Book 38 of 52: Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute by Sayantani Dasgupta

Looking to wrap up your summer with a fun, light romance focusing on some teen theater nerds? I got you, as does Sayantani Dasgupta with Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute.

Our protagonist is Eila Das, a high school student who has been trying to hold her family together after the death of her father. Shakespeare was a big part of the family’s life: every summer, they’d go to see a local Shakespeare in the park, and she’d go to Shakespeare theater camp.

Now, not only is she grieving, but her beloved Shakespeare camp has been rebooted as Regency Camp, where teens spend two weeks living how those in Regency Era England did, with a bonus: if they catch the eye of the show’s producer, they might also get a chance to appear as an extra in Rosewood, described as like “Bridgerton meets Murder, She Wrote.”

Eila doesn’t want to be there, but goes because her sister, Mallika, is obsessed with the show — and knows their mother would never allow her to go alone.

Eila starts out as stubbon, but opens up through the course of those two weeks, and discovers maybe she can embrace change after all, and that doing so wouldn’t be […]

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Book 33 of 52: Magnate by Joanna Shupe

Hello from [checks map] Arizona! I’ll soon be headed to my final destination, where I’ll spend a week before turning back home again. Fun!

I haven’t been reading physical books as much, given all the driving, but I did manage to finish Magnate by Joanna Shupe, the first book in her Gilded Age era Knickerbocker Club romance series. I reviewed Baron as Book 63 of 52 last year, after reading one of Shupe’s novellas in a Christmas compilation. So I figured I might as well go back to the start.

Our heroine is Elizabeth Sloane, a lady of means who wants to open her own brokerage firm. She can’t do that on her own, being a woman and all, so she asks for the backing of Emmett Cavanaugh, owner of East Coast Steel — who also happens to despise her brother. Do they fall in love? Of course they do, it’s a romance novel!

While I enjoyed Baron, this one was not a hit for me. Cavanaugh is waving a bunch of red flags, including that he has Elizabeth followed, and forbids her from seeing a male family friend. To me, those are signs that he sees her as a […]

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Book 20 of 52: Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy

Another romance! Her Night With the Duke by Diana Quincy is like a lot of historical romances I’ve reviewed on this blog. Man meets woman, they get together, they break up, they get to together, the end. It’s fine! I liked it. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll focus on two things that stood out:

1. Her Night With the Duke is another in a growing group of historical romances that show not every person in British aristocracy was white. The heroine’s her father was a marquis, but she’s marked as “other” by her peers because her mother was from an Arab merchant family (that’s how she’s described in the book, so I’ll use that here too). Quincy herself is an Arab-American who grew up around the world, as her father worked for the U.S. Foreign Service. She was a television journalist until she quit to write romances (for which we thank you!)

2. Just like Quincy shows the kinds of people who really lived in London during the early 19th century, she also writes about how it smelled — which wasn’t great. American and British cities then were not as clean and tidy as historical TV, movies and […]

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Book 17 of 52: The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James

Friends, I wrote a whole review of The Reluctant Countess by Eloisa James, including quips and puns, and my Wi-fi, for about the fifth time in the last week, decided to walk off  the job. I don’t know why the post didn’t automatically save, as it usually does in WordPress, but I’m not having a great day, and I don’t have the energy to re-write it.

So: it’s aggressively fine, like a lot of romances I read, and for that I am grateful! What I’m not grateful for is Comcast, which holds a vice-like grip on internet service market in my region, and keeps telling me that they can find no reason for the service I pay for to just disappear on the regular. Insert four-letter word here.

Nail polish: Burning Love by Essie.

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Book 14 of 52: Someone to Love by Mary Balogh

I saw a recent tweet complaining that romance novels are boring because they’re predictable. The two leads get together in the end. How can they be interesting at all!

What I wanted to say (but didn’t, because I am already too online) is that the predictability is the point. You don’t go into reading a crime novel thinking you won’t find out who did it in the end. The same is with romance novels: knowing there’s a happy ending is one of the reasons I sometimes pick one up. I don’t need to be surprised. I just want some enjoyable company.

Which is how I once again selected a Mary Balogh book, this time Someone to Love, the first book in the Westcott series (Book 39 of 52 of 2022 was also a Westcott book). I’ve said this before, but I’ll sometimes buy three or four books in a romance series just to have on hand for when I need them. Two weekends ago, I had a brush with hypothermia (I went out running early to beat the rain, and I didn’t) and couldn’t focus on anything more than Donald Duck cartoons. When I started to feel better, I tried […]

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Book 12 of 52: A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera

Luz Alana and James Evanston Sinclair are both in a pickle. Both are the children of distillers — she of a Dominican Republic rum family, he of Scotch whisky. Both are entitled to significant family wealth after the passing of their distilling parent. But each face a hurdle to claiming their wealth: they need to be married to inherit.

What are they do to do? Marry each other of course.

Fake marriages aren’t my favorite romance trope, but it mostly works in A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Andriana Herrera. It’s also a book that adds to the ongoing, much needed shake up of historical romances, which have traditionally been very heterosexual and very white. The 1889 French international exposition, where the pair meet, was a real thing. As Herrera writes in a note at the end of the book, it was the first time the Dominican Republic attended, and they where there along with 13 other Latin countries. It’s implausible to believe they didn’t interact with white Europeans. And while Luz and James are straight, their circle of friends is not entirely so — just as would have happened in real life because gay people have always existed. The next […]

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Book 63 of 52: Baron by Joanna Shupe

In November, I reviewed a romance anthology for book 55 in this series: How the Dukes Stole Christmas, which included novellas by four different authors. I’d read books by three of the authors. The fourth, Joanna Shupe, was new to me, and I liked her novella enough that I bought Baron, which is part of her Knickerbocker Club series.

The heroine is “Madam Zolikoff,” a medium who pretends to connect with the spirit world. It’s a job Ava Jones undertook because it was the best way to support herself and her three siblings, and to save money for her dream of moving them all out of New York City during the so-called Gilded Age, which left a lot of non-gilded people out in the cold.

One of her clients is a man running for governor. He’s not the hero. Instead, it’s William Sloane, a railroad baron who will become his lieutenant governor if elected. He knows that any whiff of scandal, including his candidate employing a medium, could derail both of their political careers, so Baron sets out to shove Zolikoff out of the picture. Instead, he falls in love with Ava, the real woman under the makeup and wig.

I […]

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Book 58 of 52: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

I’m getting ready to leave on a trip, so this will be a short post — which is apt as The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is short! It’s a novella about the parents of characters in her The Brothers Sinister series (I’ve read most of these — recommended!) This story is about finding happiness after trauma and abuse. I don’t want to say exactly what happened to our hero and heroine because their stories unfold over the course of the novella, but it’s not a story I’ve often read in regency romance in exactly this way.

Also if you’re coming here and still thinking romance writers and readers are a bunch of head in the cloud dodos, Milan is the pen name of  Heidi Bond, a Chinese-American lawyer who clerked for a Supreme Court Justice. She paved a way for herself in romance via self publishing, and then blew the lid off Romance Writers of America, which needed to confront its internal racism even if the group reacted poorly. And that’s just scratching the surface of why I admire her as a writer and person. I highly recommend her newsletter, which is free.

And now, […]

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Book 55 of 52: How the Dukes Stole Christmas by Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Sophie Jordan and Joanna Shupe

The following things have happened to me in the last two weeks:

I was injured during a routine medical procedure. Forget my fall marathon. For the first week, it hurt to drive, type, walk the dog. I’m still having trouble…existing.
When I went for a necessary follow up, I was told that such pain is normal and to not bother seeking further care from my primary care physician because she’d do nothing for me (spoiler alert: I did seek follow up care, and she did do something for me, and I have reported the original provider to the New Jersey Department of Health).
The eczema medication that gave me normal skin for the first time since I was eight years old also shot my cholesterol through the roof, so I had to stop using it. An outbreak immediately bloomed on my hands and face.
My laptop died. Entirely. There goes a budget already strained by the dog needing two surgeries this summer.

And this is on top of all of my fears and anxieties about the mid-term elections, climate change, gun violence, COVID, etc etc.

So, yes, when I picked out what to read next, I dove not just for a romance novel, but a holiday […]

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The Queer Principles of Kitt Webb bookcover

Book 51 of 52: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

I can’t say much about The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian at the moment — but for a good reason! I spoke about the book for an upcoming episode of the Book Fight! podcast. We recorded last night, and I think you’ll like the conversation, including why I chose this romance novel and about romance in general.

The two hosts, who I’ve known for years, are great and didn’t make fun of romance at all. This is far from the first one they’ve read for the podcast, and know more about the genre than most book people I know. In fact, I was going to select a NASCAR romance, but they’d already done one!

I’ll put up a new post when it’s live, and then add a link back here. [JEN NOTE, November 6, 2022: here it is]

Until then, this isn’t my first time appearing the podcast. In 2016, I made them read Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf, which is WILDLY different than the movie. You can listen to that episode here.

Nail polish: Violet Visionary by OPI.

Like this post? Buy Jen a cup of coffee.

Disclosure: links are affiliate links.

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