Here’s the thing about starting a new job: You’re new. Which means everything you do is new…new procedures, new databases, new bosses, new building, new floor plans and faces and names to memorize. Not to mention the fact that someone will say something you that seems to be in English…maybe? I’ve been at my new position for a while now, and I swear to God, sometimes another assistant will say something to me, and all I will hear is: “Blah blah blah page proofs blag blag jumble tumble runmble. Got it?”
Sorry, can you repeat that?
So because I am new and am therefore grappling with Newness-itis, I’ve avoided many forms of social media. See, at orientation for work they gave me this 20 lb. employee handbook. And said handbook had an entire chapter on things you can and can’t do in relation to work, personal life, and blogging. Which is scary. And upon that orientation day, I took a sacred vow to never speak specifically about my job or anything remotely connected to it online.
Therefore, I am announcing to all of you that–until I figure out what’s actually going on around me–henceforth all of my blog posts will be about my general life. Cause when you work with books and your job is to read romantically it’s kinda hard to maintain a blog persona and a separate work persona. I’m pretty sure people do it… I’m just not at that level of Enlightenment yet.
Now let’s see how interesting my life is without book reviews…
As much as I love the genre, I do have to admit that romance novels sometimes lack diversity. Every heroine is some proper English miss, or some feisty Scottish maiden, or a bold spirited American girl with blond hair and blue eyes. After a while, they can all blend together into one super pale, beautiful pile of womanhood.
Which is why I was super excited to see a refreshing new heroine in One Perfect Flower by Roberta C.M. DeCaprio, my latest review for RT BOOKREVIEWS. Get this: the heroine is an Apache princess whose mother is a former member of the British nobility and whose father is the tribe’s chief.
Fun right? I mean it’s a twofer. You get the “society” of the Regencies with the originality of an Apache heroine. Needless to say, when I read the cover copy for this book, I was quite pumped and ready to roll. Finally, I thought, a heroine to spice things up and bring us a new plot–because obviously this book was not going to be your typical Proper Young Miss Regency.
Well, I was right about that. It was not the typical romance. But I think I set my standards to high.
Such a disappointment. Really it was. Remember my super depressing rant/post on sexual assault in romance novels? Yeah? Well, that was this book. Really a shame. It had such potential to go somewhere and instead I ended up hating the heroine, hating myself, and just feeling sad. All at once. Rule of thumb: when your audience hates themselves after reading your book? Bad sign. Moreover, it is obvious that the author is talented. Her writing was quite nice. Her heroine on the other hand was . . . off-putting.
You can read my review for One Perfect Flower here or by clicking on the image below. But despite the whole misadventure, I really do hope to see more diversity in the romance field. What about Southerners? That could be fun. Or an Indian romance–I mean Imperialism did happen surely someone fell in love during the British occupation of India? Let’s break the Proper Miss mold…
Romantic Question: What heroine/heroes would you like to see more of in romance?
I’ve been busy. Super busy. Sure I’ve been doing productive things that deal with productive details and result in productive business. But the real reason I’ve failed to post anything in FOREVER can be summed up in two words: Lisa Kleypas.
She’s addicting. Terrible, terrible woman. And by terrible I mean awesome. See, I’ve read the lovely Ms. Kleypas’ books before, but to my everlasting shame, up until this last week, I’ve only read her contemporary romances. Bad Lizzie! Oh no, see Kleypas’ real talent is for the historical–that random time period between Regency and Victorian. And man are those books good reads. So after devouring her Wallflower and Hathaways series–a total of nine books–here is my List of Lisa, three BIG reasons why Lisa Kleypas is an author to read and a paragon of romance-hood.
1. Her unexpected heroes!
In a world filled with dukes and earls and viscounts, Kleypas’ heroes are bold, unconventional, and sexy as hell because of it. Out of nine heroes, only 3.5 of them are titled nobility (one is a second son who becomes titled so he only partially counts). I know right? Dukes are like the bread and butter of this genre, and Kleypas instead choses to write about Gypsies, Americans, and self-made men. Thank god.
2. Her nicely flawed heroines!
She’s smart and pretty and accomplished and rich and dazzling and perfect and blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I want to attach romance heroines with a spork. They are just too perfect it makes my teeth hurt. Thankfully, Kleypas’ heroines are nicely grounded and likable. They don’t faint, swoon, giggle excessively, nor do they rush into danger, lack the ability to reason, or live the lives of virginal femme fatals. Evie has a stutter. Daisy is vertically challenged. Poppy is just fun. Readers will actually like these heroine!
3. The sex!
Nicely done. Not gonna lie. But more than the actual love scenes in these books, I really liked how Kleypas handles them. All of the characters involved realize the scandal of being compromised–aka having sex before marriage–and how disastrous it can be. So guess what? Most of them wait for the bonds of matrimony, which some people might claim is not sexy at all, but it really is, mainly because it’s the two of them learning to live and love after the clichéd “happy ending.” In Tempt Me at Twilight, she actually writes, “The London season is like one of those Drury Lane melodramas in which marriage is always the ending. And no one ever seems to give any thought as to what happens after. But marriage isn’t the end of the story it’s the beginning. And it demands the efforts of both partners to make a success of it.” Kleypas shows us those stories. And they are funny, dangerous, and sexy as hell.
Sometimes there are these little moments that reaffirm your faith in mankind. Little moments where for that brief shining second you pause and think, “Huh. That was nice.” And once more you believe in mankind’s ability to be nice.
And I do mean mankind. See, these moments of affirmation are more precisely moments where you forget all the arguments for why chivalry is dead, why gentlemen just don’t exist anymore, and why your perception of all male-kind looks a little like this:
I know it’s not fair to all the men out there who don’t live the Jersey Shore/bro/douchbag lifestyle, but there comes point in every girl’s life where the phrase “men are pigs” becomes a mini-motto. That is until you realize that maybe, just maybe, you’re being too hard on mankind and that maybe they can be gentlemen. Like when a man holds the door open for you, offers to help carry your groceries, or even lets you go first in a crowded line. Is chivalry dead?
Today was one of those days for me. There was this moment that made me take stock and reevaluate the dudes around me. And I came up with a new theory. Gentlemen do exist, but instead of riding their white horses and limos–I’m looking at you hooker-loving Richard Gere–they actually ride the subway. The urban steed of chivalry and politeness. And its opposite.
See today, I saw three instances of chivalric behavior on the subway during one trip and two connections. First, this big, tattooed, bro-looking guy gets up out of his seat and offers it to the young girl standing next to him, saying, “I’m a guy” as his explanation.
Woah. And he wasn’t the only male on the subway to forfeit a seat for a standing woman. I also noticed that most men also let women onto the subway first, off first, and sometimes even try to hold the doors–though they get yelled at for this. It was an eye-opening trip that was topped of when I got off the train at my stop. The young guy in front of me gallantly held back and offered to let me go through the turnstile first. I know. Mind blowing.
So yeah, maybe the gentlemen best seen in Regency romances are a thing of the past–thank goodness because the trade-off was the right to vote for women– but chivalry isn’t quite yet dead. It’s just underground. In the subway. So ladies, next time you start to think that all men are assholes, take a trip to the metro, it’s the place to go to find modern examples of polite gentlemanly behavior.
You know when you pick up a book that’s just so good, so engaging, so enthralling that you forget the world exists outside those pages? When you just read until your hands fall asleep, your legs cramp up, and the clock rolls around from 9:00 to 10:00 to 11:00 to 2:00 am and still you can’t bear to be separated from your book?
I love that feeling. The I have to read this all in one setting because I love it so much feeling that you only get when a book really connects. And last night I found it once more on the brightly illuminated pages of my Kindle for iPad app with a Lord of Vice and his willful, not-so-dainty, partially blind love.
The book: Till Dawn with the Devil
The author: Alexandra Hawkins
The setting: Regency England-ish
Book two in a the Lords of Vice series, Till Dawn with the Devil is one of those rare blends of sweet, sexy, fun, suspenseful, and likable where the heroine is never TSTL, the hero doesn’t cruelly seduce her for his own benefit outside of marriage, ruin her reputation, and then be pig-headed about “not wanting to commit”–well then asshole you shouldn’t have slept with that young, virginal, NOBLEwoman and destroyed her rep–and the bad-guy was sinister, unexpected, and awesomely dangerous. Not to mention crazy.
The book follows Lady Sophia, a young noble woman enjoying her Season in London, despite the fact that her two brothers–also her caretakers–are anything less that attentive. Oh and one little thing, Lady Sophia is blind. Or partially blind as a result of a almost-deadly blow to the head she suffered when she was six the night both her parents were shot and killed.
Then in sweeps our hero, Gabriel “Reign” Housely, the Earl of Rainecourt. A man devoted to vice and sin, Reign suffered one short-lived and ill-fated marriage in his youth, and with the mysterious death of his unfaithful wife, he vows never to marry again. Obviously he does not keep that vow. From the first moment Reign sees Sophia at a ball, he knows he wants her. Even after he finds out her true identity, cause guess what? Reign and Sophie’s families have a little bad blood there. Dun dun dun.
Read it. There are some twists and turns and fun little happenings that I just can’t get into but all I have to say was that I loved it. A whole lot.
Everyone’s a critic. Especially on the internet. Or so I hear. But see, here’s the thing I’ve learned during my past year as a semi-legit book reviewer: bad reviews are not easy to write. At all. In fact, they are infinitely more difficult to write than good reviews.
It seems so counterintuitive. You would think that it would be relatively easy to write a scathing review of some book by some author who you probably will never meet and who wont know you from Tabitha, Denise, or Harriet much less from Tom, Dick, or Harry. Online you can hide your gender with initials, your name under pseudonyms, you can be anyone… so surely it must be easier to just rip into a book, to really get in there and give it a terrible review.
But it’s not. Bad reviews make you just feel bad.
Last night I was finishing up my latest book for RT BOOKREVIEWS. It was a new Carina Press romantic suspense, and I was just loving the beginning. It was smart. It was funny. The car chases seemed so real and quirky. And the hero and heroine seemed to have some pretty hot stuff between them.
And then the author lost me. Our quirky, spunky, stubborn heroine transformed into the clinched TSTL female–you know the kind, rushing into danger, refusing to listen to logic, spurring good advice all under the guise of standing up for herself and being empowered. Oh sure, I am all for empowered femininity and not bowing to the demands of an Alpha male, but when your empowered stance lands you in deep shit forcing the hero to save your worthless ass, then I don’t really see that as “empowered” per say. I see it as a demeaning example of a stereotypical feminine inability to reason. Not cool. At all.
Oh, I was so angry at this book. They lured me in with happy, awesome-ness and then smacked me up the head with stupidity. I literally threw it across the room I was so frustrated. And then I ranted to Roaming through Romance diva, Spencer, who sadly seems to end up on the “arg” side of quite a few of my romantic rants.
However, as much I was angry with this book, as much as I felt betrayed and let down by it, it took me hours upon hours to write the review. Hours of sitting there at my computer watching the cursor blink, thinking of how I could emphasize the good, relate the bad, and still not crush the hopes and dreams of a talented debut author who just needed a little more work and a better heroine.
It took me all night when most reviews take me less than an hour. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say–my midnight emails to Spencer suggest otherwise–it’s trying to balance that line of professional and informative with just plain opinionated and bitchy. Who knows whether the review worked or not–we’ll just have to wait and see. But until then take a look at one of my 2 star, “official” reviews. The first book I ever had to be cruel and kind, Freedom’s Treasure by Janet Quinn. Oh Jubilee!
Juliette married her love at 13. Ariel swam into the arms of her Eric at 16. Bella fell irrevocably in love with some dead dude before her 18th. Hell, even my literary soul mate, Lizzie Bennet, snagged her guy before she reached 21. Do you see a pattern here? Cause I do. And it’s a “Lizzie may be a spinster according to romances” pattern.
Now look at that definition, look at the “conventional age for marrying” according to romances in general, and now look at your own life. Is it just me or is anyone feeling mildly annoyed at the idea that they have to find True Love before they reach 25?
Cause I do.
Here I am, 22 years-old and unmarried, and according to some of the books in the genre I love so much, I am practically a spinster. More than that–I am a willing spinster. Jesus, imagining myself married is like imagining a train/car/airplane wreck all into one. It’s scary.
Which is why I have to say, I love me some love stories featuring older characters. Not like Titanic-lady Old. That’s just crazy, but something a little more mature. My HS infatuations didn’t last more than a week much less All Time, and it’s silly to only read romances where they do.
One of my favorite Love Outside of Teenage Years romances is Nora Robert’s The Villa, a fun, suspenseful romance where love spans three generations of Giambellis women: Tereza the grandmother, Pilar the mother and Sophie the daughter. All three women are completely relatable and aren’t perfect when it comes to love. Tereza was widowed at a young age. Pilar’s husband left her for a younger woman. And Sophie is married to her work. Yet by the end of the book, all three women find their happy ending.
That’s why I personally enjoy romances that feature older characters. Because let’s face it, sometimes Regencies and Medievals … they can make you feel like an old spinster with no suitable prospects. Reality check? There is still hope and I can still find love after the ripe old age of 20.