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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More

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, […]

Read More

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 […]

Read More
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.

Read More

Book 39 of 52: Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh

I’ve put off writing a review of Mary Balogh’s Someone to Wed because I don’t have much to say about it. I read her books when I want a pleasant distraction from whatever hellfire is consuming our politics/planet on that day. They’re well written regency romances where of course there’s a happily ever after, but without some of the tense plots these books can bring, like someone is going to die or be murdered if the two leads don’t act promptly.

In this book, which is part of the Westcott series, we have Wren Heyden, heiress to a glass works company and fortune who is largely a recluse, due largely to a birthmark on one side of her face (and what previous people have said about it, which is revealed late run the book).

She proposes a marriage for very practical reasons to Alexander Westcott, who has unexpectedly found himself as the Earl of Riverdale for reasons that aren’t really worth getting into here (but are a plot line through the series). He needs money to prop up a badly managed title and estate. She wants children. So she proposes that she might have the funds to help him out of a […]

Read More

Book 29 of 52: The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

As I’ve written (many times) before, romance novels have a bad rap. Opinions are based on books from the 1970s, of bodice rippers with virginal heroines who find sinuous pleasure.

That not all romance now, and wasn’t even then. Instead, looking at the entire genre, there’s everything from from “sweet” romances that don’t even involve kisses to those that are all about kink and/or multiple partners.

And of course there’s queer romance. I can’t say I’m an expert on this subgenre, but I have enjoyed the books of Cat Sebastian. The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes is the second in her “Queer Principles of Kit Webb” series, about a group of Robin Hood-esque thieves in Georgian London.

In this entry, we have Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, who just shot her husband. Our hero is Rob Brooks, a highwayman and con-artist who had previously tried to blackmail Hayes because he knows that her (now dead) husband was a bigamist. After a series of letters that quickly turn flirty, they join forces, and then, well, join.

Both leads are what we today would call bisexual, though they don’t use that term (ditto for previous Sebastian characters who are trans, gender non-binary and asexual). […]

Read More

Book 28 of 52: The Duke Goes Down by Sophie Jordan

I’m going to start a new category of book: aggressively fine.

These are books you read even if you know they’re not going to be the pinnacle of your literary experience. I read so many books, and am used to always having a book, that sometimes I want something I know is going to be OK and won’t make me consider throwing my consciousness into a river. It’s something to read to pass the time, not unlike falling into the familiar patterns of a cozy British mystery series, or Dateline.

The Duke Goes Down by Sophie Jordan is aggressively fine. It’s fine! It was small enough to toss into my backpack while hiking in Maine (hence this picture), and something I could read in snippets while I finished vacation, then came home from vacation, and then pouted that vacation was over.

It does have some choice quotes though:

“Perry…had been in such a low state this last year, convinced a marriage of convenience was the only way to salvage his life. What a fool he had been. His life yawned before him. A blank slate. He could fill it anyway he wished.”


“Her cousin had only ever lived a life of privilege…to such a […]

Read More

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can’t ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it’s SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants.

Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn’s Rokesbys Series, which are prequels to her enormously popular Bridgerton Series (and now a Netflix show). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).

Here we meet Sybilla “Bille” Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.

That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they’ve known each other since they were children. Billie assumed she’d marry one of George’s brothers, who she considers friends, but not the prickly George himself.

You can guess what happens: they fall in love! […]

Read More