Excerpt and Giveaway: The Rogue Not Taken

The Rogue Not Taken

I am beyond excited right now. Sarah MacLean is coming out with a brand new book to kick up another spectacular series. If you’re new to this blog, you might not know about my deep and overwhelming love for Nine Rules and the Rules of Scoundrels series. But if you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I have a book release countdown calendar for my favorite authors of all time, and Sarah MacLean is ON IT. The Rogue Not Taken releases on Dec. 29th, so take note, and read on for an exclusive excerpt, giveaway, and other fun goodies.

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M/M Romance, You Complete Me

It all started with a podcast–specifically episode 134 of the Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast in which Jane and Sarah have a long, reader-altering chat with Jay from Joyfully Jay.

Despite being afflicted with a historical romance novel addiction, my reading never veered into the m/m romance category. Yes, I read and loved the Lord John Grey series by Diana Gabaldon, but despite Overdrive’s categorization to the contrary, they aren’t really romance novels. I was completely unaware that I could find the same tension, angst, and romance in existing historicals with a gay twist. This was mostly due to reader-blinders, or specifically, publisher-blinders. Most of the historical romance novels available at my public library (my entree into the world of romance) are from major publishers like Avon, St. Martin’s Press and Berkley, which are decidedly heterosexual/normative romance publishers. Had it not been for Jay’s infectiously enthusiastic love of m/m romance (and stellar recommendations), I would not have recently read two excellent historicals.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me

Like so many Top Ten Tuesdays before it, this week’s prompt is just an excuse for book nerds like me to enter full fangirl mode. Should one day we discover that a Book Genie, a magical creature who can grant all book-related wishes, actually exists, these would be my top ten wishes, in no particular order.

(And no, I would not wish for more wishes because we all know that never works out well in the end.)

    1. For the spirit of Diana Gabaldon to continue to write the Outlander family saga long after she has passed from this world (because thinking about the last book with Claire, Jamie, Brianna and Roger makes me want to bawl).
    2. For Diana Gabaldon to write MOAR LORD JOHN GREY BOOKS FORTHELOVEOFGODPLEASE. Ahem, pretty please.
    3. To one day have my very own tiny house in the woods where I can escape with a pile of books whenever the need arises (often).

      Tiny House

      The Shed by Benjamin Chun on Flickr

    4. For Tessa Dare to write a Spindle Cove reunion book where Colin and Minerva have at least 3 daughters who proceed to make science-related mischief at the Duke of Halford’s home.
    5. To one day read Ulysses.
    6. For Junot Diaz to release a new novel already (hell, I’d settle for another short story collection).
    7. To read at least one biography of all the United States Founding Fathers and Mothers before I die.
    8. To one day not feel like I have to hide the cover of the romance novel I’m reading while in a public space.
    9. For my son to grow up to love reading as much as I do.
    10. To not have missed out on reading something amazing simply because it was different.
Little girl reading

Out of My Reader’s Funk

I know, I know, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been reading, I swear, it’s just been a bit…uninspiring. I was in a bit of a romance reader’s funk: everything I started felt a bit mediocre, a bit repetitious, sometimes boring. So I switched genres for a while, giving fantasy (my other weakness) a try. It was a much needed change of pace. If, like me, you have a love of fantasy, do yourself a favor and pick up Sorcerer to the Crown (Victorian England with a magical twist) and The Inheritance Trilogy (high fantasy at its best / off-the-charts amazing).

With just a quick change of pace, and thanks to some truly amazing romance e-galleys, I’m returning to blogging, reviewing, and fangirling on the regular. You have been warned.

Victoria Dahl, I Have Things To Do

I’ve been a little slow to publish new reviews, in part because I’ve been reading a few egalleys that won’t be published until later this fall, but the real reason is that I’ve fallen into a reader’s rabbit hole filled with books by Victoria Dahl. My love of Taking the Heat was effusive and real and immediately compelled me to go back and read all of Dahl’s contemporaries. I’m working my way through the lot, but thought I’d come up for air and share my thoughts on what is now one of my favorite romance novel collections: The Donovan Brothers Brewery series.

In typical scattered-reader fashion, I read this series completely out of order, which hardly signifies, as any way you read them, these books are amazeballs. The series follows Tessa, Jamie, and Eric Donovan, siblings who run a brew-pub in Boulder, Colorado. My relationship with beer-centered romance (both contemporary and historical) has had its ups and downs, but this series has convinced me that nothing accompanies romantic drama better than a nice Porter.

There’s sort of a Party of Five vibe to the series: Eric has been the head of the Donovan household since his parents were killed in a car accident. In his mid-twenties he set aside his young adulthood to raise teenaged Tessa and Jamie, and take over the family brewery. The series derives as much drama from the sibling dynamics as it does from the actual romance itself. Anyone with brothers or sisters knows how complicated sibling relationships can be, and Dahl is a master at crafting believable, but never over-the-top family tensions. The books are linked together by a break-in at the brewery and its ensuing repercussions, in which long-simmering family issues finally come to head. Here’s a quick summary of each:

  • Good Girls Don’t  — While trying to manage the aftermath of the brewery break-in, and the increasingly tense relationship between Jamie and Eric, Tessa finds herself drawn to police detective Luke Asher. He’s the kind of guy any good friend would warn you to stay away from (read: TOO COMPLICATED TO BE WORTH IT), but Tessa is tired of being good.
  • Bad Boys Do — Jamie kicks off a fun no-strings-attached sexcapade with (slightly older) divorcee Olivia Bishop. But Jamie’s tired of being the irresponsible playboy and is ready to prove to everyone–Eric, Tessa, Olivia–that he’s capable of more.
  • Real Men Will — Eric’s one-night-stand with local sex shop manager Beth Cantrell was supposed to be just that. It’s the only reason he lied about his name (letting Beth believe he was really Jamie). The sex is so amazing that neither Eric nor Beth can let it go, and find themselves getting together again and again.

They’re all fantastic reads, folks, but I will give a special plug for Real Men Will, whose heroine is curvy, beautiful, half-Argentinian (Latina bonus points!), and totally vanilla despite her sex-icon status around town. This last book is definitely the steamiest of the three, so proceed accordingly (ahem, read it first).

Jamie’s story is sort of a classic, there’s-more-to-the-bad-boy-than-meets-the-eye tale, but the presence of Olivia gives the story some legs.  She’s a little older, wiser, but totally inexperienced in love and relationships. I liked that she was coming from the world of academia with all of its political intrigues and ridiculous drama, and I appreciated that she was in her mid-30s (I like reading romance with heroines around my age). Did I also mention that Jamie wears a kilt? Because he does. A LOT.

Good Girls Don’t is a bit like Tessa–a little bubble gum, a little dirty. Her brothers jokingly refer to her as a Disney character, and yes, she is a perky, blond heroine, but I think Dahl manages to dive deeper into her persona. Tessa has some pretty serious underlying abandonment issues (no surprise there) and she’s as manipulative as she is sweet. It’s a refreshing take on what could have been a bland “good girl” character.

There is so much to love about this series! Read it now, folks!

The Library at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. Photo by Roman Boed on Flickr

Libraries & Romance Novels, Part 2: Making Romance Accessible

I’m continuing my exploration of the intersections between academic libraries and romance novels this week, because nothing makes me happier than bringing together two of my favorite things. Last week I wrote about the potentially beneficial, sometimes awkward, and often complicated relationship between self-published authors, librarians, readers, and reviewers. Michelle Boule has a great response to my post up at her wonderful blog, A Wandering Eyre, where she goes into greater detail about getting indie books onto library shelves and into the hands of readers who love them.

Today I’m continuing the conversation about making romance novels accessible to library patrons/users by highlighting two recent librarian-authored articles published in the Journal of Popular Romance StudiesI can’t even begin to say how happy I am to have found this journal, and to know that colleagues in libraries are thinking about broader issues surrounding romance novel accessibility at their institutions.

Romance Novel Accessibility and respect

Librarian and romance novel advocate Vassiliki Veros wrote a fantastic article examining the implications of cataloging (the process by which libraries organize, categorize, and share their collections) on the “findability” of romance novels in libraries. She argues that although romance novels, as the most lucrative fiction genre, bring in enormous amounts of economic capital (aka $$$$) but very little cultural capital (aka respect). Although she does not explore the many reasons why this discrepancy exists (it’s not the the focus of the article after all) she does go into great detail about how this lack of respect for romance writers and readers has been expressed in library cataloging. Many Australian libraries reduce paperback collections, and as a consequence, romance novels, to numbers attached to a publisher (e.g. Mills & Boon, Harlequin). This makes finding specific romance authors and novels extremely difficult and reduces library users to browsing, which is both inconvenient and inefficient. The whole point of effective library cataloging is to connect library patrons to their intended resource (book, DVD, CD, whatever), but the practices at many Australian libraries seem to work against this intent.

I’m curious: How easy is it for you to find romance novels at your public libraries? I’ve written a bit about the difficulty accessing self-published romance novels via the library, but I wonder if, as Veros writes, readers are encountering additional roadblocks on the way to connecting with a well-loved genre.

building a popular romance collection in an academic library

Shifting gears slightly from public to academic libraries, the latest issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies also has a wonderful new case study by George Mason University librarians, Sarah Sheehan and Jen Stevens on their efforts to build a popular romance collection in their library. At a university that hosts the Popular Romance Project and has an English department where faculty teach classes like “Why Women Read Romance Novels” and “Marriage Plots,” this collection is a perfect fit. Sheehan and Stevens describe their efforts to create a collection that is thoughtful and focused. Their approach to purchasing popular romance novels acknowledges the complexities of building a collection in a genre that is heavily entrenched in e-book and mass market paperback sales rather than the easier to preserve, sturdier hard cover format. They address the difficulty of selecting novels that represent the diversity of sub-genres and themes in popular romance and note the challenge of selecting representative works from a particular author or category. As someone who buys ALL THE ROMANCE NOVELS from my local library and bookstore bargain carts, I am in awe at the self control exhibited by these librarians who created a sustainable model for a fascinating collection.

I’m also curious about borrowing statistics for these books and wonder if they’ll primarily be used by students and scholars for class-related reading, or if they’ll find their way into the hands of students, faculty, and staff (both at George Mason and in other academic libraries via Interlibrary Loan) interested in simply reading for fun. Academic libraries have a long history of promoting recreational (aka non-scholarly) reading on college and university campuses, and this collection could potentially meet a need that secret romance readers have been too shy to express. I sometimes wonder if such a collection would find a willing audience at my own academic library.

At the end of the article you can find a list of the novels purchased by Sheehan and Stevens throughout the 2013-2014 academic year. I’m curious: If you were building a popular romance collection for a research/academic library, what titles and authors would you include?