Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


Guest Introduction: I’m in UR Genre Havin UR Emotions

Guest Introduction: I’m in UR Genre Havin UR Emotions

AJH contacted me a few weeks ago to pitch a couple of ideas at me. I loved his self deprecating voice and the fact that he is a fairly new romance reader. We can watch his journey into romance through his eyes. 

Once upon a time, I accidentally read every romance Georgette Heyer ever wrote. My Grandmother had a box of them in her attic – I still remember those yellow-grey dust jackets and the faint smell of damp that rose from the pages – and I was still too young to understand that these were Girl Books About Girl Things and I shouldn’t have been interested. To be fair, I also tried her mystery novels but since there was more death and much less preoccupation with tight breeches and smart hats, I was not gripped. I subsequently developed an enthusiasm for books about dragons and that might have been the end of it.

Enlarged perspectives

In ordinary life, at least in my ordinary life, there are not many opportunities to interact with genre fiction outside your usual preferences, unless you count the Try To Read 50 Shades Of Grey Without Laughing party game. And, although I’ve been lent the occasional fantasy-with-romantic-elements by friends, I can’t say I’ve really made much effort to broaden my horizons or re-kindle my early passion for witty ladies and dashing gentleman. I am not speaking universally, as I’m sure plenty of other men read romance, but nevertheless it’s a female-dominated genre – and, at least in my little corner of the world, there seems to a mutual assumption of disinterest. Why, after all, should something that is targeted at, for and about women care what men have to think about it? And, if that’s the case, why should men bother with it anyway?

Truthfully, I think we over-essentialise about genre in general. We read a couple of books, don’t find them especially memorable and peremptorily decide we don’t like sci-fi, or thrillers, or fantasy, or whatever else it happens to be. Not so long ago, I did a bookswap with a friend.  I gave him a book about dragons and he gave me a  book about spaceships and we both came back with the same basic complaint: “dude, nothing happens in this.” To which we both responded with the same basic outrage: “dude, loads happens, there was like a space war / an epic mystical quest / a rift in the time-space-continuum / a dragon.” The thing is, reading genre fiction is an act of habituation (in a good way) and the tropes that are often dismissed by those outside that particular genre as stereotypes, acquire meaning and impact not just from the context in which they are presented in a particular book but the expansive, extensive, exciting backdrop of the genre as a whole. In short: you have to learn a genre before you can love it.  Unless you were fortunate enough to read it as a child or teenager, in which case – like a second language – those interpretative pathways will stay with you forever.

And, in my case, you’ll read quite terrible books simply because you remember the pleasure dragons gave you when you were young.

Of course, when it comes to romance, this becomes even more problematic because the process of habituation becomes about gender as well as genre (ohhh, did you see what I did there, all this AND puns).  Instead of merely saying “I just don’t don’t get this yet” it seems both fashionable and, indeed expected, to take the George Eliot approach,  dismissing these ‘silly novels by lady novelists’ as neither intended for us nor interesting to us. But just because something isn’t explicitly for you, doesn’t mean it has nothing to say to you. In fact, it’s usually a good indication you should be listening.

I would just like to say at this juncture that I hope I am not coming across as some kind of wannabe white knight venturing forth to do battle with scary girly stuff in order to demonstrate my open-minded sensitivity.

I’m just curious.  And interested.  In a basic human way.

And I’d like to share this journey.

The plan, such as it is, is fairly simple: tell me what to read and I’ll read it, assuming I can readily get hold of it.  It can be a book you love, a book you think defines the genre, a book you feel is historically important, any sub-genre you fancy, whatever you want, no limits, no safewords.  I won’t really be reviewing books as such because I don’t have any basis by which to judge, or arguably any right to do so.  And, equally, here’s my promise to you: I’m going to try to my level best not to be stupid about this.  Fresh perspectives can be invigorating, if they’re offered with grace, but there’s nothing worse than somebody standing on the sidelines of your genre, being clueless and demanding that every trope justify its existence.  So if I start sliding down Mount Stupid, just tell me to stop it and I will.

For better or worse, my journey starts with The Flame and The Flower. I’d like to claim some kind of scientific method for this but people were talking about it on Twitter, and thus was history made.  Nowadays I make all my important decisions through the medium of Twitter – I’m like the Dice Man for the electronic age.  Next on the pile is Lord of Scoundrels, again courtesy of Twitter and largely because I was promised shirt-ripping.  But from then on, I’m in your hands.

I believe it was Oscar Wilde who first said: let’s ‘ave it up.

Guest Post: Just One Day Blog Tour with Gayle Forman

Guest Post: Just One Day Blog Tour with Gayle Forman

Both Jane and I enjoyed Gayle Forman’s previous novel, Where She Went, so we were happy to participate in the blog tour launching her latest novel, Just One Day. One of the things I loved about Just One Day was the traveling aspect and in fact, I wished there were more of it. I’m a big fan of travelogues.

On with the show.

Welcome to the Just One Day blog tour! We all know one of Gayle’s talents lies in writing the swooniest books possible, but she’s also a world traveler! Many of her experiences inspired scenes in Just One Day (and Just One Year, out next fall!). Each day along the tour there will be a new photo from Gayle’s travels, along with the story behind the photo written by Gayle!

Nice, France


People travel for different reasons. Adventure. Expansion. Escape. Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish one from the other.

This is a picture of Buddy (short) and Scott (tall), an American stockbroker and a Dutch solider, respectively. At least that’s what they were in 1988 and I should probably admit that I’m not 100 percent certain about their names. But I remember meeting them while traveling solo after my friend Rebecca had gone back to England to go to university. When she first left, I was scared to travel alone, but by this point I’d learned that in many ways, it was easier than traveling in a pair. You met people constantly.

So, me, Scott and Buddy met at our guesthouse in Nice and we spent almost a week together, exploring the surrounding towns of the French Riviera.

Scott was in the Dutch military, which didn’t seem quite the same serious endeavor as being in the U.S. military. In any case, he’d gone AWOL for the week to go to the beach. Buddy had been a stockbroker, a surfer, a dude from San Diego. And then his best friend had died of brain cancer and Buddy kind of dropped out of that life and was in the midst of traveling.

I suppose on one level, you could say that these guys were escaping something by traveling. I suppose you could say in that same vein that when my husband and I went traveling around the world for a year in 2002—after living through both 9/11 and what we called our personal 9/11, a devastating personal loss earlier that year—we were escaping through travel. And we were, even though we’d planned the trip long before that awful year. But escape is not synonymous with avoidance. There’s something about the immediacy of travel, about being so constantly out of your comfort zone, that puts you in a kind of heightened emotional state. Even if you want to escape, what often ends up happening is the opposite. You wind up facing up to whatever it is you are supposedly running from.

I think sometimes you have to leave in order to arrive. Or, as Allyson in Just One Day comes to realize, sometimes you have to get lost to get found.


Start reading Just One Day right now!

LIKE the Just One Day/Just One Year Facebook page for all the latest news!

Want to see more of Gayle Forman’s amazing traveling? Penguin Teen is posting one picture a day on tumblr for a whole YEAR!

Travel with Gayle along the Just One Day tour!
Mon, 1/7 Mundie Moms
Tues, 1/8 The Story Siren
Wed, 1/9 Alice Marvels
Thurs, 1/10 Anna Reads
Fri, 1/11 Forever Young Adult

Mon, 1/14 Dear Author
Tues, 1/15 Good Books and Good Wine
Wed, 1/16 Night Owl Reviews
Thurs, 1/17 Presenting Lenore
Fri, 1/18 Ticket to Anywhere