Mini-Reviews: First books in SFF romance series

I am very good at starting series and not so good at finishing them. This means that I have started four new SFF romance series in the last two months that I can now write mini reviews for but have not read a single sequel yet. I am, however, planning on continuing will all the series because I did like each first book enough to want to see where the story goes next.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi #1) by Eileen Wilks

81617This book is more on the urban fantasy than paranormal romance spectrum but what we get of the couple really worked for me. Lily Yu is a police detective investigating a murder, Rule Turner is one of the suspects – this is, admittedly, a fairly common storyline for UF, but I really enjoyed the world and most importantly Lily Yu who is prickly and clever and just kickass. The “mating” angle is approached with about as much horror by Yu as I would approach it and I appreciated that – and I appreciated that Turner gives her as much room to come to terms with what this mating means for her as he can give her.

3 out of 5 stars

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik

45030061._sy475_The strongest part of this space opera kind of romance is the chemistry between the two main characters. The world building is nothing super spectacular but exciting enough for me to want to keep reading, my usual problems with scifi were not as strong, and Ada  is a kickass space princess. She is my favourite kind of heroine: seriously kickass, snarky, but also vulnerable. I appreciated the emphasis on consent and the way the relationship developed – and that these two difficul people at least tried to communicate with each other. The narrative voice did not always work for me (probably because I could not help compare it to Kate Daniels’ voice in Ilona Andrews’ series) but I am excited to see where the story goes next.

3 out of 5 stars

Dragon Bound (Elder Races #1) by Thea Harrison

40385273._sy475_This one is pure and simple popcorn paranormal romance and I had so much fun reading it. I liked the world with its many warring factions and different kind of mythical creatures enough to overlook a lot of what was trope-y here – and if the ending had not pivoted to one of my all-time least favourite plotpoints, my overall rating would have been higher. I enjoyed the “fated mates” romance angle and liked that Dragos really tries to treat Pia the best possible way and to learn from his mistakes. As always, I like how kickass Pia is once she stops hiding from what she is, I am easily pleased like that.

3.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane

46021762._sy475_The dark, angsty, brutal fantasy romance of my dreams. While Maddek is often kind of awful, he does admit when he is wrong and gives good grovel, but the star of the show is definitely Yvenne, an unlikely warrior-queen who just kicks ass in all the ways I adore while being different from the usual heroines. The world-building is impeccable and always congruent with the character development in a way that I really appreciated. The language is interesting and kind of old-timey in a way that just completely worked for me. I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.

Content warning: rape (world building), torture, gore, forced abortion, dismemberment, abuse, so much blood

4 out of 5 stars

Romance Mini-Reviews: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh and Headliners by Lucy Parker

46299015._sy475_A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

Published by Gollancz, December 5th 2019

I adore everything Nalini Singh does – so much that I read her newest book even though I rarely, if ever, read anything that could be categorized as either thriller or crime. And I am very glad I did. Everything I adore in her writing was present here, especially her wonderful hand with world-building. Obviously world-building in a real world setting is a lot different to world-building in a paranormal setting, but in the end Singh manages to portrait this small town at the end of the world in New Zealand with much the same flair as her more out there worlds featuring shapeshifters and angels.

The biggest strength of this book is the atmosphere she creates her; the place she portraits seems effortlessly creepy and stifling. Set in the rough West coast of New Zealand’s South Island (a place I was lucky enough to visit last year), her town and its inhabitants come to life in a really satisfying way. I also enjoyed the central romance, even though it did take the backseat to the mystery. These two people are damaged in their own way and find solace in each other – and I was so here for that.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: miscarriage, cheating, infertility, serial killing, stalking, arson

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

47826382Headliners (London Celebrities # 5) by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, January 20th 2020

Of course I loved this. Lucy Parker writes the best romance novels and I have enjoyed every single book in this series. I was beyond ecstatic to receive an ARC of this book I could read over my Christmas break – because this is a Christmas novel at heart. Headliners follows on from the events of The Austen Playbook which for me had the advantage that the dual time-lines usually employed for hate-to-love romances was not necessary, dual time-lines being something I do not particularly enjoy in this genre.

As always, Parker’s characterisation is on point, the snark level is off the charts and the romance at heart is lovely and brilliant and so very funny. Sabrina is a wonderful character whose ambition never means that she sacrifices her own morals, while Nick is actually (underneath his douchebag front) nice and funny – even if he has to realize that ambition should not come before common decency. There were as usual incredibly funny scenes between scenes with genuine heart. Parker’s romances feel real in a way that I find rare in the genre. The romantic gestures are often smaller ones that feel incredibly true to life.

While I thought the book was a tad too long, overall I sped through this and cannot wait to see what Lucy Parker does next.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Romance Mini Reviews: Let’s be Friends with Benefits

That it took me so long to read three books with this particular trope should tell you that it isn’t my favourite. I am not the biggest fan of miscommunication being the main drive for the angst in a romance novel and this trope mostly seems to rely on it. When it is done right it can be super lovely though and these three books I really enjoyed. Also, for the record, I do believe FwB situations can work.

38324363._sy475_Getaway Girl (Girl #1) by Tessa Bailey

Published 2018

It is no secret that I have been enjoying Bailey’s books a whole lot recently – and this one was no exception. Her writing is just so wonderful that I cannot get enough of it. Elijah has been left on the altar and finds solace in an unlikely friendship with his ex-fiancé’s estranged cousin, Addison. They first become friends and then friends with benefits in a way that felt organic. I love how nice they are to each other. This is one of the more angsty books by Bailey but the ending was absolutely worth it. In typical Tessa Bailey fashion, there is a lot of dirty talking but this time Addison gives at least as good as Elijah – and I loved it. I love when women know what they want and mostly just go for it. Addison was absolutely wonderful anyways.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: infidelity (in the past)

44663284._sy475_Relationship Material by Jenya Keefe

Published by Riptide Publishing, August 5th 2019

It’s not always possible to meet in the middle.

Registered nurse Evan Doyle doesn’t consider himself fit for more than occasional hookups. He has a good life, but the emotional aftermath of a horrific crime makes him feel too damaged to date. So when his sister’s hot bestie, Malcolm Umbertini, comes on to him, he turns him down flat. Mal is Relationship Material: the kind who thinks in the long term. What would Evan do with a man like that?

As a prosecuting attorney, Mal’s learned how to read people, and he knows there’s more to Evan than meets the eye. Mal has faced his own hardships since his family kicked him out as a teen, and he respects Evan’s courage and emotional resilience. More than that, he wants Evan—in his bed and in his life. But can he weather another rejection?

Both wary, they agree to a no-strings fling. Mal knows that Evan wants things to stay casual, but he’s falling in love a little more with each encounter. With health, happiness, and bruised hearts on the line, Mal and Evan must risk everything for love.

This book is a lot darker than the blurb makes it sound (see my content warning) but I thought it was still very much worth the read. Evan is deeply traumatized by a truly horrific crime (and living under witness protection) and does not feel up to relationships, especially not with somebody who he considers so very much relationship material. Mal on the other hand falls hard for Evan and is willing to take whatever he is willing to offer him. I thought they were lovely together. I love how open and honest they are with each other about boundaries and how accepting of each others’ trauma.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Rape (in the past), assault (in the past), drug abuse (in the past), PTSD, forced prostitution of a minor (in the past), panic attacks, suicide (in the past), self-harm (in the past)

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Riptide Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

40793943._sy475_Three-Way Split by Elia Winters (2019 RITA Award winner)

Published by Entangled, 2018

I have never read a book with a polyamorous love story at the center and when this book won this year’s RITA Award, I figured this was my time to do so. And I am very glad I did. This was absolutely lovely with its focus on informed and enthusiastic consent, with people who actually communicate about what they want (most of the time at least), and a triad I could believe (who amongst us hasn’t wished a love triangle resolved by the involved parties deciding to all date each other). Ben and Michael (owners of a pub) have been roommates and friends with benefits for years when they both start sleeping with Hannah (owner of a sex shop) who has been flirting but not acting on it with Michael for a year. This book is definitely on the explicit end of the romance to erotica spectrum but it worked for me because the relationships felt believable.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: biphobia (always challenged), Ben’s ex-wife reacted badly to him coming out.

 

Romance Mini Reviews: Neighbours-to-Lovers

I am running out of tropes to group my books by. Mostly because around half of the romance novels I read are fake-dating, but who’s counting.

43982500._sy475_Catching Him by Aurora Rose Reynolds

Published by Montlake Romance, August 27th 2019

This was super cute. The two main characters actually talked to each other instead of assuming what the other is thinking – which is always a plus in my eyes. Adding the fact that they are super into each other and cutely so, a focus on family, and two really brilliant pets, this was really lovely. I wasn’t as much into the B-plot of them being victims of arson and burglary but it didn’t overshadow the main storyline.

3 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Arson, Burglary, Attempted Sexual Assault (but the guy gets punched in the face!), Cheating (in the past), a pet gets abducted (but nothing happens to it)

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

39693841._sy475_Whiskey Chaser (Bootleg Springs #1) by Lucy Score and Claire Kingsley

Published by That’s What She Said Publishing, 2018

I thought this was adorable. The female protagonist is honest and direct and very very funny, the male protagonist is not an asshole but actually really cool. I thought the first half was wonderfully lighthearted with a focus on sibling relationships that I obviously adored. I am not too in love with the B-plot of an unresolved murder (that apparently will not be resolved until book 6, so I am not SUPER pleased with that) but it wasn’t too overpowering. I found the couple believable and could always understand why they like each other. The small town setting worked surprisingly well for me, but it might not work for somebody who actually knows Small-Town-America.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Murder (in the past and so far unresolved), cheating (in the past), alcoholism (in the past), familial death (in the past), accidental death (in the past)

Mini DNF Reviews: Romance Edition

I have mostly been reading romance novels lately and for the most part, I am loving it (obviously). I have found, however, that this is a genre where I am particularly trigger happy when it comes to DNFing books – part of what I love about the genre (I can be sure to get a happy ending!) also means that when I don’t click with a book (but don’t hate it), I don’t mind just putting it down. I don’t feel comfortable giving content warnings for books I haven’t finished as I worry to miss something and mislead people (but as always, if you have specific triggers, just let me know and I will do my best).

42766256._sy475_My Fair Viscount by Jess Michaels

Published by The Passionate Pen, July 9th 2019

I should just admit to myself that Historical Romance doesn’t work for me. Even the books that are objectively well written with fun characters (like Tessa Dare’s books) do not blow me away. This one here is a good book – but really not for me. It is also too short and as such moves to quickly to hook me. I read around half of it when I decided that I’d rather be spending my time on other books. I did like the focus on consent and it is also quirky in a way that I think would work for other readers.

42831646._sy475_A Beautiful Risk by Colette Dixon

Published by Caleo Press, August 13th 2019

This one I skim-read so much that it really doesn’t count as finishing it. I could not connect with the characters and I admit I got super annoyed with the male protagonist. I thought he behaved impatiently in moments where that was really not warranted given that the female protagonist is (for a very good reason) traumatized (her kid died in an accident). I was also not super into these elaborate sex fantasies these two people had about each other instead of, you know, just doing it. However, this isn’t a bad book – but for a totally different reader (that the book’s blurb called it heartwarming should have given me a clue from the beginning that this wouldn’t be for me).

Bloom-AnyoneButRich-28144-CV-FL-v2.inddAnyone But Rich by Penelope Bloom

Published by Montlake Romance, September 3rd 2019

I felt old reading this book. I found the drama at the heart of it ridiculous and to be honest childish. The basic plot is that three girlfriends made a pact when they were teenagers to never ever date one of the King brothers again, as these three brothers nearly cost them their friendship. This obviously proves impossible when the brothers return years later and now super rich (there really is no shortage of billionaires in Romancelandia). I could not suspend my belief here – especially because Rich, one of the brothers, really doesn’t seem appealing – and not even in the normal romance way too toxic way that can sometimes work surprisingly well. He is just boring – and the female protagonist’s infatuation with him seems unfounded (she is also a virgin, something that only rarely works for me – it so fundamentally changes the power balance). I just never bought into their relationship. Do not even get me started on Rich’s twin brother whose incredible stupidity felt gimicky and unbelievable. This really did not work for me and I gave up a little after the halfway point.

I received ARCs of all these books courtesy of NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Romance Mini Reviews: Slightly Off-Limits

I am not the biggest fan of off-limits romances but when they are only slightly so, I can enjoy them because they add a bit of angst without it being overwhelming. I am also old though and I just cannot with romances involving really young people, so the books I read with off-limits romances only involve people who have been adults for at least a few years.

35836021Disturbing His Peace by Tessa Bailey

Published by Avon, 2018

This is the third in Tessa Bailey’s The Academy trilogy and by far my favourite. The Off-Limits-factor is that Danika is a recruit and Greer one of her teachers but it isn’t icky because they are both adults (and have been a while) and she doesn’t take any crap from him. I really enjoy Bailey’s writing and I do love how very much into each other these two are.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Attempted assault, child abandonment (backstory)

30631124Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, 2017

I love, love, love Lucy Parker’s romances: they are funny and lovely and super charming. In this one Luc Savage casts Lily Lamprey for her first West End role after playing a rather sexual role in a TV show – and as such dating her director would be absolutely catastrophic for her reputation. These two are not the biggest fans of each other in the beginning but they have a ridiculous amount of chemistry – and I loved them.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: slut shaming (always challenged), harassment, heart attack, death of a loved one

43834305._sy475_The Trouble with Love by Claire Contreras

Published May 2019

This was lovely – but also kind of forgettable. Morgan is starting her dream job at the company she has always wanted to work at – but her boss’ son is not only her brother’s best friend but her one-night-stand from a year ago. Bennett is relatively newly divorced and really does not believe in love any more – and he thinks that his best friend’s younger sister is seriously off-limits for him. Obviously this is not how it works out. I enjoyed how clever and driven Morgan is and I did like how very nice these two are to each other. I don’t love this whole idea that you should never ever sleep with your friends’ sisters – because that frames sex as something at least slightly shameful and degrading you shouldn’t be doing to a woman who has any connection to a man you know and I am not here for that. I am also not the biggest fan of the “super evil ex-wife” trope though and as such could not really warm to the book as a whole.

3 out of 5 stars

Content warning: Infidelity (back story), infertility, drug addiction (back story), child abandonment (back story), prostitution (mostly respectful), stalking

 

 

Romance Mini Reviews: Fake Dating

As I am mostly reading romance at the moment but really not feeling up to writing proper reviews for that genre, I have decided to start mini reviews, organized by theme or trope. Starting with my absolute favourite: fake dating. I am not quite sure why I am loving that trope so much but I think it has to do with the fact that it makes the story so very obviously divorced from reality that it becomes easier for me to suspend my disbelief (which seems an odd thing to struggle with as somebody who usually reads mostly spec-fic).

25750546Act Like It by Lucy Parker

Published by Carina Press, 2015

This book combines many things I apparently love in romance novels: fake dating, enemies to lovers, hilarious banter, a grumpy male character, a lovely female character, and theatre. Lainey and Richard are starring in a West End play together – and cannot stand each other. They are mostly forced into a fake relationship by their management because ticket sales are down due to Richard being a bit of a knobhead in public (and in private and everywhere in fact). The book works for me because he is not a total ass and she is funny and not a pushover. I loved Lainey’s relationship with her family and I love how Richard actually makes a effort to be nicer. There is very little miscommunication and they both are honest with each other; which I love.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: attempted sexual assault, suicide (in the past), death of a sibling (in the past), cancer (in the past)

39854434Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Published by Avon, 2019

I have been on a serious Tessa Bailey binge and I have figured out that I like her books most when they are less angsty and more fun. This one is a lot of fun. While I am personally not partial to the “in love with my big brother’s best friend”, I do love fake dating and quirky heroines. Here Georgie and Travis start fake dating: for him it’s a way of bettering his image so that he has the chance of some kind of important baseball job (I know nothing about baseball), for her it’s a way of making people see her as a grown-up for once plus she has been in love with Travis most of her life (that surely will not blow up in her face at all). I thought this was absolutely lovely; I enjoyed the relationship and their banter, I love how they inspire each other to believe more in themselves, and Georgie’s women’s club was brilliant. I did think the ending was seriously over the top, but still, as a whole this was well worth the read.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: none? (the main character works as a clown, in case that is somebody’s phobia; I would wish to know if the main character worked with spiders so I am mentioning this)

45183911._sy475_Faking Ms. Right by Claire Kingsley

Published by Always Have, 2019

This was the book that made it very obvious to me that I enjoy the trope. It does a few things I am not always happy with but I still enjoyed it a whole lot due to the wonderful fake dating element. Here Shepherd is fake dating his personal assistant Everly because his (gold-digging) ex-girlfriend is dating his father (it doesn’t reeeally make that much sense in the book either). Everly is wonderfully sunny and super competent and her group of friends are similarly wonderful and totally made the book for me. I am not a big fan of super rich dudes in romance novels but this time it did work for me – mostly because Shepherd doesn’t really use his wealth to win Everly – which is something that always makes me cringe. They are believable as a couple and the whole book was a lot of fun.

4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: none that I can remember.

Soul Ripping Romance Tag

I haven’t been reading many books I want to write long reviews on lately (mostly romance novels, so this tag is especially apt), but I still want to post at least some things this month, so I was super happy to be tagged by Naty, whose wonderful blog you should all be checking out. (There might be slight spoilers here, so if you prefer to go into books completely blind, be careful.)

The Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you and create a pingback to the original author – Nel at Reactionary Tales.
  • Share at least 5 (but more are welcome) romances that tugged your heart strings. They can be from books, movies, TV shows, manga; anything you can think of! They can be examples of sad tears, angry tears, happy tears or a combination of all three.
  • Nominate 5 (or more) people to share their emotional traumas
  • (Note: Try not to spoil the story for your readers in case they would like to check out these romances on their own)

No post of mine this year would be complete without a shoutout to Sally Rooney, so I am getting this out of the way early. Frances and Nick are such an interesting, flawed couple that I could not help but root for.

I enjoy the way Nalini Singh writes her romances a whole lot in general (very little angst, people who are honest about their feelings, men who are totally vocal in how great they think their partners are) but my favourite couple of hers are Mercy and Riley, both are stubborn and headstrong but they also are super into each other and willing to meet in the middle.

The slow burn that was Kate Daniels and Curran’s relationship has a special place in my heart – even if she is so much cooler than he is and both of them are pretty much flying blind (they did not have the best of role models) and as such making mistakes left and right. The anticipation of the “when will they finally” was way too much fun for me to not include them here.

Sabran and Ead’s relationship in The Priory of the Orange Tree was wonderfull realized. I love how they complement and challenge each other, I love how they are fundamentally honest, and how they never lose their own lives and ambitions out of sight.

The romance in Act Like It by Lucy Parker combines many things I love: enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, London, and theatre. Lainie is lovely and witty and doesn’t take any shit, Richard is grumpy and vulnerable. Their banter is hilarious and their relationship believable.

Honorable mentions:

Kassandra and Aeneas, Veronica Mars and Logan (I knoooow he’s an ass, don’t judge me), Chandler and Monica, Vasya and Morozko (only in The Winter of the Witch though, weirdly), Buffy and Spike (I knooow, he is the worst but still)

Tagging:

Sarah / Lisa / Kathy / Caitlin / Jess

I mostly tagged spec fic bloggers because I want more specfic romance but if you decide to do this tag, please let me know! I am having so much fun with romance heavy books this year.

I downloaded a bunch of romance novels and I have thoughts

I have been enjoying romance a lot more lately than I have in years and a while ago I downloaded a bunch of very different romance novels off NetGalley to figure out what might work for me. While I did choose the books partly because of their titles (some of that will become clear once you see the actual titles), I did also try to download a variety of typical subgenres to get a better feel for what I might like – and in that sense this was a success. I also read some truly, truly awful books, but I did really enjoy the process. I am at a point in my life where I just want to read whatever strikes my fancy and as it turns out, right now that is very often romance books – there is just something soothing about the genre that works as an antidote to my ridiculous worklife. It is so wonderfully predictive!

I will only be writing the miniest of mini reviews for these books because I don’t have all that much to say about these books individually.

The Bastard by Lisa Renee Jones

43518466This book is absolutely compulsively readable in a way that I found stressful but also entertaining. I bought the second book in the series the second I finished this one but then DNFed this at the half-way point, once I woke from the fugue state the book caused. I do very much not like books that play with consent apparently. The main couple were angsty and horrible to each other and I don’t want to read about this type of relationships when I am supposed to root for them. The book does what it sets out to do but just is not for me whatsoever.

The Sheikh’s Pregnant Lover by Leslie North

44153436I admit it, I only requested this because of the title – and because apparently this is a big subgenre, this “pregnant by a super rich man after a one-night-stand”. This one was hilarious but not on purpose and super did not work for me. I have many thoughts on the fetishization of cultures the author isn’t part of but would like to leave that to other people more qualified to write about this. But god, what a perfect title.

The Playmaker by Cathryn Fox

41561680If somebody had told me I would enjoy a Hockey romance I would not believed it. But I really really enjoyed this. It’s hilarious, the main character has a wonderful best friend, the consent is always explicit, and the writing style is readable. I thought the ending was way over the top but in general I had a lot of fun with this one.

 

Lady No Says Yes by Jess Michaels

42766253I used to read a lot of historical romance when I was a bit younger but haven’t in years. I enjoyed this for what it was but I don’t think I will be making a proper return to the genre. Again, I appreciate the explicitness of the consent and the way in which these two characters communicated. The book is a tad short and as such I didn’t really build any deeper connections to the characters. It is however well-written enough that I am sure my lukewarm reaction has more to do with who I am as a reader than with anything else.

A Son for the Texas Cowboy by Sinclair Jayne

45436223This is one where I can see that it is objectively ok-written but just a subgenre I do not appreciate at all. Apparently cowboys don’t do it for me (I cannot say that I am surprised) and I also did not enjoy that the main character kept her son with her ex a secret from said ex.

 

Distracted by Belinda Wright

45416669I do not like books about people pretending to be something they are not (as a general rule, not only in romance) and given that the main female character lied about her job the moment she met the main male character, this book was never going to impress me much. I did not find it very well-written either and I skimmed a lot of it in the end. The endless descriptions of the main characters’ work days did not help my boredom much.

So, what did I learn about my reading? I need consent to be explicit and cannot deal with characters that are properly awful to each other. I enjoy reading romance more when the main storyline is a SFF one, something I assumed before but now know for certain. I do not want to read about cowboys, but apparently can deal with hockey players as long as the book is well-written enough. I like the men cocky but nice and have no patience when they try to tell the women what to do with their lives. I like romance novels that are funny a lot more than those that are angsty. Apparently I should stay away from books with grumpy looking dudes in suits on the cover but half-naked men are fine. Nobody uses their words and it drives me insane. I am glad I don’t live in a romance novel.

 

Thoughts: On romance

For a long time I have been telling myself and everybody else that I am not that interested in romance in books. Turns out, that is not quite true. I am not a fan of romance in books where it is the obligatory B-plot; I very much love books where a well-done romance is the A-plot (and preferably the B-plot is kickass-women kicking ass) or where the B-plot romance is done exceedingly well (looking at you, Ilona Andrews). I am apparently a hopeless romantic at heart and I have been loving reading romantic genre fiction so very much these last few months.

There is something comforting about a well-done romance – and I need comforting at the moment. I love the feeling of trusting an author to both write an exciting story and to not break my heart while doing it. Thus I find predictability (when it comes to the eventual outcome and not the way there) a definite plus right now. When romance is done well the authors show an incredible insight into the human condition – and I find it highly frustrating that this is not more well-respected. A well-done romance is such a difficult thing to achieve! Other people have talked about how this dismissal of romance is a gendered thing and I don’t feel like getting angry at the world today, so I won’t write about this. I have just realized how much I am enjoying the genre at the moment – and I am liking this a lot.

But there are some tropes that set my teeth on edge and while I am a lot more forgiving of possessive behaviour in books than I am in real life (as is everybody I guess), I am still unsure how to choose books to read because so very often the male love interest is godawful and I would want to spend zero time with them. I am not a fan of books with huge power imbalance (on the emotional level especially) and I am thus hugely not a fan of big age differences, especially in realistic fiction or when the main female character is under 25. For me, YA romance really does not work at all for a number of reasons – especially when the romance feels like it is only included because that seems like the thing to do. I also get a bit grumpy when a book is too angsty and teenagers tend to be rather angsty and I’d rather not read about that. I want to read about adults falling in love and saving the world.

Here are two series I have loved and swooned about recently to give an indication what works for me:

The Kate Daniels’ series by Ilona Andrews: These books are definitely Urban Fantasy and as such the romantic subplot is not the main focus. The world-building and the overarching story is ridiculously well-done, but what kept me reading way past my bed time were the relationships Kate develops, not only romantic ones but also platonic ones. Kate is a wonderfully realized main character, with flaws but also seriously kickass and who is before every thing else a good person – and her relationship with Curran really, really worked for me. It was slow-burn enough to nearly kill me and then after a bit of angst, solid enough to keep me engaged. God, I love this series.

The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh: I am still reading this, but after racing through the first 11 (!) books in a bit over a month, I needed to take a breather. Unlike the Kate Daniels’ series, these books each follow different main characters, which has the advantage of instant satisfaction but also lessened the squeal. The relationships here are all different and follow different tropes (some of which I like less than others), but what works for me exceedingly well is that any possessiveness the male characters might feel is always tempered by them being ridiculously in love with the women and not wanting to change them – this fundamental acceptance of who the women are at their core is a lovely thing to read.

Please do recommend books to me! The genre is a minefield and I want to only read books that make me happy! I recently bought Darkfever by Karen Marie Mooning because it was only a Euro but that book set my teeth on edge within a couple of pages and I called it quits after 30 pages or so. Which is why I need help.