TBR Challenge: The Romance Consensus?

July’s TBR Challenge theme is “award nominee or winner,” because this month sees the Romance Writers of America conference and RITA awards ceremony. I wasn’t sure how I’d squeeze a book in before my vacation, and then I realized the one I was reading counted: Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of Romance, a collection of essays edited by Jayne Ann Krentz. A number of the contributors have won RITA or RT awards, and the book itself won the Susan Koppelman Award for Feminist Studies. I’ve been hearing about this book for years, especially Laura Kinsale’s idea of the heroine as “placeholder” for the reader, so I was glad to finally read it.

I have way too many thoughts for one blog post, even this tl;dr one, so I’ll focus on the things that stood out for me. A lot of what I have to say is about things I wish had been explored in more depth, or from more angles. That might make my assessment of the book seem negative, but in fact I can raise these questions because it is so rich, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

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Heartache and Other Natural Shocks, by Glenda Leznoff

Disclaimer: I read Glenda Leznoff’s YA novel Heartache and Other Natural Shocks because she is a colleague, though I don’t know her well.

The Globe and Mail review compares Heartache to Judy Blume’s work “because of the deliciously juicy realism.” I can’t speak to how the book stacks up to Blume–I haven’t read her since I was a pre-teen, and I also first read her as a pre-teen, which gives her books special status in my reading life. But I’d agree Leznoff is working in that “juicy realism” tradition, and her teenagers and their preoccupations, like Blume’s, largely rang true to me. And like Blume, she is frank and nonjudgmental about teenage girls’ sexuality. Continue reading

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Red Star Tattoo, by Sonja Larsen

In a post on her blog, Sonja Larsen reports her husband’s response when she said she needed an explanation for why she was publishing her first book at 50:

Oh that’s not hard is it? he says. You spent 10 years trying to forget it, 10 years dealing with it and 10 years writing about it.

Reading her memoir, Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary, I could see why it took so long to find a way to think and talk about her childhood growing up in a commune and then–as a teen independent of her parents–in a cult-like political organization, the National Labor Federation. (It’s a political science student she meets after leaving the group who helps her learn to name it as a cult). Continue reading

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June (and Early July): Mystery Madness

My blogging mantra needs to be “Never apologize, never explain.” Every now and then a post may appear.

In June, I “read” a ton of older mysteries, mostly via audiobook. I’ve hardly listened to any books this year, spending my listening time on podcasts instead, but in June my husband went to Belgium for a conference, and I needed something to distract me–I don’t sleep well when he’s away. So I checked out backlist mysteries at the library. Here’s what I read/listened to:

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TBR Challenge: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Susanna Fraser

June’s TBR Challenge theme is favorite trope, and mine is definitely Marriage of Convenience. I once saw someone explain its appeal as “sex with a stranger,” but for me that’s not it at all. It’s “having to find a way to live/work together.” I like the high stakes, especially in a historical, where these people are pretty much stuck together for life–if they can’t make it work, they’re going to be unhappy. Contemporary versions of this trope are typically unconvincing, at least outside of Harlequin Presents type over the top fantasies, but I find the same satisfaction in a good romantic suspense where characters are on the run and have to work together to survive.

So surely, I thought, I’d have plenty of choices in my TBR. But either I read them all right away, or I can’t remember from author-title whether a book includes the trope. Hence, Susanna Fraser’s A Marriage of Inconveniencethe only TBR book I could be sure had my favorite trope. Plus, I’ve been meaning to read her forever–this book has been languishing in my TBR for 5 years, along with other Fraser novels, even though I’m sure she’s right up my alley. Well, I was right. I enjoyed this book a lot, though as Fraser’s first, it has some flaws (it was actually the second published, but predates her debut, The Sergeant’s Ladyand I think was written first). Since this book has been out so long, my reflections will be full of spoilers.  Continue reading

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