Posts filed under ‘Ramblings on Romance’

Loving Lisa: Three Reasons to Read Lisa Kleypas

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.

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October 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm 3 comments

Not Dead Yet

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:

Sorry men

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?

Some argue...

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.

 

September 28, 2011 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Review: Till Dawn with the Devil

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?

Like this kid...

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.

Drama.

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.

My rating:

September 26, 2011 at 8:24 am Leave a comment

Cruel to be Kind…or Just Kinda Cruel

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.

Not a "semi-legit" critic, more like a "totes legit" one

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!

Romantic Question: Do you think you need to be cruel to be kind in bookreviews? Or should people just keep their opinions to themselves?

September 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm 1 comment

Who You Calling A Spinster?

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.

Spinster:(spnstr)

n.
1. A woman who has remained single beyond the conventional age for marrying.
2. A single woman with many cats and no love.
3. A person whose occupation is spinning–as in Spinning Class? As in Cougar? Maybe
_______________________________________________________________

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.

September 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm 1 comment

Card Carrying Romance Lover

Everyone has their little addictions.  Some people are shopoholics.  Some–like my friend Amanda–are chocoholics.  Others are bookaholics.  Personally, I’m all three.  We all have those little obsessions that we just can’t get enough of.  But me…well, while I may love books, chocolate, and shopping…well, for me, I am a contest-aholic.

Well, hello, there Aidan

Yes, I am addicted to entering contests. And it is a problem.

When it comes to contests I look before I leap.  I’ll just be wasting some time on the internet, browsing some sites, and the next thing I know, I’ve entered some romance novel/blog contest.  This wouldn’t be a problem if

  1. I didn’t keep winning and
  2. I didn’t forget that I had entered them.

See the problem?  Winning is great.  I love winning, but when I forget what I entered to win, it becomes a problem.  For example, last week I was just sitting with my mother on one of my visits back home when my father hands me an envelope.  Apparently, I had mail.  I expected some junk or maybe some letter from a friend, but when I opened the flap I ended up with the most amazing surprise.

Romance novel trading cards!

the front...

and the back

Yeah, I know! They’re like baseball cards for romance novels.  Too cool.  I was so excited.  New addiction.  They are like Pokemon + baseball + sex, which = happy in my world! I think I have to collect them all.  Now, if only I can remember which contest I entered to get them so I can figure out how to get some more…

September 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

I’m Addicted to Love

I have this theory that so far has proven to be quite possible that Iris Johansen is actually a gateway drug to the amazing and life-altering addiction that is the romance genre.

It’s a bold statement, I know.  One, I am saying romances are addicting.  Two, I am blaming Iris Johansen, but again I want to stress that this is just a working theory.  See, you pick up a Johansen book thinking everything is innocent enough–after all she writes mysteries, you say. Mysteries are a completely legitimate form of literature.  Agatha Christie wrote mysteries. Yes, you should be perfectly fine.  What could happen? I mean it’s just reading for goodness sake.

Wrong.

The next thing you know Iris Johansen leads to Linda Howard and Linda Howard leads to Nora Roberts and Nora Roberts leads to Julie Garwood in a chain of increasingly romantic plots.  They start out mysteries and end up romantic suspense.  And after a while you start to crave the passion, the romance, the fire, the possession.  You need a new book, a new author, a new hit, and so you slowly begin to fall deeper and deeper into the romance culture.

Look both ways before crossing the aisle

By the time you get to Garwood, there’s no going back.  Julie Garwood’s romantic suspense novels really hook you in. Her great mysteries keep you craving more, so you start on her backlist, but as you move further and further down that list, you realize that you are also moving genres.  Romantic suspenses slowly become historical romances.  And you find yourself walking past the mystery aisle in the bookstore.  Creeping furtively towards that shrouded back section—lured there by your own addictive need for more passion, danger, love and those brightly colored covers, dangerous men and spitfire women. One day you are safe and sound in mystery, the next you are in romance.  And as anyone who has ever been hooked knows: you never recover from the romance genre.

Within the historical romance subgenre you move from medievals to Regencies to Victorians.  Scottish lairds, dashing dukes, innocent ladies, and compelling hoydens.   Next thing you know you are reading contemporary: Crusie, Phillips, and Gibbson.  From there it is only a short fall into category romances. Harlequin Blaze titles like Slow Hands appear on your bookshelf along with classics like Pregnant by the Boss! and Secretary by Day, Mistress by Night.  By then you are good and hooked, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Moreover, there is nothing you want to do about it or even should do about it.

It starts so innocently.  One day you pick up a mystery, and the next you are deeply involved in the romance subculture, which is why when you, my sweet, innocent friend, ask me for a book recommendation, I tell you to try reading Iris Johansen’s The Ugly Duckling.  It was my gateway into the best thing that has ever happened to me—despite my previous drug metaphor—and it really is a gateway into romance for the romance-illiterate.  The plot is suspenseful, the tale of a vengeful mother on a quest to bring down the men who took everything away from her: her husband, her daughter, her identity, her security, and even her face.  Readers emphasize with Nell Calder, relate to her and her pain and burning desire for revenge, and in this emotionally and thrilling plot of danger and intrigue, Johansen cleverly weaves romance.   The Ugly Duckling doesn’t start out as a romance, but by the end, you mainly remember the narrative’s searing, possessive, passionate, steamy, uncontrollable, shudder-inducing romance between dangerous Alpha hero Nicholas and determined Nell.

I have recommended The Ugly Duckling to six people in the past four years—numerous others in the nine years since I first picked the book up in middle school.  Of those six people, four of them have actually read it, and out of those four, three friends now read romance novels exclusively.  I blame—or credit—Johansen with their addiction to romance.  She manages to include the best of both mystery and romance in her novels, tempting unsuspecting readers into one of the biggest genres in publishing and tricking narrow-minded readers into accepting a romantic plot.

When I first started The Ugly Duckling, I laughed at the thought of reading romances.  They were low, embarrassing, bad.  I scoffed at the notion that intelligent people would read such trash.  Johansen’s book led me down a path that changed my mind and now my life.  Therefore, I suggest The Ugly Duckling to you.  I go by the old phrase, “the more the merrier,” especially when it comes to people reading romance novels, and I won’t ever underestimate the power Johansen has as a gateway drug again.  Maybe it will lead you down a similar path to the best addiction of your life.

September 2, 2011 at 8:04 am 2 comments

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