A little late for Valentine’s Day and a little early for the return of the TV series Outlander (although maybe you are, like me, re-watching the first half of season 1 to get prepped!) I have been in the mood to do a romance post about time travel romances and other romances that play with multiple time periods. The reason I think these can be fabulous genre blends is that they can give the reader a hugely satisfying historical fiction experience — gorgeous details of the dress, food, and social norms of the past — but still give us a touchstone character from the present to ground the story. (more…)
Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. There seems to be lots of people who love one but not the other. In most classification schemes and in my book (The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends), urban fantasy is technically a subgenre of fantasy, and paranormal romance is a subgenre of romance (just as the names imply!), but the reading reality has always seemed more fluid to me. I read a lot of series that fall under one or another of those subgenre headings, and I’ve never been particularly fussy about what label gets printed on the spine. When I was in charge of ordering paperbacks for a library, I was forced to care about this issue, as I would be the one that would decide whether a book went on the “ROMANCE” spinner or the “SF/FANTASY” spinner. And believe it or not I found it surprisingly difficult at times. Sometimes I would violently disagree with the way the publisher had chosen to market a series. Maybe it was a book that had a cover and a subject heading that screamed romance and I thought it would appeal as much (or more) to fantasy fans. Maybe the book was all moody urban fantasy on the outside but all steamy romance between the covers. It was then that I started to think about these books all living on more of a spectrum: all books that shared a real-world, present day fantasy landscape and almost always included a crime/puzzle/mystery plot line. The difference was simply in the amount of romance.
There’s something irresistible about a pirate. They live outside the law, they have ultimate freedom to sail about wherever they please, and they take what they want. I mean, sure… those can be the characteristics of a fantastic villain as well. Romance novels are full of villains. Alpha-type anti-heroes with what would be a poisonous level of testosterone in real life are perfectly acceptable in a romance novel, as long as they never hurt animals or children. And romance is the bastion of the misunderstood hero in villainous clothing. When pirates appear in romance novels (and good gravy, do they appear), the seeming villain often turns out to have a secret squooshy soft center, at least where the heroine is concerned. Romance pirates are often trapped by circumstances in the piratical life, and perhaps all they need is the love of a good woman to retrieve them to the bosom of polite society. Or maybe that loving woman will sail off happily over the horizon with her pirate. Either way, there are probably dozens of pirate romances out there. Let me introduce you to a few:
The Windflower by Laura London Top Pick!
Written by husband and wife team Tom and Sharon Curtis, this is the one. If you’re only going to read one pirate romance (and yes, I know most people will never EVER read romance, much less pirate romance), this is the one to read. I had heard about this book for ages on romance sites like Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and never could find a copy (paperback copies, USED, were selling for almost $100, if you can believe). I finally borrowed one, and got to read the story of Merry Wilding and the crew of The Black Joke. Merry is a terribly sheltered young woman as the novel starts in 1813. She plans a trip to Europe and sets sail from New York only to fall into the clutches of pirate Devon Crandall. Crandall thinks Merry is the mistress of his greatest enemy (cue the misunderstandings!) and yet finds her irresistible. What seems like the epitome of Old Skool romance with the milksop innocent and the rape-threatening hero (oh yeah, that happens) is elevated by its execution and by the marvelous full cast of characters that the authors assemble on board this unconventional pirate ship. So, so happy this has been re-released and is available for new readers. (more…)
I was working on a post about the covers that end up on genre blended books and I fell down the hole at the intersection of amazing and ridiculous that is romance covers. Rather than do a whole post with link-y links, I simply have to throw some of these up there for your enjoyment. The best are no doubt the ones from the 1980s for sheer ridiculousness. I’m sure I was reading the occasional romance in the 80s, but perhaps the fashion and style of the 80s was so terrible (in an awesome way) that they just washed off me like water flowing off thebare chest of a Fabio clone. The 1990s seems to be where some discretion came into the art departments for romances. Lots more still lifes with flowers or swords or flowers and swords. Broaches were big, too. Then we moved into the period weith the headless pretty dresses, which we are mostly still in. (more…)
THE BOOK: As the new STARZ adaptation gets going, I’ve been thinking a lot about these books. When I first read Outlander (and I came late to the party, only reading this first book after many of the sequels were published), I had the series recommended to me by several people. What I remember is that the recommenders took completely different tacks in their pitch. (more…)
As I said in yesterday’s post on mystery series with slow-building romance, I’m a shipper. I adore relationships that take a while to kindle, where you watch two people dance around their attraction before acting on it. Love at first sight kind of bores me (although attraction at first sight — YES), as it seems far-fetched and leaves no place for your couple to go. But a romance that has its ups and downs, setbacks and betrayals? That’s just more interesting. Series books have a great potential to string along a good attraction across multiple volumes. In paranormal romance, a sort of sister to urban fantasy, you are often dealt a different couple in every book, and the happiness of the couple is never really in any doubt. The worldbuilding might be important, but the thrust of the plot will be getting this couple to their happy ending. Urban fantasy that includes romance (and they don’t always — I promise to roundup some great ones that are love-free for those who don’t want any k-i-s-s-i-n-g in their fantasy) can have devastatingly swoony love stories, but that is not usually the point of the story. And because urban fantasy often runs in series, authors often spin out the arc of the couple over many, many books. Let’s face it: the obstacles to love in urban fantasy are high. You might not even be the same species as the object of your attraction. And then there’s the whole “have to save the world from monsters and evil” thing that can get in the way. But when it is done well, the slow burn romances of urban fantasy are some of the best around. Perhaps I should say here that there are SPOILERS for those who haven’t caught up on some of these series. While a lot of urban fantasy telegraphs the love interest to come loud and clear, there are at least a couple that caught me by surprise. In the best way possible. (more…)
There are a word for those who root for romance, no matter what. In the wider world of fandom, especially genre fandom, they are known as “shippers”, short for “relationshippers.” More commonly used for TV series (one show that had adamant shippers was The X-FIles, where from almost the first episodes there were fans that wanted Scully and Mulder to get it on), there are plenty of potentials for a good ship in book series as well. Sometimes in books as in TV the ship never comes in, the romance never gets consummated or even acknowledged. But that doesn’t stop a romance fan from hoping for their happy ending. There is no obstacle that a true blue shipper cannot willfully in search of their ship: plot mechanics, basic compatibility and sexual orientation can all be overcome in the heart of a true shipper. I’m a devoted shipper, but I’m a patient shipper. A big part of shipping is anticipation. Long looks, sexual tension, a lot of “He annoys me. I don’t like him at all. Why can’t I stop thinking about the way his lips look when he….DAMMIT” internal monologues. I love series where the relationship builds over time and the couple has to overcome a ton of obstacles. While in traditional romance there are relationships that are more of the “slow burn” variety, the couple almost always get together in the end. But in genre blends, especially blends that are part of a series, the romantic relationships might develop over multiple books. Will they? Won’t they? Ahhhhhh….. (more…)
THE BOOK: Searching for a way to get noticed and get a spot with the Devastators, the elite king’s guard of Paradox, Devi Morris takes a security job on the most dangerous trading ship in the region, The Glorious Fool. It doesn’t take long for Devi to realize why one year with this ship counts as five years with any other trader. (more…)
THE BOOK: Amelia Gray is a young woman with an unusual job: she restores cemeteries for a living. Working in and around her home base of Charleston, she has built up a reputation as an expert in meticulous restorations of historic burial places. She learned the trade from her father, and grew up watching him work as a caretaker at a local cemetery. But it appears she inherited more than a professional aptitude from her father. (more…)