Dare I hope we’re shortly about to head into Spring? In my part of the world anyway, the weather is, if not precisely warm, then not so cold, and a few early daffodils and primroses are starting to poke their heads above the soil. That’s not to say winter is over – the British weather is well known for its unpredictability, so now I’ve written that, I’ve probably jinxed it and we’ll be deluged! But then, sitting here in Lockdown for another few weeks at least, I suppose it doesn’t matter; I can’t go anywhere, so I might as well pick up some new books to read! And speaking of… here’s a selection of the new releases we think are likely to contribute to your reading pleasure over the next few weeks. Please drop by to tell us what YOU’RE looking forward to reading in March.
Click on the images to find out more!
I just received Lily Morton’s email and it revealed the cover for the new book in the Black and Blue series, A Quiet House, releasing March 26th. I didn’t realize before that this was a March release! The first book, The Mysterious and Amazing Blue Billings was wonderful. Not being a horror/ghost story fan, it just skirted my tolerance, but I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to this next book.
I’m reading the newest suspense novel by Nalini Singh which is out tomorrow. I loved A Madness of Sunshine so I’m pumped for Quiet in Her Bones.
Wow! So many great authors with new books!
Reid, Milan, Shupe are definites. Two more that stand out for me are the Patricia Briggs (I just love Charles and Anna Cornick as characters together) and the new Lauren Willig; which sounds more like historical fiction than romance but she’s such a wonderful writer that I’m in no matter what.
Sidenote: am I the only one who is out of the loop about smartypants romance? Clicking through to the Reid title brought up all kinds of recs at Amazon for authors who seem to be writing in the Penny Reid universe (e.g. new characters or books for characters who were bare mentions in previous Reid novels). The blurbs for several sound interesting but it sounds like these are self-published titles, penned by fans of Reid’s work. Anyone read any of these? Are they fan-fiction or something more?
I think Reid has done the same thing as Sarina Bowen had with the True North World and opened it up for other writers to set stories within it featuring new characters. So they’re “officially authorised” published works and not fanfic.
Amazon used to have a program called Kindle Worlds that had about 90 obscure franchises at its peak that any US writer could create stories for and split the royalties with the author. Unfortunately, they axed the program after five years. What a shame. But I can see where they wouldn’t want to deal with the legal complications involved. Anyway, some of the writers originally in the program allowed fanfic writers to continue producing content set in their worlds, so maybe this is an offshoot of the original program or took inspiration from it?
You are right – Penny Reid opened up her ‘world’ to authorized writers in early 2020 as smartypants romance. I haven’t read any of them, but if I were going to, I’d pick ones by Daisy Prescott because I like her own books.
Thanks for all the replies here. Not sure whether I’ll read them or not. It doesn’t look like anyone here at AAR is reading/reviewing them. Surprising given the love by many here for the Winston books.
We reviewed one and have another on tap.
I’m looking forward to reading the m/m SF romance Winter’s Orbit, which I first saw reviewed on AAR (thanks!). It also got a good review on The Big Gay Fiction Podcast. My e-book hold at the library says “Available soon,” and there are a dozen people behind me. So I can’t procrastinate once it comes in. The first two sample chapters I read on Tor really hooked me, so I’m bubbling with anticipation.
Also, I put an interlibrary loan on an instructional book called Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes. I’ve seen this self-published title referenced here and there so I thought I should check it out. Apparently, Hayes breaks down the formula for romance novels and includes a beat sheet. For someone as terrible at plotting as I am, I hope to gain some insight.
For those wondering, The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel that I was looking forward to reading last month was excellent. History books can be dry if they take too much of a pedantic style, which thankfully wasn’t the case here. I learned a lot about the history of textiles and it was fun. Because learning should be fun. Moreover, I kept thinking as I read, “Wow, HR writers should look at this cool resource. Who wouldn’t want to read about a time period and place where textiles were actually used as currency?”
Other than that, I’m sort of in between books at the moment while I devote time to other projects.
I loved Winter’s Orbit, fresh characters, intense emotions, read it in one go because it was so engrossing – I wish you the same experience.
I found it even better than the Conspiracy of Whispers that I liked a lot and that was also set in a futuristic world.
Both were excellent reviews/recommendations from here at AAR – thank you!!!
Nan, hope you have as much fun as I did!
Unfortunately the connected book to CoW, Treason of Truths, an f/f, starts out with two women who are both much too mature powerful persons having such a communication failure (related to their core professional responsibility, peace and safety for the Empire) to get the plot going that I got stuck – I will need to get over it, because I hope to like the rest of the book, but it just grated so I turned to something else.
I hope I enjoy Winter’s Orbit too! I also have Conspiracy of Whispers on my TBR list, which I hope to get around to reading sooner than later.
That’s too bad about Treason of Truths. There’s a dearth of good f/f out there compared to m/f and m/m. Obviously, f/f romances in various subgenres exist, but they are less common which means fewer options to choose from. I’ve read that this is true among self-published erotica as well. Lack of sufficient sales to pursue the pairing is a complaint I’ve read several times. According to the commiserating writers on eroticauthors Reddit, f/f is sort of a niche within a niche with pickier readers. Therefore, most authors give up on it in favor of writing more lucrative m/m, m/f, or mixed-sex ménage stories.
On the subject of f/f romance, I did enjoy reading the Carina Press title Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters a couple of months ago. It’s a road trip frenemies to lovers story that worked pretty well, although some elements wrapped up a little too well at the end. But I especially liked how one of the heroines had vintage hobbies like scrapbooking, film photography, and CD burning- all of which are making a minor comeback. The mention of the one heroine’s instant camera inspired me to look it up, and yes, they make them again. Anyway, the lack of constant “OMG texting” or tourist shenanigan scenes appealed to me, as well as the story’s focus on the developing romance rather than grating, forced cutesy moments. Definitely recommend it.
I hope you like A Conspiracy of Whispers!
I will try it.
I try just about anything, and then let the stories speak to me, and the characters.
(I may be shallow, and have a narrow track mind:
I keep thinking simply that for many women who actually prefer men irl, having either one man or two to enjoy in a romance is an attraction, in m/f and m/m, that f/f lacks. In f/f, I know that I love the interaction and emotion, and mild eroticism / lusting is fine, but I just am less into the bedroom details in f/f, at least in what read till now – maybe a very gifted author will convince me otherwise. So, I might pick up less f/f unless I was into women. Maybe this is a reason for its smaller audience- most romance readers are women, and strictly statistically, the majority of those must prefer men irl)
Yes, I think there’s a lot of truth in what you say about the lack of popularity for f/f. Statistically, most romance and erotica readers are straight women who generally want to see at least one man in the story, as you say. And, from what I’ve read from other writers, the minority lesbian romance/erotica readership tends to be really particular compared to other demographics. Plus, straight men who like f/f generally aren’t interested in reading about it the way it is written in female-centered and/or female-authored romance. These are all generalizations, of course. But there’s enough of a trend to make more authors focus on other, more saleable pairings than f/f.
As for Hairpin Curves, there’s some bedroom action in the last two-thirds of the story, but it’s not overwhelming. I think AAR would put it in the “warm” category. Caz might rate it “hot” because of there being toys involved, but the level of explicitness is comparable to most Harlequin Historicals I’ve read, IIRC. Largely though, the story focuses on the two heroines repairing their broken friendship and unexpectedly falling in love without an annoyingly cluttered narrative.
Now, getting back to m/m, I’m off to read Winter’s Orbit, which just came in at the library!
also for info on heat level. I do not mind f/f sex at all, I just find myself more clinical while reading it, it rarely adds to my book enjoyment- I tend to think about whether this would work for me, technically, and not be carried along much. Some m/m scenes too, where I just cannot flow along, but generally it is easier, because the lusting and the ogling, and the looking and touching can all potentially appeal to me. Interesting thoughts!
have fin with that book and let us know!
This is a really interesting study about the rise in popularity of the m/m romance genre, and talks specifically about how it is mostly written and read by women. https://via.library.depaul.edu/etd/228/
Great article! For once, I pushed past my fleeting attention span and read the whole thing in one sitting. Thanks for sharing! Now I really have to add KJ Charles to my TBR list.
By the way, have you ever watched the 1975 BBC made for TV movie The Naked Civil Servant? I cannot recommend this obscure, cinematic-quality biopic of Quentin Crisp enough. It presents a complex, nuanced portrait of an openly gay man in 1920s-1970s London, starring John Hurt. Quentin Crisp adored the film about his life, which is the highest praise any biopic can get.
P.S. The Naked Civil Servant is one of those movies that is superior to the book it is based on.
YOU HAVEN’T READ KJ CHARLES???!!! (That sound you can hear is my mind, boggling!) If you like historicals, you’re really missing out. She’s written a number of standalones as well as series, depending on what you want to commit to; you could pick up anything and not go wrong, but Think of England is an all time favourite, and A Seditious Affair, book 2 in her Society of Gentlemen series, remains the only book I’ve ever given an A* to here.
I know, I know. The sound of that mind boggle is coming through my screen loud and clear. Reading that article you posted reminded me how remiss I’ve been. ;-)
Would you recommend The Magpie Lord? The description in the article got my attention, and my library has an e-book copy. One of the heroes being exiled in China sounds right up my alley. After all, I loved James Clavell’s Tai-Pan.
P.S. Just finished reading Winter’s Orbit and enjoyed it. I might have to expound upon my thoughts under the AAR review comment section.
Think of England was my first Charles. And the only one I reread.
I was not a fan of The Magpie Lord. See my GR review.
On the other hand, I loved the Society of Gentlemen trilogy (+ the introductory novella). My favorite book in the series by far was the last book, A Gentleman’s Position. However, the plot points in that book make more sense if you read the excellent prequel, A Seditious Affair, first.
(The first book in the trilogy, A Fashionable Indulgence, was the least interesting book of the three for me, but it was still a solid and satisfying read.)
Think of England was pretty good. Not on the level of the Society of Gentlemen series for me, but good.
I agree with others here – start with one of her true historicals – unless you are just into magic/paranormal. The Magpie Lord has historical setting – but also contains magic. I liked it but the others are better IMHO.
Thanks stl-reader and nblibgirl for the warning. I’m not into magic/paranormal, and the product description I read wasn’t clear on that point (either that, or I misread it).
It sounds like I’ll be starting with A Seditious Affair, given Caz’s A+ recommendation and stl-reader’s shoutout. The BDSM angle gave me pause, but I am told it is handled respectfully and woven into the story rather than existing for pure titillation or shock value. Plus, my library has it, so that’s also a deciding factor.
Right now, however, Ms. Charles will have to wait on account of The Lady Brewer of London just arriving on my Overdrive account. There are a lot of people in line, and I can’t afford to miss out after reading the favorable review on AAR.
Thanks everyone who wrote back with KJ Charles recs! Happy reading!
Everyone is different, but I think by the comments here you can be sure there is something for you in KJ Charles oeuvre. I love the Charm of Magpie series. I enjoyed Think of England, but it’s not my favorite. The Society of Gentleman series is fantastic. I loved The Band Sinister, as well. The only series I’m not sold on is her Will Darling books. (Slippery Creatures,etc.)
That’s good to know about the Will Darling books. When I start on a new author, I want to start with the best if possible so I don’t get discouraged from reading future titles. Obviously, the “best” is subjective, but I’ve read quite a few excellent comments about A Seditious Affair, so I think I’ll start there.
I think so. Charles seems to be good at providing variety as well as meticulous research, from what I’ve read about her work.
Very interesting link but the author of the paper is off by at least a decade in trying to “date” the m/m genre. Comfort and Joy by Jim Grimsley is copyrighted 1999. Rainbow Boys – a YA novel by Alex Sanchez – was was first published in 2001. Josh Lanyon’s book Man Oh Man (for writers interested in writing m/m) was first published in 2008 – well after her own success as an m/m writer; and Suzanne Brockmann’s All Through the Night (which describes Jules and Robin’s wedding – after appearing in several preceding books) was published in 2007.
Yes, Fatal Shadows (Adrien English #1) was published in 1999. I’d have to read it (the paper) again, but I thought the writer was referring to m/m romances where the romance is the primary focus of the story, and not running alongside a mystery/suspense plot, as in JL’s books. If that’s not the case, then it’s a serious error. But it’s an interesting read nonetheless.
It is an interesting read on several levels and I really appreciate the link.
But in the interest of accuracy for readers who might link to it, it is important to know going in that author is just wrong about the timing of m/m romances. Yes, it is hard to precisely date “the first” but given the very short lifespan of the “genre” at this point, the author essentially missed at least 50% of the genre’s history. Jim Grimsley’s Comfort and Joy – as only one data point, but a truly lovely (if short) romance – was published in 1999. (There is nothing historically important about this little novel of which I’m aware. It’s just a book I read and enjoyed but came immediately to mind as I started reading the paper.) Of course, it was published and marketed as Gay Fiction in 1999, because it never occurred to ANYONE that it could be read as anything else at the time – but that is sort of the point of the paper, yes?
Which leads me (as someone who began reading romances in about 2006) to wonder what else the author missed.
For example, Suzanne Brockmann’s first Troubleshooter book was published in 2000. By 2007, over the course of 10 more pretty hefty novels(!), a mainstream romance author, published by a mainstream publisher (Ballantine), introduced a lot of very mainstream romance readers to a gay character and had 1) gotten two fictional men married off in spectacular fashion, and 2) totally shocked/offended some percentage of Romancelandia while opening some other % of readers eyes to the idea of same sex romances. It is my understanding (far after the fact) that what Brockmann did was very controversial (e.g. read that within RWA) although she would go on to publish another 3 or 4 books in the series.
Given the amount of space in the paper to fan and slash fiction as the primary driver of m/m romances, overlooking Brockmann’s experience seems relevant as well.
Sorry, off my educational librarian’s (yes, research matters) soapbox now. . . .
Ooh, I didn’t know Sarah Mayberry had a new book coming out—I’ll have to add that to my list! Also, I believe the Albert, Finley, Leigh, and Witt books are all part of a new series that involves a restaurant & LGBTQ bookstore featured in Sarina Bowen’s ROOMMATE. As for me, I only have a few books so far on my March TBR. (But no worries—I only have about 300 other books to get to!)
Jackie Ashenden releases her next HP, THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS GREEK, on March 1. It’s a marriage of convenience story—and the hero’s has the only-in-the-Harlequin-Presents-universe name of…Achilles Templeton! How could you not want to read that?
March 9 brings Ainsley Booth’s SHAME, which apparently involves a husband who has cheated on his wife. Cheating is generally a hard pass for me in romance novels, but Ainsley Booth (aka, Zoe York) is one of my favorite writers and, if any writer can bring a nuanced approach to a difficult subject, it would be her.
March 9 also brings Skye Warren’s PRIVATE PROPERTY, the first book in her Rochester trilogy, a modern take on Jane Eyre. I expect Warren to bring her usual mix of dysfunctional families and transgressive eroticism to the story.
And, finally, on March 31, Clare Connelly releases THE SHEIKH’S BABY SURPRISE, the seventh and final book in her Montebello Family series. I’ve really enjoyed Connelly’s stories of the sprawling Italian-Greek Montebello family (the hero of this book is the son of a Montebello daughter who eloped with a sheikh many years before). Based on the title, I’m assuming there’s an unplanned pregnancy involved in the plot.
Yep, those books are all part of the Vino & Veritas line in the new World of True North series – there are four mini-series altogether, and the Mayberry is in one of them (I can’t remember which!) There are more to come later on, including one by Jay Hogan – in May/June, I think.
The Mayberry is in the Busy Bean series (I’ve read it, it was good)
There are 4 series, The Speakeasy Taproom, Moo U Hockey,
The Busy Bean, and Vino & Veritas. I’ve read two of the True North series, and thought they were ok. I did really enjoy Roommate, though. Vino & Veritas will have an Annabeth Albert book, as well as Garrett Leigh, L.A. Witt, and Jay Hogan, as Caz mentioned. This is the series I’m most interested, although I love Sarah Mayberry, so I’ll definitely check that out. I’m not familiar with any of the authors listed in any series except for Mayberry and the ones slotted for V&V series.
P.S., Mayberry’s book is part of The Busy Bean series, not the V&V series.
I just discovered this morning (when I went to download it) that Juliana Stone’s SLOW KIND OF LOVE, which had been scheduled for release today, has been bumped to March 26. So I have another book to look forward to in March. Imho, Stone is a very underrated writer and I enjoy the community of Crystal Lake that she has created in her books.