Book Reviews: A Little Romance

I’m very far ahead on the reading challenge at this point, but VERY far behind on getting reviews of everything done.  Which means I’m going to review two of the romance novels I’ve read so we can get that out of the way.  I feel like love of romance novels is a personal topic, and I usually don’t review them in detail.  But I pledged to review everything on that challenge list, so…

Before I go full-throttle review, I think we should talk about romance novels.  They are full of cheesy moments, sappy dialogue, silly euphemisms for body parts, and unlikely scenarios.  I consider that a feature of the genre, not a deterrent.  So when I discuss the novels, I think you should know that all of them are typical historical romance fare and are therefore to be judged on a different standard than, say, something by Donna Tartt.

That being said, I still look for streamlined language, an interesting and new-ish storyline, and plenty of good description.  I will always maintain that good writing is good writing, regardless of genre.  It’s the stuff that happens in romance novels that I’m not sure everyone would agree on being their thing, not the quality of the writing itself.

Here we go:

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Mine ‘Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (a book that’s on fire)

Not only is the book full of fiery, lusty happenings, but their house eventually catches on fire.  It seemed to fit.

I am fairly torn when it comes to Lisa Kleypas.  She does that thing in romance novels where the girl says no way, the guy does it anyway, and then the girl likes it.  I hate to be all “rape culture!” on everyone, but it makes me uncomfortable and is the trope I like LEAST in the genre.  I know that in the Victorian era, women had to be circumspect about their relationships.  But this isn’t a Victorian book.  It’s a modern book, written by modern people, for modern people, that happens to take place in the Victorian era.  I demand that the fiction fit my modern values.  Which means no possible rape scenarios, please, regardless of how much love is between the characters.

It’s all throughout this book, too.  Which made it hard to like wholeheartedly even though I LOVED almost every other aspect of it.  It’s an unusual premise, the family is unlucky and really funny, and the love interest is a hot bad boy.  Bonus points for the fact that he’s Romani, and Kelypas is pretty good (to my untrained eye) at being respectful while still dealing with prejudices at the time.  More bonus points for Beatriz and her pet lizard. Who makes an appearance at the dinner table.  If we are giving kudos for originality, this one has it in spades.

While it was mostly good, it also had a supernatural aspect that I felt was thrown in at the end without enough foreshadowing, and seemed a little silly as a result.

I’m critical, but I read the thing in 1 day and then bought book 2.  So I did enjoy it despite the flaws.  I have now read the entire backlist of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, so I now have to find a good substitute.  Kelypas is almost in that league for me.  If only she’d cut out this no/yes stuff.

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My American Duchess by Eloisa James (a book no one wants you to read)

This category was the HARDEST for me, because no one has ever cared much what I read.  My parents’ shelves were as open to me as anything on my own shelves, I always got whatever was on my book list for presents at Christmas/Easter/birthdays, and my grandparents used to hand me things that might have been considered too old for me.  Like Damon Runyon at the age of 12. (He’s one of my favorites, but the heavy use of slang isn’t something that’s easy to get into, and it can be violent).  I got my hands on my first romance novels in high school.  No one has ever really cared.

But I needed something forbidden.  Which made me think of the stigma around romance novels.  And here we are…

At this point, I’ve read all of James’ back list.  This one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack for me, although maybe more towards the top than the bottom.  It’s a good, solid romance that has all the things I’m looking for – including an awesome American heroine.  She has a reputation for being flighty after ending a few engagements, and she’s determined to stick her current one through.  Even if he’s the wrong guy, and it’s his twin brother she really wants.  Bonus points for her being from Boston, which is where a huge contingent of my own family is from.

The book features a pineapple debacle, a twist in how the two eventually get married, and much fun along the way.  About ½ of the book takes place after the 2 are already married and attempting to figure things out, so that’s unusual in a romance novel, too.  Although it may not be the best of James, it’s definitely some of the best in the Romance genre.

That’s it for now, although more reviews will follow soon.  Happy reading!

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