romance novels

My Favorite Romance Novels of 2016 (So Far)

Ever have one of those starts to the year where you feel like you're running and running and never quite catching up? That's me right now. I've been working my butt off getting three books ready for release this fall (as well as a re-release of my novella The Wedding Week in June), and I've been working through some special work projects for my day job. I hate falling back on the cliche excuse, but I've been busy. Still, I try to make time to read even if it's not quite as much time as I'd like. So here's a highly unscientific list of what I've been able to read* and enjoy so far this year:


So Sweet, by Rebekah Weatherspoon

So here's the deal. I know Rebekah Weatherspoon's incredibly smart and funny on Twitter, and I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to her at RWA last summer so I got to see all that in person. This means I should have realized her novella So Sweet was going to be just the right sort of funny-sexy-give-me-more-now-damnit but apparently I wasn't thinking straight because it was reallyfunny-sexy-give-me-more-now-damnit. Now everyone please go buy this book so we can all talk about Kayla and Michael. #okaythanksbye

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N




51kXbNdEUYL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Stay With Me Forever, by Farrah Rochon

I want to apologize. This is the first Farrah Rochon book I've read of the several that have been stacking up on my TBR, and I feel like I've let all my friends down in not evangalising for her books before this. Stay With Me Forever is sharp and smart and sexy—just the sort of book that reminds me why I fell in love with category romance so many years ago. The hero is delicious, but the tough-but-noble heroine really steals this Louisiana-set book. Also, can I just say that this has nothing to do with the book but isn't that a gorgeous cover?

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N



Rushing to Die, by Lindsay Emory

Margot Blythe's back for another sorority sisters' mystery! I was thrilled when Lindsay announced there would be a sequel to her Sisterhood is Deadly and—true to form—I gobbled it up in an afternoon. Fun, funny, and sharp with a sexy police officer to boot, I absolutely love this cosy mystery series and can't wait to find out what happens next.

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N




619mS0eE2kL._AA300_No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, by Sarah Maclean

I'm going to pivot to audiobooks for a moment. I might not have had a huge amount of time to read this winter, but I did have to do some mundane things like commute and cook. Enter audiobooks. This was my first, and for about a week afterward I heard my own revisions in narrator Rosalyn Landor's delicious voice. I love the Rule of Scoundrels series (the second is still my favorite) and was happily surprised to find listening to the book a delightful experience.



The Splendour Falls, by Susanna Kearsley

This book isn't a romance but what RWA would have called a novel with "strong romantic elements" until they did away with that category at the RITAs (RIP). I picked The Splendour Falls up at an RWA long ago, and it took me until February to finally read it. I'm so happy I did because it fits this lovely subgenre of books about inevitably English women going somewhere charming like France, meeting a bunch of interesting characters, solving a low-stress mystery, and dealing with some link to the past. This is sink into an armchair with a cup of tea reading.

Amazon | Kobo | B&N

*Sadly I can't talk about a couple really enjoyable RITA judging books I read in February because of contest confidentiality. Maybe one day I'll be able to innocuously slip them into a roundup and no one will be the wiser.

Meet the Governesses!

I'm thrilled to finally be able to reveal the gorgeous covers for my new Governess Series, coming this fall!

This delightfully charming and saucy historical romance series features three best friends employed as governesses for different families, who all find themselves wanting loves they can’t have.

All of the books are now available for preorder from your favorite ebook retailer.

The Governess was Wicked

Elizabeth Porter is quite happy with her position as the governess for two sneaky-yet-sweet girls when she notices that they have a penchant for falling ill and needing the doctor. As the visits from the dashing and handsome Doctor Edward Fellows become more frequent, Elizabeth quickly sees through the lovesick girls’ ruse. Yet even Elizabeth can’t help but notice Edward’s bewitching bedside manner even as she tries to convince herself that someone of her station would not make a suitable wife for a doctor. But one little kiss won’t hurt...

The Governess was Wicked releases September 12, 2016

Amazon | Amazon UKiBooks | Kobo | B&N



The Governess was Wanton

Mary Woodward is London's own "fairy godmother," known for her expertise in transforming awkward, shy girls into marriageable society belles. Her new position teaching the daughter of Eric Bromford, the Earl of Asten, should be just another job — until she meets Lord Asten. He's just the sort of man to tempt her to break all her rules, and she does just that when she dons a mask and spends a moonlight night in a garden with the earl. Torn between the temptation of passion and the security of her position, Mary must risk it all for love in this retelling of Cinderella that gives the fairy godmother her happily ever after.

The Governess was Wanton releases October 10, 2016

Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | Kobo | B&N



The Governess was Wild

Governesses aren't supposed to lose their charges, but that's exactly what happens when Jane Ephram wakes up and realizes that her pupil, Lady Margaret, has eloped from their inn room as they're traveling. Even worse, Lady Margaret's taken Sir Nicholas Hollings's horse, and the disarmingly handsome gentleman is hell-bent on getting the beast back. Racing against time, Jane and Nicholas take to the road again, determined to find the errant Lady Margaret — and maybe even love — along the way.

The Governess was Wild releases November 14, 2016

Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | Kobo | B&N

TBR Buster: Holiday 2015 Edition

I was having a drink with Tamsen Parker and Suleikha Snyder on Sunday (just as you've suspected authors do get together to hang out and it's the most fun), and we were bemoaning the fact that we don't read as much as we used to. Writing is wonderful and we love it, but it does eat away at those long afternoons when all you do is sit on the couch or in bed and read. Despite the fact that I will be writing over this holiday season, I will have a lot more time on my hands because I won't be working. Growing up in a family of readers means that we're all happy to sit around and read quietly in each other's company, so I plan to get a lot of reading done and catch up on my to be read pile—especially when it comes to historicals.

Here's a look at what's waiting for me on my Kindle:

Once Upon a Marquess, by Courtney Milan


Fool Me Twice, by Meredith Duran


Cold-Hearted Rake, by Lisa Kleypas


A Virtuous Ruby, by Piper Huguley


What Happens Under the Mistletoe, by Sabrina Jefferies, Karne Hawkins, Candace Camp, and Meredith Duran


Under the Sugar Sun, by Jennifer Hallock


 Claiming the Duchess, by Sherry Thomas


Love and Other Scandals, by Caroline Linden


The Fandoms That Made You

The other day I was catching up on email when I came across Gail Carriger's monthly newsletter. I'm always interested in what she has to say (and what she's been wearing recently), so I clicked on a link called Gail Carriger's Origin Story. In this article, she outlines the five fandoms that made her the person she is now. Turns out that she was influenced by this article from The Nerdy Girlie. I immediately messaged my sister, and we started to hash out the five fandoms that made us who we were. This is what I came up with (in no particular order).

1. Victoriana. 

I'm in the middle of writing a trilogy of Victorian historical romances right now. The manuscript I used to get my agent was set in 1881 London. I don't think it's very surprising that Victoriana has been one of the biggest influences on my life both as an author and a consumer.

It started when I was in high school. I read pretty much every 19th century novel I could get my hands on. Besides Jane Austen and Fanny Burney (who really is late 18th century but I consider her a strong precursor to Austen), most of my reading centered around the Victorians. Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope are still favorites when someone asks who my favorite authors are.

And then I went to college. Declaring a history major very early on gave me the freedom to run wild in the Victorian era. I wound up focusing my study on Victorian female sexuality (through a post-structuralist lens... super pretentious, I  know).* From clothing to calling and courtship practices to prostitution, all of it was fair game. I loved reading about social history and getting my hands on primary source material. I became best friends with my college's temperamental microfiche machines.

I'm not a scholar any longer, but I still read widely about the Victorians.** When you study history, so much of how you look at the world is influenced by the work you do. I can strongly say that my ideas about and appreciation of feminism was strongly influenced by my study. And also my writing which leads me to...

2. Romance novels. I've written before about the first romance novel I ever read. It was cracktastic, and I loved it. I fell into reading as many romance novels as I could, and then graduated from sweet Kensington Zebra Historicals to more explicit books (many of them had kilted highlanders on their covers).

I read romance novels all through high school and college without really finding anyone who felt the same way about these books. I loved falling into the narratives and swimming around in the characters' messy emotions. From Regency to contemporary, I read everything I could get my hands on. I'm still doing that now because my love of those books has only grown as I've started to write my own.

3. The X-Files. My first fandom. I was babysitting my sister when I was in seventh grade and flipping around the channels trying to find something to watch. It was the top of the hour, and I landed on Fox. Since there was a cute guy on the TV, I stayed on the show and proceeded to lose my mind over the course of the hour. I had stumbled upon the a re-airing of season one, episode one of the X-Files. After the episode was done, another came on. I binged watched before binge watching was a thing.

I watched episodes new and old loyally until the show got unredeemably bad. However, in those few years, I was hooked. Everything was X-Files. I clipped out episode recaps, got the now-defunct fanzine, read the novelizations. I read fanfic (my first!). While most girls were head over heels for Devon Sawa (and would soon discover the wonder that was Titanic-era Leo), I had it bad for Fox Mulder. I know there are geek girls out there who feel me on this one.

4. Doctor Who. In 2007 I was studying abroad in the north of England, and I had a lot of downtime on my hands. British universities require far less class time and fewer (if any) regular assignments from students. Compared to the work I did at my college back in the US, I had loads of unstructured time--and that was after doing the recommended reading for my various classes. So what does a 21-year-old with a bad habit of waking up early no matter how late she stayed out at the clubs the night before do? Consume as much British TV through streaming websites as possible.

I found Doctor Who out of necessity. I'd blown through Black Books, The Mighty Boosh, and Spaced not to mention seen all of the movies at the local movie theater I had a pass to. I'd heard of Doctor Who, but I always assumed it was a children's show that my mother watched when she was growing up. However, I decided to give it a try and proceeded to binge watch five episodes of the Christopher Eccleston reboot that night. I became obsessed.

In 2007, very few people were watching Doctor Who in the US because the availability was extremely limited.^ I tried describing the series to my sister who started watching along with so at least I had her to talk to, however it wasn't until 2008 that the show exploded in popularity thanks to BBC America's airings. Suddenly we were all fans of the Doctor, and that was just fine with me.

My love of Doctor Who has not kept up with the show's schedule. I have major problems with Stephen Moffat and his portrayals of women on this show. I suspect I'm also suffering from overexposure as I have no desire to watch through the last Matt Smith season and into the Peter Capaldi years despite a deep love for Malcolm Tucker. But despite all of that, Doctor Who will always exert a strong cultural influence on the things I love.

5. Film noir. I'd grown up reading mysteries with content well outside of my age range. My seventh grade English teacher actually pulled my parents aside to ask if they knew I was reading The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler and L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy (likely due to prostitution story lines in both novels and a certain incident with a garbage disposal in the latter). I remember my mother blinking and then saying yes. If I could understand the content of the book, I could read it.

Perhaps it's no surprise then that I gleefully dove into film noir later that year. I'd been watching classic movies for years, but this genre was eye opening to me. Double Indemnity, The Lady from Shanghai, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, The Big Easy, The Sweet Smell of Success, Sunset Boulevard -- I loved it all. And then I found Laura.

I'm going to get on my soapbox here and say not enough people in this world have seen this movie. Otto Preminger directs Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in this 1944 masterpiece. It ticks all my boxes: a grouchy New York City detective, a career woman more suited to movies in 2014 than 1944, Clifton Webb as his most acerbic, great clothes, a haunting score, a romance, a young Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson being her usual flinty, badass self. This movie wormed its way into my brain and planted itself there. Just... trust me on this one and watch it.

Time to tell me about the five fandoms that made you. Leave a comment or write a blog post of your own!

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*I could nerd out very, very hard right now but I'll save you all of that squee. Also, hopefully by now you've figured out that this is where my propensity for footnotes comes from.

**And fight the urge about every six months to go back and get a PhD or at least a masters in History.

^Read: mostly viewed through highly illegal means.

VIDEO: NaNoWriMo Day 22

Day 22 is here, and I'm back on track (thank goodness)! NaNoWriMoers, how are you guys doing with your own challenges?

This is the hero chat with Alexis Anne I mention in the video. And here's a link to the heroine chat too.

As always, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. Happy writing!

VIDEO: It's All About the Hero

My good friend Alexis Anne and I tackled the heroine in romance novels a few weeks ago. Now we're back and talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the hero. Join the conversation by leaving a comment here or on Facebook and Twitter!

VIDEO: Talking about Strong Heroines with Alexis Anne

Yesterday night my good friend Alexis Anne sat down for a Google Hangout with me to talk about strong heroines. She also gets into the writing process a little and tells us about her new book The Storm Inside. It was ($0.99 on Amazon when I posted this and has some fantastic reviews, so definitely check it out. Isn't technology great?

The Heroine is the Key

As I continue to work my way through edits on this novella, I've been thinking a lot about the romances I love to read. I read pretty widely, so it's tough to just boil it why something works for me. Attributing it to "accuracy in historicals" or "really hot sex scenes in contemporaries" kind of falls sort.

Then I realized I know exactly what all of my favorite romances have in common. It all revolves around how the author treats the female character in the context of the relationship. Let me break it down for you:

1) The heroine has a strong sense of who she is.

My close female friends all have one thing in common: they know who they are outside of their relationships.  I look for the same thing in a heroine. I wouldn't want to see a friend lose herself in a relationship. Same goes for my heroines. I want to read about women who can define who they are outside of the hero.

2) Female economic independence.

One of the best classes I ever took was called the History of American Women taught by Professor Victoria Brown at Grinnell College. She told me that patriarchy survives when a woman is forced to be economically dependent on a man. It's a simple but powerful idea.

I find myself drawn to heroines who have some degree of economic independence from the hero - even in historicals. It's a tricky line to walk because you never want to be anachronistic, but money complicates relationships. There's nothing wrong with reading books about women who must marry a marquis to save her family, but I'd rather see her come to the relationship with some financial options (even if they aren't great ones). I want her to have a chance at coming to the relationship as an equal.

3) The hero must respect the heroine.

I have no interest in reading books about men who belittle the women in their lives.  It's not a show of masculinity.  It points to a lack of human decency.  This is the reason that I will likely not continue reading certain popular romantic erotica series. Works for some people. Doesn't work for me.

4) The sex is unequivocally consensual.

Consent is a big deal.  There are a lot of old school romances that use rape as a device to move a relationship forward (see Sarah Wendell's Beyond Heaving Bosoms for a full breakdown or check out her excellent website).  Thankfully these books mostly died off in the 80s.  However, there is still a lot of grey area in romance novels.  I think that the heroine and hero should both express their mutual consent during sex scenes like in, you know, real life.

I have no interest in writing a sex scene where someone is fearful.  I have no interest in reading them either. That's not sexy.  What is sexy is trusting your partner enough to ask them to do more adventurous things with you and acknowledging that you are both consenting adults who have had a conversation about boundaries.

5) Compromise.

My family, friends, and really anyone who has the misfortune of talking to me for long enough knows that I cannot stand it when a heroine gives up her entire life for a hero. I find books where one person blindly abandons life ambitions unrealistic and problematic.  It all goes back to respect and maintaining one's identity as I mentioned above. Compromise is a realistic part of every relationship. No matter how crazy pants the book is, the relationship has to ring true.

So that's me. I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Do you have any themes among the books you like to read? Any triggers that set you off and make you want to throw a book against a wall? Comment away!