Abigail Barnette’s The Boss Chapter One–Read for Free!

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Abigail Barnette, AKA Jennifer Armintrout, AKA Jenny Trout, whose blogging I’ve previously enjoyed for her thoughtful/frustrated readthrough of 50 Shades of Grey, has released the first chapter of her “free contemporary erotic romance serial novel” The Boss a day early! Go read it, I’m serious. Part of her purpose in writing it is to create an entry in the same genre as the 50 Shades series that doesn’t include the abusive and misogynistic behavior of said series–what a novel idea, right? (I do have a question about the ticket-stealing thing, though, which I’ve asked on her blog–hopefully I’ll get an answer back! Edit: My question has been answered, and it was just a case of my misreading things! Which just goes to show, make sure you’re actually paying attention before making assumptions. Stay in school, kids.)

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Now My For Reals Short Reviews (Or Not)

You will find enclosed: Three short reviews for Taylor’s Tempation (a Romance novel) and the first two Miss Marple books*.

From Amazon: “Bobby Taylor is a Navy SEAL, and his best friend is his swim buddy, Wes Skelly. As Wes ships out on an assignment, he asks Bobby to go to Boston to look out for his younger sister, Colleen, who is doing stuff that has big brother in overprotective mode. Bobby goes, but is full of reservations because his feelings for Colleen Skelly are far from brotherly.”

First off, the whole reason I read this book is cause the heroine is big & tall, and as a 5’10” tall woman, I was feeling a little desperate for representation. But this cover? Makes her look 5’5″. Makes ME grouchy.

Books about Navy SEALs are popular. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were way more fictional SEALs that real ones. I don’t really get it, but then, I don’t enjoy romantic suspense much and these SEAL books are all romantic suspense. (I could have sworn I had written about why I don’t like romantic suspense, but I can’t find it! Anybody else want to take a look? If not, I’ll have to write about it soon. I have Opinions, ya’ll.) This book gets a pass on my normal worries (that romance built in times of intensity is at least partially based on those intense times and I need EXTRA proof that what the characters are building is going to last. And no, a happy epilogue is not proof.) because the hero and heroine have known each other for years.

Also, if I remember correctly, the hero is Native, so that’s cool. Unfortunately, any coolness of having a MOC as the hero is pretty well negated by the suspense part of the plot, which involves them going to a dangerous developing country to do Good and there were Poor Brown Children and shit. Guys, I am white. I am interested in making the world a better place for all. But my whiteness doesn’t make me some magical being that can go to a third-world country (which is a problematic term to begin with) and have flowers bloom at my feet and heal people just by touching them. My whiteness isn’t a virtue when it comes to helping people and it certainly doesn’t replace actual education and talking to, you know, the people that I want to help. And it doesn’t make me a saint if I did any of the above. Colleen is not a saint for helping the poor brown children, no matter what this book says.

The suspense part of the book, which I am lambasting for the above reasons, was a disaster, but it is thankfully a small part of the book, at least for the genre. My other main complaint is that Colleen is that type of woman who disregards her own personal safety in an irritatingly flippant way. But seriously, overall, I thought it was a pretty alright book. Especially if you like romantic suspense and/or want to read a romance with a “stacked,” tall heroine.

*Man, this turned out fairly long too. I guess Miss Marple will have to wait for tomorrow!

Links x2

(Jessica: I just found this post that I wrote back in MARCH, but never published! Shame on me! Still, these are all great links, so I’ll just go ahead and publish it now.)

As a romance reader, I know intimately the embarrassment of people trashing those purple-prosed bodice-rippers. I’m not embarrassed that I read romance, but who wants to constantly defend a genre against people who are only interested in making fun and not interested in a new point of view? In Feb, SB Sarah wrote about reader shaming. She quotes a reviewer of her latest book: Never feel guilty for reading something. A book can mean anything to anyone.
I’d like to add to that: Never feel guilty for loving something. What a book means to you is no less importance for someone else’s opinion.

Keeping with romance novels, here’s a video for Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained.

Ya’ll, I’m in love with this video. It just makes me want to punch my fish in the air and shout, “GO WOMEN!!!”

Have any of you heard of Science in my Fiction? It’s a great blog aimed towards writers of all sorts, though more SF&F, who want to inject a bit of real science into their work. In Feb they did a post on dragons that will give you a good idea what they’re about!

June Romance Reading

I read three romance novels over the last week and a half (don’t mock me… my romance reading tends to come in spurts): Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory; Between Mist and Midnight by Kathleen O’Brien; and Duty, Desire and the Desert King by Jane Porter. The first is a recent historical, the second is an old (1992) Harlequin Presents and the last is a newer Presents.

The Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory‘s heroine is a woman who works in a bookshop, which was my main draw to the book. Historicals always have issues with heroines who are inexperienced with men and just about faint when the man with the Mighty Wang shows interest, which of course he does. I love historicals, but there’s really only so much of these women I can take. They are often interesting and bright and have their own stuff going on, but it really wasn’t *that* uncommon for women, especially of lower classes, to have sexual experience. So why is it so rare in these books? Also, I’d like to see more heroes that aren’t of upper classes. It’s fairly common now-a-days to see women of mostly middle but also occasionally lower class, but I honestly can’t recall the last regency I read where the hero wasn’t a noble.

There was one other major frustration I  had with the book aside from the typical-ness of the characters’ experience and social status, but it’s a spoiler so I won’t mention it here. Just… creepy. Also I had guessed it waaaaay before it was revealed.

It sounds like I really didn’t like the book, which isn’t true. But I do regret staying up until seven in the morning to finish it, that’s for damn sure.

So, here’s the thing with Harlequin Presents: the men are always sneering and cold and powerful (but of course they secretly love the heroine and are just douches because they’re either emotional idiots or they’re trying to force her hand and realize that she loves him or whatever) and the women are fiesty, but don’t know how to deal with these assholes that they are either super attracted to or have been in love with for ages. Also the man is always rich. Always.

In Between Mist and Midnight (which I’m not linking to as it’s out of print), Eleanor is coming back to her family home after staying away for five years for an extended family reunion. Also her Gran is dying. Also her hot stepbrother, Edan, is there, taking care of Gran and the family business and being hot and being an asshole. Nell (a nickname for Eleanor*) hates him and loves him. It’s all very emotional and he gets on her nerves and she gets on his nerves and they’re both JUST. SO. SEXY. (to each other, at least). Anyway, eventually, they get together and work on their issues and (presumably) live happily ever after.

One thing I liked about the book is, as overwrought as the drama was (which is very typical for Presents), it was also real. Nell’s father remarried when Nell was 15, and brought in this son that he’d never had and was soooo proud of him. Nell felt neglected. Edan’s own father had left him, so when he, at nineteen, got a new proud poppa, he unthinkingly milked it for all it was worth. And you know what? That’s real drama. Aside from the whole attraction/love thing, that could be real life. (Actually, I had a co-worker once who married her step-brother, so that part could be real life, too. :P) But man, sometimes these characters get soooo annoying.

Oh, and did I mention there’s an old Civil War ghost?

I thought it would be interesting to read a more recent Presents after BM&M to see if the Alpha Hero thing had changed at all. (Alpha heroes were what was it up until the mid-to-late nineties in all romance sub-genres, but they’re not very common in most sub-genres now-a-days.) The answer? Not too much. Rou, the heroine, had a laptop, soooo… :P

Anyway, I have a secret thing for these sheikh books. When I was in middle school and just discovering my mom’s romance stash, there was this one sheikh book that I read at least half a dozen times. ANYWAY, DD&DK was pretty good, if you can get through the typical Presents shit. Rou is a stilted, awkward heroine (with not much sexual experience, though not a virgin, at least) who is a professional matchmaker. Sheikh Zayed Fehr is super hot and a major playboy. But when his older brother, Sharif is lost in a plane crash, he must marry in order to become king. And he remembers that Sharif was a mentor to this young psychologist who became a very successful matchmaker…

Anyway, I liked this. I liked that Zayed starts of thinking that Rou is not beautiful, but then as he gets to know her, he just starts calling her beautiful. I liked that the ways they both underestimated and misjudged each other, even though it resulted in some stupid situations. Don’t people ever talk to each other, like for reals? I did NOT like how Rou lost her brain whenever Zayed was around. I am willing to give some leeway in that regard (mostly because it really is par for the course in Presents novels), but she should at least be able to make semi-intelligent choices SOMETIMES.

Also, and this is barely a spoiler, there is a secret(ish) baby at the end, which is WAY TOO DAMN COMMON in the Presents line. Like, I had to read the summaries for five Presents books before finding one that did not have a secret baby. What the fuck.

*I do know that Nell is a nickname for Eleanor, but my grandma’s name was Nell, just plain Nell, so I tend to forget it as a nickname.

The Goose Girl – Shannon Hale

IQ: “In the dizziness of early morning and little sleep, Ani wondered what she would find outside, if the night and the water had washed it all away, the pasture, the walls, the guards, the palace, and left her with her name again standing in mud and darkness.” (p 155)

Recently, I have been craving, or I guess needing, really immersive fantasy when it comes to reading material. A close friend of mine passed away recently, and while I spend a good deal of time thinking about her and the time we had together, sometimes I need to think about something else, and that’s when I turn–as always–to books.

By a stroke of luck, another couple of friends (really friends of my boyfriend, but a cooler pair of twins I could not know, and I’d like to think of them as my friends too) lent me some of their library about a month ago, and among the selection was Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days. That one I picked first and devoured, so when I was at the library recently looking for good fantasy, I grabbed another Shannon Hale–this time, The Goose Girl–in the hopes that it would be as satisfying and amazing as Book of a Thousand Days.

I’m glad to say it definitely is.

The Goose Girl, like Book of a Thousand Days, is based on a Grimm fairy tale; Ani, a shy and awkward princess of the kingdom of Kildenree, is sent to the neighboring kingdom Bayern to marry a prince she has never met. Due to a coup during the journey, she must flee and hide under a false name as a goose-herder in Bayern, alone and afraid for her life. It’s a story of personal and physical journey, as are many young adult books, peppered with humor and romance to counter the trials.

The Goose Girl scratched a slightly different itch for me than Book of a Thousand Days; it’s longer, with slightly more trauma in the main character’s narrative, and Ani the princess is a very different protagonist from Dashti the mucker maid. Book of a Thousand Days was also somewhat more alluring to me at first glance because of its psudeo-Mongolian setting, while The Goose Girl springboards off of the fairly common western-Europe fantasy setting.

What the two books have in common, though, are main characters who go through interesting and believable changes and growths, a lively and detailed world, and wonderfully evocative prose that accomplishes a lot in terms of both storytelling and lyricism without being overly flowery. They have that fairy-tale feeling to them, warm and familiar (despite being fairly obscure tales), but Hale weaves strong characterization and worldbuilding into the framework to create something new.

This has become more of a Shannon-Hale-post instead of the Goose-Girl post I was intending, so let me just say this. Ani, not a particularly likable character in the beginning, struggles through a great deal of hardships (though not as many as the titular character of Plain Kate, another book I read recently–a beautiful book, but harrowing and rather painful to read, especially at this juncture in my life) and learns how to be strong for her own sake and develop her own identity, which is a very satisfying place to see her reach. The humor is fun and appropriate, and her awkward romance with Geric is charming to watch unfold.

Though I’ll have to return The Goose Girl to the library (and Book of a Thousand Days to my friends),  I would gladly welcome any of Shannon Hale’s work on my already-overflowing shelves. I greatly look forward to reading Enna Burning, another book based in Bayern, following one of the side characters from The Goose Girl. Hale shows a lot of skill in harnessing fairy tales and making them her own.

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for our giveaway of A Girl Named Disaster! We’re already halfway to a winner!

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

I had trouble sleeping last night and ended up reading quite a lot of Bleeding Violet, which I finished this morning. I’m not going to talk about it just yet, though, I think I will save my post/review until after the Read-In.

However! I read a short romance before I went to sleep. That brings me up to five for the year, so I’m just about on track for the 50 Book Challenge. Anyway! Onto the review!

A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh is an unexpected take on the arranged marriage, which is damned hard to do!

Reggie is the dandy son of a rich coal merchant. Annabelle is the ruined daughter of an impoverished earl. Their fathers have been enemies for years, but a marriage between their children would solve all of their problems (aside from having neighboring estates, that is). Both Reggie and Annabelle protest, but neither are in a position to refuse what their fathers “suggest”. How does Mary Balogh turn this trope on its head? You’ll just have to read and find out!

I really enjoyed this short book. Reggie is, refreshingly, not the typical Regency hero: he doesn’t brood, he’s social and funny. I love me a hero who teases! Annabelle is more typical, but perfectly enjoyable. Their interactions with each other are truly delicious, and isn’t that what romance is all about?

The book has only one sex scene and isn’t too strong on the sensual front, which is neither a plus nor a minus for me though it may be for some. I do find it, to be honest, a relief when the couple aren’t majorly attracted to each other at first sight, but I tend to prefer more of the physical side of things once the romance progresses.

The only real complaint I have is that there was a bit too much exposition at the end. I had already figured out the essentials of the twist and didn’t need Reggie and Annabelle to spell it all out for me. Still, I enjoyed A Matter of Class a lot and, clocking in at only 224 pages, it’s the perfect book to pick up and read in an evening!

Don’t forget to enter our A Girl Named Disaster giveaway!

Romance and YA

Sarah over at the Smart Bitches said something, not surprisingly, smart teh other day:

“I think there’s good and bad parts to the female standard in romance novels. Among the good parts: sexual agency, self-actualization and discovery, physical and emotional achievement, and generally winning at the end, plus orgasms and being appreciated for who one is, without requirements that one change to fit another’s world view. Also, orgasms.”

And I went, “Yeah!” in the way you do when someone says something that you have thought about but have maybe never said, and certainly never said so clearly and succinctly.

And then I thought that that describes the female standard in YA, too. Minus the orgasms (usually).

Romance. And YA. <3