Since last week’s post was about the miserable NYT “romance coverage,” I thought I’d let you know that Radhika Jones wrote a (tone deaf) response. You can read it here.

I’m not going to say anything about it other than to note that the *comments* are great.

(sigh)

So let’s talk great books!

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I’ve had my eye on Emma Chase’s recent Royals series, so I was thrilled when I saw that my library had Royally Endowed on Overdrive.

In book 1, Royally Screwed (which I haven’t read), Crown Prince Nicholas of Wessco falls in love with American Olivia. In Endowed, Olivia’s sister Ellie has a thing for her bodyguard Logan St. James, and while there’s a quick twist into romantic suspense, it’s not really a romantic suspense title. Instead, Ellie and Logan have to navigate their very different social stations, except that, as far as Ellie’s concerned, she’s an everyday girl, just like he's an everyday guy; and as far as he’s concerned, she’s part of the royal family—which means she’s completely hands off, no matter how much he’d like to be hands on. Besides, he knows she deserves far better than anything he can offer. Meanwhile, the current Queen of Wessco is pushing Ellie toward the world’s most eligible bachelors, when really all Ellie wants is her one true Knight in Shining Armor: Logan.

I really liked this one, friends! Logan is hot, hot, hot, and not just because he’s the guy you want on your side in a dark alley, but also because he’s climbed out of a rotten past and is vulnerable and sweet, and hopelessly devoted to his smart, quirky girl. Totally worth picking up!

Now the last two books I’m going to talk about aren’t romances, though one has a very romantic subtext.

The first, The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (which does not have a romance subtext and releases January 9 ) was a fascinating psychological suspense that had even more interesting twists and turns than expected. The main paragraph of the Kirkus review begins with this: “The use of a multiviewpoint, chronologically complex narrative to create suspense by purposely misleading the reader is a really, really popular device. Two words: Gone Girl.”  (read the full review here.)

The Kirkus reviewer was underwhelmed with this title, but I really liked it, and there were two major pivots that I thought were not only completely unexpected but also brilliant, twisting the narrative in ways I doubt anyone will guess, especially the last one. Also, and perhaps this is my own bias coming out—imagine!—but what I loved about this title is that even though the storyline was disturbing and suspenseful, in the end it came across as very hopeful. There is no romance, but the main character has a very positive arc, and the end is “happy” in a way that never seemed to be the case in either Gone Girl or Girl On the Train. 

Full disclosure, I never read Gone Girl because one of my closest reader friends said it was brilliant but disturbing and all of the characters were horrible; I watched the movie and felt very fortunate that I could watch something that unpleasant in two hours instead of investing the time it would have taken to read all 432 pages of it. I started but never finished Girl On The Train because to me it was an odd combination of slow and unsettling and I didn’t find it at all entertaining. I don’t regret a thing (and I know tons of people enjoyed them—if you’re one, I’m glad you liked it/them!). However, I am quite pleased that I picked up The Wife Between Us, which was suspenseful, fast-paced and unsettling but ultimately positive. A perfect psychological suspense for romance readers who are willing to forego a romance but still need a bit of an HEA. (Thanks to Macmillan audio for an advance copy!)

Finally, I don’t remember where I heard about Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is, but I just finished listening to a library copy and if you have any interestThis is How it Always is in transgender issues at all, I’d call it a must read. It received a Kirkus starred review which started like this:  “‘This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then to be able to make it happen. If…you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake.’ Claude Walsh-Adams is all of 3 years old when he announces what he wants to be when he grows up—a girl. It’s a particularly tricky case of “‘be careful what you wish for’” for his doctor mom and novelist dad, already the parents of four boys when they roll the reproductive dice one last time. At home, barrettes and dresses are fine, but once he starts kindergarten as a boy, Claude becomes so miserable that, with the advice of a “‘multi-degree-social-working-therapist-magician,’” his parents decide to let him become Poppy.”  (Read the full review here.) 

This is the one with the romance subtext, because Poppy’s parents have a very loving and connected marriage. His brothers are also distinct personalities who respond to a cross-country move and the huge secret that Poppy’s gender dysphoria becomes in very different ways.

I highly recommend this book, which I found fascinating and thought-provoking, but also really entertaining.

Happy fall, happy reading!