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May 2018

Day 31 #RomBkLove: And They Lived Happily Ever After...

Day 31

Reader: Is this book a Romance?

Seller: I think so

R: No I mean is it ROMANCE

S: *waggles eyebrows* yeahhhhh mm hmmm

R: *rolls eyes* No, how does it END?

— Susannah Reilly (@shrewandsnail) May 30, 2018



The most cherished convention of the genre romance is the HEA/HFN -- the promise that whatever the obstacles, angst and turmoil the protagonists have endured they find a way to be together in the end. This is a powerful promise and one that readers and writers should cherish. It gives readers security and confidence to invest in emotional stories and it sets writers a challenging goal to not just tear things apart but to find a way to build relationships we can believe in.  How satisfied we are with the ending, with the way the characters come together and move forward often determines how we feel about the story as a whole. .


I read an erotica story today that had a lot of my catnip tropes...only for the end to be of the man standing over the woman's grave. I'm back, romance. I won't leave you again.

— Meka (@mektastic) May 29, 2018



Many of us have been were Meka was at, reading something that seemingly hit all our buttons and then with no warning, tragedy. For me that book was The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I read it back when I still read Lit fic, but was developing a taste for Romance. The story was romantic, complicated and beautifully written. The gut blow comes fairly early but the sadness becomes more and more oppressive as the book progresses and as a reader you realize significance of that earlier event.  I had grown to love these characters, to care about their fictional lives and things were not okay in the end, not really. That book helped propel me into the arms of genre romance, because I wasn’t okay with it. After reading dozens and dozens fantasy, YA and Lit Fic novels in life, I needed the promise that I wasn’t going to put down the book sadder than when I picked it up.


#RomBkLove That's my rule for angst. You can break my heart, turn me into a sobbing mess, and I'll love you for it but only if you bring an equally amazing HEA to make up for all that angst.

— Lillie (@lillie_80) May 21, 2018


There is nothing worse than reading a rushed and unearned ending, books that drag you through an emotional wasteland and then try to make it all better with a few punishing kisses and marriage proposal.  Endings need to be organic and make sense for the characters and the world established in it. For HEA to be emotionally satisfying it must fit the tone of the novel, and its characters. I think we have all occasionally felt the disappointment of an HEA that abandons previously established characterization for an epilogue full of babies and sunshine. 


Because I've told them a dozen times that a relationship arc ending happily doesn't mean everything was easy or no one died or that readers have forgiven me for Beyond Surrender yet.

But people know what they're convinced they know and everyone knows romance is frivolous.

— Bree (& 🐕) (@mostlybree) May 20, 2018




Critics and naysayers point to HEAs, and dismiss the genre as formulaic, saying "they all end the same", echoing Tolstoy famous quote:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

But HEAs in genre romance, like happy families in real life are not all alike. As readers we often have differing expectations for just what makes an ending a happy one. Some readers need more than a sense of relational security, some need a firm commitment and others a formal proposal if not a full-blown wedding and baby epilogue  Some also long for physical and financial security to be assured. So our genre provides all kinds of HEAs. Some are full of babies, weddings and long-ass epilogues, others simply full of hopefulness and the determination persevere against life’s challenges together. I find that my preference for certain kinds of endings have evolved, some endings that I loved once upon a time, no longer prove as satisfying upon re-reading and endings that didn’t work for me initially have started to make sense.  Personally I don't need babies or surprise dukedoms although I do enjoy them on occasion, but I always need are sense of community, hopefulness and unity.  What is important is that we have as genre all kinds of HEA for all kinds of people, POC and Queer characters included.  I want us to use our imagination as genre to claim fluffy HEA for everyone not just those traditionally privileged.


 I hope you find the HEAs you need in the romances you read, the ones below are HEAs I have loved and ones that have made me reflect what I consider important and necessary in a HEA:

  • Amara Royce’s Once Beloved  When I first read the ending of this novel, I struggled with it.  I was used to historical romances that ended in weddings and Royce doesn’t do that.because one of the characters is unable to marry again. The characters are however deeply committed to each other. It was one of the first historical romance I read that made me re-examine what I considered necessary for HEA and conclude that what I needed was commitment versus marriage.

  • Emma Barry's Party Lines: Rival political operatives slowly fall in love through the course of acrimonious political campaign where only one of their candidates can win.  Barry does not sacrifice or minimize their political ambition and competitiveness or short-cut the time the need for their relationship to mature. Their epilogue is full of happy babies, just not their own, as four years later, they are still ardently pursuing their careers, surrounded by friends.

  • KJ Charles's  The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal’s ending is coy, hidden in hypothetical speculation by the narrator.  I believe in Simon and Robert’s escape from war and tragedy to a secret little Mediterranean cottage because it fits the narrative style of the book and I understand that I am reading a genre romance.

  • Kit Rocha's  Beyond Surrender’s ending is bittersweet. As the final book in a nine epic series about a rebellion, some long-running supporting characters die along the way but I felt they did so without betraying genre expectations. I was heartbroken at points, but I also believed in the community they created, so while I ugly cried at the end for those who didn’t make it, not only was there hope for a better tomorrow for Nessa and Ryder, an the O’Kanes but for all inhabitants of the Sectors.

  • Alyssa Cole’s Duke by Default: This book doesn’t come out till the end of July but it was one of the few books I managed read this month.  In this story a troubled young woman gets an HEA with a secret duke. I was so invested in Portia and Tavish that I had to skip to the end and make sure it all worked out.  I might say that I don’t need secret dukes and financial security for an HEA to succeed but Portia and Tavish’s romance totally did. Because how often is it that the black heroine get to become a duchess?  Not often enough! 


What are you HEA non-negotiable? Tell me about some of your favorite endings and why you love them!


Did you love #RomBkLove?  Join Ellie Reads, Mary Lynne, Kini, Jen and I for #readRchat each month.  

#readRchat Graphic for June 2, 2018: Reading Romance: New Choices




Day 30 #RomBkLove: Hidden Gems

Day 30 Hidden Gems #Rombklove

It sometimes feels that everyone talks about the same books and authors, yet Romancelandia is larger and more diverse than any top ten or best-seller list can capture and many wonderful books and excellent authors fail to get the notice and attention they deserve. 

This month we’ve had an opportunity to share with you some of our favorite books and authors for dozens of tropes, yet we know we’ve missed mentioning some fantastic books.   What are your Hidden Gems—both authors and books—you love but that no one else seems to talk about? What books or authors do you wish more people would discover? 

Joy, Mary LynneE_BookPushers and Ellie Reads share some of their hidden gems below:


Falling Stars Cover by Xio AxelrodThe following are just a smidge of some of my Hidden Gems, authors who I’d love for more readers to get to know. Not that they don’t have fans, but I would love to see their books being buzzed about more. They craft great stories with much heat and with diverse MCs that have given me hours of enjoyment, from contemporary, BDSM, PNRs, and more. These authors will give you so many good reads and have you glomming their backlists:

Melissa Blue aka Dakota Gray, Kaye Blue, Stephanie Burke, Bridget Midway aka Crystal Bright, Aliyah Burke, Xio Axelrod, Shara Azod, Melissa Schroeder, Latrivia S. Nelson, Minx Malone aka M. Malone, Marie Rochelle and Reana Malori.

I also count Harper Kincaid, MK Meredith, Lynda Chance, Virna DePaul, Rhyannon Byrd, Stephanie Julian, Samantha Kane as some of my Hidden Gems, for although they also bring some good romance and burning heat, their books don’t come up on lists or get great buzz. During #RomBkLove, I want to take this opportunity to do so.  

Mary Lynne:

Tell Me something good by Jamie Wesley coverOne of my fave not-buzzed-about authors is Christine Pope. She writes F/SF romance, but within that broad rubric you can find all sorts of different elements: witches, djinn, alien worlds, and more. My favorite book of hers is Breath of Life. It’s the beauty-and-the-beast trope, but the beast is an alien on a human colony planet. Seeing the farmsteading Annika get to know Sarzhin is a treat in this lovely novella.

Another “why doesn’t she get more buzz?” author for me is Jamie Wesley. Her contemporary romances are fun, honest, and moving, and I never feel like I’m reading stereotypes. Instead, I get the sense that I could meet these people tomorrow, they are so genuine. I started with Tell Me Something Good, so I’ll point that out as a great way to begin reading her books.

Becca Jameson writes so many different types of romance--shifter books, military romance, BDSM romance, ménage, MMA fight club, romantic suspense--and I’ve loved them all. I don’t know why she doesn’t have the buzz that other authors do. She’s a great Hidden Gem. Look over her books, find the type that you like, and dive on in.

There’s an old Desire title I love--Just a Little Bit Pregnant by Eileen Wilks. In soooo many romance novels featuring accidental pregnancy, there’s angst, or secret babies, or any number of somewhat far-fetched plot points. But this book starts with the heroine marching into the hero’s workplace, informing him that she’s pregnant, and giving him the paper she’s prepared with probable medical expenses (including insurance coverage estimates), support coverage suggestions, and a schedule of visitation rights. At last, a book that starts with something I might actually expect to happen! But Just a Little Bit Pregnant then builds into a lovely romance of two lonely, wounded people and the steps they take to heal one another, with a risky pregnancy as a pivotal plot point.


Central Galactic Concordance Book 1-3 box set cover.Carol van Natta writes a lovely complex space opera series, The Central Galactic Concordance, which reminds me of the Foundation Series if you added romance, changed the business language to Mandarin Chinese, included mental powers and cybernetics.  Most of the stories focus on separate couples some of whom have cameos in other installments. I love the sheer contrasts in this series between characters, settings, conflict, abilities, and yet a common thread unites them. Book 1 is Overload Flux.  

Rinda Elliott wrote two partial series which I adore.  The first series, The Kithran Regenesis, is Science Fiction Romance with male/male/female relationships.  One of the branches of humanity is very sexually open so it was fabulous to see the lack of shame or secrecy.  (TW one of the main characters in Book 4 was enslaved and suffered horribly). The second series Crux Survivors, is post apocalyptic and focuses mainly on a small group who banded together years ago and their struggles to survive and find relationships.  Really hoping Elliott will pick both of these up again.

EE Ottoman Doctor's DiscretionEllie Reads:

I’m limiting my hidden gem suggestions to just 5 authors, most of whom are in fact new-to-me authors. Some of them have just a couple of books out and I have read and loved them all, others have bigger blacklists that I still need to tackle.

Al Steward and Claire Davis, are a writing duo creating very moving, emotional m/m romances that speak to my heart. I highly recommend Dear Mona Lisa (I know how vague the blurb is but if you are interested in a romance with where older men find love and finally reach for their happiness, this is the book for you). Oskar Blows a Gasket is YA/NA m/m romance exploring complicated family relationships, forming friendships, discovering love (and sex :), finding one’s place and fighting for it. Al and Claire have a bunch of short stories/novellas out and some of them are already waiting patiently on my Kindle for me to get to them.

Dal Maclean is new author with just two books out and they are both spectacular. Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire are both romantic crime mystery/thrillers, and the second one being darker. They work as standalones and stand out with their perfectly executed mystery plots (I couldn’t figure who the killer was till the very end, they have been real page-turners for me). The romance element is a bit understated, especially in the second book, but it felt very real and moving for me and fitting to the characters. "Bitter Legacy", was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List.

Roe Horvat writes contemporary m/m romances set in Europe. His debut, The Layover, is a wonderful forced proximity romance with strong European feels which I absolutely adore. His latest romance, A Love Song for the Sad Man in the White Coat is a brilliant portrayal of a grumpy, misantropic character dealing with dysthymia (he is a psychiatrist and his self diagnose and treatment does not really go well).

EE Ottoman is a trans writer who writes trans romance and fantasy. He has a relatively extensive backlist and I have only read two of his romances and I quite enjoyed them both. The Doctor’s Discretion is a historical romance set in 19c NY. Both MCs are doctors, one is Black, the other is trans and I liked how much the story focused on kindness and basic human decency as severely lacking both in the past and sadly in the present.

My final recommendation is Rebecca Crowley whose soccer series I discovered following a recommendation on Twitter. Her Atlanta Skyline series is amazing sports romance with hidden depths and really interesting, unusual characters. I loved how she doesn’t shy away for presenting the darker side of professional sports - the injuries, the constant media scrutiny, the transition to ‘civilian’ life after years only being involved in the sport, women in professional sports. She also tackles issues of Islamophobia, gambling addiction and more while still creating complex and emotionally satisfying love stories.

Day 28 #RomBkLove: Unrequited

Day 28

Kini's back for her third and final post for RomBkLove with a list of her favorite romances where unrequited pining and longing define the story.  Why do these stories appeal to Kini? Why do they appeal to you?

Day 27 #RomBkLove: Re-Reads

Day 27 The fantastic Meka is back to tell us about why she re-reads and describing all the different kinds of re-reading she does. She also invited the #RomBkLove team to share their experiences with re-reading at the end of the post:

What do you get when you put a mood reader, a glommer, and a rereader together? Why, you get me, of course. The ability to sink in to a book series, read books based on my mood, and get stuck in a never-ending rereads session is a talent, in and of itself. I can get stuck in that cycle, but Agent Reread is on the case and ready for duty, provided I can find my way out of this 57-book small town series labyrinth. I know the risks!

Happy Reread Sunday. I hope that you have had the opportunity to visit yesterday’s prompt on new-to-me authors and have loaded up your shopping carts appropriately. Now that you have done so, let me tell you about the wonders of rereading.

Why reread a book when there are so many other books to choose from?

Rereading can be one of the most frustrating yet rewarding parts of being a voracious reader. Often, I reread books because I am a mood reader and I want a specific set of circumstances, such as a person having to navigate life due to trauma, a damsel in distress, novellas about shifters who only want a mate and a baby, some super dark (but not hero being the reason for dark) romantic suspense, a book full of humor, some epic fantasy with romantic elements, or just something to read that hits all of the buttons I want but may not be able to quantify until I’ve started the reread. Typically, I will be sitting on the bus during the commute, scrolling through the myriad of books that I have and get frustrated because I have “Nothing to read!’. I have learned over the years that it isn’t that I am out of books to read, but that I have to find something that gels with my mood brain, and sometimes the mood brain is a cruel and fickle mistress. She wants what she wants, and very often doesn’t communicate that to me until I’ve flailed and given up and decided to read something I’ve read before.

The other, and perhaps most important reason why I reread is because when the world gets a little too hard, when depression hits, or when I just need to check out for a while, my favorites are always there, ready and waiting for me to read them once again and perhaps pick up on something that I hadn’t noticed the other fifteen times I read them. You don’t know! Books are like onions and there is always another layer to uncover.

I don’t know that I can adequately convey the pure emotion that is involved in rereading. I spend all this time trying to find the next great read, particularly after a book hangover where I have read something absolutely amazing, and what do I do? I go to something familiar with towns and characters and plots that I know and have fallen in love with and I will read. Since I am a glommer, that means that I could likely spend up to two months reading a series that I’ve already devoured and you won’t see me until I’ve made it to the other side only to be swept back under again should the mood brain decide that I’m not ready to take on something new yet. It is like being hugged and tucked in beneath a treasured quilt as the smells of hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup waft through the kitchen. All is well and life is good.

Types of Rereads

There are several types of rereads and each and every one of them is valid. There is absolutely no wrong way to reread a book. Say it with me! There is absolutely *no* wrong way to reread a book.

The Stand-alone Reread

Nora Roberts the Witness  a small rocky river with lots of greens and leavesYou know it as soon as you see the title. It’s the book that you read because it got you through a difficult time. It’s the audiobook that made you fall in love with other audio books and got you interested in a specific narrator. It’s the paperback with frayed pages because you turned it so much. It’s the braille book whose dots might be a little run down because it’s been read many, many times. It’s the digital book that you keep gifting to all of your friends because it has meant so much to you. It hits every part of your brain with the feelings that you need, even if that book has high angst.

Speaking of high angst, my favorites for stand-alone rereads are Baby Love by Catherine Anderson and The Witness by Nora Roberts. Both books still have the power to make me feel as though I’ve been sucker punched with the pain of the characters, even though I know that things are going to be alright in the end.

The Series Reread

We find ourselves becoming immersed in a world of small towns, paranormals, FBI teams, westerns, Dystopian hellscapes, and the back streets of London where people are just trying to make a living and find love. We know these worlds. Reading them for the first time opens our eyes to new possibilities in world building. Reading them for the second, fifth, twentieth, and fifty-seventh time allows us to savor the build-up of new relationships and find hidden clues and setups that we never would have caught in the beginning. We know these characters. We rejoice in their happily-ever-after, we cry just as we did the first time one of our favorite side characters is killed off. We know the bad is coming and yet we’re still on pins and needles because if you are anything like me, the hurt will be followed up by exquisite comfort. These are still book hugs and it is very easy to get stuck in the rabbit hole of rereads until you’re finished. What happens when the series reread is complete? Hopefully they have anthologies and slice of life short stories in their newsletters and on their website!

Covers of three psychangeling books stacked with a man crouched front and center in the slave to sensation cover_Naturally, I have several series that I gravitate toward when it comes to rereading. It should come as no surprise that one of them is the Psy/Changeling books by Nalini Singh. When I reread, I get to see the world unfurling beautifully right before my eyes all over again. It is lovely and perfect and just what my mood reading brain desires.

Another series that I can reread quite easily is Karen Rose’s Long-running book series all about detectives, lawyers, and people in peril. It is very dark and I need to be in a pretty unhappy mood to read them, but they definitely are what I need during times of great stress.

The Author Reread

I know it’s time to reread an author when I’ve been reading a book by them and am not ready to quit. The author reread is very important because that author has established trust all across the board. You know what to expect, you know if they go off script, you will love them. You want to read their voice and maybe enjoy a little nostalgia at the same time. Sometimes when I reread an author’s massive back list, I find myself thinking that this is exactly what I want and need during this time. This is likely the most dangerous form of rereading, because you may start in on an author’s book series or stand-alone and are unable to find your way out until next year!

Nora Roberts is the ultimate author reread for me. No matter my mood, Nora’s got something for me. I know that whatever I pick up by her, I’m going to enjoy it the tenth time just as much as I did the first time. I know her voice, I know where her paranormal books are going, I know the familiarity of her romantic suspense, and I am here for all of it.

Dakrhaired woman holding a candle Seanan McGuire an Artificial Night_The Scene Rereaders

The scene rereaders are the ones who will skim through their favorite parts of the book just to get to a specific scene that resonated. I am a scene rereader.

Sometimes, my mood brain is impatient and wants to read quickly to get to the book hug moment. There is no rhyme or reason for this, but I want what I want when I want it. I want to read the breaking point for a character in an angst-filled book and then read the gentle scenes afterward. I want to experience those happy emotions that I get when there is a beautiful scene of strong female friendships written on the page. Sometimes, I just want to read some really, really good make up grovel.  This is harder for me to do now that I am not reading books on the laptop as much, but I can scene read like nobody’s business.

In Seanan Mcguire’s An Artificial Night, there is a powerful scene where friends come together to do something amazing. I know that is very vague, but I would be spoiling the book if I said more than that. This scene, for me, was full of hope that was desperately needed. When I reread it, my breath catches, my eyes fill, and I am stunned all over again by the depth of caring that is portrayed.

So what about you?

What are the books that you find yourself rereading? What rereading rabbit hole have you found yourself sliding down? Why do you enjoy rereading, and which type of rereader are you?

I want to thank Ana for allowing me to delve in to this topic and for providing all of us a space to talk about romance all over Twitter via the #RomBkLove hashtag. I can’t wait until someone says that one of the books recommended either via the blog posts for this year’s #RomBkLove or recommendations from the hashtag has given them a huge wealth of books to reread. And remember, there is *no* wrong way to reread a book!

Here are some of the RomBkLove team’s favorite rereads:

Anne Marie Winston Carolina on my Mind Silhoutte Desire  man and woman on bed embracingOne from my reread-books mountain by Mary Lynne

Every once in a while, I have to reread Carolina on my Mind by Anne Marie Winston. It’s an old Desire title and an alien-abduction romance. And not today’s “hot alien sees someone and takes them” variant that’s a staple of KU. Nope, this book was published in 1994, so it’s the aliens of Whitley Strieber’s Communion, stealing humans to experiment on them. The hero and heroine meet each other on Earth, and only slowly do they put together that they were both the subjects of past alien experimentation. There’s a romance element (of course, the aliens put them together to observe breeding practices--this was a Desire title), but there’s a strong undercurrent that addresses PTSD--just in your typical alien-abduction romance storyline. :-) One thing I love about this book is that it points out the risk-taking that occurred in the series romance business. Publishing so many books back in the day, Harlequin was perfectly willing to release the occasional oddity in a traditional line. Carolina on my Mind is a classic example of that.

Kristen Ashley Lady LuckWhy and what I reread by Kini

I hardly ever reread, I like new stories, I like the surprise of them and finding new authors. However, sometimes I need something that I know is going to work for me. A re-read is like going home. Or like when my mom makes my favorite chicken & dumplings for me. I know that even after all these years, it is going to be exactly the same. There is a great comfort in that. There are two books that I alternate for my comfort re-reads. Lady Luck by Kristen Ashley or Heaven and Hell by Kristen Ashley. Problematic as KA books may be, I love re-reading these two. I love seeing Lexi and Ty fall in love, experience the heart-wrenching beach scene and then see them coming together again. Same with Kia and Sam in Heaven & Hell. I find both to be highly emotional stories. There is also a sense of recalibration of my reading when I re-read one of them. They help remind me what I like in my stories. They also help me remember that I can read a string of meh books and know that Lexi and Ty will be there to give me a love story that I will just adore.

Shirtless man with a moon and wolf in the background  Go Fetch by Shelly LaurenstonWhy and what I reread by Joy

I am a re-reader because I love reliving great love stories and memorable characters. With a reread I know what I am getting ahead of time and that makes me happy. Nothing to worry about re: is the book going to be good, will I like the characters, will the book disappoint, there are no unknowns with a good reread. Here are some of my favorite rereads: Just Joe by Marley Morgan, At Last by Melissa Schroeder, Go Fetch by Shelly Laurenston, Branded Sanctuary by Joey W. Hill, Waiting For It by Rhyannon Byrd, The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Night Fever by Susan Kyle and Knight of A Trillion Stars by Dara Joy

HiddenLegacy trio of bookcoversWhat I reread & why by Jen

I read really fast. In fact, I read too fast, skipping details and skimming if I have that feeling that I MUST KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN. So for me, rereading allows me to settle in and enjoy the details I blew past that first time around. Recently, I did that with the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews. I just was on the edge of my seat! I had to know what was going to happen, so rereading it allowed me to be more leisurely and take in those details I missed the first time around. But I also the comfort food equivalent of rereading: skimming back through favorite scenes and sections. It’s like visiting with an old friend. (I also rewatch the same movies over and over again for the same reason.) I have a collection on my kindle called A+ favorites, and I put books there that I keep going back to, over and over again. For some reason, I do tend to reread super-high drama books! I just love to read about the angsty drama, I guess. I’ve reread Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas about a hundred times. That part where he steals her glasses. /sigh


What a Bear Wants by Nikki Winter  white shirtless man and black woman mountain in the background.What I reread & why by E_Bookpushers

I, reread, I have my entire life.  If I didn’t reread I would run out of things to read I discovered as a child when I would finish the max number of library books I was allowed to check out two days into the week.   As a result if I finish reading something and I think I will never read it again, I don’t keep it. So I am going to try to scope this just a bit. During the times when my mood is driving me,  Shelly Laurenston, G.A. Aiken, Betty Neels, and Louis L’Amour (homesick) tend to be my frequent picks. For some of my favorite ongoing series, I will either reread right before a new installment is released or I will read the new installment and immediately back and reread the series looking for the hints or clues I missed or correctly pieced together.  And then there are the ones I just love so when nothing else catches my eye or holds my attention, I know I can sink into Immortal Danger by Cynthia Eden, the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews, Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman, the Goddess With a Blade series by Lauren Dane, Laura Florand, Here There be Monsters by Meljean Brook, The Bride by Julie Garwood (and the rest of her historicals), What a Bear Wants and Beastly Desires by Nikki Winter, along with Zoe Archer’s and Nico Rosso’s SFRs to name a few.  

Covers of the Others series by Anne Bishop all featuring a darkhaired woman with red streaks in her hair.Comfort and Familiarity but sometimes for clarity by Ana Coqui

Last year I wrote a little about re-reading for #Rombklove: Most Read or Re-read post  I mostly re-read for comfort but I occasionally re-read to re-examine.   I re-read a lot last year and the year before in the run-up to the election for comfort. Everything in the news sapped my energy.  As emotionally exhausted I was needed, to read, or listen to books in series that I knew I love and would deliver.  I was able to zone in and out and not lose track of the story or miss key details.  I tend to re-read or re-listen to Kristen Ashley when I'm too emotionally stuck to try something new. Sometimes I do go back and re-read for greater depth and clarity, especially when a series has a slowly unfolding series plotline.  I've re-listened to Anne Bishop's The Others Series several times over the last few years, as I awaited the final books to come out. And I re-read all of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling books in order once the initial story wrapped up because I had read them all out of order and I wanted to experience them in the proper sequence. Re-reading is powerful self-care tool for me, however I tend to binge read (read about my blanket-forting via G.A. Aiken or TS Joyce ) more than re-read.


Day 26 #RomBkLove: New-To-Me

Day 26

Chachic loves discovering new authors and has a load to share with you about why she loves them and who here newest discoveries have been.

Day 25 #RomBkLove: Steamy Reads

Day 25

Jen is back with a post about just what makes a Steamy reads STEAMY:

It was hard to define what makes a book steamy, rather than sexy, intense, or erotic.

Do you agree with Jen's definition of Steamy?


Day 24: #Rombklove: Disability

Day 24_ Disability #RombklovePlease welcome Shantastic! @bardsong to #RomBkLove.  I've been following Shannon on twitter for a long time and I always enjoy her recommendations. When Calla Lily had to step away, Shannon offered to step in with her own list of recommendations, because as disabled (blind) romance reader, she had acquired a lot of opinion about the ways disability is used in Romance.

Hi everyone! My name is Shannon, and I'm excited to talk to you all about romances with disabled characters for #RomBkLove. This has become something of a passion of mine, because too often, disability is used as a shorthand in romance for angst. If you know that a heroine was blinded or a hero is an amputee, then you think you know all the reasons that character might be sad. And too often, authors don't delve into the topic more deeply than that. As a congenitally blind person with no usable vision, I've gotten used to seeing myself in the pages of books as a character who elicits either pity or inspiration, and it's important to me to consider disability from a more nuanced perspective. A romance with a disabled protagonist works when the disabled character has other facets to her life than her disability. Does she have other hobbies that are explicitly mentioned in the text? Does she exist for any other reason than to be pitied? If not, my follow-up question is always why not?

    Before we get to the recs, I want to point out where I'm coming from, since everyone with a disability has a different experience. I've been blind since birth, so I grew up disabled and have no other basis for comparison. I also cannot read books about blind protagonists. I keep trying; I end up wanting to argue with the author and nitpick their research, often justifiably so, which isn't a fun experience for me as a reader. So all of these recs will be for books with protagonists with disabilities I don't share. That all being said, here are my recs:

Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan  white man in gray shirt and slacks surrounded by white scribblesHeidi Cullinan has tackled disability in several of her books. My personal favorite is Love Lessons, where one of the heroes has severe allergies and asthma. I loved that he finds this irritating, because it impacts all areas of his life, but it's not treated as an obstacle to overcome. I also adored Carry the Ocean and its sequel, Shelter the Sea, which feature a hero with autism and another with severe depression. They also have disabled friends, which is something I rarely see in books, although that's certainly been my experience in real life.

Hold on Tight by Serena Bell  White couple in an embrace  white woman with blonde hair looking towards camera  dark haired man eyes closed
I really loved Serena Bell's Returning Home series, with its wounded war vets who find themselves disabled and have to figure out what that means for them. They're angsty, and the battles these heroes fight, often with themselves, are so hard won but so worth it.

Damaged Goods by Ainslie Paton  white blonde woman in profile wearing a black lace teddy

Both Owen and Cara struggle with back injuries in Ainslie Paton's Damaged Goods. Owen's been newlyinjured and is addicted to pain pills. Cara was injured as a child, so she's had years to adjust to having a disability. I loved the conflict between the two of them and enjoyed Owen's journey out of addiction.

Friend (with benefits) Zone by Laura Brown  dark hairedd white man  shirtless in a dark leather jacket looks leftRecently, I read Laura Brown's Friend (with Benefits) Zone. The author herself is hard of hearing, and so are her characters. No mention is made of this in the blurb, which is billed as a standard-issue friends-to-lovers romance. It's so refreshing to have a book treat the disabled characters like they might be able to star in any other kind of book, disabled or no. She's got a few other titles, and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

I really liked the disability as character trait, not as plot device aspect of the funny A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert  tattoed shirtless white man look down toward his six-packand sweet A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert, which features an autistic heroine. I always love small-town romances where the dark underbelly of life in an idyllic village is revealed. I love that Ruth is successful in her career and has hobbies, and I don't think I've ever read a book where online friendships were treated as just as valuable as real life ones. I keep buying Talia Hibbert books, and now I want to roll around in them.

51Ed8Tia2hLI don't read a lot of romantic suspense, but I really liked Station Alpha by Aislinn Kearns, and not just because she's fun to talk with on Twitter. Paul is in a wheelchair--another wounded vet--but he's still awesome and kick-ass, and I absolutely believed why Christine would fall for him.

For historical romance, I recommend Tessa Dare's Romancing the Duke, both because it's a rip-roaring Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare  Dark haired white woman in red ballgown in profile in front of Castlegood time and because I appreciated that Dare acknowledged that vision impairment doesn't always mean a person is totally blind. Ransome felt authentic to me, and we've already talked about how hard it is for me to read blind characters. I have to give an honorable mention as well to When a Scot Ties the Knot for its story arc involving a secondary character with short-term memory loss that could have been awful and demeaning but which was instead gentle and beautifully written.

51ZCUowVNTL._SY346_Years ago, Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie took the romance world by storm. The titular Lord Ian MacKenzie has what we'd now consider Asperger's. It's been a while since I read the book, but I remember that I really enjoyed it.

I can't step away from historicals without a shoutout to Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm, which features a sheltered Quaker paired with a mathematical genius who is recovering from a Laura Kinsale's Flower from the Storm  Tree  flowers swaying in wind in front of a distant estate housestroke. I don't always like Kinsale's heroines, but this book is the ultimate in high drama and intense emotions.

Considering how much I love paranormals, you'd think I'd be able to rec a bunch for this topic. Part of the reason I can't is that I'm personally irritated by the trope where a person with a superpower considers it a disability. I have a real disability. Believe Ruby Dixon's Fire in his Fury  humanoid dragon with orange scaly skin embraces a white blonde woman from behindme, it's not a superpower. That said, I loved Ruby Dixon's Fire in His Fury, which has a heroine with a pronounced limp. Amy is sort of a plot mcguffin early on in the series, but once she gets her own book, she gets all the agency I could ever want for her, and Rast, her dragon lover, is delicious.

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman  two women ride a dragon  one is dark skinned and the other white and blondeEven though they're not romances, I do have to give a shout-out to the delightful mangoverse books by Shira Glassman. Shulamit has major food allergies, and Aviva shows her love by providing her gluten-free meals. It's not something she makes a big deal about, and she doesn't ask for cookies, and the romance between the two women is wonderfully sweet.

What books have I missed? Please share them in the #rombklove hashtag.

Also, check out Calla Lily's excellent blog, Sense and Disability, for another disabled person's take on this topic and additional recs.

Day 23 #RomBkLove: Gateway Books

Day 23

Kat, Rudi and Gabby, The BookThingo Team have put together a podcast about the books that brought them in Romance. I hope you love listening to their stories and checking their shownotes for all the details:


Day 22 #RomBkLove: Secret Baby

Day 22

One of my favorite things about #RomBkLove is reading about why people love certain tropes, especially if those tropes are ones that I didn't understand or care for.  Kini absolutely adores Secret Baby romances and has a top-notch list of recommendations to share on her Romance Romp Podcast Website.