book round-ups, Recommendsday

Recommendsday: Enemies to Lovers Romances

As my top romance pick of the year was an Enemies to Lovers romance, I thought it was about time that I did a Recommendsday post about one of my absolutely favourite romance tropes! And honestly, it actually turned out to be quite difficult to find ones I haven’t already written about before – particularly contemporary ones because so many of them have already been Books of the Week!

My much-loved TV tie-in edition of Pride and Prejudice

Lets start off with something very obvious: Pride and Prejudice. This is the grandaddy of them all. If you’ve never read it, you should, but there are also stacks of retellings of it from pretty much every different twist you can think of. My favourite is probably still Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is set in modern day (well modern five years ago) Cincinnatti, which has a lot of the wit that makes Austen so much fun but which you don’t always get in the retellings.

Next up, The Viscount Who Loved Me – second I Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and the basis for the upcoming next season on Netflix. Who knows how they’ll make it play out in the TV series (although the first one was quite faithful to The Duke and I) but in the book Kate is determined to save her older sister from marriage to reformed rake Anthony Bridgerton. Anthony has decided that he needs to marry (for reasons that you don’t really ever get to the bottom of in the book) but is determined not to marry for love (for reasons that you do discover). The two of them really don’t get on – until they do and it is delightful. Read it before the second series drops at the end of March.

Very worn copy of Regency Buck

I mentioned Regency Buck years ago in a post about comfort reads (and even longer ago in my post about Georgette Heyer), but it is one of my favourite historical romances with this trope. Judith and her brother come to London against the wishes of the guardian that they have never met. Of course they discover the Duke of Worth is the annoying man they met en route, the son of a man their father was friends with. Judith spends most of the book fighting against Worth’s every word and the reader isn’t really sure what he is up to until the reveal – which makes the resolution all the more satisfying. Side note: if anyone has come up with a modern (non problematic) twist on the guardian and ward trope, let me know in the comments!

Before I move on, I’ve featured a lot of Sarah MacLean books here before, and she does a great line in truly epic grovelling – which does often goes hand in hand with the enemies to lovers trope – like Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, which is the last in her Love By Numbers series and has a deeply rule following hero who thinks the rule-breaker heroine is trying to trap him him to marriage. The Rogue Not Taken is also an enemies to lovers.

Cover of Act Like It

I have featured a lot of contemporary romances with this trope, to the point where it is hard to find stuff I haven’t already recommended! Basically all Lucy Parker’s books are enemies to lovers – but as well as Battle Royal being my favourite romance of last year, Headliners, The Austen Playbook and Pretty Face have been books of the week and Making Up got a mention in a summer reading post too. So that only leaves me with Act Like It that I haven’t already given a big old plug to. So here it is: it’s a fake relationship between two actors who can’t stand each other, to try and help a bad boy actor to rehab his image. It’s the first in the London Celebrities series, and when I read it I had a few issues with some of the British-isms not being right (Parker is from New Zealand) but even writing about it here has made me want to read it again!

If you want to go old school romance, then a couple of Susan Elizabeth Philips’ Chicago Stars books also have enemies to lovers going on. Nobody’s Baby But Mine is that rare thing – a pregnancy romance that I like. And that surprised me because the heroine deliberately sets out to get pregnant by the hero which is so far from my thing. But Jane is actually a very different character than you would expect from that description- she’s a scientist who thinks she’s making a rational decision about her life. Cal, our hero is the quarterback of the team and is (unsurprisingly) unhappy about Jane’s entire plan for his only involvement in their baby’s life to be conception. It’s funny and touching and very escapist. The first in the series, It Had To Be You, is also an enemies to lovers, with a heroine who inherits a football team and the team’s extremely Alphahole head coach. But that has rape in Phoebe’s backstory which I know is a no-no for some people.

Other contemporary romances that have been Books of the Week include: Talia Hibbert’s Act your Age Eve Brown , Ali Hazelwood’s Love Hypothesis, Christina Lauren’s Unhoneymooners (see also The Honey-Don’t List which was in a Mini review roundup), Jen De Luca’s Well Met, Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, Alisha Rai Hate to Want You and Kate Claybourn’s Love at First. All of those are relatively recent releases (as in new or new ish when I wrote about them) but if you want something else a bit older, then how about Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me – which is now nearly 20 years old (!) – and features a first date that’s the result of a bet…

One last book before I go and that doesn’t really fit into any of the other categories – Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which is the first of the trilogy set in the world at the centre of Cath’s fandom in Fangirl – and is the equivalent of Harry and Draco in Harry Potter books.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, historical, romance

Book of the Week: Wilde Child

As I said yesterday, a busy week in real life last week and a lot of reoccurring authors on the list. But for today’s BotW pick I’m back into my romance happy place, with the latest book from an old favourite author of mine – Eloisa James.

A little bit of my historical romance reading origin story first: Eloisa James was one of the first current historical romance authors I read back when I discovered that there were modern authors doing takes on Georgette Heyer, back in my Southend days so circa 2009 – about a decade after I first read Georgette Heyer – I know. What took me so long? I don’t know – except I suppose that back when I was reading Georgette Heyer originally there wasn’t really a section of the UK market that was historical romance that wasn’t Mills and Boon – and that was what my granny read. Then – and I know exactly how it happened – I saw Julia Quinn’s What Happens in London in the window of Waterstones on Southend High Street and went to investigate. The Essex Library system was good – and I then requested and worked my way through every Julia Quinn they had and started to look for other similar authors. And it turned out there were a few authors who had made the jump across the Atlantic – and you just had to know what to look for in the cover art. My first Eloisa James was Duchess by Night – with a blindfolded lady in a corseted dress on the cover. And I ate up that series – or as much as it as was published in the UK. Which was not all of it – and at that point they weren’t available on Kindle – even if I had had one* so I started looking at the US editions, with their very, very different covers to the UK ones and started ordering them so I could get to Villiers’ story. And so what I’m saying here is that I have a long history with Eloisa James and I see her books as reliable comfort reads for me.

This is the sixth in the Wilde’s of Lindow Castle series, and the titular Wilde Child is Joan, who the Duke of Lindow has raised as his own despite the fact that her father is the Prussian count who his (now ex) wife had an affair with. This fact of her birth has made her some what scandalous – and she has done every thing in her power to scandalise the polite society who judge her for something she can’t help or change. Our hero is Viscount Greywick, who needs sensible scandal free wife but just can’t help trying to keep Joan out of trouble. The two of them strike a bargain – he’ll help her achieve her dream of acting on stage (incognito of course) and then she’ll settle down and marry a man of his choosing. We all know where this is going, without me even saying any more than that.

Now, this is not perfect. I like others of James’ books more. I think the relationship skips a stage – they go straight from antipathy to liking each other, without really properly explaining how. Yes, there are a lot of “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I can’t stop touching your hair” books out there – but there’s usually a big revelation moment where they work out that that it’s not actually hate, it’s repressed desire – and that doesn’t quite land here. I still think James’ earlier books are cleverer and funnier, but I read it this in under 24 hours and it made me smile – and having read all the other books in this series, I’m just a touch invested and I liked seeing the previous couples reappear. I am going to go on record that I have been holding out hope throughout the series that the at some point Horatius, the dead eldest son, is going to turn out not to be dead and reappear to close the series, not just because of The Drama but also because that would solve one of the ongoing problems of one of the couples – which makes a reappearance in this story (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read North’s book). James has her first book out under her own name (Mary Bly) soon – which is a contemporary women’s fiction novel – so I’m hoping this isn’t it for Eloisa James – but it may well be.

My copy of Wilde Child came from the library, but it’s out now on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback – and these are often spotted in the supermarkets and book stores – at time of writing, Foyles have it in stock in six of their seven stores.

Happy Reading!

* I got my first Kindle in May 2012 before I went to Poland to work at EURO 2012 – because lord knows I wasn’t going to be able to take enough books to read with me for a month.

Book of the Week, romance

Book of the Week: Manhunting

Back with a romance book this week – a contemporary romance at the time it was written, but given that that was the early 90s, not quite contemporary now! I’ve written about Jennifer Crusie’s books a few times before and as I read two of them last week it feels like they’re turning into a regular comfort read for me. And I needed some comfort reading. Anyway, to the book.

Kate Svenson is a successful businesswoman, but she’s unlucky in love. She’s been engaged a few times – but found out just in time that the men were only after her (father’s) money. But she’s fed up of being alone and wants someone to spend her life with. So she comes up with a plan: a two week holiday at a Kentucky resort. The Cabins is full of eligible bachelors – surely one of them must be the guy for her? But everytime she goes on a date, something happens to the guy. Jake Templeton’s brother owns the resort and he works there. He’d sworn off women even before he picked one of Kate’s rejects out of the swimming pool. He’s not interested in her, and she’s not interested in him – so why are they spending more time together than Kate is with anyone else?

This is a fun, frothy romantic comedy. You know exactly where it’s going to end up, but there are enough complications to keep it interesting, and the various situations that Kate finds herself in with the prospective boyfriends are a hoot. Obviously life – and technology – have changed a bit since 1993 when it was written, but I don’t think there’s anything here that’s dated in a bad way – which isn’t always the case! It’s just the sort of book I love reading – the stakes are fairly low, it’s funny but the humour isn’t nasty or based on humiliation and you come away with a nice warm feeling inside.

The bad news is that this doesn’t seem to be available on Kindle or Kobo at the moment, but Amazon have a bunch of paperback copies for a couple of quid.

Happy Reading

American imports, historical, romance

Bodice rippers…

There’s a shelf of books I keep hidden in my spare room.  I’m embarrassed to own them. But some of their genre-mates live in my sitting room bookshelf.  What am I talking about?  Historical romances.

a collage of books
My historical romance collection – can you spot the UK editions and the US ones

You’ll have seen from earlier posts that I’ve got a bit of a thing for Georgette Heyer.  Now a few years back, I started looking for other similar books that I could read – and stumbled into the world of historical romances.  Mostly written by American authors, they’ve beguiled many a happy hour in the years since.  So why the segregation?  Well it’s simple.  In this country (that is the UK) books by writers like Julia Quinn come with nice, innocuous pastel coloured covers.  But where I’ve had to buy in from the US to fill in collections – for example the Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James – they tend to come with busty women breaking free of their dresses on the cover.  I am literally too embarrassed to be seen to own them – let alone be seen out in public with them on the train.

In cases like this – the Kindle is a god-send – no one can see the cover of the book that I’m reading on my e-reader – and unless they’re invading my personal space, they’re not going to know that I’m reading a “bodice-ripper”.  But take one of these babies out in public and I’m embarrassed about people judging me.

books
Some of these spines are not allowed on my downstairs bookshelves…

Now this is, of course, ridiculous.  There is nothing wrong with reading historical fiction or even reading it in public.  Many are very well researched and historically accurate – Eloisa James is actually Mary Bly, a respected Shakespeare professor at Fordham University – and they’re hardly (or at least not often) up their with Fifty Shades of Grey for their explicit content* and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapist fiction anyway.

I’ve read a lot of article recently about people not taking romantic fiction seriously – and I’d suggest that covers like these are part of the reason why.  And some of them aren’t even that accurate when it comes to reflecting the content of the book – whether it is the look of the heroine or the action it portrays.

I also think the American style covers look incredibly retro and naff.  If I had come across them in a bookshop before I’d read some of the authors,  I would never have even thought of picking one of them up – I would have ruled them out as being clichéd, inaccurate and one note – the same way I did with old school Mills and Boons once I’d read a couple of dozen of my gran’s collection.  And they’re not.  For me, the best of them are the logical successors to Georgette Heyer – but with kissing.  And some sex.  Sometimes quite a lot of sex.  But the world has changed since Heyer picked up her pen – and it’s mostly very well written sex.

Eloisa James books
Same author, different countries – completely different cover look!

I’d love to know what it is about the US book-buying public (or how publishers perceive them) that means that the books are packaged and styled like this – and what the authors think of such radical differences.  But until the books start looking a little bit less like a cliché, my American imports will continue to be hidden away at the back of the top shelf of the spare room bookcase!

* I read the Fifty Shades trilogy on my Kindle, in secret, in Poland to make sure no-one would know what I was doing.  And I read it so that I could tell my sister and my mum if they needed to read it.  I concluded they didn’t.