Our Mission:

Our mission is to provide a back-fence atmosphere, a sense of community for lovers of romance novels, to provide honest, thoughtful and entertaining material in order to promote intelligent and diverse discussion about romance novels, and to help readers determine how best to spend their romance novel dollar:

  • Through informative, provocative, entertaining, unbiased, honest, and well-written original commentary, reviews, and interviews, our expert staff provides original material on topics of interest to romance readers.
  • Through our message boards, discussion lists, polls, and other arenas that allow romance lovers to share their views, ideas, and experiences, AAR also takes advantage of the Internet in terms of interactivity.
  • With these specific and other, additional features, the variety of material offered is so thorough, broad, and in-depth as to make AAR the only romance novel website you need visit.

| Why AAR? | What Is AAR? | Who is AAR? | What's Said About AAR?  | Our Awards  |

Why AAR?

AAR is a labor of love, not only for the site's publishers, but also for the many volunteer reviewers who donate their time and energy to offer a place where romance readers can come to read balanced, well-written reviews, talk with other romance lovers about the good, the bad and the ugly as it relates to romance as a genre, and use the site's special features to stay informed and be entertained.

Our philosophy is that open discussion of romance novels and the genre itself, including both the positive and the negative, is productive and necessary. As a genre, romance does not always garner the respect that it deserves, but that's probably not news to you. Honest discussion about what is best and worst about romances (and all points in between) not only demonstrates the willingness of romance readers to maintain objectivity about standards within the genre, but gives publishers and authors valuable feedback that they might not otherwise get to hear about what we're buying (or not buying), and why.

Although staffed by unpaid volunteer writers and editors, AAR is run like a professional publication. We maintain total separation between editorial and sales content, all writing goes through one or two levels of editing, commentary is clearly deliniated from news, and every attempt is made (conforming with the highest journalistic standards) to provide accurate and well-written material - on as timely a basis as is possible.

AAR was created in 1997 by Laurie Gold aka Laurie Likes Books. Before this time AAR was called The Archives of Laurie Likes Books, and housed columns, Special Title Listings, Desert Isle Keeper Reviews, and interviews conducted by LLB (primarily) for The Romance Reader between 1996 and 1997.

What is AAR?

AAR is comprised of more than a dozen sections, much of which is original content created by our staff of more than thirty devoted romance readers. That content includes:

  • The interactive At the Back Fence column (and a forum solely for ATBF discussion), online since 1996.

  • Reviews & Pandora's Box (and a forum for discussing books we've reviewed or written about in the Pandora's Box column). We offer thousands of staff reviews and many, many Desert Isle Keeper Reviews contributed by readers and authors. Why present these reviews? I think reviews by authors give readers another pathway into the creative mind - you'll find reviews of classic westerns here as well as modern day classic romances. In our most recent (we've done three) Top 100 Romance poll, 88 of the titles listed can be found on this page. A reviewer scorecard tracks the grades our reviewers provide, and reviewer profiles (in the works) will allow readers to discover which reviewer(s) might work best for them.

  • Five additional message boards and two discussion lists for further interactive communication among readers, readers and authors, and between site visitors and staff.

  • Printable lists, perfect for your next bookstore visit, including 65 lists in our Special Title Listings, If You Like... recommendations by author or sub-genre, and the titles of which romances are on sale in the future, present, and recent past.

  • Something like 80 articles on history for both the novice and expert historian to enhance your historical romance reading experience as well as detailed looks as castles and the occasional trip diary for those who love to travel.

  • Full length interviews with both best-selling and mid-list (mostly romance) authors, and shorter, topic-specific discussions with even more authors. Information on author aliases, links to publishers, authors, and other websites, and a message board for authors to directly contact readers regarding releases and signings.

  • Reader rants, raves, and discussions on everything from the reading obsession itself, sexuality in romance, their libraries, the HEA Ending, their reading roots, and reader gatherings.

  • Results of many reader polls, including our Top 100 Romances poll, most recently conducted in the fall of 2004, annual polls on the best and worst in romance novels, and an annual poll on the best and worst of romance novel covers.

  • Purple Prose Parody, our annual Purple Prose Parody Contest, and other contests which allow readers to win terrific prizes.

What's Said About AAR?

2008 Author Testimonials | 2008 Reader Testimonials

Earlier Testimonials:

All About Romance is an influential publication; in a 2005 article about romance novels in Wikipedia, AAR was one of three external links. The other two were RWA and Harlequin. In the wikipedia entry itself a recent At the Back Fence segment about series romance is used as a reference point.

In addition to inclusion of its contents in at least two reference books and three graduate-level studies, we've been featured in the lead article at the Salon.

Here's what Entertainment Weekly had to say about us when they gave us a grade of A-:

Yes. It's a romance book site. No, it's not a bunch of biddies blushing over the latest bodice rippers. Dallas-based columnist Laurie Gold heads a team of self-appointed critics at this sharp, funny, and highly interactive site. There are a slew of reviews, a historical-novel cheat sheet, and constant debate: Are feminism and romance novels mutually exclusive? Is this heroine too stupid to live? Sure, the site's a bit overstuffed - but where to trim? Certainly not the Castle of the Week. (Grade) A-

And this article appeared in The Charleston Post and Courier, Sunday, November 9, 2008, by Rebekah Bradford, about the ending of the At the Back Fence column, with multiple kudos about AAR in general:

Not long after starting this column, I received an e-mail from a very nice gentleman who gave me a great recommendation.

I'd written an article where I listed "Romantic Times" as a wonderful reference to use, and he wrote very enthusiastically about a Web site called All About Romance (www.likesbooks.com) and specifically its online column, "At the Back Fence."

I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd never even heard of the Web site before but promptly became a fan after checking it out.

Since then, I've occasionally visited the site to brainstorm, do research for an upcoming column or just to find out what fans are talking about. It's amazingly comprehensive with essays, interviews, forums and a fantastic search engine.

I particularly enjoy AAR's reviews, which are well-written and refreshingly honest. There's a take-no-prisoners approach to them that I love, especially because good romance reviews are hard to find. (Publishers Weekly is surprisingly fair, by the way.) An AAR review offers an in-depth critique of a book and has the courage to point out weaknesses or flaws, unlike some reviews that seem to be just a reworded synopsis.

Ultimately, what All About Romance provides is a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge by longtime, passionate readers of the genre.

Recently, I heard from the gentleman again who was writing to inform me that "At the Back Fence" was drawing to a close. A regular reader of it for years, he wrote, "For 10 years it has been the best written and most thought-provoking romance column online or anywhere for that matter."

One of the column's regular contributors, Robin Uncapher, wrote the final issue celebrating the history and achievements of "At the Back Fence."

Founded by Laurie Gold, the column originally was known as "Laurie's News and Views" and changed its name in 2000. Uncapher describes the early years, the sense of solidarity among the contributors, struggles with publishers/authors over reviews and the way the romance genre, especially how it's chronicled online, has changed over the past decade.

Following the announcement that Gold had decided to retire from "At the Back Fence," the new management, made up of AAR staffers, decided not to continue the column. An archive of old issues will be available on the Web site.

What will take the column's place is yet to be determined. The management promises not to change too much on the Web site but says some things need to be updated to reflect new technology. Considering the number of talented writers who contribute to the site, it's almost certain that other columns and/or projects will appear in the future.

Despite the promise, though, it's clear that "At the Back Fence," the longest running romance column online, will be greatly missed.

We've received some other sterling reviews, and many, many awards. Due to load time, we don't show our awards on this page, but if you'd like to see them, please click here.

Other Reviews & Mentions:

The Yale Review of Books, Volume 6, Number 2, Spring 2003 Romancing the Happy Ending, by Elizabeth Archibald (a tongue-in-cheek piece on writing a romance):

Even better, I could create an entirely new sub-genre: humorous romance. Quinn, according to Time, writes exceptionally good dialogue with a fair amount of wit, and I am encouraged by the “All About Romance” Internet site that sponsors an annual Purple Prose Parody contest. These romantics are definitely not lacking in humor. Consider, for example, the 1997 winning entry of the PPP contest: Randy Hawkesnose, having become too ardent, is pushed away by Bliss, who, when she “threw her hands up to stop him, accidently [sic] pushed instead on the marble-hard bulge in his breeches. He groaned aloud as he felt himself swell to a state of turgid tumescence he had never experienced before in all his many years as a libertine and profligate debaucher. But before he could question his response, the buttons on the overstretched seams began to pop one by one, firing into the shadows like small bullets of desire, each `ping' causing Bliss's pulse to race a beat faster.” While this writer's ardent abandon is surely inspirational, I realize that I'll have to curb my impulse to parody romance with too many “bullets of desire.” Fortunately, “All About Romance” also maintains an Encyclopedia of Silly Sex to combat the overuse of throbbing, turgid, pulsating prose. I'll be sure to consult it frequently.

Library Journal (Web Watch section), September 1, 2002 Web Watch:

Personalized Recommended Reading: There are many excellent genre sites that can help with RA, but All About Romance is exemplary. This site is notable for its A to F graded reviews and the Desert Isle reviews (books that readers would take to a desert island). Forthcoming titles are listed by publisher and imprint. It also includes chatty essays on reading and romances, over three dozen lists (from amnesia to virginal heroes), a discussion board, and much more.

Librarian's Index of the Internet, July 28, 2001 Reader's Advisory:

A fun directory and guide for romance readers, this site includes a selection of reviews, a monthly essay about a specific book, links to their reader awards, message boards, and discussion lists. Readers can get historical "cheat sheets" for romance reading, a list of author aliases, and recommendations for readalikes. There are also contests, including a "Purple Prose Parody" that wins the writer a box of romances!

From Yahoo Internet Life, February 2001 issue, entitled Manroots and Tulips (Entertainment & Sports reviews):

The Purple Prose Parody The genre's most florid writing is found (where else?) in lovemaking scenes. To celebrate the best of the worst, the bodice rippers at All About Romance hold an annual Purple Prose Parody Contest. Four years' worth of winning stories are posted, sure to make discriminating readers wince with delight.

From About.com, December 2000 accompanying a "Best of the Net 2000" award:

If you're serious about romance novels, you've probably already spent hours browsing All About Romance. This site is incredibly comprehensive. What you'll find:

  • Books sorted by category, for example: Arranged Marriages, Bluestockings & Feminists, etc.
  • Controversial topics, for example: Are clinch covers dated? In love scenes, how descriptive is too descriptive?
  • Book Reviews and Desert Island Keepers
  • Historical Cheat Sheet and Castle of the Week

This is a fun, active site and great resource for the serious romance collector.

From Family PC Magazine article entitled Chapter & Verse, August, 2000:
"Living in the shadow of Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com isn't easy, but these smaller sites stay in business with distinctive offerings and content that book lovers appreciate." (The piece then lists and links to four web sites, the other three of which are stores.) The article's author, Caren Weiner Campbell, goes on to call All About Romance "the last word" in romance novels.

About the Author, August, 2000 One of two romance "entities" profiled in this reference book, the other being Romance Writers of America. Partial results of one of our Top 100 Romances polls are listed, prefaced by this statement: "The All About Romance web site is a popular and vigorously maintained spot on the Internet."

From ThirdAge.com, April 9, 1999:

"Even fans of the romance novel sometimes disparage them as 'trash reading.' With their bodice-ripping covers and often purple prose, they are an easy target of fun -- and incredibly popular -- so take a peek at All About Romance.

"The site is an online source for reviews, news and plenty more about the world of the romance novel. It often features two or more reviews of the same novel, to give you a variety of opinions -- and it comes with easy-to-print lists for your next bookstore visit.

"Commentary on the site, run by Dallas columnist Laurie Gold, is not always fluff -- it covers everything from 'feminism and romance novels' to the question, 'Is this heroine too stupid to live?'

"You can also find an extensive 'historical cheat sheet' with information to help you understand the setting of many of the novels. And if that's not enough, make sure to visit the Castle of the Week, which includes words of wisdom from romance writers which might help spark your own creative juices."

LLB notes: While the Castle of the Week does not include words of wisdom from romance writers, other pages at the site do. What the Castle of the Week does provide are magnificent images of castles for people who love travel and history.

From a feature article at About.com, August 10, 1998:

All About Romance (is) one of my favorite places to visit. . . AAR reviews books in a most delightful way. . . Laurie's News and Views tells it all.

In a personal follow-up, About.com Company Guide Jim Trent wrote, "Your site is just tremendous. I look forward to what's next there...and always enjoy your forthright writing style not to mention the way you cover all the essential ingredients of the topic. Also, the reviews you have on your site are the best - funny and honest and accurate!"

From The Web Magazine, February 1998 issue entitled Lovey-Dovey Lit:

"If romances (in the Harlequin sense) get your creamy bosom heaving, you'll be delighted with this frequently updated collection of personal news and reviews. Webmistress Laurie is chatty and cute and brings a note of clear-headed criticism to the bodice-ripper genre. Laurie's reviews are above average, too, as are the oft-satirical yet loving feature articles. Content Rating 4 (of 5)"

According to Publishers Weekly (November 1996) Both The Archives of Laurie Likes Books (AAR's original name) and The Romance Reader were written up as part of a feature done by Publishers Weekly in the November 11 issue. Here is an excerpt of the article, written by Diane Patrick Wexler:

"The Romance Reader has proven so popular that one of its regular columns has become a separate site, The Archives of Laurie Likes Books. In the words of columnist Laurie Gold, "We're not the traditional romance publication where everything is positive. We talk about people and problems and pop a lot of bubbles, but also celebrate what we like.

"Two of Gold's sections analyze practicalities of characters' actions in romance novels. "Silly Sex and Other Silly Stuff scrutinizes inaccurate or cliched passages describing sexual encounters. The "How Come" section challenges the practicality of certain events such as love scenes immediately following hours of vigorous horseback riding -- without a bath."

Testimonials:

Judith McNaught, NY Times best selling author: I landed on your site accidently tonight, while experimenting with a sophisticated new search engine I just installed. Once I was here, however, I decided to look around for just a moment - which turned into half hour. I like the atmosphere. . .Thank you for letting me participate on your site. I enjoyed being here very much.

Juliet Beier, a reader since April 1997: What I enjoyed most is your willingness to take on 'controversial' issues and to take Romance as a genre seriously. When you left TRR, I wrote to say I thought they were losing one of their best features. I still visit there and look at their reviews, but I also come here regularly and always read the column as soon after it's put up as I can. It makes me think and gives me new ways to evaluate the books I read. I don't always agree with you (or your reviewers), but I find the discussions interesting and the reader responses fascinating.

Mary Lynne Nielsen, a reader since 1998: What I love about the column is that it's the only place that discusses romance trends and incorporates the thoughts of readers and authors on the issues. And the interactivity of the board is a real plus. That said, when I looked at the backlist of columns I made it my Summer Project. I wrote out a numbered list, of all the backlist columns. And read one, or maybe two, at a shot when I could. Took most of the summer, but I got through them all. Wonderful, thought-provoking reading. It really made me consider trends, interests, themes--and built up a stinking huge TBR pile. The column's unique, and that's what makes it precious.

Lisa Kleypas, NY Times best selling author: I am writing to tell you about a problem I've recently developed. I can't stop reading your stuff. You may think this is a complimentary note, but really it's just a warning: when my next book is late for its deadline, I'm going to tell everyone at Avon that you're responsible! Thank you for writing pieces that make me laugh, wince, and most of all give me the pleasure of better understanding what readers want and appreciate.

Mona Montana, long-time visitor: Just wanted to compliment you on your site and thank you for all the work you do to keep it on the edge. Is definitely one of the best on the 'Net.

Al B., a reader since 1997: This is the best romance website period. I discovered LN&V in December ‘97 and haven't missed one. I went back and reread each column in about two days, and found so much stuff that was informative, thought provoking, enjoyable, and different. There were so many mid-list authors I'd never heard of until I found this site, and now my romance reading world has expanded ten-fold.

Gil Gross, CBS news commentator: I was impressed with your column. . . you may be raising the genre to a higher level. . .(with your). . .intelligent discussion of eroticism. . .you've raised my estimation (of romance).

Janice Brown, another long-time reader: This is truly the best site I have found. I must admit I am not very fluent on surfing for romance, but this is super!!! Your Desert Isle Keeper reviews are deeply appreciated. . . burning my printer up.

Nicole Guynes, a reader since 1998: I like the reviews and the commentary because they take romance seriously. There is real discussion about plot and character and nongiggliness about sexual tension. I also love the less seriously literary aspects: the Purple Prose Parody, rants on PCness, the people who love those Fabio covers. As nutty as this sounds, I feel like I have a community of romance readers. My sisters and best friends are romance readers, but this site gives me new authors to try, and has helped me formulate my exact needs for a romance.

Julia Quinn, author: This site has everything. Want a list of guardian/ward romances? Want to hear what Lisa Kleypas says about tormented heroines? All this and Laurie's News & Views, the coolest romance column around.

Melissa Cruts, a visitor since 1996: I first starting reading your column on The Romance Reader>. I can always find something interesting and I love the castle of the week.

Nancy Beth Garrett, reader I can't remember when I started reading AAR and you, but I do know that I went back and read just about everything on the site. I have not one single friend who reads romance, so finding AAR, with all its bright, interesting, and dedicated writers and readers has been great. It's fun to think theoretically (for want of a better word) about the genre. It makes romance reading even more fulfilling, and I sometimes visit three times a day. I am a big reader, so I have a lot of examples to think about when you bring up a new way of looking at stories, characters, etc. Thanks so much for what you do!

Judy Cuevas aka Judith Ivory, author: Lots of people really enjoy your take on romance, myself included. Just wanted you to know that your voice is a most interesting one with regard to what we read and write, this whole women's fiction thing.

Carolyn W., reader In my view there is a much-needed candor in your reviews/discussions/comments and I wish more reviewers could be as open.

Tanya Wade, a visitor since 1997 I don't mean to gush, but if I could buy Laurie a new pair of wrists (or a personal typist!) I would, just so I could read her columns more often. I found this site when I first got online about 18 months ago, and there has been no going back. Yes, I read all the back issues, till I thought I'd detached a retina, and I visit at least three times a day. I admit it, I'm an addict, and need a twelve step program. I'm proud to read romance, and even prouder to visit this site. Gushing is now complete!

Allison Stevens, a reader since 1998 This is a great place to indulge my pleasure in romance novels and share the experience with other afficianados. So many people in every day life are so dismissive of it. I love having a place to read reviews and news and just get new ideas in general about the genre.

Paula Detmer Riggs, author: I read with pleasure and appreciation all of your articles and find them well-reasoned and thought provoking. You are a fine representative of the genre, and I appreciate very much your efforts.

Robin, a longtime visitor: It amazes me how few poorly written books I have read since I've discovered AAR. I don't dismiss a writer on the basis of a bad review, but if I don't like a book and it got a bad review I'm very likely to put it aside. Why? Because now I have a bulging pile of TBR books. Certainly there are some very worthwhile reviewers and columnists on other websites but ARR's system of Desert Isle Keepers and current reviews really makes looking for good books a breeze. Also, I take many of the ideas raised in your column and think about them as I read. I'm much better at identifying what exactly bothers me about a book.

Christy, yet another longtime visitor: I have visited All About Romance for several years now and wanted to send a note to all who contribute to the site to say thank you for a job well done. I do not do this often but after all the great articles and reviews that I have read I feel that it is owed. I have enjoyed reading all my life and romances have always been a favorite so it has been wonderful having a site to visit that continually updates me about new books and authors. Thanks to your site I have discovered many authors who have been writing for a while but I never thought to give them a try until their names kept popping on your site and now I know why. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

 




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