#RomBkLove Day 27: Romance Icons

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#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

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#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.

What do you read? Why?



#RomBkLove Day 25: Series & Sagas

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#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?


#RomBkLove Day 24: Careers, Jobs & Work

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#RomBkLove Day 24: Careers, Jobs & Work: The romance can be all in a day's work in some novels.  What vocations or jobs do you love reading about? Which ones do you avoid? Why?

I love reading books where the MCs have passions and careers outside of their love interests. I love it when MC's have to figure out a way to balance their ambitions and their love lives, and better yet when the romantic partners are one that respect and boost the other in their ambitions.  I do struggle however with books that depict certain kinds of stressful work environments, harassment, or abuse in particular is not something I deal with well. 

Julie James, Emma Barry, Joanna Bourne, Tamsen Parker, Laura Florand, KJ Charles, Amber Belldene and Lauren Dane tend to hit these work-life buttons for me. The MCs in these books, tend to feel passionately about their chosen vocations. Their lives might be complicated by their careers, and those careers aren't always glamorous but they are theirs.

Two books that I read recently that hit all my romance & career buttons were,

Tamsen Parker's Due South

"the sexiest book you will ever read about two people working crazy hours to rewrite a presentation on municipal bonds."

and KJ Charles's upcoming An Unnatural Vice, which I reviewed for RT 

"opposing vocations and radically different backgrounds create a powerful and fascinating conflict."

 

Both these books had strong romantic conflicts that were complicated by the MC's vocations and how that touch every other part of their lives. Both authors handled the conflicts in surprising and satisfying ways.


#RomBkLove Day 23: Romancelandia

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#RomBkLove Day 23: Romancelandia: From Meet-ups to Kerfuffles, friendships & debate What does it mean to you?

Like anything there are as many experiences of Romancelandia as there are people in it. My sense of Romancelandia is that it is always both bigger and smaller than I think, with people inter-connected in sometimes surprising ways. I know I inhabit a small corner of it, and most days it is a great place to be.  I am incredibly thankful for all the fellow readers, bloggers and authors I have met on twitter, whose thoughtful passion for Romance has introduce me to so many great books and authors. This month, like every month I am incredibly thankful for the conversations, from critical to squee, that help me expand my vision of Romance. 

Twitter is strange place sometimes, Both immediate and remote. But I have made friends on twitter. I listen, I learn and I make connections through it. Despite its flaws, it has made my reading and real life richer.  

So my  favorite part of Romancelandia is when I get a chance to connect with a twitter friend in real life

RWA in 2015 was fantastic. I met so many other readers, bloggers, and of course writers whose books I adore, it frankly overwhelming at times but so much fun. I completely understand why some make it a priority to go every year. That year, I arranged to meet up with Elisabeth Lane at RWA.  Elisabeth was my con buddy, that familiar person in the crowd. We weren't attached at the hip (and we had each brought our spouses),but we connected frequently throughout our time at the con, it was a pleasure to just to be free to chat in person.  Since then I've started making the effort to meet up with other readers when I can (meeting Kay of MBRR in Montreal  or having dinner with Lawless while in NYC last year) because these twitter relationships do matter to me a lot. 

So tell me about your corner of Romancelandia and what it brings to you...


#RomBkLove Day 22: Adaptation

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#RomBkLove Day 22: Adaptation Movies, mini-series, games, etc., when loves leaps off the page do you follow?

Mid-Nineties Jane Austen movie and TV adaptations, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice were romance gateways for me. I was inspired to read the books after they introduced me to Austen's work.

My favorite romance-adaptations now are two games.  The first is Regency Love, a iOS app that allows you to play act being a Regency miss, figuring out relationships with friends, townspeople and romancing a variety of  local gentlemen.  All the familiar Regency types are represented and there are multiple scenarios to play out,  so you can play it many times to acquire all sort of achievements. I found it delightful and addictive and I am sorry there have been no further updates.

My second favorite adaptation is Regency Solitaire. By playing the game and advancing through the levels you can unlock little episodes in the life of a young Miss whose matrimonial aspirations are being threatened by her brother's spend-thrift ways. The Solitaire levels were entertaining and the romance interludes fun.

What romance adaptations do you recommend and love?


#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy

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#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy Who or what triggers your one-click finger?

This select group is actually very very small. I have a largish circle of authors whose books I am almost guaranteed to buy, because of their track record with me.  Those are authors are Alyssa Cole, Emma Barry, Erin Satie, Laura Florand, Ruthie Knox, Molly O'Keefe.  I will always look at their blurbs.

However my auto-buy list is quite small.  I could only think of four authors right now whose books I will buy without even bothering to read the blurb.   Those authors are Kit Rocha, whose world-building and vision in the Beyond and Gideon Riders series I am heavily invested in.  KJ Charles whose voice draws me in no matter the time period or genre. Whether it is a book in her long-running psy-changeling series or her contemporaries, Nalini Singh's has won such trust that even when I haven't loved every book, I don't even consider not picking them up.

What does it take to get you to auto-buy?


#RomBkLove Day 20: Unforgettable Lines

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#RomBkLove Day 20: Unforgettable Lines Witty,sexy romantic, insightful. Tell me of the highlight worthy lines!

Here are some of my favorites from the last two years:

"The universe had been treating her with great sarcasm lately"  Joanna Bourne  -- The Spymaster's Lady (The Spymaster Series Book 1)

“It was only with you that she lived, that girl. These many years, she has been a dream no one else remembered.” He slid his hand up beneath her heavy braid, holding her to him. “I remember. You are no dream.” Elizabeth Kingston -- Fair, Bright, and Terrible (Welsh Blades Book 2)

"He may be wrong, but he is wrong in the right way. Why are you looking at me like that?”KJ Charles -- A Seditious Affair: A Society of Gentlemen Novel (Book 2)

"In their married life, she’d try to do whatever killing became necessary, as a loyal wife should." Joanna Bourne --  Rogue Spy (The Spymaster Series Book 5)

"She started three wars the first week" Julie Garwood -- The Bride (Lairds' Fiancees Book 1)


#RomBkLove Day 19: Romantic Suspense

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#RomBkLove Day 19: Romantic Suspense: Spies, Soldiers, Seals, Who do you turn to for action with kisses?

 I read more than my fair share of thrillers growing up and I'm a sucker of heist and action films.   I love a story that builds great tension, action but doesn't lose sight of the romance or try to cram in kissing in ludicrous moments.

To be honest I get most of my thrills and action from SFR and PNR right now.  However my favorite romantic suspense series is Carolyn Crane's The Associates series. I haven't followed her into her Annika Martin Dark Romance, so my current go-to-Romantic Suspense-Author is HelenKay Dimon. Her new series Tough Love and Games People Play series are both fun and fantastic. I really love when characters are awesome at their jobs, skilled, passionate and ultra-competent but terrible at figuring out their feelings.  Her stories whether m/f or m/m  have great conflict, believable intense action, and tons of passion.



#RomBkLove Day 18: Not a Duke in sight!

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#RomBkLove Day 18: Not a Duke in sight!Which are you favorite romances without aristocrats? Who do you read when you want to avoid the Ton, Royals, Billionaires, Rockstars or others from the 1%?  Who writes about the other 99%?

One of my favorite writers for Romances about non-aristocratic characters is KJ Charles.  I am loving KJ Charles's new series, Sins of the City.  Unseen Attraction is a friends to lovers romance about an Anglo-Indian boarding house manager and one of his lodgers, a taxidermist.    The London portrayed is vibrant, and full of People of color. If you haven't checked out the series I really encourage you to.