Romance

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Book 18 of 52: How to be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

Romance novels always involve some kind of conflict. Without it, why would we read the 300 or so pages about how the two leads get together? There’s usually some sort of external force the characters unite to fighting against. And while there’s some of that in Eloisa James’ How to be a Wallflower, it’s not heavy. Instead, James focuses on the relationship between the leads: Cleopatra Lewis, who inherited and now runs her father’s “commode” business (as in, yes, toilets); and Jacob Astor Addison, an American looking to poach London’s best costumer designers for the chain of theaters he owns in the U.S. The conflict? Themselves. Cleopatra’s mother had engaged in a series of short affairs with actors (often married actors) and left her daughter to clean up the mess, and it’s skewed her views of sex, marriage and love. Cleopatra also knows that if she marries, her business becomes…

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Book 14 of 52: My Kind of Earl by Vivienne Lorret

Last year, I did a friend a favor and in turn she gave me some romance novels by authors I’d never read of before. I like regency romance (the era you see in Bridgerton, which is based on the also popular romance series that I read early during COVID). So when I saw My Kind of Earl by Vivienne Lorret in the pile, I said sure why not. I picked it last week for a practical reason: I was traveling to New York City to run the NYC Half Marathon and wanted a book I could fit in my purse. And…it’s fine! It’s about Jane Pickerington, an inquisitive single aristocratic woman working on a book about scoundrels. She meets Raven (yes just Raven) in a brothel because she snuck in for research. As you might imagine, they fall in love. Of course there are twists and turns along the way, including but…

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Book 9 of 52: The MacGregors: Serena and Caine

In my post about Station Eleven, I wrote about two groups of people, those who ran towards pandemic fiction at the start of COVID, and those who ran far away from it. I was 100% in the latter group. Reading wise, that meant delving into genre fiction: crime, thrillers, suspense, and of course romance. You might think that these are different, and they are, except in one way: I know what’s going to happen at the end. Just like I know Detective Bosch in Michael Connelly’s books is always going to figure out who did it, I know that, in a romance, the two leads are going to have a Happily Every After (known in romance circles as an HEA). I craved predictability in my reading, whether it was about solving a murder or matters of the heart (and in some romances, you can have both!) Romance, as you might…

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