musing

Love in Panels Post: Looking Back -- 15 Favorites from 2005 to 2019

I put together this list for Love in Panels:

 

Sometimes the urge to do something is so strong you just have to go with it. I’ve been reading romance for close to a decade and as we close this decade I felt a great necessity to look back at the Romance novels that marked me as a reader. Although I only started reading romance seriously during 2010, I started with what my library collection had, so my first romance novels were really books that had been out for years (Balogh, Kleypas, Quinn, Garwood, Dodd, Krentz and Chase). They were an excellent crash course on romance, if Romance is only for white, cis, straight historical ladies. I don’t regret reading them, I just regret thinking they were the only things out there.

This list is not some prescriptive list of the best books in the last decade but a survey of the books I’ve read over the past decade that I can still look back at fondly and that I think still have something to say to romance readers.

This post contains affiliate links (in the book titles).

twilight2005 -- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Much maligned and mocked I still have a special place in my heart for Twilight which I read in that transitional time where I learned that I loved reading about relationships and I wanted happy endings. Full of classic PNR and gothic elements, and found family feels, I can happily admit that Twilight sucked me in and I enjoyed the journey, especially the more bananas it got.

(CW: Violence, murder)

slave-to-sensation2006 -- Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changelings #1)

This was one of the first romances I ever read. Singh’s intricate world building appealed to my SF/F reader heart. I still love the core story, that of a MC who thinks they can’t feel or that they are broken beyond helping, finding their power and community. I still love romances where the MC not only find each other but find their people and a new way to live.

(CW: Violence, murder)

the-mane-event2007 -- The Mane Event by Shelly Laurenston ( Pride #1)

I love Laurenston’s madcap adventures and feral heroines. I love her sense of the ridiculous whether she is writing as G.A. Aiken or Shelly Laurenston. Although I discovered this series as the 11th book was coming out, I immediately went back and read the rest. No one piles up more supporting characters, over top aggression and ridiculous fights into her novels than Laurenston and that is 100% an endorsement. (CW: Violence)

cry-wolf2008 -- Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (Alpha and Omega #1)

I still remember what I was doing when I listened to Anna and Charles’s first encounter. They are still one of my favorite romantic pairings, as they are so very different but they bring out the best in each other. Romances frequently put MCs through the wringer, but I love that Briggs has built Anna back up slowly and carefully, honoring the work that trauma survivors have to put in to heal while always being true to the hopefulness of their love together.

(CW: Abuse, violence, murder, Past trauma: Sexual assault, abduction, forced turning)

not-quite-a-husband2009 -- Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

This polarizing second chance romance blew my mind with its conflict and angst when I first read it and I still think about it. Thomas always challenges me with her romances, with the obstacles she places between her MCs and with the pain she deals them.

(CW: non-consensual sex)

the-forbidden-rose2010 -- The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

Marguerite, wily, flinty and fierce is one of my favorite heroines. Doyle’s respect and devotion are swoon worthy and Hawker’s acidic commentary is the best. I think of these novels as Historical Romantic Suspense, they raised my expectations of all Historical romance through their fabulous plotting, sublime characterizations and settings.

(CW: torture, incarceration, murder attempts, political oppression)

dragon-bound2011 -- Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

The most unequal of power dynamics, the alpha-iest alpha to ever alpha and a little thief who outsmarts him, when she should be the one outmatched. Harrison’s Dragos is deliciously overbearing, a dragon who only looks like a man and Pia a delight, as she waltzes into his life and truly overturns it. I loved the world, and all the different supporting characters.

(CW: dubious consent, violence).

beyond-shame2012 -- Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha

I picked up this novel expecting darkly erotic biker club energy and instead I found a series that had darkness and eroticism but so much more. The O’Kanes grow from a scrappy band of bootleggers into world-changing revolutionaries working to make the world safer for love and family. The books are supremely queer and kinky, full of loving constructive community and belonging. They hold up to multiple re-readings, as I find deeper connections each time I do a re-read.

(CW: guns, violence, attempted sexual assault, BDSM, Past trauma: repression, banishment)

[Editor's Note - Remember that Ana has a podcast dedicated to this series!]

the-lotus-palace2013 -- The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

By 2013 I was burning out on Historical Romance. I had read pretty much all I could bear about overheated ballrooms, weak ratafia and reformed rakes. I thought I was done with Historical Romance. But when I picked up The Lotus Palace, I realized there were a whole lot of historical romances to discover. My World History loving heart loved immersing itself in a new environment, with different strictures and conventions and MCs who don’t give up when things seem hopeless.

(CW: murder)

sweet-disorder2014 -- Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

If The Lotus Palace showed me how rich historical romance could be when it stopped centering White Brits, Lerner’s Sweet Disorder showed me that I could love UK historicals again, if I looked for books where the rich and perfect are not in the center. Lerner’s flawed, grumpy, fat heroine, and war-ravaged disabled hero find love and the wrong time and in the wrong person, and their love is irresistible.

(CW: Grief, Poverty, Past Trauma: War)

seditious2015 -- A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

KJ Charles is one of my favorite writers and A Seditious Affair is one of her best. This enemies to lovers story is full of layers of complication, as class, politics, loyalty, and kink mix into an explosive brew. The resolution is a jaw dropping, roller coaster and it made me so happy to read.

forbidden2016 -- Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Forbidden was the first Jenkins novel I read and it is still one of my favorites with its indomitable heroine (she is determined to carry that cookstove with her through the desert), conflicted hero (who has a huge choice to make) and its deeply researched history. I loved the tension between Rhine and Eddy and how Jenkins captures the rich and complicated stew of relationships people of color, Latino, Asian and Native American had in the West, reclaiming book by book that history from all that want to whitewash it.

wrongtoneedyou2017 -- Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Everything about Wrong to Need You worked for me. I loved Sadia, her love for her sisters, her feelings about her family expectations for her, her regrets about Paul, her love for her son and both her anger and her love for Jackson. I loved how Jackson and Sadia work out those feelings and face up to the pain of disappointing family and the power of standing with the people you love.

thirsty2018 -- Thirsty by Mia Hopkins

Starkly realistic, Hero only-POV, and super steamy, Thirsty is a lot of things I don’t usually read anymore, but Sal’s story of building a life, when everything seems orchestrated to drive him to despair and not only finding an unexpected passion and someone who convinces him that he is worthy of love was frankly astounding. Sal journey is one that inspires empathy and gives hope while not ignoring stark realities, and that is something romance does when it is at its best.

get-a-life-chloe-brown2019 -- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was so surprised by this book. It did everything I wanted a book to do this year. It was hopeful, true and is showcased a world full of intersecting identities. It is wit and fantasy just added to the trueness of core story. Of people screwing up royally while learning to reach for love and letting others truly know them and love them back.

Ten years of Romance reading and fifteen years of books that have helped me through many hard days, weeks and years. Books that celebrate love in all its many incarnations, books that let me see in to more intimate moments of other people’s lives and help me process my own. These books are worth celebrating, reading and loving. I hope you love them as much as I do.

Topics: list


Love in Panels: Ana's Best of 2019 List

I put together this list of my favorite reads of 2019 for Love in Panels.

 

 

I’ve read so many wonderful books this year it actually hurts to pare down the list to a Top 5, so I had to cheat a little bit and create sub-genre specific Top 5 (and occasionally Top 10) lists to figure out what should be in my Top 5 list of the year so I am going to sneak in mentions of all the others books I loved in here too.

  1. The Bride Testby Helen Hoang (Favorite Contemporary Romance of 2019).
  2. Hither, Page, by Cat Sebastian (Favorite Historical Romance of 2019).
  3. Aurora Blazing, by Jessie Mihalik. (Favorite SF/F romance and UF of 2019).
  4. Sapphire Flames, by Ilona Andrews (Favorite PNR romance of 2019)
  5. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, by Alyssa Cole (Favorite novella of 2019)

the-bride-testSo many people fell in love with Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient last year, but it is The Bride Test that won me over and has me adding Hoang to my auto-buy list. In The Bride Test Hoang centers a young Vietnamese single mother, Esme, who agrees to pretend to be the fiancée of Vietnamese-American at the behest of his match-making mother in order to be able to come to the United States. Khai, who is Autistic doesn’t want a bride, let alone a stranger in his house but agrees in order to keep peace with his mother. Their fake engagement/forced proximity romance doesn’t go as Khai’s mother planned but they are able to bridge cultural and emotional misunderstandings to learn and appreciate each other’s needs and wants and craft a beautiful HEA that is uniquely theirs. (Own voices Autistic Vietnamese American rep, CW: ableism, depression)

american-fairytaleI could have put together a list of my Top 10 contemporary romances of the year and still had to leave fantastic books off the list because I also adored Lucy Parker’s The Austen Playbook with its Hufflepuff/Slytherin romance, all three of Adriana Herrera’s American Dreamer series but especially American Fairy Tale, Melissa Blue’s Grumpy Jake for breaking me out of slump with its fantastic banter, Olivia Dade’s Teach Me, blessing us all with the best of teacher rep, Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe for tackling CTE and MeToo with such finesse, Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Xeni for its blend of grief and joy so beautiful and the softness of Scottish bagpipe-playing hero, and finally Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life Chloe Brown, with its fantastic blend of humor and realism.

It was truly a fantastic year of contemporary romance.

hither-pageHither, Page is an engrossing and compelling historical romantic mystery full of queer found family and meddling elderly lesbians set in a quiet post-WWII English village where nothing is at it appears. The leads, James Sommers, a doctor and Leo Page a secret agent, are trying to reintegrate into civilian life despite the ways the war has changed them and the world when their paths unexpectedly cross. I wish I had a dozen Page and Sommers mystery novels to read--cozy, funny and warm. (CW: Murder, PTSD, past trauma: abuse, abandonment).

the-ladys-guide-to-celestial-mechanicsThere could not have been no better year for my oldest to ask me for angsty romances with queer ladies. I loaded their reading app with fabulous books by KJ Charles, Cat Sebastian, Olivia Waite and Courtney Milan: Proper EnglishGilded CageA Little Light MischiefA Duke in DisguiseThe Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics and Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure.

It has been a joy to get their texted updates whenever they encounter a particularly awesome line or swoon at a HEA.

aurora-blazingI didn’t know I needed romances with dangerous space princesses running away across the galaxy till I read Jessie Mihalik’s first two books in The Consortium Rebellion series. While I really enjoyed Polaris Rising, Bianca in Aurora Blazing won my heart. She is fierce, protective and so determined despite the way her abusive late husband’s modifications pain her. I love how she and Ian find creative solutions to the obstacles facing them and the way the siblings are 100% for each other despite their father’s machinations. If you are looking for big ships, big explosions and super sexual tension you need to read this series. (CW: domestic abuse, torture, war, guns, past trauma: non consensual medical procedures)

archangels-warI caught up on a lot of great UF series via audiobook this year. I listened to all of Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters series just in time to catch up and read Archangel’s War, which was both a conclusion to a long running storyline and a fantastic teaser for more.

I caught up on Rebecca Roanhorse’ fabulous UF series, The Sixth World, set in a post-apocalyptic New Mexico, where the magic of Navajo gods has risen once again. Storm of Locusts moved forward a complicated romance while expanding the world in super intriguing ways.

I also immersed myself in Rachel Aaron’s DFZ’s series, on my sister’s urging. A stand-alone-ish spin-off from Aaron’s Heartstriker series, Minimum Wage Magic, and the most recent Part-Time Gods, are surprising, fascinating and super fun. I loved seeing Opal facing off against her father, discovering her magic and negotiating how to survive in the hyper-capitalistic Detroit Free Zone, while keeping her principles and sense of right and wrong. I am also loving the romantic elements and can’t wait to see where Opal and Nick end up.

cover of paranormal romance Sapphire FlamesThe first three Hidden Legacy novels are one my favorite comfort listens. Whenever I am not ready to start a new series or feel a little burnt out, I just start listening to Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) once again, so to say I was highly anticipating Sapphire Flames is putting it mildly. Thankfully I loved it. I loved how the Andrews have shifted focus and given us a new perspective on the Baylor clan by centering Catalina and Alessandro for this trilogy--a new sibling and romantic relationship dynamic to explore while building on the established history of the series. I love the push-pull tension between Alessandro and Catalina, and the promise of all the secrets they have yet to discover in each other. I can’t wait till next year’s book! (CW: Suicide Attempt, Murder, Violence, guns)

in-a-badger-wayMy heart belongs to PNR, so this was one of the toughest categories to sort through, since there were both fantastic continuations to some of my favorite long-running PNR series by favorite PNR authors, such as Nalini Singh’s suspenseful Wolf Rain (Psy-Changelings Trinity #3) and Shelly Laurenston raucous In a Badger Way (Honey Badger Chronicles #2), along with new favorite, Charlie Adhara’s tense Thrown to the Wolves (Big Bad Wolf #3) along with an enchanting and promising debut in as Allie Therin’s Spellbound (Magic in Manhattan #1).

once-ghosted-twice-shyI started 2019 by reading Alyssa Cole’s Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals series) and at the end of the year it still stands as my favorite novella of 2019. I loved how Cole unraveled Fab and Likotsi's story through alternating flashback chapters. I usually struggle with this narrative device because too often authors use it to develop tension and angst between lovers, while I thought Cole used it effectively to clarify and give context to their complications to their relationship and show why they would be open to each other after how things ended. (CW: incarceration)

carolinesheartI read a lot of great novellas this year, but most of them were backlist books, such as Austin Chant’s wonderfully complex and emotional, Caroline’s Heart and EE Ottoman’s swoony enemies to lovers romance, A Matter of Disagreement. I also read through all of Kit Rocha’s Patreon perk shorts and vignettes but High Priestess, stands out as my favorite. In a short little story, Rocha peels back the layers on Del, a fascinating and powerful secondary character in the Gideon’s Riders series while giving closure to a long-running storyline in the Beyond World.

I also loved and previously mentioned A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian, a playful cross-class f/f romance the delivers the sexiest of revenge plots.

For me 2019 has been a fantastic year for reading and I have so many other sure to be amazing books still on my TBR to try to finish. I can only hope your year in reading was fun and remarkable as mine.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading! May 2020 bless you with many new-to-you authors to discover and the comfort of new books by old favorites.

 


GUEST POST: Thank You Beverly Jenkins By Funmi Baker

Thank You Beverly Jenkins

By Funmi Baker

@when_funmi_met_romance

4D61FFA4-3A38-4655-B302-B41C7C54A561The Lust & Found blog (@lustfoundreads) has done a wonderful thing. She created #JenkinsJuly. A wonderful month to celebrate a living legend in the genre of romance, Beverly Jenkins. She is my favorite author in the entire world. All month, I’ve been mulling over what to say about her works, or how to say it. One thing is for sure, I couldn't let #JenkinsJuly go by without adding my two cents.

 

I grew up wonderfully black. I lived in a black neighborhood. I went to black schools. I had a mother who could drown out my whining perfectly when she had a Sepia, Arabesque, Dafina, or BET book in her hand. She surrounded me with illustrated books of girls who looked like me. I went to Juneteenth celebrations. It was easy to be black. I never understood exactly how hard she was working to make me understand that my blackness is a positive thing. In many ways, I was sheltered. A black life was the de facto for me.  

 

I, like my mother, am a voracious romance reader. Living a one minute walk from the library, it was my key to worlds unknown. I became particularly enamored with historicals. In high school, I entered a world of dukes, barons, and earls. They were all very good but all very white. I never read into it because I was young. Black was normal. Black was everywhere in my life. I was simply reading for the joy of reading. Before I knew it, I had read hundreds of historical books about white people. I was in every history class at my high school answering all the white-washed questions. There was no AP history test I couldn’t pass. Now, my mom had noticed that my reading was white and my history knowledge was fairly white. She tried steering me toward the things she had been surrounding me with since I was a kid. However, I was a high schooler. I knew it all. She was a single mom with four kids and two jobs. She didn’t have much time to really sit down with me.  

 

So speed forward. I’m 18. I’m at Purdue University. For the first time in my life, I felt the weight of my skin. Now, I’m the only fly in the buttermilk. I’m the only black person in my major in years. I’m the only black person in my friend group. I’m the only black person in my classes. I’m isolated. I stopped reading altogether. I spent five years fighting to be seen as a person as I pursued higher education.    

 

When I graduated, I decided I wanted to live the blackest, BLACKEST life I could. I wanted to be unapologetic. I wanted the luster to return. So I returned to my favorite thing in the world--reading. This time, I wanted to see myself. I wanted to see brown happily ever afters. Kinky happily ever afters. Full-lipped happily ever afters. This is how I found Beverly Jenkins.  

 

637D76F4-F2C6-4AB5-B4C2-349EAAB1E096I ordered her book, BREATHLESS. I remember when the Amazon package came--I just stared at the cover. I was thinking, “Where have you been all my life?” I devoured that book. With my first adult paycheck, I ordered EVERY single historical title of hers. With the help of my mom, I consumed at a voracious rate every single Beverly Jenkins historical. I felt my soul warming with each word. The excitement, the sighs, the tension. I had never been more engrossed in my life.  The power of representation--of reading your culture’s love stories--is unparalleled.  

 

Not only was I reading some swoon-worthy things, I was learning. Before you know it, I’m checking out the books from her bibliography. I’m reading books on black women in the west and wealthy black business owners in Louisiana. I had no idea cowboys were not white. As I learn the history of my people, I find that I’m also learning about myself. When I look at black people, we aren’t just made of struggle and suffering. We are the product of love. We are the product of fighting. We are the product of WINNING.

 

Reading Beverly Jenkins books as an adult, I now understand what my mom was fighting to do. You have to understand your history, the good and the bad. Black people are amazing. Black women are awe-inspiring. There is not one Beverly Jenkins title that lets you forget that. We’ve been falling in love, fighting for our rights, and saving the day since the beginning of time.  

 

Thank you so much Beverly Jenkins. Thank you for restoring some color into a lost black woman’s life. Thank you for inspiring a journey of black knowledge that won't stop until I’m six feet under. Thank you for always showing Black Love.


What can I do?

In the wake of the #ritassowhite  and the growing awareness of how black authors are systematically discriminated against in the romance community, there has been a lot conversations about what we can do as readers and reviewers.  For all the attention we pay to the Ritas each year most readers, bloggers and reviewers are not and will never be RWA members. I am librarian member, which is a limited membership, that doesn't give me access to the forums or allow me to vote.  But the pronounced discrimination against Black and Indigenous writers at RWA and prejudice and exclusion of Authors of Color more generally is an industry wide problem.  As a reader, blogger, and reviewer I am part of that industry. I might be unpaid but I know that I am part of the industry, thus part of the problem.

You might be asking yourself, "What can I do?"

 

Track Your Reading:

Inspired by others, last year I started keeping a reading log, so I could get a better idea of how inclusive my reading really was. It is very easy to think one is reading inclusively because the white/straight default is so strong and nothing like hard numbers and charts to make you aware of how far there is to go.  This is the first thing I would recommend to readers who wants to do more.  You can't recognize patterns until you look at your data.  I would suggest you start simply. Just a spreadsheet with the books your read and a couple of categories you will want to track. My spreadsheet this year is more granular, but I didn't really know what I really cared to learn till I looked at the first round of data.

Evaluate Who You Follow:

When I first came into Romance I mostly followed white reviewers and authors. They were the biggest names, the most visible and the most retweeted. They had their books in the library and on the RITA lists.  And as a result almost everything I read was written by white authors.

Really look at who you follow, it matters. Do you have black bloggers on your follow lists?  Do you read the reviews of Black, Asian, Latinx  & LGBTQIA+ readers?  Do you follow their Instas? If you are not, it isn't because they aren't out there on their platforms. Their work is invisible to you because you haven't looked for them.   Once you find someone who is giving good inclusive recs, look at who they follow. We all influence each other. 

The big publishers have advertising and promo budgets, and access to us through their newsletter databases.  We've all seen how certain books are seemingly are everywhere, that isn't simply organic, that is marketing. If you are already an established author, that ARC is an easier sell to readers and reviewers, more likely to be coveted and talked about, more likely that folks with big platforms were approached and offered the book. Privilege builds on privilege.

 

Read Someone New:

We all have favorite authors, authors who are auto-buys, authors whose books we drop everything else to read. Our TBRs get crowded, and maybe you are mood reader, and prone to re-read binges. We can very easily let our reading be dictated by others. We want to be part of the conversation, read that hot book everyone else is reading. But I urge you to try a book a black author whose work you have never read before.  Make room for them on your reading shelf in between your favorites.

If you have a favorite-can't-miss tropes, you can search WoCinRomance's database for ideas, look at Girl, Have you Read's weekly new release list, or maybe try one of those three 2019 POC Rita finalists (Courtney Milan's organizing a virtual bookclub to do this: Romance Sparks Joy). If you are reviewer, sign up for Love in Panels/BawdyBookworms/Jenreadsromance's Diverse Romances Press List and get a monthly list of new and upcoming books by AOC and LGBTQIA+ authors.  Also if you didn't look at them in the past take a look at the #Rombklove prompt posts, as we tried to create diverse and inclusive lists for our prompts.

Reading and then talking about you read, leaving reviews is time-tested  and effective way to support authors.  Hopefully you will like me turn those New-to-Me authors into your new Auto-buy authors.

Recommend books by AOC to your Library:

 

Melinda's tweet reminded me of another simple action readers can take.  If you library uses the Overdrive ebook system or collects patron recommendations, take the time to suggest your library purchase books by authors of color.  Many people rely solely on their library collections and the diversity of collections varies widely. 


#RomBkLove August: Week 3: Independence

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#RomBkLove August: Week 3: Independence. What does Independence mean in Romance? Which characters seek it?  Who gets it? Who sacrifices it? Who makes sacrifices for it?

Romance at its core tends to be about Interdependence, about finding someone with whom to share life's challenges.  When Independence shows up as theme it is often in novels where the protagonist have a strong need to find their own path, often fighting to live their lives according to their own values and desires and often having to leave family and community behind in order to live a different kind of life, one of their own choosing.  

In Sweet Disorder  by Rose Lerner, political patrons are courting Phoebe for her vote and she is trying to secure the best deal for herself and her sister after her husband's death but it is in Nicholas's arc that we see a focus of independence.  Nicholas is a wounded war vet and writer whose over-bearing family is determined to override all his choices.  In the end, Phoebe and Nicholas's HEA hinges on both their willingness to make sacrifices to become independent financial and emotionally. 

In A Gentleman's Position by KJ Charles  For Richard and David to have their  HEA  they need to seek a different kind of independence.   In the previous books in the series both Richard and David had made themselves indispensable to their groups of friends, but that left little room for each other. In the end for their relationship to have to room to grow Richard needs to step away from the role he had given himself as the central cog in their friend's lives and Richard needs to trust that David's own judgement about his wants and desires.

n Lisa Kleypas's most recent novel, Devil in Spring, Lady Pandora is determined not to give up her independence and personal autonomy.  Being forced into a marriage even one that has the potential of great love and affection is the worst disaster that can befall her.  Throughout the novel Gabriel and Pandora must try to figure out how they can restore Pandora's independence. The book loses it way in the last third, but I had loved the heroine throughout the story and I feel in the end that they will be able to craft a marriage where she can do the things she wants, when she wants to and still have the benefits of loving partner. 

What novels and stories come to mind when you think of Independence? 


#RomBkLove August: Week 2: Adventure

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Who writes the best adventure romances? What are your favorites?

I really enjoy adventure romances. I tend to find them by reading Romantic suspense, SFR  or fantasy romance. I love how adventure plots often throw characters who would usually avoid each other in to close proximity. Force to work together for the greater good has a way of ramping up the hormones!

Here are some of my favorites: 

The whole Iron Seas Series by  Meljean Brook is high on adventure, how can it not when some of the main characters are air pirates fighting nanonite infected zombies? I love all these books but the Kraken King serial by Meljean Brook was fantastic. Giant sand monster, leaps for plummeting airships, who wouldn't want to read this!

Gunpowder Chronicles by Jeannie Lin. Most of this series is currently unavailable but I hope Lin republishes them soon. She did such fantastic worldbuilding in Gunpowder Alchemy, and adventure and tension in each story was phenomenal.

Kearsley's writing is most often described as lyrical and her novels as atmospheric but they are also full of adventure.  Her heroines are often pulled into stories and out of their own time, literally or figuratively. In the  The Rose Garden a grieving young woman visits a Cornish estate where she spent most of her childhood summers. As she wanders about the estate she keeps wandering back into time, where she meets and falls in love with man from the past whose rebellious activities might doom him to the gallows, but not if she can help it.

Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole After worldwide event has disabled the power grid and chaos ensues Arden and her best friend John, hike out Rochester to wait for help at his family's well-stocked cabin.  There Arden and Gabe, John's brother drive each other crazy and slowly fall in love as they try to figure out what happened to John and Gabe's missing parents.

Jill Sorenson is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. Her Aftershock series is as much Adventure romance at it is Romantic Suspense. Two of my favorites are Island Peril and Backwoods. Both the books have a lot of action and fantastic heroines. If you haven't tried her books, do yourself a favor and check them out.

What books do you turn to for high-stakes action and adventure romance?

 

 

 


#RomBkLove August: Week 1: Summer Reading

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 This week I would love to hear from everyone if they read more or less in the summer, what they read (and if it is different than what they reading the rest of the year).  What books do you most associate with summer or holiday reading? What makes something a beach read? What are you favorite summer romances?

I am a teacher-librarian so while I read voraciously all-year round, I do have more time in the summer for reading and writing. I don't really change my reading for the summer. Other than having way more time, which results in more binge reads.  

So far this summer I've started making a dent in my ARC TBR, including a couple like Not Another Rock Star by Amber Belldene and  Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai, whose release dates I missed.  Rai's Hate to Want You is a good example of a book that is a perfect summer read for me. While some might want to read light fluffy stuff, I am better able to deal with emotionally intense books in the summer. I had to put down HTWY when I first picked it up in May because it was too overwhelmed with life and work (I was juggling work deadlines and the first incarnation for #RomBkLove) to read it with abandon. That wasn't a problem at all when picked it up last week and I read it in less than a day and I was as baffled as my friend Jessica was when she asked me how I had ever put it down.

As a reviewer I am also starting to receive a lot of the Fall and Winter releases. I actually have a Christmas anthology already in my queue, but I am not really ready to start reading it. I usually end up some diving into some of the RITA awards winners that I missed the first time around. However what I am currently reading is Ilona Andrew's Innkeeper Chronicles, which are set in an inn in Texas that serves intergalactic travelers.

So what have you been reading this summer?

I will be looking for your answers on #RomBkLove  and I would love it if you'd join us on Saturday Aug 5th at 4pm EST for the #readRchat about Summer Reading.

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Sexy #RomBkLove Day 1: Sex in Romance

 

Short answer: Yes

When I first started blogging about Romance I wrote out a whole explanation on why I read and reviewed Romance.  One of the issues I addressed in it was the sex because that is often the first thing so many people bring up to me either out of concern (isn't it porn?) or to ridicule (smut..hrr..hrr) when they learn I read romance novels.

What about all the sex?

What about it? Yep, I am a Christian, pastor’s wife even, and I have sex. Do you have sex in your relationships? Why then should it be absent from books focused on love relationships? Sure some of it can be quite smutty, some of it can be boring (tab A into slot b) but when it is done right, it powerfully exposes characters to the reader and I enjoy reading about it. Need, desire, vulnerability & acceptance are real human emotions, and should be part of sexual encounters and a skilled author will writes sex scenes with all of these. In the romance novels I enjoy the sex scenes that are revelatory not merely titillating and the author is not scared to portray sex honestly, allowing characters to engage in good, bad, okay, empty or meaningful sex. And finally, it can be educational. No other genre places such a focus on female desire and female sexual satisfaction and I really appreciate that. I grew up with little conversation on sexual topics beyond encouragement to be sexually pure and the vague promises of happy married sex if I held out that long. When I read Romance fiction I find the variety of portrayals of sexual desire and arousal to be life-affirming. It might not always be my thing, my kink, but it is a human expression of love and my own life is fuller for reading about it.

   I am really glad Jennifer decided to open with this prompt for this version of #RomBkLove.  For me there isn't one answer for too much or too little, open door or closed door, except that the sex needs to serve the story and the voice of the author or it quickly becomes boring or laughable.  If I find myself skimming through sex scenes, it probably means that the sex is interrupting the pacing of the story. And as many other people have mentioned in the thread today, it needs to carry the emotional through-line of the romance.


#RomBkLove Week 4: Journey

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#RomBkLove Week 4: Journey. Traveling can make or break a relationship. What are the most memorable character journeys you have read? What are your favorite road-trip/travel romances?

Summer Vacation begins this week for me.  Growing up almost all our vacations were road-trips of some sort or another. We would fly up to NYC, rent a car and sight-seeing up and down the East Coast.  These vacation adventures became fodder for family inside-jokes, which we still love to retell to each other, from the endless evening spent looking for an affordable hotel in Montreal to how we lost our dad's new hat somewhere between Boston and Niagara Falls and he was so mad he didn't talk to us for the rest of the day.  Traveling together can make or break a relationship.  That particular trip was the first one where we kids noticed that my parents marriage was falling apart. It was second-to-last family vacation and their last as a married couple.  But in Romance trips often throw couples together.

I love road-trip/travel romances so much that I keep a shelf of them Goodreads.

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Two of my favorites are  Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose and Laura Kinsale's The Prince of Midnight.  In both these tales, danger stalk the couples as they get to know each other, and slowly see behind each other's masks while on the road together.

 

What are your favorites?

 

 

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Next Month:

Daily #RomBkLove returns!  Jennifer Porter (@JenniferRNN) will be hosting a sexy version of #RomBkLove tackling the tropes and conventions of erotic romance.  I'll retweet the prompt graphic when she is ready to launch it.   I won't be posting weekly prompts while Sexy #RomBkLove is going on, but I'll be back with more Weekly prompts in Aug.

Also on July 1st, I'll be co-hosting #readRchat's mid-year conversation on the Best Books of 2017.  Drop in to share which books you have loved so far this year. 

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