmance writers closely associated with Ruthie Knox.  

My current go-to-authors for contemporary romance are Alisha Rai, Lauren Dane, Kristen Ashley, Farrah Rochon, Emma Barry, Molly O'Keefe, Lucy Parker, Laura Florand, Ruby Lang, Victoria Dahl and  Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson are just some my go-to authors writing contemporary romance.  

So who are your go-to-authors? What makes for a good contemporary romance? Is there anything that defines this broad genre?

#RomBkLove Day 12: Most Read or Reread


Whether you are reading for comfort  or rediscovery what books & authors do you return to?

In the past year, I've done a lot of re-reading or listening to series I had read in print before. With all the uncertainty during the campaign and since the election, I needed more than just the promise of an HEA at the end to help get through books, I need the familiar beats of books  I had once read or at the very least of authors whose voice I already knew well.  I binge read a lot of series this year, because it was less exhausting to sink deeply into a new world than jump around and explore in new ones each day.

In my re-reading I went back listened and re-read a bunch of Kristen Ashley contemporaries, and Nalini Singh Psy-changeling books.  I also very recently listened and re-read Lisa Kleypas's Wallflower books, Anne Bishop's The Others series and Mary Balogh's Bedwyn Series.

I always get something new from a re-read,  a connection I had missed the first time, a stand-out line that resonates even more the second time around or simply the delight of reading old-friends again.

As to the authors I have read the most books by, I recently learned that GoodReads tracks this.

This list was super interesting to see as it is a fascinating mix of the authors with extensive backlists I binge read when I first entered romance (Stephanie Laurens, Nalini Singh, Mary Balogh, Lisa Kleypas) , prolific Kindle Unlimited authors I binge read since last summer (TS Joyce, Ruby Dixon)  and more current favorites (Courtney Milan, Kit Rocha, Laura Florand, Lauren Dane, Shelly Laurenston.) 

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#RomBkLove Day 11: Historical Romance


Phaetons & Petticoats; Wallpaper or Detailed? Who, what, when, where?

When I first really dove into reading romance I did it by binge reading Julia Quinn, Mary Balogh, Stephanie Laurens, Christina Dodd, Amanda Quick and Lisa Kleypas, whose English Regency and Victorian-set romances, were immediately accessible to me as reader of Austen & Bronte and avid watcher of many British-set costume dramas. As I read these I accumulated little tidbits of shared world-building, from Brummell's fashion-setting ways to the vagaries of the English postal system.  These tidbits might or might not have been historically accurate but they read as if they were and thus they informed how I read the next book and the one after that.  Eventually I had read one too many and I needed a break and I fled into contemporaries.

But I kept trying, for a year I challenged myself to at least read one Historical Romance a month, which led me to finally break out of my Regency rut and read something set in another time and place and not featuring aristocrats. It  helped me realize that I wasn't done with Historical Romance but instead need to read new voices.  

Now my historical reading is more varied. I read in many more eras and about different kinds of people. I fell for Jeannie Lin's Chinese Tang dynasty-set romances & Courtney Milan's feminist vision. I found that I could love westerns  like Victoria Dahl, Edie Harris, Beverly Jenkins,  and Molly O'Keefe's if they didn't gloss over ugly parts of our expansionist history. Alyssa Cole interracial historical romances span eras from the Civil rights period to Medieval (Agnes Moor's Wild Knight) and they just get better and better. I am currently reading her most recent, An Extraordinary Union, set during the Civil War and I highly recommend it.  Piper Hugley Reconstruction-era romances, wrestle with faith and hope in unsettled times, and Emma Barry & Genevieve Turner's Space-Race set romances are fascinating and fun read in a little explored era.   Other new favorites include K.J. Charles & Cat Sebastian, whose queer stories, are beautifully written and rich in historical detail; Elizabeth Kingston's  Medievals are full of political intrigue and genuine emotion, Erin Satie's heroines are flinty and ambitious, and Rose Lerner & Joanna Bourne  continually prove that you can still tell fresh-stories in familiar settings, when you focus on people outside the Ton and the Regency is no exception. And when I do feel like reading  about Lords and Ladies, it is Tessa Dare I turn to because it has to be fun and just a little meta.

If you haven't yet tried some of these authors, please give them a try!



#RomBkLove Day 8: Heroes and Heroines


There are all sorts of heroes and heroines. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Aliens, Aristocrats, Assholes and Sweethearts.... Some types come in and out of vogue, others seem perpetually popular? Which ones standout to you and why? What makes them memorable?

I don't think there is just one type of hero or heroine that appeals to me, I've never claimed a book boyfriend or girlfriend, but I do have a weakness for proud, independent heroines. Sasha Duncan (Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh), Kate Daniels (Illona Andrews), Mercy Thompson (Patricia Briggs), Lex Parrino (The Beyond Series, Kit Rocha), Zenobia Fox (Kraken King, Meljean Brook) and Justine DeCabrillac (Joanna Bourne), all have special places in my heart. They  kick ass, fight hard for the people they love and don't give up when facing terrible odds.  Their worlds, values and approaches to life and love vary greatly but at their core, they are all Amazons.

I read a lot of bossy protective heroes, mostly because they are such great foils to kickass independent heroines, but the heroes I remember the most tend to fit different molds.  David Cyprian from KJ Charles's Society of Gentlemen series is morally flexible, devious and too smart for his own good. Julius from Rachel Aaron's Heartstriker series is sweet, earnest and most of all kind while Ash Winters from Alexis Hall's Glitterland is self-destructive and mean,   Judd Lauren from Nalini Singh's Caressed by Ice is cautious, repressed and gentle. Simon Wolfguard  from Anne Bishop's The Others is grumpy, baffled and Wolf. 













#RomBkLove Day 5: Romantic Elements


 Romantic Elements Which ones do you love? How much romance do you need?

I came to romance from other genres. Whether I was reading mystery, fantasy or science fiction I was always drawn to books with a strong romance storyline. 

I read  a lot of Urban Fantasy with central romantic relationships, one of my favorites is Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series. Charles and Anna's relationship beautiful and powerful and constantly tested but they persevere.

One of the things I love about the Alpha and Omega series is that while the stories are full of great crime solving/detective/action adventure elements, the stories in the end are really about Anna and Charles’s relationship.  Briggs does not flinch as she has portrays the many hurdles and difficulties pair have to overcome to be happy together.  Briggs strength in these books is that she has balanced the portrayals of conflict, pain, with those of growth and joy.