Gretna or Bust: A guest post by KJ Charles (and a giveaway)

If there’s one journey that defines the Regency romance, it’s the flight to Gretna Green. This is a staple of many a m/f historical, and my latest m/m romance, Wanted, a Gentleman, also involves a flight to the border. (There is only so long you can write British historical romance before this happens.) But what was it about Gretna Green that made it some sort of kilted Las Vegas?

Well, mostly, it’s in Scotland, and Scotland had different marriage laws. In England after 1754, an under 21 could not marry without parental consent (unless they managed to publish the banns over the course of several weeks without […]

By | January 9th, 2017|Categories: Caroline AAR, giveaways, Guest Posts|Tags: , |56 Comments

Midweek Minis

Our team of avid readers continues to work tirelessly to point you towards the good, the bad and the… indifferent… when it comes to romance!  Here’s another group of mini reviews from Alex, Caroline, Emily, Janet, Kristen, Maria Rose and Ulysses to give you some ideas as to what you might want to read next!

Alex’s Read:

Night Study by Maria Snyder
I discovered Maria Snyder’s Study series about a year ago, and was instantly hooked. The mix of magic, political intrigue, and adventure found in these books was enticing enough that I read the first three back-to-back —an entire week of my life was abruptly taken […]

By | October 4th, 2016|Categories: Alexandra AAR, Caroline AAR, EmAAR, Janet AAR, Kristen D, Maria Rose, Mini reviews|Tags: , |0 Comments

Midweek Minis

AAR staffers Anne, Caroline, E.B, Keira, Maria Rose, Mary and Sara share their thoughts on some of their recent reads in another of our occasional series of mini reviews.

Anne’s Read:

The Governess Comforts the Disconsolate Duke by Abigail Haversham (0.99 at Amazon)

I looked forward to reading this Regency novella about a hero recovering from the horrors of war. Unfortunately, it read more like a textbook for show versus tell and often reads like an outline rather than an actual story. The hero and heroine don’t have a real encounter until about 20% into the book which, for a novella, is way too late.

Not […]

By | July 26th, 2016|Categories: Caroline AAR, Caz AAR, EmAAR, Maria Rose, Mary AAR, Mini reviews, Sara AAR|Tags: |6 Comments

Winsome or Loathsome: Nora Colville

Welcome back to Winsome or Loathsome, the column in which AAR staffers lobby for and against controversial heroines. Today’s heroine is the leading lady of Meredith Duran’s At Your Pleasure, Nora Colville. If you haven’t read the book, be advised there are spoilers ahead.

In Meredith Duran’s At Your Pleasure, Nora Colville wanted to marry Adrian Ferrers, but in 1715, their Catholic/Protestant difference was too much for both families. Adrian was beaten and abducted, and Nora’s family pressed her into marriage with Lord Towe. She gave in, Lord Towe died, and Adrian, now the king’s agent, has come back looking for her brother David, a known Jacobite. For the first part of the book, I accepted Nora’s loyalty to her brother despite some red flags. But as the book goes on, Nora’s loyalty goes from sympathetic (most people don’t want to see their brother dead) to unjustifiable. There’s family loyalty, and then there’s Flowers in the Attic. […]

By | June 24th, 2016|Categories: Caroline AAR, Winsome or Loathsome|Tags: |11 Comments

Alex Markov: Dreamboat or Douchebag?

In another of our occasional series in which we discuss the merits – or lack thereof – of fictional heroes and heroines, AAR staffers turn their attention to Alex Markov of Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

The book taps into the classic “arranged marriage” trope. The two protagonists, Daisy and Alex, are blackmailed into marriage by a third party: Daisy’s dad. Daisy agrees in order to avert legal trouble and avoid prison. For Alex Markov, this was his year for paying off big debts, first with his deathbed promise to Owen Quest to take the circus out for its last season under the Quest name, and then by agreeing to marry Max’s daughter. In all these years Max had never asked one thing of him as repayment for having saved Alex’s life, but when he’d finally gotten around to it, he’d asked for a doozy. […]

Midweek Minis

Here’s another in our occasional series of mini-reviews.  We’ve got five DIKs here along with three B reads!  Here’s what Caroline, Caz, Maria, Heather, Shannon and E.B. have to say about some of their recent reads:

Caroline’s Read:

I just finished The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. It’s a fantasy/dystopia novel about Paige Mahoney, who can spirit-walk in a world in which paranormal talents are illegal, and whose life using her abilities for an underground syndicate is disrupted by her arrest. She finds out that the entire structure of her world isn’t what she thinks, and she’s placed into the custody of the mysterious and powerful Warden. I have a guilty love of prisoner-captive books, and this is an interesting one, with solid sexual tension and a couple that plausibly has to work through some trust issues. I liked that the heroine already had abilities, so we ddn’t have to go through the standard “Gosh, could it be me?” reveal. The author is British and her UK setting shines, especially a fantastical version of Oxford, which she actually attended (it’s been done, but it’s hard to blame people – that place is pretty amazing.) Plus, it’s a dystopia/fantasy of the old school: some deaths, some darkness, but not a bloodbath contrived for the sake of GUYS THIS IS SERIOUS FICTION. I’m definitely excited to start the sequel The Mime Order right away.

Grade: A              Sensuality: Kisses

Metaphor Sex is the best!

On the strength of Maggie Boyd’s DIK review, I tried Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I found one of my favorite writing ideas in there: metaphor sex! I’m not talking about sex scenes written with metaphors (“velvet swords” and “moist flowers” and similarly purple terminology). I’m talking about a scene in which the two characters engage in a non-sexual activity as if it were sexual. They might be cooperating in a physical task like climbing, an intellectual one like negotiating, an artistic one like singing, and so forth.

In Uprooted, the male wizard called the Dragon and the heroine Agnieszka have very different approaches to magic. The Dragon’s spells are meticulously crafted, precise and identical each time they are cast. Agnieskza, by contrast, casts organically. Like a cook who doesn’t bother with a recipe, she adjusts everything from ingredients to spell words according to what “feels right.” When the Dragon and Agnieszka go to cast the illusion of a rosebush together, science meets art. The result is not only magically spectacular but physically and emotionally compelling. […]

By | April 27th, 2016|Categories: Caroline AAR|10 Comments

YA: It Doesn't Always Have to Break Your Heart

Caroline: I was a teenager when I first read Harry Potter, and I remember how completely shocked and stricken I was by the death of Cedric Diggory. He was the first “on-camera” death in that series, a few books in, and since the first three books were spooky but not grim this sudden shift in tone took me by surprise. And more was to come: at that point, the last book hadn’t even been written, and it killed far more folks than Cedric. While I felt that I could handle it, I was disappointed by the change in a series I’d started to love for an entirely different reason. More, I worried about the kids younger than me who were reading these books.

It seems to me that in the years since the bloodbath of the battle for Hogwarts, bloodier and bloodier things have been classified as YA, mostly in the fantasy-sci fi areas. I tried a few well-rated books recently (An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh), and while both are generally well executed, I was emotionally beat up by them. An Ember in the Ashes opens with the heroine witnessing the throat-slitting murder of her grandmother and grandfather. Later, the hero has to lead some classmates in a tournament battle to the death against his (female) best friend, who  is commanding another group of classmates. Anyone who holds back is magically choked to death by the mages running the tournament. The Wrath and the Dawn is a Scheherazade-Arabian Nights story, so the hero murdered previous wives (he’s given a reason, which wasn’t as convincing as I’d like), and the characters during the current story fight and kill as well. Add this to Kiera Cass’s The Siren, about a heroine who has to sing people to their deaths in shipwrecks, and I’m exhausted. While I gave The Siren a B, I didn’t review the other two (they were personal reading, not review copies, so I wasn’t obligated). I was so tired of living in these worlds that I couldn’t face going back to review them, especially since I’d have to read the sequels to find out if the romances end happily.

My feelings aside, the purpose of this post isn’t to bash dark books. It’s to help readers who aren’t looking for one find what they do want. There are times when I want to read or recommend to a young person a book that doesn’t have a body count in the dozens, hundreds, or thousands, and it’s surprisingly hard to find them. I asked around AAR for some recommendations for fantasy or science fiction with less (although not necessarily no) violence and death. And of course, ones with romances, because this is AAR. […]

Love and Star Wars

Han and LeiaIt’s been long enough since the release of The Force Awakens that I feel it’s fair to write a post with a big fat spoiler about the movie and post it somewhere where viewers wouldn’t necessarily be on their guard. Still, if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled, then sweet holy Moses, leave right now. (Which, by the way, is also my recommendation for the movie.)

Yep. I hated The Force Awakens. I hated it so much that I’d rather watch the prequels. The prequels were so laughably, outrageously bad that I can watch them without them affecting my love of the Star Wars universe. The Force Awakens was just well-made […]

By | March 25th, 2016|Categories: Caroline AAR, Movies|Tags: , |54 Comments

Career Matches in Real Life

Bloomberg recently released a statistical report which examines marriage patterns by occupation in the United States. Who do female doctors marry? Male doctors? Female and male lawyers? It’s a fun graph to play with, and although I’m not sure there’s enough data for same-sex couples to be statistically significant, those are listed as well. I used the data to check out some popular romance cliches. Do tycoons really marry secretaries? Who do athletes marry?

For several popular romance hero types, I’ve put the three top female matches, plus the male match in parens for m/m readers. (Alas, the U.S. census is lacking in dukes and sheikhs, so I had to omit those categories). And the results are bizarrely consistent. Take a look!

Links go to […]

By | February 29th, 2016|Categories: Caroline AAR|Tags: , |10 Comments