Romance

Book 60 of 52: It Happened One Fight by Maureen Lee Lenker

It Happened One Fight by Maureen Lee Lenker is romance novel set inside the full on glamour (and grit) of 1930s Hollywood. It’s also a classic “enemies to lovers” story, which isn’t my usual fav, but I enjoyed it here.

Our protagonists are Dash Howard and Joan Davis, two mega watt movie stars who have been paired up in a series of movies, even though they profess to hate each other. It turns out they’re also married — to each other — after they were married in a movie by a real clergyman, and Dash jokingly addressed a copy of their marriage certificate to be mailed to City Hall.

In order to undo what they both call this disaster, the movie they’re shooting is re-located to Reno, which was famous at the time for granting quickie divorces. Should be easy: in six weeks, they’ll shoot the movie, and then end their mistake marriage, so Joan can marry her fiance, who she swears she’s totally in love with.

Of course it’s not so simple, and I enjoyed following along. I picked up some of the historical cues, which Lenker outlined at the back of the book: that Joan Davis is based on […]

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Book 53 of 52: Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey

After my dog died, a friend was kind enough to send me a box of romance novels (and I know you read this, so shout out in the comments if you’d like!). I was looking for one more book to read before I left for London, so picked Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey out of the box. It looked like a Hallmark Christmas movie, so why not.

WELL! I was wrong about the tone of this book. If I had just flipped to the back jacket, I would have known that Bailey is known a high spice level in her book. This maybe one of the most explicit romance novels I’ve ever read? Of course that’s my fault since I judged the book by its cover, but I kept flipping between the book and the cover and thinking “huh!”

Our main characters are Beat and Melody. Their mothers had been in a band together until something split them up and they became sworn enemies. Beat, for reasons we find out later, is being blackmailed, and the one way for him to get enough money to pay this guy off is to do a reality show that challenges him to get […]

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Book 47 of 52: Knockout by Sarah MacLean

Knockout is the third in the Hell’s Belles books, a historical romance series about a group of (mostly) aristocratic women who don’t hold much power in official circles, but unofficially are doing things like helping women escape abusive situations, obtain abortions, and organize against unfair labor practices. Of course this has also made them a target, which comes to a head in this book, as the Belles figure out who is blowing up their clandestine establishments. Seems outlandish? MacLean said in the epilogue that they’re based on a real group!

Our hero is Imogen Loveless, an explosions expert; our hero, Thomas Peck, a detective who is hired by her brother to “protect” her until she finally finds a husband. Can you guess who that husband ends up being? Of course you can! It’s a romance after all!

And it was…here it is again…aggressively fine. MacLean’s writing is a bit spicier than I usually read, but I still keep up with her books because they’re fun, and I always learn something. This one ends with a tease as to the next book, which is about a woman usually referred to as just “Duchess,” the Belle I’ve been most curious about this […]

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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 34 of 52: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

Hello from [checks map] Utah! I am taking the long way home after driving from New Jersey to California and spending a week in Disneyland with my family. I started making the return trek on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot — but it’s tiring!

I did manage to read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian. If you’ve been hanging around the blog since I revived it in 2022, you should be familiar with Sebastian. She’s written The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, and The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, which are set in 1750s England.

In We Could Be So Good, she’s stepped out of that realm and into New York City in 1958. Our two heroes are Nick, a reporter; and Andy, son of the publisher who is learning the ropes in the hope that he’ll take over that paper someday. We know from the jump that Nick is gay, though he’s not out, as it would have been a criminal and personal liability. Andy is bisexual, though it takes him some time to admit it, and even then it’s after he’s been in a serious relationship with a mutual female friend.

I wanted to write a […]

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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.

Like this post? Buy Jen a cup of coffee.

Disclosure: Bookshop.org links are affiliate links.

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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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