December 19, 2013

2013: A Year in Books | The Favorites

Image Credit: Abhi Sharma

The year is almost over, and you know what that means: it’s time to write our “Best of” lists and anger people with our terrible choices. But fear not! My impeccable taste guarantees a list filled with nothing but great recommendations… That, and I’m aware of how obnoxious and pretentious some of these lists are, which is why this year I’m going with “Favorites” instead of “Best”. So even if you violently disagree with me, at least you know that I consider this my list and not the list.

Before I get to it, though, I wanted to thank you all for the wonderful year I’ve had. I know I was a bit of a slacker, yet you’re still here even when I only blog once a month. But consistent or not, 2013 was a lot of fun and that’s all thanks to you blogger/twitter/reader/author friends who make the Internet welcoming, interesting and highly addictive.

I’ll resume my not-so-regularly scheduled blogging next month, but in the meantime I leave you with my favorite books of the year (in no particular order). Let me know if any of your favorites made the list.

December 17, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the DNF: A Mixed Bag of Current Reads

I have been an inconsistent blogger, but I have been a steady reader. Here are some thoughts on a few recent reads.

Source: Not all the books are review copies, but let’s assume they are. 

A man ripping open his shirt. He's wearing a red tie and his chest is shaved.
Ripped by Sarah Morgan

This novella is a very good blend of Chick-Lit and a Harlequin Presents. It’s told from the heroine’s POV; a heroine who is a bit goofy and socially awkward, but instead of being an insecure mess, she’s a confident rocket scientist whose dresses have the misfortune of ripping open in front of people.  The hero is an intense Italian hunk all brooding and disapproving, but not entirely overbearing. See? Chick-Lit + Harlequin Presents. It may not sound appealing, but the result is a charming and funny story that I highly recommend, even if I my issues with the price remain.

Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSteamy
Purchase: Amazon

December 6, 2013

NA and the Limitations of Romance: One and Only by Viv Daniels

Mand and woman both wearing white shirts and kissing. Blue background. Title and author name on the bottom.
Source: A review copy was provided by the author.

When I heard that Diana Peterfreund was publishing a New Adult novel under the Viv Daniels pen name, I was very curious. I was even more excited after I read the blurb, because I like complex family dynamics and when the love of your life is your legitimate half-sister’s boyfriend, I kind of expect just that. Now that I have read the book, I can say that it was not what I expected in both positive and negative ways.

Our heroine, Tess, grew up knowing she was the product of an affair between her mother and a rich, married man. Her father was somewhat present in her life, but the unspoken rule in their relationship was that she should always remain a secret. And even after finding out that she had a half-sister, Tess focused all that curiosity, envy, and secret yearnings for a normal family, into her dream of becoming a scientist.

October 15, 2013

Six Reasons Why I Won't Finish R. Lee Smith’s The Last Hour of Gann

A humanoid lizard's torso being hugged from behind by a blonde. He is dark-green and has black scales. For reals.
That's a Lizardman-titty cover, alright!

The Last Hour of Gann is the new “it” book, at least in my little corner of the internet. It’s getting a lot of hype and positive reviews, and Twitter and the blogoverse is abuzz with the lizardman romance (yes, lizardman) that seem to have taken the community by storm.

The blurb should give you an idea of the overall plot:
It was her last chance: 
Amber Bierce had nothing left except her sister and two tickets on Earth’s first colony-ship. She entered her Sleeper with a five-year contract and the promise of a better life, but awakened in wreckage on an unknown world. For the survivors, there is no rescue, no way home and no hope until they are found by Meoraq—a holy warrior more deadly than any hungering beast on this hostile new world…but whose eyes show a different sort of hunger when he looks at her. 
It was his last year of freedom: 
Uyane Meoraq is a Sword of Sheul, God’s own instrument of judgment, victor of hundreds of trials, with a conqueror’s rights over all men. Or at least he was until his father’s death. Now, without divine intervention, he will be forced to assume stewardship over House Uyane and lose the life he has always known. At the legendary temple of Xi’Matezh, Meoraq hopes to find the deliverance he seeks, but the humans he encounters on his pilgrimage may prove too great a test even for him…especially the one called Amber, behind whose monstrous appearance burns a woman’s heart unlike any he has ever known.
I probably would have read the book eventually because I’m no strange to R. Lee Smith’s novels, which I find incredibly compelling but highly problematic. The same could be said about this book, except that this time the problematic parts won and I’m unable to finish it.

Here’s why:

September 17, 2013

Review: Cake by Lauren Dane

Close-up of a man and a woman kissing. We only see their mouths touching and their noses. They are both white.
Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley

Cake is Lauren Dane’s contribution to the Cosmo Red-Hot Reads collection. These books are a partnership between Cosmopolitan magazine and Harlequin, so that’s where the “Cosmo” part comes from. Unfortunately, this one didn’t include ridiculous sex advice.

Wren is an art student who works as a messenger in order to pay the bills. She often delivers packages to tormented artist, Gregori Ivanov, and they have developed an easy friendship. She also has a massive crush on him because he has tattoos, a Mohawk, an accent and lots of attitude (and now you know what made me read the book). But his evil ex-wife left him traumatized and afraid of commitment, which means that it’s up to Wren to get what she wants because this dude is too busy being predictable to do much else.

September 11, 2013

Guest Review: And Then Comes Marriage by Celeste Bradley

A couple embracing. She has long dark hair and is wearing a blue gown and he is shirtless. The background is also blue in a tone similar to her dress'
Sarah is back! For those of you who don’t know her, Sarah is a library science student and a part-time librarian. She runs the blog Sarah’s Bookshelf and you can also find her on Goodreads.


I first read Celeste Bradley when she co-authored a book with one of my favorite contemporary authors, Susan Donovan. The book, recently republished under the name Unbound, follows a story of a courtesan and her diary of sexual exploration. It was a fabulous read, but more importantly it introduced me to Bradley. I'm not usually a huge historical fan, but Bradley has a way to keep me laughing, sometimes crying, but almost always finding time to finish any book that I can get my hands on. This book was no exception to that. In fact, I can't wait to read the other books in this series, including the previous book, When She Said I Do.

We initially meet Mrs. Miranda Talbot, a naive widow, as she is trying to locate a man that she's previously met and very attracted to. She knows his last name, Worthington, but not much else. Her curiosity has gotten the best of her, but when she finally locates him a huge explosion occurs, and she is saved by the mysterious object of her affection. Only it turns out that man is different from the man she thought she was looking for. He is actually a twin. She doesn't realize this fact until the twins actually confront each other about their mutual interest in Miranda. 

September 10, 2013

When Good Authors Happen to Bad Tropes: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

Shirtless man wearing a bullet-proof vest and carrying a gun. Purple background.
This cover is so misleading I can't even.
Who reads this book and says: "Hey,
let's give it a Military Romantic
Suspense cover"?
And why is he shirtless?
And why is this caption so long?
Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

This is going to be long, so I’m skipping the introduction and going straight to the book.

Uncommon Passion tells the story of Rachel, a woman who recently left the constrictions of a closed religious community to experience life on her own terms. She works at a farm and dreams of becoming a veterinary technician. Sex and dating are some of the experiences she wants to build in order to re-shape her life and gain power and control over it. But she’s not interested in anything serious; all she wants is to lose her virginity. That’s how she ends at a bachelor auction paying a stranger to go out on a date with her. The only reason she bids for him is because she senses something in him (and by “senses something” I mean that he gives her the Sex Eye, which is like the Evil Eye but hornier). Needless to say, they go out on a date, have sex, have sex, have sex, have sex (this is a 320-page Erotic Romance, after all) some emotional stuff happens and then live happily ever after.

Except that it’s nowhere near as easy.

September 9, 2013

Another Winner: Tear You Apart by Megan Hart

Sorry for the delayed announcement, but I didn't have time to pick a winner until now.

The winner of Tear You Apart by Megan Hart is Nancy R.

Congratulations! Please check your inbox.

To everyone else, thanks for participating!

September 4, 2013

Winner! Stay With Me by Elyssa Patrick

The winner of Stay With Me was Nath. Congratulations! I've already emailed you.

To everyone else, thank you so much for participating.

September 3, 2013

Guest Author and Giveaway: Megan Hart

Open book with a pen between the pages
Credit: Jain Basil Aliya

Megan Hart is here today to tell us a bit about her new book, Tear You Apart. Remember to stick around because there’s a giveaway at the end.


Sometimes, You Turn Around

“I came in on the train and then took a cab, but that didn’t stop the late March drizzle from destroying everything I’d carefully put together at home earlier this afternoon. My hair hangs sodden against my forehead and cheeks. My clothes cling, damp and heavy and chilled. I stripped off my dark, soaked stockings in the bathroom and wrapped them in paper towels to tuck inside my purse, and my legs feel glaringly pale. Instead of the glass of white wine in my hand, I’m desperate for a cup of coffee, or better yet, a mug of hot chocolate. With whipped cream. I’m desperate for the taste of something sweet.”

September 2, 2013

Review: Glitterland by Alexis Hall

Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Alexis Hall is a debut author whose book has been getting a lot of publicity and critical acclaim, which made me curious to read it and see if the reviews were right. Unfortunately, the book didn't live up to the expectations.

Our main character and narrator is Ash, a bipolar, clinically depressed writer who is struggling with his illness and his career.

Ash meets Darian at a friend’s bachelor party. He manages to be equally drawn and repulsed by Darian who, with his thick accent and flamboyant appearance, embodies the stereotype of the Essex boy. But we know these two are meant to be together, because after they have sex Ash feels calm and is able to sleep, something he hasn’t felt or been able to do in a while. But other than that, Ash continues to judge and make fun of Darian even when the latter is clearly hurt by it. But this is a Romance, so we know they will eventually make it work, even if it is just because the rules of the genre say they must.

August 30, 2013

Giveaway: Stay With Me by Elyssa Patrick

Elyssa Patrick has been a member of the Romance community for years now, and I’m happy to see her succeed as an author. She also has a thing for rock stars, but who doesn't, right?

Her latest book, Stay With Me, released earlier this week, and it’s a New Adult story about a very famous young star that grew up in the spotlight and is ditching Hollywood to go to college and maybe have a chance at a normal life. Things aren't that easy for her, but at least she meets a dreamy guy who makes it all better.

Elyssa has kindly offered an e-copy of Stay With Me to give away on the blog today, so this is going to be a quick giveaway post. For a chance to win, fill the Rafflecopter thingy at the end of the post and also leave a short comment saying you’re in, so that if Rafflecopter malfunctions I can manually pick the winner.  Contest open to all.

August 29, 2013

Guest Review: After the Kiss by Lauren Layne

Our friend Sarah is back with another great guest review. Sarah is a library science student and a part-time librarian. She runs the blog Sarah’s Bookshelf and you can also find her on Goodreads.


man wearing a suit embracing a woman wearing a red dress. She is pulling his necktie Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley

Every year I make a point to find at least one new author that I can shout from the hills about. This summer has been a bit of a bust, and I had almost lost hope, but then I got my little hands on After the Kiss by Lauren Layne. This book was so much fun that I actually had a really tough time putting it down. It's a fairly short read, but well worth the time. It's a romantic comedy, but definitely has it's more dramatic moments.

Layne sets up her Sex, Love, & Stiletto series in a Women's fashion magazine office. Columnist Julie Greene has been tasked by her editor to write outside of her usual fling-related comfort zone and see what moving a relationship to the next level entails. Julie, always one for a challenge, reluctantly agrees to take on this project. With the help of her besties, Grace and Riley (also columnists at Stiletto) Julie ends up meeting Mitchell Forbes, a Wall Street workaholic. Julie, the queen of flirting and superficial relationships, gets thrown in the deep end of the pool with Mitchell, a serial monogamist. Little does she know that Mitchell is also trying to date outside his comfort zone. He's trying to do the casual fling thing and has set his sights on Julie as an easy target. However, neither of them is prepared for the truth of their relationship, or the consequences of the choices that lead them to one another.

August 22, 2013

Random Musings: Blogging Platforms, Publishing Experiments and Spoilers

Pink card picturing a woman sleeping on her desk and the text Your laziness is outstanding even by August standards
Source: Someecards

If you were wondering why things have been so quiet around the blog, the answer is that my blogging mojo decided to leave. I’ve also been busy and tired, which means that I’m using all the energy I have left on being lazy and doing nothing but read.

In order to lure my mojo back, I’m going to spice things up a bit with a post that’s all about old news, new news that I didn’t properly analyze and a rant. Because let’s face it, there’s always some energy left to whine.

August 8, 2013

Review: His Uptown Girl by Liz Talley

After reading Wendy’s review, the first thing I did was buy the book. The way she described both the story and her reaction to it, made it impossible for me to resist reading it. The novel turned out to be as good as she said, and although there were some things I didn’t love, I’m glad I read it.

Eleanor is a 39-year-old widow struggling to put her life back together. Her cheating husband was murdered by his mistress (who then committed suicide) leaving Eleanor immerse in a political scandal. Her daughter is almost out of control and her judgmental mother-in-law is a constant headache. But at least she has her store. The problem is that a club is about to open in her neighborhood and she’s worried that it will bring nothing but constant trouble and annoyances, which is why Eleanor is actively trying to prevent the club from ever opening. So it’s quite humiliating when the hunky stranger she awkwardly tries to seduce turns out to be the owner of the club.

August 6, 2013

An Illustrated Review: Guardian Demon by Meljean Brook

Source: A review copy was provided by the author. 

Warning: One spoiler for the previous books and one somewhat vague spoiler of something that happens in the first chapter of this one.

As you guys know (because I keep telling you), this is my favorite series, and the final book, Guardian Demon, was one of my most anticipated book of, well, ever. So it's a bittersweet moment for me, because as much as I enjoyed the book, saying goodbye to a beloved series is never easy. The good news is that I read the book in May, so I’ve had time to get over the book hangover, and this review won’t be a blubbering mess.

Remember how Nath and I wrote a post filled with theories about the book? Well, it turns out that we suck at guessing, because of all our theories the only one we kind of got right was this one:

July 23, 2013

The Wanderer and The Newcomer: A Robyn Carr Twofer and a Couple of Thoughts on Small-Town Cotemporaries and Branding

Source: both books were provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

After many, many books, Ms. Carr has left Virgin River and moved to Virgin River, I mean, Thunder Point. But it is a change, even if it doesn't feel like a change at all.

The Wanderer and The Newcomer both make references to Cooper, the former Marine who comes to Thunder Point to visit an old friend and ends up staying when said friend dies and leaves him everything. At first, Cooper plans to settle everything and leave, but once he develops a relationship with the community and with helicopter pilot, Sarah, his plans become roots.

Cooper’s story serves as a thread that unites a series of secondary characters whose lives are featured as prominently as his, making this a true ensemble cast. So we also get to know the town’s sheriff, Mac, a single father of a bunch of kids, including a teenage daughter who gets a secondary, YA-ish romance, and Mac’s friend, Grace.

July 14, 2013

Heroine Week: Closing Thoughts and Many Thanks

That was good!

I wanted to offer some final thoughts and reflections, but I’m pretty much speechless and overwhelmed by every single one of the contributions. The guest posts speak for themselves and pretty much scream that our love and appreciation for the heroine is alive and well.

If there’s something I learned this week, is that our relationship with these characters is complex and personal. In a way, heroines (in Romance in particular, but also in literature in general) offer us a space to explore different aspects of ourselves, as well as serve as tools to reflect issues affecting women. But there’s still a long way to go, and my wish is that Heroines and the books they inhabit become more welcoming and diverse.

Heroine Week, Day 7 – Girls Who Do Things by Angie from Angieville

Angie is one of my favorite bloggers, and Angieville is the first blog I visit every time I’m looking for a book to step out of my Romance comfort zone, and in many years of reading it, I’ve never been disappointed. Even when we don’t agree, I find Angie’s reviews helpful and enlightening. So as you can imagine, I’m really excited with her contribution to Heroine Week, which also happens to be the last guest post of the event. 


Girls Who Do Things by Angie from Angieville

 I am (and always have been) drawn to fantasy heroines because, as Robin McKinley so aptly puts it, they do things. In fact, I have an entire Goodreads shelf devoted to books about Girls Who Do Things. More often than not these girls? They fight. They fight with an astoundingly wide array of weapons, and their individual choice of weapon is--in many ways--an extension of their inner selves. Some of them fight with swords, others with words. Some battle with strands of thread and some with the knowledge they hold in their heads, while others face their demons (both literal and figurative) with nothing but their bare hands. Most are terribly afraid while they do it. Because these women are also smart. They comprehend the dangers they are braving and the value of what they will lose if they fail. They are simultaneously like me and not like me. As I read their stories and swallow their words, I am able to step into their shoes for a time and fight with other weapons against other demons than my own. As a result of turning and returning to them, my relationship with these women is not a casual one. And, perhaps not-so-strangely, it feels far from one-sided. Every time I walk with Aerin up the neverending staircase of Agsded's fortress, every time I kneel next to Senneth as the fire in her veins burns trails of pain through every tendon and sinew of her body, every time I stare out the window with Liadan cupping a lit candle in the darkness, I lend my strength to theirs. And I take courage in return, in knowing I am not alone in my jumbled hope, anger, longing, and determination. No small thing, that.

Heroine Week, Day 7 – Shooting Yankees and Pink-Martini Friends: Women's Friendships in Romance by Shelley Ann Clark

Shelley Ann Clark

I met Shelley on Twitter (this has been a great year to Twitter friendships!) and I anxiously wait to read her books. In the meantime, we can find her over at her virtual home, Wonkomance.


Shooting Yankees and Pink-Martini Friends: Women's Friendships in Romance by Shelley Ann Clark

Friendships among women are tricky things.

They’ve been fetishized, idolized, idealized. They’ve been demonized. We have Steel Magnolias; we also have Mean Girls. Women are competitive, we’re told. Women friends are for life, we’re told. It’s normal to have a frenemy; but your BFF should be closer to you than your husband.

Like nearly everything else about being a woman, ideas about our friendships are presented in a swamp of contradictions, all of them designed to make us feel insecure, to wonder if we’re doing it wrong.

July 13, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 6 – Fanny Price: Physically Weak, Mentally Strong by Ros Clarke

Once Upon a Time, Ros Clarke wrote a book about a Sheikh who fell in love with a woman. Nothing new, right? Think again! It turns out that the woman was a tycoon. Need I say more?


Fanny Price: Physically Weak, Mentally Strong by Ros Clarke

Strong heroines are popular right now. Readers, mostly, like women who'll fight their corner, make their choices, and determine their own destiny. Which is great, but in my reading experience, all too many of those kickass heroines turn out to have an inner core of marshmallow. Faced with the right guy, they go weak at the knees and weak in the head.

Heroine Week, Day 6 – The Contrasting Strengths of Mary Balogh’s Lauren and Freya by Jennifer Lohmann

Author Jennifer Lohmann

Jennifer Lohmann isn’t afraid to make risky decisions, something that reflects on her unique, interesting heroines. These women feel real because they go get what they want, make difficult choices and sometimes, they get angry and want to be left alone.


The Contrasting Strengths of Mary Balogh’s Lauren and Freya by Jennifer Lohmann  

A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh
Whenever I am asked who my favorite heroine is, I have a ready and easy answer—Lauren Edgeworth from A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh. In a Historical Romance sea of feisty heroines, Lauren is quiet, calm, and (dare I say it) timid. But she is not weak. Bedwyn after Bedwyn makes the mistake of believing her politeness is a sign of weakness and she demonstrates her backbone, while remaining polite. Her family presents her with safe futures in the form of safe husbands and she rejects the easy path. Lauren wants what she wants. She won’t be loud about it and she wouldn’t be rude about it, but neither will she be pushed around. And she may be afraid of swimming, riding horses, and climbing trees, but her kindness means she’s not afraid of difficult emotions. When faced with the messy and unhappy Butlers, Lauren looks around and thinks, “I can fix this.” More than being willing to participate in wrenchingly emotional conversations—she’s willing to start them. Lauren ends the book much as she begins it. Her journey requires her to learn that she can be imperfect and still be loved—that she is loved—but she doesn’t take this knowledge and become a different person. She becomes a bigger version of herself.

Heroine Week, Day 6 – An Un-Heroic Heroine: Dorothea of Middlemarch by Amara Royce

Author Amara Royce

Amara’s bio says that she “writes historical romances that combine her passion for 19th-century literature and history with her addiction to happily ever afters.” I think we all approve of this. Her contribution to Heroine Week is particularly interesting because it comes from the perspective of someone who is both an English scholar and an author.


An Un-Heroic Heroine: Dorothea of Middlemarch by Amara Royce

As I prepared to write this contribution to Heroine Week, I started out with a very clear and confident focus: the heroism (or is it heroine-ism?) of Dorothea Brooke from George Eliot’s Middlemarch (one of those “loose, baggy monsters” of a Victorian novel that you may have been assigned in high school or college).  So, of course, the very first thing I did was go back through the novel to remind myself of why she is my favorite literary character. And that’s when I got all discombobulated.

July 12, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 5 – Katsa, Fire and Bitterblue: Feminism in Kristin Cashore’s YA Trilogy

To anyone familiar with the Graceling books, this post will feel like nothing new, because I’m sure there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding them. But when I think of heroines, these three characters immediately come to mind, and I thought that a celebration of female characters would be a fitting place to talk about the themes and messages of their stories.

In Graceling we meet Katsa. A girl in the cusp of womanhood who’s been trapped by her powerful gift and an uncle who uses her to commit murder and torture. She doesn’t own her body. She doesn’t own her life.

And then she meets a boy who offers her an out. But that out doesn’t come in the shape of love. What he does is show her that what she sees as the curse that enslaved her, is actually the gift that will free her. She takes that knowledge and uses it to her advance. And when love comes, she refuses to give in to it, because to her, love and marriage go together, and she doesn’t want to belong to anyone but herself.

Heroine Week, Day 5 – The Other Brave Girls of YA by Sarah from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

I discovered Sarah’s blog last year and immediately became one of my go-to places to find book recommendations, insightful discussions and more recently, a must-listen podcast. Also, her mom is one of her co-bloggers!


The Other Brave Girls of YA by Sarah from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

In the young adult fiction universe, there’s a common association with strong characters and their physical strength. I love some of these tough female characters. Katniss’ fierce loyalty to her sister is admirable in The Hunger Games; I loved Cassie’s tenacity and unflinching willingness to do what it takes to survive in The Fifth Wave’s post-apocalyptic world. But, the YA novels that speak most to me are those featuring heroines whose journeys are fraught with internal conflict.

Being a teenage girl is hard, and sometimes the bravest choices aren’t whether to pick a faction a la Divergent’s Tris, but rather the bravest choice is that of living one’s own truth.

This is something that today’s YA authors do very, very well. They acknowledge that growing up is hard; that young people often deal with grown-up problems all alone; that secrets are kept, that lies are told; that family and friendship are often messy. The fictional teen heroines who tackle realistic challenges in YA novels aren’t often labeled as “brave” girls, like Katniss, Cassie and Tris, but in my eyes, they’re the most courageous.

I’ve highlighted twelve (I tried to limit myself to ten, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be) brave heroines from the YAverse whose personal journeys speak to the struggle of finding their path. I’ve actually omitted a few of my favorites, because I think they’re quite well-known already. The Jessica Darling series, for example, is one of my favorites in terms of the messy realism of growing up. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks is another that’s quite popular which would definitely qualify as a brave YA heroine, the same with multi-award winning author Sara Zarr’s heroines.

Heroine Week, Day 5: Can Romantic Suspense Be Feminist? By Jill Sorenson

Author Jill Sorenson

One of the reasons why I love Jill’s heroines so much, and this is something I've never had the opportunity to comment on before, is that they know their bodies well and know what gives them pleasure and how to get it. It seems like a silly, inconsequential thing considering how many other virtues her books have, but in a genre where the heroes seem to have all the answers to the heroines’ sexual fulfillment, books like hers always make an impact.


Can Romantic Suspense Be Feminist? By Jill Sorenson

There have been a number of discussions online about feminism and romance. Some people think the romance genre is inherently feminist because it’s written by women, for women. Others think it’s inherently non-feminist because the heroine finds happiness (and self-worth, perhaps) through her relationship with a man.

Narrowing the genre down into categories further complicates the question. Are some subgenres more feminist than others? Fans of m/m say they enjoy the gender equality and lack of sexism. Paranormal romance readers discuss problematic themes such as “fated mates” and captive heroines. Alpha males run rampant across genre lines.

July 11, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Kickass Heroines for Kickass Readers: Jen’s Favorite Urban Fantasy Heroines

You probably know Jen from places such as Red Hot Books and the slightly NSFW Tumblr, Red Hot Men. I know her from my earlier days as a reviewer, because she was one of the first bloggers I met, and we have been friends ever since. If Jen were to become a heroine, she would get a book like Dirty (take a look at her Tumblr if you don’t believe me).


Kickass Heroines for Kickass Readers: Best Urban Fantasy Heroines by Jen from Red Hot Book

I know contemporary romance is the Big Thing right now, but if you are looking for a little girl power, there is no better genre than urban fantasy to find it.  These women have it all: kick ass powers, sexy heroes, and often a razor sharp wit to round things off. True, they have their fair share of problems as well, but you can’t have a story without conflict! Here is a look at some of my all-time favorite UF heroines.

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Team Smexy Books' Favorite Heroines

Team Smexy Books doesn’t need an introduction. After all, they make the community sofa king happenis! Tori, May and Mandi are clever, funny and don’t take themselves too seriously, so if they were to become Romance heroines, their book would be something like Welcome to Temptation (you know, the one about porn).
Tori:  As a reader, I encountered hundreds of heroines over the years. Good heroines...bad heroines...and heroines who fully embrace the ugly and leave me with a permanent WTF? look on my face. Heroines appeal to me on many different levels. I enjoy heroines who are humorous. Heroines who are strong and can think for themselves. Heroines who can make horrific mistakes and not only own them but learn from them. Heroines who aren't afraid to take chances; be it in love or battle.  I need a heroine who can COMMUNICATE. One who can stand tall and let her needs be known even if it isn't the popular decision. Lord save me from a whiny heroine. One who allows the crush of emotion to completely incapacitate them. She is allowed her emotional OMG moments, but I don't want an entire book about it. Get your freak out and move on. Make the best of a bad situation. Fight, scheme, lie, what needs to be done to survive.  Also not a fan of revenge sex heroines. You know what I mean. Those who have sex with an enemy or a low level love interest in order to "get over" her main love interest. It never works and always makes the heroine look like a jerk. The "it's not fair" heroine will also get a permanent place on the PITA list. Life isn't with it.

Heroine Week, Day 4 – Demons, Warriors and Machiavellian Caregivers: The Women of Meljean Brook’s Guardian Series

Fuck yeah, heroines!

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead, especially for the third book, Demon Night.

To me, Paranormal Romance* has fairytale quality. The stories feel fantastic beyond the obvious, probably because, in some ways, it sticks to traditional genre conventions and gender roles. The men are strong, dominant and possessive; whereas the women, regardless of strength, most of the time need to be saved and are visibly weaker than their male counterparts.

However, in the past few years this has started to change. The women have reclaimed their agency, the heroes have discovered their sensitive, respectful sides, and the different relationships established between heroes and heroines have moved towards a middle that begins to resemble true partnership.

Meljean Brook’s books perfectly fit this developing pattern, and we should stand to attention and take note of it. Her heroines push boundaries, defy expectations, and question conventions. They have agency and know their strengths and limitations well. They save the day, but also know when it’s wise to let someone else do the saving. These are complex and interesting characters that make their heroes work hard to become worthy of such wonderful women.

July 10, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 3 – For Colored Girls Who Can’t Find Themselves Between the Pages by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Rebekah was one of the first people who joined Heroine Week. When she told me that her Happily Ever Afters came in every color, I knew her contribution would be interesting and invaluable. I was right, and you're about to see why. 


For Colored Girls Who Can’t Find Themselves Between the Pages by Rebekah Weatherspoon

I talked to Brie briefly about Paula Deen and how it was affecting my headspace as I put this piece together. I wanted to leave Paula out of this cause really fuck Paula, but then something else happened. Rachel Jeantel took the stand in the George Zimmerman trial. I think Rachel did her absolute best. A murder trial is not an easy thing to participate in. I don’t know what I would do if I had to speak on behalf of my dead friend, under national pressure to tell the truth and additional pressure to bring an accused killer to justice. Rachel testified for hours. Both the defense and the prosecution handled Rachel poorly.

They handled other witnesses poorly as well. Jennifer Lauer, the neighbor whose 911 call picked up the sound of the gunshot, was asked the same questions over and over and was even accused of following George Zimmerman’s brother on twitter by the prosecution who didn’t understand how twitter works. She was not following the brother. Twitter had just suggested she follow him, probably because they are both associated with the case. In the following 24 hours I didn’t hear much about Jennifer Lauer, but I heard A LOT about Rachel Jeantel.

Heroine Week, Day 3 – Heroine First by Mary Ann Rivers

I met Mary Ann before she published her first book (it actually took me a while to realize she was an author). Her comments and blog posts are touching and insightful, and she can wear hipster glasses without looking like she's trying too hard.

Heroine First by Mary Ann Rivers

My favorite time of day is right before I fall asleep.

I’m a practiced, lifelong, devoted daydreamer, but it’s this half hour or so, sometimes much longer, after I’ve put the book I’m reading away, after I’ve put most of the day away, that I am able to see new characters for books most vividly.

Hear them, too, small verses lifted from their story. As if I enter this space where I am the Studs Terkel of my own imagination, my microphone light glowing green on a table between us, an author and her character, and I’m not asking questions, not exactly, maybe I’ve suggested a prompt, and then she’ll talk to me, at least a little, and that’s the first time, then, I’ll pick up on some mannerism – maybe it’s tucking her flyaway hair behind her ears, or a tendency towards a stray tear when she talks about her mom, or how she taps out the salient points of her story on the table with her index finger.

Heroine Week, Day 3 – Giving the Heroine a Second Chance: A Hero-Centric Reader’s Journey Toward the Middle by Kaetrin

Kaetrin is one of my favorite Internet people (she’s also a regular person, but she’s in Australia, so I like to pretend that she lives in my computer). If she were to become a Romance heroine, her book would probably be Her Outback Rescuer, except that this time she would be the rescuer.

Giving the Heroine a Second Chance: A Hero-Centric Reader’s Journey Toward the Middle by Kaetrin from Kaetrin's Musings

People who know me and my reading tastes might think “what are YOU doing posting for Heroine Week?”.  It would be a fair question.  I tend to be all about the hero.  But, recently, I re-read (or listened actually) to a book which had me changing my tune about a heroine with whom I’d previously had problems. And, I think I know why.

July 9, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 2 – Flawed Heroines and the Likeability Standard by Rebecca Rogers Maher

No one better to join Heroine Week than an author whose heroines and their journeys are always at the core of her books, and sometimes that journey exists outside of the romance itself, which make her stories even more compelling and rich. 


Flawed Heroines and the Likeability Standard by Rebecca Rogers Maher

In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman insists that the most important thing in life is to be likeable. “Be liked,” he says, “and you will never want.”

Is this true? Is likeability what we all should be striving for? In a recent interview about her novel, The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud was asked whether anyone would want to be friends with her angry heroine, Nora. Messud responded with an outraged, “What kind of question is that?” She suggested that it would never be asked of a male author, about a male character, and that it was not necessary to be friends with a character in order to be moved by her. The question of likeability, or the “critical double standard—that tormented, foul-mouthed, or perverse male characters are celebrated, while their female counterparts are primly dismissed as unlikeable,” was later posed to a panel of authors at The New Yorker, with compelling results.

Heroine Week, Day 2 – Sexual Double Standards in Romance Novels or She Wants It - And That's Okay by Molly O’Keefe

I think that sometimes we confuse difficult and unlikable with complex and flawed. But being a Mary Sue can be tiresome, y’all! And no one knows that better than Molly O’Keefe’s heroines, who risked not being liked in favor of having fun and doing what they want (while wearing pink cowboy boots).


Sexual Double Standards in Romance Novels or She Wants It - And That's Okay by Molly O’Keefe

I live in a bubble. My friends, the women I follow on Twitter, the blogs I read - our viewpoints upon the world, feminism, sex, romance novels - they match up the majority of the time.  I work from home so I don't have to see people or converse with people I don't like, or who routinely anger me and I've stopped reading the comments sections on line, where so much ugliness seems to reside.

Heroine Week, Day 2 – The Appeal of the Unlikable Heroine or Why I'd totally Root for Scarlet to Beat Up Melanie by Nicole Helm

Unlikable heroines seem to be really appealing (unsurprising, once you think about it). Nicole Helm has been one of their fiercest champions and I’m glad she’s here today to tell us why.


The Appeal of the Unlikable Heroine or Why I'd totally root for Scarlet to beat up Melanie by Nicole Helm

The unlikable heroine. She saunters onto the pages of a book and takes no prisoners. She might be mean. She might be arrogant. She might find a way to get what she wants no matter what.

These are characteristics that make many romance readers swoon...if we're talking about the hero, but more often than not they are the characteristics that make a heroine totally polarizing and labeled "unlikable". You love her or hate her, and there's very little in between.

July 8, 2013

Heroine Week, Day 1 – True Grit: Western Heroines by Wendy the Super Librarian

Wendy already is a heroine -- a superheroine. But if she ever feels like having her own book, may I suggest What the Librarian Did?


True Grit: Western Heroines by Wendy from The Misadventures of Super Librarian

Since discovering the romance genre, I’ve always been a reader that immediately gravitates towards the heroine character.  Yeah, yeah – hunky heroes are great.  I love a good side of beefcake as much as the next gal, but they’re never the driving force in my reading.  It’s always the heroine.  There’s always plenty of lip-service to be found regarding feminism and the genre.  Debates and dissections, themes and symbolism.  But for me, when discussing feminism and romance you can simply chalk it up to the fact that many romance novels are, first and foremost, a story about the heroine’s journey.  Not all of them mind you, but a good many of them.  If that’s not feminism I’m not sure what is.

Heroine Week, Day 1 – The Heroine's Point of View by Stephanie Doyle

What I love about Stephanie Doyle's books is that they are risky and push boundaries, and this reflects on her heroines. These women are self-reliant, brave and refuse having their bosses’ secret babies, even when the opportunity presents itself.


The Heroines's Point of View by Stephanie Doyle

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I think most of us will universally acknowledge that Pride and Prejudice stands out as one of the first great romance novels. Our Alpha if you will. I will add to that and say Jane Eyre is (in my opinion) the most incredible romance heroine of all time. She hedges out Elizabeth ever so slightly for me.

When I started thinking about heroines and who my favorites were I started with where it all began. One of the obvious things that stands out with these two books is that the story is told from the point of view (POV) of the heroine.

Heroine Week, Day 1 – The Care and Feeding of the Everyday Heroine by Sarah Mayberry

Welcome to Heroine Week! I'm so excited to finally share all the fabulous guest posts with all of you. I know you're dying to get this party started, so here is one of my favorite authors, Sarah Mayberry. Her heroines are admirable, approachable and relatable, and this post pretty much explains why.


The Care and Feeding of the Everyday Heroine
by Sarah Mayberry

Sometimes I think us contemporary romance authors have it tough, having to spin romance and lust and love out of the ordinary plain cotton of everyday life. Our heroines don’t get awesome swords or fighting skills or backstories that involved magic spells and paranormal powers. We don’t get to dress them up in hats and gloves and petticoats and send them out to roam the streets of London in a high perch phaeton with some gorgeous aristocrat at their side.

July 6, 2013

Heroine Week: Wherein I Tell You How Awesome It’s Going to Be and Why

Welcome to Heroine Week, an event whose main purpose is to celebrate female characters and focus the conversation on them.

Heroine Week is all about, well, the heroines, but also about the guests. They made this event possible, and I’m grateful and honored to host their insightful, funny and thought-provoking posts.

Here’s a tiny preview of what you can expect:

June 26, 2013

Review: To Have and To Hold by Patricia Gaffney

Earlier this year it was announced that Penguin would reissue Gaffney’s Wickerley trilogy through InterMix, their electronic-only Romance imprint. These books are a beloved and memorable part of the genre, yet I had not read them before. I confess that I was mildly intrigued by To Have and To Hold, the second book in the series, but unlike the rest of Romanceland, I was not eager to read them. But enthusiasm is catching and after my friends started talking about reviews, discussions and book clubs, I ended up buying the book on re-release day. After reading the book, I feel compelled to join the conversation now that I clearly understand why the book is so popular, even though my ultimate reading experience wasn't as successful as I was expecting it to be.

To Have and To Hold tells the story of Sebastian, the most bored, jaded and debauched hero ever. And when I say jaded, I mean that he’s done and had everything and anything money can buy. So when fate lands Rachel, a widow who spent ten years in prison for murdering her husband, on his lap, he seizes the opportunity to have some unique enjoyment. That is, her complete hopelessness, inability to make even the simplest decision, and her absolute and utter vulnerability, make him want to torment and push her until the breaking point. It doesn't take long for him to realize that she’s way past her breaking point, which only makes him even more horny and rapey.

June 25, 2013

A New Feature and an Update

Through the Nostalgia Glass a Romance Around the Corner feature
Credit: ginnerobot

All reviews and no play make Romance Around the Corner a dull blog, so I’ve been thinking about ways to improve and freshen up the blog. The one I came up with still involves reviews, but there’s a twist.

We have talked about hype and how popular new releases get all the attention. I will be the first to admit that shiny new books are hard to resist, but we should make room for older books, especially those we hold dear. Our perception of old favorites can change during time, because while the stories remain the same, readers tend to grow and change. However, new perspectives don’t necessarily lessen the value of the books, and may even give us a new view and appreciation of the stories. So I thought that it would be an interesting experiment to re-read these old favorites and see how (or if) our reactions to them have changed and how they hold up to the test of time.

June 19, 2013

Review: Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra

I’m a long-time fan of Ms. Kantra’s books. Last year, the first book in the series, Carolina Home, was one of my favorite books, and I was anxiously waiting to read the next one. I’m happy to say that it was just as good as expected.

This is a pretty standard book with a pretty standard set of tropes.

First we have our heroine, Meg. She grew up in a loving home and had dreams too big for the small island. She was in love with her older brother’s best friend; a guy who broke her heart the day he took her virginity and left. Eighteen years later, she’s incredibly successful, lives in New York and shares her life with a long-time boyfriend who is clearly all wrong for her because 1. He’s never asked her to marry him and 2. He doesn’t console her after she loses her job. So she decides to go back home to put her life in order, figure out what to do and in the meantime help take care of her mother who was recently in an accident.

June 14, 2013

Review: One Tiny Lie by K.A. Tucker


I usually take time to talk about how and why I decided to read the book, but today I’m feeling lazy, so I’m skipping everything and jumping right into the review.

The blurb should give you an idea what the book is about:
Livie has always been the stable one of the two Cleary sisters, handling her parents' tragic death and Kacey's self-destructive phase with strength and maturity. But underneath that exterior is a little girl hanging onto the last words her father ever spoke to her. “Make me proud,” he had said. She promised she would...and she’s done her best over the past seven years with every choice, with every word, with every action. 
Livie walks into Princeton with a solid plan, and she’s dead set on delivering on it: Rock her classes, set herself up for medical school, and meet a good, respectable guy that she’s going to someday marry. What isn’t part of her plan are Jell-O shots, a lovable, party animal roommate she can’t say ‘no’ to, and Ashton, the gorgeous captain of the men’s rowing team. Definitely him. He’s an arrogant ass who makes Livie’s usually non-existent temper flare and everything she doesn’t want in a guy. Worse, he’s best friends and roommates with Connor, who happens to fits Livie’s criteria perfectly. So why does she keep thinking about Ashton? 
As Livie finds herself facing mediocre grades, career aspirations she no longer thinks she can handle, and feelings for Ashton that she shouldn’t have, she’s forced to let go of her last promise to her father and, with it, the only identity that she knows.
This book was one entertaining mess. The heroine is instantly attracted to the bad-boy hero, but she decides to start a relationship with this other guy who is just as hot, but also nice, which instantly makes him the safe, but wrong choice. She’s still lusting after the hero, though, even when he turns out to 1. Have a girlfriend and 2. Be her boyfriend’s best friend and roommate. But who can resist a bad boy, right?  She’s also kind of disgusted by the hero constantly cheating on his girlfriend (even after spending the night with the heroine*, so double rainbow cheating all the way!), but she’s not that disgusted not to cheat on her boyfriend with the hero who apparently was only sleeping around to forget her. This is a thing that happened.

June 13, 2013

Review: Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox

Source: a review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Flirting with Disaster is the third book in the Camelot series, and it brings closure and a happy ending to Katie, the last Clark sibling. The previous book was a bit of a mixed bag, but this new installment worked much better for me, even if some of the same issues remained.

Katie is a people pleaser. She followed her husband to Alaska so that he could make his dreams come true, and in the process she lost herself and put her life on hold. So when her husband left her with nothing, she came back to her hometown completely defeated. Her brother gave her a job, which helped her get her life back on track, but she remains a work in progress.

Sean is back in town to sort his recently deceased mother’s affairs. It’s a deceivingly easy task, because although all he has to do is get rid of her clothes and sell her house, he’s also forced to confront the bad memories of a mother who was less-than stellar. He’s really bad at dealing with his baggage, though, and really good at ignoring them and hoping they will go away, which is why he’s staying in town far longer than planned.

June 11, 2013

DNF Review: Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher

Warning: This review contains lots of spoilers.

Ghost Planet was my impulsive buy of last week. Its appealing blurb made me put all the other books on hold in order to read this one, but alas, we were not meant to be.  Here’s why.

Elizabeth is a psychologist who just moved to a new planet that’s been colonized by humans. Life in the planet would be pretty awesome if not for one tiny detail: the local aliens* take on the form of a person’s dead loved one and must remain close to them at all time. Not only do these ghosts look exactly like a dead person, but they retain their memories and personalities, which make things really awkward and creepy. Killing the ghosts is pointless because they just regenerate again and again, so the humans have established a protocol to deal with these aliens by completely ignoring them.

June 7, 2013

Update on Heroine Week

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

The response to Heroine Week has been really positive, so I’m feeling overwhelmed and happy.

Here are a few updates:
  • The tentative date is July 1-7. This can change depending on whether people can write the guest posts on time or not. I’m very accommodating! Final date is July 8-14
  • I’m looking for more people to guest post, so please email me your ideas at
  • If you don’t feel like writing a whole post, but still want to contribute, send me a paragraph or two about your favorite heroine and why you love her (it can be Romance, Urban Fantasy, YA, etc.). If I get enough submissions, I will include them all in one post. 
  • I’m working on a banner for the event (with my amazing knowledge of Paint) but if anyone wants to help me with it, I would appreciate it. It's done! If you're going to use it on your site, make sure to include the image credit to Sura Nualpradid at
I hope you guys are as excited as I am. Suggestions and ideas are welcome.

June 5, 2013

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Source: A review copy was provided by the publisher trough NetGalley.

As you guys know, I loved Pushing the Limits because OVER THE TOP ANGST! *ahem* Which is why I was dying to read the sequel. Unlike its predecessor, however, Dare You To is --or at least feels-- less convoluted, probably because it only focuses on one angsty character instead of two. It is still quite dramatic, but way more contained.

I was intrigued by Beth as a secondary character in Pushing the Limits, and I liked her a lot as a heroine in Dare You To. She spends the whole book being angry, something that automatically makes her refreshing and interesting. The previous book heavily hinted at a different outcome for her, meaning that it appeared that her hero would be Isaiah, the other secondary character, yet this book completely challenged all my expectations. And although Isaiah still plays an important role here, he is not the love interest.
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FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.