We’re moving swiftly into autumn territory here in Madison, and the beautiful fall foliage always makes me smile.

I grew up in El Paso, TX—smack dab in the middle of the Chihuahua desert—where very few deciduous trees grow. There was one type in my neighborhood (not natural to the area, I would guess) that would turn a bright yellow and then fall, so for a few weeks we’d have an ocean of yellow leaves in the streets. I never experienced a full spectrum of fall foliage until I moved to the East Coast for college, and I’m grateful that Wisconsin offers a multi-hued autumn, though there are times when I miss the desert landscape of my childhood.

One of the many great things about the romance genre is that, like a forest in fall, it truly offers a colorful and vibrant array of storytelling and world-building. Truly something for everyone, with its vast, varied canvas.

While the literary establishment (we haven’t forgotten that horrible recent NYT piece, right?) and many of the other genres too, really, sneer at romance, readers and writers are exploring hope and love in nearly every corner of the universe. Romance is alive and well, thriving in office buildings, small towns, every era in history, every country on the planet, and on other planets, too, as well as in imaginative recreations of our own world, replete with shape-shifters, vampires, ghosts, you name it. In the North, South, East and West. Practically every race, gender, nationality, religion and affiliation you can imagine. Basically, if you’re interested in reading it, chances are a romance writer has written or is writing about it.

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This is reflected in my own reading/listening lately, which includes some recent releases as well as some earlier titles I’ve finally managed to get in audio.

Archangel’s Viper—Nalini Singh - I’ve been a fan of Singh’s Psy/Changeling series for a while and only recently dove into the Archangel series. Of course everythingArchangel's Viper Singh writes is worth a read, though I have a preference for the Psy books. However, this Archangel title was special. Sorrow is finding her feet, reclaiming more of her human past as Holly Chang and shedding some of her rage with the help of the vampires and archangels, but especially Venom, with whom she shares an affinity—though she tries to deflect it with animosity—as well as some similar supernatural aspects that have only ever manifested in the two of them. New training and an unwelcome, inexplicable pull to Europe force Venom and Holly together and on a journey to face a rising threat. The Kirkus reviewer gave it a starred review and called it “another Guild Hunter title replete with complex worldbuilding and the perfect balance of horror, heroism, passion, honor, and, always, always, a message of redemptive love.”

Hate To Want You—Alisha Rai - This book got rave reviews when it released earlier in the summer, and the next title in the series, Wrong To Need You, comes out in November. Star-crossed lovers Nicholas Chandler and Livvy Kane had a perfect romance as teens, but when a tragedy blows their families apart and betrayal severs the business partnership they shared, the two are forced apart. Yet they maintain a hot, secret affair for a decade, telling themselves that it’s only about the sex, a fiction they’ll have to confront when Livvy moves back to her hometown to help her injured mother. The romance is scorching and emotionally intense, and the cast of primary and secondary characters is vibrant and diverse. Both titles received starred reviews. The reviewer called this "A sexy, emotionally intense romance wrapped in a fascinating family saga, this is the complete package: hot, heartbreaking, and supremely satisfying.” I couldn’t agree more, and can’t wait to read the next one! (full review here)

One Summer Night One Summer Night—Caridad Pineiro - I thoroughly enjoyed this new title (and the start to a new series) by Pineiro, and like Rai’s title, it centers around two star-crossed lovers and includes a family business theme.  Two families had been friends and beach neighbors, but after the parents’ relationship sours, the children are barred from interacting. As adults, however, Owen and Maggie share similar interests and often find themselves in each other’s company, continuing a teen-age fascination neither of them have overcome. When a chance encounter is picked up by the society pages, it steamrolls into a “pretend engagement” that Owen tells his hostile father is really a front to try to take over Maggie’s family business. Pineiro handles the complicated plot with skill, and the romance with subtlety and intelligence, and the book is a great beach read—but I highly recommend it for anytime! (full review here)

Happy reading!