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Category: romance genre

SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for May: Her Cowboy Defender

I wasn’t sure I’d get this month’s book read, let alone post a review on it on time. But I’m just under the wire. This month’s challenge book is from an author with more than one novel on my TBR. Needless to say, I have lots of those available. I chose this Harlequin Intrigue release from 2012 because I’d really liked an earlier book by Connor and as a result I’d bought a few more. I wish I could say that it lived up to my hopes, but I can’t.

Piper Lowry is an accountant in Boston who finds her predictable life upended when her younger sister Tara is kidnapped and her twin, Pam, who is an FBI agent, winds up in a coma after an accident. The two events are related. Piper heads off to New Mexico to try and rescue her sister and meets rancher Cade McClain when she demands, at gunpoint, that he drive her to her rendezvous with the kidnappers. Cade is angry (who wouldn’t be?) but then won over by Piper’s story (yes, really) and decides to help her rescue Tara, who is conveniently being held at the ranch adjoining Cade’s.

The entire novel takes place in a 48-hour period and in that time and category page count Connor has to introduce characters and plot, work through several storylines, and bring about an HEA for Cade and Piper. It isn’t enough. The characters are strangers when they meet and they spend the first 24 hours organizing a rescue. Most of the narrative is taken up with introducing the characters and the plot, to the great detriment of the setting. This is technically set in New Mexico but there is nothing to make the reader realize that. The bulk of the story takes place on Cade’s ranch or adjacent to it, but we never even find out what he does on his ranch (except for a lot of paperwork). Is it a cattle ranch? Sheep? Alpacas? Llamas? Donkeys? (I’ve seen all of those in NM, I think.) Who knows. Not only do we not know what this huge ranch is for, apparently Cade can send off the ranch hands and the cook-housekeeper without missing a beat. Maybe he’s just growing sagebrush and cactus.

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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for April: Burn for Me

I’ve had this book in my Kindle collection for years. Sirius is a huge Ilona Andrews fan and she bought it for me as a gift. I read about a third of it but then put it aside. I don’t remember why it didn’t work for me, but I just wasn’t engaged. I’ve been meaning to go back to it and this month’s challenge, “Something Different” seemed like a good opportunity because if there’s one subgenre I don’t read, it’s PNR/UF. Yes, I know they’re not the same, but the features they share are the features I generally shy away from.

I cracked it open, started reading, and was immediately engaged with the characters, the world, and above all the voice. I’ve been reading the Andrews’ blog for the last few months, and I could hear the voice that I enjoy there in the book.

I’m guessing many of you have either read the book or know enough about it that you don’t need me to recap. But I’ll give you the setup and a quick summary of the plot. Nevada Baylor owns a private investigation firm in which she’s assisted by her military vet mother and her college-going cousin Bern. They live together with the rest of their family (grandmother, another cousin, and Nevada’s two younger sisters) in a converted warehouse. The firm used to be run by Nevada’s father, but he died a few years earlier from cancer. The treatments took all their money and forced them to sell their house and mortgage the business to one of the big Houses of Houston, where the story is set.

This Houston is our Houston but also not our Houston. The discovery and development of a serum that gave people magical powers has created a world of haves and have-nots based on their magic endowments. The Houses are powerful families who have the highest levels of magic and can use that magic to consolidate and extend their power and influence. Augustine Montgomery has taken on a job for House Pierce, a client, to find their wayward son Adam, who is sought by police for a deadly arson at a bank. Nevada doesn’t want the job but she can’t turn it down. Meanwhile, Adam had a partner from another big House, which brings in Mad Rogan, a vet with his own amazing magic skills.

The plot has two main threads: the search for Adam and the development of a partnership between Nevada and Rogan. Both play out against the backdrop of Nevada’s family, a set of characters who are great fun to spend time with. Nevada has a magic skill but because it’s one that is sought after by governments and law enforcement, she has hidden it and not allowed it to flourish. By contrast, Rogan has obvious and over the top powerful magic skills.

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ReaderWriterLinks: TGIF edition

It’s almost the end of the week, I was about to say the end of the workweek but so many people have jobs that span all seven days now. Anyway, so much stuff popped up in my surfing forays, RSS feeds, etc. that I have an abundance, so here’s a batch to get us started.


If you’re on Twitter you’ve probably already seen this first one, and I posted it on GR, but it’s worth posting over and over because it’s so good and so different from the tee-hee-romance-genre stories we tend to get.

The Guardian published longread on the state of diversity in the romance genre (just ignore the 50-shades headline, Guardian headline writers are the worst sometimes). The reporter talked to a lot of people and I appreciate that she went and talked to writers in state chapters, rather than just doing the usual email and phone interviews of the names we all see over and over again in stories about the industry. There are lots of fascinating and depressing nuggets of information, including this eye-opening one about Harlequin’s treatment of a Suzanne Brockmann novel:

Marketing black love stories to black women was one thing, but publishers remained sceptical about the idea that white readers would read those same stories. In the late 1990s, Suzanne Brockmann, a white author writing a sequence of Harlequin romances about sexy Navy Seals, decided that she wanted to make a black character the hero of her next book. It was, she admits now, something of a “white saviour” move. Brockmann’s thinking, she told me, was that Harlequin simply didn’t realise the commercial opportunity it was missing by not printing more black romances.

Harlequin published Brockmann’s book in 1998, but she was shocked by the way the company dealt with its publication. She recalled her publisher saying: “You will make half the money because we will print half the copies. We cannot send it to our subscription list.” It was the same argument Harlequin had made 14 years earlier: “We’ll get angry letters.” It wasn’t just black characters that Harlequin rejected, according to Brockmann. She said she was also told they would not publish a novel with an Asian American as the central character. (Brockmann later moved on to another publisher.)

And this paragraph made my stomach clench:

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ReaderWriterLinks

Yes, they’re back. I should probably pick a day and make that Links Day, but in the meantime, here are a handful for your weekend reading.


The RITA finalists were announced this past week. Once again there were hardly any African-American authors who finaled, and I didn’t see many LGBT authors either, although I didn’t scrutinize the lists that carefully. I peeked over at Twitter and found that understandably, there was a lot of angry discussion about it.

It’s very disheartening to see these kinds of exclusions year and after year, especially when the RWA leadership has become more diverse and progressive. Unfortunately the awards submission, judging, and evaluation systems are not keeping pace (to put it mildly). I’ve thought about these issues over the years and looked at various aspects of the problem. I am sorry to say that I don’t think much will change until the overall romance readership is more reflective of the Romanceland readership that we hang out in. And similarly with the overall membership of RWA.

I’ve examined what is available of RWA surveys over the last 20 years, and they are consistent in terms of the demographic composition of romance readers. They are disproportionately Southern, Christian, white, and middle-aged. If you asked me to describe a modal (i.e., most common) romance reader, I’d say she lives in a medium-sized town or major-city suburb in the southern US, is white, in her 40s or 50s, and alternates between Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance and Amish Romances. She doesn’t read much LGBT of any type within the romance genre. And she’s on the conservative side.

That’s not the demographic that’s going to regularly pick Alyssa Cole’s books over Robyn Carr’s. Or Helen Hoang’s. Or KJ Charles’s. It’s just not.

It’s another reminder that the internet is full of silos. Twitter has remained stable over the last few years in terms of participation: about 20 percent of Americans use the service regularly. Romance Twitter and online Romanceland more generally do not represent the full range of who is buying and reading romance novels.


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SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge for March: Love and Shenanigans

Love and Shenanigans in the first novel is Zara Keane’s Ballybeg series. I picked up the five-novel boxed set ages ago and it’s been on my ereader for almost as long. Zara is someone I’ve known in Romanceland since before she was a published author, but I’ve had no contact with her for the last couple of years since we’re not on the same social media platforms anymore.

This month’s TBR theme is “favorite trope,” which I had a bit of trouble with because I don’t really read by trope. But I do like certain setups and relationships more than others, no question. I like pretty much any form of romance that involves people who already know each other, whether it’s friends to lovers, second chance at love, friends of siblings, etc. And I’m a total sucker for marriage of convenience. I also have a weakness for small-town romance despite all the problems with those and despite the fact that (or perhaps because) I have never lived in anything remotely approaching a small town. I dug around in my TBR, considered and discarded a few possibilities, and then rediscovered Zara’s books on my ereader.

Love and Shenanigans features a heaping helping of tropes I gravitate toward: small-town childhood friends who discover that their supposedly annulled Las Vegas marriage wasn’t annulled after all. And if that isn’t enough, they find out on the eve of the hero’s marriage to the heroine’s cousin. Talk about piling on. But it totally works, because the main couple are down to earth and fun, and also because the writing doesn’t wink at the reader or camp it up. Yes it’s a ridiculous situation but I bought the whole thing (OK, maybe not the drunken marriage itself, but everything else). Keane is Irish and she writes the heck out of an Irish setting without condescending. It reminded me of Ballykissangel in a good way, i.e., less cloying and clichéd. If you step back and think about it then yes there are stereotypes, but they aren’t hitting you over the head.

On to the story. Fiona comes home to Ballybeg to be Maid of Honor at her unpleasant cousin Muireann’s wedding to Gavin. She doesn’t really want to but she wants to please her Aunt Bridie, and it’s her last act before going to Asia and Australia on her sabbatical year from teaching. But then she discovers that her fake marriage to Gavin nine years ago wasn’t as fake as they thought and the fat is in the fire. The fallout at the wedding ceremony results in a hospital visit for Bridie, and Fiona is the only one around who can pick up the slack.

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