This is a Good Book Thursday, May 20, 2021

I’ve been reading a lot of Book Bub blurbs and sample chapters on Amazon, and I’m starting to worry about the romance genre. It seems to be falling into specific subgenres, which is nothing new, but these new subgenres are . . . perplexing? Let me be more specific.

Women who have shattering orgasms with incredibly good-looking athletes (I keep thinking, steroids, don’t those affect performance?), women who go to a small town on the beach (are there small towns on beaches? Don’t those fill up with rich people pretty fast?) to save a bakery or a bed-and-breakfast (there’s my idea of hell, saving a bed-and-breakfast) and have shattering orgasms with local law enforcement/bartenders/firefighters/etc, women who discover their dates are shapeshifters, presumably NOT while have shattering orgasms (and not just wolves; I’ve seen blurbs for polar bears and honey badgers which I though was ridiculous until I thought of some of the guys in my past and then the whole secret-honey-badger thing made sense), and that’s before we get to the can-he-protect-her-while-giving-her-shattering-orgasms category (usually with a “can-he-let-her-go” garnish that says “This book is actually about him, she’s just the gift-with-purchase-of-a-gun”) and the virgin-who-needs-a-guy-to-give-her-shattering-orgasms (really? It’s 2021 and we’re still using virginity as a hook?).

The more I read, the more I want to subvert. A woman who goes out with an athlete and doesn’t come; a woman who shuts down a rat-infested bakery in a bed-and-breakfast run by a serial killer, a woman who shoots the guy who says he can protect because he tells her he’s not sure he can let her go (that’s kidnapping, you jerk, she gets to leave if she wants to). Okay, the one I really want to write is the one with the honey badger. I looked them up. They look like weasels, they have a thick skin, their skin is loose enough that they can turn around inside it to bite the animal who gets close, they drop stink bombs when annoyed, and they’ll attack anything. They also appear to be wearing toupees. Yeah, that’s a love interest I could work with. Wait. No, no I couldn’t.

Okay, maybe a honey-badger shapeshifter who’s a retired hockey player who hires the virgin heroine to be a baker at his bed-and-breakfast located in a small town on the beach (he’s the reason it’s a small town) where they have lousy sex because he’s a freaking honey badger.

Never mind.

Where was I?

I did a lot of sample reading and re-reading old favorites this weekend. What did you read?

Note: After I wrote this, I went looking for that honey badger shapeshifter book and found out that it’s a tongue-in-cheek romance where the heroine is mixed race–honey badger and wolf–and the hero is a grizzly. Most of the reviews were very favorable, but there was one that complained about unhealthy relationship dynamics that took me aback. What could possibly go wrong between a wolfish honey badger and a grizzly bear?

+39

121 thoughts on “This is a Good Book Thursday, May 20, 2021

  1. The Honey Badger series by Shelly Laurenston is awesomely off the wall bonkers. That, and her Call of Crows series, got me through a fair bit of lockdown (her other shapeshifter books I can take or leave). She also wrote The Blacksmith Queen, under another name, which I also really enjoyed. I enjoy her found-family, her brand of crazy, and her women who are quite happy to burn the scenery down rather than take crap from anyone.

    +23
    1. Ditto! The honey badgers are the heroines, not the heroes, and they are bonkers, bad-ass, and completely fun. The guys in those books are the bemused back-up. One of them is a panda, I think, and he chews a lot of bamboo while watching the psychopathic heroine terrorize people. Although she does love her sisters, so maybe she’s not a complete psychopath. I skip the sex scenes, but the books are funny, crude, and totally over-the-top with cartoon levels of violence and a pace that’s past fast and into head-spinning. Now I want to go reread them.

      I’ve also really enjoyed some Nalini Singh romances recently. The sport is rugby, the setting is New Zealand, and they remind me of why I started reading romance decades ago — fun characters, interesting places, and a world bigger than a bedroom. I loved Rebel Hard, which has a traditional Indian heroine agreeing to an arranged marriage and then changing her mind. But she’s living in a community that is completely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, 28 years old and torn between family traditions and freedom. Being in that world for the space of an afternoon (where the hero sitting next to her at a wedding is scandalous and yet she’s working her way up to CFO) was really fun. She was a virgin. The hero gave her shattering orgasms. 🙂 Great book!

      +11
    2. I love the Blacksmith Queen. I originally got into her books with the dragon shapeshifters, which are the same sort of crazy over the top violent hilarious.

      +2
  2. The new Alexis Hall! And yes, it was fabulous. He is such a terrific writer. And it’s set in a renamed but clearly Bake Off tv show. And it was so so funny. I cannot rave enough. There were scenes I was snort laughing. The romance (f/m this time) was lovely. There are no seaside small towns, athletes, women in bikinis, or shape shifters. There is found family, character arc, and baking. I lost most of a night’s sleep.

    Read it read it read it. It’s worth every penny.

    +20
    1. PS I perhaps should have said, it’s called Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

      +13
    2. I am a bit late to the party but that’s the book I wanted to review today too. I read it last night and totally loved it. Alexis Hall is such a good writer and Rosaline is a great heroine. There is some seriously hard stuff happening but it is also extremely funny. Don’t forget to read the book club pointers at the end and the recipes too. They are hilarious in themselves. Loved it, loved it. And Jenny, no hockey player, no badgers, no small town but a lot of snarky british humour.

      +8
  3. I read Lois McMaster Bujold so there was action/adventure instead of orgasms even though there was plenty going on inside people.

    Penric’s Progress provides print versions of my 3 favorite Penric & Desdemona stories. Reading them in a physical book was a revelation — I’d missed so much when I read the kindle versions. That made me very happy.

    The Assassins of Thasalon is only available as an ebook. Reading off the screen was difficult and wearing, but the story is good. I would not have believed that a woman could deeply love two men — completely and honestly, yet only one sexually — but I’ve met a woman who can. I so wish that this story were in print.

    +12
    1. I read it before Alexis Hall’s book and it was great too in completely different ways.
      It will come out in print at some point I am sure as Bujold’s books always do.

      +4
    2. So I googled your recommendation, only I accidently typed Assassins of Thesalon which got corrected to Assassins of The Salon. I think I’d read it.

      +8
  4. Books: I finished Stephen Blackmoore’s Bottle Demon (Eric Carter series), more fun with djinn, Aztec gods and ghosts. I liked the turn it took. Read 10 Blind Dates after reading about that here and wheee that was fun. Loved the family not only setting up the blind dates but running a betting pool on the outcomes. Currently in progress: Assassins of Thasalon and The Summer Seekers, I switch off between demons and a road trip up Rt 66.

    +9
    1. I’m really behind–I think I only read the first 2 of Stephen’s books, although I own the others. I’m going to have to start from the beginning again. Sigh.

      +6
  5. I read Roseline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall and it was full of joy and angst and loads and loads of baking, which will be super fun for GBBO fans.

    One … anti-spoiler? … for anyone who has yet to pick it up: it might be helpful to note that it was marketed as a rom com, but I think it’s probably best described as a quirky take on women’s fiction, with the action centered more on the heroine’s self-discovery than on the romance. I had no idea how much having a particular genre meta-construct in mind would affect my reading experience, but there you go.

    I expect my initial reaction may have been at least partly pandemic-specific … I was looking forward to a thoughtful book heavy on escape and laughs, and instead got way more real-life anxiety than I’d been bargaining for (and since AJH is a very good author, I FELT it, damn it.)

    Anyway, I mourned the-rom-com-that-could-have-been, which is very pouty of me, I know, but once I got past that, I really did enjoy the-book-that-was. Definitely worth picking up, just know what you’re getting 🙂

    +17
    1. I think it’s the British thing. A lot of their ‘rom cons’ are more heroine journey centered than a US rom com. Beth O’Le-try, Mhari McFarlane (whose new one is good but has a very sad thread) etc, all do it that way.

      +8
    2. Ooh, I’m interested in this l discussion. Where is the genre line and she’s it make a difference to how we approach the book?

      I read it as a rom com, just with a strong arc, even if the central romance was a bit understated Heyer-esque (I felt strong Freddie vibes a la coaches when it’s raining).

      What about (sorry Jenny, but we all know your books so they make great examples!) Maybe This Time or Fast Women? Ghost story, mystery, women’s fiction? I almost always read for the romance (even in Murderbot, interactions with ART are my fav bits) so it’s hard for me to see clearly…

      +4
      1. Every time I step outside the pure romance genre, some readers bitch because they came for the romance, which I completely understand. Sometimes the books just don’t go that way.

        Maybe This Time turned out to be more about Andie and Alice than Andie and North. I completely borked the romance in Wild Ride (Bob and I were just talking about this). Fast Women was more about me coming to terms with my own divorce that it was about Gabe and Nell. Sometimes, the romance just ends up as a subplot.

        I think the books that are more Women’s Fiction Romance are probably where I am now (yeah, I know that’s not a genre). That’s Nita definitely, finding out who she is while falling for a problematic guy. I think Anna and Nate are in the same place, both coming up against something that throws their worlds out of whack and them together.

        I do think I have to concentrate more on the romance, though, because when I re-read my books, I tend to start skimming until I get to the H&H. (I really like H&H now as shorthand for lovers because it’s non-gender-specific. And short.)

        +8
        1. But even as a self-determined romance reader, I need more than the romance to really love or feel satisfied by a book. So books like MTT are perfect. The best of KJ Charles’ books are the same, more than the romance. Maybe that’s why I get bored with many contemporary romance titles? Opening the bakery just isn’t enough of the ‘more’.

          +6
        2. Maybe This Time is one of my favorites. Mostly because there was so much going on while the romance unfolded.

      2. Meant to say, Murderbot is really interesting for this. I want to read Murderbot/ART as a romance even though Murderbot is appalled at the idea, but that makes me wonder what my definition of romance is. Unless they find something electronically stimulating which neither of them seems inclined to do, it’s an asexual relationship. But it’s also very close, and they care about each other a lot, the intensity of Murderbot’s reaction when he thinks ART has been deleted, ART’s willingness to blow up a planet to get Murderbot back, that seems to be a passion that passes friendship, but does it? Friendships, the intense kinds, are kinds of love affairs, the absorption in each other and absolute trust. It’s a great question.

        +6
  6. Thank you, Jenny, for doing all that research so we don’t have to.

    Still, shattering orgasms are nothing to be sneezed at.

    +16
      1. Exactly. I’m just happy to experience one, period. It doesn’t need to be shattering.

        +6
  7. I stupidly didn’t follow Alannah’s suggestion, and instead read the next in the Kriss Ripper series, and was fed up that it didn’t feel really complete at the end. So I gave up and reread Alexis Hall’s ‘Boyfriend Material’, which was much more satisfying. I then opened Courtney Milan’s latest, but decided to reread the prequels first, and am enjoying number two at the moment: ‘After the Wedding’.

    In other news: I got the job! Have agreed to project edit a big book on roses, starting in the next couple of weeks and to be done by the beginning of December. I suspect they’re getting me cheap, but it should be fun, and also means I won’t have to worry about getting more work until the end of the year. I now need to buy a new Mac a.s.a.p., so I’ve taken headache pills and am trying to work out what my good options are before I start talking to salesmen.

    +51
    1. Congratulations! That seems to be a winning combination of your skills and interests. Hopefully no more dreary books on economics or some such for a while!

      +14
    2. Let’s hear it for 6 months without job hunting and working on a subject you really like!

      +13
    3. Hey! Good job, you. To the important question: Modern roses? Heritage roses? The whole motley? This is so exciting! Only — done by December? Can you possibly?

      +1
  8. “A woman who goes out with an athlete and doesn’t come” – That’s Lyssa Kay Adams’s The Bromance Book Club. 🙂 She’s married to an MLB player and has been faking her orgasms. He finally figures it out and freaks out — his friends, who have a secret romance reading club — are determined to help him get some emotional IQ and win her back.

    +10
  9. I read “The First Ten Years” by Meg Bashwiner and Joseph Fink (of the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast), which is them separately writing recaps of their relationship one year at a time. I enjoyed it. Particularly Meg, who is a nonfiction person and very snarky/romantic.

    I also read “Angel of the Overpass” by Seanan McGuire. Third in a series so I can’t say start there, and it took awhile to get going, but it had a really interesting ending.

    +8
  10. Shelley Laurenston is one of the few writers who can get me laugh out loud.

    She doesn’t take herself seriously but she puts in the work for the books and it’s worth the read. Wacky premises, included.

    Still reading Think Like a Monk. Dropping in and out of a few audio books. Started Bushido, The Way of the Warrior. Quite enjoying it. The narrator has such a pleasant voice.

    +8
  11. I’ve only read “Seven summer nights” by Harper Fox. 475 pages, finally a length to sink my teeth into.
    I liked the first half a lot, even the magical mystery. But in the second part, the perspective switched, not only from one protagonist to the other (sort of). But somehow tbe narrator almost forgot about them and focused instead on the magical bit and the whole community.
    My brain is too fried from the day job for any analysis right now, but the book left me deeply unsatisfied. It felt half baked and unfocused, with the motivation of the villains sorely lacking.
    It’s definitely me since on Goodreads it got fine reviews by very good writers.
    At least I found the rec for a book based on a very similar idea, made into a film with the young and tasty Colin Fith and Kenneth Brannagh.

    +8
  12. I read House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (Crescent City Book 1) and I’m kinda… meh about it. On the one hand, it was put-down-able but pick-up-able (meaning, my schedule completely precluded me from binge reading like I would prefer). Not that this is a positive feature.

    There was something so half-baked about the idea, and the logic of the world that I was constantly sort of rewriting scenes to make the world work.

    And then the logic at the end just flew out the window, because a couple of really critical things could not have happened in the order she claimed based on the “beginning” of the event (which doesn’t happen at the beginning of the book).

    As I read this, I kept thinking that this could have been a really great fantasy series (and I know she has thousands of fans, but this just isn’t memorable enough to last)… if she’d just done one more deep edit.

    I never leave reviews, and I hate posting something harsh about a writer, but this felt like spaghetti thrown at a wall.

    +15
    1. Can’t say about this book, but her earlier stuff was pretty strong. The assassin series, got too dark for me, but it was very compelling.

      +4
  13. One of the many reasons I fell for Jenny’s books was because the men had flaws, AND they were not jerks, only sexy, and the ladies didn’t get shattering orgasms as soon as the men touched them. Bet Me and Faking it were the only ones I read the first 3-4 years, because those were the only ones the Talking book library had, and in Swedish at that, but I felt like I had FINALLY found a romance writer that wrote things I could believe in and enjoy with characters I cared about. Finally, finally someone who understood that things aren’t always perfect from the start, the total opposite of 100 % of the other romance I had read until that point.

    I can understand, however, that a lot of people want the perfection-part in romance or erotic litterature to dream away to, fantasize. That’s probably the same reason why hunky jerks and control freaks are tolerated too – “It’s only fantasy and fiction, anyway, and who doesn’t want a bad boy!”. Me, I just get annoyed by it. Including shattering orgasm scenes where orgasm starts at second 1.

    Reading is still very difficult, and I generally feel like I can’t decide whether I want to scream until my head falls off or just curl up in a ball and give up. I guess that what I need the most are books that feel like hugs. I have not found them yet. It’s like things can’t reach me anymore. Or I can’t reach them, I don’t know. Even rereading feels scary and difficult. Brain feels sore and like dead oatmeal. Bleh.

    +19
    1. Maybe you could try some classic comedies as a palate cleanser. Old movies like The Thin Man, My Man Godfrey, Holiday, or Bringing up Baby never grow old. And The Princess Bride delights on so many different levels ( although it may leave you answering, “Inconceivable!” to everything.)

      +10
      1. That’s definitely something I could try, thank you.
        I actually snagged The Princess Bride from the library a while ago, I just haven’t got around to read it yet. I think I have the movie somewhere too… Maybe I should give ’em a try.

        +3
      2. I just introduced my grown daughter to Holiday and Philadelphia Story. She had found His Gal Friday on her own and that set us off.
        It was so much fun, we will be doing screwball comedy nights.
        It is like discovering them all over again.

      1. Thank you! I know they are out there somewhere. I just haven’t found them yet. My old hugbooks bookhugs don’t seem to do the trick right now. I hope that feeling will return. It’s just too awful to not even find comfort in your favourite comfort reads.

        +4
  14. I wasn’t feeling in the mood for anything in my TBR pile, so I read 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston, the one Jenny talked about a couple of weeks ago. My reaction was about the same as hers, not the greatest but I never thought about putting it down. Which worked for me.

    I read the third ‘episode’ of A Skeptic in Salem by Fiona Grace. The podcast crew (though it’s now a candidate to become a cable series) investigate a haunted house, but they have difficulty completing the episode in time to get it to the cable people because the real estate agent who was showing them the house is murdered the same way that the previous murders in the house took place.

    And Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong. Something different from her. I mostly liked it, but there were some parts I had a little trouble with.

    I read the The Assassins of Thasalon of course. Excellent, and novel length this time. Though I felt it moved quickly enough that it didn’t feel any longer than the previous novellas.

    +7
  15. I will allow the small beach town if the weather is horrible most of the year. Then you really do get ramshackle little towns that are held together by a sudden burst of tourists every summer, at least in Oregon.

    I’m working my way through Shadow of the Wind because my sister loves it. It’s odd, mysterious, and beautifully written. But for me it’s a one bite-size piece at a time thing. I did read a Gilded Age New York historical that I loved. “A Daring Arrangement” by Joanna Shupe. It’s amazing what a non-English historical setting does to perk up a romance.

    +13
    1. I loved Shadow of the Wind. I read the first three books in the series, but googling just now found out there is a fourth book, so thank you for mentioning it :-).

      +2
  16. Re-reading Cotillion by Heyer, laughing at Freddy’s abbreviated sentences/thoughts. Just got Talisman Ring, which I don’t think I’ve read, so glad for the recommendation!

    +12
    1. I spent the day on an airplane re-reading the talisman Ring. Thoroughly enjoyed myself I do love Heyer.
      Obviously the mask is getting in the way between me and the Mike.. I think I may go into another way before I start something now.
      I made it to Michigan and it’s time to go get my bag. Have a great week as

      +11
      1. Welcome to Michigan! You’ve managed to miss our two weeks of spring, but welcome to our May heat wave 🙂

        +7
    2. Talisman is a fave. Sprig Muslin and Black Sheep are ones.
      I have reread and really enjoyed recently. Heyer, Austen and Crusies are the ones I always come back to.

  17. My reading list for the week was a simple matter of looking at my Kindle App in “most recent” order:
    Assassins of Thasalon for the third… maybe fourth?… time. What Elizabeth said about a woman loving two men struck me as well. Asked if they were both falling off a cliff into the sea, which one she would save, she paused a long time, and asked if one of them could swim. She gets both.
    The Grand Sophy again, finally able to read it through without reference to the glossary in the back.
    Knife Children again, because Bujold. And finally,
    The Jennifer Crusie Collection of seven of your finest. Only the first story, so far – “Welcome to Temptation” – in which Phineas “T for Townboy” Tucker gives Sophie Dempsey screaming orgasms. Huh. Go figure.

    +13
  18. This is a request for specific authors that I know many of you can give. At the moment I want new but comfort reads 😁specifically sci if I enjoy LMB Miles books and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Liadan books, I would like if you all could recommend similar authors. I am not up to reading anything much at the moment. Any recommendations would be helpful.
    Thanking you all in advance.

    +8
    1. Lindsay Buroker has a SF series. Two or three, actually. I only read one, the Star Nomad series, that starts here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01FWOW72W/ I think there’s a spin-off that’s got younger protagonists ( prefer non-YA/NA), and then more recently she did another SF series, but it had a male protagonist, and I prefer her female protagonists. All her books have fun banter, a little romance over the course of the series, lots of action.

      I sound so snobbish in my preferences above. I read younger and male protagonists by other writers, just prefer her older/female protagonists.

      I also really liked her Emperor’s Edge series, which is more fantasy/steampunk, so sort of adjacent to SF. Same for her first dragon series (not the recent epic one that’s too epic for me).

      +7
      1. For someone who likes Bujold, of Lindsay Buroker’s books, I would recommend Encrypted. I read it because it had a bit of a Shards of Honor vibe and I would agree. I read the Emperor’s edge after and some others of Buroker’s books but Encrypted and Enigma, it’s follow up, are my favourites.

        +6
        1. I typed too fast so I should clarify: I read it because -I was told- it had a Shards of honor vibe.
          Also the books are Encrypted and Decrypted. Enigma is what Buroker calls an interlude in-between these two books, ie a short story. They are not space opera SF but I really like the main characters. The hero is a bit Aral/Adelis and the heroine is all herself.
          I think Buroker is pretty uneven because she really churns books out but these I really enjoy and reread occasionally.

          +6
      2. Those who like Lindsay Buroker may also like G.S.Jennsen’s long SciFi series, 3 trilogies plus short stories, and with a spin-off series for those who want more. The 3 trilogies are Aurora rising, Aurora renegades, and Aurora resonant; these each contain 3 books plus the short stories that fit around them in the timeline. I think she ended up calling the whole thing Amaranth, thpugh I tend to remember it as Aurora.
        Similar fast-paced action, but not centered around assassins; female space pilot main character.

        +1
    2. Well, Murderbot lines up pretty well with those, but I’ll take that as a given. I enjoyed Elizabeth Bonesteel’s Central Corp books (starts with The Cold Between), Jessie Mihalik’s Consortium Rebellion series (the first, and best, is Polaris Rising), Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano Legacy books, and David Weber’s Honor Harrington series (I enjoyed the first few, but for some reason stopped reading, FWIW).

      Also Science Fiction – and “safe” (no angst or terrible outcomes) but tonally different are the books by Jack McDevitt. They are more like mysteries/thrillers set in space than what is normally considered science fiction.

      Plus “The Martian” and “the Hail Mary Project” by Andy Weir.

      +4
    3. Becky Chambers for kind thinky space opera with some mild romances. TA White has a sci fin series that’s a bit more Lee/Miller with adventures and psi powers and a slower burn romance. I think there hav been three in the series.

      +3
    4. Michelle Diener’s Verdant String series reminded me of Liaden somehow. I’m not sure why, though — on the surface, they don’t have much in common. Space, planets, spaceships. But they’re fun.

      +3
    5. Dear Margaret,

      I also love LMB and the Liaden series by Lee and Miller. I hope these suggestions are helpful for finding some new comfort reads. Two authors I enjoy are Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff. Elizabeth Moon has several series where women and men serve in the military as equals. One is a fantasy series, The Deed of Paksenarrion, and another is more space opera, Vatta’s War. Tanya Huff has a series of military science fiction with Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr in her Valor series. She also has other series that are more fantasy including the Quarters series. Connie Willis is another favorite of mine with a series on time traveling historians from Oxford. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a lovely book set mostly in Victorian England. I wish you good reading!

      +5
      1. I second Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion even if it is fantasy rather than SF. Great stuff

        +3
        1. I went and looked at the description… is there any romance at all? (I get bored if there isn’t a relationship dynamic going on in there somewhere.)

          +2
      2. Not tonally in line with Miles and the Liaden series, but I highly recommend Elizabeth Moon’s Remnant Population: An old woman, who has seriously no more F**ks to give, rebels and plays hooky from the plan to remove all the old colonists and replace them with new ones. And then the new ones are slaughtered by aliens no one knew existed, and she’s alone on the planet with the aliens…

        +2
    6. The whole series is uneven with some of the books regurgitating the back story for about half of the book. BUT God Stalk and Dark of the Moon the first two books in the series are really excellent. P. C. Hodgell is the author. The last few books in there series were pretty good too.

      +5
    7. I agree with several of the authors suggested here for light Sci-Fi reading. I’d add Jessie Mihalik’s Consortium series, starting with Polaris Rising. All the books in the series were quick and fun reads.

      +5
    8. I have been racking my brain for other Liaden/Vorkosiverse kind of books than those already recommended and my mind somehow came up with Linnea Sinclair. Her books are more romance heavy but you might enjoy An Accidental Goddess and Games of Command especially.
      Someone else who is more on the Romance end of SF too is Ann Aguirre. I am thinking about her earliest books, the Sirantha Jax series, starting with Grimspace.

      +6
    9. Ilona Andrews’ Innkeeper series is a perennial reread for me. Woman saves abandoned bed and breakfast with door to other universes, which occasionally spits out space vampires, genetically altered werewolves and assorted sentient space chickens. Fairly light and fun, with sexual tension, but very little actual sex, found family and blood family shenanigans and an ongoing need to save fellow earthlings and hide the existence of alien life forms.

      I also really enjoy Sherwood Smith, but that is more fantasy, slow slow burn with lots of court politics and very mild romances.

      Last, Meljean Brook/Milla Vane. She can get dark sometimes, and have a fair amount of sex, but her steampunk stuff is some of my favorite things. Skip the first one, the Iron Duke. People have trouble with that one, and head straight to Heart of Steel and then on to the Kraken King. She does this great thing where you think a major conflict is going to happen and then it doesn’t because of good communication and great characters.

      +6
      1. The Iron Duke was really problematic imo. I read a couple of the later ones first, which I ended up being pleased about, because if I’d read The Iron Duke first I’d have given up on her. The other books are great.

        +3
    10. Just off the top of my head? Elizabeth Bear has a fun space opera series, White Space, which is influenced by James White’s Sector General alien hospital series. The two Bear White Space books so far are Ancestral Night and Machine. I also enjoy White’s series although it is a bit dated in the attitude towards women. James Schmitz has a SF space opera series starring the Witches of Karres which is also dated but still a enjoyable romp. Julie Czerneda has several cool SF series including the Esen series and the Species Imperative series. You can really see her STEM background in the latter. Ann Leckie has the Ancillary series which is a bit more intense and dark than the other series I’ve mentioned but still very good. Jodi Taylor has two very humorous time travel series. Genevieve Cogman has a series about librarians saving books that combines SF and fantasy. I second the Jim C. Hines, Jessie Mihalik, Becky Chambers, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Moon, Connie Willis, and Ann Aguirre recommendations that have already been made. Happy reading!

      +8
      1. Thanks for all the mostly new to me authors, I have written them all down and will check with my library first thing. You are all really very kind.
        Margaret

        +4
        1. Though much lighter, you might enjoy Wrede and Stevermer’s series, SORCERY & CECELIA, THE GRAND TOUR, and THE MISLAID MAGICIAN.

          And the first books in David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, too. ON BASILISK STATION
          THE HONOR OF THE QUEEN
          A SHORT VICTORIOUS WAR
          FIELD OF DISHONOR
          FLAG IN EXILE

          His later books have suffered from an editing problem, which I understand to have begun when he took a bad fall on ice and damaged both hands; then he had to switch to dictation software. Of course, you can dictate your first draft, but editing really requires hands on the keyboard / mouse. But these were written before the accident.

          +4
  19. Last week I read things Remembered by Georgia Bockoven. The story is mainly of the oldest sibling of three girls all grown up in her thirties returning to her grandmother’s in northern California to help settle her affairs and her relationship with the grandmother. The granddaughter Karla felt that Anna did not care for her or her sisters because she did not hear from her after their parents death and they had gone to live with family in Nebraska. When after two years they were sent to California to be raised by Anna, the grandmother, they did not come to an understanding. Miscommunication and resentment in those lost two years caused in Karla hurt feelings that lasted for twenty years. I also had a problem with how Karla spoke to her grandmother. It all evens out at the end, of course it does. There is even a love interest for Karla with a veterinarian so that is always welcome. On purpose I did not mention the coffee shop that was run by Karla’s ex husband and his girlfriend in her absence.

    This week my books are starting to come in at the library (e-books) first one I started is The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews. The rest are piling up.

    I watched The Rookies finale this week and it is the second time they have relied on a kidnapping of a female police officer (pregnant to boot) and don’t like that kind of scenario.

    Also if a book starts with shattering orgasms of a just met couple to me that means there isn’t that much of a story and the author is just counting words.

    +7
  20. I’m still reading (although almost finished) Patricia Brigg’s new Alpha and Omega book. Absolutely wonderful, enough so that I am able to read even though it is darker than most of what I’ve read in the last couple of years.

    Then the new Murderbot novella, which just arrived from interlibrary loan.

    +8
    1. Hang in there. It’s a dark book, but there is some light at the end. And I think that it sets Anna up in a better place for the story to continue.

      +4
  21. I finished the complete works of Jane Austen and enjoyed the read. Especially her earlier work. Now I’ve started a reread of a few Georgette Heyer that I haven’t looked at in a while. Reading the Nonesuch now then The Tollgate.
    After that I’m not sure, but have not found much in contemporary romance that appeals. It seems many authors are just trying too hard. I’ve always enjoyed an interesting beginning with a slow build. Characters with interesting quirks, and good fun sex where the H&H laugh and talk.

    +14
  22. I was having a crappy (read: grumpy) day until I read this. Hilarious – thanks for posting!

    +10
  23. I’m reading a mystery by Vaseem Khan set in India called “Bad Day at the Vulture Club,” which I’m enjoying it a lot. The retired cop has a PI agency called the Baby Ganesh Agency, and in fact, he goes about his detecting with the actual baby elephant in tow and most of his interview subjects don’t bat an eyelash. The book started slow with a big infodump about the Parsees, but I learned a lot and now the book has picked up and has lots of droll moments. The books in the series cost beyond what I’m willing to pay for anyone but an autobuy (mostly $10), but I bit for this one at $5. It’s not book 1, but it’s fine as a standalone.

    +9
  24. I finished Andy Weir’s “Hail Mary.” I liked it, but I loved “The Martian,” And now I want to re-read that book.

    I’m also mid-way through “False Value” and am getting confused by the plot because I haven’t been reading it straight through. I’m meant to read one book at a time, not many.

    +7
    1. I had trouble with False Value, even reading straight through, because of the time shifts. Not really a fan of non-linear storytelling. Plus, I was listening to the audiobook, so I couldn’t flip back to check on the timeline easily. I liked the book, but definitely struggled a bit with the non-linear aspects.

      +4
      1. Me, too. At first I thought I’d gotten mixed up as to where I was in the book.

        +3
  25. Had ‘Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake’ by Alexis Hall on pre-order so of course I read it pretty much immediately. Found it more chick lit than rom-com. Enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next. When reading M/F romance, I always want to identify with the F, almost never do, and did not in this book. Was LOL funny in places, though, and the true love interest was a wonderful character.

    Also on pre-order was ‘Proficiency Bonus’ by Charlie Novak, a gaming-and-cosplay-and-Hollywood M/M romance with almost embarrassingly explicit sex but two very sweet main characters and a nice Love Conquers All resolution.

    Read five other M/M romance novels, one a re-read; one M/M romance short story; ‘The Rake’ by Mary Jo Putney which is my favorite historical of hers and one of my favorite historicals of all time; ‘Second Position’ by Katherine Locke, a M/F new-adult romance about a pair of damaged ballet dancers, which was quite good; ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ by PG Wodehouse, which was funny.

    Finally, my rec of the week: ‘Behind These Doors’ by Jude Lucens, an Edwardian romance featuring the blending of two polyamorous relationships via a lot of cross-class compromise and some much-needed good-hearted family intervention (to make up for some evil-minded family interference). Would happily read a sequel – there is no way all those characters don’t have more story.

    +8
    1. I second the rec for Behind These Doors. I read it a few years ago, but still remember how touching the relationships were. A really lovely story.

      +3
  26. Read some good books new to me last week.
    Sharon Shinn’s latest book, Shadows of the Past, was a collection of seven short stories. Not excellent but okay. All of the stories except one have been published before in various anthologies. As Shinn is a speculative fiction writer, all the stories have a speculative fiction slant: magic or aliens or such, but most of the author’s attention was on the characters, not on any spec-fic bits and bobs.

    Then I finished Naomi Kritzer’s Catfishing on CatNet. Unlike most YA books I try, I enjoyed this one – in moderation. Maybe because its heroine, sixteen-year-old Steph, is an unusual teenager. She doesn’t display much of the classical teenage angst (that’s why I liked her), but she is uncommonly cynical. Worked for me, although it would probably read much better if I were 17 instead of … decades older.

    Amy E. Reichert’s The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go was a quiet women’s fiction book about grief, mothers, and daughters. It would’ve been better if the POVs in the novel all belonged to adults. As it is, one of the POV characters is a fourteen-year-old, and her constant angst and pointless teenage rebellion spoiled this book for me. I dislike YA lit for a reason. But I liked the protagonist, a gentle forty-years-old Gina, so overall, this book worked for me.
    The only serious problem was: about half the text in the book was flashbacks, detailing the characters’ lives years and even decades before the timeline of the story. On one hand, their past was important to understanding their present conundrums. On the other – flashbacks stop the action in the here and now, as Jenny stated repeatedly on this forum, so the pacing of the plot was torturously slow.

    Now, I’m half-way into Katherine Addison The Angel of the Crows. So far, I’m loving this pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, although it has airships, vampires, and angels. Lots of angels, which are unlike any other fictional angels I’ve ever read about. And instead of Dr. Watson we have Dr. Doyle as the narrator, so nobody could have any doubts where this story originates. “Holmesian fantasy,” said the blurb by Max Gladstone on the cover. I agree.

    +8
  27. Kate Meader has a second chance hockey romance where the hero took the heroine’s virginity many years ago….but did not leave her satisfied. It is a wonderful example of sometimes athletes aren’t all that.

    Rosaline Palmer is on my list too, so I loved hearing what everyone else thought about it. Boyfriend Material was one of my favorites of last year.

    +7
  28. Finally got around to reading Crazy Rich Asians. Found the first half boring – lots of back story and it kept diverting to other characters aside from the main romance, which had already kind of happened before the book began. Also, Mary Sue and cartoonishly evil people alert. But the second half picked right up. Things happened in the relationship. There were a couple of things going on in the plot. I still think the man is pretty useless but I bought the sequel and hope it keeps up the tempo.

    +6
    1. Crazy Rich Asians is one of the very, very rare occasions when I’d highly recommend the movie over the book.

      +11
      1. Agree, also Bourne Identity and Dexter as a TV series, I couldn’t finish the first books. If you want to flip this round the Jack Reacher books are better then the films, Tom Cruise was miscast. The best scene in the movie for Jack Reacher 2 is on youtube, however as one commenter pointed out, that was the first 5 mins of the movie, it was all down hill from there.

        +2
  29. I read KJ Charles’ The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting. Not my favorite, but still worth the read. And Enchanted Living is having a half off sale of their back issue magazines this week. I treated myself and they arrived today. Lots of eye candy and fun history, crafts, recipes and short articles. I am going to dig into those before I go to bed.

    +10
  30. Just released from “Karen K Anders” better known to most of us as Andrea K Höst, THE BOOK OF FIRSTS. She says she published it under the second name specifically because it includes a lot of sex — unlike MEDAIR, where a touch of the hand is a big deal. Whether shattering orgasms ensue, I have yet to find out.

    Of course, I spent Monday sitting in a muffler shop and reading THE ASSASSINS OF THESALON, which I liked — I really like the Five Gods world. Note: if you haven’t read the other Penric and Desdemona stories, there will be spoilers. Not too bad, but there.

    Reading FAIL ZERO, the book about the Secret Service. The author’s premise is that the Secret Service is overextended and underbudgeted. The Secret Service official response is that it’s managing very well, thank you. I suspect that the author has it right, because the number of people the Presidential Protection detail has increased — though the Trump children’s six months will end in July — and, though no one says much about it, the whole Bitcoin stuff must be a challenge to the Treasury section.

    THE RAVENMASTER is a memoir of sorts by the guy who keeps the flock of ravens that protect the Tower of London, the Crown, and Great Britain. Charming.

    COME FLY WITH ME is a book about PanAm stewardesses in the 1960’s and 70’s. Very interesting! Brings back a whole era (no, it’s not COFFEE, TEA, OR ME?, this is a serious look at several of the women and the life they made for themselves. No shattering orgasms). PanAm had no domestic flights, so if you flew with them, you really did see the world. Among other PanAm stewardess alums was Mary Higgins Clark.

    +9
  31. I think I just peed myself reading this one. Thank you for capping my day.

    +4
  32. I read Ten Things I Hate About the Duke, which was huge fun. Cassandra is such a wonderful character.
    Also a reread of Just One Damn Thing After Another. Funnier – and darker – than I remembered.

    +5
  33. I read “The Soulmate Equation” by Christina Lauren, and enjoyed it immensely. Nerdy (but handsome) scientist hero, data-crunching heroine, a really lovely community around them, and a black moment that grows perfectly out of who the two of them are. Highly recommended.

    +5
  34. I intellectually know the shapeshifter thing in romance is a bit objectively weird, but I just can’t quit them this past year. I think I’ve really liked being able to totally escape into a world that it’s so clearly not reality in the midst of pandemics and elections and insurrections, etc.

    Plus, I stick with the really good series, like Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson world and Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels world where the women are pretty kick ass and if there are tropes about possessive alpha shapeshifters, the characters themselves also eye roll at some of the ridiculousness of it. I also don’t even know if I would totally classify all of them as romances first though…obviously strong romantic threads in all, but it doesn’t feel like the purpose of the story. Maybe that’s why I’m not as bothered?

    +7
  35. I suffered from recommendation paralysis. I wanted to tell Margaret every SF series even remotely Bujoldian, and I locked up, so others got to mention Elizabeth Moon and even David Weber’s early Harrington series and others I would agree with. I think the only ones I could add were the Poul Anderson space sagas starring Nick van Rijn, David Falkayn, or Dominic Flandry.

    +6
    1. Or as the store clerk told Samantha in SITC “neck massagers”, that clip is hilarious

      +3
  36. A slow reading week for me. Finished off Adella Harris’ Traitor Lords Saga. Really enjoyed it, especially the last one. She has a nice way for detail, like loving descriptions of Japanese silks and pottery. Other than that – reread, reread, read…

    +5
  37. This is why I keep re-reading your books. The romance books out there, even the ones with 5 stars, are such rubbish!
    Every so often I do a search for “If you like Jennifer Crusie, you’ll like…”, but it’s rarely fruitful.
    You are literally my favorite author for romance.
    Wish you’d publish more books!

    +3

Comments are closed.