Is your TBR bursting after May's #RomBkLove? I heard it over and over last month, people blowing their books budgets on recs from the tag. What did you choose to read and why? Was it a genre or author you never tried before? What did you think? What goes into your reading choices you make? How do you choose what to read next?
As a reader I dread finishing a book if I don't know already what I am planning on reading next. But I can't live by schedules or lists, at least not for all my reading. As a reviewer, I always have some idea of what I should read next, or what I have to read if I'm going to meet a deadline. But I am also a very moody reader, and if I try to read a book at the wrong time, I might end up dnfing a perfectly good book.
Right now I am alternating between some review, beta and contest books I have committed to read and re-reads for comfort. I also have a large TBR on Audible but I have been having a hard time finding something that fits my mood. But recs on #RomBkLove for Kinsale, Garwood, Grant, Kleypas, and Quick have reminded me that I have been stockpiling some well recommended titles by these author and I should try them. How about you?
For weekly #RomBkLove I will post a topic each week. Hopefully they will be big enough topics to sustain conversation for a week. I'll try to reframe the topic through out the week with follow ups, but mostly I will trust you all to carry the conversation where you want it to go.
The topics for the rest of the month are Choice, Discovery, Change and Journey:
and I am coordinating with Ellie and Ava of #readRchat to host chats connected to the #RomBkLove topics. The first chat will be June 17th at 4pm EST (10pm CET).
In July, Jennifer Porter of Romance Novel News is organizing a sexier more OTT version of #RomBkLove, look for more info by the end of the month.
A little over 6 weeks ago, I had a thought, just a germ of an idea, and I threw it out there on twitter and got tons encouragement and some really great prompt suggestions. My goal was simple: more romance conversation. And that goal was met beyond my expectations.
I have been blown away by all the responses. It has been an absolute joy to open up my notifications and the tag each day and hear from so many different people sharing passionate opinions, numerous book recs and so many amazing memories and stories about their reading life.
As a reader of romance, I love finding new readers and authors to follow. My TBR has grown exponentially larger and my reading community has expanded. That wouldn't have happened without all of you. When I searched the tag late yesterday, there were over 6200 posts tagged #RomBkLove this past month. That is amazing to me, especially when I think of all the spin-off response tweets that were not tagged!
So what is next? I would love to hear your ideas on how to keep the conversation going. In the short-term I am going to go back to my semi-regular reviewing schedule, as I have a month worth of review books to catch up on, but I don't want the romance conversations to end. I can't sustain daily prompts but I can post a weekly one, and I would love to continue to collect prompt suggestions but most of all I want to hear your ideas.
Melissa Blue is not wrong. I came to romance when my family was going through a rough time and I just couldn't read one more dark dystopian fantasy. The security of the HEA, lets me ride out dark or angst-heavy conflicts and to take risks with settings and premises because I can trust the author will not leave me in despair, but always work the couples back from the brink.
However all HEAs are not created equal. Some are rushed, others too pat. For me the HEAs have to be earned on the page, rather than magically resolved pages from the end. Character growth and true repentance for bad actions and choices, needs to happen on the page in order for the restoration or establishment of relationships to be believable. However I don't need babylogues or extensive epilogues. I am comfortable with HFNs, especially when relationships are new or couples are very young.
My husband and I are approaching our 19th anniversary in less than a month. We married young, and have now outlasted our parents marriages by more than half a decade. We have had to figure out this HEA business on our own and our marriage has evolved as we have grow up, finished educations, changed careers and raise our family. So for me a HEAs doesn't mean the lovers will never again struggle, and that things will always work out how they want, just that they are committed to facing those struggles and setbacks together.
#RomBkLove Day 30: Old School/Classics Which romances stand the test of time? What elements do you miss?
I came to romance within the last 6 years. I haven't read a lot of Old School romances and I am honestly a bit fuzzy about what qualifies. I think most of the older romances I have read, date from the period immediately after so I am curious to hear how others define old-school and what eras they are referring to when they use the term? Because there are some older romances that I am just scared to try.
A few years back I sent in HABO for honest-to-goodness bodice ripper I read one rainy holiday weekend when I was around 12. The awesome folks at Smart Bitches found it for me, but I honestly couldn't get past the summaries, to try reading it again. It was one of those rapey sagas with hero that actually lashed the heroine so badly he left her back terribly scarred.
So what do you mean by Old School Romance? Any I absolutely have to try?
#RomBkLove Day 29: Friendships. Bro-mances, Best Buds, Girlfriends, galpals, what are the best friendships in romance?
Friendship is super important to me as reader. I love romances where the protagonists have close friends, people who love and care for them and in many cases act as family. I actually keep a GR list for books that feature "great friend group" versus packs of frenemies or sexual rivals. I have lived far from my family for most of my life, so friends have stepped in to fill that void, and acted as surrogate grandparents to our children, and essential part of our lives in every way. While I love my spouse, I still need my friends and he needs his. We value and respect that.
One of my favorite things in Anne Bishop's The Other Series is Meg's human pack, the women who grew from strangers into her family, and Meg's unique friendships with Erebus Sanguanati & The girls at the Lake. She and Simon might have a special deeper friendship, but Meg needs all these people in her life.
One of my favorite things in Beverly Jenkins' Forbidden were the friends Rhine and Eddy both had. Their friends challenged, encouraged and embraced them when they had hard choices to make.
Ruby Lang's Practice Perfect series has great friendships too. Her three heroines are all doctors and work together. They give each other crap, and known when something is going wrong. The might snip at each other but it is out of love. Olivia Dade's Lovestruck Librarians also features strong friendships if zany friendships. Whether they are watching amateur hockey games together or forging dating profiles, these friends have each other's best interests at heart.
How essential are platonic relationships for you in Romance novels?
#RomBkLove Day 28: Novellas and Short Stories Short & Sexy? Which novellas deliver the HEAs?
In the last two years I have read three fantastic romance anthologies. I adored The Brightest Day and Daughters of a Nation anthologies by Kianna, Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart & Piper Huguley. Their stories were all set at different points in American history, and they are fantastic. Their stories packed their punches, tackling history, social issues and crafting beautiful HEA's. I don't think these collections are still available digitally but all the novellas have been republished as stand-alones.
The third anthology that I adored was Gambled Away with included stories by Rose Lerner, Jeannie Lin, Isabelle Cooper, Molly O'Keefe and Joanna Bourne. This was collection of historical romances, all tied together by a gambling theme. The stories were great showcases of their writing talent. Each and everyone of them is worth tracking down.
#RomBkLove Day 27: Romance Icons Their names are synonymous with romance. Who are they? Where do you even start?
Growing up if I associated romance with anyone person, it was probably Barbara Cartland. Her all-pink ensembles, manor house and British accent where often featured on TV shows I watched as a kid. But when I actually started reading romance two names more than any other kept coming up. Nora Roberts and Georgette Heyer. I would then look at their immense backlists and despair. Where does one start? Chronologically? With something on sale? A trusted rec?
In the end for both of them I ended up starting with a book that came with both recommendations and a low price point. I bought a copy of the McKade brothers trilogy on sale, on the recommendation of several Nora fans. I started Heyer with Venetia, for the same reasons. Reading them has given me a better appreciation of the romance genre. I understand references to their work that previously passed me by.
What writers do you consider romance institutions? Are there any you are scared to try?
#RomBkLove Day 26: PNR, SFR, UF & Fantasy Magic, shifters & spaceships? Beyond the imaginative settings, what makes it special?
Magic, spaceships, shifters, I read them all. I love action, imaginative settings and I have a high tolerance for worldbuilding. In some ways I am more comfortable reading about kissing on the bridge of a spaceship than in corporate office. I came to Romance through PNR and UF and before I read romance I read SFR, UF and Fantasy for the romantic storylines. These stories, whether it is the X-men or Tolkien, superheroes or mystical elves, helped me reflect about about our own world and many universal questions about humanity.
PNR is really a huge genre, everything from mermaids to vampires and witches, and every mystical, supernatural creature in between. Personally I adore romances with Shifters. My favorite PNR is Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. Her worldbuilding is imaginative and even though I sometimes have issue with some of the dynamics of her world (where are the LGBTIA people?? ), I am in too deep, I am deeply invested in the pack and family saga and the fascinating by the political suspense.
My favorite UF Series is probably Patricia Briggs Alpha and Omega series (a spin-off of her Mercy Thompson series). It feature two wereworlves, Anna, a newly made wolf, who is neither a dominant or submissive wolf but something else. Anna had been forcibly turned and abused by her pack, and Charles, the chief enforcer for the supreme leader of the North American wolves, has been sent to investigate her pack and put things right. Their romance is gentle and sweet and it grows with each book as they learn about each other and how to make each other stronger. The stories have a lot suspense and political intrigue.
I am currently reading a ton of SFR via KU, Ice Planet Barbarians. I was so skeptical (sex-toy like sex organs, aphrodisiac-pumping parasites), but the subtly expanding worldbuilding and family survival sagas aspect sneak attacked me into reading a dozen books about super-tall, blue, betailed aliens living in Hoth.
But my SFR heart belongs to Kit Rocha's amazing Beyond series. What started out as story about a diverse free-loving gang of bootleggers, carving out their own kind of happiness in the shadow of repressive city, grew into a sophisticated political saga, that grapples with the costs of war and moving beyond hedonism to building community, where family and belonging is not simply defined by blood relationships.
My favorite fantasy romance authors are probably Grace Draven whose Entreat Me (a retelling of Beauty and the Beast), is emotional and rich in characterization.
#RomBkLove Day 25: Series & Sagas: Comfort, Continuity, Connection? What is the appeal of long-running series?
Two of my very favorite series are actually PNR and SFR so I am going to save them for tomorrow's post (Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling Series and Kit Rocha's Beyond Books).
In the past year I have re-read or binge read a ton of series. The shared world-building whether in PNR/SFR, Historical or Contemporaries, provide comfort and continuity to me. When I am so exhausted by the constant adversarial change in the world, going back to a familiar & welcoming place in my books is emotionally restful. After an initial investment, in learning the world-building of particular series, I can sink into it deeper and deeper with each book. The only thing I don't love about series is that when they get better and better and I can't in good conscience tell someone to skip ahead because they would miss the gradual buildup of the story and not have as much meaningful pay-off.
Stephanie Laurens and Julia Quinn's big series (Cynsters and Bridgetons) are not those kinds of series however. Their series share characters and setting but the books essentially stand-alone. What they share strongly is tone. These two series were integral to my romance education. They both have things that I have sought again and again in romance: a great sense of the ridiculous and scene-stealing secondary characters.
In contemporary romance, the first series where I really became invested was Shannon Stacey's Kowalski Family books. Centered around a extended family in small-town NH. The family feels really genuine, the family is struggling and chafing because of big and small resentments, and unvoiced feelings. As the series progresses, many of these issues get resolved without them sinking into plasticky perfection. The romances are fun and sexy without being wacky, sweet without being saccharine. I just want to hug these Kowalskis and stay at their inn.
Although I initially resisted, I fell deep into Kristen Ashley's sprawling and lightly interconnected series. While I read all the Rock Chick, The 'Burg and the new Magdalene series books, my heart is firmly in her Colorado Mountain books. Set in two small Colorado towns, Gnaw Bone and Carnal, these books have strong action & suspense plots, sprawling casts, and colorful secondary characters. I cared about Sunny and Shambles and Jim Billy and Nadine just as much as I cared about Tate and Lauren. These books are cracky and have many things about them that drive me absolutely crazy (house-design porn and macho-insanity) but I fell for the friendships and the action. I can't re-read one, without re-reading the rest.
What series do you return to? Why read series and sagas?
Right now my twitter feed is full of people saying goodbye and thank yous to everyone they have met this week and I can't help but want to favorite every post. I had wonderful friendships and connections with people before I came here but the time at RWA affirmed and deepened them.
RWA was exhausting, exhilarating and thought-provoking. Again and again I am struck with how accessible everyone is at this conference. I rode the elevator with some of my favorite authors, shared drinks with others at the bar. I had the fun of seeing authors be unapologetic fans of each other.
I loved that everyone wants to know what was the last book you loved.
I had the chance to smile and share with people just starting out writing Romance and people with 30+ plus years and dozens if not hundreds of novels to their name (or names) and every one of these people were impressive to me.
They are navigating a very tumultuous and ever-changing market.
They are trying to figure out how to hone their craft, how to best market their stories and how to cope with the pressures and stress of it all.
They do it because they love these stories. They love to read
& write them and they want to share them.
I was struck by the incredible variety within Romance. All the little nooks and niches people write in and for. I only had a chance to attend a fraction of the panels offered and I think depending on your track and interest you could walk away with a completely different conference expereince than mine.
Outside of the Keynotes, people had the opportunity to engage in the conference in different ways, and will take away different impressions.
I was happy to see a larger conversation about diversity and for that conversation to spill out of the sessions into the general conference.
When I was among other bloggers and readers I took part in a lot conversations about how fragmented and specialized the blogging community has become. There has been a lot of turnover and shifting of the conversation to different platforms away from traditional blogging. I'm a newcomer to blogging romance so a lot of the older voices were before my time, but it was still fascinating to see how the community has evolved and changed.
Many of conversations I had this week with writers centered on how much there is to do as a romance writer. Most people have day jobs and families to support.
They squeeze in writing around the fringes. Yet there is incredible pressure to produce, produce, produce.
spoke again and again of slowing down to think, slowing down and refocusing on their love of writing, slowing down and connecting with others. As a reader, I know that I always want a new novel or work from an author I love but I am always happy to wait for it. I rather have a late novel, that has been well edited, and produced than one that was rushed out. I can wait for quality. But it is clear that writers feel pressured to give readers what they want as soon as possible.
The panel of depression was incredibly powerful. Again and again the reminder to love and care for yourself, by knowing yourself and doing for yourself what you would do for a friend really stuck with me.
I am so glad I came. I hugged so many people
(probably a couple who didn't want to be hugged, sorry Erin!) and I laughed a lot.
I've gone to lots of conferences with booklovers but it was such a treat to be at conference with people who don't even question but instead celebrate the very things I love to read the most.
I hope everyone had as good of an experience as I did. I know I will be back for another. Safe travels home everyone!