Back in April, we began, on each Tuesday, publishing a reviewer’s Top Ten list. There were no rules other than the books be in the romance genre. Over the next five months, we published twenty-three lists. Out of the 230 entries, we listed 201 books. We hit every genre (although we have a definitive fondness for historical romance), and waxed upon the works of 121 authors. After every one had weighed in, only one book garnered five–the most–votes: J.R. Ward’s Lover Awakened. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Jane AAR’ Category
Many historical romance readers know Grace Burrowes as the very prolific author of European historicals, many of which have been enjoyed by our reviewers and readers. Darius received a DIK review here, and many of her other books and novellas have been well-received also.
Burrowes’ latest release, Once Upon a Tartan takes readers to Scotland, where a smart, headstrong beauty has little use for an English lord’s highhanded ways. Hester Daniels and Tiberius Flynn are entrusted with the care of a little girl and while Hester wants her raised in her beloved – if rundown – home in Scotland, Tiberius insists that his prosperous estate is the only fit place for a child. And as they battle, other kinds of sparks start to fly! (more…)
Grading books is not always straightforward. For me, there is no rubric, no check-list of Do’s and Don’t’s. I have a few deal-breakers, but not many. When I assign a book a DIK grade, though, I often feel like it has to be perfect — or at least very, very close. The writing must be flawless. The characters, well-developed. The plot, exciting, believable, and interesting. But I’ve found that some of the books I go back to, the ones I re-read over and over again (the true test, in my opinion, of a DIK), are objectively problematic in some way.
“Problematic” can mean a lot of different things. Maybe there is a pretty huge logical fallacy upon which the plot hangs. Maybe there’s something that should be totally unromantic, unhealthy, or taboo. Recently, my fellow AAR reviewers and staff members got to talking about our favorite books that have some flaw or problem. (more…)
I started reviewing for AAR when I was pretty young – 18 years old, and still fairly new to the genre. My tastes have changed and evolved quite a bit in that time. Looking at my reviewer profile, which hasn’t been updated since I started, I am rather skeptical of my “favorites,” some of which I don’t even remember anymore. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown, except that 6 years ago it was apparently one of my favorites.
My philosophy in choosing favorites is two-fold. One, my Top Ten should be more than a fleeting “books I’m enjoying now,” and therefore aren’t recent reads, or ones that I’ve read only once. Two, they should have something in them that would appeal beyond the romance. I think there is a subtle distinction between “books that a romance reader would enjoy” and “books non-romance readers would enjoy.” There are definitely some stories that I would recommend to fellow romance readers, but not anyone else. The best books are the ones that I think, “I could give this to a friend, and they would understand why I love romance novels.”
So, here we go: my top ten. (more…)
There are few deal-breakers as universal as infidelity. Most readers avoid any mention of it like the plague, and very few authors can – or even try to– pull off a believable HEA when one of the protagonists cheats on the other. But what if the hero and heroine cheat together?
I recently read Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins, in which the hero and heroine sleep together despite the fact that they are both seeing other people. Obviously they both eventually break up with those other people and they end up together (it is a romance novel, after all) but not before they each return to their significant others and try to work things out. (more…)
A few years ago, one of my Literature professors asked me, “Aren’t romance novels just about a woman finding a man to take care of her?” I had to explain to her what we all know, that modern romance novels are about partnership and mutual love and support – not finding a “protector.” It’s a misconception I often come across.
Unfortunately, there are some circumstances in which it is uncomfortably close to the truth. Romantic Suspense novels are particularly and oddly contradictory in this. So many heroines are strong women and strong characters – who then find themselves made victims by the author and put in the role of a damsel in distress. (more…)
A report was just released that revealed that in Washington, DC, the childhood poverty rate is higher than that of Mexico. In Washington, DC, my former home and our nation’s capital, more than 30% of children are growing up in impoverished families. Thirty percent.
This is not meant to be a political blog (though how sad is it that just stating childhood poverty rates can become a political debate?). Rather, I present this information as a reality that many of us don’t want to face: some Americans are poor. But reading romance novels – particularly contemporary ones — won’t let you in on that fact.
I’m not talking just the richest of the rich that are far too common in romance novels — the Roarkes, the movie stars, the billionaire bosses — but also the extremely healthy upper-middle-class that it seems almost everyone in romance novels belongs to. No one is living paycheck to paycheck. No one is working two jobs to make ends meet. No one has eschewed vacations in favor of paying school loans.
One of the sore spots of many romance readers is the term “chick porn.” It implies that the books are only about graphic sex, and that’s the only reason we read them. While discussing 50 Shades of Gray with my roommates, one of my roommates, a straight man, argued that my denouncement of the term is perhaps not as simple as I thought. He defined pornography as writing or visuals that stimulate the reader/viewer sexually. While romance novels are much more than sex, as I said, he responded that women biologically require a greater emotional attachment for sexual desire. As such, the emotional component to romance novels are just part of the stimulation. Ergo, “chick porn.”
What is pornography? My roommate’s arguments hinge on one’s definition. When I hear the word, I think of extremely graphic images (either still or video) of sex. Technically, the definition varies. According to Oxford American Dictionary it is, “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” This differs slightly from the Collins English Dictionary, in which the definition is, “writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement.”
It is this latter definition that made me pause when I went to refute my roommate’s arguments.
As long as I have read romance novels, I’ve been interested in their covers. They are bright and often lurid and embarrassing. Who wants to sit on a bus, or at a coffee shop, reading a book with the characters practically having sex on the cover? The marketing strategy is something I find fascinating and counter-intuitive, but it obviously works. A lot of casual readers do not know much about many authors or sub-genres or trends within the industry. They just pick up what looks interesting in the grocery store aisle.
In looking at many, many covers, I’ve found that many of them have similar characteristics, and similar styles. While there are, of course, exceptions, most cover styles fall into one of five categories: The Cute Animal, The Cute Couple, The Faceless Couple, The Solo Star, and the Sexy/”Clinch” Cover.
“Disability” can mean a whole lot of things: blindness, paralysis, amputated limbs, deafness, a chronic illness, brain damage. When I first started writing this blog, I thought it was a rare occurrence in romance novels. However, when I asked the staff here at AAR to brainstorm, we came up with a much longer list than I had anticipated.
In Virna DePaul’s upcoming book Shades of Desire, the heroine is coping with her recent loss of vision. Lily in Tessa Dare’s Three Nights With a Scoundrel is deaf, as are the heroines in Suzanne Brockman’s Into the Fire and Erin McCarthy’s Mouth To Mouth. (more…)