TBR Challenge: Cupid’s Mistake, by Karen Harbaugh

August’s TBR Challenge theme is “Impulse Read” (an impulse buy book) so I turned to my Kindle app, aka “Where Impulse Buys Go to Die.” Not because they’re bad–I found some pleasant surprises browsing my relatively small Kindle library. But I’ve learned I don’t really like reading on my phone or iPad, so my Kindle buys are all Kindle-only sale books I bought on impulse and then forgot about. (I know I can convert them to ePub, but I’m lazy). I wanted something fun, so I chose Cupid’s Mistake, a not-quite-traditional Regency by Karen Harbaugh.

In her Author’s Note, Harbaugh explains that her approach to the Regency subgenre was inspired by Heyer, who wrote both more serious and lighter books, incorporating elements from other genres like mystery. Harbaugh’s more “serious” books included paranormal elements (her Vampire Viscount really is one) and readers complained they weren’t “real” Regencies. So she decided

“I’ll find every single cliché I’ve ever read in a Regency romance and stuff them all in the next book I write. That’ll show them!”

Except a fantasy element still snuck in.

As a result, here is my comedy of manners that contains a bluestocking spinster, cynical nobleman, meddling sister, and matchmaking mama, all of whom are involved in one misunderstanding or other. Oh, and yes, there’s a Greek god in there too.

The result is a fluffy, funny, featherweight confection, from which Cupid, I suspect, will prove the most memorable character. Continue reading

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Vacation Reading: SFF

These will not be proper reviews, because I waited too long after reading the books. But I wanted to say something about them.

Aliette de Bodard, On a Red Station, Drifting

This novella was nominated for a number of science fiction awards, so there are proper reviews all over the place. It’s structurally complex, with three sections, each of which features the classic plot “a stranger comes to town” [or space station], setting change in motion. When I finished it, I thought “I need to read this again.” And I will. Here are some reasons I loved it: Continue reading

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Murder on Bamboo Lane, by Naomi Hirahara

Last year I read and enjoyed the first book in Naomi Hirahara’s Mas Arai series, featuring a Japanese American gardener in Los Angeles, with a mystery dating back to Hiroshima in World War II. Murder on Bamboo Lane is the first book in her new series featuring Ellie Rush, a young LAPD bike cop (Ellie’s mom is Japanese American, her dad is white). I think I liked this book even more. It made a good followup to Synithia Williams’ Just My Type, since both feature heroines in their early twenties finding their feet both professionally and romantically.

Murder on Bamboo Lane uses first person narration, unusual in mysteries–at least the ones I read. I thought it fit the youthful character, fresh out of college and in her first year on the force, maybe because I’m used to first person in YA and in romances featuring young characters. Hirahara created a voice that seemed right for Ellie: Continue reading

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Just My Type, by Synithia Williams

Vacation reading is fast receding in my memory as I get caught up in regular life and have less time to blog. So please excuse any weirdness while I try posting from my WordPress app for convenience sake (convenience’s sake? Damn, already in trouble!).

I am not sure how Synithia Williams’ romance Just My Type got into my TBR, but I suspect it was a recommendation from my Twitter friend Emily Jane Hubbard. In my Tiny Twitter Review I described it as an opposites attract, big brother’s best friend book, and it uses those popular tropes effectively. Janiyah Henderson is the baby of her family and the only girl; in her early 20s, she’s a self-employed virtual assistant, and while she’s doing okay, her family doesn’t see her as grown up or serious (and even she feels she hasn’t found her real career). She has a crush on her brother’s friend Freddy but he rejected her when she was a teen so she’s moved on to dating other men–many of whom see her as fun but not for a serious relationship. And “she’d never considered that her unstable dating life might be the reason [Freddy] insisted on treating her like a sister.” It is, though–he assumes she’ll quickly tire of him and move on. Continue reading

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Pride & Joy

One of my jobs as department chair is to re-read assessment test essays that fall into a specific gray zone (the essays are usually scored by a computer; don’t get me started on this). I find it difficult, because the writing prompts are so vague and anodyne that no one could write a good essay in response to them. Can any obstacle be turned to something good? How much free will do we have in our life choices? (I don’t see the actual prompts but I can infer them from the essays). I’m left going with “hey, they can write a sentence!” because logical structure and supporting examples, let alone interesting ideas, are hard to provide in these circumstances.

I was thinking about this as I pondered the theme of this year’s Read a Romance Month: joy. My biggest problem with RARM is that I think it’s a big promotional exercise. But I also think that if you’re soliciting 93 essays, 1. you shouldn’t limit them all to a single theme (won’t we be totally unsurprised by joy by August 31?), and 2. “joy” is so vague and anodyne that it’s hard to say something interesting about it. Celebrating the genre with a focus solely on positive, feel-good terms sells it short. To describe romance fiction, and reading and writing romance, as only about joy, hope, and happiness flattens the genre and our experiences of it, and leaves out a lot of what makes romance fiction great. It suggests such novels can’t, or at least don’t, include the breadth of human emotion and experience. Continue reading

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