A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

By Request

Pictures of my inner 12 year old’s office. Sorry for the crappy picture quality. The light and dark lavender of the walls doesn’t come across at all.

Let there be pretty!

Let there be pretty!


Matching wall decoration and pillow, made by my mom.

Matching wall decoration and pillow, made by my mom. Favorite Harlequin Presents handily nearby.


Curtains by mom, stars by Ikea.

Curtains by mom, stars by Ikea.


Craft by a friend.

Craft by a friend.


Gotta be pretty everywhere!

Gotta be pretty everywhere!


Watched over by Totoro in every season.

Watched over by Totoro in every season.


Ugly cupboard, spraypainted by my husband.

Ugly cupboard, spraypainted to prettiness by my husband.


And inside... my print TBR!

And inside… my print TBR!


Old friends keep me company.

Old friends keep me company.


Warning: Mushy Stuff Ahead


I just finished reading Home for the Holidays by Sarah Mayberry.  (I’m on a Harlequin SuperRomance kick, having just recently realized how many good ones there are, so I declared December to be #SuperMonth.) Nice, warm story — nothing especially memorable, but I was struck by one aspect.

It’s one of those romance when the hero and heroine start out pissed off at each other and stay that way for awhile. After they finally kiss, Hannah thinks this:

Even with Lucas she’d never gotten so hot and heavy so quickly. With him sex had always been more fun and playful than hot and fiery. Lucas had never rubbed her the wrong way as Joe did, either. But maybe that was part of it. Maybe the rub was part of the tension, part of the heat.

Shortly after this, she has a conversation with Lucas, her former fiance, who dumped her for her sister.

“Did you ever love me?” She wasn’t going to go home and cry over the answer, but she’d always wanted to know.

“Yes. I still do. But it’s different with Kelly. I can’t explain it. It’s just… right. With you, it was like we were best friends and you happened to be a woman. It was comfortable. I’m never comfortable with Kelly.”

I find this so… odd, that he finds it “just right” to never be comfortable with his lover. I understand wanting to write some tension between the characters into a romance; you can get away with none if you’re Carla Kelly writing a Christmas story, but generally it’s necessary.

But in real life, I knew my husband was right for me because I was so comfortable with him. I could be with him constantly without getting worn out. I could sleep with him without feeling suffocated. (And we’re talking two big people on one single dorm bed here. 😉 ) I asked him about his memories and it was the same for him.

We’re both the kind of people who feel attraction based less on obvious physical characteristics and more on sense of humor, personality, and so on. So maybe it works differently for us than most people. But I happen to love being married to my best friend.


Too Close to Home

I’ve started to really enjoy the Psy-Changelings series. Hostage to Pleasure and Branded by Fire are both really good. But it’s possible the running terrorism plot is going to kill this series for me. 😦


Not Getting Rid of Twittah

I got into a conversation about parenting newborns on twitter the other day and had two interesting realizations. One I wrote about at my other blog, but the other has to do with my use of twitter.

Today was not the first time I’ve been in a twitter conversation and realized, “huh… a lot of people in this conversation are authors.” I used to be very uncomfortable when I realized that. When I was really working consistently and seriously as a reviewer, I worried about being too chummy with authors. And I’ve wondered why I was so reluctant to give up those relationships.

And now I know why… it’s because they’re part of my tribe. The authors I follow on twitter often care about the same things I care about. And a great many of them are women, and so we share a lot of experiences, especially motherhood. I follow a number of authors whose books I haven’t read, mainly because they also have an autistic child. But our biggest shared interest — books and reading — isn’t generally a divisive one. (Unlike many aspects of motherhood, parenting an autistic child, and so on.)

I don’t have enough people in my life who care about the same things as me and enjoy the same books and the same kinds of jokes to be able to give any up when I find them.


Caught in the Act

Hub and I were having lunch today and I noticed four college-aged kids nearby, an Asian guy sitting with a white girl and white guy sitting with an Asian girl. And I immediately started wondering about why they were all together. Were the two Asian people siblings? They didn’t look ethnically similar…

And then I realized I’d caught myself being totally racist. And in a way that’s particularly egregious, because there’s so much of that kind of racism/heterocentrism/ableism etc. in the book world. “Why are there black people in this historical?” “Why is this couple lesbians when it’s not important to the story?” “Why does there need to be someone in a wheelchair — it’s just pandering.”

Why does there need to be any kind of story about four friends or coworkers or whatever eating in a restaurant, just because two of them aren’t white? Because I’m a white person and  I’ve absorbed a lot of shit and I may never get rid of it all. 😦

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me: “Madeline Hunter tweeted that she almost cried when she read my post!”

hub: “I hope it was the good kind of crying.    ‘How could you get me so wrong?! I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here…'”


(P.S. It was the good kind of crying. 🙂 )

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Facts, Truth, and Interpretation – Where My Head is At Today

There’s a huge controversy going on in Romancelandia right now, about a RITA-nominated book featuring a romance between a Jewish woman and a concentration camp commandant. I’m not writing here about the book, which I haven’t read, but about my personal reaction to the controversy itself, which is bringing up some things for me.

One is that I have a huge regard for truth, i.e. facts. This is likely my less than neurotypical side revealing itself: I get extremely perturbed by people getting facts wrong. It bothers me a lot that false assumptions about the book have solidified into fact; it bothers me a lot that I’m the only person who seemed to be bothered by that. (Though you’d think I’d be used to it by now.)

No, I’m not saying that everyone needs to read the book to have an opinion about it. There are quite obviously major concerns with it on a very basic plot level, particularly in the appropriation of Jewish faith/history for Christian purposes. But I do think critiques need to get their basic facts right, if only to have credibility.

And the other is that I have a huge regard for truth, i.e. personal truth. Take The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers, which I named one of my best books of the year. It’s a book that many people with disabilities found very offensive, and with more knowledge and experience, I can see why they did. It’s deeply wrong that people with disabilities are so often used as props for the stories of the abled. But the thing is… that story told my truth. I didn’t see the disabled person in it as a prop because I wouldn’t see my own child as a prop. I felt heard and validated by it and that meant a lot to me.

And I think we have to be very careful to leave room for interpretation. There’s a young adult book — I forget the title — which many readers strongly critiqued as sexist and misogynistic. Then a well regarded critic (one of The Book Smugglers, I think) wrote very convincingly about it as an indictment of sexism and misogyny. Which is right? I don’t know! Even if I read the book or spoke to the author, I might not know! I would have my own interpretation and opinion based on what I had read or learned. But in a way it’s Shroedinger’s book. One person’s attempt at social satire can often be another person’s huge offense.

A while back I wrote about book reviewing as a form of journalism, requiring honesty. Today I’m reminded how much I value truth, both in regard to actual facts and in regard to personal meaning.




I fell behind in my TBR challenge reading — rough month, won’t go into it — but I am reading something and will post late.

I’ve decided to ignore the plagiarists and just keep going… too many assholes have already ruined my fun. Though it makes me glad I gave up standard review formats.


I Gotta Be Me

(This post is not meant as a swipe at Jane; it’s really just about me and my own feelings.)

As a reviewer, I’ve been scared on the internet for a long time.  Scared of being doxxed. Scared of offending people. Scared of making enemies. It’s never stopped me reviewing honestly, but I can’t say it’s never shut me up, much though I wish I could. I’ve been sitting on a lot of my real opinions, so as not to rock the boat or offend people I care about.

And I finally reached a line I couldn’t cross. And the amazing thing is, now I don’t feel scared any more. I would much prefer not to be doxxed or harrassed, of course. But if I am doxxed people will discover… that I’m exactly who I’ve always said I am. Right now I can’t think of anything I’d rather be.


The State of the Reading

It’s early days yet, but so far I’m having a pretty good reading year! I haven’t made any official resolutions, but have been trying to keep self-care and enjoyment in mind. I think if I put it into words, my resolution is, I’m giving up self-imposed responsibilities. Not all responsibilities — I still have deadlines to meet. But any responsibilities towards goals or… fairness… or stretching or broader coverage.  I can’t fix the romance genre, and I certainly can’t help it by burning out.

One thing I’ve noticed is that it does me a tremendous amount of good to read books I specifically wanted to read. The TBR may only shrink by one book, but the effects are exponential. I guess it gives me a sense that I’m spending my life the way I want to be spending it?


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