Guest Introduction: I’m in UR Genre Havin UR Emotions
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.
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.
Thanks for joining us. I look forward to brainwashing, err, recommending future titles to you!
Great intro and welcome to the community! I too came to romance from a SFF background (and many, many dragons) and via Georgette Heyer. I highly recommend The Wicked Lover by Julia Ross and The Edge of Impropriety by Pam Rosenthal. These are two of my favorite authors in the genre and they both have amazing voices.
Awesome essay, AJH! Loved your FF review, looking forward to your take on LOS, and can’t wait for reviews of some romances-with-dragons. Welcome!
I would suggest Meljean Brook’s Iron Duke or Nalini Singh’s Angel’s Blood (to start).
Welcome, AJH! This is gonna be so much fun…
Also what’s your twitter handle, if you don’t mind sharing? That way we can all lob book title your way.
I, too, just read your review of the Woodwiss book and enjoyed it tremendously. I agree with Lynnd, try Nalini Singh and her paranormal worlds: the “Angels” world is more violent than the “Changling” world.
Goshdarnit, I had a first congratulatory post all ready to go, and then life got in the way :)
Anyways, bravo, and bully for you. I think it’s great that you not only put yourself out there by providing the insight of a male exploring romance and gracing us with your guest review, but I also consider yourself a brave soul for allowing us to participate in your further education.
I still only have one title under my belt (The Siren, by Tiffany Reisz), but being that I loved it, I suppose that’s what I’ll recommend. (Life is so much easier with no choices :D)
Hey, hope you enjoy the ride. Speaking of dragons and Meljean Brook, her upcoming August release Guardian Demon is dragon flavoured :). Its the last in her Guardian series. I also would recommend Ilona Andrews – maybe Silent Blade/Silver Shark (novellas) to start. For historicals, I think Laura Kinsale, Meredith Duran, Cecilia Grant, Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan and Miranda Neville are pretty great (and Julie Anne Long sometimes), but Mary Balogh is probably more Heyeresque. In contemporaries I enjoy Laura Florand (sort of magic realism and chocolate), Rainbow Rowell (incredibly sweet but not in a sickly way), Ruthie Knox (especially her first two books) and Sarah Mayberry. Oh and Thea Harrison has dragons too (1 at least). Too much?
Great to have a fresh voice taking a look at all sorts of romance. I agree with Aisha’s historical recs, and would LOVE your thoughts on Kinsale’s The Prince of Midnight, especially if you could get your hands on the version with the Fabio cover (believe me, that cover really adds to the OTTness of the book).
I second Meljean Brook and Nalini Singh. I’ll also throw in anything by Ilona Andrews, though they are more urban fantasy/horror with romantic elements.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Johanna Lindsey’s Hearts Aflame. Or any of the Viking Haardrad Family series. Classic captive romance, IMHO.
Thank you so much for having me – I feel honoured to be here.
My brain stands ready for, err, washing :)
Welcome aboard! Please visit often!
Thank you for the welcome. And everything is better with dragons.
I’ve added both authors to my list – I’ve just wrapped up Lord of Scoundrels so I’m on the hunt for my next victi-err-book.
Romances WITH dragons? Point me, and I’m so there :)
Being that you’re from an SFF background I think you might enjoy Science Fiction Romance.
My most recent favorite is Cathy Pegau’s “Caught in Amber.”
And old favorite is Eve Kenin’s “Driven.”
And I think you might like my own “Blue Galaxy” – a novella I wrote to entertain and amuse my husband, while sucking him into the world of romance fiction.
Love the Diceman reference. I was rolling the dice the other day to decide which idea to write next.
Thank you for the suggestions – they have been duly listed :) Also it’ll be good to get out of history for a bit – though a cursory Googling tells me Iron Duke is steampunk and therefore probably entails corsets (not that I consider that a negative).
Hell to the yeah ;)
Oh, and my Twitter handle is @quicunquevult. Of course I don’t mind sharing it, though it’s slightly ridiculous :)
There were genuinely Reasons – at some point – for adopting a cant term for prostitute but, for the life of me, I can’t remember what they were :)
Sorry, more – don’t know how I forgot this, but GA Aiken (also known as Shelly Lauriston I think?) has a Dragon Kin series. And Knstrick, Andrew’s Edge series has dragons too, but mainly as transport :).
Since you appear to like dragons, I’ll suggest Jo Beverley’s Three Heroes.
I actually think men read a lot of books that fit in the romance genre…..they just don’t know it because they are shelved in mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, general fiction etc. Romance is a very broad genre indeed. I was talking with my uncle at a family reunion (I had not seen him since I was a child) and naturally the topic of books came up (as it often does when I am involved!) I asked what he read and he proceeded to name off my favorite romantic urban fantasy, mystery and sci-fi authors (Stacia Kane, Carrie Vaughn, Rachel Caine, Faith Hunter, J.D. Robb, Ilona Andrews, Lilith Saintcrow, Patricia Briggs, etc…). I said wow, it’s great that you read romance. I have about a million books to recommend for you….and his expression was the epitome of appalled. “I don’t read ROMANCE!” I did not argue but he has loved most of the books I suggested to him…
So in that spirit here are my top recs for men who are just starting out in the romance genre and men who don’t read ROMANCE at all.
I would suggest Stacia Kane’s Chess Putnam series. It is a most excellent romantic urban fantasy series with two damaged protags. A gritty, and tough introduction to romance that men seem to find appealing. I’ve recommended it to many of my male friends and relatives and they have all loved it.
If you like police procedurals mixed with a little sci-fi J.D. Robb’s In Death Series (although I’d just read the first 6 or 7-after that they get a bit repetitive)
If you like mystery/suspense with a gritty realistic overtone-Lori Armstrong’s Julie Collins Series
Patricia Briggs writes urban fantasy, and she has also written several soft fantasy series or duologies. All are romances and all are excellent. Her best books are her two urban fantasy series Alpha and Omega and Mercy Thompson.
I could go on for another 50 pages but you are probably going to be inundated as it is. You came to the right place to expand your horizons!
Thank you Ann, glad you enjoyed my thoughts. Even though I didn’t precisely think much of the book I did find reading it really interesting, and I loved writing about it.
I’ve added Nalini Singh to my list and I’ll probably try and get hold of one next actually, since I fancy a bit of a break from traditional historicals.
I’ve noticed life will do that sometimes :P
Hopefully this won’t end up as The Secret History style of education where we all end up off our heads and chasing a deer through the woods until one of us gets murdered – naaaw, what could possibly go wrong? ;)
As I was babbling about in the post, I think a lot of genre reading comes down to familiarity rather than gender – so my main concern is simple ignorance leading me to offensive or irritating conclusions. But I’m sure somebody will cheerily smack me about the head if that happens :)
The Siren is now on my list :)
You can’t get into romance without reading Nora Roberts. I suggest Northern Lights as a good first place to start (has a male PoV character), or Blue Smoke.
You can also start into the JD Robb books (SF/mystery/romance) – you really have to read the first three in order, but then you can skip around some.
Okay, my list just exploded. But in the best possible way :) You’ve already been wonderfully helpful so I’m apprehensive of asking for more but … were there any particular titles or should I just take pot luck, dive in and mix a whole pile of new metaphors ;)
Welcome! This is an awesome idea that has “full of win” written all over it.
Speaking of dragons, I would recommend the Shana Abe drakon series which begins with “The Smoke Thief”. Except from a review at AAR:
The Prince of Midnight it is then.
OMG I just Googled – it appears to be a half-naked man wearing his belt over his nipples, riding a horse with a nose (but how does it smell).
That is. The half-naked man is riding the horse with no nose. Not the nipples. That would just be unpleasant.
What on earth is he supposed to be doing?
Welcome!!! If you like fantasy with a little romance, I’ve enjoyed Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. I also really liked Jaran, by Kate Elliott (which is sort of sci-fi/fantasy). Also, Lois McMaster Bujold writes excellent fantasy (The Sharing Knife) and sci-fi/space opera (The Vorkosigan Saga – start with Cordelia’s Honor, an omnibus) which have strong romantic elements.
What’s that? VIKINGS you say? Nobody told me there would be VIKINGS. Bring me all your best vikings, I shall take 12.
I’ve added Johanna Lindsey to my list (Singh and Andrews are up near the top :) )
@carmen webster buxton:
Thank you Carmen, I shall likely be around until someone locks all the tea things away, hides the cake and throws me out ;)
That’s a wonderful idea, I’d love to try to Science Fiction Romance – although I should probably confess I’m not actually very good at non-romantic science fiction. I’ve read some Le Guin and Banks and … oh … the fellow who wrote Hyperion but too much technobabble hurts my fragile little mind.
I shall definitely add all of those to the list.
(The Diceman was SUCH a strange book … I seem to recall coming away with the impression it wasn’t particularly good, and thought it was a lot more more morally challenging that it actually was, but the central conceit definitely sticks around)
Thank you again – this list is definitely turning into a melting pot :)
Thank you – I’ve made a note :)
I do like dragons and they are familiar to me (though obviously not personally) but they’re not mandatory. I have, very occasionally, been known to read, and even enjoy, books without them ;)
Good Lord, you HAVE to read Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. Classic Victorian sentimental novel rewritten with dragons. I’m serious. Cannibalistic dragons.
Ah, a guy that reads romance. This is awesome! I feel like there should be a club now. With t-shirts and bi-monthly meetings that consist of a lot of snark and bad-for-you foods.
I’ve been very erratic as to how I’ve come into the genre (and I’ve certainly read some awful books to get there – Diana Palmer, for instance, is always a good choice because she is bad.) Johanna Lindsey is good for some 80’s historical crazysauce, Gentle Rogue being an awesome way to go if you feel historical + Fabio cover = your reading calling.
Outside of that, Sarah Morgan’s category romances are the shit. One Night…Nine Months Pregnant made me think she’s the bee’s knees, and I’d read anything that she’s written. Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound is a wonderful paranormal romance with dragons, elves, alternative dimensions and other great plot aspects that feature two main characters that you actually like the whole time. I profess to being a fan of Gena Showalter as well for paranormals, but her stuff varies in quality. J.R. Ward’s first two Black Dagger Brotherhood books are also great cracksauce. So insane, so out there, but compulsively readable.
And…if you ever want to go into the m/m romance foray, Tamara Allen’s Whistling in the Dark is a historical set in 1919 that is great if you A) question if you want to read m/m and B) don’t want to start off reading sex scenes.
I think you’re right actually . Just the other day I witnessed a very similar interaction between a couple of friends of mine. They were taking about fantasy novels and the guy was raving about this book he’d read by … hmm … was it Emily Gee? I can’t remember precisely why but I think the semi-Dystopian setting and the character interplay had blown his tiny mind. And she turned round and basically said something like: “dude, that’s not fantasy, it’s romantic fantasy, she’s a romance writer.” And he was like “uh, no, I don’t read romance. And anyway this was REALLY GOOD.” Sorry, I’ve just painted one of my friends as a complete dick – he’s a nice guy, honest, but he’s a scientist and therefore invested in CATEGORISATIONS. I think most of us would have stopped at ‘good book’ but, y’know ;)
But then I also think that although genre is useful for helping you find broadly what you want to read it, it rapidly comes unhelpful at the bleed-zone. I mean, who cares if something is romance, or fantasy or fantasy romance or fantastic romance as long as it’s – see above – a good book.
But, thank you for your insightful comment and your recommendations – I’ve added them all to my list. I’m truthfully not very good at gritty and I don’t read a lot of mystery novels – at least, the ones I like are all very old school like the Lord Peter Whimsey novels, but, as I am here for the horizon expansion procedure, I might as well venture even deeper into unknown territory :)
*salutes* Nora Roberts it is then :) Actually my list is looking pretty historically dominated the moment, so something slightly more contemporary would be appreciated (I fear I might be approaching my bodice limit).
Deborah Cooke has a series about dragons called the Dragonfire. The first one is Kiss of Fire. Lots of dragon battles. Enjoy, and welcome to the wonderful world of romance. I used to swap romance novels with a male friend who was in the Navy. Didn’t bother him in the least to have the guys on the ship harass him.
Read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward. Really good badass vampires in a contemporary setting.
Welcome brave reader!
For Heyer-esque witty banter, as well as a palette cleanser from the rapey WTFry of TFatF, try Jennifer Crusie (Bet Me), Julie James (A Lot Like Love), or Sarah Mayberry (Suddenly You). These are all contemporaries with smart, funny heroines and strong but non-assholish heroes. Or Julia Quinn (What Happens in London) – she writes Regencies that are unrepentantly anachronistic.
For fantasy adventuring, try The Warrior by Zoe Archer (kind of a Victorian Indiana Jones, in Mongolia, with magic and a kickass heroine). I also second all of the recommendations for Meljean Brook’s steampunk series The Iron Seas, but I’d start with Riveted. The Iron Duke is great but the hero is kind of an asshole, and you’ve already read enough of that. (perhaps you can tell that I love romance but dislike asshole heroes).
Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer usually gets classified as SF/F but has strong romances in it – it’s like Georgette Heyer crossed with Harry Potter, only better.
There are TV shows and places I love dearly, and if I’m honest with myself, that love is borne out of nostalgia or some impact they’ve had on my development rather than my ability to defend them on paper.
At least, I think I get what you mean about familiarity both influencing our consumption patterns, and allowing us to excuse the problems that stop others. :)
As for the rest, I’m kind of there with you. Slowly picking my way through romance reading, and challenging some of my (at times, gendered) assumptions and criticisms.
(I am enjoying trying not to explicitly point to it, but I think most readers here have figured out I am a Y chromosome carrier)
I second the Shana Abé Drakkon series recommendation, and also suggest Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace series.
For a lovely, sweet historical without fantastic elements but great writing and characterization, Morning Glory, by LaVyrle Spencer.
Welcome to the ranks of romance readers–I almost envy you all the firsts ahead of you.
I love this post as a whole, AJH, but particularly this: “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.”
Yes: this is what I’ve been trying to express about genre for a long time. To say that it is formulaic is to miss the point: it’s about the expertise of the reader and the way we read each texts against the ghosting of a tremendously deep canon of past reading. Just like Shakespeare’s audience (a genre audience of pop culture texts) would have experienced his plays against the rich context of constant theatregoing, and understood the jokes he was play and arguments he was making with convention, framing, and expectation.
hmm…one woman’s sushi is another’s mercury poisoning, so I’m wary but here goes: Brook – if you don’t like steampunk (which is not JUST corsets fyi :), her Guardian series is about pseudo-angels, vampires and other paranormal beasties and I think the series improves as it goes on, but I am REALLY REALLY REALLY looking forward to the final book (can you tell how much?); Andrews – recommendations are in the original post but I love all they have written, and again I think their writing improves over time; I loved Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm (angsty heaven despite manipulative hero, who I forgive because he’s like a wounded animal in a trap); Duran’s last wasn’t (for me) as great as the rest of her ouvre but again anything will do; ditto for Thomas and Grant (as in anything not that the last suffered in comparison to the rest); Milan – I think she writes some of the best novellas ever, so maybe start with her latest series, which is two novellas and one novel strong so far; [ETA] Neville – I enjoyed The Dangerous Viscount (virgin hero = cool :) and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton alot as well as the newest book in her latest series The Importance of Being Wicked; Balogh was my introduction to romance so I have a soft spot for her, and Slightly Dangerous, a Pride and Prejudice type tale was the book responsible; who else… Florand, maybe start with the first in the chocolate series and go on from there; Rowell I think has written only two books so far (Attachments has adults and Eleanor and Park has teens/YA); Mayberry, that’s a little more difficult, but I think Suddenly You as Cleo suggested is a good start; Harrison’s Dragon Bound is about, surprisingly enough, a dragon, and the rest of the series is in the same world but the rest doesn’t quite live up to this first instalment; Aiken’s series is OTT with many dragons of different types and they fight each other.
AND some more ;) – Lauren Baratz-Logsted has books written from the male protagonists PoV, so that may be interesting. Some others I thought of that I really liked were Barbara Hancocks Ghost in the Machine (SFF). I never read anything else by her though. Also LH Cosway’s Painted Faces, Bonnie Dee’s New Life, Theresa Weir’s Girl with the Cat Tattoo – all contemporary, but the latter is told from a cat’s (yes, feline)perspective largely. Rose Lerner who writes/wrote (does she still write?) historicals (sorry). Finally (eventually) mysteries that are almost all historical I’m afraid, I love CS Harris’s Sebastian St Cyr series, and also see Deanna Raybourn, PB Ryan and Elizabeth Peters, as well as Alexander McCall Smith (contemporary with one series set in Botswana and others in Scotland). That’s it, promise.
I’m going to second the recommendation of GA Aiken, especially since her world building has diverse characters. Her Dragon series speaks about race, but its not overbearing and its also not ignored. Two of her books to start off with are Dragon Actually and About a Dragon.
I’d be interested in your take on JR Ward’s vampire novels which were also suggested earlier, since they’ve been described as cracktastic at times, especially the first three books which are heavy on romance and feature seriously hardcore, urban Alpha male vampires who “bond” with their chosen mate, and also describe her smell and taste (jasmine, honey, etc). Ward’s three best novels imho are Dark Lover, Lover Eternal and Lover Awakened.
And if you’re looking for a historical romance with a bit of social consciousness, the debut novel of Francine Thomas Howard called Page From A Tennessee Journal is a book you may care to read.
Welcome to DA! What a great essay. There are so many books I could recommend, but Aisha’s tastes are very close to mine. Still, I’ll throw out Alison Richardson’s Countess trilogy, three shorter erotic stories that together make up one novella-length romance. They are available electronically and should be read in order (1) The Countess’ Client, (2) An Impolite Seduction, and (3) The Birthday Present. I’m very curious as to what a guy would make of them.
@AJH: You’ve struck gold here at DA, we love to share our opinions about books to read to new romance readers. Great Post.
I would recommend these books:
Mary Balogh’s A Summer to Remember and if you like it then read the Bedwyns series.
Jo Beverley’s Malloren series is good historical with lots of intrigue.
Jo Goodman’s Compass Club is terrific. Unusual post Waterloo romances.
YOU MUST READ Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels Series!!! It is ass kickin funny and the romantic angle is introduced slowly. READ THIS SERIES NOW.
Courtney Milan and Julie James, cuz they write good stuff.
Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake is a great read as is her Shattered Rainbows.
Thank you :) I’m not like the kid from The Princess Bride or anything (‘Is this a kissing book?!’) but I think, by habit more than any particular choice, I tend to lean towards the wars and killing and dragons and grimdark end of the fantasy spectrum. Also genres all get pretty blurry towards the edges so there comes a point that it just stops being helpful trying to point at things and go “this is fantasy” or “this is romantic fantasy” or “this is romance”.
I shall definitely look into those. I’ve been meaning to try LMB for ages but I’ve basically failed to get round to it.
Thank you – if it’s anything like as entertaining for other people as it is for me, then I feel my work is done :)
Oh that is totally LISTED :)
YES I HAVE AND IT’S SO AMAZING I NEED TO RUDELY USE CAPITALS LETTERS IN THIS OTHERWISE CIVILISED DISCUSSION :)
@AJH: I hope that Fabio cover didn’t make your eyes bleed. What’s he doing, you ask? Manly stuff.
Breaking my promise (I’ll give extra to the car guards next time to make up for it), but its so hard to stop once started. Two more books I enjoyed are Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds (SFF meets cultural anthropology) and Mark Green’s The Travel Auction (contemporary meets travelogue :). This has been said but to add to the Nalini Singh bandwagon, her books are addictive, with great world-building.
I tried to read all the comments, but I might have missed one or two suggestions. (*I* need to get my list out and add to it! Great Suggestions.) Anyway, did anyone list Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison? I thought it was pretty good.
Anyway, My husband reads books I give to him, and in fact he’s the one who introduced me to science fiction romance via Linnea Sinclair’s books- specifically Finder’s Keepers. I still heart her books so much. :::sigh::: I love being able to swap books and talk about our reading. He even read Butterfly Tattoo by Diedre Knight with me (fantastic book, btw) and Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville (m/m romantic suspense) so we could talk about the differing dynamics of m/m and f/m romances.
I recommend Sandra Brown if you like suspense. Her book, Envy, might be the best combination of romance and suspense out there. It has a wonderfully complex plot–a book within a book. If you like audiobooks, I encourage you to listen to it rather than read it. Narrator Vikto Slezak is simply amazing. Amazing! God’s gift to your ears.
BTW- I loved this post, especially the third paragraph. Wonderful! Thank you for reading.
So long as you’re not looking for cookies, and it doesn’t sound like you are, this could be an interesting endeavor.
I’ll be sure to keep you honest.
I strongly second the opinion of Reading ANYTHING written by Ilona Andrews [a husband+wife team] that are one of only 2 auto-buy authors I have.
If there can be badges, I’m in :)
And thank you for the suggestions, I’ll add them to my Lovecraftian List (even the crazysauce ones). Actually they all sound great – and even I’ve heard of the Black Thingy Brotherhood so I should DEFINITELY try one. Though I am apprehensive.
I’m steering slightly clear of m/m, not because I’m a homophobe or anything (some of my best friends are homophobes … err that’s a joke, obviously), but because I’m trying not to cross the streams. I’ll definitely read the book, though, for personal interest. When it comes to queer fiction, my tastes are personal and quite particular but I like historical stuff and I’m always on the look out for new stuff :)
Welcome, AJH! I look forward to reading your reviews. There seems to less contemporary recs here, so I’d like to recommend “Open Season” by Linda Howard, which is small town romance/comedy with a little police stuff thrown in. As far as Nora Roberts contemporary, I enjoyed her Chesapeake Bay series. If you want to go into total anti-hero territory, there’s Anne Stuart’s Ice series, which starts with “Black Ice.” Sort of dark/nasty James Bond-ish heroes and innocent heroines. I know you’ve had plenty of historical recs so far, but I second “The Dangerous Viscount” by Miranda Neville. Hope you enjoy your adventure in romance!
On my list :) Kiss of Fire sounds a bit painful, though, especially in the context of dragons ;)
And thank you. Kudos to your friend. But I imagine there comes a point when you’ve been in service to your country for long enough that you don’t have anything to prove any more.
I was reading Lord of Scoundrels on the bus the other day – I got a few funny looks but nobody was inclined to be a smartarse about it. But, then again, I was on my way to a WMA club and carrying a sword at the time so maybe that was it ;)
Oh, yes, I’ve heard of these. Usually in the context of ‘cracktastic’. So I should definitely check them out.
If you like SF, try Catherine Asaro, she is amazing. Start with Primary Inversion which is the first book in the Skolian Empire series.
@Aisha: New tweet this morning from Rose Lerner: she just sold her next book.
Thank you :) I feel somebody should be telling me it’s dangerous to go alone and handing me a very small kitten.
I shall add these to my list – and thanks for the Sarah Mayberry, I needed a particular title as all I had written next to her was ‘NOT Anything For you’ :)
I’m not sure how I’ll cope with unrepentant anachronism though. I suppose it’s better than clueless, careless anachronism though. I mean, I recently read Lord of Scoundrels and although I didn’t see any point of bitching about in the review because, hey, let’s have some priorities here, but every time Jessica said ‘jackass’ I would rend my flesh a little bit. Yes, it’s been around since about the 17th century as a term for a he-donkey and I think Dickens uses it as an insult in … yeesh … Edwin Drood? (don’t quote me) … but it’s SUCH an American insult it kept leaping out out of the text like it wanted to claw my eyes out.
In happier news, words cannot express how much I would be into a female Victorian Indiana Jones….
I was intending to try some Meljean Brook pretty sharpish but perhaps Riveted might the best starting place. I’m a bit worn out on men being pillocks.
I’ve actually read Sorcery and Cecelia – I thought it was adorableness on a stick.
Hmmm…have you read Shades of Milk and Honey? That’s like Austen with magic, and I seem to remember really liking it. It’s way less fluffy but I think a genuinely stronger read.
Yes, I’m exactly the same – though sometimes going back to the things you loved can be a really jarring experience. I was a bit shocked to discover (and I may be about to be burned for heresy) that Babylon 5 is … well … it’s ambitious but it’s also deeply annoying, pretentious and immature. But, ultimately, things that are personally valuable are *still* valuable even at some point we have to admit they’re not objectively any good ;)
@AJH: I haven’t even heard of Shades of Milk and Honey. I’ll add that to MY list. Thanks.
Yeah, don’t read Julia Quinn – she mixes in pop culture quotes in all of her Regencies.
Thank you :) I’m honestly quite excited – and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss all this. Reading is both a solitary and a social act, a strange but effective paradox :)
Thank for the recommendations. I’m definitely going to try and prioritise Shana Abe. Though I have to say, Grimspace sounds pretty ominous :) Also I’m wondering if Morning Glory doesn’t, err, having the same meaning over there as it does over here – because ‘sweet’ would be the first response to spring to mind.
Also I’m not committed to fantasy, I just mentioned it as the genre with which I’m most familiar – if anything I’m trying to explore other things :)
What a wonderful post! I can’t wait to read your reviews/reflections. I know you’re probably overflowing with recommendations, but I have a few:
1. The Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas were the first historicals that I loved so much I had to read all of them back to back to back. They just fill you up with a warm cozy feeling without being too sweet.
2. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon – these are looooooong, so they probably won’t work for this review type format, but they are definitely worth it on your own time. They are sort of historical + fantasy elements + romance + women’s fiction + a good dose of historical medicine. Sounds like too much, but oh man – they are great!
3. Anything by Juliet Marillier – these are more on the fantasy side, but each book has a romance. And I gobble them up each time releases a new book!
4. Dream Man series, or another series by Kristen Ashley – people usually feel very strongly about Kristen Ashley’s writing style (passionate love or fiery hate). I love her, and I think I have reread her books more than any other author. I’d love to hear your perspective on these since they’ve been such a hot spot within the community for at least a year now.
@Ariel / Sycorax Pine:
Thank you, I’m so glad you liked it. I’m quite interested in genre fiction and how we read – and that made sense to me, but it was also a bit of an arse pull :)
I suppose the difference between genre and so-called literary texts is that the literary texts are supposed to tap in, or engage with, or whatever, a deep cultural consciousness, whereas genre texts are a closed circle. Again, that’s not meant to be negative – and obviously genre reaches outwards into ourselves, otherwise there’d be no point reading it, but I think the intensity of that meta-textual interconnectedness is quite arresting.
I’m sorry Aisha, I didn’t mean to glibly dismissive of steampunk (I’m going to blame being on a train) – I find it a very variable genre, though I have read some that I’ve really enjoyed. I know it’s not just corsets and clockwork (though that would be the best name … pah … I bet someone’s already written it). Also I have a slightly tense relationship with the Victorians – I find it a fascinating time, but also a deeply deeply obnoxious and heartbreaking one. And what’s really frightening about it is that you can’t just go ‘oh well, it’s the past, you know what the past was like’ because they’re close enough to us to be modern. So, given all that handwringing, people going “weeeee airships!” makes me a bit stressed. But, let me clarify, that’s entirely personal.
I’ve got Prince of Midnight next to Kinsale’s name at the moment, but I can add Flowers from the Storm. Heck, I’ve got about 70 years in me, it’ll be fine ;)
Thank you so much for the EPIC suggestions, I’m updating my lists now. Also pretty excited by a Pride & Prejudice type tale, and a virgin hero definitely sounds interesting. In good news, however, I have read Alexander McCall Smith (and I thought they were delightful – though the BBC made a slightly cack-handed attempt to adapt them).
Hello there and thank you :) I will definitely look into GA Aiken – those titles ALONE would sell me basically anything. Four Weddings & A Dragon? The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Dragon? Twelve Angry Dragons? Sorry, I could do this forever ;)
And – oh dear – I’d really better see what these black dagger vampire brotherhood wtf dudes are up to :)
What is with the smell thing? I just finished Lord of Scoundrels and, again, I didn’t talk about in the article as it seemed a bit random, but Jess smells of Woman and Dain smells of Male. With that precise capitalisation. What on earth does Woman smell like? And how is it different from, y’know, woman? I can just see the adverts now: Essentialism by Calvin Klein, for when your male doesn’t smell like a Male :)
And the Francine Thomas Howard sounds really interesting, thank you :)
Thank you – never mind the essay, it’s been a great welcome :)
I will certainly pick up those. I need to somehow arrange this list – currently it’s looking like insanity personified :)
I feel like Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood (only less psycho) :) But, yes, this is all wonderful.
And thank you for the recommendations, they all sound great. Interesting post-Waterloo, eh? Intrigue? Hold me back :)
Gosh, if only somebody had told me THAT was what I was supposed to be doing earlier… my whole life could have gone differently.
I’ve got belt on now, actually. I guess I’m foolishly wearing it on the wrong place.
*laughs* It’s fine, it’s all good stuff and I do genuinely appreciate it :) Enthusiasm is very contagious.
@Karenmc: Thats great news and congratulations to Ms Lerner.
Don’t worry, I’m lost too and I’m meant to be compiling this list :P I expect people will tell me if I miss anything. I’ve got Dragon Bound, but I’m also trying to engage intensity so an extra recommendation will get it bumped up the list :)
Mmm, my friends mainly read hard SF and books about Warhammer so I don’t think I’ve much hope of suggestions from those quarters ;) I will definitely try to lay hands on Linnea Sinclair (err…that sounds wrong).
I’ll also look at Butterfly Tattoo and Zero at the Bone – but I’m a bit wary of discussing m/m romances, and especially comparing them ineptly against f/m. Basically, I don’t want to cross the streams :)
I’m not a big reader of thrillers or suspense in the general run of things but I’m always willing to try something new. Though talk about venturing in the darkness – doesn’t normally read romance OR suspense, watch him try to talk about romantic suspense :P
And I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to comment.
@AJH: Well, in the interest of full disclosure: I absolutely adore Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace books (if you click through to my blog, I’ve reviewed the first few, one of them a joint review with my (then) significant other. That is the more remarkable to me because they are in present tense first person narrative all the way through.
Also, I worked as Ms Aguirre long-distance assistance for a bit over a year (though that relationship ended several years ago)
As for Morning Glory…I have no idea what it means to you *is very curious* but the novel is excellent–my review is actually hosted here at Dear Author (among a couple of other places) if you are interested. Set in a small town in Georgia in the 1940s–historical without the Regency glamour.
@AJH: No apologies necessary and your concerns are of course completely valid, but I think Brook will be a pleasant surprise. I don’t want to say too much because the world she creates is so amazing and complex and best I think to experience yourself, if you choose :).
What else is there to do in life, dear boy, but read? Feed the soul and the body will take care of itself – somehow – probably through absorbing floating microparticles through osmosis :0.
I never saw the BBC adaptation, but I suppose it would be difficult to translate what is a deceptively gentle series with hidden complexities to the screen.
As to the smell thing, I think it may have something to do with pheromones. I’m not a biologist so sorry if I’m getting this wrong but I think pheromones are associated with attraction and somehow linked to scent, ergo…
This is entirely fair.
I very much do not wish to barge into an established community, being all ‘hey, you know what you guys need around here is man to tell you what he thinks about your stuff.’
Anyway, you can throw poo and rotten fruit at me if I start being annoying and I’ll try to stop.
Just wanted to clarify that Butterfly Tattoo isn’t m/m, but the male lead had been in an exclusive m/m relationship before and could be defined as “bi” or as some people put it “gay for you.”
They do sound pretty cool… *easily distracted*
Oh good grief, I’m going to lower the tone in my very first comment thread. Err, where I come from, morning glory is … um … slang for when chap wakes up in the morning and … yeah.
I’m looking forward to it :)
Yes, the BBC adaption lost a lot of that complexity – and annoyed a lot of people, as you can probably imagine.
The smell thing was mainly a joke – I wasn’t actually demanding you to instantly explain it :) But that sounds plausible to me in any case ;)
@AJH: If you think the smell references are odd (and they are), just wait until you read about someone’s kiss tasting of sunshine or innocence or some other intangible. :)
Maybe I missed the commentator who recommended the Lymond chronicles by the late, great
Dorothy Dunnett, but she is the heir to Alexandre Dumas, with the wit of Dorothy Sayers and Georgette Heyer combined. The series roams all over the “civilized” world of the 1550’s and 60’s from Scotland to the Near East. The historical world-building is masterly, and Francis Lymond is mesmerizing and complicated. Try it. The first book is Game of Kings. The HEA doesn’t happen, of course, until the final book.
Since you said you like dark fantasy, you might just eat up The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop. For contemporary urban fantasy, I highly recommend Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, especially the werewolf books.
KS Augustin wrote a dragon romance novella. The Dragon of Ankoll Keep is still for sale on the Samhain website and various others.
I’ll second Eve Kenin’s Driven and third or forth Nora Roberts Northern Lights and Chesapeake Bay series.
Some of my favorite books from varying subgenres I haven’t seen mentioned yet: Christine Feehan’s GhostWalker series starting with Shadow Game (contemporary with paranormal-lite elements); Shannon Stacey’s Exclusively Yours (contempory with humor); and Amanda Quick’s Ravished and Scandal (historicals with humor).
Welcome to DA. Has no one suggested Bujold yet? That’s surprising.
For a Heyer fan I’d definitely suggest Miranda Neville’s books. Also Jo Beverley, either the earlier Regency style (I reviewed Emily and the Dark Angel here at DA) or the later-written, earlier-set Georgians (start with My Lady Notorious).
My husband has read and enjoyed Bujold (all the series), both of Meljean Brook’s series, Lori Armstrong’s Julie Collins series, and Susanna Kearsley’s novels. He would warn you strongly away from Stephanie Laurens (he started reading Devil’s Bride by accident and is still scarred from the experience). In m/m he’s read and enjoyed Josh Lanyon, Tamara Allen, and Sean Kennedy.
ETA: I also got him to read Ginn Hale’s The Rifter with me and he liked it.
I was just reminded of Bronwyn Parry’s romantic suspense novels, As Darkness Falls and Dark Country, which are connected by setting (small town of Dungirry in the Australian Outback) and the more recently released Dead Heat, one of this year’s RITA nominees for romantic suspense.
And, sticking with Down Under authors, you may want to try Annie Gracie’s The Perfect Rake (historical and awesome)
Oh we will, don’t worry about that. ;)
@azteclady: The Perfect Rake has one of my favorite heroes. I’ve suggested that book to several people dipping their toes into historical romance waters.
I second Lois McMaster Bujold – Miles Vorkosigan is my favourite hero – space opera though. Bujold dedicated A Civil Campaign to the Dorothys Dunnet and L. Sayers and to Georgette and Jane Austen? And it was a great and wondrous farce. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller draw heavily on Georgette’s Regency world in their Liaden universe books, so reading them is like visiting a world that is known (and loved, of course). People haven’t said Bet Me and Jenny Crusie yet, so I will suggest that you check her list out.
Further, and now for the whining, how can you say that Baylon 5 has aged? Last time we did a run through (5 years ago) I didn’t notice and now I will be all judgemental and wondering if this bit is amatuerish, or that bit is lacking in sheer brilliance.
Your essay was just so very awesome, thank you and welcome :). Oh yes and Bujold rocks on so many levels :)
Fun F&F review and intro – Woodiwiss definitely blew my mind when I read her (jr high in the 80s) but I remember adoring DRAGONS! from that time period too – I think the other side of my intro to romance was through Anne McCaffrey and all her Pern Dragonthingies (drums, songs, riders, etc.) I tried reading through Dragonriders last year and it was almost as excruciating as the memories your review for F&F stirred up. It’s lovely culling through the comments here for reading suggestions too. (I’d ditto a lot of Aisha’s list so I’m esp. taking notes there for books I’ve missed!) Looking forward to your Chase and Kinsale reviews and more.
(ok I don’t think anyone mentioned Patricia Gaffney? To Have and To Hold, still with the non-consensual, but far more fascinating redeeming of alphahole hero, or try Wild at Heart or Crooked Hearts…. Judith Ivory/Cuevas: Beast, Untie my Heart, Bliss – more for your historical pile. As for contemporary, I’m crazy addicted to Charlotte Stein’s voice – unique, loopy and yet strangely romantic erotic romance – Control or short story collection The Things that make me give in . hmm…horror/adventure a la Arabian nights and Sinbad in Janine Ashbless “Heart of Flame.” Megan Hart – Dirty, Closer, Collide, emotionally intense, erotic rom again. Cara McKenna/ Meg Maguire – Willing Victim, Headstrong (I’m a sucker for karaoke)
Not as if you don’t have enough to be busy with for a while! Happy reading
Actually I don’t mind that too much – I think it can be fairly evocative if used carefully. I mean what do people’s mouths taste of really? Well, them, and a bit of what they’re feeling (weirdly … ?) and less romantically whatever they’ve been consuming.
He tasted of Nescafe and Wednesdays mornings… ;)
But, yeah, sunshine or rainbows is probably pushing it…
Ohhh, I’ve heard of these but I can’t remember in what context. Was it something about GoT being like them? But I would LOVE to read them so I’m taking this as the perfect excuse :)
Err, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because they both have the words ‘game of’ in the title ;)
Thank you :) I’m willing to give pretty much anything a go – and I definitely like werewolves…
Onto the list…
Thank you – I am vigorously listing as we speak .. err that is putting those suggestions on the list. I’m also mildly listing because I’ve just come from a wedding dinner – and there was a lot of single malt sloshing around.
I mentioned the dragon thing as a genre background rather than a desperate need to have every book I read contain dragons or references to dragons – I’m borderline sure I can cope without :) But I shall definitely investigate The Dragon of Ankoll Keep, and the others.
It’s fun to read lists from romance readers! What’s more fun is asking them to list ONE book or a TOP 5 and then watching them list 8 to 10 books each (or cheat and list a whole series as one choice) because, honestly, there is NO WAY to narrow the list to just a few. I bet everyone here is itching to come back and add just “a few more” books or authors to their lists. ;-) I know I am, but I admit most of my choices have been covered. I only hope you have easy access to books because this many all at once will break the bank!
Thank you for the welcome – it’s been terrific :) I think someone mentioned Jo Beverley to me earlier but my list has grown beyond any reasonable proportions and I can’t actually read it any more (this is a flaw, I know, in a list – but I’ll fix it!)
I’m definitely going to take a look at both Bujold and Brook, and the others I’ll certainly investigate.
Nobody has suggested Stephanie Laurens, so it seems I’ll remain in blissful ignorance :)
I need to read more m/m. I’ve read quite a lot of queer literary fiction but I’m kind of new to m/m as a genre. I think because I have more personal investment, I find it wildly variable and weird little things can trip me up all the time. But I suspect that might be a habituation thing as well :)
I should definitely read The Rifter with me; as I was saying on Twitter I very much enjoyed Wicked Gentlemen. I liked the setting very much, and I thought the writing was just deft and engaging throughout.
I’m weirdly into things set in Australia – maybe I read The Thorn Birds at an impressionable age (also my favourite YA author is Melina Marchetta) so those sound great – although Dead Heat sounds like something Richard Castle would write :)
And I might be about to drown in historicals but what’s one more? :)
@AJH: If you ever decide to read more mm, I second Sunita’s recommendations – I loved everything by Tamara Allen and Ginn Hale, and Jordan Castillo Price too :)
I will really try not to deserve it :/
I’ve added it to the list and now I shall bump it up the list :)
I honestly don’t know how I managed to get to nearly-30 without touching LMB – but I will take this opportunity to rectify it. Also I am very happy in space opera territory. Hard SF leaves me pretty cold but, err, I seem remember Weis of Weis & Hickman fame writing this probably awful space opera trilogy (Star of the Guardians? Can’t believe I can remember…) that I LOVED beyond all reason at about the age of 14.
Also Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and Dorothy L Sayers are some of my very favourite people so… consider me sold :)
I should also check out Cruisie – I think Bet Me and Faking It have been mentioned it (*tries to read list – fails*)
Oh no! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to diss B5. It does genuinely have moments of shining glory – Londo and J’kar for example. But it also has a lot of – excuse my French – pure unadulterated wank in there (Deconstruction of Falling Stars – the ‘how dare you not appreciate my show’ episode). Also, weirdly, we recently re-visited DS9 (I’m such a nerd, sorry) and that has held up surprisingly well. It’s a bit rough in places, and obviously it’s very Star Trekky, but… it’s surprisingly moving in arc.
Thank you kindly – and LMB is climbing my priority list with every comment :)
Oh, I feel that like that about the Dragon Lance books – I don’t know if you ever read them, liking DRAGONS I don’t know how you could have missed them . But I thought they were the bees bollocks and the dogs knees, y’know. Adventure, romance, magic, dragons, O…M…GEEE. And, err, I picked up the first one a few years back, thinking, “well this will be a fun trip down nostalgia lane.”
Yeah. No. Just no. They were … enthusiastic I guess? But so blatantly somebody’s incredibly generic D&D game with the serial numbers barely filed off. All the characters were cardboard thing and irritating, nothing remotely exciting happens ever. They seriously spend most of the first book eating STEW.
I was sort of heartbroken.
Weirdly, despite liking DRAGONS, I never touched Pern. I think I remember somebody warning me they went a little … peculiar … and I ended up never getting round to them.
There was discussion of To Have and To Hold on Twitter actually – and also Wild at Heart, so I am definitely interested. Ditto Judith Ivory. I think … Beast and Black Silk were mentioned so I’m now not sure what to choose :) I guess I can read them all right … I’ve only got a list of about 200 titles, it’s FINE :)
I’m a bit low on contemporaries though – I don’t know why (interesting question maybe, perhaps historicals tap more easily into memory niches) so I will definitely add all of those.
*laughs* I live near a copyright library, so I’m good. I’m sure I can waltz in there and order a bunch of romances up from the stacks. Though I don’t think I’ll try to take them on all at once. That would be madness.
But, yes, I expected a list of maybe … err … 20 titles. Make that 200 PLUS. No idea how I’m going to start organising yet but, damn, this is going to be fun.
(and possibly a lifetime undertaking).
To be fair to romance readers, I think asking anyone to list one anything is a cruel and unnatural act. Like trying to chose a favourite song or a favourite poem :) I think if you asked me to name my top ten, most important books I’d be still here fifty texts or so later trying to narrow down number 51 and 52 :)
When I have fixed and organised and made decent the list, I’ll stick it somewhere so if anyone is seized by a moment of ‘oh, it should have THIS on it’ it can be easily added :)
You’re about the third or fourth person to mention Tamara Allen, so it sounds like I should really try one :) And I’ve only read Wicked Gentlemen but I liked that a lot too, so I should definitely read some more of Hale. As for Jordan Castillo Price too, sure, bring ’em on :) Hahaha.
Seconding the people who recommended Jennifer Crusie, but my specific recommendation would be Welcome to Temptation. (Especially if you like Connie Willis in her comic mode.)
This is a fantasy suggestion, but this series is in my top 5 :) The Sun Sword by Michelle Sagara West–start with The Broken Crown. Oh, and I like most of everything mentioned in all the comments so far, and your comments have prompted me to add Shades of Milk and Honey and someone elses made me add Game of Kings to my TBR pile.
AJH, I don’t have a book for you to read mostly because I read ’em and then forget ’em pretty quickly… and because I think your list must be upwords of 7,000 now… and probably has many historicals on there, my main obsession…. okay so it was a decision with many angles. :)
Anyway, I really wanted to comment and say welcome. This intro post and the F&F revi.. er thingy were super entertaining. I can’t wait to read more of your posts here!
@AJH: Totally understandable re: stream crossing. m/m is a genre that is comparable to regular genre romance yet…not. There are different issues and pluses to it (one thing I personally hate is how angsty some of the earlier m/m books are – though angst can also be fun, so YMMV.) Allen is in a class by herself, though, so I always recommend her. Heidi Cullinan and K.A. Mitchell write great contemporary m/m stories, too, especially if you like hot sexytimes.
Hm. I’m trying to think of good non-historicals for you to try. Sandra Hill writes some screw romantic time-travel comedies. Historicals that are so non-historical with the time travel and the jokes and the weirdness. The Viking’s Captive was my intro to her work, though she has a PNR out now called Kiss of Pride that I have to read because it’s VAMPIRE VIKING ANGELS.
Christine Feehan is also great if you want a modern author that is in many ways very “classic” in style. Her books are VERY variant, though, so just be aware that, if you find that you like her (like I do), you’ll read some books that make you swoon and others that make you want to cut the hero’s dick off. Her first book, Dark Prince, is one of the classic vampire romances of the 2000’s. It’s kind of gothic and addictive. Also, she describes things in great-but-cliche detail, which is oh so fun in the moment.
OH. It’s historical, but Jeannie Lin’s Butterfly Swords is SO GOOD. She writes about China, which is super awesome, and then there are well-done sword fights and Eastern ideas and aah. So worth the time, and so not the usual European historical romance, which is easy to burn out on.
If you go for Palmer – her category novel Rogue Stallion was my introduction into her world, which is made of awful heroines and heroes that are cowboys, Republicans, and prone to nonconsensual feeling up. (There was this one scene with forcing her hand on his nipple. I blame the chest hair. I was too young to understand that there was an entire Harlequin category line with heroes that usually have chest hair. THE IMPRESSIONABLE YOUTH.)
Hi AJH – I like your voice, you’re funny. Really looking forward to your posts and hearing what you have to say. I’ve only been reading romances seriously for the past couple of years I’d say so I’m still pretty green with regards to the genre. I was more a horror/urban fantasy/zombie kind of reader. Although I still read a lot of zombie lit, I’d say at least 75% of books I read have some romantic element. Anyway, just to add my two pennies worth, I’d definitely recommend Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison and anything by Nalini Singh. :)
So far people have suggested Faking It and Bet Me, but I’ve added that one to the list as well. I think my choice mechanism is going to be ‘whichever I can get a hold of most easily’ or else I’ll work my way through them over the course of, like, 70 years ;)
And I love Connie Willis – To Say Nothing of the Dog is a utter delight!
I haven’t read that and I would never turn down a fantasy rec :)
Good grief, now I need another list ;)
Gosh, I hope you like Shades – I think some people found it a bit cold because it is very Austenian and the heroine is a bit of an Elinor to her younger sister’s Marianne but I always liked Elinor and I didn’t mind it was a slow a burner.
Sounds like you’ve been deluged with book suggestions, so I won’t add any right now, I’ll just wish you good luck!
I’m a big fan of Lord of Scoundrels, so I’m looking forward to your take :)
@AJH: Hi again (no more recs I promise)
I think its the educator in me that feels the need to share knowledge, even when that knowledge has no real basis. Anyway I wasn’t going to post on this thread anymore, but I had a thought that’s been nagging at me a bit and I wanted to see if it had any traction. Its a bit (alot) off-topic though so sorry for that. So, earlier in the thread there was some discussion about the anachronisms in historical romance that can irritate the reader. Steampunk though is consciously and expressly anachronistic, and in this it is an exemplar of the postmodern aesthetic, or maybe zeitgeist is a better word. But postmodernism has, in my opinion (and I was never enamoured with it in any case) lost its intellectual fervour with the passing of key thinkers like Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. Nevertheless, its cinematic and literary expression (with steampunk as the case in point for example) continues to gain ascendancy (at least in my layperson’s opinion – I do not study popular culture so this is based on cursory observation). This seeming contradiction may be due to the lag while ideas filter through to broader society from the Academy, but I don’t think that’s the whole story.
For some reason, and the link is not completely clear to me, I keep thinking of Gramsci. He said (I have to look up the quote…) “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” (Selections from the Prison Notebooks). Again, I’m not completely sure how this relates to my intial point but I suspect it may be applicable in some way to the questions Robin is raising in her series of posts. I will think about it some more….
I’m as angsty as all hell so I don’t mind angsty :) I guess I don’t like too much ‘omg I’m gay’ or ‘omg the world is homophobic’ angst, not because it isn’t relevant, but because it’s so blatantly a part of life that I don’t want to read about it as well. I think it’s why Boy Meets Boy rocked our world so much when were students – even though we were slightly older than the target audience. It was just unbelievably nice to read a story about two adolescents falling in love where sexuality was simply not a big deal. Also I seem to recall it has a dragqueen-quarterback in it. Win. I can personally take or leave hot sexytimes butI know they’re like … a thing.
VAMPIRE VIKING ANGELS? I HAVE to read this. And I shall take a look at Christine Feehan – I have a softspot for the gothic. Ditto Jeannie Lin – that sounds really interesting.
As for cowboy Republicans and noncon nipple twiddling – I think I’m scared now.
@Carolyn @ Book Chick City:
Hi Carolyn, thank you so much for the kind words. I’m really looking forward to tackling this mountain of books!
There are … zombie romances? I mean … that’s … open-minded but I can’t really see ‘dead’ as an appealing trait in a lover. Well, vampires I guess, technically dead. And I suppose The Crow was a zombie and Brandon Lee was quite appealing. Okay, I take it back. But point me at these romantic zombies :)
(If you like zombie stuff, have you read The Reapers are the Angels? Not remotely romantic but genuinely my favourite zombie apocalypse book EVER).
The next book I tackle is definitely going to be Nalini Singh – and Dragonbound is not far behind :)
Hahah, thank you. And you’ll be glad to hear I got on considerably better with LoS than I did with F&F – with only a couple of sad pandas :)
A little late to the party, but I’d also like to say Welcome. I adore dragons and second (third?) the rec for GA Aiken’s Dragon Kin series. Start with Dragon Actually, the heroine is named Annwyl the Bloody and that pretty much says it all.
I think it’s definitely a pleasure to share things you feel passionate about – and to be shared with. As I think I said somewhere miles above, reading is both solitary and social and it’s just plain nice to exchange thoughts, ideas and responses with people who are interested and interesting :)
Errr, this is me being slightly out of my depth – I, too, have no background in popular lit crit so whatever I say is going to be a bit of an arsepull. Also I am not big steampunk reader. It’s not really my thing, due to my complex love/hate relationship with the Victorians.
I wouldn’t necessarily categorise steampunk as anachronistic except in the shallowest sense i.e. things are in the past that were not really in the past, like dirigibles and clockwork doohickeys. To me, steampunk feels basically like a combination of nostalgia and aesthetics, lightly spattered in pseudo-science. I don’t see steampunk as deconstructive or decentred, which is what I’d expect from a postmodernist text or movement – I see it as a simple back-reaching to a time when people wore better clothes and The Somme hadn’t happened.
So for me, I think steampunk is a genre in denial (and maybe this does fit with your thought son Gramsci) – it wants to talk to about social and technological change, while running away from all the major drivers of that change in the early 20th century. And it wants to have fun in Victorian Britain without having to worry about the horrendous poverty and widespread oppression. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing per se BAD about this (we’re all allowed our escapist fantasies, after all) but I would definitely say that aligns it with some kind of … neo-modernism? History is the nightmare from which we are trying to awake and all that ;)
Turning up late to parties is what all the cool kids do ;)
I am SO SOLD I can’t begin to tell you :)
I’m just now catching up on my blog readings, but I want to say how much I enjoyed your review. Like many, I read F&F as a teenager, but for whatever reason, it didn’t stick with me – possibly because my introduction to romance as a 14 year old was a rape-by-aphrodisiac book called “Passions Heirs” that I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember who wrote it, and F&F was sane in comparison.
I’m really enjoying this thread – it’s always fun to read what everyone’s favorite books are and add to my own TBR list. Many of my favorites have already been mentioned, “Northern Lights” (Nora Roberts), Jennifer Crusie (Bet Me is my favorite, followed by Welcome to Temptation and Faking It – which is sort of a sequel to Welcome to Temptation, and better read in order), Julie James (all of her books, I love).
I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned Carla Kelly – she writes regencies where the main characters are in the middle classes, often they are soldiers. “The Wedding Journey,” (where the main action happens when the characters are caught behind the lines after the British army retreats from Portugal) “The Surgeon’s Lady,” are two of my favorites (but I like all of her books). You might also enjoy “Libby’s London Merchant” which had a twist that I never saw coming.
Another of my favorites that no one has mentioned yet is Judith Arnold’s “Love in Blooms.” I’m Jewish, and there aren’t that many romances out there with Jewish characters – this one stands out in a fun way.
And “Tam Lin” by Pamela Dean, which seems to be in that vague zone between fantasy and romance, is my favorite book ever. It’s a modernization (well, modernized to 1970) of the ballad, to a college campus in Minnesota.
Hi Karen, thank you so much – really glad you enjoyed the review. I am frankly worried about ANYTHING that compares unfavourably to F&F ;) I’ve just about got the list into something like an order – and I can certainly add those ideas :) I think Nora Roberts, Julie James and Jennifer Crusie are semi-high up it, as lots of people recommended :)
I absolutely love Tam Lin – I haven’t read it for years but I own this incredibly damp and tatty copy I have diligently carried with me from house to house. It’s a wonderful growing-up story, all entangled with myth and poetry. One of my favourite books as well :) I think I read it first when I was an undergrad and, then, again when I’d grown up a bit. It captures that time of life so very well.
@KarenF: I love Dean’s Tam Lin with all my heart.
Nobody’s mentioned the Regencies of Elisabeth Fairchild yet: The Love Knot, Lord Ramsay’s Return, The Counterfeit Coachman. Her chararacters think! I think her meditation on gender, The Love Knot, suits your project particularly well.
And what about Barbara Metzger’s funny Regencies from the 1980’s & ’90’s? Lord Heartless, Lady Sparrow. Her short story “Bald Lies” in the collection titled Valentines, is a favorite (and has ensured that I will never, ever stuff a bra).
Barbara Hambly’s SFF novels have a strong romantic element (with characters I’d love to share a campfire with): Dragonsbane, The Silent Tower, Those Who Hunt the Night.
And anyone who loves Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin will get a similar rush from Diana Wynne Jones’s Fire and Hemlock. Riches!
One of Carla Kelly’s short story collections, Coming Home for Christmas or Here’s to the Ladies, is a good place to start, since you’ve got a really long reading list ahead. In theory, you could stop halfway and read another author–but it’s Kelly, so you won’t want to stop.
Nobody’s mentioned L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle yet. Does it count as a love story? A Jazz-Age fairy tale, some have called it.
Michelle Magorian’s Not a Swan is a YA novel that contains several romances between glorious misfits, set in WWII with flashbacks to WWI.
@AJH: Oh if you like the Gothic, you may want to look up Sandra Schwab. Just now she’s in the process of (re)self publishing her first three books. I personally recommend Castle of the Wolf and Bewitched.
I recommend Sea Change by Darlene Marshall. It’s historical romance with a woman passing as a male doctor and is kidnapped by a pirate to save his brother. One of my all time favourite historicals and a great version of the disguised female trope. I am constantly rereading it.
Thanks, Laurel, those sound all sound wonderful – jazz age fairytale, especially, what could possibly go wrong with that. Forgive my terse reply but I am stranded in the NE of England on a stone-age computer with a hazy internet connection and it has already devoured by previous three version of this comment :)
But I just wanted to say I love DWJ – Fire & Hemlock, especially. One of my favourite books of all time.
PS – the name Michelle Magorian feels really familiar to me … but I can’t remember in what context I’ve heard it before. I’d try to Google but I am afraid the whole internet would explode.
I DO like gothic. I would totally be laundry-list hunting, given half a chance ;)
I’ll definitely add to my list.
Okay. Pirates and cross-dressing. It doesn’t quite scan, but those are a few of my favourite things ;)
*adds to list – moves WAAAAY up the list*
Definitely add Jennifer Crusie’s “Welcome to Temptation” to your already very long list if it’s not there already. I love her romances. She got into the genre after working on her PhD and realizing that the majority of literary heroines were in miserable marriages, had affairs with jerks, and then committed suicide (the women, not the husbands or the jerks). Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary may be great literature, but Crusie felt that surely contemporary women had more choices than just whether to jump in front of a train or drink poison. So read her books — you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to schmooze (and perhaps write a review) a little.
Welcome! Loved your F&F review and can’t wait to hear what you think about whatever you choose to read. Go with what interests you. Life is too short to read something that doesn’t grab you. Having said that, I can’t resist a couple of suggestions:
I have to second (third? fourth?) the The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe – just because you mentioned dragon stories and I’d love to know how you think it holds up to what you are used to.
Also, the Patricia Briggs and Kelly Armstrong (Bitten) recs.
In the contemporary category, since you think you might be light there: Suzanne Brockmann’s troubleshooter series is usually a favorite (but romantic suspense), Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score is light and cute, as are several Kristan Higgins (try her earlier work, maybe Just One of the Guys or Catch of the Day). And no one has mentioned Susan Elizabeth Phillips (or SEP as she is frequently referred to) yet . . .
I’m late to the party but welcome you no less warmly. I enjoyed reading your essay and your thoughts on TF&TF. I tried to follow the comments but mostly skimmed so please forgive if I repeat but I don’t believe anyone recommended Judith McNaught. She’s for when you are in the mood for “old skool” romance more along the vein of Woodiwise though she has a couple of very popular contemporaries (set in the 80s) as well. She is known for the sweeping epic, meaty romances that are few and far between today. I’d skip Whitney, My Love though it’s probably her most popular and recommend Almost Heaven or Something Wonderful . Also, A Kingdom of Dreams is a great medieval epic romance with knights, jousts, a king and a marriage arranged to avoid war.
I second (or third or forth) the recommendations for Sarah Mayberry (can’t go wrong with any of hers), Victoria Dahl (have only read her contemporaries and enjoy her voice), and Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews when you’re in the mood for urban fantasy with romantic elements. And I highly recommend beginning the JR Ward books with her first Dark Lover and reading in order because there’s a good chance they’ll jump the shark for you as they did for many of us but the first 3-4 were definitely cracktastic.
Look forward to hearing more from you and happy reading!!
@AJH: Based on your comment, I really hope you read Meljean Brook’s take on steampunk (my rec is Riveted, btw) – because she does actually deconstruct and examine things. In her alternate history, Europe was conquered by the Golden Horde instead of resisting the Mongol invasion. Her books are set right after England frees itself from the Horde, in a steam powered era – so it’s kind of the Victorian era, but with no Queen Victoria, no British Empire, no United States, etc. It’s extremely ambitious world building – it doesn’t always completely work, imo, but it’s really interesting. And it’s fun.
Cruisie does sound wonderful – she’s up near the top of the list because I can’t wait to read one :) I’m trying to decide between Faking It, Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation, as they all came highly recommended. I’ll just have to toss a coin or something. Errr, a 3-sided coin :P
Thank you for the kind words – I’m so glad you enjoyed the review. Writing it was, err, slightly more entertaining than reading the book ;)
I absolutely agree that you shouldn’t plough painfully through something that is making you want to claw your eyes out but some of the most exciting and valued reading experiences I’ve ever had came about because somebody suggested something to me I wouldn’t in a million years have chosen to pick up on my own initiative. But I do reserve the right to, err, DNF if I find myself in reading hell :)
The Smoke Thief is pretty high up The Big List of Awesome on the strength of all these recommendations – I’m really looking forward to it.
Patricia Briggs and Kelly Armstrong are definitely on there but in the second quartile. I shall likely bump them up arbitrarily when I get sick of Almacks and tepid orgeat :)
I am pretty light on contemporary – I was basically alternating historicals with ANYTHING ELSE :) But some one poked Suzanne Brockmann at me over Twitter – I think Heartthrob and Unsung Hero were suggested? Ditto SEP – It Had To Be You, I think?
Thank you for Rachel Gibson and Kristan Higgins – consider them listed :)
Thank you – and people who are late to parties are usually instrumental in keeping them going ;) Also, yes, the comments are a bit insane – which is partly my fault for trying to pick up everything. I’ve build this List but I’m still faintly worried I’ve missed something.
A few people did mention Judith McNaught but in the sense of ‘stay away’ rather than ‘run towards over flowery fields with your arms wide open’. On the other hand, if I read Kathleen Woodiwiss I am certainly not going to discriminate against Ms McNaught. I’m quite interested by Kingdom of Dreams, actually, since History according to my list seems to exist exclusively between 1800 and 1828. Also I like knightly stuff, so what can possibly go wrong?
I think I have Suddenly You by Mayberry, and Andrews is way up near the top of the list because quite a few were ‘omg, these were amazing’ and I’m totally suggestible :)
There have certainly been… uh … mixed comments on JR Ward but I’m too curious enough not to try :)
Thanks for Dahl – that’s a new name for me, so she’s on the list :)
And, omg, happy reading is so right – I’m having a BLAST here. I’ve been oop North for various family things, wandering around with my nose stuck compulsively in my Kindle, and having to the answer “What the hell are you reading” quite a lot ;)
@AJH: I told myself not to post again since this is a bit off topic, but Cleo (thank you Cleo) opened the door so… Your evocative attempts at modesty aside ;) I think you’re right in that my analysis is more case dependant than universally applicable, so not particularly useful. mea culpa.
But more importantly (and on topic), and not to disagree with Cleo (and others, I think) but I would say the best place to start with Ms Brook’s Iron Seas series, if you are going to do so, is at the beginning – a novella called Here there be Monsters.
Yes, I know – Riveted is near the top of my list, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading it. Most of my comments on steampunk have been necessarily quite generalised and it’s certainly not a genre I know all that much about – so my thoughts are quite unformed (though that won’t necessarily always shut me up ;) ).
That certainly sounds like an intriguing setup, at any rate!
No, no, entirely my fault, I self-derailed :) Also I was interested in your ideas about steampunk – I’d never thought of that way, so no mea-culping :)
That said I was promised a non-dickhead hero in Riveted so I feel pretty committed to it. But I could probably do a novella simultaneously (oo-er, matron).
How about reviewing a Dark Hunter novel by Sherrilyn Kenyon? Thank you!