A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

The Loving Spirit by Penelope Stratton (Lucy Gordon)

Book content warning: depiction of rape


The Loving Spirit by Lucy Gordon.

This opens with what would be the epilogue of a typical historical romance: an ordinary woman named Amelia captured the heart of a harsh, withdrawn Earl named Justin, and they are now happily married with several children, and another on the way. But such happy endings were more precarious than most historicals like to acknowledge, and the birth of little Amelia leads to the death of her mother. On her deathbed, Amelia makes her husband and her children’s governess (her beloved school friend Kate, who fell on extremely bad times) promise to marry each other immediately, seeking to protect both of them.

Over time, the grief-stricken, bitter Justin and lonely Kate grow from having “no sympathy between their minds” to respect, liking, attraction, and then passionate love. But of course Kate’s horrible past comes back to attempt to destroy them.

I’m glad my attention was piqued by the plotline, because this is much meatier and more satisfying than Gordon’s frothy traditional Regencies. It’s a bit like a literary ancestor of The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson, but in more traditional genre romance form; readers who hate when a previous wife is downgraded and badmouthed to make the heroine look good will appreciate this one. Kate is a bit TSTL at times, but only when under tremendous pressure, and she’s a strong fighter. And there’s an excellent redemption for the narrowminded Justin.




TBR Challenge: That Midas Man by Valerie Parv

CW: Death of a child


The theme: Something different.

Why this one: So, after making sure I had my April TBR post written in advance, I completely spaced on the May TBR challenge. I chose this as a fast read, by an author I haven’t, IIRC, tried before.

It actually was a little different, as Harlequin Presents go. Midas is almost a beta ruthless tycoon: he’s kind, and thoughtful, and has a legitimately tragic backstory. (His wife and child were driven to their deaths by paparazzi.) Journalist Jill is the baddie, invading his privacy in the name of getting custody of her daughter; she also has that irritating heroine habit of recklessly lying about something and then being pissed when he believes her. There’s kind of a weird suspense element at the end, which gives her a chance to redeem herself. It’s not overtly racist, but a POC is the bad guy.

So yeah, not all that different. A decent enough read, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find a copy.


Reading, April 2017

I apologize for how sparse this post is; my April was spent preparing for my trip, freaking out about my trip, taking my trip, and then recovering from my trip. So I didn’t make a lot of notes and some of the lighter books I barely remember. Squares unfilled: “Wild ride” and “West Side.”

Recurring themes of the month: Heroines who want to escape “the Marriage Plot.”Ambitious mamas. Historical ADHD and anxiety disorder. People who use their supposed craziness to defeat evil. Series merging. Victorian inventors with patents. Drama involving exes at the theatre. Heroines under surveillance. Twin babies. Heroines who fall for the black sheep of seemingly perfect families. Heroines taken advantage of while they’re grieving. Heroines from the Pacific Northwest. (Timely!) Pointless, cliched, and offensive big reveals. Bondage wounds. (Not the good kind.) Musicians/creative artists.

Hollywood: Married for the Tycoon’s Empire by Abby Green. (Harlequin Presents. First in multi-author series. Hero in pursuit.) Not actually set in Hollywood, but they have Hollywood-style problems.

Double denim: A Shameful Consequence by Carol Marinelli. (Harlequin Presents. First in a duo. One night stand. Secret baby.) Sexy twin brothers! Okay, so you only get one in this book…

Toast: The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian. (Historical – Victorian. M/M. Disabled hero. Criminal hero. Masquerade. In hiding.)

I can’t remember if there’s actually toast in this story — one hero only eats bread and ham — but there’s a lot of coziness to it, and surely there’s some toast in a cozy English romance?

This has such a romantic cover and thankfully the contents did it justice. The author has a lovely way with a romantic scene, as when the characters cautiously flirt while testing the telegraph they’re working on.

Belles: Under the Stars of Paris by Mary Burchell. (Harlequin Romance. Paris in the 1940s. Love triangle/rectangle.)

I can’t really say much about this, because it’s one of those surprising oldies in which it’s genuinely hard to tell who the heroine will end up with. But I loved it, except for some quibbles with the ending. No steam at all but utterly delightful. Wonderful details about the Paris fashion world and what it was like to be a fashion model.

Exploring: How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. The author explores how she wants to live through books. Thoughts here.

A Token Wife: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas. (Historical Romance. Victorian. Series.) What Pandora has no intention of being.

I liked this the best of Kleypas’s recent historicals, though it’s not high drama as the title implies.

Now! (contemporary): An Indecent Proposal by Carol Marinelli. My TBR challenge read.

Sleepless Nights: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran. (Historical – Victorian. Deceit. Fake marriage.) The heroine’s guilt no doubt caused her many sleepless nights.

It’s a shame this has such a generic title, because it’s one of Duran’s best books. The “marriage to someone who’s supposed to die soon” plot isn’t new, but there’s quite a twist here. The amnesia element almost made this a science fiction plot, so it’s interesting to anyone fascinated by genre.

Drinks O’Clock!: Lovers in the Afternoon by Carole Mortimer. (Harlequin Presents.) Self-explanatory. 🙂

Special Delivery: Pregnant by Mr. Wrong by Rachel Johns. (Category romance. Silhouette Special Edition. High school crush. One night stand. Not-so-secret secret baby.) Also self-explanatory.

The Perfect Kiss: Claimed for the De Carrillo Twins by Abby Green. (Harlequin Presents. Blackmailed into marriage. Free to Be a Family.) Neither can forget their one kiss.

Now that is one disappointing title. 😉

Party: Maid of Honour by Miranda Hammond. (Traditional Regency. Heroine is the good sister.) Most of the action takes place at a house party.

Puppy Love: My Only Sunshine by Mary Ann Rivers. (Contemporary romance. Novella. Musician. Writer. High school friends. Something to Love.) The characters fall in love young.

The cover of this story — and yay for an actually fat woman on a romance cover! — and the backstory reminded me a lot of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, so I was very amused when I got to this line:

“Even when I hadn’t seen Mallory in seven years, hadn’t had any more contact than a postcard I read the ink off of…”

Rivers writes beautifully and a story about two creative artists (one a musican, the other a writer) is a perfect showcase for her prose.

“He told Mallory that he always felt like his mother was afraid that if he didn’t do a hundred repetitions of some exercise his violin professor assigned him, the music would just drain out of him and he wouldn’t be special anymore.

He wouldn’t be worth loving.

He didn’t say that, but that condition was clearly obvious to John. What his mother didn’t understand was that John would never need to be told to do one hundred repetitions. He would always do then, because to reach for his instrument was to make his gangly, pointy body complete — whole and fluid and lovely.”

Pajama Time: On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman. (Fiction with romantic element.) A roommate is seduced with morning lingerie.

This had some of the same flaws as Lipman’s last book — primarily, too much gossip. It was very readable but I think I may be over her. 😦

April: Paris — and My Love by Mary Burchell. (Harlequin Romance. Sequel. Love triangle.) I can’t remember when this was set, but April and Paris just go together!

Similar to Under the Stars of Paris, but considerably less interesting.

7: Married for the Greek’s Convenience by Michelle Smart. (Harlequin Presents. Married.) I can’t remember how many years they were separated; let’s say seven.

Chasing the Light: A Song Begins by Mary Burchell. (Harlequin Romance. London. Series beginning. Singer. Conductor. Adult student/teacher. Large age difference. Controlling hero. Something to love.) Heroine is seeking money for the voice teaching she needs to become a singer.

This is similar in some ways to Under the Stars of Paris, but with the difference that the heroine is sincerely dedicated to her craft. Those tags don’t make it sound very appealing, but it’s really exciting and evocative.

Sweet City Woman: Ring of Deception by Sandra Marton. (Multi-author series. Single mother. Cop. Masquerade.)

“…he’d been dead wrong to have brought a city girl into the woods.”

I’m annoyed at Harlequin for reprinting this as an HP, when it doesn’t fit the line at all, and was originally part of a multi-author series and has a series cliffhanger ending. Otherwise, a decent story about an undercover cop and and a mom in hiding from her abusive ex. (But she doesn’t change her name!) The crime plot falls flat at the end, which brought my grade down.

No Questions Asked: Love Without Reason by Alison Fraser. (Harlequin Presents. Scotland and America. Reunited. Large age difference. Flashbacks. Secret baby. Bickerfest. Big Mis. Heroine pov only.) The lovers are separated because the hurt hero doesn’t bother to ask questions.

An amusingly apt title, since it’s hard to know what the unlikeable main characters see in each other. Nonetheless, the passion and hurt on both sides runs enjoyably high, and the effect of the heroine’s deep reserve is interesting. The prose is sometimes clunky, but I enjoyed the details about life in Scotland and the culture clash between the poor Scottish heroine and wealthy American hero. Warning for dubious consent and some violent behavior.

Cherish : Like None Other by Caroline Linden. (Victorian? Short story. Neighbors.) Likeable, mature characters, who will certainly cherish each other.

Dark Apollo: Consumed by Fire by Anne Stuart. (Romantic suspense. Italy and the U.S.) Hero is sometimes brunette, sometimes blonde, always dark. Though I was tempted to put this book under “Wild Ride” and use this for “Dark Apollo” instead.

I’m irked, because Stuart’s formula has started to get kind of meh for me of late and I was enjoying the twists of this one more than usual — until it got to an offensive plot twist, made even more offensive by being completely unnecessary.

Lily: Deceived by Sara Craven. (Harlequin Presents. Reunited. Stepcousin. ) Hero’s nickname for the heroine is “Madonna Lily.”

Morass: His Mistress’s Secret by Alison Fraser. (Harlequin Presents. Heroine POV only. Singer. Doctor. Hero is cynical about women.)

Not an apt Fraser title at all, this time… I think they just wanted to squash it into the “mistress to a millionaire line” despite the fact that the hero is a doctor and the heroine is a rock star and they barely even have sex until the end. Some interesting aspects around the heroine’s life — she was abandoned at a commune, where she grew up until social services forced her to leave —  but I didn’t feel the chemistry between them at all and the “secret” was nothing. (Or another offensive, cliched one, if you read between the lines.)



Madly by Ruthie Knox. I’m not sure how much I read, but I never got any sense that the characters should be together.

Shadows by Robin McKinley. As Bona wrote, to enjoy a first person narrative, you have to care about the person narrating.


Just for Fun

The new Shallowreader Bingo card is out and I couldn’t help noticing how much of it applied to my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. So I’m filling out trip bingo! (I’ll do reading bingo too, of course.)

“Sweet City Woman” — every time I visit a big city, I’m reminded of how much I feel at home in them, and kind of wish my life had gone another way. Except not, since I wouldn’t have my family.

“Sleepless Nights” — So, so many of them. Especially the ride back.

“April” — when this all took place.

“Puppy love” — We visited someone who is passionately in love with her pet.

“Exploring” — a whole lot of this! I can’t remember when I’ve walked so much.

“Toast” — what I was after the nightmare of our return trip.

“Chasing the Light” — Seattle. Nuff said.

“Belles” — A friend of my mom’s we stayed with and her adorable girlfriend.

“Wild ride” — again, the return trip.

“Drinks O’Clock” — what every single Amtrak passenger riding with us was feeling.

“Double Denim” — I lived in two pairs of jeans.

“Now!” — the only way out is through. One moment at a time.

“The Perfect Kiss” — The one I got from my husband when I returned.

“Lily” — one of my mom’s friends we visited has a flower name.

“No Questions Asked” — how we felt after the first few attempts to get information from the AMtrak employees.

“7” — approximate hours we spend on the bus from Klamath Falls to Sacramento.

“Dark Apollo” — the sun in Seattle.

“Pajama time” — I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping naked, as is my usual habit.

“Morass” — my emotions!

“West Side” — one of the two ballets we saw was a medley of “West Side Story.”

“A Token Wife” — What I certainly don’t feel like, after all the stuff that needs to be dealt with now.

“Special Delivery” — What Amtrak most definitely did not treat us as.

“Cherish” — what I did with my son when I got back home.

“Hollywood” — We watched the most Hollywood of all Hollywood animated movies, “Sing.”

“Party” — What I hope Amtrak will be, if we sue them.


TBR Challenge: An Indecent Proposition by Carol Marinelli

The theme: A contemporary romance. I no longer have any in my print TBR that aren’t categories, so went for the HP pile.

Why this one: It was on top of the pile, and revenge in the blurb instantly caught my eye.

This turned out to be the second half of a duology, and I’d recommend reading them in order. In A Shameful Consequence we learned that Nico and Zander’s mother was thrown out by her brutal husband and forced to take only one of their baby twins. (He kept the eldest, Zander.) Forced into prostitution, she agrees to give up Nico to a wealthy, childless Greek couple. As this opens, Nico has finally learned about his past and located his missing twin. But Zander, who grew up in poverty, believing his mother had deserted him and chosen his brother over him, is intent on revenge against the brother who he thinks had everything. He wants to take everything away from Nico — starting with his lovely PA Charlotte.

I was afraid it would be hard to find much to say about this type of modern Harlequin Presents, which tends to be heavily formulaic and samey. But I was surprised, not as much by the plot as by the prose. I don’t remember if it’s her usual style, but in this and the first book Marinelli writes in a much more evocative way than you’d normally find in a line known mostly for its efficient angst-building in a limited space.

“He took her away with his kiss and then he brought her back with its absence. He handed her her bag, which told her he had come out to fetch her; he draped her in her wrap and covered the swell of nipples beneath her dress, looked into her blue eyes and told her, looked right into them and told her, ‘You’ll never regret this.’

And he lied.”

It’s a bit more Ulysses than I expect to find in a Presents, but quite effective. The first book in particular has a lovely dreamlike quality, which is unfortunately offset by clunky sentence structure and a first draft feeling. Perhaps an editor took a firmer hand with the second, because the poetic feeling is less often interrupted by trying to figure out what on earth a line is saying.

Charlotte gets some family drama too, as caregiver for a mother with Alzheimer’s who made her promise not to put her in a home. Even in the short space, her tangled feelings of guilt, concern and resentment are depicted with some nuance.

Add to that some hot betrayal and a thematically satisfying conclusion to the overall plot, and you have an enjoyable read.


Ta da!

A piece I wrote on romances that were inspired by movies has been published, so now I can reveal the easter egg in To Dream Again: It’s a Victorian rewrite of “The Goodbye Girl”!

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Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

As soon as I saw this title and plot announced, I knew the book would be fan service. Having now read it, I say, yeah, so what? Kleypas is excellent at keeping her previous characters themselves when they reappear, which makes seeing them again delightful. And though she gives Sebastian and Evangeline a whole prologue to themselves, she doesn’t overdo the nostalgia.

And this isn’t a retread of Devil in Winter, nor would it have made sense for it to be one. Gabriel, eldest son of that couple, has had the privilege of growing up in a warm, loving, and witty family. Unlike his father, he’s also grown up with a strong sense of responsibility and need to achieve. There really isn’t anything particularly devilish about him, other than that he’s having an affair with a married woman.

This misnaming contributes to a flatness at the end of the book. Gabriel thinks of himself as having a sexual “dark side,” which turns out to be absolutely nothing. The story would more aptly be called Incredibly Devoted Sex God in Spring. The ending fails in other ways too, introducing a new, over-the-top conflict instead of dealing with the genuine, realistic issue that already existed for the couple.

That said, the first three-fourths of the book are delightful. Our heroine is Pandora, the rather wild child from the previous two books in the Ravenel series. Here we learn that Pandora has a disability resulting from childhood abuse; she lost hearing in one ear and frequently has episodes of severe vertigo and tinnitis. I don’t know if it was the author’s intent, but I suspect Pandora would also be diagnosed with ADD today, and possibly with ASD. Her mind moves quickly from thought to thought, making her seem forgetful and disorganized, she has anxiety in crowds and unfamiliar places, and she’s always entirely herself, no matter how hard she tries to be like everyone else.

After Gabriel quite innocently compromises Pandora — see, not devilish at all, his father would totally have gotten some foreplay out of it — he knows he has to do the right thing, but is worried about how this scatterbrained, antisocial woman would manage as his eventual duchess. To his amazement, Pandora has no desire at all to manage: she’s on the verge of starting a boardgame design business and her plans for her life do not include giving up everything she’s worked for to a husband. (Which the law would force upon them.) As Gabriel falls more and more for her, he has to use his charms and occasionally devious intelligence to convince her he’s worth the risk.

I adored this courtship. The love scenes are achingly slow and gorgeous. But it was the conversation and witty dialogue that really won my heart. It’s such a funny book, and they have so much fun together.

But Pandora is also very clear about her feelings and needs.

“‘Damn it Pandora, I can’t promise not to protect you.’

‘Protecting can turn into controlling’

‘No one has absolute freedom. Not even me.’

‘But you have so much of it. When someone has only a little of something, they have to fight to keep from losing any of it.'”

Her insights made the ending even more disappointing to me, when a conflict arises between and then is instantly brushed off as nothing after some time in the sack.

So, not as terrific a book as it could have been. But there was much to love, and perhaps most of all, the theme of acceptance. In giving Pandora his acceptance of her, flaws and all, Gabriel also finds he can just be himself with her, flaws and all, the one thing this beloved golden child needed.




How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

I happened across a mention of this while reading a critical review of The Year of Reading Dangerously, and I have to agree that this book is far more engaging in describing the book-reader experience. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve read almost every book Ellis talks about, which range from What Katy Did to The Bell Jar — but even when I hadn’t read the book, or don’t really remember it, her intimate knowledge and enthusiasm for the books made it easy to follow her points. I think it’s telling that while TYoRD didn’t inspire me to want to read anything the author read, this sent me dashing to the library site several times.

It’s curious that our youthful reading choices were so similar, because it’s hard to imagine someone from a more different background than mine. Ellis’s parents were immigrants from Iraq to England, and fairly devout and traditional Jews. She not only had a bat mitzvah, but a tier from the cake was pointedly saved for her wedding day. Much of her reading as she got older centered around the idea of escape from the life being rigidly prescribed for her, while mine was escape from a life without any protective boundaries.

Yet we read the same… and not just the obvious classics like Little Women, but more obscure books like Frost in May by Antonia White. Virago Modern Classic girls, both of us. All the books center women — who may or may not be appropriate heroines — and only two that I recall were written by men. (Franny and Zooey and Marjorie Morningstar.)

The theme of the memoir is how books helped Ellis become an independent woman doing what she loves, and she writes from two perspectives: what she remembers of her feelings when originally reading the books, and what she takes away from rereading them now. It made me think of a quote which sadly I can’t entirely remember, something along the lives of “Don’t think me superficial for reading novels; I’m trying to build a life.” Her insights are personal and not necessarily particularly deep; I’m sure there are far more thorough and complex feminists examinations of Gone With the Wind, for example. But seeing her react and think and rethink the roles of women in her favorite books, and come to peace with her own life, is captivating.

As a romance reader, I was also intrigued by the conflicting thoughts in Ellis around love and romance. She’s drawn to the bad boys of fiction — Heathcliff and Rhett — but her desire for fictional happy endings is at war with her desire to live a very different kind of life herself. And so she searches for heroine role models amongst spinster characters. (I’m reminded of a discussion I had recently on twitter about the difference between a happy ending and a HEA. To me, a HEA is inherently fairy tale in meaning, and so has to be a fairy tale ending. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a couple ride off into the sunset together to have a happy ending.) Ellis ends the book on a note of satisfaction and reconciliation, just the right note for this reader’s journey.


The RITAs and Me: an Acquaintance

I’m stealing borrowing with permission this idea and the format from Ana of Immersed in Books. It’s always interesting to see how the Rita nominees correlate with my own reading. (Less and less each year, I’d say, as I read fewer books published by mainstream publishers.) So this is what I’ve read from the nominees.

Nominees by category:

Best First Book: 0/6

Contemporary Romance: Long: 2/7

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan. An enjoyable story. Although I disliked the heroine’s pressure on the hero and invasion of his privacy in the name of good will, it was so effectively emotional that it may be my favorite of the series.

Pansies by Alexis Hall. Too busy for me, but I enjoyed the unusually serious look at a former bully and bull-ee relationship, and the “return to a small town” trope set in an ugly, provincial English town full of bigots.

I also DNF’d Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t grabbing me.

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length: 0/10

Contemporary Romance: Short: 0/10

Erotic Romance: 0/5

Historical Romance: Long: 1/4

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Gurhke. (I’m really puzzled as to why this is in long rather than short. It was a quick read. I guess there’s just an arbitrary page count?) I don’t have any notes about this one, though I remember enjoying it. I think the heroine was well drawn and strong.

Historical Romance: Short: 2/6

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. This is my favorite of the RITA nominees I’ve read: it was fresh and fun, and I’m rooting for it. My review.

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries. My first Jeffries read in awhile and I was underwhelmed. My notes are that the plot was all over the place.

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: 0/4

I’m going to check out all these nominees, because that’s a category I often enjoy.

Paranormal Romance: 0/8

I plan to read The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre.


Romance Novella: 0/7

Two DNFs for me here. I generally love Courtney Milan’s books but her Worth saga has been a complete failure for me. It feels strained and bloated. And I didn’t get into Tycoon by Shupe, though I don’t remember why.

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: 0/4

Completely unsurprising.

Romantic Suspense: 0/8

Also pretty unsurprising, this year. I hope this category will work for me again someday. Right now, the world is too scary.

Young Adult Romance 0/4

Not that surprising. I mostly read YA fantasy.

Total read: 5. Total DNF‘d: 3

It will be interesting to see if any of those 5 turns out to be a winner. Go Duke of Sin!



Reading, March 2017

CW: mention of rape.

I didn’t need to badly circle my card squares, because I filled every space! I addressed my concentration problem in a somewhat different way this month, with some short stories and nonfiction. Also, I gave up playing “plants vs. zombies 2”; that helped a lot.

Recurring themes of the month: Athletes, sometimes using drugs. Athletes discussing how to woo the ladies. Fat/chubby heroines. Shakespeare. Sweltering summer days. Fairs. Titled heroes forced to give up scholarly pursuits. Commitment-phobe heroes whose estranged parents get back together. Characters described as lions. Enemies to lovers. Starchy heroines. Reckless heroes. Heroes explaining sports to heroines. Plots to drive people away. Carving initials. Texas. Dogs. Family members with awful significant others. Upstairs/downstairs neighbors.

Suite: An Enticing Debt to Pay by Annie West. (Harlequin Presents. Blackmail/Punishment.) He forces her to be his housekeeper; en suites are no doubt involved, because they always are in Harlequin Presents.

I’m having a run of books with reproductive pet peeves. This was on the meh side for me; it couldn’t seem to make up its mind what story it wanted to tell. But at the end, my general indifference turned into hulksmash hate.

Independence: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. (Nonfiction. American History. Black History. Space.) I confess to being very tempted to put this book in “the Black Moment,” but that seemed like the wrong spirit. Independence, on the other hand, is doubly appropriate for the story of these brilliant black women.

Terribly Sad: Past Loving by Penny Jordan. (Harlequin Presents. Reunited lovers. Sexy beta. Heroes behaving badly.) Books in which the hero left for greener pastures are always gut-twisters.

Hero who left the heroine years before returns. A more emotionally plausible Jordan than usual. I thought it needed more remorse from the hero — he snipes at her for not accepting his apology before he even made it! The heroine was extremely wet, but I had to love how she talks to her plants.

Dancing: All Lined Up by Cora Cormack. (New Adult. Audiobook. Athletes. Sexy beta.) Heroine is a dancer, struggling because her father refuses to let her pursue her dream.

Knock Three Times: To Dream Again by Laura Lee Guhrke. (Historical romance. Victorian era. Widow.) Inventor hero lives upstairs from the emotionally distant heroine and no doubt sings this 1970s classic to himself.

Hero/ine: Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career by Carla Kelly. My TBR challenge read. The square seems appropriate for this masquerade story.

March: Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen. (Contemporary romance. Audiobook. Athletes. Suspense element.)

“March, man. Fucking March.”

Glass Madonna: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins. (Young adult. Short stories.) In one story, innocent people are imprisoned within mirrors.

An Elegant Madness: Devil’s Luck by Carolyn Crane. (Paranormal romance. Novella. Series.) The heroine is persuaded to appreciate the hero’s tempting of fate.

Ready and Willing: May the Best Man Win by Mira Lyn Kelly. (Contemporary romance. First in series.) Former friends turned enemies who discover they may not exactly be willing, but they’re always ready.

A little as if someone wrote a romance for Bobby from Sondheim’s “Company.” Set over the course of a year, with a large cast, it was occasionally confusing but a solid “his friend made a move first” romance.

It’s All Greek to me: Exquisite Revenge by Abby Green. (Category romance. Trope reversal.) Greek island.

Started out well with a trope reversal — the heroine kidnaps the hero, takes him to an island and buys him a wardrobe full of fancy clothes! But it was so repetitious! Every scene on the island starts with one or both of them fresh out of the shower and the heroine always looks delicate and vulnerable. I wanted to break her neck like a twig.

Bodily Fluid: Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren. (Contemporary romance. New Adult. Series beginning. Fanfic.) This is one of those easy squares to fill, but I had to go with this book because of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s pithy comments in her Goodreads review:

“Bennett fucks Miss. Mills in a white dress. he comes inside of her. he takes her underwear. she never cleans her crotch up and goes back to work. ill let you think about that. i know i did.”

An Ill Wind: Housebroken by Laurie Notaro. (Nonfiction. Personal essays. Domestic Humor.)

Funny personal stories. The book goes downhill towards the end, perhaps explained by the story about a giant tree falling on her house while she was writing it.

The Black Moment: Wires and Nerve by Melissa Meyer. Illustrated by Doug Holgate. (Graphic novel. Series continuation.) Although Iko is less fragile than a human, she does have mechanical vulnerabilities and loses her vision.

I expected this graphic novel to be a retelling of the Lunar Chronicles, but it’s actually a continuation, focusing on Iko the android. (Yay!) It’s the start of a good story (there’s a cliffhanger) though the art is not particularly inspired.

Bear Witness: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance edited by Trisha Telep. (Paranormal romance.) Ghosts, death, untold stories.

Pretty standard anthology covering many romance subgenres, with a few standouts and a few stinkers. All manage to find true love for their characters, though not always in the most ethical manner. Warning: stereotypical gay villain alert.

Pretty: Beautiful Bitch by Christina Lauren. (Contemporary Romance. Couple Follow-up. Series. Novella.) The title says it all.

Sex, flashback, sex, sex, fight, flashback, sex, sex, fight, sex.

Tropical Orchid: The Gentle Prisoner by Sara Seale. (Category romance. Beauty and the Beast. Large age difference.) The heroine marries a distant man who loves collecting beautiful things; she feels stifled and more like a part of his collection than a wife.

Valency’s post about comfort reads had me seeking out Sara Seale. I did not regret it.

Redundant: Midnight Run by Lisa Marie Rice. (Erotic romance. Second in series. Cop hero.)

Rice doing what Rice does, but not her best. The plot meanders, and though there’s an interesting conflict — heroine was overprotected/smothered by her wealthy father and is angry that hero treats her like a child — it isn’t resolved satisfactorily.

Comfort: The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. (Nonfiction — literature, memoir.) The author goes out of his comfort zone to tackle difficult books.

This is less about the books Miller read then about his views of books, reading, masculinity, fatherhood, and writing. Although he comes off as snobby, pretentious, and indulgent at times — and embraces it — a lot of what he wrote resonated with me, as a reader who has in some ways forgotten how to read, and as someone who blogs about reading. I might have enjoyed the book more if we had anything like the same taste in books —  I’d never even heard of many of his choices, a lot of which are apparently “cult” books. But it was funny enough and insightful enough that I wanted to keep reading it.

Father Figure: All Broke Down by Cora Cormack. (Audiobook. New Adult. Book two in series.College students. Athlete hero. Heroine was adopted.) Hero is basically parentless, getting adult guidance from his coach.

Kind: Tell Me Something Good by Jamie Wesley. (Contemporary romance. Series beginning. Workplace romance. Opposites attract.) The relationship expert heroine is very giving of her time and attention to her radio show listeners.

Love Thy Neighbor: The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen. (New adult. Fourth in series. College students. ) Neighbors have been secretly crushing on each other.

I was a bit iffy coming into this one, because Bella’s previous appearance showed her as sexually aggressive to the point of being creepy and because I’m sick of books where the “wild” girl gets punished. She’s toned down a bit here — still assertive, but no longer making me wonder if she’s got any restraining orders. And though she does have an understandably bad reaction to what happens to her — not rape, but bad enough — her natural enthusiasm for sex isn’t dimmed for long.

Buff: The Wingman by Natasha Anders. (Contemporary romance. South Africa. Fake relationship.) Another square almost any romance could fill — but this hero was an underwear model!

(This was a Netgalley arc.)

Kissed by Moonlight by Dorothy Vernon. (Category romance. Convenient marriage. Reunited. Age difference. Bickerfest.)

Young woman marries older guy she fell for and had been rejected by years ago… just cause, I guess? It all happens very fast, to make sure there’s plenty of time for them to bicker and misunderstand each other. Had a certain sparkle to it, but the ending was such a letdown.

Patience: The Hook-Up by Kristen Callihan. (New adult. College students. Athlete. Insecure heroine.) The heroine is determined to protect herself from emotional involvement and refuses to even let the hero kiss her while they’re having hot sex. He actually puts up with this shit for quite a long time.

45: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. (Gothic mystery with romantic element. Inspired by another source. First person.)

“we must have been doing forty-five.”

Clever story with an excellent heroine.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (Nonfiction. History. Black history. Science.)

A fascinating true story, but I read it slowly and the loan expired. Basically, the book was too broad and epic for me. I wasn’t that interested in the details of every person involved in Henrietta’s life or in the author’s research.

Blue Notes by Carrie Lofty. (New Adult. College student and CEO. Musician.)

I’ve never been so incredibly turned off by a romance hero. And I read old Brenda Joyce! I skimmed through the book, hoping it would turn out he was her big mistake and she met someone good.



Something More

my extensive reading

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thoughtations, contemplations, fulminations & other random things from books...

...Burns Through Her Bookshelf

Voracious reader, book lover, spastic blogger, audiologist. These things are some of me, but not the sum of me.

Queer Romance Month

because love is not a subgenre

Cate Marsden.

Love and Zombies. And books. And infrequent updates.

Book Thingo

Reading (mostly) romance books down under


...barely scratching the surface

Olivia Dade

Sex. Banter. Nerdery. Love.

Flight into Fantasy

Romance, speculative fiction, and YA book reviews, book chatter, and random silliness

Her Hands, My Hands

The vagaries of my mind, the products of my hands. Not always safe for work.


64 books. 1 Champion. Get your game on.

Stop the STGRB Bullies

Your hypocrisy is showing

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is Austen's loquacious spinster in Emma. No doubt Miss Bates read romances ... here's what she would've thought of them.