Frannie Cassano, RWA's 2018 Librarian of the year is here today. She absolutely loves Insta-Love romances and has a fantastic set of recommendations for you.
#RomBkLove: But What If Insta-Love IS Your Catnip?
by Frannie Strober Cassano
Hi Everyone! I am so happy that Ana invited me to #RomBkLove. Today I’m talking about my most favorite, cat nippy tropes: Insta-Love.
There is something about the gaze from across the room. A spark, a pull-toward, or a click. That instant feeling they were meant to be yours which defies all logic, reason, and reality. But that’s the thing. It’s chemistry. It’s a gut deal. It touches you and you are happily never the same.
Sure the attraction is instant. But there is something a bit decadent in the gaze, not in the sense of being objectified but by first by being desired and then wholly accepted by a mate that one hopes is destined to be fated.
I believe elements of Insta-Love are the bedrock to of all Romances and Erotica. That is how we, as readers, believe the unbelievable. These elements are what progresses the story along…and what also stops the story cold. Whether characters have no prior history with one another, are over the top (OTT), obsessive, growly, or are wolves or bears.
I always like to toss in some recs that patron/readers can get lost in someone’s eyes and let go for the entire length of the novel.
When we think Insta-Love, some authors who come to mind might be E.L. James, Sylvia Day, Alexa Riley, J.R. Ward, Renee Rose, Ruby Dixon, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Kristen Ashley, Aurora Rose Reynolds, and more recently, Madame de Boudoir.
Perhaps the most literal of my Insta-Love picks, Katy Regenry’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast hits every right mark. Savannah and Asher are both deeply broken in their own ways. She is a disgraced journalist (through no fault of her own) and he is a war hero, disfigured by a bomb. Savannah returns home and is also helping to plan her sister’s wedding when she receives an offer to write a human interest piece for another paper. Asher lives life as a recluse on his rolling estate, with only the kindly Mrs. Potts (!) to help care for him.
Savannah hopes to interview Asher as her piece. And though hidden, as soon as her eyes lock into his from afar, that moment is what sets this story on its path. Not only that, as soon as they touch, they cannot stop holding one another in some manner. Becoming friends is one thing, but Regnery crafts a deeply moving, Insta-Love tale, where Savannah and Asher fall hard and fast before they know what they are getting themselves into. Though tormented and affected, Asher wants to push himself with Savannah as his inspiration. And Savannah wrestles with what her article brings with it and what her feelings for Asher bring with that. There are a lot of painful passages, but Regnery is never heavy-handed. She treats Asher with the utmost care and does not deliver a cure-all for the varying degrees of wounds examined here. While the Insta-Love is literal, the reality is also very real. Savannah and Asher need one another to soothe their traumas and their instant connection is one to root all the way for.
Ex-military man, Jake Sharp barely lives life fueled by meaningless sex, drinking and his assignments to numb the effects of his PTSD. Socialite Camille Logan is wrestling with independence from her father and the pain of her recent past with an ex. When her life gets threatened, Camille’s father hires Jake to be her 24/7 bodyguard. Neither are particularly jazzed by the idea, until the moment they meet. Each time Camille tries to evade Jake, he’s two step ahead. Then, pretty soon it’s clear to both that the instant attraction they felt is much, much more.
Camille is not at all as fame presents her as. Her warm demeanor reaches places Jake forgot existed. When he refers to Camille as “his fate” and that protecting her is now “instinct” it is believable and the tough road they face will have readers on bated breath. With super-hot scenes, serious suspense, and an ideal, emotionally wounded Alpha hero, Malpas totally delivers.
Stranger by Robin Lovett
There is something about stalkers in Romance. The piercing glances from afar, the combination hints of danger and possibility. But stalkers and Dark Romances can be tricky for some readers.
Stranger is billed as “not supposed to be a love story” and one of revenge. But there are strong elements of Insta-Love, especially from the POV of the heroine, Penny Vandershall. Lovett shows us Penny’s side of the story first and foremost, almost at all times. And while one might argue that Penny appears as a doormat or desperate, that really isn’t the case.
Lovett’s compelling heroine owns her desire. I have often said that Penny knows who she is and what she wants at all times. She explores her own darkness and that sense of her agency pays off. She stares back and likes it. She explores those desires back and likes it. Logic be damned.
The hero, Logan, undertakes a dark road of would-be revenge by sucking Penny in by his gaze. He wants her to want him so that he can exact his plot and usurp her safe world. Logan seems obsessive and very intense, but as the story progresses, his plans get thwarted because of his feelings for Penny…in spite of himself.
Often, these “stalkers” aren’t what we think of as actually menacing. It is a Romance after all. And Lovett cares about who she is writing for. Her characters are as self-aware as they are fixated, and they embark on individual journeys to embrace the truth of their desires.
While you might argue that this snicker-induced Royal romp might not qualify as a typical Insta-Love, there are a zillion reasons why it also does. Prince Henry is beyond a player/cad/rake and Sarah is a classic Brit-Literature loving librarian with a paralyzing disorder brought on by sudden loud noises. He’s the suitor on a Chris Harrison-like TV show called ‘Matched: Royal Edition’. She’s there to accompany her sister, a contestant, as her assistant. It takes a long time for the hero and heroine to meet and it’s quite by accident during a shot set up.
However, once Henry and Sarah do meet, they cannot stop thinking of one another. There is a lot of “snapping” into one another’s eyes and “pinning” one another’s gaze. It doesn’t matter how much of a horny/sexually-charged, inappropriately-thought filled hottie the prince is. We are led to believe he’s basically in insta-lust with any woman he sees. But staying with it, it makes sense. He’s bored and scared and Sarah challenges what he thinks he desires. We believe that he is totally captivated by her.
The bawdiness of Chase’s novel is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Sarah is so adorable; she is for sure what I call “Book Bestie” material (as well as one of this librarian’s new-to them favorite librarian characters). It is super fun to see her stand her ground while also uncomfortable by Henry’s demeanor. Even though she is always looking forward, it’s clear she has some demons to slay. And Henry is totally believable seeking Sarah out as a sort of refuge while also teasing her as he falls for her in return.
The symbolism and the changes they endure for one another is a super fun road to travel. From forced celibacy for show purposes to Sarah allowing Henry to share her room at night away from the cameras. What starts off as jolly good fun, ends up touchingly sweet.
I am SO hitting an amazing backlist for this category favorite. The novel opens with Chloe noticing the most attractive man she has ever seen from outside her window. She really checks him out, from Stetson to “powerful legs” to lips. And while we might buy that she points him out to her friend/the Denver manager of her magazine, the reader catches on pretty quickly that she is by far smitten. Over the phone, Ramsey is not at all interested, so Chloe pays him a visit in hopes of changing his mind. Mistaken for a replacement cook at his ranch, Chloe uses the opportunity to “fill in”, so that she might finally persuade and land Ramsey for her magazine later. Because she does happen to have experience cooking large scale while spending summers working at a homeless shelter…the fact that she learned from a Mama Francine is pure coincidence ;)
And here is where trouble of the best kind ensues…as well as super-hot sexytimes! Jackson offers another example of Insta-Love where we get the heroine, Chloe’s POV first. However, when we get to Ramsey’s POV, whoa! When he first sees her, he feels not only lust, but he literally feels her in his gut. From those moments forward, the heat between the two sizzle off the page. Jackson does chemistry right in her Westmoreland stories, but there is something about Ramsey and Chloe that stays with the reader. We believe the instant attraction and the daydreaming that follows. Ramsey is not the typical ladies’ man like others in his family (as they start off, anyway). There is something about Chloe that gets in deep with him.
And sure, we’ve got misunderstanding, conflict, how-do-we-overcome-betrayal, pain of the past, do I trust him/her/myself?…but this is Brenda Jackson. Hot Westmoreland Nights is one of my go-to recs for a quick, get lost in the story read, “stay up until 3am to finish”, and/or “getting out of your reading slump”. On a personal note, Jackson’s stories have been books my patrons and I have turned to for years before I even started working on the Romance Collection. She gets Insta-Love right on so many levels that you aren’t even aware of what’s happening until you’ve already fallen for the characters…and that is really what Insta-Love hopes to accomplish. Bam! Hooked.
I can keep you here all day talking Insta-Love. From gazes from across the room to that *click* to a safe place where logic/reason/reality can melt away. Whatever stories appeal to you, #RomBkLove has got you covered. Get lost in them. And if you want to discuss even more Insta-Love, come find me any time.
2018 RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year recipient Frannie Strober Cassano first stumbled into the romance section of her local drugstore as a teen, then found herself back there during the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. You can find her discussing Happily Ever Afters for All over at her Reference Desk or over on Twitter at @FranniesRomance.